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McConnell to Propose Raising Tobacco Use Age to 21

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  • Mitch McConnell announced during a press conference Thursday, that he plans to introduce legislation that would raise the age for tobacco use to 21.
  • Currently, 12 states across the country and hundreds of localities have already raised the age from 18 to 21.
  • The use of tobacco products by teens has risen significantly, with many attributing the increase to e-cigarettes.

McConnell Announces New Legislation Proposal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Thursday that he will introduce legislation to raise the tobacco use age from 18 to 21 nationwide.

This legislation would include all tobacco products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping.

“For some time I’ve been hearing from parents of teenage children seeing an unprecedented spike in…vaping, among teens,” McConnell said in a press conference in his home state of Kentucky. “It is reaching epidemic levels around the country.”

Smoking Rates Among American Teens

The use of tobacco products among teenagers was McConnell’s motivating factor in announcing the legislation. According to the CDC, 90 percent of adult smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21.

The rise of e-cigarettes has led to an increase in teen smoking. In 2017, 2.1 million high school students reported using e-cigarettes. In 2018, that number jumped to 3.6 million. In the state of Kentucky, in 2018, 45 percent of high schoolers used these devices.

According to a 2018 survey by Truth Initiative, 63 percent of Juul users did not know that these devices contained nicotine.

In 12 states, the legal age for tobacco use is already 21. Over 400 towns, cities, and counties have also followed suit. McConnell said he expects bipartisan support of the bill.

The 12 U.S. states where the legal age to purchase tobacco products is 21.

Juul is also behind this move, saying in a statement, “we must restrict youth usage of vapor products.”

See what others are saying: (WLKY) (Politico) (CNBC)

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Ethan Lindenberger “Frustrated” After Being Placed Among Photos of “Dead” Children at Anti-vax Vigil

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  • California Governor Gavin Newsom signed two new vaccination bills on Sept. 9, primarily aimed at reducing the number of childhood medical exemptions issued by the state.
  • Protests at the Capitol temporarily shut down the legislature as the bills were being passed, but protests ramped up later in the week when a woman threw a menstrual cup with what appeared to be blood in it onto senators.
  • Another protest led by an anti-vax group included a vigil for children they claimed had either been harmed or died from vaccines—including 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger, who garnered national attention after vaccinating himself against his parents’ wishes.

Lindenberger Photo At Anti-vax Vigil

Pro-vaccine advocate Ethan Lindenberger expressed frustration after an anti-vax group displayed his photo among others of children they claimed were either dead or harmed by vaccines.

The vigil followed the passage of two bills aimed at making it harder for parents to get medical exemptions for their children’s vaccinations in California last week.

Lindenberger, who attracted national attention when he spoke to the U.S. Senate after vaccinating himself against his mother’s wishes, said he was at the Global Vaccination Summit in Belgium when he learned his photo was included in the vigil and he immediately thought it was a joke. 

“I was just really confused cause I’m looking through this photo that this anti-vaxxer’s sharing, and they’re totally like, ‘Look at all these dead people,’ and I’m there,” Lindenberger said to Rogue Rocket. “Part of me is like, ‘This is wild,’ so I went through their history to see if they were trolls. Nope, totally legitimate person. And when I shared it with some of my Facebook friends, they were like, this is an actual event… This is actually a thing.”

“And so my whole mindset was like, this is just so wild and proves how half these kids might not actually be dead,” he continued. “It was so frustrating but also—this was like a comedy show. This is not real life. This can’t be real life.”

Just a couple rows above Lindenberg, the anti-vax protestors also included a stock photo of a baby receiving a shot.

Shortly after learning of his photo, Lindenberger posted his reaction on Twitter. 

Over the next few days, Lindenberger defended himself on Twitter as people accused him of being immature, photoshopping the photo, or selling out to a pharmaceutical company.

Ultimately though, Lindenberger stressed that he believes most anti-vaxxers mean well but are the unfortunate targets of misinformation campaigns.

“These people aren’t bad people,” Lindenberger said. “They’re just like misinformed, and even though this vigil was hosted by some people that obviously had no idea what they were doing, they’re just trying to convince people that all these children are dying. A lot of people are just asking questions. That’s why it’s important to just engage with them and just be kind and try to answer questions even if it’s frustrating.” 

Newsom Signs Vaccine Bill

The Sep. 11 vigil followed California Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of two bills on Sep. 9. 

The first, SB276, permits the California Department of Public Health to investigate any doctor who grants more than five medical exemptions in a year. It will also allow the state to revoke any medical exemptions it deems “inappropriate.”

Before signing that bill, Newsom demanded a companion bill be introduced, which allows students with existing medical exemptions to keep those exemptions until they meet specific educational benchmarks. 

Currently, California requires the submission of vaccination records or exemption statuses for kindergarten, seventh grade, and when a student changes schools. Under the new law, any child who receives a medical exemption before 2020 will still be able to enroll in school under their next grade span.

For example, a student who is in first grade this year with a medical exemption for vaccinations would not need to renew their exemption until entering the seventh grade. Additionally, medically exempt students in seventh grade this year will be able to go through the end of high school without vaccinations.

