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Las Vegas Mayor Faces Backlash for Offering City as Control Group

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  • In an interview with Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she wants the city to reopen early, offering up her constituents as a control group to test the effects of lifting lockdown orders.
  • Goodman said she doesn’t have a plan for how businesses should safely operate and that it’s up to them to figure that out.
  • She also said any business found to be spreading the coronavirus would eventually be destroyed by market competition.
  • Her comments drew the ire of city and state officials, including Governor Steve Sisolak who assured Nevadans that no one would be used as a control.

Goodman Say Competition Will Kill Businesses Spreading COVID-19

Offering up constituents to be a placebo group for the coronavirus hasn’t been an option for most mayors across the United States, but Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman admitted to having explored the idea.

In fact, Goodman said as much in a Wednesday interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN. In that interview, now largely derided and ridiculed for Goodman’s startling responses, the mayor said she backed off from the idea after a statistician told her the plan wouldn’t work. The statistician reminded her that Las Vegas is a major travel destination and that people frequently enter and leave it. 

“I said, ‘Oh that’s too bad,’ because I know when you have a disease, you have a placebo that gets the water and the sugar and then you get those that actually get the shot. We would love to be that placebo,” Goodman said. 

Earlier in the interview, Goodman told Cooper that he was being alarmist when he pressed her about previous comments she made about wanting to reopen Las Vegas. 

“But you’re encouraging, I mean, hundreds of thousands of people coming there in casinos, smoking, drinking, touching slot machines, breathing circulated air, and then, returning home to states around America and countries around the world,” Cooper said. “Doesn’t that sound like a virus petri dish? I mean, how is that safe?”

“No,” Goodman said, “it sounds like you’re being an alarmist. I’m not. I’ve lived a long life. I grew up in the heart of Manhattan. I know what it’s like to be with subways and on buses and crammed into elevators.”

I’m being alarmist?” Cooper said. 

“I think you are by saying what you have just said,” she replied. 

Cooper then continued to press Goodman by asking her how she would regulate social distancing in public areas like casinos, to which she replied, “That’s up to them to figure out. I don’t own a casino.

“I am not a private owner,” she went on to say. “That’s the competition in this country. The free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public. Right now, we’re in a crisis health wise, and so for a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That’s their job.”

When Cooper pressed her on this, asking her if she was saying that competition would weed out businesses spreading the coronavirus, the conversation became very circular. She then accused Cooper of trying to get her to slip up.

However, one of the key takeaways from that exchange was actually something she said on Tuesday with Katy Tur on MSNBC.

“And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down,” Goodman said. “It’s that simple.” 

In her CNN interview, Cooper read back that quote to Goodman, telling her that health officials wouldn’t really know if a business becomes an epicenter until weeks after it has already happened.

Cooper Becomes Increasingly Fed Up With Goodman

As the interview stretched on, Cooper became increasingly more exasperated with his guest. At one point, while speaking about Dr. Anthony Fauci, she snapped at him for trying to interrupt. Notably, though, Cooper said, “I’m not interrupting you. I’m listening to you.”

“Okay, thank you. Maybe it’s breathing. I’m sorry. I’m being silly here,” Goodman replied, then unaware that her interview would soon go viral and that she would be called much more than silly. 

Later in the interview, Goodman compared the state’s response to the coronavirus to atomic bomb testing during the cold war era. 

“We’re not getting the truth,” she said, “and I know over the years, going back to the 1950s with the atomic bomb, ‘Don’t worry about more testing in Nevada. You’ll all be fine. Take a shower.’” 

“You’re the one saying you’ll all be fine,” Cooper said before being interrupted. 

“No, no, no,” Goodman said. “You’re putting words in my mouth. I said open up Las Vegas.” 

In another spar between the two, Cooper showed Goodman the layout of a restaurant in China, but Goodman then hit back by saying, “This isn’t China. This is Las Vegas, Nevada.”

“Wow, okay, that’s really ignorant,” Cooper said. “That’s an ignorant, ignorant statement. That’s a restaurant, and yes it’s in China, but they are human beings too.” 

At one point, a little over halfway into the interview, Cooper takes off his glasses and wipes his face as Goodman is talking. About a minute later, he tells her, “I mean, you’re offering nothing other than being a cheerleader, which I guess is part what of your job is and I respect that, and you seem like a very nice person, but I don’t understand. Do you not have any sense of responsibility?” 

Vegas Mayor Overwhelmingly Blasted for Interview Comments

After that interview, an overwhelming amount of ridicule was directed at Goodman, with many saying she was unfit for office.

“Anderson Cooper may have just ended her career,” professional poker player Daniel Negreanu said. “I couldn’t imagine a public official coming off worse in an interview. There should be a mercy rule.”

Later Wednesday evening, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak responded to Goodman’s comments in a different interview with Cooper, saying that he won’t let people in Nevada be used as a placebo group.

