Aysha Qamar

Ill-informed Miami school says vaccinated students must stay home for 30 days after each shot

The situation with anti-vaxxers is just getting worse and worse. Across the country, anti-vaxxers have been targeting school district and health officials who promote masks in schools under the guise of protecting their 'rights' as parents. But these misguided parents aren't the only ones targeting the vaccinated: Some actual schools are targeting not only parents who support masks, but teachers and students who wish to be vaccinated.

After making headlines in April for barring teachers who got the COVID-19 vaccine from interacting with students, a Miami private school announced last week that children who are vaccinated will have to stay home for 30 days after each shot.

The announcement first reported by local news outlet WSVN was shared via an email to parents, warning them that if they are "considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease."

According to school officials, the quarantine is being placed because of concerns of vaccine side effects and spread of COVID-19, in addition to fears that children who are vaccinated pose a threat to those who are not.

"Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free," the letter to parents from Center Academy read.

In a statement to The Washington Post, David Centner, one of the school's co-founders, reiterated the concern over COVID-19 spread, claiming the policy was based on "numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation." "The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community," Centner said.

While these false claims and myths have been debunked multiple times by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which noted that coronavirus does not "shed or release any of their components" through air or skin contact, such conspiracy theories are rampant, especially in Florida. Additionally, since none of the three vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration use live viruses, the CDC has confirmed that they cannot make one sick with COVID-19.

"What happens 30 days after they get vaccinated? What kind of nonsense is this?" Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, said. "Where did they get that? There's nothing in the recommendations to that… they made that up. That's science fiction, not even science fiction because it's pure fiction."

In April, the Centner Academy said employees who got the vaccine after April 22 would not be allowed to return to work at the school. However, the private school later told WSVN that teachers and employees who did decide to get vaccinated would not be fired, just not allowed to work with students.

That letter sent in April also included misleading claims that unvaccinated women have experienced miscarriages and other reproductive issues from standing near vaccinated people.

Despite its anti-vaxx ideology and targeting of those who get vaccinated, school officials claimed they are not anti-vaxx.

In the letter to parents regarding the vaccine quarantine, school officials referred to COVID-19 vaccines as "experimental vaccines" and claimed that while they respect the choice of individuals to get vaccinated, they were concerned about the entire school community.

"Centner Academy's top priorities are our students' well-being and their sense of safety within our educational environment. We will continue to act in accordance with these priorities. The email that was sent to families today was grounded in these priorities," a co-owner of the school told WSVN.

The letter follows various recommendations from health officials and research proving that vaccines are the most efficient way to not only stop the spread of COVID-19 but prevent one from getting it.

"I don't find the letter interesting, I find it sad," Marty said. "I find it terrible that there's all this misleading information coming out of an institution that allegedly is an educational institution." Marty continued: "The technology is not new. The technology is well established and it's based on the best science we have."

Children nationwide are being infected with COVID-19 at alarming rates, causing many schools to close down within days of opening. In Miami alone, more than 2,000 students have been infected with the virus.

As of this report, Florida has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection nationwide with a daily average of 2,600 new cases reported, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

'I know where you live': Hospital workers face daily threats and violence

At one point, health care workers here and abroad were receiving standing ovations and loud cheers for helping to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Now, these same health care workers and professionals on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 are facing consistent harassment and threats from imbittered COVID-19 deniers.

Across the country, doctors, nurses, and other health care staff are dealing with violence and threats from patients over rules designed to keep the virus at bay, and worse, for not administering unapproved treatments that some patients demand.

"A year ago, we're health care heroes, and everybody's clapping for us," Dr. Stu Coffman, a Dallas-based emergency room physician, told the Associated Press. "And now we're being in some areas harassed and disbelieved and ridiculed for what we're trying to do, which is just depressing and frustrating."

Coffman isn't alone. Thousands of health care workers nationwide have reported abuse. Due to pandemic stress, burnout, and constant violence, some are even leaving their jobs—resulting in widespread hospital staff shortages nationwide.

