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Governor DeSantis Hires COVID Conspiracy Theorist to Data Analysis Role

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  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has hired an anti-masker and conspiracy theorist to a data analysis role.
  • That role, while not exclusively devoted to COVID-19 research, will lively involve projects involving COVID-19 data.
  • The controversial hire, Kyle Lamb, is a sports blogger and Uber driver from Ohio. He started hosting a COVID-19 podcast and regularly posts tweets undermining data from health experts and scientists.
  • According to the Miami Herald, the debunked conspiracy theories he touts include the idea that masks and lockdowns are ineffective at stopping the spread of the virus, that the virus is less deadly than the flu and does not harm children, and that it might be part of Chinese biowar.

Conspiracy Theorist Hired

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has hired an anti-masker and conspiracy theorist to a data analysis role that will likely involve working on COVID-19 data. 

The controversial hire is 40-year-old Kyle Lamb, a sports blogger and Uber driver from Ohio. According to the Miami Herald Lamb has touted a variety of unsubstantiated theories, including the idea that masks do not prevent the spread of coronavirus and that lockdowns are ineffective. He also claimed that hydroxychloroquine, a drug boasted by President Donald Trump but denounced by medical experts, can treat the virus. He has also falsely said that the virus is less deadly than the flu, that it is not dangerous for children, and that it might be part of Chinese biowar. 

The coronavirus has infected 10.3 million Americans and killed 240,000. According to data from the New York Times, the seven-day average of cases has reached over 123,000, a 69% increase from the average two weeks ago. Nationwide, hospitalizations are on the rise. In Florida alone, hospitalizations have gone up 25% in the past two weeks. The state has seen a total of 182,000 cases and over 17,000 deaths. 

The theories Lamb has been touting have been debunked by scientists time and time again and play into the harmful narrative that continues to allow people to deny the severity of the virus. Governor DeSantis is among the many who have downplayed the risks the coronavirus poses. 

On a website Lamb made for a COVID-19 podcast he started hosting, he admitted himself that he is not an “expert” when it comes to the disease.

“I have no qualms about being a ‘sports guy’ moonlighting as a Covid-19 analyst,” he wrote in a bio about himself. “Fact is, I’m not an ‘expert.’ I’m not a doctor, epidemiologist, virologist or scientist. I also don’t need to be.”

Former Colleagues Call Him “Unghinged”

Those in Lamb’s circle have doubted his qualifications for the position. The Herald spoke to sports writers in Ohio who called him “unhinged,” a “crackpot” and an “amateur, basement epidemiologist.” 

The Washington Post spoke Ryan Donnelly, a former coworker who worked a sports publication with Lamb two years ago.

“He is totally unfit for the role and appears to have been hired because he enjoyed posting charts and graphs on Twitter and offering misleading analysis alongside them,” Donnelly told the outlet. 

A spokesperson for DeSantis’ office, Fred Piccolo, told the Herald that Lamb’s role is an entry level position and that his work will go through the hands of around ten people before landing on the Governor’s desk. He also said that  the work is not exclusively focused on the virus and that he was not “a COVID-19 hire.”

According to Lamb, though, he will be “doing data analysis on several fronts for them including but not limited to Covid-19 research and other projects.”

Emilio M. Bruna, a professor at the University of Florida tweeted that the thought of Lamb working in this capacity made him start “hyperventilating into my mask.”

Lamb’s Background

Lamb’s Twitter page is filled with charts and commentary aimed at undermining the data provided to the nation by top health experts. While he claims to be providing context to these figures, most of what he alleges contradicts the messaging of medical leaders. He has also written for a conservative blog that claims Florida is over counting their COVID-19 deaths, a claim with no scientific backing. 

That blog has been cited by people in the Governor’s office. Piccolo has cited it himself. He said he was not sure who first thought to hire him, but noted his work with data online. 

Lamb’s LinkedIn shows that he graduated from the Ohio Center for Broadcasting in 2002 but boasts no other education.

“I don’t know what the governor has this gentleman doing, but I certainly don’t believe that there is anything that is not above board, 100 percent,” Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson told the Herald.

See what others are saying: (Miami Herald) (Washington Post) (Tampa Bay Times)

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AMC Will Set Movie Ticket Prices Based on Seat Locations

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The decision has faced backlash, but AMC executives claim it will ensure that “guests have more control over their experience.”


Sightline by AMC

AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S., is changing its price metric by charging more at admission for preferred seats and offering value seats at a lower cost. 

The new pricing experiment is called Sightline by AMC, and it offers three different tiers. Value Sightline includes the seats right next to the screen, while Preferred Sightline includes seats that are centered and in the middle of the theater. The average seats, or Standard Sightline, will remain at the normal price of admission. 

