Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 - Wikipedia
Sun, 01 May 2022 15:14
US Legislation authorising arms transfers to Ukraine
Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022Long titleAn Act To provide enhanced authority for the President to enter into agreements with the Government of Ukraine to lend or lease defense articles to that Government to protect civilian populations in Ukraine from Russian military invasion, and for other purposes.Enacted bythe 117th United States CongressThe Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 is an act of the United States Congress that will facilitate the supply of materiel to the Ukrainian government in a manner similar to the World War Two Lend-Lease act.
Provisions [ edit ] The full title of the act is ''An Act To provide enhanced authority for the President to enter into agreements with the Government of Ukraine to lend or lease defense articles to that Government to protect civilian populations in Ukraine from Russian military invasion, and for other purposes.''
The legislation reduces red tape on exports of defence equipment from the USA to Ukraine, in order to ensure that the equipment is delivered promptly. It is applicable to fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
The legislation is named in reference to the World War II era Lend-Lease program that supplied US allies.
Passage of Legislation [ edit ] The bill was passed unanimously in the US Senate on April 6, 2022 and passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 417-10 on April 28, 2022. The ten Republican Party representatives who voted against the bill were: Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Warren Davidson of Ohio, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin.
The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Text [ edit ] (a) Authority To Lend Or Lease Defense Articles To Certain Governments.'--
(1) IN GENERAL.'--Subject to paragraph (2), for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, the President may authorize the United States Government to lend or lease defense articles to the Government of Ukraine or to governments of Eastern European countries impacted by the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine to help bolster those countries' defense capabilities and protect their civilian populations from potential invasion or ongoing aggression by the armed forces of the Government of the Russian Federation.
(2) EXCLUSIONS.'--For the purposes of the authority described in paragraph (1) as that authority relates to Ukraine, the following provisions of law shall not apply:
(A) Section 503(b)(3) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2311(b)(3)).
(B) Section 61 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2796).
(3) CONDITION.'--Any loan or lease of defense articles to the Government of Ukraine under paragraph (1) shall be subject to all applicable laws concerning the return of and reimbursement and repayment for defense articles loan or leased to foreign governments.
(4) DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY.'--The President may delegate the enhanced authority under this subsection only to an official appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
(b) Procedures For Delivery Of Defense Articles.'--Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall establish expedited procedures for the delivery of any defense article loaned or leased to the Government of Ukraine under an agreement entered into under subsection (a) to ensure timely delivery of the article to that Government.
(c) Definition Of Defense Article.'--In this Act, the term ''defense article'' has the meaning given that term in section 47 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2794).
References [ edit ] External links [ edit ] S.3522 - 117th Congress (2021-2022): Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022
White House Says It Would "Strongly Support" Finland & Sweden NATO Membership | ZeroHedge
Sun, 01 May 2022 15:09
The Biden White House now appears to be going all-in on the potential for Finland and Sweden seeking formal application for NATO membership, despite Moscow's recent repeat warnings that such an action would immediately ratchet nuclear tensions in the Baltic region.
While previously issuing vague statements of positive support for the Scandinavian countries' discussions on the controversial issue - given especially that Finland shares an over 800-mile long border with Russia - on Thursday Secretary of State Antony Blinken took US support further by saying for the first time the Untied States would "strongly support" Sweden and Finland pursuing NATO membership.
File image via Yahoo News"We, of course, look to them to make that decision. If that's what they decide, we will strongly support it," Blinken told Democratic Representative Jim Costa (Calif.) during House testimony.
The US top diplomat added that it's ''under very active consideration by both countries'' but said that no timeline had been set - referencing statements from Finnish and Swedish top officials of the past days.
Also on Thursday NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued more statements suggesting the countries would be 'fast-tracked' after earlier this month saying something similar. He said according to The Associated Press:
''It's their decision... but if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect that process to go quickly."
Earlier this month polling in Scandinavian regional media strongly suggested that public mood had shifted in Finland, which had long been proud of its neutral stance on the question, and generally amicable and cooperative relations with Russia.
"Public support and political momentum for Finland joining NATO has reached an all-time high as a result of the war in Ukraine, raising the very real possibility that the alliance's borders with Russia could extend by more than 830 miles in a matter of months," the prior report said.
This is a trend that has continued through the month as Russian military operations have grown fiercer in eastern and southern Ukraine...
Support for #Nato-membership increasing in #Finland:65 % in favor, 13 % against (22 % undecided) https://t.co/PzBcXgGY7g
'-- Ville Cantell (@villecantell) April 28, 2022As we reported earlier this week, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, are set to meet during the week of May 16 and are expected to announce their intention to seek a NATO membership after that - thus a major announcement could come as early as a few weeks.
Researchers Are Ripping Gas Stoves From Their Houses For Their Kids' Health
Sun, 01 May 2022 15:07
For years, gas stoves have been seen as the optimal choice for serious cooks and high-end kitchens '-- but an alarming number of studies have found that these appliances pollute our household air to an extent that it can harm our kids' heath, not to mention the earth.
In fact, many of the scientists conducting these studies have been so stunned by the results that they're ripping the gas stoves out of their own homes despite the cost of replacement.
Rob Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Stanford University, recently conducted a study that found that gas stoves constantly leak a little methane, even when turned off, and pollute household air with nitrogen oxides, and other dangerous gases, which can damage lungs, especially kids' lungs.
Jackson's gas stove has an electric oven but he can't just replace the gas half. Still, he's getting a replacement.
''I am reluctant to throw away a perfectly good electric oven,'' he told CBC earlier this month. ''But we're going to do that.''
It's the same for Tara Kahan, a University of Saskatchewan chemist who conducted a study in 2018 where she and her colleagues took air readings in homes using gas stoves. Kahan and her fellow researchers found shockingly high amounts of nitrous oxide in the air after cooking sessions '-- and the toxins didn't recede for several hours.
''All of the researchers were pretty horrified,'' she also told CBC. The levels exceeded Health Canada guidelines for one-hour exposure '-- and the fumes lasted for longer than that.
''After that, as soon as it was feasible, I switched from a gas stove to [electric] induction,'' she added.
University of Colorado environmental engineer Shelly Miller is also foregoing the gas stove.
''Cooking,'' she told Mother Jones in 2021, ''is the No. 1 way you're polluting your home. It is causing respiratory and cardiovascular health problems; it can exacerbate flu and asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in children. You're basically living in this toxic soup.''
The negative effects of gas stoves Very simply, burning natural gas produces toxins like nitrous oxides, carbon dioxide, and formaldehyde, which in turn have a significant affect on our health when we breath them in, even in small doses that we don't notice at all.
In a meta analysis of 41 studies on the subject, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2013, researchers found that kids living in homes with gas stoves has a 42% increase in current asthma; an increase of a kid's risk of lifetime asthma and wheezing is also attributed to gas stoves. Other studies have linked gas cooking to increased lung issues in children as well as anyone, including adults, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
A 2014 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that cooking with gas for one hour without using your hood adds up to 3,000 parts per billion of carbon monoxide to the air '-- raising indoor concentrations by up to 30%.
These studies also find that newer ranges don't produce any less pollution than older models.
Gas stoves release the greenhouse gas methane into the air '-- and emissions from U.S. gas stoves alone each year equals emissions from a half-million cars.
The studies have been so conclusively worrying that some U.S. cities are taking action, with New York and the Bay Area (San Francisco, San Jose, Berkley, and Oakland) taking the lead. In these metro areas, gas stoves will be banned in new constructions '-- New York's ban begins in 2023, and bans in 39 smaller California cities, including the Bay Area cities mentioned, are already in effect.