According to data compiled by the CDC, nearly a quarter of public health workers said they felt bullied, threatened, or harassed because of their work since the pandemic began. Additionally, of the 26,174 public health workers surveyed across the U.S., 23.4% said they'd been threatened or harassed, and 11.8% said they'd received job-related threats.

"I get threatened every day at work," Tom Kelsch, an emergency department nurse, told the Michigan Advance. "They say, 'I know where you live; I'll be visiting you.' They say they're going to come and kill me; they say, 'I know where you park and what you drive.' It's pretty awful what we deal with. I've been spit on."

While Kelsh shared that such incidents are not new to him and that even patients facing extreme and life-threatening pain can lash out, he noted that the violence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I started working in the [emergency room] 11 years ago, and every year it was slightly getting worse with patients verbally assaulting us, physically assaulting us — but since the pandemic started, it has gone up tenfold," he said.

While assaults on health care workers are not a new phenomenon and have been a concern for years, hospitals nationwide have reported higher rates of violence since the start of the pandemic. Some hospitals have even resorted to supplying staff members with panic buttons in light of the situation. A Missouri hospital provided its employees with panic buttons that immediately alert hospital security after assaults on health care workers increased drastically, the Associated Press reported.

According to a February report by the Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley's Human Rights Center, more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers or facilities were reported in 2020. Almost half of those attacks were related to COVID-19, researchers found.

Health care workers are attributing the rise to misinformation about the pandemic and its "miracle" cures.

"When our staff experiences cursing, screaming, physical abuse, 'I am going to get my gun,' a knife pulled on them—it is terrifying," Jane McCurley, chief nurse executive for Methodist Healthcare System, told local CBS affiliate KENS 5. McCurley noted that hostility mainly came from guidelines for masking, visitation policies, or wait times.

The situation is even worse for Asian American health care workers, who face hate not only because of their profession but also for their race, thanks to heightened xenophobia and racist messaging attributed to the pandemic in conservative circles. One Filipino American registered nurse and a specialist in nursing informatics in Floral Park, New York, told CNN that the rise in crimes against both health care workers and Asian Americans made her feel unsafe, prompting her to stop taking public transportation and begin carrying pepper spray.

While Kathleen Begonia shared that she's experienced racism her whole life, she said it is disheartening that those she treats could be her perpetrators. "I actually signed up to take self-defense classes because I still carry my childhood experiences of racism with me," Begonia said. "I don't trust that anyone else can take care of me, not even police, so I make sure that I can defend myself. I run every day and keep fit in case I need to defend myself."

"Thinking about how we are nurses taking care of anyone who comes into the hospital—it can be infuriating. The very people who insult us in public can also become vulnerable themselves and require our care," Begonia said. "So, when I see people hurting the Asian American community, it saddens me because we are also your health care providers."

Health care professionals outside of the hospital are also facing hate and threats with anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers threatening and attacking them just for encouraging children to wear masks in schools. Health care workers should not have to face violence for saving individuals and helping to stop the spread of a pandemic.

Anti-vaxx couple dies of virus after claiming they survived pandemic despite being unvaccinated

Another day, another anti-vaxxer death. As the delta variant continues to spread across the country, anti-vaxxers are not only filling up hospitals but facing death. Almost every day, news of a popular anti-vaxxer being hospitalized or dying as a result of COVID-19 seems to make headlines.

In the most recent incident, two YouTubers from Alabama who were popular for online resale tips died as a result of COVID-19 days after they posted a video confirming they would never get vaccinated, AL.com reported. "We are ALIVE and still Reselling on eBay," the couple said in their last video.

The couple, Dusty Graham and Tristan Graham, known as "Alabama Pickers," posted quite a few videos on their YouTube channel denying COVID-19.

