Taylor Swift Slams Trump For ‘Stoking’ Fires Of ‘White Supremacy And Racism’

Taylor Swift called out President Donald Trump on Twitter Friday, slamming him for “stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism” during his presidency and insisting that he will be voted out in the upcoming November election.

The singer tweeted her impassioned message at Trump in response to his missives on Thursday night.

The city of Minneapolis has seen days of demonstrations after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck. Thursday night’s actions saw a local police station set aflame and mass looting across the city. 

In response, Trump tweeted that the protestors were “thugs” and threatened violent intervention.

“Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right,” Trump wrote. “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way.”

He also added: “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

The controversial message prompted Twitter to issue a content warning over the tweet, warning users that it violated the platform’s rules about glorifying violence but was still available out of public interest. The warning marked the second time this week that one of Trump’s tweets had been labeled as such by the platform.

Though Swift had remained quiet on the political front for quite some time throughout her career, the “Lover” singer told The Guardian last year that she feels Trump and his administration are “gaslighting the American public into being like, ’If you hate the president, you hate America.’” As such, she’s pledged to “do everything I can for 2020.”

Of her silence prior to the last two years, Swift has said that she was “just trying to protect my mental health ― not read the news very much, go cast my vote, tell people to vote.”

“I just knew what I could handle and I knew what I couldn’t. I was literally about to break,” she said, adding that she has since felt “really remorseful” for not officially endorsing Hillary Clinton when she ran for president in 2016.

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Barack Obama Shares His 'Anguish' from George Floyd's Death: 'This Shouldn't Be "Normal" '


Former President Barack Obama said Friday that he, like "millions of others," was in "anguish" over the death of George Floyd — an unarmed black man seen pleading for air while being arrested on Monday as an officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck.

Floyd, despite saying that "I can’t breathe," died later that night.

Video from the arrest shows him going unconscious with officer Derek Chauvin's knee still holding him down as bystanders urge the police to give him aid.

Chauvin and three others officers involved were quickly fired and various investigations are ongoing. Floyd's family has called for the officers to be charged with murder. According to multiple news outlets, Chauvin was taken into custody on Friday.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Friday, Obama, 58, wrote that he wanted "to share parts of the conversations I’ve had with friends over the past couple days about the footage of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota."

One man, a "middle-aged African American businessman," had emailed the former president that "I cried when I saw that video. It broke me down. The ‘knee on the neck’ is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds black folks down, ignoring the cries for help."

Referencing a viral video of a young gospel singer, Obama wrote,  "Another friend of mine used the powerful song that went viral from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant to describe the frustrations he was feeling."

"The circumstances of my friend and Keedron may be different, but their anguish is the same," Obama wrote. "It’s shared by me and millions of others."

Floyd's death while being arrested — the latest high-profile encounter between law enforcement and unarmed people of color that turned deadly, after Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice and many others — has touched off convulsive protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere in the country, some of which have been violent.

A police precinct was set on fire Thursday night.

President Donald Trump had called video of Floyd in distress "a very shocking sight," but late Thursday he tweeted that some of the violent protestors were "thugs" and seemed to suggest he would have the military shoot looters in Minnesota. (Twitter hid the post from view for "glorifying violence.")

Obama, the nation's first black president, did not specifically comment on the protests on Friday.

He wrote, however, that Floyd's death again highlighted something ugly and inescapable about life for people of color in the U.S.

"It’s natural to wish for life 'to just get back to normal' as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us," he wrote. "But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly 'normal.' "

"This shouldn’t be 'normal' in 2020 America. It can’t be 'normal,' " he wrote. "If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better."

The outcome of Floyd's case, he continued, "will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure … that justice is ultimately done."

"But," he wrote, "it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station — including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day — to work together to create a 'new normal' in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts."

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SEISS extension: What period does SEISS cover?

Rishi Sunak is facing desperate calls from self-employed people who will have their coronavirus financial packet withdrawn if an extension isn’t announced within the coming days. Currently, 15 percent of the UK’s workforce is self-employed, amounting to five million people.

The Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is due to end on June 1, which could leave millions of people who have been unable to make their own incomes due to coronavirus on the brink.

Schemes were created in March to tide hard-hit workers through the downturn sparked by COVID-19 and the lockdown.

The support was due to last for three months amid incorrect hopes of a swift economic recovery.

Clearly, such hopes have been receded as the UK has one of the worst death tolls in the world, and unemployment could spike if support were suddenly withdrawn.

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Earlier this month the Chancellor made the decision to extend the Jobs Retention Scheme until October, but made no similar promises for self-employed people.