What to do if you have a gas stoveWhile many researchers recommend replacing your home's gas stoves '-- it stands that many millions of people don't have the ways or means to toss their gas appliances. Some might not have the money and others might rent. In these cases, there are several things you can do to reduce the amount of air pollution that your stove creates when you cook.
Jackson recommends always using your accompanying hood ventilation '-- studies show that most people don't always use it because of the noise, but it's worth it. You should also check to see where your hood ventilates to, as some filter the air but don't force it outside '-- simply circulating the polluted air around your home. All in all, hood ventilators cuts your stove's air pollution about in half if they're working right.
Besides that, you can also open windows if the weather allows or us HEPA air filters in your home. Or '-- try alternate methods of cooking more often.
Another helpful tip if you're stuck cooking with gas? If you use your back burners, your hood will catch more of the pollutants.
Ellen Smit, a researcher from Oregon State University who in 2014 found that gas stoves exacerbate asthma, asthma symptoms, and chronic bronchitis in kids said it most simply: ''Parents of all children should use ventilation while using a gas stove.''
That's if you can't find a way to get rid of yours.
Angelina Jolie visits residents in Lviv, Ukraine - CNN
Sun, 01 May 2022 15:05
Actress and activist Angelina Jolie paid a surprise visit to a boarding school and medical institution in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday, according to Maksym Kozytskyy, head of Lviv's regional military administration.
''In one of the medical institutions, she has visited children who suffered from a missile strike by the Russian military on the Kramatorsk train station. She was very moved by their stories. One girl was even able to tell Ms. Jolie about her dream privately,'' Kozytskyy said.
Jolie also visited a boarding school in Lviv, which has become a way point for displaced people, humanitarian aid and weapons. She told the children she'd come back, Kozytskyy said.
At Lviv's main railway station, where Ukrainian residents arrive with regularity, she talked to volunteers providing medical and psychological assistance.
''She thanked them for their work,'' Kozytskyy said. ''She talked to people who managed to leave the zones of active hostilities.''
Jolie is a United Nations special envoy for refugees, but Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, head of global communications for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said Jolie traveled to the region in her personal capacity and that UNHCR has no involvement in this visit.
In March Jolie visited Yemen and drew parallels between people in that nation and those suffering because of the war in Ukraine.
Earlier on Saturday, Jolie was photographed visiting a coffee shop in Lviv. CNN has reached out to Jolie's representatives for comment.
Likelihood of Trump Indictment in Manhattan Fades as Grand Jury Wraps Up - The New York Times
Sun, 01 May 2022 14:24
The Manhattan district attorney is continuing to investigate Donald J. Trump, but knowledgeable people say charges are unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future, if ever.
Former President Donald J. Trump has said the district attorney's office into his family business is politically motivated. Credit... Brittany Greeson for The New York Times April 29, 2022
When some two dozen New Yorkers filed into a Manhattan courthouse this week to finish out their grand jury service, the case against a man who would have been the world's most prominent criminal defendant was no longer before them.
That man, Donald J. Trump, was facing potential criminal charges from the grand jury this year over his business practices. But in the weeks since the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, stopped presenting evidence to the jurors about Mr. Trump, new signs have emerged that the former president will not be indicted in Manhattan in the foreseeable future '-- if at all.
At least three of the witnesses once central to the case have either not heard from the district attorney's office in months, or have not been asked to testify, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
In recent weeks, a prosecutor at the Manhattan district attorney's office who played a key role in the investigation has stopped focusing on a potential case against Mr. Trump, other people with knowledge of the inquiry said '-- a move that followed the resignation earlier this year of the two senior prosecutors leading the investigation.
And the remaining prosecutors working on the Trump investigation have abandoned the ''war room'' they used to prepare for their grand jury presentation early this year, the people said, leaving behind an expansive office suite and conference room on the 15th floor of the district attorney's office in Lower Manhattan.
The grand jury's expiration at the end of the month does not preclude prosecutors from impaneling another jury, but the developments underscore the reduced possibility that Mr. Trump will face charges under Mr. Bragg, who along with several other prosecutors had concerns about proving the case. Some people close to the inquiry believe that it will not result in an indictment of the former president unless a witness cooperates unexpectedly '-- a long shot in an investigation that has been running for more than three years.
In recent weeks, Mr. Bragg's prosecutors have issued a few additional subpoenas that indicate they are continuing to investigate but have not found a new path to charging Mr. Trump. The previously unreported subpoenas, people with knowledge of the matter said, appear to focus on the same topic that has long been the subject of the investigation: whether Mr. Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements.
The subpoenas suggest that, rather than pursuing a new theory of the case, Mr. Bragg is looking at additional entities that received Mr. Trump's financial statements as he sought loans and pursued other business, and that the prosecutors are seeking potential victims of the former president.
One of the subpoenas went to a major financial institution that may have received Mr. Trump's financial statements. A second subpoena sent to the Trump Organization largely followed up on an earlier demand to the company for records related to the value of his properties. And the third went to the New York City agency that tracks municipal vendors, including Mr. Trump, who has done business with the city for years, operating a golf course in the Bronx and an ice rink in Central Park.
In an interview this month, Mr. Bragg said that his prosecutors were interviewing new witnesses and looking at additional evidence. He declined to provide details, citing grand jury secrecy law, but said that the inquiry must be allowed to run its course.
''It's a work in progress,'' Mr. Bragg said, adding later, ''We've got seasoned prosecutors working every day. It's not going to be on a timeline.''
But impaneling a new grand jury could create challenges for any potential case. Mr. Trump's lawyers could argue '-- and a judge might agree '-- that prosecutors were inappropriately hunting for a more favorable group of jurors.
It would also take time to prepare a new presentation of evidence and months to lay out a case to jurors.
Mr. Bragg's office does not have unlimited time to charge Mr. Trump. Witnesses could forget key information. Prosecutors would also face a deadline to file the charges within five years of any crimes being committed, though there are some exceptions that extend the deadline. And were Mr. Trump to announce another presidential run, Mr. Bragg would be likely to face political pressure not to indict a leading contender for the White House.
But even as the criminal investigation fades from public view, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, appears poised to take action against Mr. Trump as part of her inquiry into whether he falsely inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements '-- the same conduct at the center of the criminal investigation.
At a court hearing on Monday a lawyer from her office said that the attorney general would probably take action against the former president in the near future. Because her investigation is civil, Ms. James can bring a lawsuit, but not criminal charges.
At that hearing, a judge held Mr. Trump in contempt of court for failing to fully comply with a subpoena for records from Ms. James. And on Friday, despite Mr. Trump's lawyers having filed documents that they said brought him into compliance with the subpoena, the judge declined to withdraw the contempt order, which is costing Mr. Trump $10,000 a day.
Mr. Trump has long denied wrongdoing and accused Ms. James and Mr. Bragg, both of whom are Black and Democrats, of being politically motivated ''racists.'' If he ultimately is sued or indicted, his lawyers would be likely to point toward the disclaimer that his financial statements were not audited by his accountants and that they were submitted to sophisticated financial institutions that conducted their own due diligence.
Mr. Bragg's office is monitoring Ms. James's civil investigation for potential new leads, he has said. And Ms. James's office is participating in the district attorney's criminal investigation, opened by Mr. Bragg's predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., more than three years ago.
In December, Mr. Vance directed the two senior prosecutors leading the criminal inquiry, Mark F. Pomerantz and Carey R. Dunne, to present evidence to a grand jury with the goal of seeking an indictment of Mr. Trump.