The channel has since then been taken down, but their last video remains online reposted through other accounts, including the channel "Vaxx Mann." That channel belongs to the website sorryanitvaxxer.com, which is dedicated to resharing social media posts from people who publicly opposed the COVID-19 vaccine only to later die from the virus.

According to a GoFundMe page set up by their children, Dusty died Thursday after battling COVID-19 for three weeks. His wife had "passed suddenly in her sleep" weeks earlier due to coronavirus complications on Aug. 25.

"Unfortunately Dusty and Tristan have both passed away," the couple's daughter, Windsor Graham, said. "Thank you for all the kind words and helping us during this difficult time. We will be using the money to pay for funeral expenses." The announcement of their deaths follows an announcement from Dusty weeks earlier that he was in the ICU "battling it [COVID-19] out."

The 90-minute video came days before his announcement and addressed in detail why the couple would never get vaccinated and their stance on other COVID-19 measures. "Still haven't gotten the you know what," Dusty said before mimicking a syringe jab. "Still not planning on getting it."

"I've got my own passport. It's called the 'Bill of Rights.' I think this will be all behind us in a couple of years," Dusty continued, referring to his birth certificate. His comments were made around the 41:30 mark.

"I think this will be all behind us in a couple years," Dusty added. "Then they'll be like you don't need that anymore," referring to vaccine passports.

Dusty Graham also claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine is "technically not" a vaccine and called it an "immunity therapy." He noted that both he and his wife survived without a vaccine for a year alongside friends who had contracted the virus. They even spoke about Tristan's cancer trauma and that being a reason why they did not need to be vaccinated.

We are ALIVE and still Reselling on eBay www.youtube.com

Sadly, like others who have refused to get vaccinated, the couple died shortly after their anti-vaxxer comments. Stories like this should be a warning to anti-vaxxers, but unfortunately, they're not. While many have regretted not being vaccinated on their deathbed, some did not have that opportunity.

At this time, more than 90% of all coronavirus-related hospitalizations are made up of unvaccinated individuals. While getting the COVID-19 vaccine does not prevent coronavirus, reports have indicated symptoms are less severe for those who are vaccinated. As a result, health care professionals are urging individuals to get vaccinated before it's too late.

'Just as flawed': Sen. Whitehouse questions FBI probe of Kavanaugh after failed Larry Nassar investigation

Talk about perfect timing. During a hearing on the FBI's mishandling of allegations against Larry Nassar, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse raised questions about whether the Nassar investigation was the only FBI case that was bungled. Whitehouse used the investigation of former USA Gymnastics team doctor and convicted pedophile Nassar to question the legitimacy of the FBI's 2018 background check into Brett Kavanaugh, wondering if that investigation might have been "just as flawed."

"It strikes me very strongly as we sit here today, and as we heard the powerful testimony earlier this morning, that the last time a woman came forward in this committee to testify to her allegations of sexual assault in her childhood, the witness was Christine Blasey Ford," Whitehouse said.

"It appeared to me then, and it appears to me now that her testimony was swept under the rug in a confirmation stampede," he added. "It is very possible that the FBI investigation of her allegations was just as flawed, just as constrained, just as inappropriate, as the investigation in this case."

Whitehouse demanded answers regarding the non-investigation of then-Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and called out FBI Director Christopher Wray over the bureau's investigation of Ford's allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

Whitehouse noted that he repeatedly requested more information about the FBI's investigation into Ford's allegations but had been ignored for two years before finally receiving a response yesterday.

"Not coincidentally, I suspect, on the eve of your appearance today," Whitehouse said to Wray.

During the testimony against Nassar, Wray said that he felt "heartsick and furious" once he learned of the agency's failures toward pursuing justice. However, he didn't acknowledge the fault he or the agency as a whole had in the botched investigation and blamed individuals who "betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people." But he did vow to "make damn sure that everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail."

Whitehouse took this as an opportunity to raise questions about Kavanaugh.

