Meaghan Ellis

'Angry and ashamed': Florida doctors slam DeSantis for blocking COVID precautions in push to reopen state

A group of doctors in Florida is outraged by Gov. Ron DeSantis' handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as the fovernor continues to rail against public health officials' recommendations to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

According to WLRN, the group, which consists of more than 400 Florida physicians, is pushing back against the Republican governor, and arguing that his leadership is actually contributing to the rise in COVID cases.

Bernard Ashby, a Miami cardiologist who heads the Committee to Protect Health Care in Florida, admitted that she is "angry and ashamed" of DeSantis' handling of COVID in the Sunshine State.

"As a physician and a Floridian, I am frankly angry and ashamed. You know the Florida-man moniker, unfortunately, holds true in this particular circumstance," Ashby said.

"While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about 'Freedom over Faucism,'" Ashby continued. "If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping COVID-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position."

Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis is pushing back against the sharp criticism. In a statement to The News Service of Florida, Pushaw argued that the physicians aren't "well-informed."

"The governor has made countless public appearances all over the state to encourage vaccination, and he has spoken positively of the vaccines in public remarks nearly 100 times this year," Pushaw said in a statement to The News Service of Florida. "He's proud of the successful rollout and the Seniors First strategy, which means 85 percent of our most vulnerable population is vaccinated, and thousands of lives saved. COVID cases, hospitalizations and especially deaths are down significantly compared to this time last year."

However, doctors are still concerned. St. Petersburg immunologist Mona Mangat admitted that she was pleased that DeSantis has encouraged residents to get vaccinated, but she still has concerns about his rhetoric.

"At the same time as DeSantis says the vaccines are effective --- which they are --- he's also banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination." said Mangat, also part of Florida's Committee to Protect Health Care. "He has taken away private companies' ability to protect their employees and customers by requiring the safe and readily available vaccine."

Manchin made over $500K last year from West Virginia's most polluted coal plant — 'more than twice as much' as senator salary

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) reportedly earned more than $500,000 in profits from one of the most polluting coal power plants in the state of West Virginia, according to VICE News.

Per the publication, Manchin's most recent financial disclosure indicates that he received $492,000 last year from his shares in a coal plant called Enersystems. In addition to the share profits, Manchin also earns a sizable salary as a senator: $174,000, to be exact.

Jim Kotcon, conservation chair of the Sierra Club's West Virginia chapter, weighed in on Manchin's coal selling profits compared to his Senate salary. "He's making more than twice as much selling coal as he is serving as a representative," Kotcon said.

Back in 2018, Kotcon also highlighted the problems associated with coal plants and the type of chemicals they tend to release. "Due to impurities in the waste coal Grant Town Power Plant burns to generate electricity, it releases more sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide per unit of energy than any other of the state's coal plants, according to 2018 calculations from Kotcon," Vice News reports.

Speaking to VICE, Kotcon also said, "In terms of both of those pollutants, it's still the dirtiest plant operating in West Virginia today."

Manchin recently raged against efforts to curb the use of fossil fuels to combat the growing global climate crisis.

"They're eliminating fossils, which is very, very disturbing because if you're sticking your head in the sand, and saying that fossil (fuel) has to be eliminated in America, and they want to get rid of it and thinking that's going to clean up the global climate, it won't clean it up all," he told CNN.

'The guy who created COVID': Tucker Carlson faces furious blowback over slanderous attack on Fauci ​

Fox News host on Wednesday Tucker Carlson opened a big can of worms with his latest bizarre conspiracy theory. According to the conservative talk show host, Dr. Anthony Fauci "created" COVID.

On his July 28 show, Carlson included a mind-boggling rant about COVID. As numerous states face an alarming resurgence in coronavius cases due to the rapidly spreading Delta variant of the virus, Carlson launched an attack on the COVID vaccine.

"The bigger question is if the vaccine works as well as they claim it does," Tucker said, talking about the Biden administration. "Why are so many vaccinated people getting COVID? … It's happening to a lot of people, probably people you know. Most of them are fine, not all of them, but they're still getting COVID."

"If you want us to have confidence in your medicine, then tell us the full truth," he continued, adding, "But they won't."

Carlson went on to attack the scientific community as he falsely claimed they have boasted about the vaccine being "perfect.' That's when he accused Fauci of creating the virus before posting a clip of the nation's top infectious disease expert discussing the virus and vaccine.