The Financial Times has reported the Chancellor will shortly announce a ban on new entrants to the furlough scheme, which supports some eight million people and could cost the treasury up to £80bn by the end of the scheme.

SEISS currently pays around two million self-employed people their average profits per month.

According to workers’ support group Organise, three-quarters of self-employed people receiving a grant are completely reliant on the scheme, meaning 1.5 million workers could be left without any income at all if support is withdrawn.

Almost 90,000 people have signed a petition by Organise to extend the scheme, which has been a saviour to many.

Business groups and charities have urged Mr Sunak to back an extension, warning a sudden stop would deliver a huge blow to self-employed workers’ incomes and could further damage the economy.

The Creative Industries Federation has penned an open letter to the chancellor asking for an extension, saying “now is not the time to withdraw vital support, particularly when so many of the sectors that contain a large self-employed workforce – from the creative industries to hospitality and leisure – are likely to be the last to reopen.”

Ed Molyneux, CEO of FreeAgent, an online small business accountanncy service, said: “Efficient action is needed from the government at this time, and this must go hand in hand with clear communication.

“I urge the government to remember the delicate situation that many business owners are facing and not forsake a funding extension for any reason; the result could be catastrophic for our small business and freelance sector.”

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What period does SEISS cover?

Although announced in April, the scheme backdates to the start of the crisis, from March through to May.

This is three months of profits paid by the Government.

The scheme pays cash grants of up to £2,500 per month, worth up to 80 percent of total profits made by a self-employed individual.

If you receive the grant you can continue to work, start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work.

Is the SEISS being extended?

According to reports, Mr Sunak is considering an extension to the scheme as there is still money to play with after less than the expected amount of self-employed people signing up.

The Treasury is reported to be concerned more generally about the UK’s public finances, however, with crisis spending and borrowing soaring as tax receipts have nosedived during the lockdown.

It seems unlikely the scheme will end abruptly unlike the furlough scheme, which will be wound down over a period of months until it is halted in October, depending on how the rest of the pandemic pans out.

Delivering the scheme in April, Mr Sunak said: “This scheme will be open for at least three months – and I will extend it for longer if necessary.”

A Treasury spokesperson said: “The Chancellor indicated the SEISS would be a temporary one when he announced it at the end of March, but it could be extended if necessary. The Government is keeping this under review.”

The Chancellor has been praised almost universally for his widespread measures to help workers across the UK get through the coronavirus crisis.

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Mark Zuckerberg Says Social Media Giants Shouldn’t Be In Position To Fact-Check Users

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company’s policies differ from those of Twitter when it comes to fact-checking users.

For the first time, Twitter tagged two of President Donald Trump’s tweets on Tuesday with a fact-checking note indicating that his statements were misleading. Angered over the notes, Trump later accused Twitter of attempting to influence the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

During an interview with Fox News’ Dana Perino, Zuckerberg said he disagreed with Twitter’s policy and said he didn’t believe his own company, Facebook, should be “the arbiter of truth.”

“We have a different policy than Twitter on this,” Zuckerberg told Perino when asked about Twitter’s decision to fact-check Trump.

“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said. “I think in general, private companies probably shouldn’t be — especially these platform companies — shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

A preview of Zuckerberg’s interview was published Wednesday and is scheduled to air in full on Thursday.

Trump’s tweets warned, without evidence, of “substantially fraudulent” voting in states that plan to use mail-in ballots this November.

Twitter added this note to Trump’s tweets:

“Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to ‘a Rigged Election.’ However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to Zuckerberg’s comments later Wednesday, saying Twitter will “continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”

“This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth,’” Dorsey wrote. “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”

A Twitter spokesperson told HuffPost that Twitter flagged Trump’s tweets because they contained “potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

The fact-checking is part of the company’s new policy of labeling false or misleading information about COVID-19. The company also explained that it may expand the fact-checking to topics beyond the pandemic.

In response to Twitter’s action, Trump threatened on Wednesday to use the power of the federal government to regulate social media companies. The office of the president cannot regulate tech companies without congressional approval or help with the Federal Communications Commission.

“We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” Trump said, accusing social media companies of intentionally suppressing conservative opinions.

“Big action to follow,” he added.

Zuckerberg appeared wary of Trump’s warning and said he didn’t believe further censorship was the appropriate action. 

“I have to understand what they actually would intend to do,” Zuckerberg told Fox News. “But in general, I think a government choosing to censor a platform because they’re worried about censorship doesn’t exactly strike me as the right reflex there.”