"Let's just make sure there's wasn't also a botched handling of another allegation in this committee with regard to Dr. Ford," Whitehouse said after questioning the legitimacy of investigations in the case.

But Whitehouse was not the only one. Other lawmakers also questioned Wray over the bureau's handling of the Kavanaugh probe, including the claim that the FBI lacked the authority to conduct a deeper background investigation into the then-nominee.

Kavanaugh was confirmed to his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court in October 2018 by a vote of 50-48, helping secure a conservative majority on the bench.

According to The Guardian, the bureau claimed that a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding prevented it from performing a deeper investigation into allegations of misconduct. According to a letter to Whitehouse and Sen. Chris Coons at the time, the FBI said that it did not have the authority under the MOU to "unilaterally conduct further investigative activity absent instructions from the requesting entity." It claimed special instructions were needed from then-president Donald Trump under 2010 guidelines on how such investigations could be conducted.

But despite this, Whitehouse has stood his ground and even told The Guardian he would not stop asking questions until the director answers them.

"In its years-late response to our questions, the FBI leaned hard on the notion that this MOU limited its authority to be the FBI and investigate wrongdoing. Now that we have the MOU, it's even harder to understand the Bureau's excuses for ignoring credible information it received. Director Wray ought to be ready to answer my questions about this episode – I won't stop asking until he does."

Whitehouse made a promise to Ford in 2018 following Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation to pursue the thorough investigation of her sexual assault allegations. He said he would do "whatever's in my power to make sure your claims get a full and proper investigation." Whitehouse was suspicious that the tip line set up for information about Kavanaugh's background was "not for real." After issues found in Nassar's investigation, his suspicions grew stronger.

"This wasn't a tip line — this was a tip dump," Whitehouse told the Boston Globe in July. "It was a garbage chute from the tip line to the White House counsel's office, where they had no interest in conducting an investigation."

"For those of us in the Senate, it raises questions about the trustworthiness of FBI background investigations for nominees. If this is going to turn into a situation where the FBI can tank a background investigation by sending derogatory information to the White House and Congress never finds out, that is a poor setup for Senate trust."

Whitehouse added that the issue is still relevant three years after Kavanaugh's confirmation because that's how long it took for the FBI to respond to his questions. "It's not my fault — it's their fault," he said. "This should have come out immediately."

'He looks better than our president': Fox News guest compliments dictator Kim Jong Un

It seems like tabloids and magazines aren't the only ones concerned with just appearances. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has become the talk of the town after making an appearance at a military parade this week, looking a lot slimmer.

Of course, one of the first outlets to report on his new look and focus solely on that rather than his numerous human rights violations is Fox News. "He's fit, he's fun, and he's fascist!" Rachel Campos-Duffy said on "Primetime." She continued in what sounded like the commentary for a fashion show. "Take a look at Kim Jong Un flaunting his new tan and slim physique at the North Korean military parade." She even showed images of the dictator, noting that "after this photo op, many might start calling him Slim Jong Un."

The show's guest Jimmy Failla, a comedian, said he didn't buy it, to which Campos-Duffy argued he not only looked good but said: "I'm sorry, he looks better than our president!"

According to Human Rights Watch, North Korea is "among the world's most repressive countries."

A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that the government committed violations amounting to crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, rape, and forced abortions. North Korea operates secret prison camps where presumed government opponents face torture, forced labor, and starvation.

Various reports have been written on the human rights abuses committed by Kim Jong Un's regime, including one by the United Nations calling the abuses "unspeakable atrocities."

That Fox focused on his appearance instead of his list of violence was outrageous, but it didn't come as a surprise given their reporting history and lack of focusing on the facts. What came as a bigger surprise is they were not the only ones.

Outlets across the country focused on Kim Jong Un's appearance, including CBS News, Bloomberg, and the Associated Press.

And the biggest of all surprises— to me at least— CNN! "Shows off dramatic new weight loss" sounds like the headline of a magazine you'd find at the side of a grocery store cash register if you ask me.

