- David Karpf, a professor at George Washington University, posted a tweet calling conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens a bedbug after news broke that The Times’ newsroom had become infested with the insects.
- Stephens took offense to the joke, which only had nine likes at the time, and emailed the professor and his provost.
- Karpf posted the email, which prompted a wave and backlash that eventually pushed Stephens to deactivate his Twitter account.
After news broke Monday about a bedbug infestation at The New York Times’ newsroom, a college professor took to social media to make a joke about one of the papers’ columnists.
“The bedbugs are a metaphor,” wrote David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. “The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”
Stephens, a Times conservative writer, was not tagged directly in the tweet, which initially only picked up nine likes and no retweets. However, the post still managed to catch Stephens’ attention.
A few hours after posting the tweet Monday, Karpf was surprised with an email from the writer — an email that was also sent to Karpf’s provost at the university.
“I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people — people they’ve never met — on Twitter. I think you’ve set a new standard,” Stephens wrote.
“I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face. That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part.”
“I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say. Maybe it will make you feel better about yourself.”
Karpf eventually tweeted out the email, leading to waves of backlash against Stephens and of course more attention to the initial bedbug tweet.
Stephens Faces Backlash
After reading the email, many people were angry that Stephens copied Karpf’s superior on the email, saying he was likely hoping to get the professor fired.
Others were critical of him for reacting so poorly to the comment, as someone who has long been vocal about protecting free speech. Of course, many others threw out their best jokes, knowing now how much it would bother him. By Tuesday morning, both #Bretbug and “Bret Stephens” were trending topics on Twitter.
Stephens, who joined the Times in 2017 and is also an MSNBC contributor, is not unfamiliar with backlash. In fact, his takes on climate change and race have already prompted outrage from readers in the past, with many canceling subscriptions over his pieces. He has also been known to hit back at critics, which he did once before in an email exchange with a Deadspin writer.
But the outrage over his reaction to a seemingly minuscule tweet prompted the writer to deactivate his entire Twitter account. “Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity,” Stephens tweeted before closing his account.
“I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt.
Karpf Speaks Out
In an interview with The Washington Post, Karpf complained about the columnist’s decision to email his superior. “He not only thinks I should be ashamed of what I wrote, he thinks that I should also get in trouble for it,” Karpf said. “That’s an abuse of his power.”
Karpf told the Post that he would have been willing to take Stephens up on his offer to chat in person had he not included his boss on the email.
“You need to work very hard to find a tweet that obscure, and then work harder to find the writer’s email and their provost’s email to CC them, too,” he said. “I would have treated this as an opportunity for conversation and dialogue if he hadn’t CC’d my provost, which was clearly an attempt to threaten me with punishment.”
“I’d be happy to have a dialogue, not just about the tenor of Twitter comments but also about power and how to appropriately use it,” he added. “But I assume he won’t want to talk. He ought to be embarrassed.”
As far as why he’s not a fan of Stephens’ work, Karpf said, “He tends to write pretty lightweight, poorly researched columns about things that I know something about. So I’ve always seen him as this person that everyone complains about but we just can’t get rid of. He’s a bedbug.”
Stephens Addresses the Issue on MSNBC
Meanwhile, Stephens told the Post that his email “speaks for itself.” He later went on MSNBC Tuesday morning to say he had no intention of getting Karpf in professional trouble, but he said institutions should be aware of how their staff members interact with “the rest of the world.”
When addressing the bedbug insult he said, “Analogizing people to insects is always wrong. We can do better. We should be the people on social media that we are in real life.”
“There’s a bad history of being called…of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Business Insider) (Fox News)
Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission
While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.
New Eviction Ban
Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.
Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.
However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.
According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission.
While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.
First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.
The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted.
Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.
Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.
The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.
Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.
Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.
“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.
Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)
Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds
The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.
Concerns for Emperor Penguins
Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.
More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.
That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.
However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.
U.S. Moves To Protect the Species
The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.
“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.