Twitter eviscerates doomsday biologist who claims he’s been mostly right: ‘Famously wrong,’ ‘doom-monger’

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This past weekend, a celebrity biologist, known for his spectacularly apocalyptic — and wrong – environmental predictions of death, destruction and cannibalism, got a favorable interview on “60 Minutes.” This resulted in mockery and outrage on Twitter, prompting the biologist in question, Paul Ehrlich, to lash out, tweeting, “I’ve gotten virtually every scientific honor.” He also asserted “no basic” errors.

On Sunday, Ehrlich told “60 Minutes” that “the rate of extinction is extraordinarily high now and getting higher all the time.” He added that “humanity is not sustainable.” 

After the show aired ,Ehrlich complained about the “right-wing” response, demanding, “If I’m always wrong so is science, since my work is always peer-reviewed, including the POPULATION BOMB and I’ve gotten virtually every scientific honor. Sure I’ve made some mistakes, but no basic ones.” 

Ehrlich is the same scientist that made environmental predictions in 1970 about 1980: “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make…. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” 

MAN CALLING FOR ‘VOLUNTARY HUMAN EXTINCTION’ GETS GLOWING NEW YORK TIMES PROFILE

He also insisted that between 1980 and 1989 four billion would die (including 65 million Americans) in the “great die off.” None of that happened. 

The blowback came from the left and the right. Nate Silver, formally of the New York Times and founder of ABC News’ FiveThirtyEight, marveled, “Predicting that civilization would end by 1985 counts as a pretty basic error, I’d think. To the extent he’s received scientific accolades, it shows how unseriously the scientific community takes prediction.”

BIDEN CLIMATE NOMINEE TOUTED ‘ENVIRONMENTAL UPSIDE’ TO PANDEMIC

.”@60Minutes and @CBSNews should be embarrassed by their highlighting of doom-monger Paul Ehrlich’s apocalyptic views in an interview on Sunday night,” tweeted Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary for Presisident Clinton. “Ehrlich is as far from reputable scientific predictions as climate change denial scientists.”

Summers went on to call Ehrlich a “dangerous extremist” who would “crowd out reasonable and thoughtful voices.”

“Paul Ehrlich has been famously wrong about everything he has predicted for six decades,” tweeted psychologist Jordan Peterson.

National Review and Federalist editor David Harsanyi chided, “Your entire career of malthusian scaremongering has been a giant mistake.” 

Journalist Jim Treacher joked, “I’m not wrong because people always tell me how great I am.” Daily Caller managing editor Mike Bastasch echoed this joke, commenting on Ehrlich’s self-praise for his “scientific honors” as “going full Fauci on his critics: ‘I am the science!’” 

On Sunday, “60 Minutes” host Scott Pelley conceded that Ehrlich has gotten some things wrong: “The alarm Ehrlich sounded in ’68 warned that overpopulation would trigger widespread famine. He was wrong about that.” 

But despite Ehrlich previously suggesting the coming end of humanity, the program touted his new environmental predictions of apocalypse: “The next few decades will be the end of the kind of civilization we’re used to.” 

In 2014, Ehrlich suggested that the pressing issue for humanity would be “is it perfectly okay to eat the bodies of your dead.” 

Andrew Follett, a senior analyst at the Club for Growth, summarized the online criticism against Ehrlich and those in the media who promote him: “I can’t think of anyone else in history who is so clearly wrong about everything…while so clearly in denial of the most basic facts.” 

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Marc Thiessen slams anti-McCarthy GOP faction, warns behavior spells ‘big trouble’ for Republicans

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Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen issued a strong warning Wednesday to the group of anti-Kevin McCarthy Republicans putting up roadblocks in selecting the House speaker as voting dragged on another day without a winner.

“If this is the model of the future for the next two years, we’re in big trouble on the Republican Party,” Thiessen said on “America Reports” as 20 Republicans once again blocked McCarthy’s election.

“If this is the future of the next two years of the House where everything we try to do is held hostage by a small band of people, then this is going to be the most chaotic and failed House majority in the history of the country.”

Opposing reps.-elect include Colorado’s Lauren Boebert and Florida’s Matt Gaetz as well as Texas’ Chip Roy, who nominated Rep.-elect Byron Donalds, R-Fla., in the fourth vote for speaker Wednesday. 

