Buffalo schools fail kids when teaching that all White people play part in systemic racism: Rufo - Fox News

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Buffalo schools have adopted a curriculum that pushes the controversial idea that all White people perpetuate systemic racism, while 80% of its students fail to reach proficiency in reading and writing, an editor said Wednesday.  City Journal editor Chris Rufo, during an appearance on "The Ingraham Angle," said the "diversity czar" of Buffalo public schools was caught on tape saying she believes that America's sickness leads some White people to believe Black people are less than human.  One of the district's instructional materials also includes the assertion that "all White people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism." He said the narrative of system racism has also spread to schools across the country, which shifts attention away from "their own abysmal failure to educate kids." BUFFALO'S SCHOOL DISTRICT TELLS STUDENTS THAT 'ALL WHITE PEOPLE PLAY A PART IN PERPETUATING SYSTEMIC RACISM' "Woke academics and

Outsource California school reopening to Amazon: Joe Mathews - OCRegister

Outsource California school reopening to Amazon: Joe Mathews - OCRegister


Outsource California school reopening to Amazon: Joe Mathews - OCRegister

Posted: 20 Feb 2021 05:11 PM PST

Many Californians say schools need to re-open now. But no one has had the guts to open all schools, and all grades, and send all kids back to class.

That's why our entire conversation about school reopening is beside the point. So-called grownups talk about when, or under what conditions, we might reopen. But we haven't answered the question of who—amidst all the fear and politics—will actual pry open the schoolhouse door for every California child.

It won't be the federal government; President Biden has effectively abandoned his pledge to reopen all schools in 100 days.

It won't be state government. The Newsom administration love to release frameworks and plans for reopening, but if you think the governor will execute a major operation like school reopening, then there's an unemployment check in the mail for you.

It won't be local governments. Our counties are consumed by their pandemic-era public health obligations. Our cities are criticizing and suing school districts, but they can't legally force classes back into session. Our school districts do have the power to reopen, and some have managed limit restarts of elementary schools, but mostly they're caught between ever-shifting guidance from other governments, union opposition, and divisions among parents.

Of course, teachers' unions, our state's most powerful political force, could force a reopening. But with their members able to work at home, these labor groups will keep pushing back the timelines for return—until all living beings in the Milky Way galaxy have been vaccinated, or the Rapture. Whichever comes first.

So, let's face reality. If our state is ever going to resume universal public education, we Californians will have to outsource the task.

And there is only one entity with the scale and scary ruthlessness to reopen California schools:

Amazon.

This isn't a modest proposal. Outsourcing school reopening to Amazon perfectly fits our state's COVID-era strategy: leaving the hard work to somebody else. Our elected leaders declare mask and social distancing rules, but refuse to enforce them, leaving compliance to store employees and regular citizens. State and county officials celebrate vaccinations, but outsource the job of getting shots in arms to Blue Shield of California, even though it's not a health provider.

By the same token, Amazon is not an education business, but it has the delivery network to get all the necessary protective materials to schools quickly. (Maybe it could even get science-denying teachers to vaccination centers and then classrooms). Amazon also operates efficiently—so a school reopening contract wouldn't break the budget.

But the real reason California needs Amazon for this chore is its scary ruthlessness, its willingness to ignore criticism and rules in the service of delivering on its promise.

No one gets in its way. Amazon owns the political class—just look at its success in using donations and lobbying to win government subsidies—so it doesn't have to worry about politicians' challenging its school reopening operations.

Amazon, famous for crushing small business competitors, might be our best bet to shut down scofflaw retailers, restaurants, and other entities that, by not complying with COVID regulations, contribute to the community spread that threatens school reopenings.

And Amazon, having successfully fought unionization of its own employees in every corner of this country, would probably revel at the prospect of putting California teachers and their unions in their place.

Because the company is so accustomed to being loathed, Amazon—worth a cool $1.65 trillion as of February 12—could be useful as a scapegoat for all of California's fear and anger over school reopening. Instead of the state government and local school districts continuing to blast each other for school delays, and instead of parents and teachers attacking each other on Zoom calls, we could all agree to blame Amazon.

I suspect Amazon would step in and do this if asked. Amazon recently wrote President Biden to offer "to leverage our operations, information technology and communications capabilities and expertise" in this emergency. And given its diminished public reputation, including questions about how it treats its warehouse workers, Amazon would likely seize such an opportunity to build some good will.

Few school leaders will ever admit this publicly, but they would be delighted if Amazon stepped in to handle reopening. Such an intervention might be the only way to save a California education system that is falling apart. School enrollment has seen record declines in the pandemic, and many families with school-age children are leaving the state. Even stalwart supporters of public schools are now talking up private schools or school vouchers.

In other words, California faces its own school choice: Outsource school reopening now, or watch its schools crumble as families outsource their children's education somewhere else.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

The Latest: Texas reports 227 more confirmed COVID-19 deaths - OCRegister

Posted: 20 Feb 2021 03:42 PM PST

By The Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — The number of deaths in Texas due to the illness caused by the coronavirus increased by more than 200 on Saturday while the number of people hospitalized with the virus declined, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

There were an additional 227 COVID-19 deaths, more than 4,900 new cases and 7,535 hospitalizations, a decline of 222 people hospitalized, the department reported.

