When Trump was president, the Democrats and media carried on like every virus death was one he could have prevented. But with Joe Biden now president, it turns out that he can can’t do that much, either.

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Why a Covid-19 vaccine will not stop the coronavirus pandemic right away

It was in 2009, when the H1N1 “swine” flu broke out in April, right at the end of the regular flu season.

“That was very challenging,” Shah, who heads the Harris County, Texas, health department, told CNN.

“There were a lot of moving pieces. It took several weeks to months to not just organize but to implement and to do safely and effectively. And that was a mild pandemic.”

This is not a mild pandemic. And while vaccine manufacturers, public health experts and the federal government are all confident one or more of the coronavirus vaccines being tested now will be shown to work safely by the end of the year, the US and the world will still be a long way from ending the pandemic.

“I feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this calendar year, as we get into early 2021,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who, as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is helping lead the medical battle against the virus, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Friday.

“But it’s not going to be turning a switch off and turning the switch on. It’s going to be gradual,” Fauci added.

“Having” a vaccine does not mean having a vaccine approved, distributed and into the arms of more than 300 million Americans.

First, any vaccine must either be approved or authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration. That’s a process that under normal circumstances can take months or years. While the FDA has promised a speedier process for a Covid-19 vaccine, it must still go through a committee known as the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBAC.

The FDA will almost certainly allow a shortcut process known as emergency use authorization, or EUA, but the agency has said it will require an “EUA-plus” that adds at least some layers of scrutiny.

“It’s unlikely that a Covid-19 vaccine will receive full approval and broad distribution right away. Instead, the FDA will probably authorize vaccines for use in targeted groups of people at high risk from Covid and most likely to benefit from the vaccine,” Dr. Mark McClellan and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, both former FDA commissioners, wrote in a commentary in the Wall Street Journal Monday. “All this means that at least initially, Covid vaccines won’t provide the sort of herd immunity that can help extinguish an epidemic.”

That will take time — likely well into next year, even if a vaccine were to be authorized in January, most experts who spoke to CNN predicted.

“People can’t be lulled into a false sense of security by knowing the vaccine is coming,” Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers, told CNN.

Although manufacturers are already making vaccine doses, it takes time. And the US will likely need more than 600 million doses of vaccine — enough for everyone to get two doses of the vaccine.

A new vaccine, and a plan for getting it out

“Let’s say … at the end of the year, there will be millions and tens of millions of doses available,” Fauci said in the CNN interview Friday.

“It won’t be until we get into 2021 that you’ll have hundreds of millions of doses, and just the logistics constraints in vaccinating large numbers of people — it’s going to take months to get enough people vaccinated to have an umbrella of immunity over the community.”

The US just is not ready for a mass vaccination campaign like the one needed to bring coronavirus under control, public health experts agreed.

Pfizer proposes expanding Covid-19 vaccine trial to include more diversity as race for a vaccine continues

“I don’t think it’s going to be seamless,” said Plescia.

The biggest mass vaccination program the US undertakes every year is the annual influenza vaccine. Only about half of Americans get a flu vaccine, and manufacturers make and distribute fewer than 150 million doses of it.

Yet it takes a full year from start to finish to formulate, make and distribute flu vaccines every influenza season.

“We start planning for flu vaccines in January or February,” Michael Einhorn, the president of Dealmed, an independent medical supply distributor covering New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Flu vaccines generally become available in August — seven to eight months later.

And that’s with a vaccine made using familiar technology, and dispensed in ways that people are familiar with — in pediatricians’ offices, at pharmacies, in grocery stores and at clinics.

“You have a playbook for influenza,” Shah said. “This is not the same.”

Here's how Trump could bigfoot the FDA and get a vaccine out ahead of the science

Any coronavirus vaccines will involve new technology and a whole new process for distribution, administration and then for payment.

And while anyone can walk into, say, a pharmacy, get a flu shot and leave without ever thinking about it again, coronavirus vaccines will involve a whole lot more trouble and paperwork. People will probably need at least two doses about a month apart. Someone will have to track and follow up on that.

“We have to be able to see who has been vaccinated and who has not been,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, told a public hearing about vaccine distribution organized by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

Paperwork and red tape

“To have two doses means that you provide the initial dose and we will need to bring the person back for a second dose a month later,” Dr. Jinlene Chan, acting deputy secretary of public health for the state of Maryland, told CNN.

And it’s very likely that vaccines made by several different companies will be in use by next year.