Other aspects of the bill include limiting temporary exemptions to one-year and allowing the Department of Health to review medical exemptions at schools where the vaccination rate is under 95% or at schools that do not report their vaccination rates.

While those bills were being debated in the legislature, a number of people outside the Capitol in Sacramento protested the bills, with one of the main arguments being that the bills would damage doctor-patient relationships.

“I do not believe I will be writing any more exemptions, even when I feel like they would be appropriate,” Dr. Dane Fleidner, a pediatrician specializing in holistic medicine, told Newsom in a letter. “I do not believe anyone else will either… I have had to put a complete moratorium on medical exemptions due to the nature of this legislation.”

The bill, however, was co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the California Medical Association.

Before the bills were passed, protestors blocked entrances, temporarily shutting down the chamber floors. Several people were even arrested, and even after the bills were passed, protestors again shut down the floor. 

Those bills come after growing concerns about the number of unvaccinated children in the U.S. Notably, the country faces a resurgence in measles, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting over 1,200 cases this year—a massive spike in cases from recent years.

In California, the statewide immunization rate for kindergarteners has fallen below 95%, with 16% of counties reporting their immunization rates were actually under 90%. A 95% immunization rate is considered the standard threshold for herd immunity.

All of that comes in spite of messages from doctors that vaccines are safe and effective for the overwhelming majority of people.

“Blood” Thrown on Senators

Following the initial protests and the vigil, a woman sitting in the California Senate visitors’ gallery Friday hurled what appeared to be blood onto senators while yelling, “That’s for the babies!”

Investigators later determined she threw a menstrual cup, it’s unknown if the red liquid in it was real blood.

That woman—identified as Rebecca Lee Dalelio, 43—now faces assault charges, as well as charges for vandalism and disrupting the legislature.

See what others are saying: (Sacramento Bee) (KCRA) (CNN)

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#BoycottABC Spreads After Network Aires Ad Burning Picture of AOC

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  • Social media users called for a boycott of ABC after it aired an ad that showed a picture of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being set on fire.
  • The ad was paid for by the Republican political action committee New Faces GOP, which is run by former congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng.
  • In the video, Heng describes the “horrors of socialism” as pictures of the Khmer Rouge death camps in Cambodia appear on the screen. “This is the face of socialism,” Heng says as the picture of Ocasio-Cortez burns.
  • Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter and called the ad “a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case.”

New Faces GOP Ad

The hashtag #BoycottABC circulated all over social media Thursday after the network aired an advertisement during the Democratic Debates that featured a photo of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) catching on fire.

The ad was paid for by New Faces GOP, a Republican political action committee run by Elizabeth Heng, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in California during the 2018 midterm elections.

“This is the face of socialism and ignorance. Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism?” Heng says in the ad, while a picture of Ocasio-Cortez burns away to reveal a photo of skulls at a Khmer Rouge death camp in Cambodia.

“My father was minutes from death in Cambodia before a forced marriage saved his life. That’s socialism: Forced obedience, starvation,” she continues, as images from the communist regime under the Khmer Rouge flash on the screen.

“Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white, I’m not outrageous, racist, nor socialist. I’m a Republican,” Heng concludes as the ad ends.

#BoycottABC Trends

Twitter users responded to the ad on Thursday and Friday, calling for boycotts of ABC.

Some said that the ad was racist or that it promoted violence.

Others pointed out that the ad was aired by an ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group and called for a boycott of Sinclair as well.

Some users also called for a boycott of Disney, which owns ABC.

Other people defended the ad and criticized the boycott.

Ocasio-Cortez and Heng Respond

Ocasio-Cortez responded to the ad in a series of Tweets.

“Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist,” she wrote. “Life is weird!”

“What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case,” she said in another tweet.

Heng responded to one of Ocasio-Cortez’s tweets. 

“Are you really calling me a racist?” she wrote. “I’m calling all Democrats out for supporting an evil ideology.”

In a later tweet, Heng added that Ocasio-Cortez’s response to the ad “is the Democratic party in a nutshell. They are more offended by truthful words than the acts of their political ideology that has killed millions of innocent victims.”

Heng also defended the ad in a statement to Roll Call.

“This ad is about fighting the socialist agenda that has taken over the Democratic Party,” she said. “I am not afraid to engage in a debate of ideas, and it is the AOC extremists that have to resort in name calling because they don’t have real solutions for our country.”

ABC and Sinclair have not made public comments on the incident.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Hill) (Newsweek)

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Dan Bishop Wins Closely Watched North Carolina Special Election

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  • Republican candidate Dan Bishop beat Democrat Dan McCready in a competitive special election race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
  • The election comes after an election fraud scandal in the 2018 midterms, where a man hired by the Republican candidate was found to have illegally collected and in some cases filled out absentee ballots.
  • The scandal prompted the state’s Board of Elections to throw out the results of the 2018 midterm election, which Harris had won by 905 votes.

North Carolina’s 9th District

Republican Dan Bishop narrowly won a special congressional election in North Carolina’s 9th District Tuesday, marking the end of a race marred by scandal.