But when Mr. Bragg took office this year, he and several of his aides raised concerns about the strength of the case, questioning whether they could prove that Mr. Trump intended to break the law. Other prosecutors in the office had raised similar concerns, people with knowledge of the matter said. In the final months of Mr. Vance's tenure, three assistant district attorneys stopped working on the investigation, concerned about how rapidly it was proceeding and what they felt were gaps in the evidence against the former president.
The Trump Investigations Card 1 of 6Numerous inquiries. Since former President Donald Trump left office, there have been many investigations and inquiries into his businesses and personal affairs. Here's a list of those ongoing:
Mr. Bragg eventually decided to halt the grand jury presentation, prompting the departure of Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz, who stated in his resignation letter that he believed Mr. Trump was ''guilty of numerous felonies.''
Just weeks after their departure, Solomon Shinerock, one of the key prosecutors on the team, stopped investigating Mr. Trump. Mr. Shinerock, who for years was the lead assistant district attorney in the investigation, pulled back in part because it appeared to be winding down, two of the people familiar with the inquiry said.
Image Solomon Shinerock, center, had been involved with the Trump investigation since its inception. Credit... Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times The Daily Beast first reported that Mr. Shinerock was no longer actively involved in the investigation.
While Mr. Shinerock is not investigating Mr. Trump, he is still working on a Trump-related case. In July, Manhattan prosecutors indicted the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, accusing them of a yearslong tax evasion scheme.
Mr. Shinerock is playing a central role in preparing for that trial, and, given that role, is participating in meetings where the investigation into Mr. Trump is discussed, a person with knowledge of the meetings said.
In the interview this month, Mr. Bragg said that no one had left the Trump team since Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz. Asked this week to clarify his remarks, Mr. Bragg's spokeswoman stood by them, saying that there was one ''dedicated team working on the indicted tax case and the Trump investigation.''
The team is led by Susan Hoffinger, an experienced prosecutor whom Mr. Bragg appointed to lead the office's investigations division.
The spokeswoman, Danielle Filson, said in a statement that the team included ''lawyers who have worked on the case for years and skilled new prosecutors with decades of experience and fresh eyes.''
She declined to say how many prosecutors and other staff are assigned to the team investigating Mr. Trump, but said it was ''actively probing unexplored avenues.''
In the early days of Mr. Bragg's tenure, the core members of the Trump team took over a 15th-floor conference room as they pushed ahead with the presentation of evidence about the former president to a grand jury. But since the resignations of Mr. Pomerantz and Mr. Dunne, the team has abandoned that room '-- an indication, veterans of the office say, that the case is not headed toward a grand jury anytime soon. The team members are now sitting in offices in the Major Economic Crimes Bureau.
Mr. Bragg has told aides that the inquiry could move forward if a new piece of evidence is unearthed, or if a Trump Organization insider decides to turn on the former president, people with knowledge of the conversations said. Under Mr. Vance, the prosecutors tried for months to secure the cooperation of Mr. Weisselberg and were unsuccessful.
Mr. Pomerantz and Mr. Dunne had been considering charging Mr. Trump with the crime of falsifying business records, a low-level felony. Asked if he was still considering that charge, or charges relating to the possibility that Mr. Trump had inflated the value of his assets on his financial statements, Mr. Bragg said that prosecutors were looking at new evidence and seeing how it fit into the overall picture.
But Mr. Pomerantz warned in his resignation letter that time was of the essence, noting, ''These facts are already dated, and our ability to establish what happened may erode with the further passage of time.''
Kate Christobek, David Enrich and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.
FBI Conducted Potentially Millions of Searches of Americans' Data Last Year, Report Says - WSJ
Sun, 01 May 2022 14:15
Searches in national-security investigations came without warrants, could stoke privacy concerns in Congress
Updated April 29, 2022 6:22 pm ETWASHINGTON'--The Federal Bureau of Investigation performed potentially millions of searches of American electronic data last year without a warrant, U.S. intelligence officials said Friday, a revelation likely to stoke longstanding concerns in Congress about government surveillance and privacy.
An annual report published Friday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that the FBI conducted as many as 3.4 million searches of U.S. data that had been previously collected by the National Security Agency.
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WASHINGTON'--The Federal Bureau of Investigation performed potentially millions of searches of American electronic data last year without a warrant, U.S. intelligence officials said Friday, a revelation likely to stoke longstanding concerns in Congress about government surveillance and privacy.
An annual report published Friday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that the FBI conducted as many as 3.4 million searches of U.S. data that had been previously collected by the National Security Agency.
Senior Biden administration officials said the actual number of searches is likely far lower, citing complexities in counting and sorting foreign data from U.S. data. It couldn't be learned from the report how many Americans' data was examined by the FBI under the program, though officials said it was also almost certainly a much smaller number.
The report doesn't allege the FBI was routinely searching American data improperly or illegally.
The disclosure of the searches marks the first time a U.S. intelligence agency has published an accounting, however imprecise, of the FBI's grabs of American data through a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that governs some foreign intelligence gathering. The section of FISA that authorizes the FBI's activity, known as Section 702, is due to expire next year.
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While the ODNI report doesn't suggest systemic problems with the searches, judges have previously reprimanded the bureau for failing to comply with privacy rules. Officials said the FBI's searches were vital to its mission to protect the U.S. from national-security threats. The frequency of other forms of national-security surveillance detailed in the annual report generally fell year over year, in some cases continuing a multiyear trend.
The 3.4 million figure ''is certainly a large number,'' a senior FBI official said in a press briefing Friday on the report. ''I am not going to pretend that it isn't.''
More than half of the reported searches'--nearly two million'--were related to an investigation into a national-security threat involving attempts by alleged Russian hackers to break into critical infrastructure in the U.S. Those searches included efforts to identify and protect potential victims of the alleged Russian campaign, senior U.S. officials said.
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Officials declined to give more details on the alleged Russian threat, including whether it was linked to the Russian government or a criminal hacking group. Russia has historically denied accusations of hacking the U.S. or other nations.
The number of searches of American data doesn't correspond to the number of Americans who may have had their personal information examined.
An individual's name, telephone number, email addresses and social security number can all be searched, sometimes repeatedly, and each instance of each term would count as a search. Searches of U.S. information can pertain to data about U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and U.S. companies. And searches can yield a mix of metadata and content of collected communications.
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One source of the discrepancy between the 3.4 million figure and the potentially much lower quantity of searches of Americans' data: Sometimes FBI analysts perform large searches of hundreds or thousands of terms, and if just one term in the batch is associated with an American or U.S. entity, all the terms would be counted as a potential search of U.S. data, officials said.
The FBI conducted approximately 3.39 million searches that included terms, also called identifiers, linked to a presumed U.S. person from Dec. 1, 2020, to Nov. 30, 2021, according to the report. The number of searches for the previous 12-month period was about 1.3 million.
The searches described by Friday's ODNI report concern a large repository of electronic data collected by the NSA under Section 702 of FISA.
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Section 702 was passed into law in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to enable the U.S. to spy on non-Americans overseas. The NSA uses the Section 702 program to collect intelligence from international phone calls and emails about terrorism suspects, cyber threats and other security risks.
Data on Americans is often vacuumed up as well, for example when a foreign spy is communicating with someone in the U.S. or when two overseas targets are talking about an American.
Some congressional lawmakers have asked the FBI to disclose how often it taps into that data to look at U.S. information, arguing that doing so amounts to a backdoor search on Americans that dispenses with requirements to obtain a warrant. U.S. intelligence officials have broadly defended Section 702 as among the most valuable national-security tools at their disposal.
