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Tuesday, December 7, 2021
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  • ANDERSON – In a recent speech, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy chastised President Joe Biden for failing to deliver on his promise to get the pandemic under control. “I took President Biden at his word,” he said. “I took him at his word when he said he was going to get COVID under control. Unfortunately, more people have died this year than last year under COVID.” McCarthy didn’t mention, of course, that it has been mostly members of his own party standing in the way of delivering on that promise. A survey in mid-September found that 90% of adults identifying themselves as Democrats had been vaccinated compared to 58% of adults identifying as Republicans. This divide has caused Republican politicians across the country to engage in a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, many call on constituents to follow public health recommendations and get vaccinated. On the other hand, some of these same politicians actively fight administration efforts to stop the coronavirus from spreading.
  • ANDERSON – Appearing on “Fox & Friends,” Tucker Carlson defended his three-part documentary as “rock-solid factually.” Fellow Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera would beg to differ. “There are some things that you say that are more inflammatory and outrageous and uncorroborated,” he told The New York Times. “And I worry that – and I’m probably going to get in trouble for this – but I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate.” He’s not alone. Even before the series “Patriot Purge” began to air, Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote to Fox News expressing “deep alarm.”

    “Let’s call this what it is,” he wrote, “an abject, indisputable lie and a blatant attempt to rewrite history. 
  • ANDERSON – A recent Facebook post from an affiliate of the conservative Heritage Foundation accuses Senate Democrats of mounting a crusade against election integrity. It calls the Freedom to Vote Act the “Freedom to Cheat Act,” and it nicknames an earlier bill, the For the People Act, “The Corrupt Politicians Act.” Both bills, it says, would “automatically register ineligible voters.” That’s not exactly true. “While there is a provision in the Freedom to Vote Act that requires states to offer automatic voter registration,” the fact-checking website PolitiFact states, “the goal is to make it easier for eligible citizens to register at their state motor-vehicle offices, and the wording in the bill repeatedly clarifies that only eligible citizens can vote in federal elections.” Scary stories are nothing new in this fight. Speaking at a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee last spring, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas labeled the For the People Act  “Jim Crow 2.0.” “This legislation would register millions of illegal aliens to vote,” he said. “It is intended to do that.” Cruz claimed the measure would “dilute the legal votes of American citizens.” “This bill doesn’t protect voting rights,” he said. “It steals voting rights from the American people.” PolitiFact says none of that is true. “Although glitches and malfunctions of automatic registration systems have been recorded, they are rare and easily corrected,” the website states. “We rate this claim Pants on Fire.”
  • ANDERSON – Poor Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook founder already had enemies on both sides of the political aisle. He already had folks blaming his creation for much that is wrong in the world today. And then along came Frances Haugen, the former employee who says she was recruited in 2019 to be the lead product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team. She joined the company, she told a Senate subcommittee, because she thought it had the potential “to bring out the best in us.” “But I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” she said. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

  • ANDERSON – One reader made clear he was getting tired of hearing about the pandemic. “Maybe if everyone didn’t write about the same thing every day it would be more effective?” he wrote. “Trust me. The constant hounding is NOT getting more of us to vaccinate. It’s annoying and just bullying at this point!” He’s right that some folks have made up their minds. They won’t budge no matter what a guy like me might say. They also ignore guys like Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Jha describes himself on his Twitter page as an advocate for the notion that an ounce of data is worth a thousand pounds of opinion. He noted in a recent tweet that the world had administered 6 billion doses of COVID vaccines to 3.4 billion people. “For people waiting for more data before getting the shot,” he wrote, “the data is in. We’ve vaccinated nearly half of all humanity. The vaccines are safe.”
  • ANDERSON – The note suggested I had left something out. “You failed to mention the thousands of people that have had severe reactions, even death from this experimental drug,” it said. I felt obligated to respond. “The people spouting those claims are lying,” I wrote. Just to be clear, I wasn’t talking about your Aunt Martha or that cousin who says he’d rather lose his job than roll up his sleeve. I was talking about the people spreading this misinformation, the talk radio hosts and others trying to build an audience or, worse yet, to make a profit. Millions of people have taken the COVID-19 vaccines with minor side effects or none at all. The overwhelming majority of people getting seriously ill or dying in this pandemic are the ones still resisting the shots. But that message isn’t getting through to everyone. Many still believe the shot is more dangerous than the virus. One post on social media insists a study from the Francis Crick Institute in London found the Pfizer vaccine destroyed T cells and weakened the immune system. Actually, Dr. David Bauer, one of that study’s authors, says that’s not at all what the research showed. “Our work to date has not studied T cells at all,” he told The Associated Press in an email.
