Petition calling for Clarence Thomas removal from Supreme Court gets 1M signatures

THe Hill

Petition calling for Clarence Thomas removal from Supreme Court gets 1M signatures

Olafimihan Oshin – July 6, 2022

An online petition that calls for the removal of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has attracted more than 1 million signatures.

The petition, titled “Impeach Justice Clarence Thomas,” was created on the public advocacy organization website MoveOn in May.

The petition description cited Thomas’s vote to overturn Roe v. Wade as reasoning for his removal.

“Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—who sided with the majority on overturning Roe—made it clear what’s next: to overturn high court rulings that establish gay rights and contraception rights,” the petition read.

The description also mentioned Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, and her role in encouraging members of the Trump administration to continue to challenge the 2020 election results.

The Supreme Court earlier this year rejected a request by former President Trump to prevent the release of documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Thomas was the only justice to dissent on the matter.

“He has shown he cannot be an impartial justice and is more concerned with covering up his wife’s coup attempts than the health of the Supreme Court.”

“He must resign — or Congress must immediately investigate and impeach,” the petition concluded.

The petition garnered more than 1.1 million signatures and urges Congress to either investigate or impeach Thomas for his actions.

The MoveOn petition follows a similar one created by George Washington University students last week in an effort to remove Thomas from his teaching position with the Washington, D.C., university.

The student-led petition came after the high court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling that determined a woman’s right to abortion was constitutional.

In a school-wide letter, GWU officials said they don’t have plans to remove Thomas as an adjunct instructor in their law school, stating that he did not violate the school’s policy on academic freedom.

“Just as we affirm our commitment to academic freedom, we affirm the right of all members of our community to voice their opinions and contribute to the critical discussion that is foundational to our academic mission,” school officials wrote in their letter.

U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at separation of church and state

Reuters

U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at separation of church and state

Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung – June 28, 2022

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court has chipped away at the wall separating church and state in a series of new rulings, eroding American legal traditions intended to prevent government officials from promoting any particular faith.

In three decisions in the past eight weeks, the court has ruled against government officials whose policies and actions were taken to avoid violating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on governmental endorsement of religion – known as the “establishment clause.”

The court on Monday backed a Washington state public high school football coach who was suspended by a local school district for refusing to stop leading Christian prayers with players on the field after games.

On June 21, it endorsed taxpayer money paying for students to attend religious schools under a Maine tuition assistance program in rural areas lacking nearby public high schools.

On May 2, it ruled in favor of a Christian group that sought to fly a flag emblazoned with a cross at Boston city hall under a program aimed at promoting diversity and tolerance among the city’s different communities.

The court’s conservative justices, who hold a 6-3 majority, in particular have taken a broad view of religious rights. They also delivered a decision on Friday that was hailed by religious conservatives – overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide – though that case did not involve the establishment clause.

Cornell Law School professor Michael Dorf said the court’s majority appears skeptical of government decision-making premised on secularism.

“They regard secularism, which for centuries has been the liberal world’s understanding of what it means to be neutral, as itself a form of discrimination against religion,” Dorf said of the conservative justices.

In Monday’s ruling, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the court’s aim was to prevent public officials from being hostile to religion as they navigate the establishment clause. Gorsuch said that “in no world may a government entity’s concerns about phantom violations justify actual violations of an individuals First Amendment rights.”

‘WALL OF SEPARATION’

It was President Thomas Jefferson who famously said in an 1802 letter that the establishment clause should represent a “wall of separation” between church and state. The provision prevents the government from establishing a state religion and prohibits it from favoring one faith over another.

In the three recent rulings, the court decided that government actions intended to maintain a separation of church and state had instead infringed separate rights to free speech or the free exercise of religion also protected by the First Amendment.

But, as liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the Maine case, such an approach “leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.”

Opinions vary over to how much flexibility government officials have in allowing religious expression, whether by public employees, on public land or by people during an official proceeding. Those who favor a strict separation of church and state are concerned that landmark Supreme Court precedents, including a 1962 ruling that prohibited prayer in public schools, could be imperiled.

“It’s a whole new door that (the court) has opened to what teachers, coaches and government employees can do when it comes to proselytizing to children,” said Nick Little, legal director for the Center for Inquiry, a group promoting secularism and science.

Lori Windham, a lawyer with the religious liberty legal group Becket, said the court’s decisions will allow for greater religious expression by individuals without undermining the establishment clause.

“Separation of church and state continues in a way that protects church and state. It stops the government from interfering with churches but it also protects diverse religious expression,” Windham added.

Most of the religious-rights rulings in recent years involved Christian plaintiffs. But the court also has backed followers of other religions including a Muslim woman in 2015 who was denied a retail sales job because she wore a head scarf for religious reasons and a Buddhist death row inmate in 2019 who wanted a spiritual adviser present at his execution in Texas.

The court also sided with both Christian and Jewish congregations in challenges based on religious rights to governmental restrictions such as limits on public gatherings imposed as public safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nicole Stelle Garnett, a Notre Dame Law School professor who joined a brief filed with the justices backing the football coach, said the court was merely making clear that governments must treat religious people the same as everyone else.

Following Monday’s ruling, many issues relating to religious conduct in schools may be litigated anew under the court’s rationale that the conduct must be “coercive” in order to raise establishment clause concerns.

“Every classroom,” Garnett said, “is a courtroom.”

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)

EPA finds no safe level for two toxic ‘forever chemicals,’ found in many U.S. water systems

USA Today

EPA finds no safe level for two toxic ‘forever chemicals,’ found in many U.S. water systems

Kyle Bagenstose, USA TODAY – June 17, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency stunned scientists and local officials across the country on Wednesday by releasing new health advisories for toxic “forever chemicals” known to be in thousands of U.S. drinking water systems, impacting potentially millions of people.