“While every seat at AMC delivers an amazing moviegoing experience, we know there are some moviegoers who prioritize their specific seat and others who prioritize value moviegoing,” AMC’s executive vice president and CMO Eliot Hamlisch said to Variety. “Sightline at AMC accommodates both sentiments to help ensure that our guests have more control over their experience, so that every trip to an AMC is a great one.”

However, Sightline will not apply to AMC’s Discount Tuesday deal — every ticket will still be offered at $5 regardless of seat location. Sightline will also only apply to evening shows after 4:00 p.m.

The Reception

The movie theater giant has faced backlash for this new price structure, including from people in the entertainment industry.

“This is absurdly stupid & only creates unnecessary classism,” actor and director Seth Green wrote on Twitter. “AMCTheatres clearly focused on squeezing new profits anywhere possible. Trying to get people back into theaters? Don’t penalize folks with less to spend.” 

Actor Elijah Wood also condemned the change for disproportionately impacting lower-income families.

“The movie theater is and always has been a sacred democratic space for all and this new initiative by AMCTheatres would essentially penalize people for lower income and reward for higher income,” Wood wrote. 

This is not the first time AMC has experimented with its pricing. During the opening weekend of “The Batman” last year, AMC announced it would be charging $1 to $2 more for it compared to other movies playing at the same time. Back in 2019, the chain tested a different pricing initiative, charging more for movies “of the highest appeal” and making less in-demand movies cheaper. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Complex) (NowThis

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Neo-Nazi Leader Charged in Plot to “Destroy Baltimore” By Attacking Substations — a Growing Trend

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Experts say that far-right extremist attacks on energy infrastructure have grown significantly in the last few years.


Conspiracy to Attack Maryland Energy Systems

A neo-Nazi leader who was recently released from prison and a woman he met while incarcerated were arrested on Monday for plotting to “completely destroy” the power grid in Baltimore, Maryland.

Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI field office in Baltimore said in a press conference that the two had “conspired to inflict maximum harm on the power grid,” by targeting five electrical substations that serve 1.2 million people in central Maryland.

He noted that the pair ”were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals.”

Their plot, however, was foiled by law enforcement before they could put it into action, in large part because both extensively detailed their plans to an FBI informant on encrypted messaging apps.

Sobocinski described their extremist views as “racially or ethnically motivated.”

The neo-Nazi leader is the founder of a small but dangerous group called the Atomwaffen Division, which uses civil disorder and violence because they believe it will help spark a race war in the U.S. — a white supremacist theory known as “accelerationism.”

Authorities say that he previously plotted with his roommates — also members of the group — to attack energy facilities in Florida. Before he could, he was arrested and put in federal prison for possessing bomb-making materials.

During that time, he began to communicate with the woman, who was serving time in a separate facility in Maryland after being charged with robbing multiple convenience stores with a machete.

Authorities point to several pieces of evidence that indicate she too had been radicalized, including a statement she wrote that prosecutors say resembles a manifesto, in which she references Hitler, the Unabomber, and a far-right Norwegian terrorist and stated: “I would sacrifice **everything** for my people.”

The woman’s mother also told The Washington Post that she had become involved with neo-Nazi beliefs in prison, which she has been in and out of since 2006.

A Growing Trend

Federal law enforcement officials have said there is “no indication” the planned attack in Baltimore was connected to other attacks. The plot, however, comes on the heels of similar events.

In early December, there were a series of attacks on substations in North Carolina that were very reminiscent of what the pair in Maryland were plotting. In fact, prosecutors even said the neo-Nazi leader sent the FBI informant a video about that attack. 

While authorities have provided little information on a suspect or motive in North Carolina, it has been reported that they have zeroed in on two possibilities that both center around far-right extremism. 

Around the same time in December, there were also a series of attacks on the grid in the Pacific Northwest.

Researchers and homeland security officials have said that far-right extremists have been increasingly targeting energy infrastructure while operating under the neo-Nazi theory of accelerationism.

According to a study by the program on extremism at George Washington University released in September, white supremacist attempts to target energy systems “dramatically increased in frequency” from 2016 to 2022.

“Since 2019, white supremacist attacks plots against critical infrastructure systems have distinctly increased,” the study found.

Brian Harrell, a former Homeland Security official who oversaw infrastructure protection at the department, told The Post that he saw a noticeable surge in violent extremists talking about carrying out these attacks online.

“When digging into the ‘dark web,’ social media portals and chat rooms, we quickly see that targeting and destroying energy infrastructure is a tactic many extremist groups fantasize about,” he said.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War

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As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.


College Board Rolls Out Curriculum

The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.

The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.

In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.” 

Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.

Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.

According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.

Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”

It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism. 

The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”

DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War

DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.

Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”

Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.

Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.” 

To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.

Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too. 

Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.

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

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