PHILADELPHIA — A Delaware County judge rejected a bid to throw out manslaughter charges brought against three former Sharon Hill police officers facing trial in the death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility after a high school football game last year. Prosecutors had opposed this for months, saying that the former officers — Brian Devaney, Patrick Dolan and Devon Smith — knew the risks of firing toward a crowd after the high school football game last year and were directly responsible for the girl‘s killing. Manslaughter, but not murder, was the appropriate charge for the officers, because they had not...
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The opportunity came courtesy of Ericsson, the Swedish telecommunications giant, which sponsored the “Ericsson Limited Edition 5G & IoT” (Internet of Things) patch program. The program, still available on at least one Girl Scout website, targets all age levels, from Daisies (kindergarten-age Scouts) to Ambassadors (those in high school), with an array of activities intended to “introduce Girl Scouts to 5G and the Internet of Things.”
These include watching “Explaining 5G to Kids,” a five-minute video featuring Mats, a bearded Ericsson employee, as he chats with Siofra, Freya and two other squirming but charming children, who speak English with what sound like hints of Swedish accents. Mats explains that 5G is a “new technology for the mobile phone. So everything will be much better.” He explains that the technology could allow the kids’ toys to connect. “Wouldn’t that be cool?” he asks. “This is what Ericsson is doing,” Mats explains. “This is what 5G can do.”
Other recommended activities sound more like do-it-yourself advertising. High school-age members on one Girl Scout site are encouraged to “Find a cell tower and make a video explaining how 5G would change the world for you. Share the video you made with a friend or fellow Girl Scout. Or, with an adult’s permission, post your video on social media and tag @gsheartofnj, @ericsson, #girlscoutstalk5G.”
And Scouts of all ages are invited to “discuss with your troop or an adult how mmWave spectrum is safe and does not cause harm to our health.”
Some health experts, who are concerned that wireless radiation poses a health risk to children, criticize the Ericsson program as an improper and inaccurate form of industry marketing. “Anytime corporations advertise directly to children, I’m very suspicious,” Dr. Jerome Paulson, a pediatrician and emeritus professor in George Washington University’s department of environmental and occupational health, told ProPublica. “It would be like Exxon Mobil sponsoring a patch on climate change.” Paulson previously chaired the Council on Environmental Health at the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has criticized the Federal Communications Commission’s wireless-radiation standards for failing to protect children.
The Environmental Health Trust, an activist nonprofit which first spotted the Ericsson program, recently sent a letter of protest to the Girl Scouts’ national office, saying the patch materials “misleadingly state that 5G networks and cellphones are safe,” and urging their removal from all Girl Scout websites. The ten signers included “former Girl Scouts and parents of Scouts,” the chair of the obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences department at Yale’s medical school, the former president of Microsoft Canada and a Swedish scientist who has conducted influential epidemiological studies on cellphone radiation.
In an emailed statement, Vidya Krishnan, global chief learning officer for Ericsson, who sits on the Girl Scouts National Board, defended the program: “The Ericsson Girl Scouts 5G patch has the sole purpose of educating our next generation about the latest wireless technologies that are shaping their lives and their future. Educational awareness is the only intention and impact.” (In October, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas honored Krishnan as a “Woman of Distinction” at its annual fundraising luncheon, where a “presenting sponsorship” went for $100,000 and individual tickets sold for $300.)
The Girl Scouts, of course, are hardly strangers to the world of commerce. They have long been renowned for their annual cookie sales — the Scouts call it “the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world” — which raise about $800 million annually for local activities. Girls are eligible for special “Cookie Business” badges by honing their sales pitches and tapping into market research.
And the Girl Scouts have offered other patches sponsored by corporations. Among them: Fidelity Investments, which sponsors a “girls’ guide to managing money.” One Texas chapter offered a patch for “Fluor Engineering Month.”
The Ericsson 5G patch was first made available in March 2021 through the website of the Northeast Texas council of the Girl Scouts. Ericsson’s U.S. headquarters is in Plano, Texas, and the company, which boasts of being “the leading provider of 5G network equipment in the U.S.,” has been involved with the area’s Girl Scouts program for several years. Ericsson has focused on promoting interest in science, technology, engineering and math careers, known as STEM, where girls are historically underrepresented. (The company’s Facebook page includes photos of hardhat-wearing Girl Scouts on a 2018 field trip to an Ericsson training center with mock cell towers and transmitters.) A second Ericsson executive serves on the local Girl Scouts board, and, according to public disclosures, Ericsson has donated more than $100,000 annually to the northeast Texas council for the past three years.
Ashley Crowe, chief program officer for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, said 697 Girl Scouts have obtained the Ericsson 5G patch. Crowe praised Ericsson’s support for the Girl Scouts, saying, “I for one would never feel exploited by Ericsson,” but she added that she was unaware of health concerns about children’s exposure to cellphone radiation. “I had never even heard about that,” she said. “This has not been brought to our attention at all.”
