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Fireworks Conspiracy Theories: Why You Should Be Skeptical

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Fireworks Conspiracy Theories: Why You Should Be Skeptical

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When Anne-Marcelle Ngabirano first began hearing the fireworks at the end of May, she found them to be welcome sounds of celebration. But over the next few weeks, they sounded closer and closer to her three-bedroom apartment in Sunset Park, until the booms began rattling the walls and the apartment filled with smoke.

My roommate had just recovered from Covid, she said. It was difficult to breathe.

So one night last week Ms. Ngabirano, a documentarian, set out on foot, compelled to investigate the source. What she found instead showed how the proliferation of fireworks in recent weeks has led to an array of unproven and far-fetched conspiracy theories.

The flood of illegal fireworks, heard in nightly booms, bangs and fizzles across the city and the country, has intensified to such a degree that some people are desperately seeking explanations for the chaos, with many suggesting government complicity.

The conspiracy theories have been shared widely on social media and appeared on fliers in New York City parks. They have flourished as nationwide scrutiny of police brutality and racism has exposed deep distrust of law enforcement.

But interviews with city officials, industry experts, fireworks retailers, law enforcement officials, and people who buy fireworks tell a much different story. As is often the case with conspiracy theories, they said the truth is not an elaborate government plot, but very simple: After months of quarantine and social distancing, people are bored, and setting off fireworks for fun and seeing fireworks just makes fireworks enthusiasts want to set off more fireworks.

Fireworks are being sold legally just over state lines in neighboring states like Pennsylvania. They are on sale in huge quantities at bargain prices as businesses, only recently reopened because of the pandemic, meet consumers eager for a flashy diversion or illegal resale opportunity, particularly as the weather warms and Independence Day nears.

Ms. Ngabiranos video, which she posted to Twitter, showed fireworks bursting right next to a police station, and she said officers were standing outside, seeming to not care.

The footage was shared thousands of times and people flooded her account with messages saying her video was evidence that the government was using the fireworks as a form of psychological warfare, with the light and noise meant to desensitize people to potentially escalating levels of force.

Ms. Ngabirano, 25, said she did not believe that.

Im very wary of social media and conspiracy theories, she said. I was like this is what I have, this is what I can show you. What you make of it, I cant take responsibility for that. It was happening in front of me. Thats all I can confirm.

A video also emerged recently of what appeared to be fireworks being set off in front of a fire station; the Fire Department said it was under investigation.

The N.Y.P.D. denied that it had given anyone fireworks but did not respond to additional requests for comment on where illegal fireworks may be coming from or whether they had seized an unusual number of fireworks this year. The Police Department typically detonates illegally seized fireworks every summer before July 4.

But before the fireworks even get to New York City, many seem to come from stores in Pennsylvania, where a 2017 law expanded the types of fireworks people could buy in the state to include aerials, or products that can shoot more than 100 feet in the air before exploding.

Some of the conspiracy theories mention the size and seemingly professional nature of the fireworks. But Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, said that most of the fireworks she has seen on social media or the news do not appear to be professional and can be legally purchased in several states.

Entrepreneurs are buying fireworks in bulk, advertising them through social media accounts, with some people ultimately illegally selling the products out of cars in New York neighborhoods.

The past few weeks its been like the day before the 4th of July every day, said Kenneth Crissinger, assistant manager at Phantom Fireworks in Matamoras, Pa., about 75 miles northwest of New York City. We cant keep our shelves stocked.

On a recent trip to Phantom, one of the largest fireworks retailers with stores and showrooms across the country, the parking lot was full of cars with out-of-state-plates. Packs of young men braved the un-airconditioned warehouse on a 90-degree day and stuffed their trunks to the brim.

Were looking at the reasons as being everybody having pent-up energy from being in lockdown during the quarantine, said Pat Moran, the manager of Phantom Fireworks. Fireworks is a great venting release. It really is. You can go out and enjoy some noise and color and explosions.

He said that the stores had just reopened in the last few days of May, and as recently as last week, Phantom was running a buy-one-get-two-free special. Mr. Moran said that the special sale happens annually, usually at a time when no one cares about fireworks. This year, it coincided with fireworks season.

Mr. Moran said he believed the promotion explained, in part, the uptick in fireworks in New York.

And you can say the same about Boston, because we have stores in New Hampshire, right across the border, he said. Or our stores in Nevada, which are the closest locations to California.

On Monday afternoon, Derian Torres, 23, of Passaic, New Jersey, hunted for fireworks at Phantom with friends. But he was also fulfilling orders for others via FaceTime.

A lot of people are saying, since I first took the chance, buy this for them or buy that for them, he said. I bought for three people today and plan to come back tomorrow and spend another $700.

Instagram accounts that resell Phantom products show how lucrative the resale market for fireworks can be. A small cube called the Fiery Discus, which shoots red and blue bursts of light, was recently selling for $34.99 with a buy one, get two free promotion in the store but was being resold on Instagram for $50.

On Monday afternoon, about 10 Phantom employees helped unload a 53-foot truck containing roughly 50 pallets, each holding about 12 boxes of fireworks. Some 90 minutes later, entire sections of the store were completely empty, except for a few assortment boxes with names like Grounds for Divorce, priced at more than $1,400.

At Keystone Fireworks, a competitor store just a parking lot away, people from Queens, the Bronx, Delaware and Connecticut filled cars with fireworks. Keystone was, after all, running its own promotion to buy one and get one free.

On a recent Tuesday night, a man who was selling fireworks from his car in Washington Heights said he got them from a warehouse in Pennsylvania. The man spoke on the condition of anonymity because his business was illegal.

Barring significant government intervention, there are few signs that the barrage of fireworks will slow. Brandon Gecaj, 20, a junior at Syracuse University, said he spent $716 on fireworks from Phantom more than he intended to.

When you start shopping, you just want to keep buying stuff, he said. Its like an addiction.



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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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