The new advisories cut the safe level of chemical PFOA by more than 17,000 times what the agency had previously said was protective of public health, to now just four “parts per quadrillion.” The safe level of a sister chemical, PFOS, was reduced by a factor of 3,500. The chemicals are part of a class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as forever chemicals due to their extreme resistance to disintegration. They have been linked to different types of cancer, low birthweights, thyroid disease and other health ailments.

In effect, the agency now says, any detectable amounts of PFOA and PFOS are unsafe to consume.

The announcement has massive implications for water utilities, towns, and Americans across the country.

The Environmental Working Group, a national environmental nonprofit, has tracked the presence of PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS chemicals in drinking water. Because the chemicals are not yet officially regulated, water systems are not required to test for them. But their use for decades in a range of products such as Teflon and other nonstick cookware, clothing, food packaging, furniture, and numerous industrial processes, means they are widespread in both the environment and drinking water.

Scott Faber, senior vice president with the group, said this week that at least 1,943 public water supplies across the country have been found to contain some amount of PFOS and PFOA. And there are likely many more that contain the chemicals but haven’t tested, Faber said, potentially placing many millions of Americans in harm’s way.

“This will set off alarm bells for consumers, for regulators, and for manufacturers, who thought the previous (advisories) were safe,” Faber said. “I can’t find the words to explain what kind of a moment this is. … The number of people drinking what are, according to these new numbers, unsafe levels of PFAS, is going to grow astronomically.”

Hundreds of barrels of dirt sample collected from a former Wolverine World Wide tannery site in Rockford, March 1, 2019.
Hundreds of barrels of dirt sample collected from a former Wolverine World Wide tannery site in Rockford, March 1, 2019.

Previous research has found Americans have already faced widespread exposure to the chemicals for decades.

What are PFAS?: A guide to understanding chemicals behind nonstick pans, cancer fears

What’s in your blood?: Attorney suing chemical companies wants to know if it can kill you

More on EPA and your health: Is EPA prioritizing interests of chemical companies? These experts think so

More than 96% of Americans have at least one PFAS in their blood, studies show. Dangers are most studied for PFOA and PFOS, which were used heavily in consumer goods before a voluntary agreement between the EPA and industry phased them out of domestic production in the 2000s. Since then, the amount of PFOA and PFOS in the blood of everyday Americans has fallen, but scientists are now concerned about a newer generation of “replacement” chemicals that some studies show are also toxic.

Indeed, EPA on Wednesday released two additional, first-time health advisories for PFAS chemicals GenX, which has contaminated communities along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, as well as PFBS.

For years, scientists have grown increasingly concerned about how the entire class of chemicals, which number in the thousands, may be impacting public health in the United States. In highly contaminated communities like Parkersburg, West Virginia, studies have linked PFOA to kidney and testicular cancers, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, and other serious ailments.

But other studies have found a range of PFAS may be toxic even at the extremely low levels found in the general population, potentially impacting the immune system, birth weights, cholesterol levels, and even cancer risk.

Philippe Grandjean, a PFAS researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who has called for extremely protective limits on PFAS, said the chemicals don’t have acute toxicity. Consumers shouldn’t expect to fall instantly ill from consuming amounts common in drinking water.

Instead, PFAS work in the background, with risks building up over a lifetime of consumption. His work shows PFAS can decrease the immune response in children. They may come down with more infections than they would otherwise. Vaccinations aren’t as successful, an effect that may even extend to COVID-19 vaccination, a question research is now exploring.

No single individual is likely to know when PFAS caused their illness. But public health officials can detect its presence when studying overall rates, Grandjean said.

“If increased exposures have been in a community, then there will be an increased occurrence of these adverse effects,” Grandjean said.

Equipment used to test for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS, in drinking water is seen at Trident Laboratories in Holland, Michigan. As part of its attempt to clean up the chemical, the military is spending millions on research to better detect, understand and filter the chemicals.
Equipment used to test for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS, in drinking water is seen at Trident Laboratories in Holland, Michigan. As part of its attempt to clean up the chemical, the military is spending millions on research to better detect, understand and filter the chemicals.

Even with deep experience studying PFAS, a primary reaction among Grandjean and other experts to the EPA’s Wednesday announcement was surprise. The agency has grappled with how to handle PFAS for decades and has often been criticized for a perceived lack of action. The thorniest problem is the sheer scope of PFAS: regulating the substances, particularly at very low levels, has nationwide implications for water utilities, industry, and the public.

But the EPA under the Biden administration, Faber said, is signaling they are serious about moving in that direction.

“This administration has pledged to do more, and has accomplished more, than any other,” Faber said.

In releasing the new health advisories, EPA said they fit into a larger picture under the agency’s “Strategic Roadmap.” That includes an intention to propose a formal drinking water regulation for PFOS, PFOA, and potentially other chemicals this fall. The agency also says it is taking a holistic approach to PFAS, with measures planned to clean up contamination hotspots, address PFAS in consumer products, and offer support to impacted communities.

In a press release, the agency says it is making available the first $1 billion of a total of $5 billion in grant funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year to assist  communities contaminated with PFAS. Another $6.6 billion is potentially available through existing loan programs for water and sewer utilities.

“People on the front lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in the release. “That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge.”

PFAS foam floats along Van Etten Creek after being dumped from a storm pipe of water treated at a granular activated carbon GAC plant from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.
PFAS foam floats along Van Etten Creek after being dumped from a storm pipe of water treated at a granular activated carbon GAC plant from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

But the EPA is already receiving pushback from various corners.

The American Chemistry Council, an industry group representing many of the companies that use PFAS, said it believes the agency’s new advisories are “fundamentally flawed.”

“ACC supports the development of drinking water standards for PFAS based on the best available science. However, today’s announcement … reflects a failure of the agency to follow its accepted practice for ensuring the scientific integrity of its process,” the council said in a release.