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Trump Says He's Seen Letter from Widower Urging End to Conspiracy Tweets but He's Not Backing Down




Trump's incendiary suggestions have drawn backlash. Scarborough said earlier this month that it was painful to Lori's loved ones most of all: “You, once again, drag a family through this and make them relive it again. … As if losing a loved one the first time isn’t enough."

Illinios Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who has criticized Trump before, on Sunday called on him to stop tweeting about Lori.

“Just stop,” Kinzinger wrote. “Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.”

Twitter, which began labeling some of Trump's misleading tweets with fact-checking information, said Tuesday it would not be taking action on his theories about Lori Klausutis.

In a statement in response to TJ's letter, a spokesman said, "We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family. We've been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly."

In his letter to Twitter last week, Lori's widower ended his request emphatically.

"I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain," he wrote. "I would also ask that you consider Lori's niece and two nephews who will eventually come across this filth in the future. They have never met their Aunt and it pains me to think they would ever have to 'learn' about her this way.

"My wife deserves better."

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Widower Pleads With Twitter To Delete Trump’s Conspiratorial Tweets About Late Wife

Timothy Klausutis, the widowed husband of the woman who Donald Trump has baselessly suggested was killed by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, has written a powerful letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey calling for the deletion of the president’s tweets promoting the conspiracy theory.

Trump has this month insinuated in multiple tweets that Scarborough, a former GOP representative, may have been responsible for the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, when she was an intern in his congressional office.

Authorities ruled 28-year-old Klausutis’ death an accident: She hit her head on a desk after collapsing from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. No foul play was suspected.

“My request is simple: Please delete these tweets,” Timothy Klausutis wrote in his letter to Dorsey last week that Kara Swisher, a New York Times opinion writer, shared online Tuesday alongside her latest column, headlined “Twitter Must Cleanse the Trump Stain.”

In the letter to Dorsey, Klausutis lamented the “constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories” surrounding the death of his wife.

He also slammed conspiracy theorists, including Trump, who “continue to spread their bile and misinformation on your platform disparaging the memory of my wife and our marriage.”

Klausutis acknowledged he is “a research engineer and not a lawyer,” but said Trump’s unfounded accusations were in violation of Twitter’s terms of service.

“An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet,” he noted. “But I am only asking that these tweets be removed.”

Concluded Klausutis: 

I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong him — the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain. I would also ask that you consider Lori’s niece and two nephews who will eventually come across this filth in the future. They have never met their Aunt and it pains me to think they would ever have to about her this way. My wife deserves better. Thank you for your consideration.

“We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to HuffPost. “We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.”

Trump’s unfounded tweets about Scarborough, who has been a fierce critic of the president, have drawn widespread ire from both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Sunday told Trump to “just stop” promoting the “completely unfounded conspiracy.”

“Just stop,” he tweeted. “Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.”

Mika Brzezinski, Scarborough’s wife and “Morning Joe” co-host, on Wednesday slammed Trump as “a sick person,” later claiming she was in talks with Dorsey about the issue.

Brzezinski and Scarborough on Tuesday tweeted excerpts from the letter:

Trump, meanwhile, indicated on Tuesday morning that he would not be giving up promoting the theory anytime soon. He launched a renewed attack on Scarborough, describing him as “a total Nut Job.”

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UK firms to be asked to pay part of furloughed staff’s wages from August

Businesses will have to pay at least a fifth of the wages of furloughed employees from August, it has been reported.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is expected to announce next week that employers will have to begin contributing as the lockdown is further eased, according to the Times.

Employers will be permitted to take furloughed workers back part-time, and all employers using the coronavirus job retention scheme will be required to make the payments, even if they remain closed, according to the paper.

The Treasury said it was “not steering away” from the story, which is understood to have been briefed by officials, and it did not deny its accuracy.

A Treasury source told the Times: “We’ve got two full months of support left and afterwards the government will help to pay people’s wages, but it’s fair to everyone that businesses contribute as they get back to work.”

Sunak has said the furlough scheme will be in place until at least October. Companies are to be asked to “start sharing” the cost from the start of August, which could in effect force many employers to assess whether certain jobs remain viable.

This month the Financial Times quoted a business leader as saying: “If the furlough scheme is paying for jobs that don’t really exist, it’s better to release people into the job market to start looking for other work.”

The Treasury will reportedly direct employers to cover between 20% and 30% of an employee’s wage, and firms will also pay their national insurance contributions – approximately 5% of people’s wages.

The furlough scheme pays 80% of a worker’s salary up to £2,500 a month, and is supporting about 7.5m jobs, representing about a third of the private-sector workforce. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said the scheme could cost up to £80bn.

