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Why Fake Activist and Blackout Tuesday Posts Are Sparking Outrage

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  • Some white protesters are being accused of attending demonstrations for Instagram content, rather than to stand up against racism and police brutality. 
  • Meanwhile, others are criticizing participants of #BlackoutTuesday, pointing out that they are clogging up critical channels of information by using Black Lives Matter hashtags to post all black squares.
  • Some feel that the movement wrongfully encourages silence, and others are asking people to remember that the movement morphed from an initial music industry protest launched by two black women.

Protesting for Content, Not the Cause 

People all across the country have been searching for ways to support the black community and call for justice since the killing of George Floyd, whether it be through protests, donations, or difficult conversations about race. But there are some forms of activism that have been slammed as disingenuous, and others that some feel might actually be hurting the cause. 

First, let’s look at examples of “fake activism” that have sparked some of the most backlash online. Over the past few days, several social media posts have surfaced showing white people seeming to use the ongoing protests for internet content. 

One of the biggest examples of this came from YouTuber Jake Paul, who was accused of looting with his friends in Arizona, which he later denied. Others were angry to see him at the protest at all, believing that he was only there for vlog footage.

But here’s another example you might’ve seen online. In one Twitter post, you can see a conversation between two friends, which was screengrabbed from one of the person’s “close friends” Instagram story. 

In it, one discusses getting drunk and going to a protest, asking “is that like so dangerous.” The other responds with, “omg i’m so down,” followed by “let me find a riot outfit.”

That Twitter post also included an image of what appears to be the two friends posing for a photo at a protest. The Instagram caption reads: “Plz do ur part but do it safely. #blm go out there and do ur part we owe it.”

Once people saw this, the women were met with a ton of backlash since it appeared that they didn’t actually care about the movement and instead went for the thrill and a photo op. 

The woman who posted the protest photo eventually deleted her account, but plenty of others have been slammed for posing at protests as well. 

In one video that has circulated online, a man is seen photographing a white woman in front of a looted T-Mobile store as the person recording gasps.  

And this next clip really had people up in arms. It shows a woman posing with a drill and a worker as if she’s helping board up a store with wood. Then, she thanks the actual worker and heads back into her Mercedes as someone off-camera says, “Good job guys, BLM.” 

A lot of people online have been describing that woman as an “influencer,” but that’s not actually the case. After some digging, many, including New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, actually identified her as Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, a conservative political writer for the Washinton Examiner. 

People also found her Twitter account, which she set to private and later deleted, but not before someone screengrabbed a tweet she previously wrote that said: “As if vandalizing all the buildings in LA wasn’t enough #Blklivesmatter has taken to the billboards as a crowd of rioters roars in approval.” 

Ouai, the haircare brand that purchased the billboard in that photo actually ended up showing support for the changes to their sign. The brand owner, celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, said the person in the photo “made our sign even better,” and even wrote on Instagram, “I would have climbed up there myself.”

According to Insider, Moriarty-McLaughlin also allegedly posted other people’s footage from protests to blame vandalization on “Paid #Antifa thugs,” even though there is no evidence to suggest that they were members of the movement.

Criticism of #BlackoutTuesday

So, those were all posts pretty worthy of backlash, but what about activism that seems to come from a good place? 

As you may already know, people all over the world are participating in a movement today called Blackout Tuesday.

That protest was initially spearheaded by two black music executives, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang. Their initiative is called #TheShowMustBePaused and as part of it, members of the music industry committed to postponing new releases and temporarily suspending business operations.

Instead, they called it a day to “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.” 

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This was a really important industry to thrust its support behind the black community because as the execs note, it benefits “from the efforts, struggles and successes of back people.” 

But after several labels, streaming services, and artists supported the movement, it started to evolve. Others on social media began sharing images of black squares as a way to show solidarity with black victims of police brutality and racism. At some point, this movement was dubbed Blackout Tuesday, and celebrities started joining in, like Katy Perry, Tom Holland, and Drake. 

Other brands even tried to figure out their own ways to participate, with some like Rihanna’s Fenty labels suspending sales for the day.

The problem here is that, unlike these celebs, a lot of people are uploading these black squares using the hashtags #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter. In response to this, some Twitter users are saying things like: “This is counter-productive. Please understand what ur doing before u do it. Amplify black voices WITHOUT silencing the movement.”