Texas has had more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and more than 42,000 deaths due to COVID-19, the third highest death count in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.

___

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Pope Francis and Italy's president mark new annual day to honor doctors, nurses and other health care workers

— Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California are embroiled in political woes from the pandemic

— Powdering sleeping beauty's nose: Virus eases Louvre works

— Airlines plan to ask passengers for contact-tracing details

___

Follow all of AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LOS ANGELES — A skateboarding world champion is among five people prosecutors in Southern California have charged with organizing parties that were possible superspreader events amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Los Angeles Times reports Nyjah Huston, a four-time world skateboarding champion, and Edward Essa, the owner of a home in the Fairfax District, held a party last month with at least 40 people that was shut down by police after receiving a complaint.

Huston and Essa were both charged with creating a nuisance, a misdemeanor.

Neither could be reached for comment.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — More than 681,000 Oklahomans have now received the coronavirus vaccine, including more than 204,000 who have received both required doses, according to an Oklahoma State Department of Health report.

The state ranked 12th in the nation on Saturday with 14.3% of the population having received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, and the state health department has scheduled vaccination clinics during the weekend to replace those canceled because of a winter storm.

There have been a reported 418,318 total virus cases and 4,155 deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, since the pandemic began, increases of 973 cases and 23 deaths since Friday, according to the health department.

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JERUSALEM — Israel unveiled a plan on Saturday to allow people who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend cultural events, fly abroad and go to health clubs and restaurants.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the plan at a news conference on Saturday night, saying those who have been vaccinated will be able to download the "green badge" in the coming days.

"The green badge is gradually opening up the country," Netanyahu said.

Israel has conducted the world's speediest vaccine campaign over the past month and a half, inoculating nearly half of its 9.3 million people. But with the coronavirus still spreading rapidly among the unvaccinated, the country only recently began emerging from a two-month lockdown.

On Sunday, retail stores, shopping malls, gyms, some middle school grades and other public services for limited crowd sizes are set to start back up.

Netanyahu said the government could not keep unvaccinated residents from places like medical clinics, pharmacies and supermarkets. But he said other services would be allowed only for those who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Israel's main international airport, for instance, remains closed to nearly all air traffic because of concerns of foreign variants of the virus entering the country.

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PODGORICA, Montenegro — Tiny Montenegro has launched vaccinations against the coronavirus with doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccines that were donated by neighboring Serbia.

Health authorities said the first person to receive a shot on Saturday was a 66-year-old resident of a care home in the coastal town of Risan. Two doctors working at the same nursing home came next.

A nation of some 620,000 people, Montenegro has reported more than 70,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 939 known deaths.

Montenegrin authorities say they plan to acquire supplies of China's Sinopharm vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

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MEXICO CITY — The official leading Mexico's response to the pandemic says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell tweeted Saturday that he had light COVID-19 symptoms on Friday night and an antigen test came out positive. He was awaiting the results of a PCR test, which takes longer to process and is generally more accurate..

"I'll be working from home,' López-Gatell said, adding that he was involved in Mexico's vaccination program.

Some 200,000 doses of China's Sinovac vaccine arrived in Mexico from Hong Kong on Saturday, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter. A total of 10 million Sinovac vaccines are expected.

Mexico has approved several other coronavirus vaccines and has administered 1.5 million shots so far.

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HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Health says it has temporarily extended the window incoming travelers have to get a pre-arrival coronavirus test that comes back negative.

The state says travelers can now take the tests up to 96 hours before their scheduled flights instead of 72 hours because of winter storms that have ravaged the continental U.S.

The tests still have to be conducted by a state-approved provider.

Hawaii News Now reports the extension will be in effect through Sunday.

Alternatively, visitors can quarantine for 10 days after arriving in Hawaii.

___

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska public health officials say 3,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine will arrive later than expected because of a winter storm that has ravaged the continental U.S.

The state's immunization program manager, Matt Bobo, said some vaccine appointments may be postponed until next week.

The doses were supposed to reach 21 different providers.

Another state vaccine official says the delay occurred at a somewhat fortuitous time — a part of the month for which the state had already anticipated a smaller vaccine shipment.

State officials say they have been communicating with officials at the White House and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about the delay.

___

LAS VEGAS — Before the coronavirus pandemic, tourist-dependent Nevada had a notorious attraction: It was the only place in America where someone could legally pay for sex. These days, even in the state known for sin, the business is taboo.

Legal brothels have been shuttered for nearly a year, leaving sex workers to offer less-lucrative alternatives like online dates or nonsexual escort services.

While the business of legal bordellos may seem incompatible with social distancing, sex workers and brothel owners say they should be allowed to reopen with protective measures like other close-contact industries, including massage therapy and dental services.