LIVE UPDATES: THE VOTE FOR HOUSE SPEAKER

Thiessen’s analysis came after the fourth round of voting, where Donalds acquired 20 votes from Republicans, leaving McCarthy with 201 after Rep.-elect Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., changed her vote to “present.” Democratic nominee Rep.-elect Hakeem Jeffries received 212 votes. 

Thiessen argued the “irony” of the unfolding drama stems from the weak outcome for Republicans in the November midterms, where a surprising amount of GOP candidates were “rejected” by voters, leaving the party only a slim majority in the House. 

“If the red wave arrived, this would never be happening,” Thiessen said. “If we had a 30-vote majority and there had been a red wave, this wouldn’t be happening today because they wouldn’t need those five, you know, now growing a faction of votes.”

While he argued their influence has strengthened due to the weak performance, Thiessen noted the GOP faction’s power is still “limited.”

“They have the power to stop Kevin McCarthy from becoming speaker if they hold their ground. They don’t have the power to elect a speaker of their own because the majority of the House is more moderate,” he said.

RONNA MCDANIEL SLAMS HOUSE REPUBLICANS OVER SPEAKER VOTE: ‘WE’RE DOING EXACTLY WHAT THE DEMOCRATS WANT’

Former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy Wednesday did not sway any votes, leading Thiessen to conclude that the party needs to “move on beyond” their former party leader.

“He’s a shrinking former president,” Thiessen remarked.

With dissenting Republicans “holding the House hostage,” Thiessen argued if McCarthy were to find a way to squeeze out the 218 votes needed, the amount of concessions required with give the most extreme Republicans more power.

“What I worry about going forward is that if McCarthy were to succeed at this point… he’s got a gun to his head now,” Thiessen said. “He’s given made so many concessions to this group that you’re going to have a faction of about five of the most extreme Republicans in the House caucus who basically have veto power over anything that the House Republican caucus does.”

“Has he given up so much and would another speaker candidate who stepped in to replace him have to make those same concessions to get the job?”

McCarthy has remained staunch in his bid for speaker, arguing he has “earned” the position. Thiessen, however, rejected that notion and argued the party may have to come to a consensus on a new leader.

“He is not entitled to the speakership of the House of Representatives. And I don’t know that he’s earned it. The Republican Party put in the worst performance of any party in the minority since JFK,” Theissen remarked. 

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“If Kevin McCarthy can’t put this away, at some point, we’re going to have to move on,” he continued.

“It’s not about him. It’s about advancing conservative ideas and getting the best speaker who can do that who can bring the whole caucus together.”

 

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[World] Damar Hamlin: How anti-vaxxers exploited player’s collapse

BBC News world-us_and_canada 

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Damar Hamlin attempts a tackle before his collapse on the field on Monday night

Online activists used the on-field collapse of American football star Damar Hamlin to spread anti-vaccination messages starting just minutes after Monday night’s incident.

In what’s become a familiar pattern since Covid vaccines became available about two years ago, several influential accounts used the event to spread anti-vaccination content.

They included the Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who tweeted: “Before the covid vaccines we didn’t see athletes dropping dead on the playing field like we do now… Time to investigate the covid vaccines.”

That tweet was viewed around a million times within a day. But the idea that young, healthy athletes have never collapsed suddenly before Covid vaccines is easily disproven.

A US study looking at athletes over four years found many unexplained deaths were in fact caused by cardiac arrest – a cause more common in male and African-American players.

A study from 2016 notes that there are approximately 100 to 150 sudden cardiac deaths during competitive sports in the United States each year.

While rare and potentially dangerous cases of heart inflammation have been associated with some Covid vaccines, these real cases have been muddled together with unrelated illnesses and misinterpreted, sometimes cherry-picked data.

Combined with a wave of anti-vaccine activity online throughout the pandemic, it’s given birth to a group of activists who ascribe nearly any tragic or unexplained death to vaccines.

The loudest voices in the anti-vaccination lobby have followed this pattern throughout the pandemic, even though heart problems are a symptom of Covid itself.

‘Cynical’ anti-vax lobby

Hamlin, a defensive back for the Buffalo Bills, suffered a cardiac arrest during Monday night’s high-profile matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

On Wednesday he remained in hospital, but an uncle said he was showing signs of improving. There’s been no further information about any underlying causes which could have contributed to his cardiac arrest.