Some big names seemed to agree. Actor Kumail Nanjiani, for instance, asked people to not use Black Lives Matter hashtags, saying “It’s pushing down important and relevant content. Use #BlackOutTuesday.”

Model Gigi Hadid, singer Lizzo, and others also warned against using Black Lives Matter hashtags.

However, another issue with the movement is that it’s also being understood by some as a day to remain silent and not post online. Because of this, Lil Nas X spoke out against it. 

The musical artist wrote on Twitter, “i know y’all mean well but… bro saying stop posting for a day is the worst idea ever”

“ i just really think this is the time to push as hard as ever. i don’t think the movement has ever been this powerful. we don’t need to slow it down by posting nothing. we need to spread info and be as loud as ever.”

He also warned about important posts being drowned out and asked whether it might be a better idea to instead post donation and petition links at the same time.

Singer Kehlani expressed similar concerns in a series of tweets, but she also asked that people remember the original music industry initiative started by two black women.

“Seen less of that tag and proper info on that…industry folks need to specifically boost the ORIGINAL info,” she said.

Concerns about Blackout Tuesday are starting to be heard, so it’s likely that we’ll see different versions of the movement on social media throughout the day. Still, a lot of people are unsure of what they should do.

For example, YouTuber James Charles said Tuesday morning that he’s seen mixed opinions about Blackout Tuesday, so he asked his black followers if they think he should remove his Instagram post, which does not include a Black Lives Matter hashtag. 

Right now, it seems like more and more people are asking that the public not remain silent about the issues at hand and focus their attention on the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Others also ask that if you post a black square, you also do what you can do to support the black community, whether it be by sharing donation links, petitions, or sincerely calling out racism. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Verge) (Dazed)  

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As Unemployment Claims Rise, CA Officials Report Inmates Collected Millions in Benefits

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  • Unemployment numbers spiked for the second week in a row, marking the highest amount of new claims made since early October with 778,000 people filing. Over 20 million Americans are still collecting some kind of joblessness aid.
  • Experts say this will only get worse as COVID cases continue to rise and states impose more restrictions. However, unlike during the spring shutdowns, struggling Americans and small businesses will likely not have any help from the federal government.
  • Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in California reported that tens of thousands of inmates received upwards of $1 billion in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that officials described as “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history.”

Unemployment Numbers Spike

Another 778,000 Americans filed for unemployment this week, the Department of Labor reported Wednesday, marking the highest spike since early October and the second week in a row that new claims have risen.

According to experts, this data signals that the massive coronavirus spikes the U.S. has seen in recent weeks are slowing the economy once again. On Wednesday, the country reported a record 2 million new cases in the same two weeks that joblessness claims also went up, bringing the official case count to more than 12.6 million Americans infected and over 260,000 dead.

As the COVID-19 spikes continue, and with more state and local governments imposing new restrictions on public gatherings, limiting hours and operations for restaurants and bars, and temporarily closing down some businesses entirely, economists say this situation will get worse before it gets better.

Unlike the first wave of shutdowns this past spring, it seems almost certain that struggling Americans will have to weather these latest closures without any help from the government.

Already, many of the programs that gave trillions of dollars to unemployed Americans and small businesses under the CARES Act have expired, and most of the few remaining programs will run out soon.

That is especially concerning when it comes to unemployment benefits. According to a recent report from the progressive think tank The Century Foundation, unless Congress and the White House sign off on a deal to extend key programs, roughly 12 million Americans will lose these benefits entirely the day after Christmas.

But after months of deadlock, any hopes for a new stimulus package petered out when the election came around. Democratic leadership is reportedly attempting to restart those talks, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he wants to approve some kind of bill before the end of the year. 

However, it remains unclear how all the problems that had deadlocked the lawmakers for months during the earlier negotiations will be resolved in time.

Inmate Unemployment Fraud

Meanwhile, states are still continuing to struggle with distributing unemployment benefits to jobless Americans.

On Tuesday, a task force lead by nine district attorneys across the state of California reported in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) that tens of thousands of prison and jail inmates — including more than 100 people on death row — have collected hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that the officials say “appears to be the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history,”

According to the task force, between March and August, inmates housed in every single California prison and in jails throughout the state filed 35,000 claims totaling at least $140 million in benefits, though the alleged crimes could total as much as $1 billion.

In most cases, officials said that the payments were given out in the form of prepaid debit cards sent to friends or family on the outside who would then later deposit the proceeds to inmate accounts.