The Treasury was criticised this month after an anonymous official briefed that the nation was becoming “addicted” to the programme. The scheme is set to be closed to new applicants before the changes, to reduce the risk of fraud.

As of 12 May, HMRC had received 795 reports of potential concerns from the public suspecting employers could be abusing the scheme. Although these have not yet been corroborated, HMRC warned it would pursue criminal action in serious cases.

“It could be that you’re not being paid what you’re entitled to, they might be asking you to work while you’re on furlough, or they may have claimed for times when you were working,” a HMRC spokesperson said.

“We’re not trying to catch people out – if it turns out to be a genuine mistake then we’ll help put it right, and if it’s more serious then we’ll step in.”

Data released on Friday showed the total volume of retail sales dropped a record 18.1% in April as hundreds of thousands of businesses were forced to shut up shop to help tackle coronavirus.

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State Governments Are Not Doing Nearly Enough To Help Renters During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Times have not been good for American renters for a while, but they have never been this bad. In April, a quarter of tenants couldn’t pay their full rent; in May, the proportion has risen to nearly a third.

With the economy still frozen and roughly 36 million newly unemployed workers in the last two months, June will likely see that percentage rise even higher.

Government officials at every level have attempted to address the coronavirus-related housing crisis, but so far their efforts offer only partial relief. A temporary pause on evictions has protected millions of renters, but landlords have begun to find loopholes. And rental assistance policies that seemed generous in late March seem meager in early May.

Across the country, tenants are pressuring city politicians to freeze or cancel rent — and threatening strikes if they don’t get more relief.

Evictions: Paused But Not Forgotten

One of the most controversial provisions in the coronavirus stimulus package, the CARES Act, was a ban on all foreclosures and evictions in federally managed properties and housing financed with federally backed loans. Under the moratorium, homeowners can request a six-month forbearance for their home loans and landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants until July 25.

While the law’s housing provisions sound simple, they contain important complexities. Only around one-quarter of properties in the United States are financed by the federal government. And even for tenants living in a building that ban covers, many have had no way of knowing for sure that they qualify.

Luckily, most states have taken at least some action to enact coronavirus-related tenant protections. The best performer (according to the Princeton Eviction Lab’s Housing Policy Scorecard, anyway) is Massachusetts, which has suspended eviction hearings, halted removals and prevented utility companies from shutting off renters’ water, gas or electricity.

At the other end of the spectrum are six states ― Arkansa, Idaho, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming ― that have passed no tenant protections whatsoever. While some cities within those states have attempted to close the gap themselves, many of America’s renters lack clear information about whether they’re at risk of eviction.

Pamela Bridge, the director of litigation and advocacy for Community Legal Services, a Phoenix-based nonprofit law firm that assists tenants, said that despite the unprecedented social and economic circumstances, people are still being removed from their homes.

“Evictions are the one thing that isn’t paused,” she said.

While Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an order in March halting all lockouts for tenants who provide notice of COVID-19-related hardship, “the order wasn’t really a moratorium on evictions,” Bridge said. “Tenants are still receiving eviction judgments for nonpayment of rent and other violations. Those tenants are still going to be locked out of their homes — it will just be after July 22, the day the governor’s order ends.”

Arizona’s eviction ban has other shortcomings, as do the bans in many other states. Tenants are still obligated to pay their landlords and are still receiving judgments for missing rent ― they just can’t get kicked out for the time being. Plus, having an eviction on their record will make it almost impossible to find another apartment. Residents of public housing and recipients of housing vouchers will likely lose their access to federal housing benefits.

“The hearings are by phone now,” Bridge said. “But other than that, it’s business as usual.”

Rental Assistance: Too Little, Too Late

Since the passage of the CARES Act, the federal government has proposed various efforts to help renters cover their back rent before the topic of an eviction even arises. The new COVID-19 stimulus proposal, the HEROES Act, would provide $175 billion in housing relief, including $100 billion in rental assistance.

On Wednesday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden proposed forgiving all mortgage and rent payments, aligning himself with a Congressional Progressive Caucus proposal. “Forgiveness,” he said, “Not paid later.” While the passage of these bills remains unlikely, renters and low-income homeowners need more relief, and soon.

Edmund Witter, a senior managing attorney for Seattle legal aid service The Housing Justice Project, said it’s looking increasingly unlikely that throwing more money at the problem will be enough. Last month, King County ― where Seattle is located ― announced an extra $5 million in rental assistance to keep low-income tenants in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. The program ran out of money in less than 48 hours.