Research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a non-profit campaign group based in London and Washington, found that mentions of an anti-vaccine film quadrupled after the player’s collapse.

CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed said activists were “cynically exploiting tragedy to baselessly connect any injury or death of a notable person to vaccinations”.

The day after the match the documentary Died Suddenly, which was released in November last year, was mentioned nearly 17,000 times, the CCDH says. The BBC previously looked into the claims in the film and found little or no evidence behind many of them.

Caroline Orr Bueno, a researcher on misinformation who’s spent a decade looking at the anti-vaccination movement, says the film gave rise to communities of people across several social media platforms primed to hunt for news events to back up their views.

“They believe the anti-vaccine rhetoric that they are seeing,” she says, “and they are joining in out of genuine concern without necessarily knowing that they’re being misled.”

Image source, Getty Images

Googling is not science

A Twitter account promoting the Died Suddenly video sent out a message just minutes after Hamlin was transported off the field in Cincinnati claiming there was an “undeniable pattern”.

When contacted for a response, the owners of the account responded with a list of anecdotal reports of athletes suffering heart problems.

Backers of the film and other anti-vaccination activists collect news reports of heart attacks and unexplained deaths, automatically ascribing them to Covid-19 vaccines.

This focused obsession has created a hypersensitive pattern-spotting spiral, with activists and followers often believing the link between every sudden athlete death and vaccines is “obvious”, although there is scant solid research to back up their claims.

Heart attack v cardiac arrest

While it might seem unusual for young, healthy people to experience heart problems, there are important differences between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

Most heart attacks are caused by blockages in arteries and are associated with older people as well as lifestyle factors like smoking and diet.

Most cardiac arrests are caused by a problem with the heart’s electrical system which keeps it pumping. These heart rhythm malfunctions are often genetically inherited and can be seen in young people who appear otherwise healthy.

Premier League fans will remember the dramatic moment in 2012 when Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba collapsed, having suffered a cardiac arrest. The 23-year-old’s heart stopped beating for 78 minutes.

A 2018 study by the Football Association looked back over 20 years of data from screening more than 11,000 players and found not only were cardiac deaths more common than previously thought – although still rare – but that most of them were in people with no previously diagnosed heart problem.

It started with Eriksen

One of the first clear examples of anti-vaccination activists taking advantage of a high-profile news event was the televised collapse of Danish football star Christian Eriksen during the European football championships in June 2021.

Influential accounts immediately began blaming Covid vaccines.

Only after the initial wave of speculation and misinformation was it revealed by the director of Eriksen’s club at the time, Inter Milan, that the midfielder had not received a Covid-19 vaccine prior to his collapse.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Christian Eriksen recovered from his heart condition, which was not caused by a vaccine

In November, Twitter stopped enforcing its Covid misinformation policy, a development that Imran Ahmed of the CCDH called “particularly worrying”.

“Anti-vax lies are deadly and platforms must stop allowing dedicated spreaders of disinformation from abusing their platforms and the trust of other users.”

The BBC has contacted Twitter and Marjorie Taylor Greene for comment.

 

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Massachusetts authorities seize 13,900 fentanyl pills, 30 pounds of cocaine in massive drug bust

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A Massachusetts man is facing several drug charges after thousands of fentanyl pills and about 30 pounds of cocaine were seized from his home last month, Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni announced on Wednesday. 

Alonzo Williams, 51, was charged with trafficking in fentanyl over 200 grams, trafficking in cocaine over 200 grams, possession of a firearm without a license, and other counts related to distributing drugs. 

His arrest came after a lengthy investigation into alleged drug trafficking at his home in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

Detectives obtained a warrant to search that home on Dec. 21, 2022, then pulled Williams over while he was driving the next day and seized about 136 grams of cocaine from his vehicle. 

ARIZONA POLICE MAKE ‘LARGEST DRUG BUST’ IN DEPARTMENT’S HISTORY, SEIZE MORE THAN 700K FENTANYL PILLS

A search of his home allegedly turned up a stockpile of drugs with a street value of $2 million, including about 13,900 fentanyl pills, 406 grams of raw fentanyl, and roughly 30 pounds of cocaine. Detectives also seized $190,000 in counterfeit cash. 

“We have begun educating the public on the dangers of pills containing fentanyl and how they are causing a rash of overdoses across the Commonwealth,” the district attorney said in a statement. 