Of course, the praise didn't go unnoticed. Many chimed in on the comments, especially those by Campos-Duffy— focusing on his weight loss is one thing but comparing him to Joe Biden another.

The reactions on Twitter are endless, but while most are focusing on Fox News, some are questioning what the other outlets were thinking.

The question most Twitter users are asking is, how much are outlets getting paid or threatened for this coverage?

Rep. Matt Gaetz finally disclosed his book profits. Laughter ensued

After making headlines for allegedly being part of a sex trafficking investigation, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is making headlines again and not just for his marriage. Days after reports of Gaetz eloping with Ginger Luckey, the congressman who confirmed he was under investigation in April on allegations of trafficking a minor for sex made headlines this week for failing to report his book sales—a minor federal violation.

Gaetz committed the crime when he failed to include information about advances, royalties, or terms of agreement with the publisher of his book in a recent financial disclosure submitted on Aug. 10. After questions arose about the missing information, Gaetz amended the disclosure and refiled it on Aug. 16.

Members of Congress must file their annual House financial disclosure reports by Aug. 13, Business Insider reported.

"The law is clear that book royalty income must be disclosed," Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of Ethics at Campaign Legal Center, told Insider. "Indeed, it is difficult to think of a recent example when a lawmaker did not disclose such income. It is well established that voters have a right to know all sources of income for their elected officials."

In 2020, Gaetz published Firebrand: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution, celebrating not only the MAGA movement but with insight into his "fun loving" bachelor days in Congress. In the book, he not only describes himself as having an "active social life" but advised members of Congress not to date their staff.

"It's risky to date in a town where there's potentially a thin line between love and blackmail, or at least love and bad PR," Gaetz wrote. "I knew going in how many people had been brought down by sexual missteps in this town, so I set some rules to help me err on the safe(r) side."

"In Washington, safe sex means in part: no dating lobbyists, no dating your staff members, and I should have added no dating reporters, but I didn't at first," he continued. "I'm a representative, not a monk."

It is ironic that Gaetz would offer dating advice from the perspective of a successful ladies' man since he's accused of paying a minor for sex—an allegation for which his former friend and associate Joel Greenberg provided evidence to prosecutors in the case. Gaetz denied and defended himself against in an op-ed published in April.

The book was promoted by Donald Trump and his minions, with idiots like Donald Trump Jr. describing the book as a "must-read." But despite the praise, it seems Trump's fan base didn't buy it—literally. According to the amended disclosure, Gaetz made $25,000 in royalties. Firebrand is currently ranked #69,486 in Amazon's Books category.

The number comes as a surprise since the RNC often boosts book sales of its members. Even Tom Cotton a Republican from Arkansas made $202,500 in royalties from his book, Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery.

It's clear now why Gaetz didn't include his book sales—he was probably embarrassed. But of course, his office gave no reason for why the information was initially missing despite inquiries from different news outlets.

"There was additional documentation needed from the Congressman's book publisher," Jillian Lane Wyant, chief of staff to Gaetz, told Insider. "We are in the process of receiving that information and amending the Congressman's financial disclosure now."

Not only were the reported royalties low, but according to a breakdown by The Daily Beast, the amended document itself raises questions. According to the amended financial report, Gaetz was awarded 60% royalties by his publisher, more than double the typical hardcover royalty rates. Not only do the numbers not make sense, but if Gaetz did only earn $25,000, that means he sold 6,000 copies or fewer of his book over several months. It's also worth noting that Firebrand was released at an industry-standard $27; less than one year from its on-shelf date, hardcovers cost around $8 on Amazon.

While Gaetz's sales may be low, he's not the first member of Congress not to disclose where he's making money outside of his congressional salary. The Ethics in Government Act requires members of Congress to disclose where they're making money for everything from book deals to stock trades; despite this, many Republicans have a history of failing to disclose their financial earnings. Additionally, for lawmakers to accept royalties, permission must be granted ahead of time by ethics officials under "usual and customary contractual terms," The Daily Beast reported.