Congress last renewed Section 702 in 2018, and then-President Donald Trump signed the renewal into law after openly questioning the measure over unsubstantiated concerns that it was used to spy on his presidential campaign. It is set to expire again at the end of next year, and current and former intelligence officials have said they anticipate a bruising political battle.
''For anyone outside the U.S. government, the astronomical number of FBI searches of Americans' communications is either highly alarming or entirely meaningless,'' Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), a privacy advocate, said. ''Somewhere in all that overcounting are real numbers of FBI searches, for content and for nonconsent'--numbers that Congress and the American people need before Section 702 is reauthorized.''
At a conference later Friday, Matt Olsen, the chief of the Justice Department's national security division, said agencies were discussing what they could declassify about the use of Section 702 to demonstrate its value. He added that he expected to be able to share more information in the coming months.
The FBI has previously faced scrutiny for its oversight of how authorities plumb Section 702 data, including a rebuke from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2018 that found some searches violated the constitutional privacy rights of Americans.
In response, the FBI has imposed new safeguards meant to better ensure compliance. Those include a requirement that all searches involving 100 or more query terms get additional approvals and that analysts actively opt in to search Section 702 data, rather than passively allowing it.
Friday's report also revealed four instances last year in which the FBI, due to specific factual considerations about a search of data, should have sought approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before performing a search and looking at the content of U.S. communications that were produced.
The FBI has never sought approval from the court since the requirement was adopted in 2018, officials said.
'--Aruna Viswanatha contributed to this article.
Write to Dustin Volz at firstname.lastname@example.org
EU conference backs deeper integration, right-wingers pull out '' POLITICO
Sun, 01 May 2022 13:23
European politicians at a conference set up to revamp the EU signed off Saturday on a blueprint for deeper integration, prompting a group of right-wing MEPs to withdraw from the project.
The Conference on the Future of Europe was established last year with the aim of bringing citizens and politicians from across the EU together to come up with ideas to overhaul the bloc.
At a session in Strasbourg on Saturday, the conference plenary '-- composed of representatives of EU institutions, national parliaments and citizens' panels '-- approved more than 300 proposals. They include the abolition of national vetos, granting the European Parliament the right to propose legislation, more investment in climate change mitigation, the launch of ''joint armed forces'' and transnational voting lists.
The text notes there was a ''difference of views'' as to whether the accession of new EU countries should still require current members' unanimous agreement and ''a range of views'' on the ''extent to which there should be joint armed forces.''
''I'm really very touched today because this is a historic moment for our European democracy,'' Dubravka Å uica, the European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, told reporters. ''I'm more than happy because we engaged citizens and citizens [were] very engaged and they really surprised me.''
The proposals now go to the conference's executive board, which is expected to present the final report to the presidents of the EU institutions on May 9. How much of the plans will become reality depends to a large extent on the EU's member governments, many of whom have not expressed great enthusiasm for the project.
''There was a lot of skepticism in the beginning of this whole process,'' said MEP Guy Verhofstadt of the Renew Europe group, a co-chair of the executive board alongside Å uica. But now, he argued, ''everybody has seen that it was a very serious undertaking and '... a very promising way forward for the European Union.''
A wide range of European lawmakers '-- from the center-right European People's Party to The Left group '-- lent their support to the proposals.
''The federal state of #Europe will become reality!'' tweeted Green MEP Niklas Niena. ''This will shape the world forever!''
But that's not music to everyone's ears.
MEPs from the right-wing Identity and Democracy (ID) and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) groups refused to support the proposals, arguing that they don't reflect public opinion in the EU.
''The selection of citizens participating in the Conference was itself very flawed,'' the ECR group said in a statement. ''Research shows that citizens who are in favour of a more centralised Union were much more likely to accept an invitation to participate in the citizens' panels of the Conference than those more sceptical.''
The group said it rejects ''the idea the conclusions being reached represent an expression of the will of the Europeans and '... hereby [withdraws] from the Conference on the Future of Europe.''
''Walking out of this farce was the only right move,'' said Swedish ECR MEP Charlie Weimers on Twitter.
Prince Charles' prize backs face mask that cuts methane emissions from cow burps | Euronews
Sun, 01 May 2022 12:26
If cows wore face masks, could they burp fewer methane emissions into the atmosphere?
A device that fits around the face of cattle and cuts methane emissions from their burps has won a £50,000 ('¬59,502) award backed by the British royal, Prince Charles.
The mask was designed by students from the Royal College of Art in the UK, who were one of four teams to be chosen as winners of the inaugural Terra Carter Design Lab competition. The prize money will go towards further developing their idea.
The device converts methane emitted by cows and was created by a design group called the Zero Emissions Livestock Project (ZELP). It neutralises methane emissions in real-time and fits around the cow's head in a way that doesn't impact its ability to feed and interact with the herd.
Gases captured by the mask are oxidised using a catalyst and then released into the air as CO2 and water vapour. Its designers say that data is also captured throughout the life of the animal to help optimise welfare on farms, improve productivity and create a 'robust' log of greenhouse gas emissions.
Burped out by dairy and beef herds, methane is 80 times more warming than CO2 during its first 20 years in the atmosphere.
There are around 1.6 billion cattle on the planet and each produces up to 400 litres of methane a day. Emitted via belching or farting, this makes them significant contributors to the problem of global warming.
The prize is funding solutions to confront the climate crisisPrince Charles visited the new Terra Carta Design Lab at the Royal College of Art in London to meet the winners. At the event he said that climate change has led to ''crises confronting us in all directions,'' and ''finding solutions rapidly'' was important.
The Prince praised the designers' creativity adding that with it ''we will have a better chance of winning this battle in a shorter time''.
''We can all have good ideas,'' added Sir Jony Ive, Chancellor of the Royal College of Art.
''I find it reassuring, particularly facing the overwhelming challenge of climate change, that we can all contribute ideas that could evolve into valuable solutions. I love not only the power of a good idea - but how egalitarian and inclusive they can be.''
Francisco Norris, founder of the mask startup, says that winning the Terra Carta Design Lab is a ''huge honour'' for ZELP.
''This is the perfect platform to accelerate a climate solution with a strong design element, and we are eager to continue optimising our technology with the endorsement and the support of the Terra Carta.''
Addressing the largest source of methane emissions and delivering a substantial global emissions reduction is key, he adds.
''We remain as motivated as ever to scale our solution and play a part in the decarbonisation of the agricultural sector.''
Judge Rules Against Twitter In Case Of Suspended Journalist Alex Berenson - "Next Comes Discovery"
Sun, 01 May 2022 11:53
Former New York Times Journalist Alex Berenson was suspended from Twitter after saying COVID vaccines don't stop infection or transmission.
Here is the tweet:
Berenson sued Twitter over this '-- and went to court on Thursday over the case.
TRENDING: BREAKING HUGE EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Li-Meng Yan Says China Released COVID-19 Intentionally - "THIS IS NOT AN ACCIDENT"
From Fox News:
Former New York Times reporter and ''Pandemia'' author Alex Berenson's lawsuit against Twitter for banning him goes to court Thursday, he told Fox News.
Berenson, whose work now appears on Substack, said he initially filed the lawsuit in December, and that it has survived Twitter's motion-to-dismiss.
''Our lawsuit, I think, is stronger than a lot of other lawsuits that have not survived the motion-to-dismiss stage,'' he said Wednesday on ''Tucker Carlson Tonight.''
This lawsuit has survived the motion to dismiss by Twitter.
California judge William Alsup has allowed for the case to move forward and for ''expedited & broad discovery'' to take place.
We're going to find out Twitter's reasoning behind banning Berenson.