9 vaccine makers sign safety pledge in race for Covid-19 vaccine

“We have to make sure that we give the person the same vaccine for their second dose that they got for their first dose,” Chan said.

No vaccination program can start until there are plans in place to manage this.

Plus, the coronavirus vaccine or vaccines will still be experimental, so every person who gets one will need to be tracked to make sure there are no adverse reactions.

There is no plan yet for any of this.

“We have gotten very little information on how this is going to roll out,” said Harris County’s Shah. “That makes it even more difficult to plan.”

One big potential stumbling block is what’s known as the cold chain. The two vaccines furthest along in development both must be kept frozen. Moderna’s vaccine must be kept at -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius), while Pfizer’s must be kept at -94 F (-70 C). While -4 isn’t much colder than the optimal home freezer’s setting of 0 degrees F, -94 is more of a challenge.

“Throughout — from every single point the vaccine has to traverse — we have to maintain it at that temperature. Otherwise, there is a risk of some degradation and the vaccine possibly becoming less effective,” Chan said. “We need to make sure that there is some capability to store it appropriately until it is ready to use.”

There's a legitimate way to end coronavirus vaccine trials early, Fauci says

Otherwise, a thawed batch could mean hundreds or even thousands of people get a dud vaccine.

This can be a challenge, said Dr. Carlos del Rio, a vaccine expert at Emory University. “We simply don’t have freezers that can reach minus 70 degrees in most clinics,” he told the National Academies meeting.

To reach enough people, any mass vaccination effort will have to go beyond clinics, hospitals and pharmacies. “You are going to have to get out to communities. You are going to have to get out to places of work,” Del Rio said. That makes keeping the vaccines cold enough more of a challenge.

Plescia said Pfizer has a plan to help keep its vaccine cold. “Pfizer is going to have special boxes they ship the vaccines in, packed with dry ice,” he said. “Once you get the box, it’ll keep the stuff at negative 80 degrees for 10 days.”

But it’s not clear, Plescia said, if the boxes could be opened and a few doses of vaccine taken out safely. “Even if these boxes work very well, it is still going to add a whole level of challenge,” he said.

Taking the mass out of mass vaccination

Past mass vaccination efforts have been just that — mass. But coronavirus is a respiratory disease, and the last thing anyone should be doing is lining people up or packing them into, say, school gyms to get vaccinated, Chan noted.

Past vaccine disasters show why rushing a coronavirus vaccine now would be 'colossally stupid'

“With mass vaccination clinics, it involves bringing large groups of people into a site and vaccinating as many people as possible,” Chan said. “How do we do that in a way that reduces the risk of transmitting the very disease that we trying to vaccinate against?”

Illinois’ Ezike said some of the experience with test sites may help. “We had these strike teams,” she said. “We have been able to convert a lot of different sites into sites where people can drive up. Can you do a vaccination through the [car] window?” she asked.

But to accommodate that, cities and states will have to get busy soon. “We are going to need additional providers,” she told the NASEM meeting. “We need mass vaccination clinics and sites. So we really want to recruit lots and lots of essential partners,” she added — especially for the communities that are hardest hit by the pandemic, including meat-packing facilities and remote rural areas.

Experts call for independent commission separate from FDA to review Covid-19 vaccines

That means changes in policies and legislation — another potentially time-consuming process. Medical practice is legislated by states, not by the federal government. “We know that we’ll need some expanded scope of practice for different professional groups,” she said. For instance, states may want to enable dentists, dental hygienists and even medical school students and veterinarians to vaccinate people.

And that requires some other levels of legislation so that providers can get paid for their time. Changes to health insurance laws may be necessary, including billing codes that provide for a system under which people get vaccinated for no charge.

Because rollout will not be immediate, people will be vaccinated in groups. The National Academies is considering this, as is the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). They, along with private advocacy groups, have already released their own draft blueprints that in general put health care workers, first responders and the most vulnerable at the front of the line. But that’s another layer of management for governments to take on.

Many states have old and unwieldy systems for managing all of this, and Ezike said the needed upgrades may take time.

Immunity takes time

Adding to the timeline is simple biology. The Pfizer and Modern vaccines, at least, will have to be given in two doses, a month apart. After that, it takes about two weeks for immunity to build. That makes for six weeks from the time someone first gets vaccinated to when they can feel safe from infection.

US could see a 'very deadly December' with tens of thousands of coronavirus death to come, computer model predicts

On top of all of this, many Americans are fearful of vaccines — especially a new one and especially a new vaccine rolled out in a time of intense politicization of the process.

