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Texas Gov. Abbott Bans Mask Mandates by Local Governments and Schools

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Critics have called the move premature given low vaccination rates in the state and CDC guidelines on protective measures for the current academic school year.


Abbott’s New Order

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order Tuesday that bans government entities and public schools from imposing mask requirements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting Friday, any local government body that tries to implement a mask mandate can be fined up to $1,000, according to the order. There are exemptions for state-supported living centers, government-owned or run hospitals, prisons, and jails.

Schools will be allowed to keep their protections until June 4, but after that, “no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor may be required to wear a face covering,” according to the order.

“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities,” Abbott said in a statement. 

“The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities,” he added. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.”

Policy Backlash

As critics noted, however, Abbott already rolled back many of the “safe practices” he touted in his remarks when he fully reopened the state back in March. Since then, he has worked hard to crack down on entities that are still taking those precautions.

Beyond that, others have also pointed to the fact that the states’ vaccination rate is below the national average. Currently, Texas ranks among the bottom 15 of all U.S. states in terms of percent of population vaccinated, according to a New York Times tracker.

Around 30% of Texas are now fully inoculated, but the vast majority of children are unvaccinated. 

While Abbott’s order comes as the school year is winding down, once the ban goes into effect, some of the state’s largest school districts will continue to hold classes, and several large public universities will host graduation events.

As a result, Abbott’s order directly goes against guidelines from the CDC, which has advised schools to keep coronavirus mitigation measures — including mask-wearing — in place for the rest of this academic year.

Top teachers unions in the state noted this while condemning the move, arguing that Abbott’s order will impact students who attend in-person summer school. The Texas American Federation of Teachers called the decision “unconscionable” because the vaccine is not available for kids under 12 yet.

Growing Trend

Still, Abbott is not alone in his decision. Last week, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed an almost identical executive order banning mask mandates in schools and government.

The week before that, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) enacted a very similar policy, that blocked all local mask mandates imposed by local governments.

Abbott’s latest move comes as many states have begun revising their masking policies after the CDC issued new guidance last week stating that fully vaccinated people can now gather without masks indoors.

According to reports, after those guidelines were issued, at least 14 states said they will relax mask mandates. Major retailers like Target, Walmart, Starbucks, and Costco have also lifted their face covering requirements for stores in states and cities that do not have mandates.

However, many of the governors loosening their statewide restrictions are not also banning local governments and public schools from still enforcing protections if they want. Though with the trend of more and more eased restrictions, it is likely that more conservative leaders will take a similar path.

See what others are saying: (The Texas Tribune) (Politico) (CNBC)

Politics

Trump Mocks Florida Gov. “Ron DeSanctimonious” Ahead of Possible 2024 Bid

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The former president may announce a bid to take back the White House on Nov. 14, according to his inner circle.


Trump Concocts His Latest Nickname

From “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” to “Sleepy Joe” and “Crazy Bernie,” former president Donald Trump’s nicknames for his political opponents have been known for their punchy style, but Republicans found it hard to swallow his latest mouthful for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“We’re winning big, big, big in the Republican Party for the nomination like nobody’s ever seen before,” he said Saturday at a rally in Pennsylvania. “Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10%.”

The former president drew rebuke from some allies and conservative commentators for driving a wedge through the GOP three days before the midterm elections.

“DeSantis is an extremely effective conservative governor who has had real policy wins and real cultural wins,” tweeted The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh. “Trump isn’t going to be able to take this one down with a dumb nickname. He better have more than that up his sleeve.”

“What an idiot,” wrote Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative. “DeSantis is a far more effective leader of the Right than Trump was, if, that is, you expect a leader to get a lot done, rather than just talking about it and owning the libs.”

In April 2021, Trump said he would “certainly” consider making DeSantis his running mate for a potential 2024 presidential bid. But as DeSantis established himself as a credible rival to Trump, their relationship grew colder.

Last September, sources told The Washington Post that Trump had called DeSantis “ungrateful” in conversations with advisors. The former president reportedly had not spoken with the governor in months.

The Party of Trump or DeSantis?

One day after his “DeSanctimonious” jab, Trump took to the stage in Florida to support Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) reelection campaign but grabbed more attention when he seemed to endorse DeSantis for governor.

“The people of Florida are going to reelect the wonderful, the great friend of mine, Marco Rubio to the United States Senate, and you’re going to reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor of your state,” he said to the cheering crowd.

The brief moment of support was overshadowed, however, by the conspicuous absence of DeSantis himself.

Both men held competing, contemporaneous rallies in the same state hundreds of miles apart, and multiple sources told Politico that DeSantis was not invited to Trump’s event, nor did he ask to attend.

The governor has repeatedly refused to say whether he will make a run for the presidency in 2024, but national polling consistently puts Trump ahead of him among Republicans by a wide margin.

Some recent polls, however, have shown DeSantis to lead the former president in specific states like Florida and New Hampshire.

A survey last month found that 72% of GOP voters believe DeSantis should have a great or good deal of influence in the future direction of the party, while just 64% said the same about Trump.

Sources told Axios that Trump’s inner circle is discussing a Nov. 14 announcement for his presidential campaign, timing it to capitalize on the expected post-midterm euphoria as vote counts roll in.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (Politico)

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The Midterms Are Tomorrow, But We May Not Have Results for a While. Here’s What You Need to Know

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The counting of mail-in ballots and possible legal challenges will almost certainly slow the final results.


Election Delays Expected

As Americans gear up for Election Day on Nov. 8, experts are warning that many races, including some of the most highly anticipated ones, may not have the final results in for days or even weeks.