Meanwhile, utilities remain skeptical the agency will ultimately do enough to tackle industry and other sources of pollution.

In 2016, Tim Hagey, general manager of the Warminster Municipal Authority in southeast Pennsylvania, came face to face with a nightmare for anyone tasked with providing safe drinking water to the public.

PFOA and PFOS — invisible, odorless, and dangerous — had slipped into the town’s water supply after leaking from nearby military bases. The discovery set off a years-long struggle in Warminster and neighboring communities, which decided to go beyond the EPA’s prior advisory and filter out the chemicals entirely. Hagey said they saw the writing on the wall.

“The EPA told us over the years that the more they study the chemicals, the uglier they are,” Hagey said. “Our local leaders had the courage to say, ‘We’re going to filter to zero.’”

Tim Hagey, left, general manager of Warminster Municipal Authority, speaks with residents during a public information session about water quality in Warminster. The meeting followed the announcement that public and private wells in Warminster (and nearby Horsham) were contaminated by two chemicals used when the Navy was operating the Naval Air Warfare Center.
Tim Hagey, left, general manager of Warminster Municipal Authority, speaks with residents during a public information session about water quality in Warminster. The meeting followed the announcement that public and private wells in Warminster (and nearby Horsham) were contaminated by two chemicals used when the Navy was operating the Naval Air Warfare Center.

But the decision was costly, adding up to tens of millions of dollars and requiring significant surcharges on customer water bills.

Hagey said the EPA’s new advisories are a “pleasant surprise” when it comes to protecting public health. But he’s frustrated that the Department of Defense has not yet addressed the contaminated groundwater beneath his town, contributing to ongoing cost fears.

“The aquifer has not been cleaned up. There needs to be leadership on that,” Hagey said.

Emily Remmel, director of regulatory affairs for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents wastewater authorities, said water and sewer utilities across the country are facing similar dilemmas. In many ways, PFAS contamination is unprecedented. The chemicals are everywhere, and the EPA has now found they are dangerous at levels smaller than can even be detected.

“We can’t measure to these levels, we can’t treat to these levels,” Remmel said. “So how do you deal with this from a public health standpoint?”

Remmel said she’d also like to see EPA take more action to get rid of PFAS at the source. Often they come from everyday consumer products that people use and wash down the drain.

“Washing your clothes, washing your face, washing your dishes,” Remmel said.

The costs to remove and dispose of PFAS are astronomical. A filter on a single water well can cost $500,000. Remmel said while the new funding is helpful, it’s also just a “drop in the bucket” for what’s needed across the country.

Ultimately, costs will need to be passed onto water consumers, who have already seen rates rising steeply over the past decade as utilities have invested in other priorities such as replacing lead pipes and outdated sewer infrastructure. Remmel said she wants the EPA to do a better job engaging at the local level to assist with the public health and financial burdens PFAS create.

“This should not be on the backs of municipalities, of ratepayers,” Remmel said.

Kyle Bagenstose covers climate change, chemicals, water and other environmental topics for USA TODAY. 

Hellfire: Uvalde Shooter Owned a Device That Makes AR-15s Even More Deadly

Rolling Stone

Hellfire: The Uvalde Shooter Owned a Device That Makes AR-15s Even More Deadly

Tim Dickinson – June 15, 2022

US-TEXAS-GUNS-NRA - Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images
US-TEXAS-GUNS-NRA – Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

“Unleashing ‘Hell-Fire.’”

It pictures a gunman, wearing a skull mask with blacked out eyes, who unloads an AR-15 that is sending spent cartridges flying from its ejection port. The ad copy reads: “All you do is squeeze the trigger and shoot at rates up to 900 rpm” — or rounds per minute.

The sales pitch is for a hellfire trigger device, a gun accessory that allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire at rates similar to machine gun. Although the physics behind the device are nearly identical to that of a bump-stock — now illegal under federal law — hellfires remain cheap and easy to acquire. Including, evidently, by a teenager bent on mass murder.

The gunman in the Uvalde massacre had purchased a hellfire device, which was recovered from one of the classrooms where the massacre took place, according to investigative documents reviewed by the New York Times. Federal authorities reportedly don’t believe the device was used in the attack. But had it been deployed, the carnage at Robb Elementary School — where 19 children and two teachers were murdered — might have been, unimaginably, worse.

Even in the trigger-happy US of A, machine guns are supposed to be illegal. A central fixture of federal firearms law since the days of Al Capone’s 1930s is that fully-automatic weapons are too powerful to be in civilian hands. Yes, modern consumers can buy high-powered weapons, like AR-15-style rifles, that are nearly identical to guns used in the U.S. military, but these guns fire only one round with each trigger pull.

But in the poorly regulated market of fire-arms accessories, a small but dedicated band of companies have pushed the legal envelope. They’ve engineered and marketed devices that circumvent the limitations of semi-automatic weapons, turning rifles into bullet hoses that can fire hundreds of rounds per minute.

After a 2017 massacre in Las Vegas, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms — better known as ATF — outlawed one class of these accessories, known as bump stocks, by classifying them as machine guns. But they didn’t touch hellfire triggers.

That differential treatment has no logic, insists Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center. When it comes to hellfires and similar “trigger activators,” he says, “ATF has been very, very lenient in its interpretation of federal law.”

Screenshot of an ad for a Hellfire style device - Credit: Youtube
Screenshot of an ad for a Hellfire style device – Credit: Youtube

Youtube

“Bump firing without the stock”

A hellfire device and a bump-stock both rely on the same physics to mimic fully automatic fire. They absorb the energy from the recoil of a single gunshot, then rebound the weapon slightly forward, activating the trigger against a shooter’s otherwise stationary finger — again and again and again and again and again.