“With this interception of almost 14,000 of these pills, countless overdoses were surely prevented.”

Williams is being held on a $75,000 cash bail and is due back in court on Jan. 24. 

 

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Billie Eilish recalls hating her body as a teen and overcoming her painful diagnosis

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Billie Eilish is opening up about the complicated feelings she had about her body as a teenager.

During a recent interview with Vogue for its first-ever video cover, Eilish spoke about her relationship with her body and what it took for her to work through the negativity associated with it. She explained that years of injuries left her in a lot of pain and hatred toward her body.

Prior to breaking into the music industry with the 2015 release of “Ocean Eyes,” Eilish had aspirations of being a dancer. Unfortunately, an injury to her growth plate at the age of 13 forced her to reevaluate her dreams and find a new passion.

“Going through my teenage years of hating myself and all that stupid s–t, a lot of it came from my anger toward my body and how mad I was at how much pain it’s caused me and how much I’ve lost because of things that happened to it,” Eilish said. “I got injured right after we made ‘Ocean Eyes,’ so music kind of replaced dancing.”

BILLIE EILISH ADMITS SHE HAS A ‘TERRIBLE RELATIONSHIP’ WITH HER BODY

“I felt like my body was gaslighting me for years,” she said. “I had to go through a process of being like, my body is actually me. And it’s not out to get me.”

Eilish was eventually diagnosed with hypermobility, a syndrome in which an individual has overly flexible joints, causing them to bend more than they should, which can be painful.

During the interview, Eilish’s mother, Maggie Baird, gave further insight into her diagnosis, saying that “stuff that you and I could do that would help us, like certain kinds of massage or chiropractors, could actually hurt her.”

This isn’t the first time the “Bad Guy” singer has spoken about her body, as her style and body image issues have continued to be a topic of interest.

In August 2021, she told The Guardian that she has a “terrible relationship with (her) body” and that she has to “disassociate from the ideas (she has) of (her) body” during performances because otherwise her performance would be affected.

“I wear clothes that are bigger and easier to move in without showing everything — they can be really unflattering,” she said. “In pictures, they look like I don’t even know what. I just completely separate the two. Because I have such a terrible relationship with my body like you would not believe, so I just have to disassociate.”

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She also admitted that she doesn’t understand why society is obsessed with bodies, be it their own or that of others. During a campaign for Calvin Klein in 2019, the singer further discussed the issue, saying society’s obsession with bodies is the inspiration behind her public image. In the video, she said the baggy clothes make it so “nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath.”

The obsession with her body in particular had a profound impact on her style. She told Elle Magazine in 2019 that as a woman with a bigger chest, she feels more harshly judged when wearing a top that might show a bit of cleavage. She referenced a time when someone took a photo of her in a tank top after she stepped out of her tour bus, saying, “My boobs were trending on Twitter. … Every outlet wrote about my boobs.”

“I was born with f—ing boobs, bro. I was born with DNA that was going to give me big-a– boobs. I was recently FaceTiming a close friend of mine who’s a dude, and I was wearing a tank top. He was like, ‘Ugh, put a shirt on.’ And I said, ‘I have a shirt on,’” she told the outlet. “Someone with smaller boobs could wear a tank top, and I could put on that exact tank top and get slut-shamed because my boobs are big. That is stupid. It’s the same shirt.”

 

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Seven-time PGA Tour winner Jon Rahm anticipates ‘tense’ Masters Champions Dinner amid LIV Golf dispute

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Augusta National Golf Club will have pros from both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf in attendance at this year’s Masters tournament, and some are expecting tensions to be high. 

Seven-time PGA Tour winner Jon Rahm spoke to reporters about it ahead of this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions and said, despite not being invited, he imagines the Champions Dinner could get quite uncomfortable. 

“One thing I keep going back to, and it’s probably only funny to me,” he said Tuesday, via Golf.com. “I think the Masters Champions Dinner’s going to be a little tense compared to how it’s been in the past.”

GEORGIA MAN SENDS MASTERS INVITE BACK TO PGA TOUR GOLFER AFTER MISHAP 

Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley released a statement last month announcing plans to allow golfers who already qualified for the tournament based on its previous criteria to be eligible to play in April.

“Regrettably, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the meaningful legacies of those who built it,” Ridley said at the time. “Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honor the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers this coming April.

