Daily Digest: Jan. 11, 2021
Raise your hand if you’ve seen a tweet or a social-media post in the last few days saying that if Trump is impeached again, he’ll lose his pension, his $1 million-per-year travel allowance, his Secret Service detail and his ability to run for office in 2024.
OK. Now raise your hand if you shared this tweet/post.
In either case … I regret to inform you that virtually all of this “information”—which, as of now, has been retweeted nearly 200,000 times, and liked more than 726,000 times on Twitter—is wrong.
Daniel Dale has been CNN’s Washington, D.C. fact-checker since June 2019. (Can you IMAGINE having such a job in the Trump era?) In an excellent piece today, he breaks down all of the ways in which this viral tweet, by a man named Ben Costiloe, is incorrect.
While Dale’s explanation of the ways in which the tweet is inaccurate is interesting in and of itself, his revelation of how the tweet came to be is revealing, fascinating and more than a little bit alarming:
When we called Costiloe to tell him that we were planning a fact check and that much of the tweet was inaccurate, he said good-naturedly: “Tear it a new one. Go for it, baby.” He said he is “nobody,” a man who lives with diabetes in Texas and did the tweet because he had seen the information pop up somewhere on his Facebook feed and “it made me feel good.”
He said he was never sure the content was correct and was amazed the tweet went so viral. He said he had only 200 Twitter followers at the time he posted it.
“I don’t want to mess up the world. I just wanted to make me feel good,” he said. “It turns out it made a lot of people feel good.”
For the record, Costiloe’s tweet was still online as of this writing. (Dale Tweeted that when he asked Costiloe if he planned to delete the tweet now that he knew it was false, Costiloe replied: “I’m too stupid to know how to fix this.”
The moral of this story: Unless something on social media comes from a proven, reliable source (and sometimes even if it is reported by a reliable source—I’ll explain what we mean here shortly), you should look at it skeptically—and you most certainly shouldn’t send it along to your followers without doing a little fact-checking yourself.
From the Independent
Important Linkages: The Mojave Desert Land Trust Purchases a 227-Acre Parcel to Make Sure High Desert Plants and Animals Can Migrate as Needed
By Kevin Fitzgerald
January 11, 2021
The land, formerly owned by the Institute of Mentalphysics, plays an important role in connecting Joshua Tree National Park and the nearby military base.
By Bob Grimm
January 11, 2021
Shadow in the Cloud is part war film, part thriller—and all fun, thanks to Chloë Grace Moretz.
And Now, the News
• The type of insurrectionist violence we watched unfold last Wednesday in Washington, D.C. may not be over: “The FBI has sent a memo to law enforcement agencies across the country warning about possible armed protests at all 50 state capitols starting Saturday and saying an armed group has threatened to travel to Washington, D.C., the same day to stage an uprising if Congress removes President Donald Trump from office, according to a senior law enforcement official,” according to NBC News.
• On the pandemic front, things keep getting more terrible. Local COVID-19 hospitalizations keep breaking records, and then there’s this, as explained by ABC News: “California’s coronavirus catastrophe reached a staggering new level Monday as Johns Hopkins University data showed the nation’s most populous state has recorded more than 30,000 deaths since the pandemic started nearly a year ago. … Over the weekend, state officials reported a two-day record of 1,163 deaths. Hospitalizations also have exploded and many hospitals are stretched to the limit.”
• And now for that part about reliable sources getting things wrong sometimes: In Friday’s Daily Digest, I linked to a CNBC piece saying that yet another new COVID-19 variant could be driving the rapid spread in the U.S. Well … that story—which was reported by numerous national media sources—is not accurate. As The New York Times explains: “The erroneous report originated at a recent meeting where Dr. (Deborah) Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, presented graphs of the escalating cases in the country. She suggested to other members of the task force that a new, more transmissible variant originating in the United States might explain the surge, as another variant did in Britain. Her hypothesis made it into a weekly report sent to state governors. … Dismayed, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to have the speculative statements removed but were unsuccessful, according to three people familiar with the events.”
• The Washington Post reports that the outgoing chief of the Capitol Police claims his efforts to get National Guard assistance placed on standby in advance of Wednesday’s events were stymied by House and Senate security officials: “To be on the safe side, Sund asked House and Senate security officials for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be placed on standby in case he needed quick backup. But, Sund said Sunday, they turned him down. … House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said he wasn’t comfortable with the ‘optics’ of formally declaring an emergency ahead of the demonstration, Sund said. Meanwhile, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger suggested that Sund should informally seek out his Guard contacts, asking them to ‘lean forward’ and be on alert in case Capitol Police needed their help.”