BREAKING: Judge rules for Alex Berenson in Twitter lawsuit, moves past motion to dismiss
Next comes discovery https://t.co/bKjt9yODQq
'-- Jack Posobiec ðºð¸ (@JackPosobiec) April 30, 2022
From Alex Berenson Substack:
Suffice it to say that from our point of view the most crucial element is the expedited and broad discovery the decision demands. It's not our request. It's an order from a federal judge, and Twitter is going to have a hella time slithering out of it.
Here are a few of the questions Berenson has asked Twitter to answer:
Twitter has some explaining to do!
For the antidote to media bias, check out ProTrumpNews.com!
How 'Tucker Carlson Tonight' Fuels Extremism and Fear - The New York Times
Sun, 01 May 2022 11:52
Night after night, the host of the most-watched show in prime-time cable news uses a simple narrative to instill fear in his viewers: ' They ' want to control and then destroy ' you .' Night after night, the host of the most-watched show in prime-time cable news uses a simple narrative to instill fear in his viewers: ' They ' want to control and then destroy ' you .'
6 Celebrities Normalizing Men Manicures | POPSUGAR Beauty
Sun, 01 May 2022 11:44
Traditionally, wearing nail polish has been deemed "feminine" and something solely for women.Recently, the amount of men wearing nail polish has risen, with celebrities like Tyler, the Creator helping to normalize manicures on men.Keep scrolling to see the latest celebrities embracing the "menicure."
As the conversations around beauty have evolved, so have the people who are actively claiming their places in the beauty community. From the rise of acne advocates to the normalization of traditional face tattoos in media, what was once an intentionally exclusive community has grown to include people from all walks of life. Nowhere is that more apparent than with the rise of the "menicure."
Men wearing nail polish was popularized in the '70s and '80s when musicians like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Robert Smith all had manicures as a part of their aesthetics, but "menicures" actually date back much further than that. "A number of Old Kingdom (c. 2575-2150 BCE) elite tomb chapels include scenes of men receiving nail treatments," Elizabeth Frood, associate professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford, previously told POPSUGAR.
Today, we've seen not only a rise in men wearing nail polish but also a rise in brands created by celebrity men. Machine Gun Kelly revealed that he was working on his own nail-polish brand, Un/Dn Laqr, in April 2021. Shortly after, Harry Styles announced the launch of his nail-polish line, Pleasing, in November. Tyler, the Creator became the latest to throw his hat into the beauty game with the launch of Golf le Fleur, which features three nail polishes, in December.
Because there has been so much inspiration going around as of late, we rounded up the best celebrity menicures ahead.
U.S. Seeks 'Urgent' Data on Covid Relapses After Using Pfizer's Paxlovid Drug - Bloomberg
Sun, 01 May 2022 11:42
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FACT SHEET: United States and 60 Global Partners Launch Declaration for the Future of the Internet | The White House
Sat, 30 Apr 2022 13:54
The Internet has been revolutionary. It provides unprecedented opportunities for people around the world to connect and to express themselves, and continues to transform the global economy, enabling economic opportunities for billions of people. Yet it has also created serious policy challenges. Globally, we are witnessing a trend of rising digital authoritarianism where some states act to repress freedom of expression, censor independent news sites, interfere with elections, promote disinformation, and deny their citizens other human rights. At the same time, millions of people still face barriers to access and cybersecurity risks and threats undermine the trust and reliability of networks.
Democratic governments and other partners are rising to the challenge. Today, the United States with 60 partners from around the globe launched the Declaration for the Future of the Internet. Those endorsing the Declaration include Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, the European Commission, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Palau, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Uruguay.
This Declaration represents a political commitment among Declaration partners to advance apositive vision for the Internet and digital technologies. It reclaims the promise of the Internet in the face of the global opportunities and challenges presented by the 21st century. It also reaffirms and recommits its partners to a single global Internet '' one that is truly open and fosters competition, privacy, and respect for human rights. The Declaration's principles includecommitments to:
' Protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people;
' Promote a global Internet that advances the free flow of information;
' Advance inclusive and affordable connectivity so that all people can benefit from the digital economy;
' Promote trust in the global digital ecosystem, including through protection of privacy; and
' Protect and strengthen the multistakeholder approach to governance that keeps the Internet running for the benefit of all.
In signing this Declaration, the United States and partners will work together to promote this vision and its principles globally, while respecting each other's regulatory autonomy within our own jurisdictions and in accordance with our respective domestic laws and international legal obligations.
Over the last year, the United States has worked with partners from all over the world '' including civil society, industry, academia, and other stakeholders to reaffirm the vision of an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet and reverse negative trends in this regard. Under this vision, people everywhere will benefit from an Internet that is unified unfragmented; facilitates global communications and commerce; and supports freedom, innovation, education and trust.
Where Is Jesse Watters Today? Fox News Host Returns Following Injury
Sat, 30 Apr 2022 12:49
Political commentator and author Jesse Watters appears to have been missing in action for a few days, leaving many of his fans and Fox News followers questioning his whereabouts. Watters currently serves as the co-host of The Five, which airs weekdays at 5:00''6:00 p.m. ET, and host of Jesse Watters Primetime (weeknights 7:00''8:00 p.m. ET), both on Fox News.
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Where has Watters been and did his leave have anything to do with the comments he made regarding how he met his now-wife?
Jesse Watters wasn't suspended by Fox News, he actually took a few days off following a back injury.
Source: Fox News
On April 25, Watters returned to Fox News to reclaim his post as host and co-host of two Fox News shows after suffering a back injury. While many initially thought Watters was placed on leave as a form of punishment after saying he flattened his now-wife's tires to date her (on air), that doesn't appear to have been the case.
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During a recent episode of The Five, Watters shared with fellow hosts that he had thrown his back out and had to be transported to the emergency room via ambulance. While en route to the hospital, Watters said he started talking with one of the first responders some of the strange things EMTs see.
The man confirmed Watters' suspicions by sharing that he had picked up Jeffrey Epstein from the prison where he allegedly took his own life.
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Jesse Watters was interrogated following his return to Fox News.
After recovering from his back injury, Watters was able to return to Fox News on April 25. While his fellow co-hosts appeared happy to see him back in the studio, wanting to know more about the injury he suffered, outsiders and fans of the show were more concerned with the comments he made prior to taking a leave.
During an episode of The Five, which aired on April 11, Watters recollected back to the time when he was trying to get his now-wife's attention, Emma DiGiovine. According to People, the Fox News host said that after he let the air out of her tires, ''She couldn't go anywhere. She needed a lift. I said hey, you need a lift, and she hopped right in.''
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In the midst of all the laughing going on between the hosts, Watters then went on to say that his wife wasn't aware of the story but that she would now know of it. A fellow co-host then joked by comparing Watters to the Zodiac killer. In his defense, Watters said the story had a happy ending, ''we're married!''
Jesse Watters jokes about how he courted a woman 14 years his junior. He let the air out of her tires so he could offer her a ride home. He leaves out that he was married at the time. This is some stalker nonsense. She also worked for him. It's a Fox News love story pic.twitter.com/ge9zZ2vMMH
'-- Decoding Fox News (@DecodingFoxNews) April 16, 2022 Article continues below advertisement
The story of how Watters lured in DiGiovine not only gained national attention but also brought into question Watters' behavior. In a Twitter post that later went viral, Twitter user @DecodingFoxNews called the host's behavior ''stalker nonsense.'' Following his return to The Five, Watters admitted that the whole story was a joke, although he says that part of the clip was edited out.
Despite the backlash Watters has received for his recent commentary, you can still watch him weekdays and weeknights on Fox News.
