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Wealthy Americans Are Trying to Jump to the Front of the Vaccine Line

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  • Health care workers and other high-risk populations are starting to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Doses will not be available to the general public for many months, but wealthy people are trying to angle their way to the front of the line.
  • High-end medical practices are receiving hundreds of calls from patients who want to get the vaccine as soon as possible, per a report from the Los Angeles Times. Some have asked if $25,000 donations to hospitals could earn them a shot.
  • These practices are used to giving their affluent patients whatever they want, but for the first time are having to tell them no. Right now, the vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are not for purchase by private citizens and the government is in charge of distribution.
  • Still, concierge doctors are trying to make sure they have doses ready to go the second it is possible. Watchdogs also say that well-connected people might try to rig the system to get it soon, either via a vaccine black market or by trying to argue that they are among a priority population.

The Pandemic Has Favored Wealthy People

Now that the coronavirus vaccine is being distributed to healthcare workers and long-term care patients in all 50 states, wealthy people are doing everything they can to make sure they are next to get it.

The Food and Drug Administration has so far approved two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, and both cannot be bought. The government is distributing them to hospitals and care facilities where they are to be administered to those the CDC and other leading officials have given priority to. After healthcare workers and nursing home residents get it, essential workers and immunocompromised individuals are next. It will be months before they are available to the general public. 

But wealthy people have been able to rig the pandemic in their favor since it began and they intend to keep that pattern up. When testing was scarce in March and April, those with money were able to shell out hundreds of dollars on tests while those working in hospitals or experiencing severe symptoms were left empty-handed. When it comes to treatment, people like President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani got experimental antibody treatments after their COVID-19 diagnoses. This fast-tracked their recovery time and potentially saved them from a much more severe illness. This is a privilege they know is available to them. 

“If it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have been put in a hospital frankly,” Giuliani told WABC radio in New York. “Sometimes when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you they’re going to examine it more carefully, and do everything right.”

Affluent people have been getting this A-list treatment despite the fact that they already have everything tool available to avoid ever coming across the virus in the first place. 

“They are among the most capable of mitigating the dangers of exposure for themselves,” Shamus Khan, professor of sociology and American studies at Princeton University wrote for The Washington Post. “Most can get their groceries delivered without any social contact. They are more likely to work the kinds of jobs that can be performed remotely.”

However, Khan added that wealthy people are also “more likely to be selfish and act unethically.”

“They are more likely to think of themselves as more important than other people and less likely to give to others,” he wrote, linking to numerous studies proving this pattern of behavior. 

Attempts to Buy a Spot In the Front of The Vaccine Line

Because of this, and the fact that people with money are seldom told they cannot spend it on whatever they want, they are using their heavy pockets to do anything they can to boost their place in line. 

Dr. Jeff Toll, who has admitting privileges at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center told the Los Angeles Times that he received a call from a patient who asked, “If I donate $25,000 to Cedars, would that help me get in line?” The answer was “no.”

“We get hundreds of calls every single day,” said Dr. Ehsan Ali, who runs Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor told the L.A. Times. “This is the first time where I have not been able to get something for my patients.”

California’s elite, which includes everyone from movie stars to tech CEOs, are not looking to hear “no” as an answer. 

“These people don’t usually have to wait,” Dr. Toll told ABC 7

Dr. David Nazarian, of My Concierge MD in Beverly Hills, told the outlet that many high-profile clients are waving money in an effort to get vaccinated.

“They wanted it yesterday,” Dr. Nazarian said ABC 7. “We will play by the rules but are doing everything we can to secure and distribute the vaccine when it’s available to us.”

Now, doctors for the rich are working to make sure that when the time comes, their clients are first. 

“As soon as we heard about the vaccine coming to market, we started looking for freezers,” Andrew Olanow, co-founder of concierge practice Sollis Health told the L.A. Times. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines must be kept in ultracold temperatures. The freezers that can store them are expensive and not easily accessible. 

Sollis told the Times that “larger governmental orders” sucked up most of the supply and that he will have to wait a month to get the six he ordered. Clinics just placing their orders now will have to wait even longer. 

How Money and Power Can Get the Vaccine

Some leaders are trying to ensure that well-to-do people do not see big vaccine privileges. California Governor Gavin Newsom has said the state will be “very aggressive in making sure that those with means, those with influence, are not crowding out those that are most deserving of the vaccines.”

Still, the vaccine is already landing in the hands of those with influence. Vice President Mike Pence, who spent months downplaying the severity of the coronavirus with the rest of the Trump Administration, publicly took the vaccine on Friday. Several senators, many of whom are stalling on passing legislation to provide relief to the millions of Americans who have been suffering most of the year as a result of this pandemic, have also gotten the highly sought after shot. 

“Vaccine privilege worries me,” wrote epidemiologist and health economist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding. “Well connected athletes, politicians, & the wealthy will manage to get special early access to the COVID19 vaccine before they are supposed to. The special treatment will degrade public trust. We must be ready to call it out.”

“We know it will be coming, either via direct black market sales or fudging during the ‘high risk’ population rollout phase.”

The L.A. Times said that the scarcity of COVID-19 vaccines could lead to a “thriving black market.” Well-connected people in the medical field could give doses to friends, family, or even sell them off if the price is right. 

That’s not the only way wealthy people might be able to maneuver their way into early vaccination. Essential workers and those with pre-existing conditions are in the second phase of many states’ rollout plans and the definitions of both leave room for a wide gray area. This means that affluent people might be able to argue their way into a vaccine, saying that their job or a condition they have makes them deserving of a shot. 

“With enough money and influence, you can make a convincing argument about anything,” Glenn Ellis, a bioethicist and a visiting scholar at Tuskegee University told the Times. Others have similar concerns. 

“Every system has a weak link somewhere, and I’m sure someone is going to find it and someone’s going to exploit it,” Alison Bateman-House, an assistant professor of medical ethics at New York University told the outlet. “The question is: Where’s that weak link going to be, and how quickly will it be identified and stopped?”

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Los Angeles Times) (ABC 7)

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Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates

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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)

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Washington State Launches Investigation Into Abuse at Private Special Ed. Schools

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Allegations include staff kicking a fourth-grader and dragging a child with autism around by his leg.


Abuse Allegations

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.

Investigation Launched

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)

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Mass Shootings in Half Moon Bay, Oakland Rock California

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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.”

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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