“We are clearly not ready to open,” he also said. “Sadly, since you did that interview, we now have 187 deaths in the state of Nevada.” 

In that interview, Sisolak also noted the number of people infected in the state has climbed to 4,100.

Las Vegas City Councilman Brian Knudsen said that reopening is “reckless and completely contrary to the overwhelming consensus of medical experts.” 

The Culinary Workers Union—which is the largest union in the state—called her comments “outrageous” and said that 11 of its members have died from COVID-19.

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel, who grew up in Vegas, called for Goodman to resign. Kimm took to Twitter to call her an embarrassment to his hometown. 

Notably, even though Goodman said she wants to greenlight casino openings “immediately,” she is unable to do so because Sisolak has put the state on mandatory lockdown and closed all businesses.

Regarding the Las Vegas Strip, even without that lockdown, she doesn’t have any power at all over it.  It’s actually located in an unincorporated part of the county outside of her jurisdiction. 

Still, there are many casinos within city limits, and she will likely try to open them as soon as she has the authority to do so.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (NBC News)

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College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War

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As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.


College Board Rolls Out Curriculum

The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.

The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.

In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.” 

Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.

Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.

According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.

Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”

It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism. 

The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”

DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War

DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.

Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”

Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.

Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.” 

To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.

Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too. 

Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)

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Biden Announces Plan to End COVID Emergency in May

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The decision would drastically change the government’s long-standing pandemic response and shift Americans’ access to COVID-related services.


Emergency Declarations at an End

In a statement Monday, The White House announced that it would be ending the COVID national emergency and public health emergency declarations on May 11.

The move will entirely restructure the federal government’s response to the pandemic to treat it as endemic and upend policies that have been in place for the last three years. Although more than 500 people in the U.S. are still dying from COVID on average each day — which is around two times the number of daily deaths during a bad flu season — life has largely returned to normal.

Most Americans are vaccinated, and even President Joe Biden himself said the pandemic was “over” back in September. The new announcement comes in part as a response to resolutions Republicans brought to the House floor last week that would end the declarations immediately.

“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the White House argued.

Lapses in Coverage and Care

Federal officials decided that a phase-out would make more sense because the U.S. has come to rely on several systems and benefits under the emergencies.

One of the most significant changes that will have the biggest impact on Americans in their day-to-day lives is access to COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines that have been free throughout the pandemic.

Once the emergencies end, a very complex wave of changes will take place that differs from person to person depending on their insurance — or lack thereof — and even possibly what state they live in.

Currently, people with private health insurance or Medicare coverage have been allowed eight free COVID tests a month and insurers had to cover those tests, even if they were administered out of network.

Once the emergency ends, some Americans will have to pay out of pocket, as well as for antiviral COVID treatments like Paxlovid. 

Notably, it has been reported that vaccines will still be included for all those people covered by both private and public insurance. That, however, may not be the case for those without insurance — a group that is also more likely to be the most affected by rising costs for tests and treatments.

Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Washington Post that when the emergency declarations end, states that opted to provide Medicaid coverage for tests, treatments, and shots will lose the federal funds that matched costs at 100%.

“To me, that’s the biggest issue for the general public to think about,” she said. “The uninsured and underinsured have no guaranteed access to covid vaccines, tests or treatments.”

When it comes to vaccines, those costs could be significant. Moderna and Pfizer have both said they might charge as much as $130 per dose of vaccine once the federal government stops paying and the shots are transitioned to the private market. That figure is nearly quadruple what federal offices have paid for the doses.

The shift to the private market could happen fairly soon, especially because Republicans have refused Biden’s request that they put billions of dollars towards additional free COVID testing and shots to extend those efforts.

There could also be a spike in the number of uninsured or underinsured Americans because the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed last year ends a rule that banned states from kicking people off Medicaid, leaving millions at risk of losing coverage.

Other Possible Outcomes

Ending the declarations could also set up a battle around immigration because the Biden administration has said the move will bring an end to Title 42 — the Trump-era public health measure that placed restrictions on border crossings and other migrant policies.

Biden has previously tried to cut the program, but the Supreme Court kept it in place. House Republicans rejected the White House’s claim that the program would be terminated, arguing it is not tied to the public health emergency.

Beyond that, the termination of the declarations would require health providers to make numerous adjustments because many of the flexibilities they were allowed in a number of areas would be cut. 

As a result, the administration says a phase-out of those policies over the next few months is necessary, arguing that hospitals and nursing homes “will be plunged into chaos” if they are cut immediately. House Republicans, however, are insistent on moving forward their legislation that would do just that, though the Democratic-controlled Senate could block their proposals.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)

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Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates

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The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.


Same War, New Battlefield

Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.

Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.

Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.

Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources. 

Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.

According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.

Xbox Under Fire

To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture. 

While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.

“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.

“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,”  Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.

Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”

The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.”  That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want

Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).

“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.

The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.

“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Daily Beast) (VICE)

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