“There’s general vaccination mistrust and then there’s government mistrust,” Ezike noted.

The current atmosphere over mask use has not helped, added Harris County’s Shah.

“We have made it a political fight,” he said.

“When you make it political in nature, not driven by health and medical considerations, ultimately people will take sides.”

Unless a majority of the population gets vaccinated, the virus will continue its spread. Most estimates suggest that 60% to 70% of the population must be immune to provide enough herd immunity to interrupt the spread of the virus. Polls indicate that only about half of Americans feel confident right now about being vaccinated.

And if vaccines are less than fully effective, that may mean even more of the population needs to be vaccinated to have an effect on spread.

Then there are the unknowns.

“Testing has not been seamless at all. There are going to be some glitches,” Plescia said.

“I think there is a good chance there is going to be a vaccine that works and gets us out of this, but it is hard to believe that it is going to go really smoothly, given all the things that could happen.”

Shah is ready for unpleasant surprises. “This is a super slick virus that has broken every rule in the book,” he said.

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English Premier League football players told to stop hugging or risk matches being stopped

The British government is increasingly alarmed by the sight of soccer players hugging and kissing in celebrations, risking coronavirus infections and the sport’s ability to be allowed to continue during the latest lockdown.

Outbreaks at Premier League teams, forcing the postponement of matches, have heightened concerns about the avoidable — and very visible — close contact between players.

“Everyone in the country has had to change the way they interact with people and ways of working,” Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston tweeted Wednesday.

“Footballers are no exception. COVID secure guidelines exist for football. Footballers must follow them and football authorities enforce them — strictly.”

Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Premier League has warned clubs that punishments will be handed out for flouting the rules.

Players have been told to avoid the very visible close contact between players that follows a goal.(AP: Rui Vieira, Pool)

The Football Association also expressed alarm at a lack of social distancing during last weekend’s FA Cup matches.

Huddleston linked on Twitter to a news story about the league’s letter to clubs which specified players should avoid handshakes, high-fives and hugs and that they were “fortunate to be able to continue to play”.

Those warnings have proven far easier to lay out than enforce, with the majority of goals still being celebrated with group hugs.

“It’s an emotional game,” Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after his side’s 1-0 win over Burnley.

“We have to understand the players when they celebrate but also understand the concern nowadays for a bit of less emotions and less hugging.”

The league configured protocols for the return of games in March in conjunction with Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, who on Wednesday also urged players to avoid hugging and kissing.

“We are in a very dangerous place now,” Van-Tam said on LBC radio while discussing the issue.

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Uni pursues ‘legal rights’ to stop Urrbrae gatehouse demolition

The University of Adelaide says it has yet to receive a formal notice from the State Government of its intention to acquire land and bulldoze the historic Urrbrae gatehouse for an intersection upgrade, as it vows to “pursue its legal rights” to stop the takeover and demolition.

Story Timeline

It comes as the Opposition accuses the State Government of a secret plan to make Cross Road the main connector for freight from the South Eastern Freeway to the North South Corridor – but the Transport Minister accuses the Opposition of “lying to the community and fear-mongering”.

Transport Minister Corey Wingard has backed a Transport Department decision to demolish the 130-year-old gatehouse on the corner of Cross Road and Fullarton Road as part of a $61 million upgrade of the intersection – despite advice that it’s possible to move the state heritage-listed building.

The gatehouse sits on the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus and is linked to its Urrbrae House historic precinct.

A university spokesperson told InDaily as the landowner it will “pursue its legal rights under the compulsory acquisition process”.

“The University of Adelaide is opposed to the acquisition of Waite campus land and its impact on the heritage of that land and the legacy of Peter Waite,” the spokesperson said.

“The Waite campus, which includes the Waite Arboretum, is held in perpetuity by the University and is a South Australian treasure.”

The spokesperson said the university would “continue to make representations to government and the community about the need to protect the Waite heritage and the legacy of Peter Waite”.

“The University has yet to receive formal written notification from the State of its intention to acquire a portion of the land on our campus,” the spokesperson said.

Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis called on Wingard to “come out and tell us will he use his acquisition powers under the Act or will this be a negotiated settlement?”

He said the university “can absolutely fight it in the Supreme Court but the power is pretty clear in the Act that the minister has the power to compulsorily acquire it for a road so I’m not sure it would be successful”.

“Why don’t they just try and find a way of negotiating the settlement that pleases everyone,” he said.