With a bump-stock, this rebound is generated in the butt of the rifle pressed against the shooter’s shoulder. A hellfire device attaches to the pistol grip and rebounds, instead, against the shooter’s palm.

ATF itself recognized the similarity of the devices, explicitly comparing them in 2013 correspondence with a congressman, back when both devices were deemed legal. Gun enthusiasts today praise the hellfire as offering “bump firing without the stock.” (ATF did not answer questions from Rolling Stone about why the devices are treated differently.)

From San Francisco to Waco

Hellfires are not new. In fact, the trigger devices have dark history. In a 1993 mass shooting in a San Francisco high rise, the gunman used hellfire triggers, attached to a pair of assault pistols with 50-round magazines; he killed eight, wounded six, and then took his own life. Hellfire triggers were also believed to have been in use at David Koresh’s militarized Waco, Texas, cult compound.

These days, the trigger devices are cheap, and marketed with disturbing slogans and imagery. It’s not immediately clear what device the Uvalde shooter purchased. But there are many models available online. At one retailer, just $29.95 can get you the “Classic” hellfire “made infamous by David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco,” according to the sales pitch.

The “Gen II” model offers “recoil assist technology” to enable “one handed operation,” and will set you back $59.95. A new “Stealth” model, meanwhile, is for sale at just $39.95, and can be installed “invisibly within your grip on any AR15 style rifle” and be “activated or deactivated in seconds.”

Banning Bump-Stocks

It was the Trump administration, surprisingly, that banned bump-stocks — after they were used to catastrophic effect in a 2017 Las Vegas shooting. In that attack, a gunman fired bump-stock-equipped AR-15s from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. The spray of more than 1,000 rounds killed 60 people and wounded more than 400 at a concert festival below.

Without the need of new legislation, the ATF issued a rule in 2019 outlawing bump stocks. The devices, the regulation states, “convert an otherwise semiautomatic firearm into a machinegun” by harnessing “the recoil energy… [to] continue firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.” (The regulation has, at least so far, held up in court)

Despite operating on the same principle, hellfire triggers remain street legal — putting machine gun firepower in the hands of untrained amateurs. The rate of fire enabled by these devices is so high, in fact, that the more expensive hellfire models actually offer features to slow down the firing cycle “to save ammo!”

Hellfire triggers can be finicky to master — which may be why the young Uvalde shooter ultimately didn’t deploy his. And it’s impossible to know whether automatic fire would have led to even more devastation at Robb Elementary School. (The shooter was left unimpeded for more than an hour by dithering local police; the gunman was not pressed for time.)

Marketing Lethality

The “most important” takeaway from the hellfire purchase is what it reflects about “the mindset of the shooter,” argues Sugarmann. “He had done everything he could, in his mind, to find the most lethal combination of weaponry and accessories when he planned the attack.”

Such lethality is — not coincidentally — the top selling point of a the modern firearms industry, which pitches its customers on military-grade precision and firepower. That includes the maker the Uvalde shooter’s rifle, Daniel Defense, whose Georgia headquarters are located at “101 Warfighter Way.”

The Uvalde shooter simply found, in the hellfire, a low-cost accessory that promised to unlock his weapon’s full military pedigree, by mimicking the automatic fire reserved for soldiers.

Sugarmann insists the ATF has the authority to send a warning to the industry by targeting hellfire makers, who are small operators and operate at the margins of the industry. “They’re the bottom feeders,” he says. “If you took action against one of them, it would send a message throughout the industry that ATF has regulatory role that it can use to the to protect public safety.”

The Violence Policy Center founder insists that the agency “could move against them, the way that they moved against bump-stocks.” But at least so far, Sugarmann laments, “the agency has chosen not to.”

Indeed, the text of ATF’s own bump-stock regulation notes that public commenters argued the broad language could be read to encompass “Hellfire trigger mechanisms” and similar devices. The agency’s response? Simply that it “disagrees that other firearms or devices… will be reclassified as machineguns under this rule.”

Uvalde gunman threatened rapes and school shootings on social media app Yubo in weeks leading up to the massacre

CNN – Investigates

Uvalde gunman threatened rapes and school shootings on social media app Yubo in weeks leading up to the massacre, users say

Daniel A. Medina, Isabelle Chapman, Jeff Winter and Casey Tolan

May 28, 2022 

CNN: Salvador Ramos told girls he would rape them, showed off a rifle he bought, and threatened to shoot up schools in livestreams on the social media app Yubo, according to several users who witnessed the threats in recent weeks.

But those users – all teens – told CNN that they didn’t take him seriously until they saw the news that Ramos had gunned down 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, this week.

Three users said they witnessed Ramos threaten to commit sexual violence or carry out school shootings on Yubo, an app that is used by tens of millions of young people around the world.

Uvalde school shooting suspect was a loner who bought two assault rifles for his 18th birthday

The users all said they reported Ramos’ account to Yubo over the threats. But it appeared, they said, that Ramos was able to maintain a presence on the platform. CNN reviewed one Yubo direct message in which Ramos allegedly sent a user the $2,000 receipt for his online gun purchase from a Georgia-based firearm manufacturer.

“Guns are boring,” the user responded. “No,” Ramos apparently replied.

In a statement to CNN, a Yubo spokesperson said “we are deeply saddened by this unspeakable loss and are fully cooperating with law enforcement on their investigation.” Yubo takes user safety seriously and is “investigating an account that has since been banned from the platform,” the spokesperson said, but declined to release any specific information about Ramos’ account.

Use of Yubo skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, as teens trapped indoors turned to the app for a semblance of in-person interactions. The company says it has 60 million users around the world – 99% of whom are 25 and younger – and has trumpeted safety features including “second-by-second” monitoring of livestreams using artificial intelligence and human moderators.