A state task force that makes recommendations on coronavirus restrictions hasn't responded to pleas from brothel owners seeking a way to reopen.

Gov. Steve Sisolak recently said brothels, along with other adult entertainment like nightclubs and strip clubs, would stay closed at least through May 1. After that, the state may let counties decide whether to allow those businesses to open, as long as COVID-19 infections aren't surging.

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PHOENIX — Enrollment at U.S. community colleges dropped 0% from fall 2019 to fall 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That's according to The National Student Clearinghouse, which says community colleges were hit the hardest among all types of colleges in terms of enrollment drops.

Four-year universities in the U.S. fared better than many had expected, seeing only slight enrollment decreases.

There are myriad reasons for the community college downturn. Fewer freshmen are enrolling and some are delaying college until campuses fully reopen.

But the pandemic has also taken a heavy toll on older adult students. Many lost jobs or have no time for their own schooling as they supervise their children's online classes.

More Americans typically turn to community college education amid economic downturns, seeking to learn new job skills or change careers. But education experts say the pandemic seems to have upended usual trends.

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PHOENIX — Arizona's Maricopa County plans to close two of its six regional COVID-19 vaccination sites in coming weeks as public health officials put increased emphasis on smaller sites and events to give more shots.

The county's site in north Phoenix, operated by Honor Health, will last operate on Feb. 28. and the site run by Dignity Health in Chandler will close in early March.

Officials say current appointments will be honored at both locations. Arizona on Saturday reported 2,047 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths, increasing the state's pandemic totals to 806,163 cases and 15,480 deaths.

____

LONDON – The British government has announced a small step out of lockdown — allowing nursing home residents to have a single friend or family member visit them indoors.

Residents and their visitors will be able to hold hands, but not hug. The change takes effect March 8. For months, nursing home residents have only been able to see loved ones outdoors or through screens.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will announce a "road map" out of lockdown on Monday. The government has stressed that reopening will be slow and cautious, with store reopenings or outdoor socializing unlikely before April, though children will go back to school from March 8.

Johnson's Conservative government has been accused of reopening the country too quickly after the first lockdown in the spring. Britain has had about 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

The new measures apply in England. In other parts of the U.K., nursing home visiting rules vary, with Scottish residents able to have two visitors from March 8.

___

HELSINKI — Denmark has temporarily closed some border crossing points with Germany and stepped up checks at others due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and a rise in virus variants in the the northern German town of Flensburg, just off the Danish border.

The Danish justice ministry said late Friday that an increasing number of infections and virus mutations have been detected in Flensburg, just some seven kilometers (4 miles) from the border with Denmark.

The Danish justice ministry said officials police will significantly intensify border controls at the Danish-German border. Local authorities in Germany said Saturday on Flensburg's webpage that the town's coronavirus incidence rate was running at 193 per 100,000 people.

Dozens of cases of mutated coronavirus, mostly the variant first detected in Britain, have been detected in Flensburg, a town with some 90,000 inhabitants, in the past days.

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UNITED NATIONS — Britain has circulated a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a "sustained humanitarian pause" to enable people in conflict areas to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The proposed resolution reiterates the council's demand last July 1 for "a general and immediate cessation of hostilities" in major conflicts from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia, an appeal first made by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The draft, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, "emphasizes the need for solidarity, equity, and efficacy and invites donation of vaccine doses from developed economies to low- and middle-income countries and other countries in need, including through the COVAX Facility," an ambitious World Health Organization project to buy and deliver coronavirus vaccines for the world's poorest people.

The British draft stresses that "equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines, certified as safe and efficacious, is essential to end the pandemic."

It would recognize "the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good for health in preventing, containing, and stopping transmission, in order to bring the pandemic to an end."

The draft follows up on British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab's appeal to the 15-member Security Council on Wednesday to adopt a resolution calling for local cease-fires in conflict zones to allow the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

___

MEXICO CITY — Mexico says it will get its first shipment of the Chinese Coronavac vaccine Saturday and by Monday will receive its first lot of the Russian Sputnik V shot. Both shipments are expected to consist of about 200,000 doses.

Health officials say the first shipments of the Chinese and Russian vaccines will be used in low-income neighborhoods of Mexico City or its suburbs.

Mexico is currently using the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines and has applied almost 1.6 million doses of those.

The country will now be faced with the logistical challenge of handling four different vaccines, all of which require two doses. In addition, the Sputnik first shot is different from the second and is not interchangeable.

___

LOS ANGELES — The University of Southern California expects to reopen campuses this fall, joining the state's major public universities in planning to resume on-campus life curtailed by COVID-19.

USC President Carol Folt issued an online letter Friday that said she is "cautiously optimistic" because virus cases are down and vaccinations are ramping up. USC and other universities nationwide were forced to switch to online learning last March.

Both the University of California and California State University systems also have said they plan to reopen their campuses this fall if conditions permit.

___

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Alberto Fernández asked Argentina's health minister to resign after a well-known local journalist said he had been given a coronavirus vaccination preferentially after requesting one from the minister, a government official said Friday.