First human case of avian flu in the U.S. reported in Colorado : NPR
Sat, 30 Apr 2022 11:58
A Colorado inmate involved in the culling of poultry at a farm as part of a pre-release program has the first human case of avian flu in the United States. Here, cage-free chickens walk in a fenced pasture at an organic farm near Waukon, Iowa, in October 2015. Charlie Neibergall/AP hide caption
toggle caption Charlie Neibergall/AP A Colorado inmate involved in the culling of poultry at a farm as part of a pre-release program has the first human case of avian flu in the United States. Here, cage-free chickens walk in a fenced pasture at an organic farm near Waukon, Iowa, in October 2015.
Charlie Neibergall/AP A man in Colorado is the first human in the U.S. to test positive for bird flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.
The case comes as the H5N1 bird influenza tears through the U.S., posing a low risk to humans while leading to the deaths of millions of birds. Some of the birds have died from the disease, but the vast majority of them are being culled to curb the spread.
The patient, who is younger than 40, was involved in the culling of presumptively infected poultry at a commercial farm in Colorado's Montrose County, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. He is an inmate at a state correctional facility in Delta County and was working with poultry as part of a pre-release employment program.
Members of the response team were all given personal protective equipment while working on the farm, and the affected flock has been euthanized.
The patient has since recovered after reporting fatigue that lasted a few days as his only symptom. He was treated with oseltamivir, an antiviral influenza medication commonly sold under the Tamiflu brand.
The virus was detected on a single nasal specimen and could have been present in the patient's nose without causing infection, according to a statement from Colorado authorities.
This case marks the second human case associated with this group of H5 viruses '-- the first case occurred in the U.K. in December 2021, according to the CDC. The first patient lived with a large number of birds that became infected with H5N1, according to the World Health Organization.
Still, for the general public, the human risk of bird flu remains low, the CDC says. Those who have job-related or recreational exposure to infected birds are at higher risk for infection.
"We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low," said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, in the statement.
Both wild birds and commercial and backyard flocks are contracting bird flu. More than 35 million birds in flocks across 30 states have been affected.
A total of 58,070 birds have been affected in Colorado, according to the latest data from the U.S. Agriculture Department. In Iowa, one of the worst-hit states, more than 13 million birds have been affected.
Russia explains what US lend-lease really means for Ukraine '-- RT Russia & Former Soviet Union
Fri, 29 Apr 2022 13:50
Lend-lease isn't free, and generations of Ukrainians are going to pay for the weapons that'll be supplied by Washington to Kiev under the program, Vyacheslav Volodin, Russian State Duma speaker, has said.
On Thursday, the US House of Representatives approved the ''Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act,'' which makes it easier for Washington to send weapons to Ukraine amid its conflict with Russia. However, those deliveries are conditioned on Kiev having to pay for the ''return of and reimbursement and repayment for defense articles loaned or leased.'' The lend-lease bill, which now only needs Joe Biden's signature, is separate from the White House's ongoing efforts to arm the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with weapons from the Pentagon's stockpiles.
''Washington's motives are crystal clear,'' Volodin wrote on Telegram, suggesting that lend-leasing to Ukraine ''would allow to increase the profits of American defense corporations by several times.''
The parliament speaker recalled the events of World War II when the Soviet Union had received military hardware from the US under a similar lend-lease scheme.
''It was described as help from the allies,'' but the USSR, which lost 27 million lives fighting the Nazis, had to return those debts for decades, among other things, sending its platinum, gold and timber to America as part of mutual settlements, he said.
''The payments were only completed 61 years after the Great Victory, in 2006,'' Volodin pointed out.
Lend-lease is basically a commodity loan, and ''not a cheap one,'' he warned. ''Many future generations of Ukrainian citizens are going to pay'' for the weapons, ammo and food supplies delivered by Washington.
By agreeing to the land-lease scheme, ''Zelensky is leading the country into a debt pit,'' the parliament speaker insisted.
Russia sent its troops to Ukraine in late February, following Kiev's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.The
Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
House sends Ukraine military aid lend-lease bill to Biden's desk | The Hill
Fri, 29 Apr 2022 13:50
The House passed legislation on Thursday establishing a lend-lease program to make it easier for the U.S. to send military aid to Ukraine, with the measure now headed to President Biden for his signature.
The Ukrainian Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act would make it easier to provide support to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia's invasion, which has entered its third month.
The bill passed by a vote of 417-10, with all 10 no votes coming from Republicans.
The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote earlier this month as part of a deal to end permanent normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, as well as a bill to ban Russian oil imports.
The bipartisan bill, first introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in January, was aimed at streamlining power that the president already has under the Arms Export Control Act to lend and lease defense equipment when it is in the best interest of U.S. national security.
''Ukrainian forces have demonstrated unbelievable strength and bravery, and we must again serve as the arsenal of democracy and ensure they have the full range of resources necessary to defend their sovereignty,'' Cornyn said in a statement following passage of the bill.
''This legislation will be a game-changer for Ukraine, and I'm grateful to my House colleagues for recognizing its importance and quickly sending it to the President's desk,'' he continued.
Passage of the bill came hours after Biden on Thursday sent a request to Congress for $33.4 billion in additional assistance to Ukraine, including more than $20 billion in security assistance for Ukraine and other military aid.
The request also includes $8.5 billion for economic assistance and $3 billion in humanitarian assistance and food security funding.
This wouldn't be the first time the U.S. implemented a lend-lease program help its partners.
Hillicon Valley '-- US cyber official spotlights midterms' securityOn The Money '-- GDP declines even as demand holds strongPrior to entering World War II in 1941, Washington established one to help Great Britain and other allies during World War II while not actively fighting in the war.
The legislation comes as Russia's invasion of Ukraine drags into its third month. Washington has provided Ukraine with over $4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including about $3.4 billion since the invasion began on Feb. 24.
'--Updated at 5:35 p.m.
Tags Ben CardinBidenJohn CornynLend-lease military aidRussiaRusso-Ukrainian WarUkraineUkraine crisisUkraine invasionUkraine military aidUkraine war
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VIDEO - How COVID's deadly conspiracy theories cost one woman her life : Shots - Health News : NPR
Sun, 01 May 2022 14:19
Laurie's mother, Stephanie, 75, died of COVID-19 in December. "I don't believe she was supposed to die," Laurie says. "I blame the misinformation." Stephanie had been wrapped up in a world of conspiracy theories online, which led her to refuse treatments for COVID. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR Laurie's mother, Stephanie, 75, died of COVID-19 in December. "I don't believe she was supposed to die," Laurie says. "I blame the misinformation." Stephanie had been wrapped up in a world of conspiracy theories online, which led her to refuse treatments for COVID.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR One thing everyone agrees on is that Stephanie didn't have to die. Even months after it happened, her family is struggling to figure out why.
"There is no perfect puzzle piece," says Stephanie's daughter Laurie. "I literally go through this all the time."
Stephanie was 75 when she succumbed to COVID-19 this past December. But Laurie says it wasn't just COVID that killed her mother. In the years leading up to her death, Stephanie had become embroiled in conspiracy theories. Her belief in those far-out ideas caused her to avoid vaccination and led her to delay and even refuse some of the most effective treatments after she got sick.
"I don't believe she was supposed to die," Laurie says. "I blame the misinformation."
As America approaches a million deaths from COVID-19, many thousands of families have been left wondering whether available treatments and vaccines could have saved their loved ones. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 230,000 deaths could have been avoided if individuals had gotten vaccinated.