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“Therefore, as invitations are sent this week, we will invite those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament.” 

The list includes Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel, all former PGA Tour members who defected to the rival Saudi-backed circuit. 

But outside of an awkward dinner, Rahm doesn’t believe those tensions will carry over to the course. 

“I think it’s going to be the same,” he said. “I didn’t feel a difference in any of the majors last year. If somebody has a problem with LIV players, they’re just not going to deal with them and that’s about it. In my mind, like I’ve said it before, I respect their choice and the ones I was friends with before I’m still going to be friends with, right? It doesn’t change the way I’m going to operate with them.”

The 87th installment of the Masters is scheduled to begin April 6.

 

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Mayorkas says massive migrant numbers ‘straining our system,’ calls for Congress to act

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Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, in an interview aired Wednesday, is warning that the enormous migrant numbers being encountered at the southern border are “straining our system” as he again echoed administration calls for Congress to pass a sweeping immigration bill that includes an amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.

Mayorkas was asked in an interview with The Washington Post whether the administration can handle an expected additional surge in migration across the southern border once the Title 42 public health order — which has been used to quickly expel migrants at the border since 2020 — comes to an end.

Mayorkas, in his answer, said that the number of migrants that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is already encountering is putting significant pressure on the U.S. immigration system.

“There’s no question that the number of encounters that we are experiencing at the border is straining our system,” he said, before calling the immigration system “fundamentally broken.”

“No one disagrees with that. We just can’t seem to agree upon the solution. And a solution is long, long overdue,” he said. “Within the broken immigration system that we are operating we are managing the number of encounters, and we are prepared to address the end of Title 42. We’ve been preparing for this since well beyond last year.”

Migrant numbers have spiked dramatically under Mayorkas and the Biden administration. FY 2021 saw a historic 1.7 million migrant encounters, which was then surpassed in FY2022 when numbers hit 2.3 million. So far, FY 2023, which began in October, is on track to surpass FY 2022’s numbers. 

The situation has been complicated by the looming end of Title 42. The Biden administration attempted to end the order in May last year, but was blocked by a Republican legal challenge. 

However, in November, a federal judge found the use of the order, which was implemented during the Trump administration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, unlawful and ordered it to be unwound on Dec. 21.

GOP REP. FALLON SET TO FILE MAYORKAS IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES ONCE NEW CONGRESS SWORN IN 

That was in turn blocked by the Supreme Court in response to an emergency request by Republican states. Oral arguments are expected in that case in the Spring.

Republicans and some Border Patrol officials have blamed the Biden administration for the surge, saying that it has rolled back Trump-era enforcement and border security and has encouraged migrants to come to the border. The Biden administration has rejected those claims, blaming the Trump administration for closing off legal asylum pathways and also focusing on “root causes” such as poverty and instability in Central America.

DHS has outlined a six-point plan to deal with the end of Title 42, which includes surging resources to the border, greater Western Hemisphere cooperation, increased anti-smuggling campaigns and greater use of alternative forms of expulsion. But it has also predicted up to 14,000 migrant encounters a day once the order drops. Mayorkas, meanwhile, has repeatedly claimed the border is “secure” – a claim that has sparked the ire of Republicans, some of whom have called for him to be impeached.

For a long-term solution, the Biden administration has repeatedly pushed a sweeping immigration reform proposal which was first introduced when the administration took office in 2021. Along with various expanded immigration pathways and technological upgrades, the centerpiece of the bill is a mass amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants — who could apply for an eight-year pathway to citizenship.

Mayorkas re-affirmed his support for the package in the interview, even despite its lack of Republican support which makes its passage unlikely in the upcoming Congress.

ICE DEPORTATIONS REMAINED WELL BELOW TRUMP-ERA LEVELS IN FY 2022, AMID HISTORIC BORDER CRISIS

“On the very first day in office, President Biden ascent to the Hill to Congress, a comprehensive package that would have meant so much to our ability to really manage the situation at the border, to really bring a broken immigration system that hasn’t been reformed for decades, to really bring it into the present the present day, not just from a point of view of enforcement, but also realizing the opportunities that immigration brings to our country,” he said of the bill.

Mayorkas went on to claim that the need for labor in the U.S. is “so great.”

