The state most resistant to wearing masks for coronavirus protection? Arizona, study says

PHOENIX — Arizona is the most resistant state in the country when it comes to wearing masks, according to a recent study examining anti-mask activity online. 

The analysis conducted by Survival At Home, a survival and preparedness website, with direct access to what Twitter calls “tweet geospatial metadata,” or the location information that’s built into tweets and the profiles that post them. Survival At Home frequently posts this kind of ranked analysis using trends software on Twitter metadata.

Compiling over 150,000 geotagged Twitter posts that referenced popular hashtags like “#nomask,” “#burnyourmask,” “iwillnotcomply” and others, Survival At Home was able to produce a map of the hotspots for anti-mask sentiment.

“As you can see, there are pockets of anti-mask activity all across the US, however the upper northeast (outside of Maine) is the most pro-mask region,” said Ryan Taylor, a publicist for the marketing and brand firm Fresh Marketing. 

Taylor added that the analysis tracked only anti-mask tweets and that “tweets in favor of wearing masks (pro-mask activity) far outweighs the anti-mask sentiment in each state.”

After Arizona, the states with the most anti-mask online activity are Nevada, Florida, Idaho and Maine, Taylor said.

More: Arizona has the nation’s highest positive test rate for COVID-19. Here’s what it means.

Widespread anti-mask sentiment on- and offline

'Why would I donate to my host?' Airbnb guests perplexed by 'kindness card' email suggesting extra payments

Airbnb  sent emails to guests suggesting they send “kindness cards” to their hosts – including an optional monetary contribution – which has irked many a guest on social media.

“Like all of us, hosts on Airbnb are impacted by COVID-19, and many of them are unable to welcome guests,” the email reads. “Now more than ever, it’s important to reach out and support one another – even in small ways.

“Today, we’re introducing a new way to connect with your favorite hosts,” it continues. “Now you can create personalized kindness cards that make it easy to send a message of appreciation or encouragement, with the option to add a contribution. We hope these cards will make hosts smile, and bring a little joy your way.”

Once users click “send a kindness card,” they’re able to choose a host, pick the style of card, add a note and opt for how much they’d like to pay. Detailed instructions are available on Airbnb’s website.

Guests expressed their disbelief on Twitter.

“There’s a lot of weird COVID-related corporate marketing strategies, but Airbnb’s suggestion that I send a ‘kindness card’ to a property owner who deigned to let me pay them money in exchange for sleeping at their property is weird even by these increasingly weird standards,” @notstevenwhite wrote.

Oklahoma governor tests positive for COVID-19 weeks after attending Trump's Tulsa rally

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on Wednesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, weeks after attending a campaign rally for President Trump in Tulsa. 

During a remote press conference, Stitt said he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday afternoon. The Republican is the first governor in the United States to announce a positive test.

“I feel fine,” Stitt said. “I felt a little bit achy yesterday. I did not have a fever.”

He said he is working with contact tracers and will keep working from home in isolation. His wife and children have tested negative, he said.

Stitt attended Trump’s controversial campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20. Health officials there said the rally “more than likely” contributed to a surge in coronavirus cases.

“The past two days we’ve had almost 500 cases, and we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right,” Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart said on July 9. “So I guess we just connect the dots.”

At least eight Trump campaign staffers who attended the rally in Tulsa later tested positive for the coronavirus, according to CNN.

Amid spike in crime, a question of who owns the streets

The barricades were set up within sight of the Wendy’s where an Atlanta police officer killed Rayshard Brooks last month. According to local reports, they had been there before, set up by civilians armed with semiautomatic weapons, deciding who would be allowed to pass. Residents had asked the vigilantes to leave but were ignored. A member of the City Council had been trying for days to defuse the situation.

When Secoriea Turner’s mother encountered the blockade on her way home, she decided to do a U-turn. That’s when the men opened fire, fatally wounding the 8-year-old girl.

Thirty-one people were shot across the city over that July Fourth weekend, as the homicide rate doubled over the previous year. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in the city. But similar spikes have been seen in New York City, Chicago, and Detroit.

Violent crime usually increases during summer months, but the past month has seen levels not reached for years, if not decades, in these cities. The crimes have been predominantly within the Black community, with some pointing to the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic. Black communities have been hit harder both medically and economically.

Yet there’s also a sense that the upheaval around policing has played a role. Indeed, images of the vigilante blockade that led to Secoriea’s death paint a portrait of police, in at least some cases, appearing to have partially ceded the streets.

After the arrest of the officer who shot Mr. Brooks, for example, the Atlanta Police Department saw its chief resign and as many as 50 officers applying for jobs elsewhere. In New York, meanwhile, police reforms that predated the pandemic have similarly raised questions about the line between responsible policing and public safety. In Seattle, police withdrew from an entire area of the city for weeks when protesters moved in.