Not everyone who refuses a vaccine believes in elaborate conspiracy theories, but many likely do. Anti-vaccine advocates have leveraged the pandemic to sow mistrust and fear about the vaccines. Local papers across the country are dotted with stories of those who refused vaccination, only to find themselves fighting for their very lives against the disease.
Stephanie's family wanted to share what happened to her in the hope their story can help others. NPR agreed to use only family members' first names to allow them their privacy as they continue to grieve.
"I know we're not alone," says Laurie. "I know this is happening all over the place."
From vaccine supporter to skepticStephanie was a native of the Bronx, and for almost 55 years she was married to a man named Arnold. They met shortly after he returned from the war in Vietnam. Her family's dry cleaning shop was just a few blocks from his parents' house.
Parking in the Bronx was always tricky, Arnold quips. "So I said, 'You know, this isn't bad '-- she's very attractive, she's pleasant to be with '-- maybe I'll start dating her and I won't lose my parking spot."
Arnold and Stephanie met in the Bronx in the late 1960s. Arnold had just returned from military service in Vietnam. One month later, they were engaged. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR They got engaged after just one month. After a few years of marriage, they moved to Long Island and bought a fixer-upper home. They had two daughters, Laurie and Vikki, who Stephanie stayed home to raise. Vikki remembers Stephanie had an unwavering belief in her children's ability to achieve whatever they wanted.
"She just believed we could do anything, and I think that's really powerful as a parent," she recalls.
When the daughters reached high school, Stephanie began to get into astrology and tarot. She did readings to advise people about things like houses, kids and jobs. It was quirky, but Laurie says that Stephanie brought a lot of positivity and optimism to her sessions.
"Everybody loved it, because everybody is always trying to figure out their lives. There's always the struggles," she says. "She spread hope with people."
For all her star charts and spiritual ideas, Stephanie was practical when it came to her health. She went for regular checkups, and she was a big believer in vaccines. "She made sure I took the flu shots, we took the shingles shot, we took the pneumonia shot," Arnold recalls. "I mean, I was like a pincushion."
The family lived for many happy years this way. The daughters grew and started families of their own. Arnold retired from a job working for the gas company.
Then, just before the pandemic began, there was a change in Stephanie. Nobody can exactly pinpoint when it happened. Part of it was physical. Throughout her life, she had played tennis. But it had taken a toll on her knees. She was finding it hard to walk and had to have a stair lift installed in her house.
Stephanie and Arnold raised their two daughters, Vikki and Laurie, in Long Island. The daughters grew up and started families of their own. Life was good, the family says. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR Stephanie and Arnold raised their two daughters, Vikki and Laurie, in Long Island. The daughters grew up and started families of their own. Life was good, the family says.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR The loss of tennis from her life also had a psychological impact, says Vikki. "It was her everything. It's where she felt really valued and strong and important."
Perhaps partially because she was isolated and feeling down, Stephanie got into watching strange videos and sending them to the rest of the family. Vikki says it was Laurie who was really the first to notice.
"She called me up one day and was like, 'All right, have you been watching these videos that Mom is sending us?'"
The videos covered a wide range of far-fetched conspiracy theories: JFK Jr. is still alive; reptilian aliens control the government. Arnold says he wouldn't even look at them: "Watching them, to my way of thinking, would have reinforced that they were valid. Even if I'd argued against them, she wouldn't have accepted my argument."
Stephanie's fringe ideas were troubling, but the family still hung out. Laurie says sometimes they fought over her beliefs, but often they kept the conversation on things like the grandkids.
Then came the pandemic, and everything changed. Stephanie's videos told her COVID was a hoax. But Laurie and Vikki took it seriously. They were worried about giving their parents the virus. So they stayed away, trying to keep them safe.
"We just stopped seeing each other as a family," Laurie says. "We didn't do Thanksgiving that first year."
While the family stayed away, others did not. Through her astrology, Stephanie had formed a spiritual group that met weekly at her house. And like Stephanie, other members of that group didn't believe the virus was real.
The more time they spent together, the more Stephanie became invested in her beliefs. Arnold says it was "tribal": "Staying in the same clique, reinforcing each other, and not getting outside opinions."
"A couple of times I tried to speak to her on an analytical basis," Arnold says. "But I could see she was getting defensive, and I didn't want to alienate myself from her." Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR "A couple of times I tried to speak to her on an analytical basis," Arnold says. "But I could see she was getting defensive, and I didn't want to alienate myself from her."
Meredith Rizzo/NPR When the COVID vaccines came along, Stephanie absolutely refused to get one because she falsely thought the shots contained tiny microchips. Moreover, she began avoiding her daughters, who had gotten vaccinated, because she believed false information that the vaccines were being used to somehow spread COVID.
Arnold didn't get vaccinated, to try and keep the peace.
Good vs. evilThe family felt stuck. They didn't know how to shake Stephanie out of her beliefs. And they are hardly alone. Diane Benscoter runs a nonprofit called Antidote, which seeks to help families whose loved ones have been taken over by cults and conspiratorial thinking. She says she's inundated with emails from families facing the same struggles.
"My inbox," she says. "It's horrible."
Much of the public conversation around misinformation focuses on fact-checking and flagging false posts online. But these methods don't provide much help for people like Stephanie, says Sander van der Linden, a professor of social psychology at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.
"Most people who are really into disinformation and conspiracy theories don't believe in a single conspiracy theory," he says. Rather, they're drawn into a self-reinforcing conspiratorial worldview in which conspiracies build on one another. While the theories can seem disparate, they often have unifying themes: They feed distrust in sources of authority; they claim insider knowledge that makes the believer feel valuable; and frequently, that knowledge includes a secret plan to defeat the forces of evil.
Van der Linden says there are three major reasons why people are drawn into this world in the first place: fear and anxiety about the future, a desire to have a simple explanation for complex or seemingly random events, and the social support that communities around conspiracy theories can provide.
Stephanie got into astrology as a hobby when Vikki and Laurie were in high school. Over the years, her interest turned more professional '-- she gave tarot readings to hundreds of clients who turned to her for insight on houses, jobs and kids. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR Stephanie got into astrology as a hobby when Vikki and Laurie were in high school. Over the years, her interest turned more professional '-- she gave tarot readings to hundreds of clients who turned to her for insight on houses, jobs and kids.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR While it's impossible to say exactly what drove Stephanie, her daughters identify several things that seem to roughly correspond to those broad categories of motivations. First, they say Stephanie suffered from a lot of anxiety throughout her life. With her tennis days behind her, much of her self-esteem now lay with her astrology work and her spiritual group. And that group was clearly playing the role of echo chamber, reinforcing her ideas and beliefs.
Benscoter thinks the pandemic has also pushed many people further into the shadows of conspiracies. "The pandemic increases fear, and fear is a really hard emotion. And isolation is a really hard place to be," she says.
Benscoter herself is a former cult member. She says the conspiracy narratives provide reassurance. Even if the facts seem crazy, they can provide emotional stability. Speaking of her own past, she says these tales gave clarity because they turned complex problems into simple questions of good versus evil.
"It feels so good; I never felt so secure. I mean I knew what was right and wrong. There was no question," she says.
Stephanie's interest in star charts, numerology, tarot and singing bowls (right) were quirky but her sessions gave people a lot of hope and positivity, Laurie says. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR Stephanie's interest in star charts, numerology, tarot and singing bowls (right) were quirky but her sessions gave people a lot of hope and positivity, Laurie says.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR Because those motivations are all about psychological needs, arguing the facts around individual conspiracies will do little to shake people out of their beliefs. Moreover, "when you try to pull on one, the whole thing collapses for people," van der Linden says. "So the resistance becomes much stronger."