Despite those safety features, the users who spoke to CNN said Ramos made personal and graphic threats. During one livestream, Amanda Robbins, 19, said Ramos verbally threatened to break down her door and rape and murder her after she rebuffed his sexual advances. She said she witnessed Ramos threaten other girls with similar “acts of sexual assault and violence.”

Robbins, who said she lives in California and only ever interacted with Ramos online, told CNN she reported him to Yubo several times and blocked his account, but continued seeing him in livestreams making lewd comments.

“[Yubo] said if you see any behavior that’s not okay, they said to report it. But they’ve done nothing,” Robbins said. “That kid was allowed to be online and say this.”

Robbins and other users said they didn’t take Ramos’ comments seriously because troll-like behavior was commonplace on Yubo.

Hannah, an 18-year-old Yubo user from Ontario, Canada, said she reported Ramos to Yubo in early April after he threatened to shoot up her school and rape and kill her and her mother during one livestream session. Hannah said Ramos was allowed back on the platform after a temporary ban.

Hannah, who requested CNN withhold her last name to protect her privacy, said Ramos’ behavior turned increasingly brazen in the last week. In one livestream, she said, Ramos briefly turned his webcam to show a gun on his bed.

The users said they didn’t make recordings of Ramos’ threats during the livestreams.

Yubo’s community guidelines tell users not to “threaten or intimidate” others, and ban harassment and bullying. Content that “promotes violence such as violent acts, guns, knives, or other weapons” is also banned.

Just a week before the Uvalde attack, Yubo announced an expanded age verification process that involves users taking a photo of themselves and the app using artificial intelligence to estimate their age. The platform only allows people 13 and older to sign up, and doesn’t allow users 18 and older to interact with those under 18.

Uvalde school shooter was in school for up to an hour before law enforcement broke into room where he was barricaded and killed him

Yubo, which is based in Paris, has attracted controversy since it launched in 2015 under the name Yellow, with some local law enforcement officials warning about the possibility of abuse. Police have arrested men in Kentucky, New Jersey and Florida who allegedly used Yubo to meet or exchange sexually explicit messages with kids. Last month, Indiana police investigating the 2017 murder of two teenage girls said they were seeking information about a Yubo user who had solicited nude photos of underage girls on other social media platforms.

Ramos’ disturbing social media interactions didn’t only take place on Yubo. One user, a girl from Germany who met Ramos on Yubo, said she had some troubling interactions with him via text and FaceTime. The 15-year-old said she received text messages from him shortly after he shot his grandmother and before his assault at the elementary school, as CNN previously reported.

The girl said she thought any violent or strange comments Ramos made were in jest.

But after the shooting, she said, “I added everything up and it made sense now… I was just too dumb to notice all the signals he was giving.”

Uvalde, Texas: Can this be a beginning of real change to our gun nightmare?

Written by one of the Uvalde victims mothers:

June 1, 2022


“The chicken soup in her thermos stayed hot all day while her body grew cold. She never had a chance to eat the baloney and cheese sandwich. I got up 10 minutes early to cut the crust off a sandwich that will never be eaten.

Should I call and cancel her dental appointment next Wednesday? Will the office automatically know? Should I still take her brother to the appointment since I already took the day off work?  Last time Carlos had one cavity and Amerie asked him what having a cavity feels like. She will never experience having a cavity.  She will never experience having a cavity filled. The cavities in her body now are from bullets, and they can never be filled.

What if she had asked to use the bathroom in the hall a few minutes prior to the gunman entering the room, locking the door, and slaughtering all inside? Was she one of the first kids in the room to die or one of the last?  These are the things they don’t tell us. Which of her friends did she see die before her?  Hannah?  Emily? Both? Did their blood and brains splatter across her Girl Scout uniform?  She just earned a Fire Safety patch. What if it got ruined? There are no patches for school shootings.

Was she practicing writing GIRAFFE the moment he walked in her classroom, barricaded the door and opened fire? She keeps forgetting the silent “e” at the end. We studied this past weekend, and now she doesn’t need to take the spelling test on Friday. None of them will take the spelling test on Friday. There will be no spelling test on Friday. Because there is no one to give it. And no one to take it.

These are the things I will never know:

I will never know at what age she would have started her period. I will never know if she had wisdom teeth. (Or if they would have come in crooked.)I will never know who she spoke to last.  Was it the teacher?  Was it her table partner, George? She says George is always talking, even during silent reading. Did she even scream?

She screamed the lyrics to We Don’t Talk About Bruno at 7:58 AM as she hopped out of my car in the circle drive.  She always sings the Dolores part, her sister sings Mirabel and I’m Bruno. “And I wanted you to know that your bro loves you so Let it in, let it out, let it rain, let it snow, let it goooooo……..”Did the killer ever see Encanto?  

Could we have sat in the same row of seats, on the same day, munching popcorn?  What if Amerie brushed past him in the aisle? Did she politely say, “Excuse me,” to the boy who would someday blow her eye sockets apart? Was he chomping on bubble gum as he destroyed them all? If so, what flavor?  Cinnamon? Wintergreen?

Was the radio on as he drove to massacre them?  Or did he drive in silence? Was the sun in his eyes as he got out of the car in the parking lot?  Did his pockets hold sunglasses or just ammunition? These are the things I will never know.

There is laundry in the dryer that is Amerie’s. Clothes I never need to fold again. Clothes that are right now warmer than her body. How will I ever be able to take them out of the dryer and where will I put them if not back in her dresser?  I can never wash clothes in that dryer again. It will stand silent; a tomb for her pajamas and knee socks. 

Her cousin’s graduation party is next month and I already signed her name in the card.  Should I cross it out? That will be the last card I ever sign her name to. The dog will live longer than she will.  The dog will be 12 next month and she will be eternally 10. What will the school do with her backpack? It was brand new this year and she attached her collection of key-chains like cherished trophies to its zipper. A beaded 4 leaf clover she made on St. Patty’s Day. A red heart from a Walk-a-Thon. A neon ice cream cone from her friend’s birthday party.