“We have 10 million job openings in the United States. I was reading about what Canada is doing to address a million open jobs. They’re bringing in about 1.3 million migrants to fill that labor need that cannot be met within their own borders. President Biden sent forward a comprehensive package on day one. It has not occurred yet.” 

“We haven’t realized the reform that everyone understands is so desperately needed,” he added. “I’m an undying optimist, and we’re going to stay true to the fight to pass reform that our country needs and from which our country will prosper.”

 

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ESPN stands by report that NFL planned to restart game after Hamlin collapsed


New York
CNN
 — 

ESPN is sticking by its reporting that the NFL had initially planned to resume Monday’s football game after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field – a claim the NFL vehemently denies.

The NFL postponed Monday’s game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals following the on-field injury. Although initially criticized that the announcement of the game’s postponement took more than an hour, the NFL was ultimately praised for its consequential decision to call off the contest.

But whether the NFL had at any point after Hamlin’s devastating injury planned to resume the game remains a subject of dispute and controversy.

ESPN reported during Monday’s telecast after Hamlin was taken off the field in an ambulance that the first quarter would resume after both teams were given a five-minute warm-up notice. That never materialized, and the league later said it never considered restarting the game.

“We never, frankly, it never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play,” said Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, at a press conference Tuesday. “That’s ridiculous. It’s insensitive. And that’s not a place that that we should ever be in.”

Vincent said he didn’t know where that report would have come from. An emotional Vincent on Wednesday apologized for being “short” with his answer from the previous day but said, “It was just so insensitive to think that we were even thinking about returning to play.”

But ESPN, in a statement Wednesday, said it is sticking by its reporting.

“There was constant communication in real time between ESPN and league and game officials,” the network said in a statement. “As a result of that, we reported what we were told in the moment and immediately updated fans as new information was learned. This was an unprecedented, rapidly evolving circumstance. All night long, we refrained from speculation.”

Joe Buck, ESPN’s Monday Night Football announcer, told the New York Times in an interview Tuesday that he received reporting from John Parry, ESPN’s officiating analyst. Buck said Parry “is in an open line of communication with the league office in New York.”

“It is our obligation to give the information we are provided by the NFL. in real time as we get it,” Buck told the Times. “That’s our job at that time. That’s all we can go with.”

Vincent rebutted that assertion on Wednesday.

“I don’t know who said it, and I really don’t care,” he said. “But the only thing that matters to myself, the team here, the folks in the stadium, the coaches, was the health and wellness of Damar.”

source

Convictions, Prison Time: A Look at US College Admissions Scam

USA – Voice of America 

More than 50 people were convicted in the sprawling college admissions bribery scheme that embroiled elite universities across the country and landed a slew of prominent parents and athletic coaches behind bars.

The case dubbed Operation Varsity Blues by authorities revealed a scheme to get the children of rich parents into top-tier schools with fake athletic credentials and bogus entrance exam scores.

The ringleader of the scheme, corrupt admissions consultant Rick Singer, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison on Wednesday, nearly four years after the first arrests were made in March 2019.

Here’s a look at the Varsity Blues investigation and where the cases stand now:

How did authorities uncover the scheme?

Federal investigators stumbled across the scandal after an executive they were targeting in an unrelated securities fraud scheme told them that a Yale soccer coach had offered to help his daughter get into the school in exchange for bribes. Authorities set up a sting in a Boston hotel room in April 2018 and recorded the coach, Rudy Meredith, soliciting a bribe from the father.

Investigators heard Singer’s name for the first time when Meredith mentioned him during that meeting. Meredith began cooperating that same month with investigators, who recorded phone calls and an in-person meeting between himself and Singer that revealed the extent of the bribery scheme.

Authorities then convinced Singer to cooperate with them and to record incriminating phone calls and in-person meetings with those involved with his scheme. His cooperation helped prosecutors build the case against dozens of parents, coaches and others.

Who has been convicted?

Of the more than 50 people charged in the case, all but a handful ended up pleading guilty.

Among the most high-profile parents who admitted to charges were “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport. They helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending Singer photos of the teens posing on rowing machines.

Others who pleaded guilty include “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who paid $15,000 to boost her older daughter’s SAT scores.

An heir to the Hot Pockets fortune also admitted to paying Singer $100,000 to have a proctor correct her two daughters’ ACT exam answers. The former chairman of a global law firm, the onetime chief executive of a media company, and a former owner of a California wine business were among others who pleaded guilty.

