- Videos went viral Wednesday showing Palm Beach, Florida residents voicing frustrations about a local mask mandate during a meeting with county commissioners.
- The same day, Florida recorded its highest single-day total of coronavirus cases with over 5,500 new reports, and the United States did the same, recording over 36,880 nationwide in a day.
- Along with Florida, states like Texas, California, and Arizona have also seen record spikes, but the governors of all four states have been reluctant to re-impose restrictions or scale back reopening efforts.
- President Trump, for his part, has continued to downplay the new cases, repeatedly claiming they are only the result of increased testing despite the fact that numerous health experts have said that is false.
County commissioners in Palm Beach, Florida passed a new mandate Wednesday requiring people to wear masks inside public buildings, prompting outrage from locals whose rants against the move went viral.
“You literally cannot mandate somebody to wear a mask knowing that that mask is killing people” one woman claimed in a viral clip. “We the people are waking up, and we know what citizen’s arrest is. Because citizen’s arrests are already happening.
“Every single one of you that are obeying the devil’s laws are going to be arrested,” she said, warning that God would punish the commissioners for their orders.
“Six feet, like I said before, is military protocol, you’re trying to get the people, to train them, so when the cameras, the 5G comes out, what?” the woman continued. “They’re going to scan everybody? We gotta get scanned? We gotta get temperatured?”
“What happened to Bill Gates? Why is he not in jail? ” she went on.
“Why is Hilary Clinton not in jail? Why are all of these pedophiles that are demanding you all to listen to their rules, why are they not in jail? Oh, is it because you are a part of them? Are you a part of the deep state? The deep state is going down and if any of you are in the deep state, you are going down with it.”
Still, the commissioners voted unanimously to impose the mandate Palm Beach after hearing three hours of arguments.
“They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door,” one woman said in another viral video.
“I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear: things gotta breathe,” argued another.
Cases Rise in Florida
The remarks were mocked online by people who pointed out that many the claims have been disproven by scientific evidence, and in some cases, have been debunked as conspiracy theories.
This recent example of the fierce opposition to wearing masks, which experts have said prevents the spread of the coronavirus, also comes as cases in Florida increased significantly in recent weeks.
On the same day the county commissioners meeting took place, Florida reported its single highest day of new cases with over 5,500. Over the last week or so, the state has repeatedly broken its previous record for new daily cases.
According to reports, before last Thursday, the state had never reported more than 3,000 new cases in a single day. Over the last week, more than 3,000 cases have been recorded every day but one.
Even compared to the week before, the growth has been significant. Data compiled by the state’s health department shows that there were 29,508 total new infections recorded from June 18 to June 24, which is nearly early double the 15,600 new cases confirmed in the week before.
For weeks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed that the spikes were due to increased testing, an argument President Donald Trump has made repeatedly.
However, numerous experts have said that is not true. While more testing does mean more infections will be found, it is more important to look at the positivity rate— the percentage of tests that are coming back positive. Comparing how many tests are being done to the amount of those tests that are positive is a much more accurate indicator of where a given state is.
According to reports, the percentage of people testing positive in Florida has risen sharply— a fact DeSantis finally admitted after pushing false narratives about testing for weeks.
“Most of that is community transmission particularly amongst the 20- and 30-year-old group. They are testing more than they were, for sure, but they’re also testing positive at a higher rate than they were before,” he said in a press conference Tuesday. “So, that would tell you there’s been an escalation in transmission over the last seven to 10 days.”
However, DeSantis still said he is going ahead with his reopening plans, which have already been some of the earliest and most expansive in the country, and notably include reopening schools in August.
Separately, on Wednesday, when the state saw its highest number of cases ever, DeSantis refused to issue a statewide order requiring people to wear masks.
“Ultimately, you have to trust people to make good decisions,” he said.
Increases in Other States
Florida is not the only state seeing huge spikes. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. as a whole broke its previous record for the highest single day of confirmed cases with 36,880.
Cases are also now rising in more than half of the states, but some have been hit worse than others. Among other states, California and Texas also broke their previous daily case records on Wednesday, with California reporting over 7,100 new cases and Texas reporting over 5,500.
Arizona is another state that has seen large increases in the last few weeks. On Tuesday, the state reported its highest single day of new cases with 3,600. The same day, President Trump held a rally at a megachurch in Phoenix, where he again insisted that testing was the reason for the spikes.
“When you have all those tests, you have more cases,” he said. “We want to do testing. We want to do everything, but they use it to make us look bad.”
Arizona has also seen a huge jump in hospitalizations. As of Monday, around 84% of the state’s ICU beds were in use. But, like DeSantis, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has refused to change his reopening plans.
Leaders of other states with rising cases have taken some actions. California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week issued a state-wide order requiring people throughout the state to wear masks in “high-risk settings.”
However, on Wednesday, Newsom said that he does not plan to pause the state’s reopening, though he is ready to re-impose restrictions if needed.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott basically did the exact opposite, announcing Thursday that he would pause the state’s reopening, but stressing that he does not plan on reversing any of the broad reopening phases he’s already allowed for.
Some states have even taken it a step further. On Wendesday, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut issued a travel advisory requiring people arriving from states with high coronavirus cases to quarantine for 14 days.
Numerous experts and public health officials have said that the new spikes indicate that not only is the U.S. failing to contain the virus, but that it is getting worse.
President Trump, however, has ramped up his efforts to downplay the virus at all costs. In addition to pushing the false claim that the spikes are simply due to increased testing, he also said he directed his administration to slow down testing during a campaign rally over the weekend.
A White House official claimed the remark was a joke, but when asked by a reporter on Tuesday if he had been kidding, a straight-faced Trump responded, “I don’t kid.”
Hours later, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to walk back Trump’s remarks.
“He was making was a serious point, and that’s why he said ‘I don’t kid,’” she said. “He was making a serious point, but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally.”
See what others are saying: (CNN) (USA Today) (The New York Times)
China Imposes Retaliatory Sanctions on US Officials Over Xinjiang Criticisms
- 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.”
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.”
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)
San Francisco Lawmaker Proposes CAREN Act to Make False, Racist 911 Calls Illegal
- 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.”
Catholic Church Granted at Least $1.4 Billion in PPP Loans
- 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
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.