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Bubba Wallace Defends Himself Against Critics Calling Noose Incident a Hoax: “Whether Tied in 2019 or Whatever, It Was a Noose”

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  • After a noose was found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s team garage stall, the FBI concluded that it was being used as a door pull rope and had been there since last October, before Wallace began using that garage.
  • After news of the FBI’s findings was released to the public, claims that Wallace had committed a Jussie Smollett-style hoax began to trend on social media.
  • However, Wallace never saw the noose outside of investigation photos and wasn’t the person who found or reported it.
  • “Whether tied in 2019, or whatever, it was a noose,” Wallace said on Tuesday.
  • NASCAR has also indicated that it will continue its investigation to determine why that noose was acting as a garage pull in the first place.

FBI Determines Noose Was A Door Pull

Two days after an apparent noose was found in the team garage stall of NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has concluded that no one committed a hate crime against him.

According to the agency, the noose was a garage door rope pull that had been there since October 2019; however, Wallace’s team didn’t begin using that garage until last week. Because of that, the FBI also determined that “nobody could have known” that Wallace’s team would be assigned to that stall.

Following on the heels of the FBI’s report, NASCAR issued a statement saying that the rope pull that was being used had been “fashioned like a noose.”

That noose-shaped rope pull was found Sunday by a member of Wallace’s No. 43 team. Notably, Wallace never saw that noose or rope pull outside of photos from the investigation. In fact, drivers aren’t even allowed in their garages right now in order to properly social distance from their teams.  

The incident, as well as its timing, led to massive public outcry Sunday evening. Part of that is because of the ongoing protests over racial injustice, but another part was because of a protest happening outside Sunday’s planned race at the Talladega SuperSpeedway in Alabama. 

That race was the first NASCAR event since the coronavirus shutdown that fans were able to attend. Prior to that, Wallace—who’s the only black driver for NASCAR’s top series—pushed to have NASCAR ban the display of the Confederate Flag from events. On June 10, it agreed and prohibited fans from displaying the symbol within its stadiums. 

While fans largely followed that rule on Sunday, outside of the stadium, hundreds of people protested and waved that flag. 

Soon after that came the reports of that noose being found in Wallace’s garage stall. From there, NASCAR and the FBI in conjunction with the Justice Department launched separate investigations.

“We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba,” NASCAR said in its statement Tuesday. 

Speaking to reporters, NASCAR President Steve Phelps echoed that statement, saying:

“For us at NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for. It was disturbing to hear it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI definitively that there was not a hate crime.”

Phelps added that NASCAR plans to continue its investigation, with that probe focusing on why the rope was fashioned into a noose and why it was even in that garage stall in the first place. 

Phelps also told reporters that even with the information now known, NASCAR took the proper steps in handling the situation.

“I want to be clear about the 43 team,” he said. The 43 team had nothing to do with this. The evidence is very clear that the noose that was in that garage had been in the garage previously. The last race we had had there in October, that noose was present.”

The fact that it was not found until a member of the 43 team came there is something that is a fact,” he added. The crew member went back in there. He looked and saw the noose, brought it to the attention of his crew chief, who then went to the NASCAR series director, Jay Fabian, and we launched this investigation.”

#BubbaSmollett and Hoax Accusations

Despite Phelp’s firm assurance that no foul play was involved from Wallace or his team, others have compared Wallace to actor Jussie Smollet, who was charged with six counts of falsifying police reports after an alleged hate crime against him last year.

Tuesday night, after the FBI finding became public, #BubbaSmollett trended on Twitter. There, many floated the theory that the noose was a hoax,  implying that Wallace orchestrated the incident to boost his career. 

Others also shared photos and videos of that garage, pointing out what they assumed to be the rope pull in question.

Wallace Defends Himself Against Criticism

In an interview with Don Lemon on CNN Tuesday night, Wallace defended himself against those claiming he was involved in planting the noose. 

“I’m pissed,” the driver said. “I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity and they’re not stealing that away from me, but they’re just trying to test that.” 

Wallace then went on to add that he was first told about a noose being found in his garage by Phelps, who described the incident to Wallace as a “hate crime.”

Even though the FBI has said that Wallace wasn’t the target of a hate crime, Wallace still asserted that the rope pull in question was a noose.

“Don, the image that I have and that I have seen of what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull,” Wallace said. “I’ve been racing all my life. We’ve raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that. So People that want to call it a garage-pull, and put out old videos and photos of knots, as their evidence, go ahead. But from the evidence that we have, that I have, it’s a straight-up noose.”

“It was a noose. It was a noose that whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose,” he added. “So it wasn’t directed at me, but somebody tied a noose, that’s what I am saying.” 

Drivers and Other Supporters Defend Wallace From Hoax Allegations

Like Phelps, others with NASCAR have continued to support Wallace and the reaction from the association after that noose was found.

“I’m relieved to hear this wasn’t a hate crime and I’m still so proud of how our sport came together yesterday,” driver Jimmie Johnson said on Tuesday.

NASCAR reporter Marty Smith, whose Sunday night response to the noose finding went viral, called the FBI’s conclusion “the best possible news.” 