“We need to figure out a bigger solution or else we’re going to see a lot of people hitting the streets,” Witter said. He pointed to figures showing that even in the most expensive rentals, some cities are showing delinquency rates as high as 10%.

“It’s spreading to everyone, at every income,” he said.

Rent Strikes: Uncharted Territory

Without meaningful relief for renters and low-income homeowners, tensions over housing payments will only get worse. The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is keeping a running tally of organized rent strikes.

Some cities are releasing form letters for tenants to tell landlords that they can’t pay the rent in full. No matter what happens at the federal level, organized tenant actions will be local. And city leaders don’t have time to get ready.

But still, rent strikes are just one response that could come out of the coronavirus-driven housing crisis. Witter pointed out that rent strikes have never been applied to the scale of a global pandemic.

“I’ve organized rent strikes before, and they tend to work when you have a whole building saying, ‘We know what we want, we have a concrete grievance and we’ll pay when it’s addressed,’” he said. “It gets harder in a situation like this, where people have different ideas of what their demands are and what the stopping point will be.”

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Wisconsin Judge Equates Stay-At-Home Order To Japanese American Concentration Camps

One of the Wisconsin state Supreme Court justices who blocked an extension of the governor’s stay-at-home order on Wednesday falsely compared the COVID-19 safety measure to the U.S. government’s incarceration of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

Justice Rebecca Bradley, appointed by former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), cited the widely condemned 1944 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Korematsu v. U.S., which at the time upheld forcing Japanese Americans into concentration camps and rejected that it was based on racial prejudice.

Bradley suggested the stay-at-home order enacted by Gov. Tony Evers (D) was a similar example of government overreach that “may lead to extraordinary abuses of its citizens.”

“The point of citing them is not to draw comparisons between the circumstances of people horrifically interned by their government during a war and those of people subjected to isolation orders during a pandemic,” she wrote. “We mention cases like Korematsu in order to test the limits of government authority, to remind the state that urging courts to approve the exercise of extraordinary power during times of emergency may lead to extraordinary abuses of its citizens.”

Unlike COVID-19 restrictions designed to protect public health, the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was based on racism, xenophobia and false assumptions. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese Americans were falsely accused of harboring loyalties for Japan or being spies. President Franklin D. Roosevelt then ordered the mass removal and detention of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans, often separating families — part of a long, racist history of Asian Americans having their Americanness challenged.

Bradley’s concurring opinion was part of a decision by the court’s Republican-appointed justices to strike down Evers’ extension of the stay-at-home order, in a legal challenge brought by the state’s GOP-majority Legislature.

Public health officials have warned against lifting these restrictions too early, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many parts of the country and the virus is far from contained. But conservative opponents of the stay-at-home orders in multiple states have led protests against the measures, with some comparing themselves to civil rights activists and claiming their rights have been infringed upon.

Densho, an organization that works to preserve the history of Japanese Americans’ incarceration during World War II, rejected the false comparisons to those concentration camps in a statement on April 30:

We can’t believe this actually needs to be said, but … staying home during a global pandemic is not the same thing as being incarcerated and stripped of basic civil rights. Your living room is not a concentration camp, and exposing service providers to hazardous working conditions so you can get a haircut is not an inalienable right. Your sense of entitlement and lack of any lived or historical knowledge of real systemic oppression makes you a whiny, privileged brat who can’t distinguish between inconvenience and state violence — not a freedom fighter. Sit down, stay home, and stop calling yourself a modern day Fred Korematsu or Rosa Parks.

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Richard Burr Steps Down As Intelligence Chair Amid Stock Trading Probe

Republican Sen. Richard Burr is stepping down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after the FBI launched an investigation into a series of stock trades he made earlier this year as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread in the U.S. 

“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement to reporters on Thursday. “We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee.” 

Burr, the senior senator from North Carolina, is under investigation for selling stocks after attending a briefing on the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday night, FBI investigators reportedly seized Burr’s cellphone in connection with the probe, after agents served a search warrant at the senator’s home in the Washington, D.C., area and he turned over the device. 

In March, ProPublica reported that Burr dumped between $628,000 and $1.72 million’s worth of holdings on Feb. 13, shortly after Congress began receiving intelligence briefings about the threat of the coronavirus. At the time, Burr had been assuring the public that the government was prepared to respond to the threat. Since then, the pandemic has infected more than 1.3 million people in the country and prompted a severe economic crisis.

Sen. Jim Risch is next in line to be chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Idaho Republican, however, already chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is expected to remain at that post. The opportunity to lead congressional oversight over the nation’s intelligence community would then fall on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Igor Bobic contributed reporting.

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