In the end, it is unlikely Gaetz will suffer any consequences for failing to include the book earnings in his original report now that he has belatedly filed an amendment.

"Filing an incomplete financial disclosure report is a violation of both the Ethics in Government Act and the House rules," Brett Kappel, an attorney who specializes in government compliance at Harmon Curran, said. "The fact that Rep. Gaetz quickly filed an amended report, however, likely means he will suffer no consequences."

Biden administration approves the largest increase to food benefits in SNAP program history

With food insecurity already present in the U.S., the coronavirus only worsened the issue nationwide. According to NPR, food insecurity more than doubled due to the economic crisis COVID-19 inflicted, impacting as many as 23% of households this year. Joe Biden and his administration announced changes to the United States' food stamp program and its nutrition standards Monday to address the issue.

The changes will increase average benefits for food stamps in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program by more than 25%. This permanent increase in the levels of assistance is the largest single increase in the program's history. Average monthly per-person benefits will rise from $121 to $157. Starting in October, the changes will be available indefinitely to all 42 million SNAP beneficiaries, The New York Times reported.

"It's in our collective best interest to make sure that we're helping folks through difficult times," Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday. According to the Times, enrollment in SNAP has more than doubled since the early 2000s, and about 43% of beneficiaries are children. Throughout the pandemic, people relied on government assistance to feed their families.

Activists noted that previous levels of pre-pandemic SNAP assistance weren't enough for families to survive and be healthy. Many households were forced to choose cheaper, less nutritious options or simply go hungry to have enough food. According to the Times, more than three-quarters of households in the program report using up their benefits in the first half of the monthly cycle.

Additionally, nearly 90% of SNAP recipients report running out of benefits by the end of the month. Advocates say this figure depicts the disconnect between the program calculations and its recipients' lived experience.

"This outmoded food plan has limited SNAP's purchasing power and made unrealistic assumptions about the cost of food, the time it takes to plan and prepare meals, and the constraints faced by time-strapped working families," Lisa Davis, senior vice president of hunger charity Share Our Strength, said. "An updated Thrifty Food Plan would better reflect the way families live today, where working households do not have unlimited hours to prepare food from scratch, and modern dietary guidelines advise a wider variety of foods."

Benefits are awarded on a sliding scale; the adjustments raise the maximum amount to $835 a month for a family of four, an increase of 21%.

The changes come at a time where multiple coronavirus relief bills will be ending. But while coronavirus relief bills increased the number of people receiving the maximum amount of benefits, they did not expand SNAP funding for the 40% of recipients who already qualified for this maximum, The Washington Post reported.

Monday's announced revisions come under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Thrifty Food Plan, a list of 58 food groups the government uses to estimate the cost of an economical and nutritious diet. Vilsack noted that changes to the algorithm were needed since families now have different consumption patterns than when the program was last updated. The program was last updated in 2006. Before that, it relied on data from 1999.

They follow a law passed by Congress in 2018 that ordered the Agriculture Department to complete a program review within four years. In his first month of office, Biden told the department to speed up the process so that benefits "reflect the true cost of a basic healthy diet."

"We know this is a program that reduces poverty, we know this is a program that improves health outcomes for kids, we know based on the data that it also results in better educational achievement because kids are fed," Vilsack said.

The new plan will increase the program's costs by about $20 billion a year, Vilsack confirmed. He added that the program's $79 billion annual costs would help "stabilize our democracy."

Increasing SNAP benefits not only works to end national hunger but severely impacts the overall health of children. Balanced nutrition is proven to improve testing scores and lower hospital admissions and other troubles children face.

"Plain and simple, this is totally a game-changing moment," Jamie Bussel, a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy focused on health, said. "The changes have enormous potential to reduce, and potentially eliminate, child hunger and poverty in this country. This will reflect much more accurately what food actually costs in communities."