I am so happy for @BubbaWallace & @NASCAR that there was no hate crime, or any ill will,” Smith said on Twitter. “That is wonderful.”

“And the display of unity, togetherness, courage and commitment that I saw Monday from the garage will forever be one of the most beautiful moments of solidarity I’ve witnessed. Brothers caring for brothers.” 

Others like IndyCar Driver JR Hildebrand directly called out people comparing Wallace to Jussie Smollett.

“Quick PSA that I hope will save me from wasting time going HAM in my replies: There are ways to have been skeptical about this situation without being racist or an asshole. Calling Bubba Wallace Jussie Smollett is not one of them.” 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ESPN) (Deadspin)

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China Imposes Retaliatory Sanctions on US Officials Over Xinjiang Criticisms

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  • The U.S. imposed sanctions on Chinese officials last week over the treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
  • The decision was the latest escalation during a time of heightened tensions between the two nations over policies in Hong Kong, the trade war, and questions about sovereignty in the South China Sea, among other matters.
  • In response, China announced retaliatory sanctions against U.S. officials, including Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
  • However, what exactly the Chinese sanctions will do is currently unclear as officials haven’t given specifics yet.

Sanctions and Counter Sanctions

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were sanctioned by China on Monday over their involvement in criticizing the nation’s actions in Xinjiang. Two other American officials faced sanctions as well for interfering in “China’s internal affairs,” as characterized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The Chinese sanctions were in retaliation over earlier sanctions the U.S. placed on Chinese officials last Thursday. The U.S. was able to do this following the passage of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act last month. That law allows the U.S. to place sanctions, in line with the Global Magnitsky Act, on officials who are involved in the ongoing repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

When the law was passed in mid-June, China warned that if the U.S. actually imposed any sanctions they would do the same in retaliation. after Thursday’s announcement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated, “We urge the US to immediately rescind its wrong decision and stop making any remarks or moves that interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s interests. The Chinese side will firmly fight back if the US obstinately pursues such agenda.”

Zhao Lijian, Spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry speaking to reporters about US-imposed Sanctions. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China)

Despite China’s threat, the U.S. imposed sanctions on certain Chinese officials and organizations involved in Xinjiang on July 9. The sanctions include freezing the assets these officials hold in the U.S., as well as restricting the ability of the officials and their immediate family members’ to enter the U.S.

In a statement on July 9, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote, “The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith.”

Out of the four named individuals in the sanctions, one stands out: Chen Quanguo. Chen is the Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang and part of the Politburo and the highest-ranking Chinese official to ever be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. He first received infamy for his actions while doing the same job in Tibet from 2011-2016.

The Treasury Department named three other individuals who would have their assets frozen for helping Chen set up the surveillance and detention families in Xinjiang.

Additionally, the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB) was also sanctioned by the Treasury Department, and the State Department added that officials who worked with the XPSB were also liable to have themselves and their families denied entry into the U.S.

When speaking about the sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, “The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world.”

Tit-for-Tat Hostilities

However, these sanctions will likely end up being largely symbolic because these officials don’t travel to the U.S. in the first place. It’s also believed that their assets aren’t based in America but in China.

Even as a symbolic act, it still made China upset. On Monday, the country imposed its own sanctions against the four U.S. officials in retaliation, including the aforementioned Senators Cruz and Rubio.

Cruz was likely placed on this list for his work as part of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Two other officials part of that committee were also named, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Sam Brownback, a lawyer who also serves as the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.,

Rubio was likely named over his co-sponsorship of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act. Interestingly though, China avoided issuing sanctions on the other co-sponsor, Sen. Robert Menedez (D-NJ).

As far as what these sanctions will actually do, that’s a little unclear. So far, China hasn’t given any specifics as to what the penalties would be.

These recent sanctions are just the next step in ongoing tit-for-tats between the two countries. There’s an ongoing trade war, tensions over how Hong Kong is being treated by the mainland Chinese, issues over the sovereignty of the South China Sea, and major problems with how the Chinese are treating ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The problems in Xinjiang are so bad, that there are pundits and experts calling it a cultural genocide.

Even outside of the US, China has increasingly been pressured to change course over Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Al Jazeera) (NPR)

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San Francisco Lawmaker Proposes CAREN Act to Make False, Racist 911 Calls Illegal

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  • San Francisco City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced an ordinance this week called the CAREN Act, which would make false, racially discriminatory 911 calls illegal.
  • The acronym stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. It is named after “Karens,” a nickname for white women who throw unwarranted fits in public.
  • These fits often appear racially motivated and have led to “Karens” calling the police on people of color.
  • California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has also introduced a similar piece of legislation that would outlaw these calls throughout the state.

Why the “CAREN” Act?

A lawmaker in San Francisco has introduced an ordinance that would outlaw making false, racially discriminatory 911 calls, dubbed the CAREN Act.

City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced the ordinance. In a tweet announcing the act on Tuesday, he called racist 911 calls “unacceptable.”