“There’s plenty of scope within the budget to move it if they need to. All the risk is being borne by the contractors – I’m not quite sure why they’ve cut it off.”

Local firm Mammoth Movers has quoted under a million dollars to relocate the building, saying it’s “100 per cent feasible” and that it could be done without any damage.

However, transport officials have said the costs to the taxpayer would be around $3 million, and that relocating the building would “degrade its heritage value”.

Koutsantonis accused the Government of working on a secret plan to turn Cross Road into the main connector for freight from the South Eastern Freeway to South Road and the North South Corridor.

“It must be because they’ve chosen Cross Road to be the connector to the North South Corridor because it’s the cheapest option but they don’t want to tell their voters in safe Liberal seats and marginal Liberal seats like Elder that this is their plan,” he said.

Cross Rd traffic. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

But Wingard said “Labor is again lying to the community and fear-mongering”.

“Trucks, including B-doubles, already use Cross Road and have done so for years when freight needs to get to the airport or moved around our suburbs to supermarkets, which is why we’re investing to improve safety unlike Labor who ignored vital road upgrades,” he said.

“The former Labor Government left the cupboard bare in terms of planning for future projects, including upgrades to Cross Road, and once again we’re fixing their mess.”

Wingard said the Government was investing in a freight bypass “to encourage more trucks to divert around the back of the hills and avoid the down track of the South Eastern Freeway and Cross Road”.

“We’ve already begun works on the $12 million freight bypass that was announced as a COVID stimulus project last year so Labor should stop lying to the community,” he said.

InDaily asked Wingard if he was reconsidering the decision to demolish the gatehouse.

A spokesperson said the government “is in continued discussions with the University of Adelaide about the future of the Gatehouse and community consultation regarding improving heritage outcomes will begin soon”.

“The University has the same legal avenues under the property acquisition legislation as other property owners,” the spokesperson said.

“The State Government will continue to work with all stakeholders and the community regarding improving heritage assets.”

The spokesperson also said “a planning study is underway in regards to Cross Road as well as a host of other road corridors”.

“Last year we announced $10 million to undertake a number of planning studies which had been ignored by Labor,” the spokesperson said.

A Transport Department spokesman said “in regard to Cross Road, these studies are still in the planning phase” and “there are no further details at this stage”.

“The South Australian Government has recently announced a suite of planning works to be undertaken to determine potential infrastructure upgrades on key arterial roads, intersections and transport corridors, as well as public transport infrastructure improvements across South Australia,” the spokesperson said.

“Among the planning studies to be investigated are potential improvements for public transport on main roads across Adelaide and road corridor plans for a number of corridors on the network, including Portrush Road and Cross Road.

“The GlobeLink Planning Study identified other possible options to link road freight with the North-South Corridor, which the Government committed to explore in the long term.”

The spokesperson said as a first step to this process the department had recently commissioned a planning study “to inform future strategic development of High Productivity Vehicle networks”.

“This will include matters such as the connectivity between the South Eastern Freeway and the North-South Corridor and further potential to increase capacity on the North-South freight route between Murray Bridge and the Sturt Highway,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the intersection upgrade at Cross Road and Fullarton Road “forms part of a suite of projects aimed at addressing congested locations on the network”.

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EU should stop speaking ‘broken English’ after Brexit, says French minister – POLITICO

The EU’s impenetrable “Globish” is dead. Long live le Français — or at least “linguistic diversity.”

With Brexit and the EU-U.K. trade deal finally concluded, the EU should stop speaking “a type of broken English, ” Clément Beaune, France’s EU affairs minister said Tuesday. Instead, concrete action is needed to enhance “linguistic diversity,” he told journalists.

“It will be harder for people to understand, after Brexit, that we all stick to a type of broken English,” Beaune said. “Let’s get used to speaking our languages again!”

Addressing reporters in French, Beaune said the EU27 had gotten used to working and holding discussions almost exclusively in English. “I believe we must get out of that,” he said. Like many national officials active in Brussels, Beaune himself speaks good English.

English has long been the EU’s main working language — especially after the last wave of enlargement brought in officials and diplomats from Central and Eastern European countries who had studied the language of Shakespeare rather than that of Voltaire.

However many complain the version used inside the Brussels bubble has developed into a type of “Globish” packed with non-native eccentricities.

With Britain now a non-EU country, there are only two, relatively small, EU members — Ireland and Malta — that still list English as an official language. And they use it alongside Irish and Maltese. For everybody else, English is, at best, a second language.