With all precincts reporting, Bishop won 50.74% of the vote while his Democratic opponent Dan McCready won 48.66%, according to the official results from the state elections board. Bishop won by 3,937 votes out of 189,363 votes cast.

The election closes the book on a nearly 10-month long process to choose a representative for the district. This after the discovery of a massive election fraud scheme prompted the state’s Board of Elections to throw out the results of the 2018 midterm and call for a new election to be held.

During the first election in November, Republican Mark Harris appeared to beat Democrat Dan McCready by only 905 votes. Just 0.3% of the vote in a district where about 280,000 votes were cast.

However, the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which consisted of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent, voted unanimously not to certify Harris as the winner and launched an investigation into the election.

Investigation & Hearing

At first, the public was not told the reason for the investigation. 

Then, local media outlets discovered that Harris had hired a man for his campaign named McCrae Dowless.

Dowless had directed people to illegally collect absentee ballots, falsify absentee witness certifications, and even at times fill out absentee ballots for voters in rural Bladen County, parts of which are in the 9th District.

According to reports and interviews with people who worked for Dowless, he had basically set up a functional mill of people he directed to commit massive election fraud. Some of his employees were reportedly members of his own family, and some were high on opioids while they were at work. 

Harris, for his part, later confirmed that he had hired Dowless to do what Dowless had told him was pretty standard voter outreach, but that he was not aware of the coordinated illegal scheme Dowless was running.

Fast forward to February when a new election board of three Democrats and two Republicans was convened and held a multi-day evidentiary hearing to decide whether to certify the election or call for new elections.

Notably, at that hearing, Harris’ son gave surprise testimony, and told the board that he had sent his dad emails warning him not to hire Dowless.

Harris’ son said he sent the emails after he found that Dowless had run the absentee campaign in a 2016 congressional race where there had been recorded absentee voting irregularities in Bladen County.

With the information that Harris had, in fact, been warned by his own son about Dowless’ questionable tactics, Harris told the board to call for a new election, and the board agreed, voting unanimously to do so.

2019 Election

Shortly after that decision was announced, Dowless was arrested and indicted on seven counts, and the FBI launched its own investigation into the election fraud.

McCready chose to stay in the race, but Harris decided to drop out. Republicans chose Bishop, a state senator who ran as a close ally of President Donald Trump. Trump himself held a rally for Bishop Monday, the day before the special election was set to take place.

In a victory speech last night, Bishop thanked Trump for supporting him and said his win was a “first step toward taking back the House of Representatives in 2020.”

“I hope the Democrats in Washington are watching this incredible victory and realize what they’re doing is not working,” Bishop continued. “Let’s hope they see this as an opportunity to stop playing presidential politics and come to the table to work with us and work with this president.”

McCready, who now has been campaigning for 27 months, conceded the election in a speech Tuesday night.

“The people of North Carolina stood up, and we faced down the full force of election fraud and voter suppression,” he said.

“When the people in power . . . perpetrated the largest case of election fraud in recent American history, we fought back, and we won. We were not successful tonight, but I want you to remember that victory postponed is not defeat.”

Trump also chimed in, celebrating the win on Twitter. 

“Dan Bishop was down 17 points 3 weeks ago. He then asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race. Big Rally last night. Now it looks like he is going to win,” he wrote, later referring to the victory as a “big night for the Republican Party.”

However, as NPR pointed out, there were no public or private polls that showed Bishop behind by 17 points, and both parties have said that the race was very close throughout the whole process.

Potential Implications for 2020

Many have noted that the closeness of the race is actually concerning for Republicans, who have held the congressional seat in District 9 for more than 50 years since 1962.

Some have also argued the 2% margin should be especially concerning for Trump, who won District 9 easily by 12% in 2016.

According to the election results, McCready performed better in the district’s suburbs than he did in the last race. A fact that numerous experts have argued shows the growing shift away from Trump and the GOP among suburban voters, who largely drove the Democratic victory in the 2018 midterms that lead the Democrats to flip the House.

Now, many Democratic leaders and pollsters say that is a good sign for Democrats, especially because District 9 is historically conservative.

As Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos told NPR, District 9 is a far more conservative seat than most of the seats Democrats flipped in 2018.

“There are 34 Republican-held districts that are more favorable to Democrats than North Carolina’s Ninth,” she said.

“Tonight’s razor-thin result in this ruby-red district solidifies the fact that Democrats are pushing further into Republican strongholds and are in a commanding position to protect and expand our House Majority in 2020.”

On the other side, McCready actually lost ground in some rural areas compared to last race, which experts have said shows that Trump and Republicans have not lost their strongholds in rural areas.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer said in a statement that Bishop’s victory shows that the GOP’s messaging in the 2020 cycle is working so far.

“North Carolinians rejected the Democrats’ socialist agenda and elected a representative who will defend North Carolina values, and will always fight for freedom and against socialism,” he said.

Regardless of the implications for 2020, the approximately 778,000 people of North Carolina’s 9th District now have a someone to represent them in Congress for the first time in almost a year.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Charlotte Observer) (The Washington Post)

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