Efforts to dissuade Stephanie from her beliefs were frequently met with outbursts of rage, her family says. "She was angry that we weren't listening to her and believing what she believed," Vikki says. "A couple of times I tried to speak to her on an analytical basis," Arnold says. "But I could see she was getting defensive, and I didn't want to alienate myself from her."
Both Benscoter and van der Linden say there is no surefire way to get someone from abandoning conspiratorial thinking. They also say one of the best strategies is to try and get a person to question the messenger, not the message. "People, especially these kinds of people, don't want to feel like they're being manipulated," van der Linden says. He says it's good to ask questions like: "Do you think it's possible that other people are profiting off you?"
It was a strategy Stephanie's family said they tried a few times. But even then, van der Linden says, these interventions take time. People can't change their thinking instantly, and often will backslide as they talk again to their fellow conspiracy theorists.
"It's an extensive process," he says.
Out of timeUnfortunately for Stephanie, she did not have time. In November of 2021, just before Thanksgiving, Arnold and Stephanie met two other couples for dinner at a popular local restaurant.
"Afterwards, she started developing symptoms," Arnold says.
But she refused to get tested. Instead, she ordered drugs online from a natural healer in Florida. Two of the drugs, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, are ineffective against COVID, but many conspiracy theorists believe they work. Stephanie waited for the pills to come.
"She was waiting for the pills and I said, 'Why wait? You could go to the doctor right now. You have amazing health insurance. You don't have to wait,'" Laurie says.
All the while, she was getting sicker and sicker. The daughters got her a device to check her blood-oxygen level: It was at just 77%.
Vikki called a friend who was a nurse: "She said, '77?! You need to get your mom to the hospital. She could die!' And I said, 'Really?'"
Stephanie still didn't want to go, but after hearing she could die, she eventually gave in. Arnold drove her to the hospital.
The pills Stephanie received in the mail were labeled as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. They appeared to come from manufacturers in India. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR The pills Stephanie received in the mail were labeled as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. They appeared to come from manufacturers in India.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR Even after she was admitted, she turned down some effective treatments for COVID. One drug, called remdesivir, has been proven to reduce the severity of COVID, but Stephanie believed conspiracy theories claiming the drug was actually being used to kill COVID patients. Stephanie also refused another treatment shown to be very effective for patients with COVID-19: monoclonal antibodies. Laurie remembers how one doctor responded when he learned that Stephanie had refused the drugs:
"He was like, 'Why didn't you take any of the treatments Stephanie?' She found every little piece of energy in her and yelled back at him, 'BECAUSE IT'LL KILL ME!'"
Meanwhile, Arnold had developed symptoms and was getting sicker and weaker. He eventually asked his daughters for help.
Vikki drove him to get monoclonal antibodies. He worsened overnight, and the next day, he was admitted to the same hospital that Stephanie was staying in. Unlike his wife, Arnold accepted every treatment he was offered.
"He said yes to everything. He said yes to every treatment they were willing to give him," says Vikki. "My Mom said no."
He was discharged after just five days.
"I felt hopeful, because I told her I was going home. I told her, 'I'll be waiting for you.' And then, everything started deteriorating," Arnold recalls.
"She was fighting a fight without any defenses," says Perihan El Shanawany, a doctor with Northwell Health, who was part of the team that cared for Stephanie. As Stephanie grew sicker, she started developing blood clots on her lungs. El Shanawany knew that as things progressed, Stephanie would only suffer more.
"Patients at that point feel like they're suffocating, they're drowning," El Shanawany says. "It's a horrible way to die."
The only option Stephanie had left was to go on a ventilator. So Dr. El Shanawany sat down with her and asked her what she wanted.
"She did say that she's had enough. That's her words, 'I've had enough. This is not a life. I can't live like this anymore'," El Shanawany says.
During a video call, Laurie heard her mother's wishes. She had been urging Stephanie to fight because she felt it wasn't her time. But hearing those words, "I can't live like this anymore," something changed. For years they had been battling over the lies and conspiracies. Laurie knew it was time to make peace with the mother she loved.
And that meant helping Stephanie to die comfortably. "My whole mission after hearing that was to help her get her wishes," she says.
Laurie stayed by her mother's side, reading text messages from friends and relatives who wanted to say goodbye. At one point, seeing she was suffering, Laurie played her some music written by a family member: "She gave me a thumbs up," Laurie recalls. "She was there."
"We all said goodbye and told her she was the best," Laurie says.
Stephanie died the next day. It was Dec. 28, a few days after Christmas.
At the funeral, Arnold heard from scores of people whom Stephanie had helped over the years, through her astrology, and just her advice and friendship.
"They all said, 'She changed my life,' " he says tearfully.
Laurie says she's "a lot less angry" now. But she still thinks about those who continue to make the kinds of videos her mother watched. In the months since Stephanie's death, she's moved closer to her father and sister. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR Laurie says she's "a lot less angry" now. But she still thinks about those who continue to make the kinds of videos her mother watched. In the months since Stephanie's death, she's moved closer to her father and sister.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR In the months since Stephanie died, the family has begun the long road to healing. Arnold has received the COVID vaccine. And Laurie recently bought a home closer to her father and sister. "We'll be able to be in each other's lives more," she says.
She also says she's slowly making her peace with Stephanie's death.
"I'm a lot less angry," she says.
But she still thinks about the people who make the paranoia-laced videos that her mother consumed day after day. She understands that something inside her mother drew her to those voices, but Laurie still sees Stephanie mainly as a victim of the grifters and attention-seekers who generate many hours of falsehoods every day to grab money, likes and shares.
"Whoever is creating all this content, is on some level waging a war '-- here in America '-- inside of every family," she says. "I think people need to wake up to that."
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Clown World Today ð¤ð : ð¤ð Biden's head of the new ''Disinformation Governance Board'' https://t.co/RZqILqT18c
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Puddle Of Souls : @cwt_news @nedryun https://t.co/pSMJf2Tqe6
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Dave Kirk : @cwt_news If this gig doesn't work out for her she can be the Disney Czar and enforce the implementation of LBGTQLMNOP & Q Agenda for them
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Victoria Arnstein : @cwt_news Cringe. Ewww
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Policn ðð : @stillgray Is she OK?
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Rodrigo P(C)rez Espinosa : @stillgray Npc.
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NÅllÄus Caesar - Dead Bankers Soci(C)t(C) ' ¸ : @stillgray is that shit in her mouth?
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Krisg887g ð¨ð...ð®ð¸ : @stillgray Is this really the type of people that are standing against the freedom protests ð¤£
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Vinnie Black : @stillgray She obviously has mental illness
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Pdog : @stillgray She is giving him what the biligerant ''convoy''protesters do to media and residents of Ottawa - loud annoying chanting ð¤·''¸ð¤·''¸
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B|TEK : @stillgray And this people, is a "woke-liberal"...
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SilleryRouge SPAC my ass! : @stillgray @DavidBCollum Nah, she came out of the box broken. $10 says she remembers this encounter as a kind of ''rape''.
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LucieGuay : @stillgray She said: what does A f**kin white man has to say '.....ð¤...ð>>''¸ go back to sleep darling and take a little mo'... https://t.co/qqx2MPIOHI
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ÎÎÎÎ'ÎÎ--ÎÎ£ : @stillgray @DavidBCollum https://t.co/iwtj30VWwU
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Presented with no comment...
omg is he ok???pic.twitter.com/6zzdJomFHw
'-- Abigail Marone ðºð¸ (@abigailmarone) April 28, 2022Omg I don't know if I should laugh or cry watching this
'-- Anthony (@Wingshater21) April 28, 2022