These delays are completely normal and do not indicate that election fraud or issues with vote counting took place. However, like in 2020, former President Donald Trump and other election-denying Republicans could seize on the slow-coming returns to promote false claims to that effect.

There are a number of very legitimate reasons why it could take some time before the final results are solidified.  Each state has different rules for carrying out the election process, like when polls close and when ballots can start being counted.

There are also varying rules for when mail-in ballots can be received and counted that can extend when those votes will be tallied. That lag could seriously skew early results in many places because there has been a major rise in the number of people voting by mail.

Red Mirage, Blue Mirage

One very important thing to note is that the early returns seen on election night may not be representative of the final outcomes. 

In 2020, there was a lot of talk about a “red mirage,” which is when ballots cast on election day and favoring Republicans are reported first while mail-in ballots used more by Democrats are counted later, creating the appearance that Republicans have a much wider lead.

That phenomenon may very well take place in several key battlegrounds that not only could decide the House and the Senate but also have incredibly consequential state-wide elections of their own.

For example, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, election officials cannot start counting mail-in and absentee ballots until Election Day. 

Some experts have also speculated that a similar occurrence could occur in Georiga because the suburbs — which have shifted blue in recent years — report their results later than rural counties.

At the same time, there are also some states where the opposite might happen: a blue mirage that makes it seem like Democrats are doing better than they actually are.

Such a scenario is possible in Arizona, where election officials can process mail-in ballots as soon as they receive them, and where a similar trend played out in 2020.

Other Possible Slow-Downs

Beyond all that, there are a number of other factors that could delay when results are finalized.

For example, in Georgia, candidates need to get at least 50% of the vote to win, and if none do, then the top two are sent to a run-off election on Dec. 6. That is a very real possibility for the state’s closely-watched Senate race because there is a libertarian on the ballot who could siphon enough votes from Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to keep them both below the 50% threshold. 

In other words: if control of the Senate comes down to Georgia again — as it did in 2020 and which is a very real possibility — voters may not know the outcome until a month after the election.

Meanwhile, experts also say that legal battles over mail-in ballots could further delay results, or even go to the Supreme Court. According to The New York Times, before Election Day, over 100 lawsuits had already been filed.

In Pennsylvania, for example, the State Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of a lawsuit from Republican groups requesting that mail-in ballots that did not have dates on outer envelopes be invalidated, causing thousands of ballots to be set aside. Multiple rights groups are now suing to get that decision reversed. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (ABC News) (Reuters)

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DHS Confirms Paul Pelosi Attacker is a Canadian National in the U.S. Illegally

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The suspect espoused many political conspiracy theories promoted by the American far-right and told investigators he wished to harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send a message to other U.S. politicians.


Pelosi Attacker’s Immigration Issues

The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi and trying to kidnap House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) is a Canadian national currently residing in the United States illegally, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) late Wednesday.

Law enforcement officials say the suspect embraced far-right conspiracies about U.S. politicians and told investigators he wanted to break the House Speaker’s kneecaps as a lesson to other members of Congress. 

Despite his lack of citizenship, the man also allegedly told police he was on a “suicide mission” and had a list of state and federal lawmakers he wanted to target.

In its statement to the media, DHS said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had lodged a “detainer” on the suspect, which is a notice the agency intends to take custody of an individual who could be deported and requests it be notified before that person is released. The detainer, however, likely will not impact the case against him, because deportations are civil proceedings that happen after criminal cases are resolved.

According to several reports, federal records indicate the suspect came to the U.S. legally via Mexico in March 2008. Canadians who travel to America for business or pleasure are usually able to stay in the country for six months without a visa. DHS told The Washington Post the Canadian citizen was admitted as a “temporary visitor” traveling for pleasure.

Before the confirmation from DHS, there was some mixed reporting on how long the suspected attacker has been in America. On Monday, an anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press the man had legally entered in 2000 but stayed way after his visa expired.

One day later, The New York Times reported he was registered to vote in San Francisco County from 2002 to 2009, and even voted once in 2002. 

Heightened Security Concerns

The new revelation comes as lawmakers are facing increased threats, prompting conversations about safety and security with a specific focus on the role of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).

On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that USCP security cameras trained on the Pelosi’s house actually captured the attack, but no one was watching. In a statement Wednesday, the agency said its command center has access to around 1,800 cameras and not all are watched constantly.

The Capitol Police also said that the Pelosi’s home is “actively” monitored “around the clock” when the Speaker is there, but not when she is in Washington.

As a result, many argued that there should be more security and surveillance for the second person in line for the presidency — especially given the threat of violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection and warnings from law enforcement ahead of the midterms.

That was echoed in a scathing letter yesterday sent to Capitol Police by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca.), who is one of the most senior Democrats in Congress and heads the Administration Committee.

In her letter, Lofgren noted that the agency “has previously reported to the committee that the speaker receives the most threats of any member of Congress,” and asked why that protection was not extended “to the spouses and/or other family members of the congressional leaders in the presidential line of succession.”

She questioned why the USCP had turned down an offer from the FBI for some of its officers to be part of terrorism task forces investigating threats against Congressmembers and why it had not made a formal agreement with San Francisco police for a car to be posted at the Pelosi’s home 24-hours a day as had been done in the months after Jan. 6.

Lofgren also inquired why the Capitol Police did not direct more threats against lawmakers for prosecution. She noted that members of Congress received at least 9,625 threats in 2021, but just 217 were referred.

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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