Now, as crime spikes in areas where police have traditionally had a conspicuous and controversial presence, the debate over policing has shifted. When a community’s faith in the police collapses, how can public safety be maintained?

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Trump plans further challenges to Manhattan prosecutor's subpoena for financial records

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers for Donald Trump told a federal judge on Wednesday they plan further challenges to the Manhattan district attorney’s efforts to see the U.S. president’s financial records, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the prosecutor’s review.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Trump’s lawyers said the president will file an amended complaint raising arguments against district attorney Cyrus Vance’s subpoena that the Supreme Court said he can still make.

Trump’s lawyers said the Republican president may argue that the grand jury subpoena was too broad.

He may also argue that Vance, a Democrat, brought the subpoena to harass Trump, manipulate or retaliate against his policies, or otherwise “impede his constitutional duties.”

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero has scheduled a Thursday hearing to discuss the matter.

The case concerns a subpoena by Vance last August to Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of personal and corporate tax returns.

Vance’s criminal probe into Trump and his Trump Organization was spurred by revelations about hush money paid before the 2016 election.

These included payments to buy pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels’ and former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s silence about their claimed sexual encounters with Trump, which he denies.

The Supreme Court on July 9 rejected Trump’s arguments for sweeping presidential immunity and ruled that Vance could obtain the records but prevented – at least for now – Democratic-led House of Representatives committees from getting similar documents.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Pompeo expects 'completely whitewashed' WHO China investigation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he expected a World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus in China to be “completely whitewashed.”

Nearly 580,000 people globally have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and more than 13 million have been infected following an outbreak that started in Wuhan, China, last year.

The Geneva-based WHO said it was sending an team to China in early July to investigate how the outbreak started.

“This is a regime that failed to disclose the information they had about a virus that has now killed over 100,000 Americans … and now it is allowing the World Health Organization to go in to conduct what I am confident will be a completely, completely whitewashed investigation,” Pompeo told reporters.

The United States is the WHO’s most prominent critic, and has said it is leaving the U.N. agency.

President Donald Trump, who has been harshly criticized for his response to the outbreak in the United States, which has the world’s highest death toll at more than 136,000 people, has sought to blame China.

“I hope I am wrong. I hope it’s a thorough investigation that gets fully to the bottom, but I have watched the Chinese Communist Party’s behavior with respect to the virus that emanated from Wuhan and they have simply refused,” Pompeo said.

“They have destroyed samples. They have taken journalists and doctors who were prepared to talk about this and not permitted them to do what nations that want to play on a truly global scale and global stage ought to do: be transparent, and open, and communicate and cooperate,” he said.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

NASA to reveal closest images ever taken of the sun

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are releasing new images of the sun Thursday morning, bringing humans closer to our host star than ever before. The photos are the first captured by the Solar Orbiter, which launched earlier this year. 

After launching on February 9, Solar Orbiter made its first close pass of the sun in mid-June, despite the team facing setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic. As it passed the sun, it turned on all 10 of its instruments together for the first time, the agencies said in a statement

The agencies said the new photos are the closest ever taken of the sun. They will be released Thursday morning at 8 a.m. EDT. 

“The first images are exceeding our expectations,” Daniel Müller, Solar Orbiter Project Scientist at ESA, said in a statement. “We can already see hints of very interesting phenomena that we have not been able to observe in detail before. The 10 instruments on board Solar Orbiter work beautifully, and together provide a holistic view of the Sun and the solar wind. This makes us confident that Solar Orbiter will help us answer profound open questions about the Sun.”

U.S. to back nations that say China violated their South China Sea claims

By Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States will support countries that believe China has violated their maritime claims in the South China Sea but suggested it would do so through diplomatic rather than military means.

“We will support countries all across the world who recognize that China has violated their legal territorial claims as well – or maritime claims as well,” Pompeo told reporters.

“We will go provide them the assistance we can, whether that’s in multilateral bodies, whether that’s in ASEAN, whether that’s through legal responses, we will use all the tools we can,” he said at a news conference, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The United States on Monday rejected China’s claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, drawing criticism from China which said the U.S. position raised tension in the region, highlighting an increasingly testy relationship.

Monday’s statement reflected the first time the United States had taken the position that China’s claims to the South China sea were “completely unlawful.”

The United States has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, sending warships

regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation there. Monday’s comments reflect a harsher tone.

China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it.

On Wednesday, Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Le Thi Thu Hang, said in response to the hardened U.S. rhetoric on the region that Vietnam welcomed any views on the South China Sea that were in accordance with international law.

“Peace, stability, cooperation and development in the South China Sea are the common aspirations and goals of countries in the region and the international community.”