"They've been telling us for six months that this vaccine is perfect. But clearly, in some cases, it doesn't always work. And that's not our theory, by the way, take it from the guy who created COVID," Tucker said.

Almost immediately after the segment aired, social media users fired back at Carlson in Fauci's defense. Some even questioned why Carlson is able to perpetuate such disturbing rhetoric to the masses without suffering consequences for inaccurate reporting.

Others are calling for accountability for people like former President Donald Trump, his White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, and others who contributed to the COVID conspiracy theories and vaccine misconceptions. Twitter users even believe Fauci may have a defamation case against the talk show host.

One Twitter user wrote, "There needs to be accountability for the folks who blew the Covid response. From Trump and pence and Kushner on down. It was the greatest national security and public health and financial failure in American history. And we need justice to heal and honor the lost and recover now."

Texas doctor sounds alarm on rising COVID cases among children: 'We certainly have used ventilators'

One Texas doctor is raising awareness about the rise in severe cases of COVID-19 among children. According to The Houston Press, Dr. Jim Versalovic of Texas Children's Hospital has a warning for parents. The rapidly spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus could land some children in intensive care.

Speaking to the publication, Versalovic shed light on what he has been seeing in the hospital where he works. Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been a misconception about the virus where children are concerned. Although Republican leaders and lawmakers have repeatedly argued that children are less likely to contract COVID, Versalovic argues otherwise.

At the Texas Children's Hospital, some children have not only been admitted for coronavirus but have also ended up in the intensive care unit (ICU), and in dire cases, on ventilators.

Of the children hospitalized in critical care, "some have required ventilator support," Versalovic admitted to the publication. "We have seen severe cases of COVID pneumonia and acute respiratory distress in children. And we certainly have used ventilators when appropriate, selectively."

So with the new school year just a few short weeks away, what does that mean for parents? According to Versalovic, certain precautions should be taken where children are concerned.

"We certainly recommend that as children under 12 — who are all unvaccinated — as they participate in group activities and are preparing to return to school, we would encourage masking in schools," he said. "And we would encourage distancing and sanitizing and the safe behaviors that we learned and practiced since the spring of 2020."

Versalovic's remarks come as many states battle alarming uptick of cases due to the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus.

Analysis reveals SCOTUS 'shadow docket' was favorable to Trump and religion

The U.S. Supreme Court is facing scrutiny for its handling of Christian and Jewish groups' emergency requests seeking to challenge COVID-19 mitigation restrictions on gathering sizes in the state of New York.

According to Reuters, an analysis reveals the pattern of rulings on "shadow dockets" used to expedite emergency applications. In many cases, the rulings appeared favorable to religious groups and former President Donald Trump.

"A Reuters analysis of emergency applications over the past 12 months offers a glimpse into the full range of parties seeking urgent relief from the top U.S. judicial body through the shadow docket," the publication reports. "The justices have increasingly relied upon this process to make rulings in a wide array of cases without the normal deliberative process involving public oral arguments and extensive written decisions."

The publication points to the court's 5-4 ruling on emergency applications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and a pair of Orthodox Jewish congregations.

The publication reports:

"All 10 requests were granted via the court's "shadow docket" in which emergency applications are decided hurriedly and sometimes late at night in a process that critics have said lacks transparency."

In addition to the rulings favorable to religions organizations, the analysis indicates the same emergency practices "were a key part of the court's docket during this one-year period that spanned a deadly pandemic and the contentious 2020 presidential election that Trump lost to now-President Joe Biden."

In wake of the latest docket analysis, David Gans, civil rights director at the Constitutional Accountability Center, expressed concern about the data as he noted that it suggests a "serious legitimacy problem."

Gans also highlighted that there appears to be an apparent shortfall where transparency is concerned as he noted that it gives the "impression that certain litigants have favored status," according to the publication.

"The biggest losers are the American people," Gans said. "By engaging in rushed decision-making and issuing rulings with little to no reasoning available to the public, the Supreme Court is acting without the sustained consideration, reflection, transparency and accountability Americans expect from the Supreme Court."

Democrats seek to widen their investigation into Trump administration's CDC overreach

Congressional investigators in charge of assessing the Trump administration's political interference into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) COVID response have moved to expand their inquiry.

According to The Washington Post, the expanded inquiry focuses on newly-obtained records, reports, and documents that detail the Trump administration's interference. In the past, these types of reports were considered hallowed and political appointees were restricted from accessing them, but that changed with the Trump administration.