Republican says he wasn't involved in fatal crash despite motorcycle stuck to the front of his car

I hate to stereotype them all, but Republicans across the country have garnered reputations for their lack of empathy towards humanity. However, one GOP official has allegedly taken it to the next level. A Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate is under investigation in connection with a fatal motor vehicle accident in which he claims he wasn't involved … although a motorcycle was found stuck to the front of his car.

According to the Associated Press, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Charlie Gerow, who announced his candidacy last month, shared Friday that he is cooperating with police in an investigation into an accident during which a motorcyclist was killed. While Gerow claims he had no involvement, he apparently drove several miles with the motorcycle stuck to the front of his car, a witness told Spotlight PA.

The witness, a highway construction worker, was working on the turnpike when he saw that a motorcycle was "sitting upright, with the side stuck into the front of the car." He said he and his crew watched in disbelief as sparks flew from the car, which was traveling at a high rate of speed.

"It was a big motorcycle, too. There were a bunch of sparks. And it was very loud," Nicholas Forgette, the witness, told Spotlight PA. As a result of the accident, the highway was closed for several hours.

Forgette also told the outlet that he saw Gerow's Mercedes pulled over by state police several miles down the road from where he first saw the car pass. He said Gerow was sitting on a guardrail, stone-faced and "kind of disconnected."

Pennsylvania state police officials have released little to no information about the incident outside of confirming a vehicle belonged to Gerow. The accident occurred Wednesday night, but how the crash happened has not yet been made public.

According to a police news release, the victim—identified a 30-year-old Logan Carl Abbott—died as a result of multiple blunt impacts. Toxicology tests on the victim are pending.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Gerow said he "looks forward to the State Police completing their investigation and is confident that the investigation will confirm that he was not the cause (of) the accident." He did not comment on the motorcycle being stuck to his car or why he did not notice it while driving for several miles.

According to the AP, Gerow's gubernatorial campaign is his first statewide campaign after running unsuccessfully for Congress and the state legislature. Driving for miles without realizing he had a motorcycle attached to his grill is not a good look.

Protesters gather outside Kyrsten Sinema's office as she refuses to end the filibuster

Republicans are doing all they can to block a historic voter rights bill. Called the For the People Act, the bill aims to not only set up automatic voter registration but expand early voting, ensure more transparency in political donations, and limit partisan drawing of congressional districts. Republicans are blocking the legislation under the guise that it will increase electoral fraud. Similar claims were made by former President Donald Trump who still refuses to accept his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

While the House passed its version of the bill in March, the bill is up for a Senate vote, which Republicans consistently vowing to vote against it. In order to advance, the bill will need 60 votes in the Senate. But Republicans are not only the ones who are coming under fire for their stance on the bill. As a legislative filibuster continues, two Democrats are being criticized for refusing to end the filibuster: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Advocates are not only urging the two to end the filibuster but calling for the Democratic Party to abolish the current 60-vote threshold. By doing so, the bill will pass with a simple majority. Since Democrats currently hold only 50 seats in the upper chamber, votes from at least 10 GOP senators are needed to overcome a filibuster.

"This landmark legislation is needed to protect the right to vote, ensure the integrity of our elections, and repair and strengthen American democracy," the Biden administration said.

The measure is needed to ensure that people of color are not consistently impacted by GOP officials attempting to strangle their voice. In the last year alone, GOP officials nationwide have worked to stop people of color from voting by limiting access to polling locations and passing laws that disproportionately impact communities of color by reducing early voting and closing voting locations. States like Georgia and Florida, specifically, have made it more difficult to vote absentee and have limited ballot drop-off boxes.

While calls to eliminate the filibuster continue, Sinema and Manchin oppose its elimination.

As Sinema continues to defend the filibuster, hundreds gathered outside her office to protest in an attempt to change her stance. But according to Sinema, "We have more to lose than gain by ending the filibuster."