The president "instructed his chief of staff to request the resignation of health minister" Ginés González García, who is in charge of the government's COVID-19 strategy, said the official, who was not authorized to release the information and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. He did not say who would replace González García as health minister.

The scandal erupted when journalist Horacio Verbitsky, whose stories and columns on a website and on the radio are seen as pro-government, said he called the minister to request a vaccinination and González García summoned him to the Health Ministry where he received a Sputnik V vaccine shot Thursday.

"I decided to get vaccinated. I started to find out where to do it. I called my old friend Ginés González García, whom I have known long before he was a minister," Verbitsky told a local radio station. "I went to the ministry and the team of vaccinators was there."

Fernández's government has been harshly criticized for Argentina's slow vaccination operation.

Who are the people behind the top covid-19 conspiracy theories? - Arkansas Online

Posted: 21 Feb 2021 12:45 AM PST

As the coronavirus spread across the globe, so too did speculation about its origins. Perhaps the virus escaped from a lab. Maybe it was engineered as a bioweapon.

Legitimate questions about the virus created perfect conditions for conspiracy theories. In the absence of knowledge, guesswork and propaganda flourished.

College professors with no evidence or training in virology were touted as experts. Anonymous social media users posed as high-level intelligence officials. And from China to Iran to Russia to the United States, governments amplified claims for their own motives.

The Associated Press collaborated with the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab on a nine-month investigation to identify the people and organizations behind some of the most viral misinformation about the origins of the coronavirus.

Their claims were explosive. Their evidence was weak. These are the superspreaders.

FRANCIS BOYLE

WHO HE IS: A Harvard-trained law professor at the University of Illinois, Boyle drafted a 1989 law banning biological weapons and has advised the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Palestinian Authority.

Boyle has no academic degree in virology or biology but is a longstanding critic of research on pathogens. He has claimed Israeli intelligence was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; that SARS, the swine flu and Ebola have been genetically modified; and that West Nile virus and Lyme disease escaped from a U.S. biowarfare lab. He has also claimed that Microsoft founder Bill Gates "was involved" in the spread of Zika.

COVID CLAIM: Boyle says the coronavirus is a genetically engineered bioweapon that escaped from a high-level lab in Wuhan, China. He maintains it shows signs of nanotechnological tinkering and the insertion of proteins from HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. He alleges that U.S. researchers helped create it, and that thousands of doctors, scientists and elected leaders are conspiring to hide the truth.

Boyle promoted his claim in an email to a list of news organizations and personal contacts on Jan. 24, 2020. That same day, he was interviewed on a podcast called "Geopolitics and Empire." That podcast was cited by a little-known Indian website, GreatGameIndia, and went viral, with Boyle's comments picked up and featured in Iranian-state TV, Russian state media, and fringe websites in the U.S. and around the world. He's since repeated his claims on Alex Jones' show Infowars.

EVIDENCE? Boyle bases his argument on circumstantial evidence: the presence of a Biosafety Level 4 lab in Wuhan, the fact that other viruses have escaped from other labs in the past, and his belief that governments around the world are engaged in a secret arms race over biological weapons.

Biosafety Level 4 labs -- or BSL4 labs -- have the highest level of biosafety precautions.

"It seemed to me that obviously, this came out of the Wuhan BSL 4," Boyle told The Associated Press.

A World Heath Organization team concluded it was extremely unlikely the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab, and other experts have said the virus shows no signs of genetic manipulation.

GREATGAMEINDIA

WHAT IT IS: A website that was an early promoter of the theory the coronavirus was engineered.

Its Jan. 26, 2020, story on "Coronavirus bioweapon-How China Stole the Coronavirus From Canada and Weaponized It" was picked up by far-right financial blog Zero Hedge and shared to thousands of social media users before it was promoted by conservative website RedStateWatcher and received more than 6 million engagements.

COVID CLAIM: GreatGameIndia claims the virus, which has killed more than 2 million people worldwide, was first found in the lungs of a Saudi man and then sent to labs in the Netherlands and then Canada, where it was stolen by Chinese scientists. The article relies in part on speculation from Dany Shoham, a virologist and former lieutenant colonel in Israeli military intelligence.

Shoham was quoted discussing the possibility covid is linked to bioweapon research in a Jan. 26, 2020, article in the conservative U.S. newspaper The Washington Times. In that article, Shoham was quoted saying there was no evidence to support the idea the virus has escaped from a lab, but GreatGameIndia didn't include that context in its piece.

"We do stand by our report," said website co-founder Shelley Kasli wrote in an email. "In fact, recently Canadians released documents which corroborated our findings with Chinese scientists... A lot of information is still classified."

EVIDENCE? The coronavirus most likely first appeared in humans after jumping from an animal, a World Health Organization panel announced this month, saying an alternate theory the virus leaked from a Chinese lab was unlikely.

America's top scientists have likewise concluded the virus is of natural origin, citing clues in its genome and its similarity to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, who has been studying the virus since its genome was first recorded, has said it's clear the virus wasn't engineered or accidentally released.