As part of the expanded investigation, the subcommittee is seeking to interview a number of former Trump administration officials including: "Anne Schuchat, a former CDC deputy director; Nancy Messonnier, a former senior official who held a variety of leadership roles at the CDC during the pandemic; and six current career staff members at the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services."

Appointees include Kyle McGowan, Amanda Campbell, and Nina Witkofsky, who also served as political appointees for the CDC during the pandemic last year.

In letters addressed to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and other officials, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), along with other Democratic leaders expressed concern about the Trump administration's politicization of public health.

"Our public health institutions must never again be compromised by decision-makers more concerned with politics than keeping Americans safe. It is therefore imperative that the Select Subcommittee's investigations into the prior Administration's response to the pandemic provide full accountings of what occurred," the letter reads.

The letter comes as House Democrats have publicly released a controversial email sent in August of 2020. According to the publication, it suggested "that senior officials could meet to discuss 'next steps' after then-Trump appointee Paul Alexander demanded 'an immediate stop on all CDC MMWR reports.'"

Shortly after that letter, former CDC director Robert Redfield also weighed in on the MMWR reports saying, "At no time has the scientific integrity of the MMWR been compromised. And I can say that under my watch, it will not be compromised."

Democratic lawmakers are determined to further investigate that.

"As a member of the Office of the Director leadership team and a recipient of this email, you appear likely to have firsthand knowledge of this troubling incident, including who may have participated in relevant conversations, whether Director Redfield may have told CDC staff to delete this email, and what steps may have been taken to effectuate such an instruction," Democrats wrote to Schuchat, McGowan, Campbell, and Witkofsky.

Ex-Tennessee vaccine official blames 'hesitant' GOP governor for state's COVID struggle: The 'department was gagged'

A former Tennessee vaccine official is shedding light on the state's flurry of missed opportunities where the COVID-vaccine roll-out is concerned.

Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the former director of Tennessee's COVID-19 vaccination program, recently sat down for an interview with News Channel 5-Nashville where she discussed her concerns about the state health department's issues that appeared to be a result of Gov. Bill Lee's (R) hesitancy.

According to the publication, Fiscus described part of the problem as being the governor and his own reservations about the vaccine.

"Did you feel like you were gagged?" Fiscus was asked.

"Yes," Fiscus admitted as she added, "I feel like the department was gagged."

Fiscus spent a total of 16 months as a frontline worker for Tennessee's Department of Health and she admits that it was not a simple feat.

"To be repeatedly told, no, you won't talk about it, you won't message it, you won't provide strong recommendations, you won't share CDC-created materials, it's demoralizing, it's frustrating, it's so incredibly wrong, it's malpractice," Fiscus said.

The latest interview comes just two weeks after Fiscus was fired amid Republican backlash over the Tennessee Department of Health's initiative to vaccinate teenagers for COVID without the need for parental consent. Public health experts' efforts came as the state faced an uptick in cases due to the accelerated spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.

"Unfortunately, we're trying to protect a people that aren't all that interested in being protected from themselves," she said.

When asked if he planned to get the vaccine himself, Fiscus says Lee said: "I'll do what I think every Tennessean ought to do and determine if they believe it's a safe and effective vaccine and then talk to my doctor about it."

Instead of taking the vaccine for its health benefits, Lee reportedly claimed he was taking it from the perspective of a leader. "It wasn't 'absolutely because this is the tool we have to stop a pandemic, absolutely as the leader in this state I'm going to lead by example and I'm going to go get this vaccine,'" Fiscus said.

While Fiscus noted the goverbor's hesitancy, she made it clear that she does not believe he is an anti-vaxxer. "I would not go so far as to say that the governor is an anti-vaxxer, no," Fiscus admitted. "I think that the governor has a lot of hesitancy around vaccines."

As cases continue to rise, the state is facing an uphill battle to mitigate the spread of the virus. Fiscus also expressed concern about that. "We lost lives that didn't need to be lost. We're going to lose more that don't need to be lost. I don't know how people can sleep at night, I really don't."

Manchin mulls another Senate run in 2024 despite previously saying he would not seek re-election

As he weathers criticism for his ongoing support of the Senate filibuster, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is weig hing the possibility of running for another Senate term despite previously saying his 2018 re-election would be his last.

During a recent interview, Manchin suggeste there is a possibility he'll consider running for another re-election. As the 50th vote in the Democratic-majority Senate, Manchin's input carries a lot of weight — which is why his moderate views are often scrutinized. However, it does not appear that the pressure is a deterrence for Manchin.

