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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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Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG

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AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.” 


Lawsuit Filed Against Trump 

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.

Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses. 

“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,”  a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed. 

The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan. 

“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint. 

Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief. 

 The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation. 

“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media. 

“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”

Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets

According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”

“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued. 

Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time. 

For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million. 

Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million. 

Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”

“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,”  the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth. 

The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday. 

“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”

For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”

Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition. 

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (Reuters)

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Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power

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While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.


Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.

Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.

Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”

He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.

Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.

Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.

Continued Issues As Storm Rages On

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.

The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.

While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.

The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.

He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.

After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.

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

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Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows

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The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.


Largest Drop in Half a Century

The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.

From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.

In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.

The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.

Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.

Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.

According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.

But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.

Poverty Before COVID

Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.

They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.

It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.

The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.

They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.

Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.

The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.

Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.

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

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