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Tensions Escalate at Lockdown Protests Across the U.S.



  • Protestors across the country have continued to call for an end to stay-at-home measures.
  • In Michigan, some armed protesters took to the capital in a move that was criticized by state leaders; however, President Donald Trump expressed support for these demonstrators.
  • Others in Chicago, Illinois made headlines after one demonstrator held a sign with a Nazi slogan on it, meanwhile, protests in Sacramento, California led to 32 arrests.
  • Roughly 1,000 people attended the Sacramento protest, but polls indicate these people hold the minority opinion in California as 70% of the state think lockdowns should continue.

Michigan Protests

Protests against coronavirus lockdown measures all over the country have led to high tensions between those who think it’s time for states to reopen, and others who think these demonstrations put public health in jeopardy. 

On Sunday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer denounced armed protesters who gathered in the state’s Capitol building. Whitmer claimed that some of the demonstrators at Thursday’s rally were carrying signs with racist imagery while calling for the stay-at-home order to end.

“There were swastikas and confederate flags and nooses and people with assault rifles,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Whitmer said that these people were not representative of her state, which is largely listening to public health officials’ advice of staying home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

“Some of the outrageousness of what happened at our capitol this week depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country,” she also added.

Other state leaders also spoke out against the protestors’ choice to bear arms during their rally. State Sen. Dayna Polehanki said that some of her colleagues dawned on bulletproof vests as men with rifles yelled at them inside the building. 

On the other hand, President Donald Trump called the protesters, many of whom showed support for him at the demonstrations, “very good people.” He also said that Gov. Whitmer should hear them out. 

Outrage in Chicago

Michigan was not the only state to stir controversy with protests against lockdown measures. In Chicago, Illinois a viral photo depicting a woman holding a sign with a Nazi slogan caused outrage.

The German phrase translates to, “work will set you free.” The sign was quickly criticized by the Auschwitz Memorial, which said the phrase was a “false, cynical illusion” given to the prisoners of Auschwitz.

“Those words became one of the icons of human hatred,” the memorial explained. “It’s painful to see this symbol instrumentalized & used again to spread hate. It’s a symptom of moral & intellectual degeneration.”

Sacramento Protests

Protests in Sacramento, California also made headlines after they resulted in 32 arrests on Friday. Reports indicate that around 1,000 people attended. While the events started off peacefully, demonstrators ended up clashing with the California Highway Patrol. 

In April, California banned protests at the state capitol, an order that these protestors did not comply with. CHP ordered the protesters to disperse. As this became increasingly difficult and many refused, they began to detain protesters. 

The protest was organized in part by a movement called #ReopenCalifornia. On a website promoting protests in the state, they claim to be “a non-political group of citizens who believe our rights are being violated by the Coronavirus “Shelter In” Process.” 

“We want to go back to work in order to support our lives and the lives of our families,” the website adds. The group believes that the coronavirus has not hit the state hard enough to warrant these measures. The virus has infected over 55,000 people in California and caused over 2,200 deaths. 

These protesters do appear to be in the minority opinion of the state. A recent poll of California voters suggests that most want officials to be cautious and take their time when it comes to ending restrictions.  The poll found that 70% fear that if stay at home orders end too soon, the disease will spread further. On the other side, only 30% are concerned that the orders will last too long and hurt the economy. 

See what others are saying: (SacBee) (NBC News) (Chicago Tribune)


FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses



The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.

New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

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

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities



The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.

Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human



The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.

Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

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

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