Only two parents accused of working with Singer ended up going to trial. Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, and John Wilson, a former Staples Inc. executive, were both convicted at trial last year.

Abdelaziz, of Las Vegas, was charged with paying $300,000 to get his daughter into the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit even though she didn’t even make it onto her high school’s varsity team.

Wilson, who heads a Massachusetts private equity firm, was accused of paying $220,000 to have his son designated as a USC water polo recruit and an additional $1 million to buy his twin daughters’ ways into Harvard and Stanford. They have both appealed their convictions to the federal appeals court in Boston.

What have the punishments been?

Before Singer’s sentence, the longest sentence in the case had gone to Gordon Ernst, the former Georgetown University tennis coach who once coached former President Barack Obama’s family. He was sentenced in July to 2 1/2 years in prison for pocketing more than $3 million in bribes in exchange for helping parents cheat their kids’ way into the school.

Jorge Salcedo, a former University of California, Los Angeles, men’s soccer coach, was sentenced to eight months behind bars for accepting $200,000 in bribes to designate applicants as athletic recruits. Michael Center, a former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin, was sentenced to six months in prison for taking a $100,000 bribe

Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison while Giannulli got five months behind bars. Huffman was sentenced to 14 days. Some parents avoided prison time entirely. The toughest punishment among the parents went to Wilson, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison. A judge has allowed Wilson to remain free while he appeals his conviction.

Did anyone beat the charges?

Just before leaving office, President Donald Trump pardoned Robert Zangrillo, a prominent Miami developer and investor who was charged with paying $250,000 to get his daughter into USC as a transfer in 2018.

William Ferguson, a former Wake Forest University coach, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors that will make the case against him go away with the payment of a fine as long as he follows certain conditions.

A judge in September ordered a new trial for Jovan Vavic, the former USC water polo coach accused of taking more than $200,000 in bribes. Jurors found Vavic guilty, but the judge concluded that some evidence introduced by the government in Vavic’s fraud and bribery case was unreliable and that prosecutors erred in their argument to jurors about some of the alleged bribe money.

One parent linked to the case, Amin Khoury, was acquitted of charges that he paid off a Georgetown University tennis coach to get his daughter into the school. Khoury wasn’t accused of working with Singer, but authorities alleged he used a middleman he was friends with in college at Brown University to bribe Ernst.

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College admissions scam mastermind sentenced to 3.5 years in federal prison


Boston
CNN
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William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind of the sprawling college admissions scam aptly known as Operation Varsity Blues, was sentenced Wednesday to 3.5 years in federal prison, the longest sentence in a case that has rattled America’s higher education system.

Singer was the central figure in the scam in which wealthy parents, desperate to get their children into elite universities, paid huge sums to cheat on standardized tests, bribe university coaches and administrators who had influence over admissions, and then lie about it to authorities.

Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of justice in March 2019. He cooperated with the government’s investigation in the months prior to the public announcement of the case and in the years since.

In federal court in Boston on Wednesday, Singer apologized for his actions and said his morals took a backseat to “winning and keeping score.”

“I lost my ethical values and have so much regret. To be frank, I’m ashamed of myself,” Singer said.

A sketch of Rick Singer at his sentencing Wednesday in Boston federal court.

In addition to the 3.5 years of prison time, Singer was sentenced to 3 years of supervised release and forfeiture of over $10 million, Judge Rya Zobel said. He is due to report to prison on February 27.

Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence him to six years, while Singer’s attorneys asked for probation with home detention and community service.

The sentencing represents the culmination of an extensive criminal case first made public nearly four years ago, when authorities arrested and charged over 50 people, including coaches, test administrators, prominent CEOs, and the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

With only a few exceptions, almost all of them pleaded guilty and served prison terms generally measured in weeks or months. For example, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days and Loughlin received two months behind bars. The previous longest sentence in the case, for former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst, was for 2.5 years in prison.

Singer is one of the last people to be sentenced in the case, which rocked the world of higher education and showed, not for the first or last time, how rich people use their wealth and means to help their children game the college admissions system.

US Attorney Rachael Rollins said the 3.5-year sentence was “appropriate” and related her personal frustrations as a parent about what the case said about the college admissions process.