"It is something that is clearly selected in nature," Racaniello said. "There are two examples where the sequence tells us that humans had no hand in making this virus because they would not have known to do these things."

THE CENTRE FOR RESEARCH ON GLOBALIZATION

WHAT IT IS: The Montreal-based center publishes articles on global politics and policy, including a healthy dose of conspiracy theories on vaccines and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It's led by Michel Chossudovsky, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Ottawa and a conspiracy theorist who has argued the U.S. military can control the weather.

The center publishes authors from around the world -- many of whom have advanced baseless claims about the origins of the outbreak. In February, for instance, the center published an interview with Igor Nikulin suggesting the coronavirus was a U.S. bioweapon created to target Chinese people.

The center's website, globalresearch.ca., "has become deeply enmeshed in Russia's broader disinformation and propaganda ecosystem" by peddling anti-U.S. conspiracy theories, according to a 2020 U.S. State Department report which found seven of its supposed writers don't even exist but were created by Russian military intelligence.

COVID CLAIM: While the center has published several articles about the virus, one suggesting it originated in the U.S. caught the attention of top Chinese officials.

On March 12, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian retweeted an article published by the center titled: "China's Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?"

"This article is very much important to each and every one of us," he posted in English on Twitter. "Please read and retweet it. COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US."

He also tweeted: "It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation."

The story by Larry Romanoff, a regular author at the center, cites several debunked theories, including one members of the U.S. military brought the virus to China during the Military World Games in fall 2019. Romanoff concludes it has now "been proven" the virus originated from outside of China, despite scientific consensus that it did.

EVIDENCE? The World Health Organization has concluded the coronavirus emerged in China, where the first cases and deaths were reported. No evidence has surfaced to suggest the virus was imported into China by the U.S.

Chossudovsky and Romanoff didn't respond to repeated messages seeking comment. Romanoff's biography lists him as a visiting professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, but he isn't listed among the university's faculty. The university didn't respond to an email asking about Romanoff's employment.

Romanoff's original article was taken down in the spring, but Zhao's tweet remains up.

IGOR NIKULIN

WHO IS HE? A four-time failed political candidate, Nikulin is prominently quoted in Russian state media and fringe publications in the west as a biologist and former weapons inspector in Iraq who served on a U.N. commission on biological and chemical weapons in the 1990s.

COVID CLAIM: Nikulin argues the U.S. created the virus and used it to attack China. He first voiced the belief in a Jan. 20, 2020, story by Zvezda, a state media outlet tied to the Russian military. He appeared on Russian state TV at least 18 times between Jan. 27, 2020, and late April of that year.

Once the virus reached the U.S., Nikulin changed his theory, saying "globalists" were using the virus to depopulate the earth.

Nikulin has expressed support for weaponizing misinformation to hurt the U.S. in the past. On his website, he suggests claiming the U.S. created HIV as a way to weaken America from within. Russian intelligence mounted a similar 1980s disinformation campaign dubbed "Operation INFEKTION."

"If you prove and declare... that the virus was bred in American laboratories, the American economy will collapse under the onslaught of billions of lawsuits by millions of AIDS carriers around the world," Nikulin wrote on his website.

EVIDENCE? Nikulin offered no evidence to support his assertions, and there are reasons to doubt his veracity.

Former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler, for whom Nikulin claims to have worked, said he had no memory of Nikulin, and his story sounded "sloppily fabricated, and not credible."

No U.N. records could be found to confirm his employment.

In an exchange with AP, Nikulin insisted his claims and background are accurate, though he said some records from U.N. work were destroyed in an American bombing during the Iraq invasion.

When told Butler didn't know him, Nikulin responded "This is his opinion."

GREG RUBINI

WHO HE IS: Greg Rubini is the name of an internet conspiracy theorist who claims to have high-level contacts in intelligence and listed his location on Twitter as "classified," until he was kicked off the platform.

His posts have been retweeted thousands of times by supporters of QAnon, a conspiracy theory centered on the baseless belief Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the "deep state" and a secret sect of satanic pedophiles and cannibals.

COVID CLAIM: Rubini has tweeted Dr. Anthony Fauci created the coronavirus and it was used as a bioweapon to reduce the world's population and undermine Trump.

EVIDENCE? Rubini's doesn't appear to be the intelligence insider he pretends to be.

Buzzfeed attempted to track down Rubini last year and determined it's the alias of a 61-year-old Italian man who has worked in marketing and music promotions. A previous version of his Twitter bio indicates he is a fan of classic rock and the films of Stanley Kubrick.

Attempts to reach Rubini online and through business contacts were unsuccessful.

Rubini has bristled at efforts to verify his claims. When a social media user asked: "My question to you @GregRubini is, 'Where and what is your proof?' Rubini responded curtly: "And my question is: why should I give it to you?"

Twitter suspended Rubini's account in November for repeated violations of its policies.

