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German Jewish leaders fear rise of antisemitic conspiracy theories linked to Covid-19

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A leader of Germanys Jewish community has expressed alarm at the spread of antisemitic conspiracy theories relating to coronavirus in the country, including attempts to downplay the Holocaust.

Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews, said Jews were increasingly being held collectively responsible for the spread of the virus and compared the situation to narratives around the plague in the Middle Ages.

At high-profile demonstrations against coronavirus measures, figures such as the Hungarian-born financier George Soros have been blamed for starting the pandemic with the help of the German government in order to gain power and influence.

One prominent participant in the demonstrations, the celebrity TV chef Attila Hildmann, has espoused increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories over the course of the coronavirus crisis that have praised Adolf Hitler and described the chancellor, Angela Merkel, as a communist dictator. State prosecutors say they are investigating whether they can press charges against him.

Schuster said of particular concern to him were the frequent comparisons being made between the measures taken to dampen the spread of the pandemic and the treatment of Jewish people under the Nazis. Anti-vaxxer demonstrators at so-called hygiene demonstrations have often worn yellow stars similar to those Jews were forced to wear during the Third Reich, but bearing the word ungeimpft (unvaccinated) instead of Jude (Jew). Their wearers have said when a vaccination against coronavirus becomes available they will refuse to be inoculated, seeing themselves as victims of a dictatorship.

Protesters gather to demonstrate against lockdown measures in Cologne in May



Protesters demonstrate against lockdown measures in Cologne in May.
Maske an, Gehirn aus means mask on, brain off. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Others have worn striped clothing, mimicking the uniforms of death camp inmates, or have carried placards with the slogan masks set you free, a play on the slogan Arbeit macht frei (work sets you free), which was placed on the entrance gate of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where more than 1 million Jews were murdered.

I believe that Germanys law enforcement agencies should be taking a very close look and rigorously examining just what is hate-speech and what is freedom of speech, Schuster told the news agency DPA. He said there were plenty of examples in history where Jews were seen as easy targets during times of crises.

When drastic changes are taking place, for which there are no easy explanations, its often the case that culprits are sought and often these are minority groups, such as Jews, he said. In the middle ages when the plague hit, it was similar. Jews were labelled as scapegoats, blamed for poisoning wells. There were lynch mobs and synagogues burned.


Separately, the Robert Koch Institute, the main public health advisory body to the German government, has reported receiving hundreds of emails threatening its scientists and slandering individuals. Several of the emails have stated What a shame for those of you who are accessories of this phoney government that there are no more gas chambers a reference to the method of killing used at Auschwitz.

Schuster was interviewed before the trial of a man for a deadly shooting that targeted Jewish people in the eastern city of Halle last year in the worst antisemitic attack in Germany for decades. The Halle shooting and other incidents had led to growing worries amongst the Jewish communities that Jewish life in Germany is no longer safe, Schuster said.

The biggest threat to Jewish life in Germany is rightwing extremism. We have known for years that around 20% of people in Germany hold anti-Jewish prejudices. But for a long time, these people did not dare to say what they think. That has subsequently changed, he said. The coronavirus demonstrations were an example of that, he said.

The government has previously said it believes the conspiracy theories are being spread by the Reichsbrger movement – groups and individuals of a far-right and antisemitic persuasion who reject the legitimacy of the modern German state as well as individual personalities, including high-profile doctors, Hildmann, and former journalists.

Russian state media and people working on behalf of the Chinese state were responsible for helping to spread fake news relating to coronavirus, either via diplomatic representatives or ex-pat communities, the government added in its response to a parliamentary question tabled by the Green party.

It said the basis of many of the theories was an antisemitic thought pattern. It warned Jewish people were in danger of experiencing intensified ostracism and discrimination and that scientists were becoming targeted victims of criminal acts.

Prominent virologists and epidemiologists advising the government have already reported receiving death threats.

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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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