The use of English has become so widespread in Brussels that several institutions have made behind-the-scenes efforts to streamline costs or improve efficiency by prioritizing an English-only format or adding English to meetings where French was once used exclusively.

French officials, up to the very highest level, have long defended the use of their language in the EU.

Beaune did not explicitly advocate for French to replace English after Brexit. However, he said a post-Brexit Europe “which would work only in one language, would communicate only in one language would be a mistake.”

France will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2022. In preparation, Beaune said, Paris would take “concrete initiatives” to enhance European languages. That will include language training, and making sure the EU institutions are “very vigilant” on language diversity in recruitment processes.

“It’s not a rearguard action or the fight of one single country,” Beaune said. “It is, truly, a fight for European linguistic diversity.”

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Facebook bans phrase ‘stop the steal’ to protect Biden inauguration as it widens post-riot crackdown on speech — RT USA News

Citing the upcoming inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden, Facebook has banned the phrase “stop the steal,” used by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump to question the 2020 election, saying it could incite violence.

Any content with the blacklisted phrase is being removed from Facebook and Instagram, under the Coordinating Harm policy, the company announced on Monday evening. VP for Integrity Guy Rosen and VP for Global Policy Management Monika Bickert claimed that the phrase was used “by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC” and cited “continued attempts to organize events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence,” 

“We’re taking additional steps and using the same teams and technologies we used during the general election to stop misinformation and content that could incite further violence during these next few weeks,” Rosen and Bickert wrote.

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In addition to the “indefinite suspension” of President Trump’s account announced on Thursday, Facebook is keeping the temporary ban on all US political advertising and “connecting people with reliable information and high-quality news about the inauguration and the transition process.”

“After the inauguration, our label on posts that attempt to delegitimize the election results will reflect that Joe Biden is the sitting president,” wrote Bickert and Rosen.

For months, social media giants have labeled any post challenging the validity of the 2020 presidential election as “disputed” or challenged by their coterie of fact-checkers. Last Wednesday’s unrest at the Capitol provided them a pretext to purge accounts outright, including the president himself.

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“Stop the Steal” was a hashtag used by some Trump supporters to question the election results according to which Biden surged from behind to win the most votes in US history, thanks to mail-in ballots. A rally by that name was held outside the White House on Wednesday. Several hundred Trump supporters peeled off and stormed the Capitol, interrupting the joint session of Congress that met to certify Biden as the victor. One person was fatally shot, while the deaths of four more – including a Capitol Police officer – have been linked to the protest, without details.

In addition to deleting any content that mentions the phrase, Facebook is keeping indefinitely several measures introduced last week – such as “automatically disabling comments on posts in Groups that start to have a high rate of hate speech” and using AI “to further demote content that likely violates our policies.” 

Among those caught up in the purges is WalkAway, a group of former Democrats who supported Trump, who said they were entirely peaceful and in no way connected to events at the Capitol, but to no avail.

The outright deletion of content before Biden is even inaugurated is an escalation from Facebook’s actions prior to the election, when they “shadowbanned”all mention of a New York Post story about Biden’s son Hunter and the incriminating emails found on a laptop recovered from a Delaware repair shop. Twitter had locked the Post’s account, but it later emerged that Facebook’s soft censorship turned out to be far more effective.

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Facebook to censor ‘stop the steal’ phrase, as social media companies boot US President Donald Trump from their platforms

Facebook will remove certain content containing the phrase “stop the steal” from its social media platforms, in response to what it says are “continued attempts to organise events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence”.

The company, which is treating the next two weeks as a “major civic event”, says it will continue to allow “robust conversations related to the election outcome”.

“But with continued attempts to organise events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC, we’re taking this additional step in the lead up to the inauguration,” the company said in a blog post.

A Facebook spokeswoman clarified the company would allow posts that clearly share the “stop the steal” phrase to either condemn baseless claims of electoral fraud or to discuss the issue neutrally.

In November, the company removed the “Stop the Steal” group in which supporters of US President Donald Trump posted violent rhetoric.

However, it did not act against similar rhetoric in the run-up to the election and faced criticism this week for failing to remove posts spurring on the siege of Capitol Hill.

It is the latest bid to crack down on baseless claims about the presidential election in the wake of the riot.

Social media companies this week decided they had finally seen enough from the President.

Facebook and Instagram suspended Mr Trump at least until president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Twitch and Snapchat also disabled Mr Trump’s accounts.