Now there will be no more key-chains to attach. No more trophies. Surely they can’t throw it out? Would they throw them all out? 19 backpacks, full of stickered assignments and rain boots, all taken to the dumpster behind the school?  Is there even a dumpster big enough to contain all that life? 

These are the things someone else knows:

The moment the semiautomatic rifle was put into his hands–was “Bring Me a Higher Love” playing in the gun store? “Get off my Cloud” by the Rolling Stones? Maybe it was Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”  Did the Outback Oasis salesperson hesitate as they slid him 375 rounds of ammunition? not my problem my kids are grown and out of school Or I don’t have kids, so I don’t have to worry about their skulls getting blown across the naptime mat. Or fingers crossed there’s a good guy with an equally powerful gun that will stop this gun if needed. Did they sense any danger or were they more focused on picking that morning’s Raisin Bran out of their teeth?

My Nana used to say, “Pay attention to what whispers, and you won’t have to when it starts screaming.” But now I know there is a more deafening sound than children screaming. More horrific even, than automatic rifles on a Tuesday morning.

I beg the world:

Pay attention to what’s screaming today, or be forced to endure the silence that follows.”

‘Whatever I want with my guns’: GOP lawmaker pulls out handguns during House hearing on gun control

USA Today

‘Whatever I want with my guns’: GOP lawmaker pulls out handguns during House hearing on gun control

Candy Woodall – June 3, 2022

WASHINGTON – Florida Congressman Greg Steube pulled out multiple handguns during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday aimed at curbing mass shootings.

The Republican congressman appeared by video conference from his Florida home, arguing that Democrats are trying to strip Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms by restricting the ammunition they use.

“Don’t let them fool you that they’re not attempting to take away your ability to purchase handguns,” Steube said. “They are using the magazine ban to do it.”

The congressman said his Sig Sauer P365 XL comes with a 15-round magazine and would be banned if the Democrats’ “Protecting Our Kids Act” passes. The congressman also said the Glock 19 would be banned.

He also displayed his Sig Sauer P226 and Sig Sauer 320.

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., holds up his own handgun as he speaks via videoconference as the House Judiciary Committee holds an emergency meeting to advance a series of Democratic gun control measures, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, in response to mass shootings in Texas and New York, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., holds up his own handgun as he speaks via videoconference as the House Judiciary Committee holds an emergency meeting to advance a series of Democratic gun control measures, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, in response to mass shootings in Texas and New York, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 2, 2022.

The display of weapons added to the tension of a legislative hearing packed with partisan and personal broadsides over an issue that has deeply divided Ameicans.

As Steube demonstrated his firearms, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, of Texas, could be heard cutting into his speech.

“I hope the gun is not loaded,” she said.

Steube sharply responded: “I’m at my house. I can do whatever I want with my guns.”

Video: Biden calls for ‘common sense’ gun reform

Biden calls for ‘common sense’ gun reform amid a series of deadly mass shootings

President Biden addressed gun control as mass shootings continue to plague the nation’s schools, stores, and most recently, a hospital.

The congressman also drew criticism from Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

“This is who Republicans are. Kids are being buried and they’re bragging about how many guns they own during our gun safety hearing,” he said. “They are not serious. They are a danger to our kids.”

Candy Woodall is a Congress reporter for USA TODAY. 

Two states aim to arm teachers despite opposition from educators and experts

NBC News

Two states aim to arm teachers despite opposition from educators and experts

Phil McCausland – June 2, 2022

George Frey

Two state legislatures are considering measures that would permit teachers and other school staff to carry arms in the aftermath of the Texas elementary school shooting that killed 19 children last month, despite opposition from gun safety advocates, teachers’ groups and school security experts.

While the idea isn’t new — many Republican-controlled legislatures considered similar legislation after the 2018 Parkland, Florida, shooting — it is a growing talking point as the country has witnessed a number of mass killings in the past few weeks. Two states, Ohio and Louisiana, are now considering either decreasing the requirements to arm school staff or permitting employees to carry a firearm after fulfilling the required training.

It’s a popular talking point in conservative circles. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said in an interview on Fox News on the day of the Uvalde school shooting that the state, which already allows teachers to be armed, should go further to ensure school employees have firearms.

Seth Garza pays his respects with his daughter Lilly at a memorial on May 31, 2022, dedicated to the 19 children and two adults killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Brandon Bell / Getty Images)
Seth Garza pays his respects with his daughter Lilly at a memorial on May 31, 2022, dedicated to the 19 children and two adults killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Brandon Bell / Getty Images)

“We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things,” he said. “We can potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly because the reality is that we don’t have the resources to have law enforcement at every school.”

At least 28 states, including Texas, currently allow teachers or school staff to be armed in the classroom under varying conditions, according to a 2020 RAND Corporation study. It is unclear how effective that has been at undermining a school shooting threat and critics note research that shows that adding firearms to a situation only increases the risk of gun violence.

Video: Former FBI agent turned teacher addresses proposal to arm teachers

 0:09 5:19 Scroll back up to restore default view.

“These bills are about rhetoric and distraction — they’re not about solutions,” said Rob Wilcox, federal legal director at Everytown for Gun Safety. “If you were to introduce guns into schools, not only is it ineffective, but you’re introducing more risk. How will guns be stored? How will folks be trained? When will guns be used? How do you ensure kids won’t get access to them? How do you ensure a gun isn’t used in a tense situation at school? These are all critical questions about this type of legislation that never gets answered.”

The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have long expressed their opposition to arming teachers as a solution to gun violence at schools, and many have also shared concerns about the heightened risk of legal liability for teachers and schools.

School security experts also shared frustration that many of these programs provide limited training as a cost-saving measure for security, as it appeared to show a lack of commitment to safety.