"You never know. You don't know. There's always a chance, absolutely," Manchin said in an interview, adding, "You better be prepared, that's all I can say. And I'm being prepared."

But could Manchin easily reclaim his seat or will he be fighting an uphill battle? According to Politico, re-election will be no easy feat for the West Virginia lawmaker. Former President Donald Trump won the state by a gigantic margin in 2020. But Manchin is confident that the "right candidate" can keep Republicans from flipping the seat.

"You get the right candidate and you have a national movement that basically shows that balance is working, bipartisanship is working and the country's going in the right direction, sure," Manchin said. "You've just got to work like hell."

Manchin's latest revelation does not come as a surprise for West Virginia's other senator.

"I'm not surprised he's keeping all his options open for 2024," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who has a relatively close relationship with Manchin. "He's a competitor. He loves the political arena."

And Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) admitted that Manchin never actually indicated to her that his current term would be his last. "He has never said to me that this would be his last term," Collins said.

"I think that he enjoys the important, critical role he's playing," she continued. "So I would not be surprised if he sought an additional term."

According to Politico, Manchin is also mulling making another run for West Virginia governor, which Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says comes with its own unique challenges.

"It's always hard for governors to make the transition to Senate," Warner said. "I say that as a former governor myself. But Joe's in the mix on everything at this point. I've not pressed him on what his plans are, but obviously he is doing some fundraising."

This story has been corrected to reflect the size of Trump's win in West Virginia.

'Truly sociopathic': Fox News hosts slammed for mocking testimony from Capitol Police officers

Two Fox News hosts are being slammed after attempting to mock Capitol Police officers who testified about the traumatic experiences they endured on January 6.

On Tuesday, July 27, Fox News host Laura Ingraham attacked Capitol Police officers during her show "The Ingraham Angle." At one point during the broadcast, she insisted the officers deserved "best performance awards" as she claimed their testimonies were nothing more than theatrics.

Shortly after her segment, Tucker Carlson took aim at Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone who said he has "been left with psychological trauma and emotional anxiety" as a result of the Capitol insurrection.

Although Fanone was brutally beaten and suffered a heart attack as a result of his run-in with Capitol rioters, Carlson still found a way to morph the testimony into a laughable situation.

One Twitter user wrote, "Tucker Carlson, Brit Hume & Laura Ingraham mocked the Capital police after their heart-wrenching testimonies yesterday. Apparently, Fox News decided they wanted to send a message that police are not to be trusted and that they are liars. Fox News should be sued by all citizens!"

Another Twitter user highlighted Republicans' conditional support of the "Blue Lives Matter" movement. That user wrote, "Republican pundits are all 'Blue Lives Matter' ... until the police do their job & protect members of Congress from a deadly attack on the Capitol. Then? Then they trash the police on national TV in a disgraceful alliance with the perpetrators."

"These guys defend Democracy and Fox News vilifies them. Derek Chauvin murders a black man in broad daylight and they praise and defend him," another user wrote, adding, "See the problem?"

Others also weighed in with critical remarks slamming both Ingraham and Carlson.

Republican loses it at Rep. Jamie Raskin when he's cornered for calling Jan. 6 a 'normal tourist visit'

One Republican lawmaker wasn't thrilled about being interrogated for his decision to vote against medals being awarded to the Capitol police officers who stood against rioters on January 6.

Speaking to Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) made it clear that the Capitol rioters were anything but "tourists" despite how they were previously described. The Democratic lawmaker reminded Clyde that more than 140 people were injured during the insurrection while others were hospitalized.

Raskin also noted that individuals suffered a wide range of injuries including lost fingers, eye gauging, and traumatic brain injuries. However, Clyde attempted to push back against Raskin's argument. "I stand by that exact statement as I said it," Clyde said in reference to his remark about the insurrection being a "normal tourist visit.'

The intense conversation escalated when Clyde became irritated with Raskin's line of questioning. At that point, Clyde exploded as he attempted to pivot and shift the conversation back to the amendment. Clyde said, "We are here to discuss this amendment… and you are obviously not interested in that. You want to make this another Jan. 6 hearing, and it's not! This is the rules committee!"

Following a hearing back in May, Raskin spoke to Forbes as he shared his scathing opinion of Republican lawmakers, their belief systems, and their handling of key issues.

"They're all starting to act like Donald Trump: He's all over the map," Raskin said. "One day they concede it was outrageous mob violence, the next day it wasn't so bad. They were hugging and kissing police officers," he added, accusing them of "pandering to the mob."


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