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NBA Vaccine Skeptics Speak Out as Internal Debate Rages

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Around 90% of NBA players are vaccinated, but the lack of a player mandate has caused rifts in the league.


NBA Vaccination Battle

Several skeptical and anti-vaccine NBA players refused to discuss their vaccination status during the league’s team media day on Monday, prompting continued debate surrounding basketball stars and vaccine hesitancy.

While the NBA has said that 90% of its players are vaccinated against COVID-19, there is no mandate in place for players — even though there is one for all referees, along with league and team staffers who work closely with the players. 

While the league pushed for vaccines to be required, numerous outlets have reported that the player’s union refused because a small but very vocal minority has basically set the agenda and railroaded the conversation.

There have been some outside efforts to ensure players are vaccinated. For example, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a rule requiring sports arenas to require all employees and guests ages 12 and up to prove they have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That policy made no exceptions for religious or medical exemptions.

A similar mandate was also enacted in San Francisco, California, though players, staff, and attendees there are required to show that they are fully vaccinated.

Due to the mandates, unvaccinated players from the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets, and the San Francisco Golden State Warriors are banned from playing in their teams’ own 41 home games. The NBA has said teams do not have to pay players for missed games — a fact that would mean massive losses for major stars that bring in tens of millions each season.

Players Spread Skepticism, Misinformation

That, however, does not appear to be enough incentive for some players who voiced skepticism or openly spread misinformation when asked about their vaccination status during Monday’s media junkets.

One of the most talked-about clips involved Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who refused to answer four different questions about his vaccination status while speaking via Zoom at the event held at Barclays Center.

“I would like to keep all that private,” he said. “Please just respect my privacy. All the questions leading into what’s happening, just please. Everything will be released at a due date once we get this cleared up.” 

While Irving was coy about whether or not he had received the jab, multiple outlets reported that he called into the presser because of the league’s health protocols. Irving’s aunt, Tyki Irving, who runs his family foundation and is in his regular circle of advisors, told Rolling Stone in an interview published this weekend that the star player was was unvaccinated for reasons “not religious-based.”

“It’s moral-based,” she added.

The magazine also reported that Irving, who has been known to support conspiracy theories in the past, has “recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that ‘secret societies’ are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for ‘a plan of Satan.’” 

Irving was not the only player who spread skepticism or even outright misinformation about COVID vaccines Monday. Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors, who was denied a request for a religious exemption on Friday, also refused to discuss his vaccination status.

Others still more directly expressed their doubts about the vaccine, like Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal, who missed the Olympics because he got COVID-19.

“Some people have bad reactions to the vaccine. Nobody likes to talk about that,” he told reporters. “What happens if one of our players gets the vaccine and can’t play after that? Or they have complications after that? Because there are cases like that.”

There have not been any publicly known instances of an NBA player being unable to play because of severe vaccine side effects, which are rare for anyone.

Beal does not have to get the shot to play in home games in Washington, D.C., which does not have mandates like New York or San Francisco.

Others Promote Vaccines, Condemn Hesitancy

Although the remarks from hesitant and anti-vax NBA stars gained the most media attention, plenty of other players used their time to promote vaccination.

“I have a lot of people in my family that I’m tight with and spend a lot of time around and I’m just not going to put their health or their lives in danger because, you know, I wanna hold a big research,” said Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, though noting he believes vaccination is a personal choice. 

“I’ve had people in my family actually die and people actually lose their lives to it, and there’s a way for me to protect myself and the people that I love, I’m going to do it. You know, it’s pretty simple.” 

Some more strongly condemned those who have spread skepticism or misinformation, arguing that their choices and decisions to broadcast them have a direct impact on public perception and hesitancy.

While speaking on CNN Monday night, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has argued that the NBA should have a vaccine mandate, took direct aim at Irving’s remarks earlier in the day. 

“He’s hiding behind procedure here. Either you understand what’s going on and you’re going to do the right thing, or you don’t understand what’s going on and you’re going to continue to create all this confusion with your stance,” he said.

“I don’t think that they are behaving like good teammates or good citizens. This is a war that we’re involved in. And masks and vaccines — they are the weapons that we use to fight this war.” 

Abdul-Jabbar also published an article on his Substack Monday further elaborating on the dangers of “more research” rhetoric, especially in Black communities.

“Athletes and other celebrities have a public platform to help alleviate this crisis and to save lives,” he wrote. “To not take on that responsibility harms the sports and entertainment industries, the community, and the country. Those who claim they need to do ‘more research’ are simply announcing they have done no research.”

That point was echoed by other prominent Black voices, such as sports reporter Vincent Goodwill. In an article Monday titled “Stop giving vocal minority of anti-vaxx NBA players the space to be loud and wrong,” Goodwill argued that players who use their platforms to spout false information should have those platforms taken away.

“In giving them the platform, we’re giving them what they want,” he wrote. “They have access to the greatest doctors in the world and will consult them for anything from the common cold to a torn-up knee, but they have apparently discovered something all the world’s greatest scientists have missed.”

“The volume should be turned down on those yelling into the mic. Even if minds can’t be changed, damage can be mitigated.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Rolling Stone) (The Los Angeles Times)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

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

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

See what others are saying: (CNN)(BBC) (The New York Times)

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