  • ANDERSON – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out a recent warning via Twitter. “You are not a horse,” it said. “You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.” Days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a similar warning, describing what it saw as an alarming increase in prescriptions for ivermectin, a drug typically used by veterinarians to get rid of worms in large animals such as horses and cows. This probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise. For months, conservative media personalities have been promoting this so-called miracle drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Among them was Phil Valentine, a Nashville-based radio personality who went from vaccine skeptic to vaccine promoter after coming down with the virus. In announcing his illness, Valentine told listeners he was “taking vitamin D like crazy” and had begun using ivermectin. Neither treatment worked. Valentine died Aug. 21. While the drug is generally safe in low doses, the FDA warns that large doses can cause side effects including “skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, neurologic adverse events, sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash potentially requiring hospitalization and liver injury.”
  • ANDERSON – Mitch McConnell and I don’t agree on much, but we agree on this. “I think for everyone who is eligible, vaccines, vaccines, vaccines are the solution to the problem,” he said during an appearance at Eastern Kentucky University. The Senate minority leader has been beating the drum on vaccines for months, even launching an advertising campaign in his home state of Kentucky. The 60-second commercial began airing on 100 radio stations July 29. In the message, McConnell recalls his bout with polio as a child. Then, he says, it took decades to develop a vaccine. “This time, thanks to American investment and ingenuity – and especially thanks to the tireless work of our scientists, doctors and health care heroes – it took less than a year for us to develop three highly effective COVID vaccines,” McConnell says. “It’s nothing short of a modern medical miracle.” It’s worth noting, of course, that the messenger RNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna were actually three decades in the making.
  • ANDERSON –  I’m still getting the occasional email from defenders of coronavirus vaccine critic Dr. Michael Yeadon. The most recent noted that my column in mid-April had relied on Snopes, “a known purveyor of disinformation.” That’s actually the opposite of what Snopes does. The article I cited pointed out that Yeadon was never actually the chief science officer at Pfizer and he had no real expertise in vaccines. The division he once led focused on developing drugs to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The library at American University has assembled a guide for identifying fake news. It calls Snopes “an independent, nonpartisan website that researches urban legends and other rumors.” “It is often the first to set the facts straight on wild fake news claims,” the library says. Snopes got its start in 1994, before many of us even knew about the internet, and it soon built a reputation as a reliable place to go for the real scoop on urban legends, hoaxes and folklore.
  • ANDERSON – The whole thing started with a report circulating on conservative media that a Virginia public school district had banned students from reading books by famed children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel. Things got so crazy that Loudon County Public Schools felt obligated to post a denial online. “Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms,” the announcement read. The rumor had been that the school board demanded all mention of the author be eliminated from the annual Read Across America Day held on Geisel’s birthday, March 2. What the school board actually did was to suggest that its schools “not connect Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’s birthday exclusively.” The rationale was simple. “Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” the school district said in its statement.
  • ANDERSON – There’s a meme floating around on social media concerning last month’s attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Democrats say the storming of the Capitol is outrageous, but did you know the Senate was bombed by communists in 1983?” it asks. “A woman involved in the attack was convicted and sentenced to 58 years in prison. She was pardoned by Bill Clinton and now sits on the board of Black Lives Matter Inc.” The person who shared that meme added a note. “Inconvenient history,” she said. Someone else posted a link to an article from recounting a number of attacks on the Capitol. The first came while the building was still under construction during the War of 1812. A year into the fighting, American troops had set fire to a capitol in colonial Canada, and the British retaliated in 1814 by setting fire to some buildings in Washington, D.C., including the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
  • ANDERSON – President Donald J. Trump described the 46-minute speech as perhaps the most important he had ever delivered. In it, he claimed that the election had been stolen, and he called on the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. “Hopefully, they will do what’s right for our country because our country can’t live with this kind of an election,” he said. By Thursday, the Facebook video had drawn roughly 630,000 reactions and more than 180,000 comments. It had been shared tens of thousands of times. And it was absolutely without basis. Facebook said as much in a disclaimer attributed to the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Both voting by mail and voting in person have a long history of trustworthiness in the U.S.,” the disclaimer read. “Voter fraud is extremely rare across voting methods.” And yet the president keeps lying. “Millions of ballots were cast illegally in the swing states alone,” he said. The president’s main argument seems to be that a guy who received 74 million votes could not possibly have lost the election. Never mind that President-elect Joe Biden received 7 million more.
  • ANDERSON – Joe Biden campaigned as the candidate who could bring America together, and it’s looking more and more as if he’ll get a chance to try. Not that the current occupant of the White House will make it easy. President Donald J. Trump is on record saying the Democrats are trying to steal the election, and there’s every indication he won’t leave without a fight. The odds seem good, though, that Biden will take the oath of office in January as the 46th president of the United States. I had hoped for a different outcome. I wanted to see the landslide many of the pollsters had been projecting. Instead, Biden will be faced with the challenge of leading a polarized nation, a nation the columnist George Will describes as “evenly divided by mutual incomprehension.” Biden won the votes of a record number of Americans, but his opponent had the support of nearly as many.