To top it all off, Twitter ended a nearly 12-year run and closed his account, severing an instant line of communication to his 89 million followers.

Some people are crying foul.

“Free Speech Is Under Attack! Censorship is happening like NEVER before! Don’t let them silence us. Sign up at http://DONJR.COM to stay connected!” his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted on Friday (local time).

Can social media companies do this?

The short answer is yes.

As the Congressional Research Service has explained in a report for federal politicians and their staff, lawsuits predicated on a website’s decision to remove content largely fail.

That’s because the free speech protections set out in the First Amendment generally apply only when a person is harmed by an action of the government.

“The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private sector organisations. That’s not how this works,” said Chris Krebs, when asked on Sunday whether censorship by social media companies violated freedom of speech protections.

Mr Krebs oversaw election cybersecurity efforts at the Department of Homeland Security until Mr Trump fired him when he disputed election fraud claims.

Trump supporters pull a police barrier from all sides as they try to break through a police line.
In the wake of the riot at the US Capitol, Twitter banned the outgoing President over concerns two tweets he sent last week could incite violence.(AP: John Minchillo)

Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, he explained that companies enforce their own standards and policies for users.

That’s what happened at Twitter.

What was Twitter’s reasoning?

Twitter said after reviewing Mr Trump’s account in the context of the riot at the Capitol, it was concerned about two tweets he sent on Friday that Twitter said could incite violence.

They were:

  • “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
  • “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

The first tweet, the company said, was received by some supporters as further confirmation that the November 3 election was not legitimate — but in fact, the notion of widespread voter fraud is a baseless claim.

The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters was also interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the Capitol.

The company said the second tweet could serve as encouragement to those considering violent acts that the inauguration would be a “safe” target since he would not be attending.

“Our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so,” Twitter wrote.


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Facebook Blacklists All Content Mentioning ‘Stop the Steal’

Facebook has announced that it will remove all content that mentions “Stop the Steal,”  a phrase in reference to the 2020 U.S. presidential election that is popular among supporters of President Donald Trump.

On Monday, the social media company said it is removing “Stop the Steal” content from Facebook and Instagram, claiming that such language might incite violence on Inauguration Day, considering the riots that transpired last week on Capitol Hill.

“We are now removing content containing the phrase ‘stop the steal’ under our Coordinating Harm policy from Facebook and Instagram,” said Facebook in a blog post.

“We began preparing for Inauguration Day last year. But our planning took on new urgency after last week’s violence in Washington, D.C., and we are treating the next two weeks as a major civic event,” the company added.

In November, Facebook shut down a group called “Stop the Steal,” which had garnered over 364,000 members.

“We removed the original Stop the Steal group in November and have continued to remove Pages, groups and events that violate any of our policies, including calls for violence,” said Facebook.

The company went on to claim that it is “allowing robust conversations related to the election outcome and that will continue.”

“But with continued attempts to organize events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC, we’re taking this additional step in the lead up to the inauguration,” continued Facebook.

“It may take some time to scale up our enforcement of this new step but we have already removed a significant number of posts,” the company added.

On January 7, Facebook and Instagram locked President Trump out of his accounts “indefinitely.” Twitter, on the other hand, permanently banned the president from its platform.

On Monday, an Idaho internet provider announced it is blocking Facebook and Twitter for its customers, stating that it does not condone big tech companies censoring users or “trying to exterminate the competition,” such as Parler.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, on Parler at @alana, and on Instagram.

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WHO tells rich countries: stop cutting the vaccines queue

FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS

January 8, 2021

By Emma Farge and Matthias Blamont

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization said on Friday there is a “clear problem” that low- and middle-income countries are not yet receiving supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and urged countries to stop striking bilateral deals with manufacturers.

“Rich countries have the majority of the supply,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in strongly-worded comments on vaccine nationalism at a Geneva news briefing.

“No country is exceptional and should cut the queue and vaccinate all their population while some remain with no supply of the vaccine,” he added.

He asked countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals and called on those who have ordered excess doses to immediately hand them over to the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility.

While Tedros did not name countries, the European Union said it reached a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for 300 million additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine in a move that would give the EU nearly half of the firms’ global output for 2021.

The scramble for shots has accelerated as governments also struggle to tame more infectious variants identified in Britain and South Africa, which are threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems.


Emergencies chief Mike Ryan echoed comments from Tedros, stressing the need to give doses to vulnerable groups and frontline healthcare workers first, no matter where they live.

