- The Chancellor of the University of Missouri has blocked students on Twitter who publicly criticized the school’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- The school has 635 active reported cases and has seen a total of 1,100 cases since August 19.
- Some students say that testing is inadequate, that meals for quarantined students are small or oftentimes forgotten, and that the school is not living up to its contact tracing promises.
- A lawyer representing blocked students said that the Chancellor was violating the First Amendment by blocking them, and requested that he unblock individuals or else the matter could go to court. Several students have since said that they were unblocked.
Chancellor Blocks Students
The Chancellor of the University of Missouri is under fire for blocking students on Twitter who were critical of the way the school has handled the COVID-19 pandemic on campus.
According to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are 635 active reported cases. Since August 19, there have been over 1,100 cases on the campus. Many students believe the school has failed when it comes to thorough testing, contact tracing, sanitation, social distancing, as well as its handling of students in quarantine and isolation.
Many shared those concerns on Twitter, tagging the school along with Mun Choi, the University of Missouri System President and MU Chancellor, in their posts. Many have said this resulted in Choi blocking them.
“Definitely a professional approach to addressing covid concerns. Real class act,” wrote one student who was blocked after sharing a video of sinks at the school not working, making it impossible for people to wash their hands.
At this time, it’s unclear how many students Choi blocked. University of Misery, a student Twitter account devoted to exposing and mocking the school’s fumbling of the pandemic, asked that anyone who was blocked respond to their tweet with screenshots as proof. That tweet has over one dozen replies. There are also others who did not respond to that post, but separately tweeted that they were blocked as well.
Choi’s decision to block those making their complaints public has outraged students who feel they are being silenced by the school’s administration.
“My job as a reporter is to hold the powerful accountable and be a watchdog,” one student reporter tweeted. “When the chancellor/president of the university decides to block me on here, and yet also brag about how great our (journalism) school is, that’s a huge problem.”
Attorney Asks Choi to Unblock Students
A spokesperson for the school confirmed to the Kansas City Star that Choi did in fact block people on his Twitter account. They claimed he had received rude tweets, some with profane language.
“He has been on the receiving end of messages/tweets that were disrespectful and not constructive,” the spokesperson said. “He is always open to respectful conversations with students.”
However, feeling disrespected on Twitter may not be enough for Choi to cover his bases. ABC 17 in Columbia obtained a letter sent to Choi and other school officials by Christopher W. Bennett, an attorney who was asked to represent some of the people who were blocked.
“Not only is it immoral and repugnant for President Choi to block students and other persons on social media who are trying to raise awareness of campus safety issues in the middle of a global pandemic, it is also unlawful,” Bennett argued in the letter.
Bennett claims that because this is Choi’s only public-facing Twitter account, and that since he uses it as a tool of his office, his Twitter is effectively government-controlled property.
“As President Choi’s twitter account is a government forum, blocking people for their criticism of the university’s handling of a public health crisis constitutes viewpoint-based discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” he further wrote.
The letter asks that Choi unblock those who had been blocked, or else the matter could be escalated to a U.S. District Court. Some students have since shared screenshots showing that Choi has in fact unblocked them.
Issues at the School
Criticisms of the school range across many aspects of the pandemic. One prominent complaint is the lack of access to testing for students. At the start of September one student tweeted that even though she was showing symptoms, she was initially denied a test. The only reason she ended up getting one was because her job mandated it.
“Mizzou is hiding covid cases,” she wrote. “You need a referral in order to test (making tests inaccessible). During my appointment they said I have it but wouldn’t order me to be tested unless my work REQUIRED it. They didn’t want to report my case.”
She believes the school is limiting test access to lower its case count. Her test came back negative, which she believes is false because she has “every symptom in the book.” She has struggled to get tested a second time.
Testing is just the start of issues students have reported. Many tweets claim that meals for those in isolation have also been inadequate. One student shared a photo of their meal, which was two pieces of ravioli and a handful of broccoli. Other students have alleged that sometimes, the school forgets to feed them at all.
Another student in isolation claimed the robust contact tracing that the school has been promoting on its social media is not nearly as thorough as they claim it is. The student claims they went roughly a week in isolation without anyone contacting them about it.
As a result of these issues and the high case counts, some think the school should start asking students to pack their bags and go home. Right now, the school has not commented on any actions that will be taken as a result of these criticisms, or as a result of Choi’s decision to block students.
See what others are saying: (Kansas City Star) (ABC 17) (BuzzFeed News)
Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates
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)
Washington State Launches Investigation Into Abuse at Private Special Ed. Schools
Allegations include staff kicking a fourth-grader and dragging a child with autism around by his leg.
Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has launched an investigation into a system of private schools for kids with disabilities after ProPublica and the Seattle Times reported on allegations of abuse.
The series of articles focused on Northwest School of Innovative Learning (NWSOIL). NWSOIL is a set of private schools that serve 500 Washington public school students with serious disabilities. ProPublica and the Seattle Times found years of complaints from parents and school districts against NWSOIL alleging abuse, overuse of isolation rooms, and unqualified aides teaching instead of certified professionals.