• The House has introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump for “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” I can’t believe I just typed out that sentence.
• Meanwhile, The New York Times reports: More than 300 historians and constitutional scholars have signed an open letter calling for the impeachment and removal of President Trump, saying his continuation in office after encouraging supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol posed “a clear and present danger to American democracy and the national security of the United States.”
• One of the nation’s foremost employers of right-wing talk radio hosts has had enough. According to the Post: “Cumulus Media, which employs some of the most popular right-leaning talk-radio hosts in the United States, has told its on-air personalities to stop suggesting that the election was stolen from President Trump—or else face termination.”
• If you think that institutional sexism doesn’t exist in our economy, you should read this CNN story to do some learnin’: “According to new data released Friday, employers cut 140,000 jobs in December, signaling that the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is backtracking. Digging deeper into the data also reveals a shocking gender gap: Women accounted for all the job losses, losing 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000.”
• A 75-year-old congresswoman and cancer survivor has COVID-19. CNN explains why this is so damned frustrating: “A statement from her office said that the congresswoman ‘believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the US Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots. As reported by multiple news outlets, a number of members within the space ignored instructions to wear masks.’ CNN has previously reported that six House Republicans were captured on video refusing masks offered by a colleague during the U.S. Capitol insurrection.”
• We present this bit of news without comment: “A disgruntled employee at the State Department changed the biographies of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to say their term was coming to an end on Monday—nine days before President-elect Joe Biden is to be sworn in—two current-serving diplomats with knowledge of the situation told BuzzFeed News.”
• ZDNet points out that the fact that laptops and other things were stolen during the invasion of the Capitol could have frightening national-security repercussions.
• Parler—the Twitter alternative loved by Trump followers and, well, a whole lot of insurrectionists—has been shut down after Amazon decided it did not want to give Parler server space anymore. However, a researcher says she’s archived almost all of the Parler content—including deleted posts and location data. Hmm.
• A disturbing number of off-duty police officers and firefighters are being investigated for participating in the insurrection. Reuters notes: “As investigators seek to identify rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol, police departments in Virginia and Washington state have placed officers on leave as authorities examine whether they took part in unlawful acts while off-duty. Fire departments in Florida and New York City have also said they reported to federal authorities allegations that some of their members may have been present when the mob broke into the Capitol as Congress met to certify the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election.”
• Even worse: Some on-duty Capitol Police officers are being investigated, including two who have been suspended, according to Rep. Tim Ryan. According to NPR: “One of the suspended officers took a selfie with a rioter. The other donned a Make America Great Again hat and ‘started directing people around,’ Ryan said.”
• More bad news about the (real, not speculative) COVID-19 variants: They may not be detected by certain COVID-19 tests, according to the FDA. MedPage Today explains: “Variant B.1.1.7 and other genetic variants may impact the performance of certain diagnostic tests, and the agency emphasized false-negative results can occur if a mutation occurs in a part of the virus’s genome being assessed by the test. Therefore, tests that rely on multiple regions of the genome may be less impacted than those that only rely on a single region, the FDA said.”
• The state plans on ramping up vaccination efforts—with the help of three “mass vaccination sites” at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Petco Park in San Diego and Cal Expo in Sacramento. According to CBS News: “(Gov. Gavin) Newsom said the state’s goal was to vaccinate 1 million more people by the weekend. The state wants to expand the types of health care professionals who can give vaccinations to include dentists, pharmacy technicians and National Guard teams.”
• Well, this is concerning: Newsom today also announced that at least two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have apparently gotten COVID-19 from us humans. Thankfully, zoo officials report that so far, they’re doing well.
• Keep your fingers crossed regarding Johnson and Johnson’s one-shot, easier-to-handle COVID-10 vaccine. CNBC reports that the business community seems optimistic: “Johnson and Johnson is expected to deliver preliminary late-stage trial results for its one-dose COVID vaccine candidate by the end of January. If its jab is proven to be safe and effective, the company aims to deliver at least 1 billion doses by the end of the year.”
• And finally, The New York Times reports that the pandemic has disrupted the supply chain to the nation’s sperm banks. Wait, what?
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As always, thanks for reading.