“Are we going to allow those people who are vulnerable and those people who are most at risk to get sick and die from this virus?” he asked.

WHO officials also urged vaccine manufacturers to provide it with data in real-time in order to expedite the rollout.

Earlier this week, the WHO said the COVAX facility had raised $6 billion of the $7 billion that it has sought in 2021 to help finance deliveries to 92 developing nations with limited or no means to buy vaccines on their own.

Until now, wealthier nations including Britain, European Union members, the United States, Switzerland and Israel have been at the front of the queue for vaccine deliveries from companies including Pfizer and partner BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Nearly 88 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and around 1.9 million have died since it first emerged in China in December 2019, according to a Reuters tally.

Cases have been surging in many countries in recent weeks with not enough vaccines distributed yet to slow transmission, WHO officials said.

“The virus is spreading at alarming rates in some countries,” Tedros said. “The problem is that not complying a bit becomes a habit. Not complying gives the virus opportunities to spread.”

(Reporting by Emma Farge and Matthias Blamont; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)

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‘Stop the Steal’ Organizer in Hiding After Denying Blame for Riot

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

Two weeks before thousands of Trump rioters breached Congress, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander said his group wasn’t violent—“yet.”

“One of our organizers in one state said, ‘We’re nice patriots, we don’t throw bricks,’” Alexander told a crowd at a Dec. 19 rally at Arizona’s state capitol. “I leaned over and I said, ‘Not yet. Not yet!’ Haven’t you read about a little tar-and-feathering? Those were second-degree burns!”

Alexander, who has described himself as one of the “official originators” of the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, went on to use “yet” as a code word for violence. Then Alexander told the Phoenix crowd about his plans for Washington.

“We’re going to convince them to not certify the vote on January 6 by marching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of patriots, to sit their butts in D.C. and close that city down, right?” Alexander said. “And if we have to explore options after that…‘yet.’ Yet!”

Alexander’s supporters cheered, yelling threats like “noose!” and “nothing’s off the table!”

Alexander led a host of activists in ratcheting up the rhetoric ahead of Congress’ certification of the electoral votes, threatening to “1776” opponents of Trump’s re-election. Now that five people, including a Capitol Police officer, are dead, however, Alexander has gone into hiding, and the website promoting his Jan. 6 rally has been wiped from the internet.

Alexander is defiant, saying he won’t “take an iota of blame that does not belong to me.”

“I didn’t incite anything,” Alexander said in a video posted Friday to Twitter. “I didn’t do anything.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Ali Alexander says he won’t take “one iota of blame” for what happened at the Capitol.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Shannon Stapleton/Reuters</div>

Ali Alexander says he won’t take “one iota of blame” for what happened at the Capitol.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

In reality, even as Alexander claimed his supporters were peaceful, he repeatedly raised the prospect of using violence in the weeks ahead of Jan. 6.

On Sunday night, Twitter banned Alexander’s personal account and an account for “Stop The Steal.” Alexander didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Alexander is a convicted felon, after pleading guilty to felony property theft in 2007 and felony credit card abuse in 2008. Alexander first appeared in conservative politics in the Tea Party era under the name “Ali Akbar,” organizing a group called the National Bloggers’ Club that was tied to “shady data collection operations.”

In the Trump era, now using a new name, Alexander emerged as an idiosyncratic, trash-talking MAGA die-hard affiliated with figures like InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, anti-Muslim Trump booster Laura Loomer, blundering provocateur Jacob Wohl, and Trump ally Roger Stone.

Before Trump’s 2020 election defeat, Alexander was perhaps best known for Donald Trump Jr. retweeting his groundless claim that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is not an “American Black.” He was invited to the White House for Trump’s “Social Media Summit” with various right-wing internet figures, and began frequently wearing orange clothes, claiming God had given him a message that the color had special significance for 2020.

“God gave me the color orange in December 2019,” Alexander tweeted on Election Day. “He told me ‘orange would be the color of 2020.’ I’ve come to learn it means GOD’S POWER.”

He Bragged About Storming Capitol—Until the Arrests Started

After Trump’s election defeat, Alexander positioned himself as one of the leading Trump re-election dead-enders with his “Stop the Steal” group, which quickly became a clearinghouse for pro-Trump personalities rallying outside of state capitols in contested battleground states.