KEVIN BARRETT

WHO HE IS: A former lecturer on Islam at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Barrett left the university amid criticism for his claims the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were orchestrated by people linked to the U.S. and Israeli governments.

Barrett calls himself "a professional conspiracy theorist, for want of a better term" and has argued government conspiracies were behind the 2004 Madrid bombing, the 2005 London bombing, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting.

COVID CLAIM: Barrett said he's "80%" sure coronavirus was created by elements within the U.S. government as a bioweapon and used to attack China.

Iran was a secondary target, he argued. Writing for Iran's PressTV, he said the early outbreak in that country "suggests that the Americans and/or their partners the Israelis... may have deliberately attacked Iran."

Barrett further detailed his views during an interview with AP.

"It seemed fairly obvious to me that the first hypothesis one would look at when something as extraordinary as this COVID pandemic hits, is that it would be a US bio-war strike," he said.

EVIDENCE? Barrett cited reports the U.S. warned its allies in November 2019 about a dangerous virus emerging from China. Barrett said that's long before authorities in China knew about the severity of the outbreak.

Official sources have denied issuing any warning. If the U.S. did know about the virus that soon, it was likely thanks to intelligence sources within China, which may have known about the virus as early as November 2019, according to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

LUC MONTAGNIER

WHO HE IS: Montagnier is a world-renowned virologist who won the Nobel prize in 2008 for discovering HIV.

COVID CLAIM: During an April interview with the French news channel CNews, Montagnier claimed the coronavirus didn't originate in nature and was manipulated. Montagnier said in the process of making the vaccine for AIDS, someone took the genetic material and added it to the coronavirus.

Montagnier cites a retracted paper published in January from Indian scientists who said they had found sequences of HIV in the coronavirus. AP made multiple unsuccessful attempts to contact Montagnier.

EVIDENCE?: Experts who have looked at the genome sequence of the virus have said it has no HIV-1 sequences. In January, Indian scientists published a paper on bioRXIV, a repository for scientific papers not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a traditional scientific journal.

The paper said that the scientists had found "uncanny similarity of unique inserts" in covid-19 and HIV. Social media users picked up the paper as proof the virus was engineered. As soon as it was published, the scientific community widely debunked the paper on social media.

It was later withdrawn.

SUPREME LEADER ALI KHAMENEI and HOSSEIN SALAMI

WHO THEY ARE: Khamenei is the second and current Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has the final say on all matters of state, including the economy, military and health divisions.

Since being elected to office in 1981, Khamenei has maintained his skeptical view of the U.S. as Iran's foremost enemy. The tensions between the two countries boiled over in 2018 when Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

At the time, Khamenei remarked, "I said from the first day: Don't trust America."

Hossein Salami was appointed by Khamenei as commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard in April 2019. He leads the country's paramilitary force that oversees Iran's ballistic missile program and responds to threats from both inside and outside the country.

COVID CLAIM: Salami declared on March 5, Iran was engaged in a fight against a virus that might be the product of an American biological attack. On those grounds, Salami ordered a Ground Force Biological Defense Maneuver to test the country's ability to combat a biological attack.

Beginning March 16, the Ground Force, in close collaboration with the Health Ministry, began holding nationwide biodefense drills.

Khamenei was among the first and most powerful world leaders to suggest the coronavirus could be a biological weapon created by the U.S. During his annual address on March 22 to millions of Iranians for the Persian New Year, Khamenei questioned why the U.S. would offer aid to countries such as Iran if they themselves were suffering and accused of making the virus.

Khamenei went on to refuse U.S. assistance, saying "possibly (U.S.) medicine is a way to spread the virus more." Last month, he refused to accept coronavirus vaccines manufactured in Britain and the U.S., calling them "forbidden." The Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.

EVIDENCE?: There's no evidence the U.S. created the virus or used it as a weapon to attack Iran.