“You can tell me all you want with your rhetoric that school safety is a priority, but I will know whether it is when I look at your budget, your actions and your leadership,” said Kenneth Trump, who has served as an expert for civil litigation trials after shootings and serves as the president of Ohio-based National School Safety and Security Services. “One thing I’ve learned in 30 years of working with schools is that it becomes a priority when the parents are outraged or when there’s media attention.”

Ohio’s and Louisiana’s pushes to arm teachers

The bill headed to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk from the state’s Republican-controlled legislature would lessen the threshold for carrying a weapon.

DeWine said in a statement that he called on the Ohio General Assembly last week to pass the bill that would allow school districts to “designate armed staff for school security and safety.” He said he looked forward to “signing this important legislation.”

“My office worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety and to ensure training requirements were specific to a school environment and contained significant scenario-based training. House Bill 99 accomplishes these goals, and I thank the General Assembly for passing this bill to protect Ohio children and teachers.”

Ohio state Sen. Cecil Thomas, a Democrat from Cincinnati, said “the bank of common sense is bankrupt in the Ohio legislature, noting that he’s been pushing for new regulations aimed at preventing gun violence since a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, left nine dead and 17 wounded.

“Since then, the most we got in the legislature is to put more guns out there and made it easier to have access to firearms,” said Thomas, who served on the Cincinnati Police Department for 27 years.

A teacher puts on a bulletproof vest during a live fire training session in Thistle, Utah,  on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (George Frey / Bloomberg via Getty Images file)
A teacher puts on a bulletproof vest during a live fire training session in Thistle, Utah, on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (George Frey / Bloomberg via Getty Images file)

The measure to arm teachers is heading to the governor’s desk as Ohio also prepares, in two weeks, to formally lift the requirement that gun owners have a concealed carry license as the state’s “Constitutional Carry” law goes into effect.

While those laws have passed easily in the Republican-controlled legislature, Thomas said he’s had no luck getting a hearing for legislation he’s written to limit the procurement of arms, such as red flag laws, universal background checks, background checks for the transfer of firearms, increasing age requirements for firearm purchases to 21 and more.

In Louisiana, state Sen. Eddie Lambert, a pro-gun Republican, amended a controversial gun bill passed by the statehouse on Wednesday, stripping the legislation of a measure that would allow permitless concealed carry, to pursue a similar idea. Because it is too late to introduce new bills into the legislative session, which ended Monday, his changes would delete the original concept of permitless concealed carry.

In place of the old language, he added text that would give school districts the authority to designate school administrators or teachers who could carry a gun and serve as “school protection officers” after they took a training course and obtained a permit that allowed them to carry weapons in schools. He said they would receive training similar to that provided to police officers.

“You don’t want anybody who is not fully trained in this situation: this is not for just some Joe Blow,” he said, adding that teachers would have to keep the concealed gun “on them at all times” and out of reach of children.

Lambert said the original bill — a copy of legislation vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards last year — had no chance of passing. This “common sense” law did, however, and he said he felt it necessary to include the language after reading about the Tulsa hospital shooting and the attack on the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

“You’re going to have some of the gun rights people criticize me for that,” he said, explaining that some were upset with him for changing the bill. “You know what? I’m just going to do what can be done to protect people.”

Bel Edwards’ office said it had not changed its position on permitless concealed carry since the governor, a gun owner, vetoed the bill last year, but added that it was too early to comment on legislation that hadn’t yet passed the Senate and would have to be voted on again in the House.

Teachers not enthusiastic about being armed

The question is, however, do teachers want to be armed in the classroom?

In the past they’ve said, no. A 2019 national survey of 2,926 teachers, including more than 450 gun owners, conducted in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting found that more than 95 percent of educators did not believe teachers should be carrying a gun in the classroom.

Only about 6 percent said they would be comfortable using a gun to stop a shooter.

Texas is one of the states that has allowed teachers and other school employees to be armed, but it’s not a particularly popular program, either.

Under its “school marshal” program, Texas has licensed certain school employees to carry a firearm since 2013. After an 80-hour course, a psychological exam and a $35 fee, school staff members can be approved to pack heat in schools. But in nine years, the state has only licensed 256 marshals in 62 of the state’s 1,029 school districts, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

NEA President Becky Pringle said in a statement that “teachers need more resources, not revolvers.”

“Educators and parents overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff,” she added. “Rather than arming educators with guns, we need to be giving them the tools needed to inspire their students. Rather than putting the responsibility on individual teachers, our elected leaders need to pass laws that protect children from gun violence and bring an end to senseless and preventable killings.”

Should you allow cookies? Cybersecurity experts weigh in

Yahoo! Life

Should you allow cookies? Cybersecurity experts weigh in

Korin Miller – May 15, 2022

There's a quick and easy way to delete cookies that track you online. (Photo: Getty)
There’s a quick and easy way to delete cookies that track you online. (Photo: Getty)

Over the past few years and particularly recently, you might have noticed a change when you browse the internet: Practically every website will ask you if you’ll accept cookies.

It’s due to a European data protection and privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Your so-called “cookie persona” (i.e. the online collection of your cookies) can be shared or sold to companies, and the law has recognized that this could compromise your privacy, Chuck Brooks, tech and cybersecurity expert and president of Brooks Consulting International, tells Yahoo Life. The result? You get asked everywhere if you’re OK with allowing cookies.

There is a quick and easy way to delete cookies that track you online: You can download software like McAfee Multi Access, which removes cookies and temporary files from your computer for you. An added bonus: It also blocks viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware attacks.

But it’s only natural to have questions about whether you should even allow cookies in the first place. Here’s what you need to know.

Experts say it's OK to allow cookies from senders and websites you know and trust. (Photo: Getty)
Experts say it’s OK to allow cookies from senders and websites you know and trust. (Photo: Getty)
First, a recap on what cookies are.

