Tim Walters — the Republican co-founder of ReOpen Maryland, a right-wing protest group that demanded the quick reopening of the state’s businesses amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic — has tested positive for COVID-19.
“I was diagnosed yesterday at the ER with COVID-19 and here I am months after not wearing a mask at rallies, churches and so on and so it’s funny how capricious this thing is,” Walters said in several Facebook videos which have since been deleted, according to The Capital Gazette.
The 53-year-old diabetic says he first started experiencing a dry cough in March, just before his group’s protests got underway. Soon after, he developed vision problems, headaches, and a fever.
But while he told people he’d come into contact with to monitor their symptoms, he has refused to work with Maryland contact tracers to help them manage new infections he might have caused. “I will not share anybody’s information with the government. I will not do it,” he reportedly said.
In a video he posted on Friday, he blamed “Satan” for him contracting the disease and said that COVID-19 had never been spread at his anti-lockdown rallies.
“No one ever got sick at any of our rallies, to include me. Start a church, and I get sick. I got it because Satan deemed to get it. Because he wanted to quiet my work, to slow down the building of a church. That’s what this is about. But the world won’t see that. Why? Because they live behind a veil. They choose to hate God,” Walters said.
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Trump is making a move to endanger LGBTQ and civil rights activists around the world
The Open Technology Fund (OTF), “a U.S. government-funded nonprofit that provides encryption technologies to journalists and activists living under repressive regimes,” is under threat from Michael Pack, an appointee of President Donald Trump who now heads the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the group that oversees the OTF.
Pack is pressuring the OTF to change its funding allocation in a way that could endanger LGBTQ activists and others strategizing for civil rights in countries like China, Russia, Iran and Turkey, leaving them subject harassment, arrest, violence, and death.
According to Vice News, Pack has packed USAGM’s board with Trump loyalists who are working to funnel tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to closed-source technologies. Closed-source technologies are privately developed apps that could contain backdoor and security vulnerabilities allowing repressive regimes to track users and monitor their online communications.
Pack’s shift to closed-source technology is a fundamental change to the OTF’s long-running investment in “open-source technology,” tech whose publicly available source code can be studied and tested to ensure others can’t access user data.
Pack’s USAGM is currently pushing for OTF to invest in Freegate and Ultrasurf, two closed-source apps that purport to get around the Great Firewall of China, a censorious and domestically controlled internet that blocks activists from any sites critical of the Chinese government.
Open-source software experts that spoke to Vice said, “[Ultrasurf’s] code is out of date, dangerously vulnerable to compromise, and lacks the user base to allow it to effectively scale even if they secured government funding.”
Laura Cunningham and Libby Liu, who very recently served as OTF’s president and CEO respectively, told Vice News that in March 2020 (shortly after Trump installed Pack), Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation Human Rights and Justice (one of the groups pushing Ultrasurf) threatened them to fund the app or else risk being ousted by Pack and his board.
On June 13, 2020, Michael Horowitz, former director of the Project for International Religious Liberty (another group pushing Ultrasurf), then went on the radio show of white supremacist-enabler and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and called for Pack to fire Liu — four days later, he did. A day later, Pack fired Cunningham without providing any reason whatsoever.
Current and former OTF staff members told Vice they’re worried about the OTF’s direction under Pack. Longtime open-source technology advocate Cory Doctorow summed up the worry in a Twitter thread that linked to a petition urging Congress to intervene:
The Trump admin wants to nuke the OTF and give all its money to a bunch of grifty, closed-source privacy and firewall-circumvention tools. These tools are NOT auditable, and the companied that make them stand to make BANK from the move… If i was a Uyghur in Xinjiang or a dissident in Tehran, I would NOT trust my life to these tools. No goddamned way.
OTF’s ironclad rule of funding open, free code isn’t just a way to allay suspicions about the tools’ true purpose – it’s also a preventative against corruption, because the projects OTF funds CAN’T insert spy code without being caught right away… Based on this administration’s track record, I’m about 70-30 that this is just a bro deal that lets some cronies suck up millions in corporate welfare while hanging out tools used by vulnerable people around the world to dry.
Remember, Congress allocated this money for the OTF, not as pork for a bunch of connected insiders. This money built the tools that #BlackLivesMatter protesters use, to say nothing of the #HongKongProtests and many other movements around the world.
It will be a genuine, deep, widespread tragedy if this move isn’t stopped.
Deputy sheriff mocks BLM, hates gay people, loves Confederate flag
Josh Wilson, a 26-year-old, sheriff’s deputy in Clarksville, Tennessee, was recently fired for social media posts he made expressing hatred for gay people and the rainbow flag, love for Andrew Jackson (the U.S. President who committed genocide against Native Americans) and mockery for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Wilson was hired by the local police department in 2016, two years before it started reviewing applicants’ social media profiles as part of their background check process. If they had, they would’ve seen Wilson’s troubling statements, which we’ve included below with our rebuttals:
“I hate gay people.”
Since 4.5 percent of all Americans identify as LGBTQ, that means Wilson immediately hates 7,056 citizens in his city of nearly 156,800 people, even before meeting them. This bodes ill if they ever call for police assistance.
“Yes Harriet Tubman deserves to be on some money. She was a great woman in American history. But why penalize Andrew Jackson? He was a great man in American history.”
Harriet Tubman, an anti-slavery abolitionist and strategist in the Civil War, is supposed to replace former-President Jackson on $20 bills in 2030. Regardless, Jackson was not a great American — he was a champion of Native American genocide.