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Additional reporting by James Pearson in Hanoi; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

Ex-Canadian football player gets 3 months for college scam

A former Canadian Football League player was sentenced Wednesday to three months in prison for hiring someone take the SATs in place of his two sons, while a California mother got five weeks behind bars for paying $9,000 to have online classes taken on her son’s behalf.

David Sidoo, who played professional football for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and BC Lions, lowered his head into his hands and cried as U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton chided him for his actions. Sidoo told the judge he’s “deeply ashamed.”

“I make no excuses. I broke the law. I pled guilty to a crime and now I must pay for my actions,” Sidoo said.

Earlier Wednesday, Karen Littlefair of Newport Beach, California, asked U.S District Judge Allison Burroughs for leniency before being sentenced to more than a month in prison for the online course scam. Littlefair said she was “truly sorry” and called the experience a “nightmare” for her family.

“I acted out of love for my son but I ended up hurting my son greatly,” said Littlefair, 57.

Both Sidoo and Littlefair appeared before the Boston federal court judges via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.

They are among more than 50 people charged in the college cheating scheme involving wealthy parents and athletic coaches at elite universities across the country. Authorities say the parents worked with the admissions consultant at the center of the scam, Rick Singer, to have someone cheat on their kids’ exams or get them admitted to selective schools with fake athletic credentials.

Sidoo was CEO of mining firm Advantage Lithium Corp. when he was arrested last year. He was also a founding shareholder of an oil and gas company that was sold in 2010 for more than $600 million.

The Vancouver businessman paid Singer $200,000 to have someone pose as his sons using a fake ID to secure higher scores on their SATs, prosecutors said. Sidoo also worked with Singer to craft an admission essay for his son with a bogus story about the teen being held at gunpoint by Los Angeles gang members and saved by a rival gang member named “Nugget,” prosecutors said.

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Seven ships catch fire at Iran's Bushehr port, agency says

(Reuters) – At least seven ships have caught fire at Iran’s Bushehr port, the Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday, in what appeared to be the latest in a series of fires and explosions around the country, some of which have hit sensitive sites.

No casualties have been reported, the agency said.

Plumes of dense black smoke billowed into the air, in a photograph of the incident published by the official IRNA news agency. State broadcaster IRIB showed fighters tackling clouds of smoke at a shipyard at the southern port on the Gulf.

There have been several explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities since late June, including a fire at Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear facility on July 2.

Natanz is the centrepiece of Iran’s enrichment programme, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. Western intelligence agencies and the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog (IAEA) believe it had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear arms programme that it halted in 2003. Tehran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons.

Iran’s top security body said on July 3 that the cause of the Natanz fire had been determined but would be announced at a later time. Some Iranian officials have said it may have been cyber sabotage and one of them warned that Tehran would retaliate against any country carrying out such attacks.

In an article in early July, state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although it stopped short of accusing either directly.

Israel’s defence minister said on July 5 his country was not “necessarily” behind every mysterious incident in Iran.

On June 30, 19 people were killed in an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the capital Tehran, which an official said was caused by a gas leak.

On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that the authorities said was caused by a leak in a gas storage facility in an area outside the base.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; writing by William Maclean, editing by Timothy Heritage)

Trump broke presidential protocol by turning a standard White House press statement into a rambling, rally-like attack on Joe Biden

  • President Donald Trump launched into a long campaign-rally-style attack on Joe Biden during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday.

  • The setting is normally used for official presidential announcements, and it is against White House protocol to launch campaign attacks against political rivals in speeches there.

  • Trump’s trademark rallies were called off during the early months of the coronavirus crisis. A planned rally in New Hampshire, scheduled for this past Saturday, was also canceled at the last minute.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

  • Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions 'hijacked'

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An oil tanker sought by the U.S. over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a seafarers welfare organization said Wednesday.

    Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday and two of its sailors remained in the Iranian capital.

    It wasn’t immediately clear what happened aboard the Dominica-flagged MT Gulf Sky, though its reported hijacking comes after months of tensions between Iran and the U.S.

    David Hammond, the CEO of the United Kingdom-based group Human Rights at Sea, said he took a witness statement from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky, confirming the ship had been hijacked.

    Hammond said that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it back to India, while two remained in Tehran, without elaborating.

    “We are delighted to hear that the crew are safe and well, which has been our fundamental concern from the outset,” Hammond told The Associated Press.

    Hammond said that he had no other details on the vessel., a website tracking the oil trade at sea, said it saw the vessel in satellite photos on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island. Hormuz Island, near the port city of Bandar Abbas, is some 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Khorfakkan, a city on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates where the vessel had been for months.

    The Emirati government, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to requests for comment. Iranian state media did not report on the vessel. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.

    In May, the U.S. Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder some $12 million to purchase the tanker, then named the MT Nautica, through a series of front companies. The vessel then took on Iranian oil from Kharg Island to sell abroad, the U.S. government said.

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