This Feb. 12, 2021 image shows the webpage of the The Centre For Research on Globalisation. The organization publishes authors from around the world, many of whom have advanced baseless claims about the U.S. role in the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo)
This Feb. 12, 2021 image shows the webpage of the The Centre For Research on Globalisation. The organization publishes authors from around the world, many of whom have advanced baseless claims about the U.S. role in the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo)
This Jan. 26, 2021 image shows the profile page of Greg Rubini's permanently suspended Twitter account. Rubini has tweeted that Dr. Anthony Fauci created the coronavirus, and that it's being used as a bioweapon to reduce the world's population. Rubini was kicked of Twitter last fall for repeated violations of Twitter's policies. (AP Photo)
This Jan. 26, 2021 image shows the profile page of Greg Rubini's permanently suspended Twitter account. Rubini has tweeted that Dr. Anthony Fauci created the coronavirus, and that it's being used as a bioweapon to reduce the world's population. Rubini was kicked of Twitter last fall for repeated violations of Twitter's policies. (AP Photo)
This Feb. 9, 2021 image shows the Great Game India website. Great Game India claims that the virus, which has killed more than 2 million people worldwide, was first found in the lungs of a Saudi man and then sent to labs in the Netherlands and then Canada, where it was stolen by Chinese scientists. (AP Photo)
This Feb. 9, 2021 image shows the Great Game India website. Great Game India claims that the virus, which has killed more than 2 million people worldwide, was first found in the lungs of a Saudi man and then sent to labs in the Netherlands and then Canada, where it was stolen by Chinese scientists. (AP Photo)
This combination of 2009 and 2018 file photos shows Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, and the then-deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hossein Salami in Tehran, Iran. Khamenei was among the first and most powerful world leaders to suggest the coronavirus could be a biological weapon created by the U.S., while Salami declared on March 5, 2020 that Iran is currently engaged in a fight against a virus which might be the product of an American biological attack. (Meisam Hosseini/Hayat News Agency via AP, File; AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
This combination of 2009 and 2018 file photos shows Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, and the then-deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hossein Salami in Tehran, Iran. Khamenei was among the first and most powerful world leaders to suggest the coronavirus could be a biological weapon created by the U.S., while Salami declared on March 5, 2020 that Iran is currently engaged in a fight against a virus which might be the product of an American biological attack. (Meisam Hosseini/Hayat News Agency via AP, File; AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
FILE - In this July 6, 2006 file photo, University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer Kevin Barrett sits outside his cabin in Lone Rock, Wis. Barrett said he is "80%" sure coronavirus was created by the U.S. as a bioweapon and used to attack China. (Mike DeVries/The Capital Times via AP)
FILE - In this July 6, 2006 file photo, University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer Kevin Barrett sits outside his cabin in Lone Rock, Wis. Barrett said he is "80%" sure coronavirus was created by the U.S. as a bioweapon and used to attack China. (Mike DeVries/The Capital Times via AP)
FILE - This June 5, 2006 file photo shows scientist Luc Montagnier in Paris. During an April 2020 interview with the French news channel C News, Montagnier claimed that the coronavirus did not originate in nature and was manipulated. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)
FILE - This June 5, 2006 file photo shows scientist Luc Montagnier in Paris. During an April 2020 interview with the French news channel C News, Montagnier claimed that the coronavirus did not originate in nature and was manipulated. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2018 file photo, the then-deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hossein Salami speaks during a conference in Tehran, Iran. Salami declared on March 5, 2020 that Iran is currently engaged in a fight against a virus which might be the product of an American biological attack. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2018 file photo, the then-deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hossein Salami speaks during a conference in Tehran, Iran. Salami declared on March 5, 2020 that Iran is currently engaged in a fight against a virus which might be the product of an American biological attack. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2020 file photo, former military expert Igor Nikulin speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Nikulin argues the U.S. created the virus and used it to attack China. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2020 file photo, former military expert Igor Nikulin speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Nikulin argues the U.S. created the virus and used it to attack China. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
This undated photo provided in 2021 shows Francis Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois. Boyle's claims about the coronavirus went viral early in the pandemic and were prominently featured in Russian and Iranian state media and fringe media in the U.S., including Alex Jones' show Infowars. (Courtesy of Francis Boyle via AP)
This undated photo provided in 2021 shows Francis Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois. Boyle's claims about the coronavirus went viral early in the pandemic and were prominently featured in Russian and Iranian state media and fringe media in the U.S., including Alex Jones' show Infowars. (Courtesy of Francis Boyle via AP)

Black History Month through the lens of Village residents - OCRegister

Posted: 20 Feb 2021 07:32 PM PST

For most of America, 2020 was defined by COVID-19: Life stood still beginning around February.

But if the pain of losing family and friends to a scourge was not enough, the Black community was dealt another blow with the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

Floyd's death at the knee of a white police officer caused explosive despair and outrage, resulting in protests by people of many races and ages around the world embracing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Village resident Annie McCary says she still finds it difficult to speak publicly about the deep emotions she felt watching the brutal way Floyd was killed and how she cried for weeks afterward.

Still, while her own tears subsided, she felt empathy for Floyd's family.

"Something that probably not many people consider, 'Black lives' include survivors of those killed," McCary said.

In honor of Black History Month, the Globe spoke with McCary, president of the Village's African American Heritage Club, and club members Willie Phillips, Gloria Jordan Williams and Willie Sargent III. They shared their reactions to Floyd's death and the Black Lives Matter movement, aspects of their personal history as African Americans, and their hopes for the community.

  • Laguna Woods resident Annie McCary (Courtesy of Village Management Services)

  • Laguna Woods resident Willie Phillips (Photo by Frank D'Amato)

  • Laguna Woods resident Willie Sargent III (Courtesy photo)

  • Laguna Woods resident Gloria Jordan Williams (Courtesy of the family)

McCary, a seven-year Laguna Woods resident, says she was drawn to the Village by its beauty and tranquility, its amenities and its residents with positive attitudes.

Having grown up in Alabama, McCary says she knows of so many other young Black men and women killed for reasons that make no sense, but for the color of their skin.

"I know only too well of the wounds that don't heal with the passage of time," she said. "I know only too well how often the scabs of those wounds are peeled off with the next senseless killing."