One district claimed NWSOIL staff kicked a fourth-grader. Another alleged that a child with autism was dragged around by his thigh.
Many former NWSOIL employees also claim that they were pressured by their parent company to to enroll more students and skimp on basic resources, like staffing.
In a seven-page letter, OSPI reminded NWSOIL of its authority to revoke or suspend a school’s approval, meaning that it could shut NWSOIL down.
“Given the serious nature of the allegations made in the articles, OSPI is examining what, if any, actions need to be taken with respect to Northwest SOIL’s approval to contract with Washington school districts,” Tania May, assistant superintendent for special education at OSPI, wrote in the letter.
OSPI has demanded any records of mistreatment, maltreatment, abuse, or neglect as well as documents pertaining to restraint or isolation of students and calls to the police. They are also seeking information about the student-to-teacher ratio and staff qualifications.
In the letter, OSPI claims that all of this was previously unknown to them as well as to police, Child Protective Services, and local school districts. They are asking NWSOIL for an explanation as to why the allegations were not reported.
NWSOIL defended itself in a public statement.
“Use of restraints and seclusion are always used as a last response when a student is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or others,“ it said. “We strongly deny any allegation that we understaff and/or pressure staff to increase admissions in order to maximize profits.”
Washington state representatives are considering a reform bill that will give them more oversight on the publicly funded system of private special education schools.
In this legislation, OSPI and at least one district that sends students to this program would be required to visit before approving the contract. It would also standardize district agreements with programs like NWSOIL, including financial safeguards to make sure funds are being used appropriately.
See the full series: (ProPublica) (The Seattle Times)
Mass Shootings in Half Moon Bay, Oakland Rock California
Just since Saturday, at least 19 people have been killed and 17 have been injured in mass shootings in California.
California Sees Third Attack in Under a Week
Two California localities experienced separate mass shootings Monday, just days after an attacker killed 11 and injured nine others in a suburb of Los Angeles.
The first of the most recent shootings took place in Half Moon Bay, a small coastal town about 30 miles outside of San Francisco, where a gunman killed seven and critically injured an eighth at two different locations.
According to authorities, police were dispatched to the first location around 2:20 pm and found four people shot to death and a fifth victim also suffering gunshot wounds. Shortly after, three more people were found dead at another site nearby.
About two hours later, police discovered the suspect in his car in the parking lot of a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office substation with a semiautomatic handgun in the vehicle that officials later confirmed he had purchased legally.
Sheriff Christina Corpus said the man was taken into custody “without incident” and is “fully cooperating.” He has been identified as a 66-year-old Half Moon Bay resident of Asian descent.
Currently, the gunman’s motive is unknown, but the Sheriff told reporters Monday that both of the locations he targeted were nurseries, and it has since been reported that they were mushroom farms.
“All evidence we have points to this being an instance of workplace violence. The Mountain Mushroom Farm, the first location, is where the subject was employed,” Corpus said in a press conference Tuesday, though she added that, so far, the “only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers.”
As of writing, it remains unclear why he targeted the second location. A mushroom farm called Concord Farms has told reporters that it was the site of the second shooting — which a law enforcement official confirmed to The Washington Post.
In a statement to the media, a spokesperson said the farm had “no past knowledge” of the alleged gunman or his possible motives. Little has been released about the victims, though Corpus said Tuesday they were all adults and a “mixture of Asian and Hispanic descent,” some of whom were migrants.
Authorities had previously stated that, because people both live and work on the farms, children were among those who witnessed the shooting. However, on Tuesday, one official walked that back and said while children were indeed in the vicinity, police do not have information about specific witnesses.
Just hours after the violence in Half Moon Bay, seven people were injured, and one other was killed during a shooting at a gas station in Oakland. Very little has been reported about the incident, but police have said that the shooting was “between several individuals.”
Renewed Calls for Gun Control
Californians continue to reel from the rapid succession of mass shootings in a state known for its strict gun control laws.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates against gun violence, the state ranks No. 1 in the country for gun law strength. An analysis led by the organization found that California has the sixth-lowest rate of gun ownership and the eighth-lowest gun death rate.
Many of California’s top lawmakers have argued that the state’s relatively low gun violence statistics emphasize the need for more federal regulations.
“The Second Amendment’s becoming a suicide pact,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told CBS News in an interview.
“We’ll continue to find whatever loopholes we can and continue to lead the national conversation on gun safety reform. And the data bares out. It works. It saves lives,” he continued. “California’s 37% lower than the death rate of the rest of the nation, and yet, with all that evidence, no one on the other side seems to give a damn. I can’t get anything done in Congress.”
Following the Monterey Park shooting, U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.), alongside other Democratic colleagues, introduced two gun control bills in the upper chamber. The first would ban assault weapons, while the second aims to raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21.
President Joe Biden quickly threw his support behind the measures, urging Congress to pass them.
“The majority of the American people agree with this commonsense action,” he said in a statement Monday. “There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation.”
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