The CAREN Act stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, but its name bears much more weight. A “Karen” is an Internet nickname for white women whose privilege and entitlement leads to loud complaints, threats of legal action, calling supervisors, and often, calling the police. The unjustified outrage of Karens has been documented in countless viral incidents, and in many cases, they show a clear prejudice against people of color. 

One video that went viral in May has been pointed to as a prime example of this. In that clip, Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York, called the police on a Black man named Christian Cooper. Both were in Central park at the time when the man asked her to put her dog on a leash, as she was required to do in that area.

However, that confrontation escalated when she desperately told a 911 operator that she was being threatened when she was not. Many felt her instinct to weaponize her white privilege and make a false claim could have had serious consequences considering the fact that Black Americans are more likely to face police brutality and die in police custody. She has since been charged with filing a false report after much public outrage.

While videos of this nature have often gone viral, this incident came at a cultural tipping point. Not long after it made its way across the Internet, another story received national attention: a video of George Floyd being killed by police officers in Minneapolis. This sparked a movement of people confronting systemic racism and police brutality, and since then, more “Karen” videos have spread online in an effort to hold people accountable for their racist behavior.

What the Ordinance Does

While filing a false police report is already illegal, Walton is pushing for more to be done to stop people from calling the authorities on people of color for no real reason. The CAREN Act would make it illegal to fabricate a report based on racial and other kinds of discrimination. 

“Within the last month and a half in the Bay Area, an individual called the police on a Black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in his Alameda neighborhood and a couple called the police on a Filipino man stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ in chalk in front of his own residence in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights,” he said in a statement. 

This is not the only proposal of its kind. California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has introduced a similar ordinance. His proposed legislation, AB 1150, would make state that “discriminatory 911 calls qualify as a hate crime, and further establish civil liability for the person who discriminatorily called 911.”

“AB 1550, when amended, will impose serious consequences on those who make 911 calls that are motivated by hate and bigotry; actions that inherently cause harm and pain to others,” Bonta said in a statement. “This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.”

See what others are saying: (SFist) (The Hill) (CNN)

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Catholic Church Granted at Least $1.4 Billion in PPP Loans

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  • An analysis from the Associated Press found that the Catholic Church received at least between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid.
  • The report identified 3,500 loans the Church received from the Paycheck Protection Program, but leaders have previously stated that as many as 9,000 bodies of the Church received funding.
  • However, government data only shared who received loans over $150,000. Smaller churches that received under that amount were not on the list, meaning the Catholic Church could have collected even more than records show.
  • Usually, religious groups would not be eligible for funding from the Small Business Administration, but the Church allegedly spent a good chunk of money lobbying so that there would be an exception for the PPP.

Catholic Church Receives Billions in PPP Funds

The Catholic Church received between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid, according to a Friday analysis from the Associated Press.

While houses of worship and religious organizations are usually ineligible for federal aid from the Small Business Administration, an exception was made for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to keep American businesses afloat as the pandemic shut the country down.

The AP found records of 3,500 forgivable loans for Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, and other ministries. That number, however, is likely higher.

The Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference has claimed that 9,000 Catholic bodies received loans. Government data only shared loans over $150,000, so smaller churches who got less were not on the list, meaning the Church may have pocketed even more than $3.5 billion. 

“The government grants special dispensation, and that creates a kind of structural favoritism,” Micah Schwartzman, a University of Virginia law professor told the AP. “And that favoritism was worth billions of dollars.”

According to the AP, the Archdiocese of New York received $28 million just for executive offices. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City received $1 million. Diocesan officials in Orange County, California received four loans worth $3 million. The AP’s analysis suggests that the Catholic Church and its entities were able to retain 407,900 jobs with this loan money.

“These loans are an essential lifeline to help faith-based organizations to stay afloat and continue serving those in need during this crisis,” spokesperson Chieko Noguchi told the AP.

How Did the Church Get Aid?

Like many businesses throughout the country, churches had to shut their doors as large gatherings became unsafe as the coronavirus’ spread continued. Masses were canceled or moved online and celebrations for the Easter holidays were dropped, causing the Church to to fall behind financially. 

While its global net worth is not known, the Catholic Church is considered the wealthiest religious organization in the world. It is also one of the most powerful groups of any kind, with an estimated 1.2 billion followers all over the planet. According to the AP, its deep pockets and far-reaching influence helped it receive federal aid. 

The Catholic Church lobbied heavily to make sure religious groups were allowed to receive money from the PPP, the AP says. Their report found that the Los Angeles archdiocese spent $20,000 lobbying Congress to include “eligibility for non-profits” in the CARES Act, the legislation that formed the PPP. Records also show that Catholic Charities USA spent another $30,000 in CARES Act lobbying.

With its wealth and power, the Catholic Church is also plagued with controversy and scandal. For years, there have been reports that the Church has covered up for priests and other leaders who have been accused of sexual abuse. Many entities of the church have had to shell out large sums of money in legal fees and settlements. 

The AP found that around 40 of the dioceses that have paid out “hundreds of millions of dollars” to related compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings received loans. These loans totaled at least $200 million.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Business Insider) (Market Watch)

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