Cookies are one or more small pieces of data that identify your computer to a website with a unique code, Joseph Steinberg, cybersecurity expert and emerging technologies advisor, tells Yahoo Life. The cookies are sent by a web server to your laptop, phone or tablet while you’re on that server’s website. (Once you give the OK, of course.)

Your device stores the cookies and when you visit the website again, the server recognizes you, Steinberg explains. In addition to using cookies to know who you are, cookies are often used by marketing companies to target ads towards you, which explains why you might consider buying a pair of jeans on a website, only to see ads for those jeans when you go on other sites.

So, should you allow cookies?

Some websites won’t let you fully explore them without allowing cookies, making this a tricky issue.

Under GDPR, most people get daily requests from websites to allow permission to use tracking cookies, Brooks points out. “Users should always ask themselves, ‘Do I want to have the site accessible to my personal data?'” he says.

But, “generally speaking, cookies are fine and you can allow them,” Steinberg says. “In fact,” he adds, “cookies can be extremely useful — and many common activities would be difficult, if not practically impossible to achieve, without them.”

Authentication cookies, for example, allow a user who logs onto a website to click and view multiple pages on the site without having to re-authenticate each time they try to view another page, Steinberg explains. (Think: being able to cruise around your online bank information without having to log in to see every page.) “In many such cases, cookies are valid for only one ‘session,'” says Steinberg, and expire immediately after a web session ends. “But, in some cases, servers are programmed to create and accept such cookies to allow users access for many different sessions using ‘persistent cookies.'”

You can download software that removes cookies and temporary files from your computer for you. (Photo: Getty)
You can download software that removes cookies and temporary files from your computer for you. (Photo: Getty)

Cookies also allow a site to remember your personalization preferences, Steinberg notes, and refusing to accept cookies can make your user experience less optimal.

“Cookies have a bad reputation because they facilitate tracking, including across websites,” Steinberg says. That can allow a provider to track your activity wherever you go online, he points out.

“In general, users should only allow cookies from senders and websites that they really desire and keep it limited,” Brooks says.

Don’t have the time to be that selective? Software like McAfee Multi Access can take care of it for you, weeding out the cookies you don’t want while keeping the ones you do.

Overall, experts stress that all cookies aren’t bad — and some can even be helpful. Just be smart about the ones you accept in the future.

White House says 20 internet companies will provide effectively free internet to millions of Americans

Yahoo! Finance

White House says 20 internet companies will provide effectively free internet to millions of Americans

Ben Werschkul, Senior Producer and Writer – May 9, 2022

The Biden administration announced Monday that 20 leading internet service providers have agreed to offer basic low cost plans that will be free for millions of Americans after a refund.

The 20 companies, including AT&T (T), Comcast (CMCSA), and Verizon (VZ), cover more than 80% of the U.S. population. They will immediately provide at least one plan that costs no more than $30 a month and provides download speeds of at least 100 mbps.

The White House says that 40% of the U.S. population, about 48 million households, will be eligible to sign up through an existing program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The program is aimed at lower income Americans and offers participants a discount of up to $30/month on their internet bill, meaning they’ll effectively get free service if they can get online with one of these participating companies.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said his company’s new plan “when combined with federal ACP benefits, provides up to 100 Mbps of free internet service.”

“Internet for all requires the partnership of business and government, and we are pleased to be working with the Administration, Congress and FCC to ensure everyone has accessible, affordable and sustainable broadband service,” he said.

‘High speed internet at home is no longer a luxury’

Monday’s news come largely thanks to $65 billion set aside for high speed internet in the Bipartisan Infrastructure law. That money has helped fund the ACP and is also being directed towards parallel efforts to increase coverage areas and speeds.

“High speed internet at home is no longer a luxury: it’s a necessity for children to learn, workers to do their job, seniors and others to access health care through telemedicine, and for all of us to stay connected in this digital world,” a senior administration official told reporters in previewing the announcement.

‘A historic opportunity’

Families are eligible for the ACP mostly based on income level. Any household making less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level — $55,500 for a family of four in the continental U.S. — is eligible. Households can also qualify if they participate in certain government programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is a historic opportunity to close the digital divide by empowering more Americans to get online and connect to our increasingly digital world, “ said David N. Watson, the CEO and president of Comcast.

The full list of participating companies includes Allo Communications, AltaFiber, Altice USA, Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum, Verizon, Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber, and Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV.

Verizon, as an example, will now offer its existing Fios service for $30/month to program participants. Other companies, like Spectrum, say they will increase the speeds of an existing $30/month plan to reach the 100 mbps standard set by the White House, where their infrastructure allows it.

Pushing more companies to ‘make the same commitments’

Notably missing from Monday’s announcement are many smaller and rural internet service providers that would have a challenge meeting the White House’s pricing or speed requirements.

“I think that there are roughly 1,300 participating internet providers in the ACP right now and we would obviously love for each and every one of them to make the same commitments that these 20 companies are doing,” said a senior administration official.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks on the Biden administration’s Affordable Connectivity Program at the South Court Auditorium at Eisenhower Executive Office Building on February 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. During the event Harris announced that 10 million households had enrolled in the program which helps families access high-speed, affordable internet. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris discusses the Affordable Connectivity Program in February. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

These companies cover 50% of the rural population. Those Americans are still eligible to sign up for the ACP, but they may continue to face slower speed or plans that aren’t fully covered by the $30 refund.

So far, 11.5 million households have signed up to receive ACP benefits. The program was first created as a relief measure in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and Biden officials have moved to make it a permanent as a way to lessen the digital divide.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak at the White House Monday alongside internet company CEOs as the first part of a multi-pronged effort to drive signups. That effort includes a new website, GetInternet.gov, and direct outreach from federal agencies like the Social Security Administration as well as states.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.