In some cases, the joblessness benefits were sent directly to the jails and prisons. Sometimes the inmates used their real names, but other times, they used fake names and fake Social Security numbers.

In fact, prosecutors were tipped off to some of the cases by listening to inmates recorded phone calls, where they bragged about how easy it was the game the system.

As far as how such widespread fraud could happen, law enforcement officials blamed California’s Employment Development Department, which has been swamped with processing more than 16.4 million unemployment claims since March, resulting in a massive backlog of unfilled claims that, according to reports, has totaled upwards of more than 1.6 million people at times.

However, the task force also said that part of the problem was due to the fact that unlike at least 35 other states, California does not have the technology to crosscheck inmate rosters against unemployment claims.

Looking Forward

In their letter, the officials called on Newsom to crack down on the rampant fraud and provide “significant resources” to do so. 

Newsom, for his part, responded in a statement by calling the fraud “absolutely unacceptable,” and ordering the Office of Emergency Services to create a task force to help the prosecutors with their investigation.

However, as The New York Times pointed out, Newsom had already formed a “strike team” a few months ago to help the state’s employment department speed up claims and address other issues, including fraud at correctional facilities.

The district attorneys were still forced to form their own task force with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after the reports of fraud in the employment department continued and the “strike team” failed to uncover the large amounts of fraud the other groups had seen.

Currently, it is unclear how Newsom’s new task force is different from the largely unsuccessful “strike team.” 

California, of course, is not the only state having these issues with unemployment insurance fraud. There have also been similar reports of fraud in Massachusetts, Illinois, Kansas, and other states.

These problems also go beyond unemployment. There have been frequent reports of CARES Act funding being misused, including by people using small business loans to buy luxury cars, as well as large companies or businesses connected to President Donald Trump Trump and members of Congress improperly receiving funding.

As Congress considers another much-needed stimulus package, these issues of transparency and accountability have now become paramount. 

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

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COVID-19 Cases Expected To Surge After Thanksgiving

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  • With coronavirus cases already on a steep rise in the U.S, experts are warning that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings will likely make things worse. Canada, for example, saw a jump in cases after its citizens celebrated the holiday last month.
  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that Americans should hold out for a vaccine, which is on the horizon, and be safe this Thanksgiving.
  • A family in Texas is also waring against gathering, saying they learned how dangerous it is the hard way. After celebrating a birthday together, all 15 people who attended the party tested positive for the virus.
  • On top of this experts are also warning against thinking a negative test clears you for socialization. In reality, you can test negative for the virus and still have and transmit it.

Warning From Surgeon General 

As Thanksgiving looms closer, warnings against family gatherings are being echoed by experts and everyday people alike. 

Health officials have been vocal about the threat the Thanksgiving holiday poses when it comes to the coronavirus. The U.S. has seen 12.4 million cases and lost 257,000 lives to the virus, and cases have been on a steep increase this month. The CDC has already warned against travel and experts have said that based on the spike Canada saw after its October Thanksgiving, America is set to go down a similar, or even worse path. 

“I want the American people to know that we are at a dire point in our fight with this virus by any measure,”  U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Monday on Good Morning America.Cases, positivity, hospitalizations, deaths. We’re seeing more Americans negatively impacted than ever before.” 

Adams said that with a vaccine on the horizon, Americans should just wait out this homestretch and stay put for the holiday.

“I’m asking Americans, begging you, hold on just a little bit longer,” he said. “Keep Thanksgiving and the celebration small and smart this year.” 

Family in Texas Urges Caution

Health officials are not the only ones preaching this advice. In Arlington, Texas, a family that has lived the consequences of gathering without regard for public health is urging people to not make the same mistake as them. The Aragonez family celebrated a birthday earlier this month indoors without masks or distancing. Now, all 15 people who attended tested positive for the virus. 

“We feel guilty for gathering,” members of the family said in a video encouraging caution. “All this pain that my family is feeling, this loneliness, this sickness, this longing to be healthy could have been prevented.” 

“Please don’t be like my family and ignore the CDC guidelines,” one person said. “By staying apart we can fight this virus together.” 

While most cases in the family were mild, one person was hospitalized for over a week.

“One moment of carelessness has cost us a month of peace, has cost us sleep, has cost us laughs, has cost us a lot of money,” one family member told the Washington Post. 