“I was never foolish to believe it was a meritocracy, but I had absolutely no idea how corrupt and infected the admissions process was until this case exposed everything,” she said.

Singer’s defense attorney Candice Fields spoke outside the courthouse in Boston, calling Wednesday’s proceedings “sobering.” She said her client is “resilient.”

“He will spend the rest of his life making amends,” Fields said. “I think [Singer] is glad to have had an opportunity to express his apologies to those affected by the case, by his conduct. Now, he wants to put this period of his life behind him, do the time that the court has ordered and move on to have a productive remainder of his life.

In court, federal prosecutor Stephen E. Frank outlined the extent of Singer’s role in coordinating the scheme, calling it a “singular” crime in the history of the country and the most massive fraud perpetrated on the higher education system.

“He is the architect of it. He is the face of this fraud,” Frank said in court.

Frank also acknowledged Singer’s “unparalleled” cooperation with authorities, in which Singer allowed FBI agents to wiretap his phone and wore a wire to in-person meetings to implicate other conspirators. Still, he noted Singer had tipped off several of his clients to the investigation, for which he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Singer’s defense attorney similarly highlighted this cooperation to ask the court for leniency.

Singer was the owner of the college counseling and prep business known as “The Key” and the CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation, the charity connected to it.

Through those organizations, Singer carried out his scheme to get the children of wealthy parents into top universities. His plan had two major parts: Facilitate cheating on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT, and bribe college coaches and administrators to falsely designate the children as recruited athletes, even if they didn’t play that sport, easing their acceptance into universities including Yale, Georgetown and USC.

In a June 2018 conversation with one parent, he referred to his plan as a “side door” into college, according to court documents.

“There is a front door which means you get in on your own. The back door is through institutional advancement, which is 10 times as much money. And I’ve created this side door in,” Singer said.

To conceal the payments, he or an employee directed the parents to give money to the Key Worldwide Foundation as a charitable donation, the indictment states. Some of that money was then used to pay test administrators or coaches as part of the scheme, prosecutors said.

andrew lelling college cheating presser

How the alleged college admission scheme worked

Out on bail since his guilty plea, Singer, 62, has been living in a St. Petersburg, Florida, trailer park for seniors, according to his sentencing memo.

“I have been reflecting on my very poor judgment and criminal activities that increasingly had become my way of life. I have woken up every day feeling shame, remorse, and regret,” Singer wrote in a recent court submission ahead of his sentencing. “I acknowledge that I am fully responsible for my crimes.”

His attorneys in their sentencing memo asked the court for a comparatively lenient three-year term of probation including 12 months of home detention plus 750 hours of community service.

Prosecutors in their respective sentencing memo acknowledged Singer’s cooperation with the government as “historical” and “hugely significant.” For several months prior to the public announcement of Operation Varsity Blues, Singer turned over online communications and documents, voluntarily recorded phone calls with clients and associates and wore a wire in person with several individuals.

Still, his cooperation was not perfect, according to prosecutors.

Singer “not only obstructed the investigation by tipping off at least six of his clients,” the sentencing memo says, “but also failed to follow the government’s instructions in other ways, including by deleting text messages and using an unauthorized cell phone.”

Given the “problematic” cooperation, prosecutors say, the “most culpable participant” in the scheme should serve six years in prison as a deterrent to future temptation for Singer.

“Singer will undoubtedly face circumstances and opportunities that require him to choose between right and wrong. A substantial term of incarceration is critical to remind him of the consequences of crossing that line, and necessary to protect society from his wrongdoing,” prosecutors wrote.

Singer funneled the money he collected from the admissions scheme through a fake charity in which clients disguised payments as “charitable contributions” that conveniently doubled as a tax break for the parents paying their children’s way into top schools.

Prosecutors alleged Singer took in more than $25 million from the clients, paid bribes totaling more than $7 million and transferred, spent or otherwise used more than $15 million of his clients’ money for himself.

Prosecutors had also asked the court to mandate Singer pay the IRS more than $10.6 million in restitution, a $3.4 million monetary forfeiture, in addition to a forfeiture of some assets valued at more than $5.3 million.

He has already paid $1,213,000 toward the anticipated $3.4 million money forfeiture judgment from the proceeds of the sale of his residence, according to court documents. He hasn’t been able to get a job while on pretrial release thanks to the case’s national media attention, according to his sentencing memo.

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