She praises the Black Lives Matter movement because it spans generations and brings to mind civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

"I want that my children and grandchildren will someday be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin," she said, paraphrasing King. "Hopefully, this is the difference a movement like BLM can make."

The events of last summer spurred poignant memories among other Black residents of the Village, who largely see the Black Lives Matter movement as an outgrowth of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, and of institutional and social racism that refuses to vanish.

For Willie Sargent III, a pastor and 13-year Village resident, the Black Lives Matter movement is "an extension of what happened in 1963, a continuation of the civil rights movement."

Sargent, 74, recalls the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, by local members of the Ku Klux Klan. Four young girls died and as many as 22 other people were injured in the blast.

Sargent had moved to Birmingham from more liberal Detroit in 1960 and said the transition was a shock to him. He said he lost a good friend, Carole Robertson, in the explosion.

That loss left an indelible mark on him, he said, propelling him toward the civil rights movement. He remembers meeting King, who ultimately inspired him to help Black Americans register to vote.

"That was a dangerous role, driving around, surrounded by the Ku Klux Klan," he recalled.

These days, Sargent sees hope with the Black Lives Matter movement: "I see positive change coming with many people now contributing to it."

As a pastor, Sargent is following in his father's footsteps.

"It took time to get me from Birmingham to California, but the early experiences of (segregationist politician) Bull Connor setting dogs and firehoses on people turned me into a man of faith," he said.

He said his life has led him to believe that "everyone walking on this planet is meant to be here. God makes no mistakes."

During the pandemic, Sargent and his wife, Harriette, have taken ministry to a new level.

"We are assisting families in need with monetary gifts and are partnering with the Laguna Woods Foundation, donating at least twice a year," he said. "We also contribute to scholarships providing books and materials to high school and college students."

As for life in the Village, he said: "My wife brought me here. She wanted to live here since she's so outgoing. When you enter through those gates, it's like going into another country."

Gloria Jordan Williams, 86, has lived in the Village for three years. The retired medical, public welfare and public school social worker moved here from Indiana to be near four of her five children. She joined the African American Heritage Club to connect with other Black residents and to promote her culture and heritage.

For Williams, the death of Floyd was painfully familiar.

"The big difference lay in the presence of technology to graphically record the death of a Black man," she said. "I was appalled and saddened, but after years of having heard, read and witnessed the treatment of Black men and women, my shock level was much lower than it should have been."

She recalls, too, her upbringing in the segregated South: "I grew up under Jim Crow and 'the law of the land' with its restrictions and designations," Williams said.

"My relatives and I have been listed as 'Colored,' 'Negro,' 'Black' and 'African-American' on legal documents over the course of our lives. My maternal grandmother is described as 'Mulatto' on my mother's birth certificate."

Willie Phillips grew up in Louisiana in the 1950s and '60s and began to ponder racism at age 6, he said.

"Why were there White and Colored water fountains?" he wondered. "Why so many bathrooms in one place? Why, at age 8, did he get slapped by a shopkeeper for not suffixing a man's name on a tobacco label with 'Mr.' when shopping for the product?"

Memories of an 18-year-old classmate beaten to death and hanging from a tree haunt Phillips.

"He got killed 8 miles from school by white men who never got charged," he said.

Phillips joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and marched with the Black Panther Party.

"Through all this, I learned to be a thermometer rather than a thermostat. I've learned that the oppressors have to be the ones to end oppression. I've learned that not talking about racism doesn't mean it doesn't exist," he said.

Phillips married Sharon, a California native, in 1988 and returned to Louisiana to begin a church. Ultimately, he became the bishop and state chair of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. He resigned in 2014 to move back to California.

The couple have lived in Laguna Woods for six years, drawn by the closeness to the beach, the reasonable prices, and the safety, health care and activities for seniors.

Still, he longs for a more viable and active African American community in the Village

"It's almost as if we are an afterthought," he said. "We just stay in our lane and want to live out the remainder of our lives enjoying the fruits of our labors."

This being Black History Month, a question arose about the teaching of Black history in schools.

"I was never taught African American history in any school. I had to search it out later in life," Phillips said. "I would like to see it taught truthfully wherever history is taught."

By contrast, Sargent recalls African American history being taught from grade school on. Although the  curriculum owes its existence to segregation, he said, "we knew about the wonderful accomplishments of Black people. We passed our knowledge on to our children and the message that we could do anything we desire."

Hence, he said, his children went to the U.S. Air Force Academy, became district attorneys, reached executive positions in organizations such as Teach for America and in municipal services.

Williams recalls African American history taught from kindergarten through college. She does not recall specific courses but said the accomplishments of Black historical figures were celebrated through writings and dramatizations.

Circling back to life in the Village, conversations turned to the arts and entertainment as they pertain to the African American community. Phillips said there needs to be not only more African American-related arts but more arts from other cultures.

"I pray that things will never return to the old 'normal,'" he said. "We must insist on a new 'normal' moving forward."

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