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Madonna leads celebrity vogue for Covid-19 conspiracy theories

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Dancer, singer, songwriter, actor, director Madonna has had quite the career.

But the queen of pops latest reinvention came this week in the form of a video posted on Instagram that shared a coronavirus conspiracy theory with her 15 million followers.

Madonna claimed a vaccine existed but was being concealed. They would rather let fear control the people and let the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, she said.

Instagram blurred the video, captioned it false information and linked users to a page debunking the bogus claim. Later, it deleted the post.

So ended another skirmish between celebrity, truth and the pandemic, an ongoing battle that pits fame against science and public health.

Days earlier it was the turn of Lewis Hamilton to skid into trouble by sharing an anti-vaxxer post, which suggested Bill Gates was lying about coronavirus vaccine trials.

The clip, which the Formula One driver shared with 18.3 million Instagram followers, shows Gates offering reassurance over potential vaccine side-effects and debunking false claims that any vaccine will be used to implant microchips in people. The clip is captioned: I remember when I told my first lie.

After a backlash, Hamilton deleted the post and issued a statement praising Gates and backing a vaccine but expressing concern about uncertainty over side-effects from the potential coronavirus vaccine, which does not yet exist.

Some celebrities such as John Cusack, Woody Harrelson and Wiz Khalifa have peddled the myth linking linking 5G technology to coronavirus. Others, such as the actor Evangeline Lilly, question the need for social physical distancing (she later apologised).

There is even a conspiracy theory that celebrities are being paid to say they have coronavirus. Such stupidness, said Idris Elba, who contracted the disease earlier this year.

Some of those challenged over spreading misinformation delete posts and plead misunderstanding. Others refuse to back down. Either way, say public health experts, messaging about Covid-19 becomes muddied.

Celebrities have a platform and when they abuse it its incredibly irresponsible, said Paul Offit, co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. They influence people. Science doesnt win out, the facts dont win out. Emotion trumps scientific evidence every time.

Samuel McConkey, an infectious disease expert at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin, said many people turned to prominent names on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other platforms for information about Covid-19.

Looking to our singers and actors as sources of information about this disease is daft. Its like I was to do the singing and acting it wouldnt be entertaining. We have to work within our own domains and spheres of competence. Anyone who is turning to Madonna for scientific information has muddled thinking. Maybe we need primary school courses in epistemology.

Offit and McConkey credited some celebrities, such as actors Salma Hayek and Amanda Peet and boxer Katie Taylor, with using their platforms to echo established medical advice on vaccinations and other effective public health measures.

A study by researchers at the Reuters Institute at Oxford University found most engagement with coronavirus falsehoods came via social media posts by politicians, celebrities and influencers.

Rather than being completely fabricated, much of the misinformation in our sample involves various forms of reconfiguration where existing and often true information is spun, twisted, recontextualised or reworked, said the report.

Baybars rsek, director of the International Fact-Checking Network, a unit of the Poynter Institute, said celebrities should be mindful of their amplification capacities around falsehoods.

Covid-19 has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world and spreading misinformation on cures, vaccination and causes of the disease hurts the publics trust, she said.

Orsek also urged internet companies to be vigilant. Millions of users are being exposed to such falsehoods in any given day.

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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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