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'DANGEROUS FOOLS'

Anti-Gay, Anti-Mask Arkansas Senator Who Called Coronavirus a ‘Hoax’ Gets COVID-19

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Jason Rapert

Jason Rapert, an anti-gay Republican Arkansas state senator who has called face mask mandates “draconian” and shared articles calling COVID-19 a hoax, has tested positive for COVID-19 after speaking at a church service and other recent events without a face mask.

For the last three months, Rapert has been sharing articles on his social media about how “liberal quacks” are “spreading fear” about coronavirus, about how COVID-19 is the “biggest political hoax in history” and about how the recent face mask mandate ordered by Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is “draconian” and an “overreach of executive power.”

Though Rapert has occasionally mentioned the importance of using masks, he’s now in the hospital being treated for coronavirus and pneumonia.

“We have all been doing our best to wear a mask, social distance and be careful like everyone else,” Rapert wrote in a statement on Thursday. “This virus is serious and can attack anyone regardless of age or general health…”

Rapert also has a reputation for being a Christianist who introduced a bill seeking to ban gay marriage nationwide in 2017, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide. He also  wanted to defund PBS in February 2020 because gay actor Billy Porter appeared on Sesame Street.

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Arkansas had its second and third highest-ever daily tolls of newly confirmed coronavirus cases, at 1,013 and 990 new cases, respectively.

Here are some Twitter reactions to his contracting COVID-19.

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'DANGEROUS FOOLS'

Racist, anti-abortion group plans in-person “straight pride” event in a U.S. COVID-19 hotspot

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Modesto straight Pride parade

The so-called National Straight Pride Coalition (NSPC) is planning an event in Modesto, California for August 29, 2020—in the middle of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic—even though their 2019 event only drew dozens of attendees and 250 counter-protesters.

NSPC’s organizers told ABC 10 that the second annual Stanislaus County Straight Pride event is meant to be “a celebration of life in all of its aspects: masculinity; femininity; the natural family of man, woman, and children; children born and unborn; Western civilization; Christianity – everything which builds the culture of life.”

But the racist,  Islamophobic, and anti-LGBTQ undertones of that rhetoric hides the NSPC’s secondary agenda: hijacking the racial justice movement to oppose access to reproductive healthcare.

Their event will take place in the parking lot of a Planned Parenthood to “to illustrate the horrific reality that it is the greatest mass killer of blacks in the history of our nation,” NSPC’s website says. Because abortions only make up three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, NSPC is arguing that supporting low-cost reproductive and other health services to women is racism.

The NSPC’s website calls transgender identity “insanity,” a “psychosis,” and a “sexual pathology” and equates the LGBTQ movement with pedophilia and Satanism. The website also specifically cites “Caucasians” and “Christianity” as two of its founding principles, which is telling for a group that purports to stand-up for Black people.

Last year, Don Grundmann, NSPC’s founder, said in a Modesto City Council meeting, “We’re a totally peaceful, racist group.”

MoPride Inc., a local LGBTQ non-profit has already planned a counter-protest almost immediately upon hearing about Grundmann’s event.

“We can’t just ignore it,” the non-profit’s Pride director Zola Hayes said. “They are absolutely representative of an emboldening of far-right groups that use hateful rhetoric to galvanize their base.”

California is currently the U.S. state with the highest number of coronavirus cases.

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'DANGEROUS FOOLS'

Anti-mask anti-lockdown right-wing Texas lawmaker nearly dies of coronavirus

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Tony Tinderholt

Republican Texas state Representative Tony Tinderholt — a right-wing politician who has vocally opposed Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide shutdown and mandatory mask orders — has nearly died from the COVID-19 coronavirus. He is the first-known case of the Texas state legislator contracting the potentially lethal respiratory virus.

Tinderholt, who had previously compared the shutdown and mask mandate to “government overreach” and “socialism,” said that his first symptoms of COVID-19 consisted of mild joint pain that turned severe, bad headaches and a loss of taste and smell. Then, his symptoms took a turn for the worse.

“I truly thought last Friday was gonna be my last,” Tinderholt wrote to the Texas Tribune. He told the publication that he and his family had been wearing masks in public even though he himself had proposed calling together a special session of the Texas legislature to overturn Abbott’s executive order making mask-wearing mandatory for all Texans.

“I would like for people to try to mitigate risk by wearing masks,” he said. “But wear them because you think it’s right. I’m sure it works to some degree — it just didn’t for me.”

He remains in recovery with nausea, a cough, and breathing difficulties.

Tinderholt is known as one of the state’s most conservative legislators. He wrote of the state’s COVID-19-prevention measures:

“Therefore, if we allow government to continue to grow one more iota over this level of threat, then we are ushering in the very foundations of socialism. The question I would encourage you ask yourself is this: do you want to be the governor who helped socialism take root in Texas or one who stood for freedom in the midst of great pressure? I know we both stand for freedom and personal liberty over socialist ideals. However, they will take root if we do not permanently change this course now.”

He has also proposed legislation to criminalize abortion, has said that immigrants dying at the southern border are the only way to stop immigration into the U.S.,  complained about a judge who upheld the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage (though he himself has been married at least four times), and was once placed under an ethics investigation for “misplacing” $15,000 in campaign funds.

Tinderholt is just the latest anti-mask Republican to catch COVID-19. Jason Rapert, an anti-gay Republican Arkansas state senator who called face mask mandates “draconian” and shared articles calling COVID-19 a hoax, tested positive for COVID-19 last week after speaking at a church service and other recent events without a face mask.

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'DANGEROUS FOOLS'

Trump is making a move to endanger LGBTQ and civil rights activists around the world

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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.

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