Alexander also started to promote mega-rallies protesting the election results in Washington in November and December, even clashing with rival organizers over who deserved credit for the events. And he began organizing a protest outside the Capitol for Jan. 6, dubbing it the “Wild Protest” after a Trump tweet promising the protests during the electoral vote count “will be wild.”

For Jan. 6, Alexander claimed in a video, he had some organizing assistance from pro-Trump Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Mo Brooks (R-AL).

“We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a video posted before the Jan. 6 protest.

Gosar and Brooks didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Biggs disputed Alexander’s story, claiming Biggs isn’t “aware of hearing of or meeting Mr. Alexander at any point” and had no “contact with protestors or rioters.”

Alexander’s voice grew more menacing in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally. He tweeted that he would “give my life for this fight,” a call that was promoted by the Arizona Republican Party.

Alexander also began tweeting frequently about “1776,” a reference to the start of the American Revolution. Alexander wrote in one post that the choice was “45”—Trump’s re-election—“or 1776.” In another message, he wrote that “1776 is always an option for free men and women.”

Most pointedly, Alexander responded to a tweet from QAnon-supporter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claiming that top congressional leaders were working to block objections to the electoral vote. If that happened, Alexander said, he and hundreds of thousands of other protesters would “1776” the Capitol.

“If they do this, everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. “1776 is *always* an option”

Alexander’s anger wasn’t limited to Congress. After four people were stabbed after a December MAGA protest outside the Hotel Harrington, a downtown Washington hotel popular with Proud Boys, the hotel announced that it would be closed for several days around the Jan. 6 protest.

A furious Alexander posted a video filled with threats to the hotel, urging his fans to “be extremely high IQ as God enacts his vengeance.” Alexander compared his supporters to the snake in the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag, saying they had been “tread on” and noting that “the vipers bite.”

“May not one patriot get caught on camera doing anything bad,” Alexander said.

At the Dec. 19 Arizona rally, Alexander kept up his threat that his movement could become violent. He said he wouldn’t describe Democrats as burglars in Republicans’ homes, implying that would mean they’d be shot—a metaphor he said wasn’t necessary “yet.”

“Let them hear that,” Alexander said. “‘Yet.’”

The night before the Jan. 6 rally, Alexander riled up Trump supporters in Washington with a “victory or death” chant and once again brought up “1776.”

“1776 is always an option,” Alexander told the crowd. “These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want, or we are going to shut this country down.”

Alexander’s “Wild Protest” rally was scheduled to take place on the northeast corner of the Capitol’s lawn, with a website claiming that Greene, Gosar, and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) would all speak at the event. Before the rally, Alexander attended Trump’s speech on the White House Ellipse, posting a picture from the front row.

“Nice seats,” Alexander tweeted. “Thank you @realdonaldtrump!”

Alex Jones claims that he and Alexander had some “deal” with the White House about their protest outside of Congress.

“We had a legitimate deal with the White House,” Jones said in an InfoWars show filmed after the riot with Alexander. “‘Hey Jones and Ali,’ literally, they let us out early, we were supposed to lead a peaceful deal.”

Video posted by InfoWars in an apparent attempt to distance Jones from the riots shows Jones and Alexander on the west side of the Capitol as tear-gas canisters went off in the distance and Trump supporters mounted MAGA flags on the inauguration risers. Jones unsuccessfully tried to convince rioters to move to the east side of the Capitol and attend their rally on the other side of the building instead.

“As much as I love seeing the Trump flags flying over this, we need to not have the confrontation with the police, they’re going to make that the story,” Jones said.

But Alexander refused to disavow the riot.

“I don’t disavow this,” Alexander said in a video filmed overlooking the Capitol. “I do not denounce this. This is completely peaceful, looks like, so far.”

Now Alexander claims to be in hiding, alleging in a video posted Friday that he needs $2,000 a day to fund his security detail and other expenses and hitting his fans up for donations. In a bizarre moment in his fundraising pitch, Alexander claimed that he was being targeted by the supernatural: “Witches and wiccans are putting hexes and curses on us.”

It’s not clear how, however, if Alexander’s supporters can send him money at all. On Saturday, he posted on Parler that he had been banned from Venmo and PayPal.

In his Friday video, Alexander claimed that his “rally never turned violent.” But Alexander also read a quote from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh that positively compared the rioters to the heroes of the American Revolution, and said rioters who entered the Capitol should suffer light consequences, if any.

“I think people should be rowdy, I think people should be messy,” Alexander said. “I do believe that we own that U.S. Capitol. So I’m not apologizing for nothing.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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