Testing Negative is Not Enough

Many have still forged on with their gathering plans under the false idea that if everyone tests negative before attending, they are in the clear to socialize. However, experts warn this is far from the case.

Just because a person tests negative does not necessarily mean they do not have the virus. Tests are not 100% accurate and it can take days or even a week to test positive for the virus after exposure. Not to mention, people could come into contract with the virus between their test and the family event. 

“A negative result is a snapshot in time,”  Dr. Paige Larkin, a clinical microbiologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago explaining to the New York Times. “It’s telling you that, at that exact second you are tested, the virus was not detected. It does not mean you’re not infected.”

While it might slightly minimize the risk of spread, it certainly does not eliminate it. More than anything, it gives people a false sense of security that they have a free pass to go wherever and see whoever they want, despite the fact that it still poses a large health threat.

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

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Over 1 Million People Traveled Through U.S. Airports Friday, Despite COVID-19 Warnings

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  • Over 1 million people traveled through U.S. airports on Friday, marking the second-highest single day of airport traffic since the coronavirus pandemic began.
  • The new record comes despite the fact that the CDC has issued a warning against travel for Thanksgiving, encouraging people to stay home instead because COVID-19 cases are already on a steep rise.
  • In Canada, cases spiked after the country celebrated their Thanksgiving holiday in October.
  • While cases were already increasing in the country, contact tracing has linked outbreaks to holiday gatherings, which likely accelerated the speed of spread.

Cases and Travel Both Increase

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is expected to worsen the already increasing coronavirus outbreak in the United States. 

Currently, the country has seen over 12.3 million cases and lost more than 256,000 lives to this virus. On Friday, the U.S. broke its record for new cases in a single day, reporting 198,500 cases. The daily average has reached 171,462 cases a day and roughly one-quarter of all cases in the U.S. have come from just the month of November. 

These circumstances paint a grim picture of what could come after all of the traveling and large gatherings that are expected to happen over the holiday, even after repeated warning against doing so.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against traveling and advised that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

The CDC told travelers to ask themselves questions, like if cases are high in their home or destination, if their method of travel makes social distancing difficult, and if there are travel restrictions in their area. If the answers to any of those questions are yes, people should “consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel.”

Despite these warnings, air travel is on the rise in the country. On Friday, more than 1 million people passed through airports, marking the second-busiest day of air travel since the pandemic began. While this is 1.5 million people less than the same day last year, the travel surge troubles health officials who fear the virus could spread as people gather with their families. 

Case Spike After Canada’s Thanksgiving

All the U.S. has to do is look to its neighbor to the North in order to find out just what kind of impact Thanksgiving can have on coronavirus cases. Two weeks after Canada’s Thanksgiving in October, the country saw a spike in cases. While cases were already on the rise at the time, experts believe that holiday gatherings contributed to and accelerated the spread.

“Cases were indeed increasing already, but we definitely saw an increase in the rate of transmission after Thanksgiving. And we know that Thanksgiving is important for a couple of reasons. One is through contact tracing data,” Dr. Laura Rosella, an associate professor and epidemiologist at the University of Toronto told CBS News.

Contact tracing in the country showed a significant transmission from household gatherings stemming from Thanksgiving. 

“One local health unit that reported about 12 people being infected because of a Thanksgiving gathering,” Rosella explained. 

It’s not the only reason the cases are increasing, it’s not the only setting in which transmission is occurring, but definitely when people gathered indoors it did transmit COVID.”

Superspreading Events

Still, people are more likely to feel safe with their family, no matter how high the COVID-19 risk actually is. Superspreading weddings are among the strongest examples of this, as numerous have led to significant outbreaks because couples thought it was safe to gather with friends, family, and other people they trust.

“Many people don’t believe that you can actually catch it from your family and friends. They feel safe when they are around people that they know,” Karen Potts, the director of the Adams County Health Department in eastern Washington explained to NBC News. “And I think that’s why this sort of event happens. People just feel safe, and they go to the event, and it just spreads so rapidly.”

One August wedding in Maine, for instance, was liked to 177 coronavirus cases and 7 deaths. Many of those cases include people who did not attend the wedding. In fact, none of the deaths traced back to the wedding were attendees. 

An October wedding in Cincinnati led to 32 of the 83 guests getting COVID-19, including grandparents of the bride and groom. In Washington, a 300 person wedding earlier this month has led to 17 people getting the virus so far. 

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

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