  • ANDERSON – Speaking at a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, President Donald J. Trump suggested we’d all be bored if Joe Biden won the election. “If you want depression, doom and despair, vote for Sleepy Joe,” he said. “And boredom.” I don’t know about the depression, doom and despair, but I’d suggest this country could use a little bit of boredom right about now. Imagine not having to worry what crazy conspiracy theory would turn up next on the president’s Twitter feed. Wouldn’t that be a nice change? I’m guessing it wouldn’t trouble us at all if our president never again sent out a message suggesting that his predecessors in the White House might have had Seal Team 6 killed to cover up the fact that Osama bin Laden was still alive. If Joe Biden were elected, we might never again have to witness our president cozying up to wingnuts and conspiracy theorists. We could stop trying to understand his affinity for white nationalists and racists. So when the president promises boredom if his opponent wins the election, well, that sounds pretty good.
  • ANDERSON – I didn’t even notice the fly. In the middle of a debate between Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a fly took up residence on the vice president’s head, and social media exploded. I don’t know why, but while almost everyone else seemed focused on that fly, I was thinking about who won the debate. As soon as moderator Susan Page closed the discussion, I flipped over to Fox News to learn that nearly all of the panelists thought Pence had dominated the evening. You have to admit the vice president was focused. Regardless of any shots his opponent might take, he stayed relentlessly on message. Nothing could shake him. “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said. But Pence was unmoved. He suggested that by criticizing the administration’s handling of the pandemic, Harris was actually minimizing the sacrifices of average citizens.
  • ANDERSON – On Thursday, researchers at Cornell University released a study identifying the largest driver of misinformation about the coronavirus as the president of the United States. Before the sun came up the next day, that same president had tested positive for the virus. In the wake of the news about his diagnosis, the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said his boss was experiencing mild symptoms. “The great thing about this president is not only is he staying committed to working on behalf of the America people,” Meadows said. “We have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job, and I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.” Medical experts note that the president is in a high risk group because of his age and his weight. And it’s almost anyone’s guess how the virus will progress. The president might recover quickly, the experts say, or he might develop more serious symptoms weeks down the road. This is no laughing matter, and no one should wish the president ill. Still, you have to at least shake your head at the timing. One day, the president is called out for his lies. The next day, he tests positive for the virus he’s been lying about.
  • ANDERSON –  Speaking about the prospects for replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the nation’s highest court, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered a prediction. “There will no longer be 96-0 Antonin Scalia confirmations or unanimous Sandra Day O’Connor confirmations,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Those days of politics, unfortunately in my view, … are gone now.” Let’s hope he’s wrong. There is every likelihood the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate will confirm President Donald J. Trump’s selection to succeed Justice Ginsburg. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised as much. And the opposition, of course, is already plotting revenge. There’s talk that if Democrats win back the Senate and the White House, they should pack the court by adding more members. That’s a bad idea.
  • ANDERSON –  Could the president’s ignorance of science be his undoing? It will be if Scientific American has anything to say about it. For the first time in its 175-year history, the magazine is taking sides in a presidential election. “This year, we are compelled to do so,” the editors wrote. “We do not do this lightly.” President Donald J. Trump, they argued, has badly damaged the nation and its people through his rejection of science. “The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, …” the editors wrote. “He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges.”
  • ANDERSON – A lot of people will vote to give Donald J. Trump another term as president. It won’t matter what some anonymous sources might claim he said about our nation’s veterans or about the men and women who gave their lives for our country. Heck, it wouldn’t matter even if the president’s supporters could hear the words come out of his own mouth. It didn’t matter when they heard him say what he said about John McCain. It didn’t matter when they heard him bragging about sexual assault in that infamous “Access Hollywood” tape or when they saw him with their own eyes poking fun at a handicapped reporter. It won’t even matter now that they can hear him, on tape, confirming that he knew what he was telling us about COVID-19 was a lie, that he knew this virus was five times more dangerous than the common flu even as he assured the American people they had nothing to worry about.
  • ANDERSON — The war between our president and his favorite social media platform escalated in the wee hours of Friday morning. Just before 1 a.m., the president sent out a tweet about the rioting in Minneapolis. He called the demonstrators “thugs” and promised to take action to halt the violence. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted. “Thank you!” Less than two-and-a-half hours later, Twitter took action. “This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence … and the risk it could inspire similar actions today,” the company said. Hours later, the official White House Twitter account posted the same message, and Twitter again took action. “As is standard with this notice, engagements with the Tweet will be limited,” the company said. “People will be able to Retweet with Comment, but will not be able to Like, Reply or Retweet it.” The president is no stranger to outrageous messages on Twitter. Take his latest attack on Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” 
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  • Purdue poised for first No. 1 ranking
    "It's pretty cool for our fans and our players. It's a really neat thing if it does happen; it sounds like it will. I'm just happy for our fans and happy for our players." - Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter, as the undefeated Boilermakers are poised to become the AP's No. 1 ranked team for the first time in history.
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