Jackson was a slave owner who instructed the U.S. postmaster general to censor anti-slavery mailings. Through treaties that dishonestly promised land and money that never came, he forced countless Native Americans to march off their homelands and into tiny reservations; his infamous “Trail of Tears” killed thousands of Native Americans due to hunger, exposure, disease and accidents.
“It blows my mind that people don’t find it disrespectful to change the colors of the American flag from red, white and blue to rainbow-colored, but they find it disrespectful to have a confederate flag just because you’re from the south.”
The rainbow flag is a queer emblem of LGBTQ people who take pride in their unique diversity while fighting for equal rights — it represents tolerance and the fight for equality. The confederate flag is a racist emblem of slave-owning white supremacists who literally declared war against the U.S. government over the “right” to own, sell, rape and kill black people for money— it is a flag of anti-U.S. sentiment and racism, which is why the U.S. military and cities have started opposing the flying of the flag and other Confederate monuments.
As Hornet notes in its takedown of people who compare the rainbow and confederate flags, Confederate flags are not merely about Southern Pride and “heritage, not hate”:
The Washington Post pointed out, “The Confederate flag largely disappeared after the Civil War. The fight against civil rights brought it back.” And guess who brought it back? Southern white supremacists who opposed Civil Rights-era legislation meant to integrate blacks into white schools and neighborhoods.
A gay man invented the rainbow flag as a way to create solidarity and visibility for the LGBTQ community. The flag was a plea for acceptance and tolerance. It was never about silencing or terrorizing anyone.
It’s also worth noting that the actual Confederacy lasted only five years — the ’90s grunge band Nirvana was around longer than that. Sadly, racism never seems to go out of style.
“Question of the day. If you run over all these people blocking roadways protesting are they gonna call the cops for attempted murder? The people they are protesting against?”
Running over protestors has become a troublingly common right-wing tactic against anti-racist demonstrators. While Wilson didn’t endorse it as a tactic, he misunderstands the goal of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors. While some BLM protestors want to abolish or defund the police, they mostly want to end anti-Black policing, criminalization and penal policies that have harmed Black Americans for decades.
As such, the BLM protests aren’t necessarily “anti-police”, they’re anti-racist. Even communities that seek to reform, defund or disband police still acknowledge that some sort of civil peacekeeping and accountability group will be necessary to protect the innocent and restore justice; especially if slam their vehicles into Americans expressing their First Amendment rights to assembly and free speech.
By reducing BLM protestors to being anti-police, Wilson essentially paints them as being against “law and order”, which they really aren’t.
Oh well, Wilson won’t be policing for his community anymore after his posts were discovered.
“It is my job to protect our citizens and enforce the law impartially and without prejudice. In order to accomplish this, I have to have confidence that our deputies share those same values,” said Clarksville Police Department Sheriff John Fuson. “The posts made on social media, do not reflect the character or values of this office.”
“Had these posts been noticed then, the deputy would not have been considered for employment. In light of this incident, more resources will be added to ensure deeper social media background checks,” Sheriff Fuson continued. “Hopefully together we can move forward from this incident.”
Republicans Think Bill Gates Is Using COVID-19 to Implant Tracking Devices Into People
A new poll from Yahoo News and YouGov show that 44 percent of Trump-supporting Republicans think Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is using the coronavirus epidemic as a way to secretly implant microchips into billions of people so he can track their movements.
Additionally, 50 percent of Americans who primarily watch Fox News believe the conspiracy theory even though neither Fox nor Trump have ever repeated it.
The poll results are troubling because they suggest that even if a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, conservatives may reject it as a form of social control. In fact, the poll found that 56 percent of Trump voters say they’re either unsure about or likely to reject a COVID-19 vaccine, something that could cause the epidemic to continue killing people even after a preventative measure has been found.
This far-right conspiracy theory against Bill Gates has been pushed Rick Wiles on his TruNews platform and the pseudoscientific Natural News “alternative health” blog. It has also circulated on conservative social media groups as part of the right-wing’s growing hysteria against vaccinations and other government public health regulations.
While The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated millions towards COVID-19 research, Snopes points out the rumor started because in December 2019 the organization financed a pilot study to explore the possibility of an entirely hypothetical vaccine that would “impart an invisible mark” or a small infrared “quantum dot” tattoo allowing medical workers to use a smartphone or black light to determine who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t.
The rumor has also been propelled by Gates’s interest in “digital identity” technology which would give each person “a cloud-based storage of medical and/or personal-identification documents accessible only with the consent of the owner but available anywhere in the world.”
Gates has also publicly praised South Korea for its stringent contact tracing methods, using Bluetooth phone technology and public surveillance camera footage to help slow the spread of COVID-19. But neither Gates nor his foundation have ever discussed inserting microchips into people to track them.
Regardless, medical misinformation now seems to be a defining characteristic among a majority of Republicans. The poll also found 53 percent of Fox News viewers, 49 percent of Trump voters, and 44 percent of all Republicans think the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment against COVID-19 even though multiple studies have shown that to be untrue — in fact, it can even trigger fatal heart arrhythmia in patients.
Additionally, 65 percent of Fox News viewers, 58 percent of Trump voters, and 57 percent of Republicans believe “Chinese scientists engineered coronavirus in a lab, from which it accidentally escaped,” a conspiracy theory that has been denied by federal intelligence agencies.
Roughly 73 percent of Fox News viewers, 68 percent of Trump voters, and 63 percent of Republicans, say they’re more worried about COVID-19’s effect on the economy than its effect on people’s health. The same percentages also think the economy should reopen “as soon as possible to prevent further economic damage.”
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