"Instability, partisanship and tribalism continue to infect our politics," Sinema wrote in an op-ed published by The Washington Post. "The solution, however, is not to continue weakening our democracy's guardrails. If we eliminate the Senate's 60-vote threshold, we will lose much more than we gain."

"To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For the People Act (voting-rights legislation I support and have co-sponsored), I would ask: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections, over the objections of the minority?" Sinema wrote.

She urged her colleagues to debate it and referenced incidents when Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats used the filibuster to block bills.

"My support for retaining the 60-vote threshold is not based on the importance of any particular policy. It is based on what is best for our democracy," she wrote. "The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles."

But her reasoning behind maintaining the filibuster does not take away from the importance of the For The People Act and the need for it. Activists and others came together Tuesday in efforts to change her stance, and even shared stories about why the bill is needed.

Through the bill, "we have a chance to put in place federal standards for our elections and pass legislation that would really protect our democracy," Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona, told The Copper Courier.

According to The Copper Courier, police officials began arresting protesters outside of Sinema's office, but the calls for the filibuster to end continue.

At least eight Royal Caribbean crew test positive for COVID-19 despite vaccinations

At the start of the pandemic, multiple cruise lines made headlines for having passengers or crew members on board who tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the cruise lines were forced to either dock at the nearest port or delay their trips. The struggle continues, with a Royal Caribbean International cruise delaying its inaugural sailing of the Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship after eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19. But the twist is that all eight members who tested positive were vaccinated, officials said Tuesday, according to NBC News.

In a statement posted to Facebook Tuesday, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean Michael Bayley said the situation was "two steps forward and one step back." All crew members were to be fully vaccinated by June 18; however, before the date of departure could arrive, at least eight tested positive, two with mild symptoms and six who were asymptomatic. Bayley noted that the "positive cases were identified after the vaccination was given and before they were fully effective."

All eight have quarantined and are being closely monitored by a medical team, but the company has delayed the ship's first trip from July 3 to July 31 in order for all crew members to observe quarantine and prevent further infection."While disappointing, this is the right decision for the health and well-being of our crew and guests," Bayley said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it is rare for people to test positive for COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, but not impossible. Such cases are known as breakthrough infections. Out of more than 130 million people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in the U.S., only 10,262 have reported breakthrough infections, the CDC said in May, NBC News reported.

While many Republican governors are against companies requiring passengers to prove they have been vaccinated, the CDC and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission support their ability to do so. While Royal Caribbean has set up guidelines for its cruises, including it being mandatory for all guests over 16 to be fully vaccinated, the rules do not apply in Florida. Florida's exception follows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order that bans companies from asking people for proof of vaccination.

According to the company, starting August 1 the age requirement for vaccinated guests will be 12 years or older. Younger passengers who are not yet eligible for the vaccine will be allowed to sail with a negative test as long as they follow safety regulations.

"Guests eligible but not fully vaccinated or able to show proof of vaccination will be subject to testing and additional health protocols at their own expense," the company said. "Children not eligible for vaccines will be subject to complimentary testing and health protocols."

This isn't the first time Royal Caribbean has faced a similar situation. Last week the company's first cruise ship from Miami had two passengers test positive for coronavirus despite the entire ship being filled with "fully vaccinated" crew and adult guests, CBS News reported. Guests were required to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before sailing from St. Maarten.

Cruise ships have been considered superspreaders for the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and were not given the go-ahead to resume operations until May, according to NBC News. In order to avoid being a superspreader ship, CDC guidelines require that 95% of ship passengers should be fully vaccinated prior to sailing. Additionally, everyone on the ship, whether or not they are vaccinated, is advised to wear a mask.

The incident goes to show that just because you're vaccinated doesn't mean you cannot be infected by the novel coronavirus. Despite things opening up and safety regulations easing down, we are still in a global pandemic.


Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.