After ProPublica’s inquiries about the matter, the patch program was removed from the Texas council’s website. (A spokesperson for the council asserted that “the patch program was removed from our site at the beginning of October,” explaining that “the Ericsson 5G IoT patch program was funded by Ericsson as a one-year optional program for local Girl Scouts and concluded September 30, 2022.” However, a ProPublica reporter saw the patch on the Texas site as late as Nov. 21.) It remains available on the website of a New Jersey Girls Scouts council.
A spokesperson for Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey submitted a statement on behalf of its CEO, Natasha Hemmings, asserting that “the safety and well-being of our Girl Scouts is and always has been our top priority.” The statement continued: “In line with our mission, we partner with numerous organizations and corporations, including Ericsson, to expand access to education and to empower girls to become leaders of tomorrow.”
The national office for Girl Scouts of the USA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Scientific concern about whether cellphone radiation poses a human health hazard, including increased risk of cancer, fertility issues or other problems, has been rising in recent years. (ProPublica recently explored this issue in detail.) The research includes a massive U.S. government study that in 2018 found “clear evidence” that cellphone radiation caused cancer in lab animals. Some researchers have also warned of special risk to children, citing studies showing that their developing brains absorb more radiation because of their thinner, smaller skulls. The American Academy of Pediatrics has echoed this concern, urging the FCC to revise its exposure standards, saying they don’t adequately protect children.
More than 20 foreign governments have adopted protective measures or recommended precautions regarding wireless radiation, with many of them focused on limiting exposure to children. The European Environment Agency offers similar guidance, noting: “There is sufficient evidence of risk to advise people, especially children, not to place the handset against their heads.”
The wireless industry and U.S. regulators, including the FCC and Food and Drug Administration, deny that there is any proven health risk for anyone. They dispute that the technology poses any special hazard to children and don’t advocate any precautions. The FCC’s “Wireless Devices and Health Concerns” page, for example, notes that “some parties” recommend safety measures, “even though no scientific evidence currently establishes a definitive link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.” It then states, in bold: “The FCC does not endorse the need for these practices.”
Top Michigan GOPer invokes conspiracy theories and tells offhand toilet story in final Senate speech
Speaking on the challenges posed by COVID-19 since early 2020, Shirkey soon launched into remarks blasting Whitmer’s administration for past efforts it deployed to prevent further spread of the virus. The Republican said that her leadership during the pandemic was “based on a core message of fear,” which “fog[ged] the thinking of everybody.”
A whirlwind of COVID-19 disinformation and QAnon-esque conspiracy theories, Shirkey’s speech was filled with the talking points that have dominated much of the far-right landscape throughout the pandemic.
COVID-19 was a “surprise foreign attack” that was “most certainly planned,” Shirkey claimed without evidence. He alleged baselessly that scientists have ignored COVID-19 data that is not consistent with their “preferred narrative,” while repeating arguments he has previously pushed regarding “natural immunity.”
Shirkey also falsely claimed that COVID-19 vaccines have been proven ineffective and are likely unsafe. He spoke out against “unscientific and unnecessary” social restrictions that Whitmer’s administration put in place during the height of the pandemic, including school shutdowns.
In reality, research has shown that vaccines are both safe and effective. University of Michigan researchers also found in January 2021 that Whitmer’s strict public health measures during the 2020 holiday season likely prevented more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases and thousands of deaths in Michigan.
Shirkey then invoked the Bible while laying out what he sees for the future.
“I carry a burden. … I can see things that are about to happen or going to happen that other people sometimes can’t see,” Shirkey said.
“… We are witnessing 2 Timothy Chapter 3 before our very eyes. COVID was a test. These next challenges will be much more than a test.”
The portion of the King James Bible referenced by Shirkey alludes to “terrible times in the last days.”
Shirkey said that in the “spiritual battle” to come, all elements of life will be under attack as humans worship “little ‘g’ gods.”
“These are the next threats that will make COVID-19 an elementary memory. Little ‘g’ gods like ESG, climate change, gun control, child sacrifice, trans-whatever-we-can-concoct, central bank digital currencies, artificial intelligence, agricultural demonization, Critical Race Theory, and the list goes on,” Shirkey said.
“The intent behind these little ‘g’ gods is to achieve one world governance. One world religion, one world healthcare, one world currency, one world control and the elimination of sovereignty.”
The primary element driving these efforts is the World Economic Forum (WEF), Shirkey claimed, invoking an online conspiracy that claims the global elite — which antisemitic conspirators claim is controlled by Jews — is using COVID-19 to enact a new world order and set up a “one world government.”
GOP former secretary of state nominee Kristina Karamo, whose campaign was built on QAnon-adjacent conspiracies, agreed with the sentiment via Twitter.
“It is to our peril for any of us to ignore their agenda,” Shirkey said. “… The threats you will face in the next four years are real and more dangerous than what we’ve endured these last three years.”
After speaking about the WEF’s “objectives” for some time and the perceived dangers of everything from digital currencies to artificial intelligence, Shirkey then launched into the format of a more familiar farewell speech with thank yous, shoutouts and personal anecdotes.
One of those anecdotes caught the attention of many listening and was fodder for a number of tweets Wednesday night.
— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) December 7, 2022
Having just moved into the Binsfeld Office Building in 2018, Shirkey said he visited the restroom and thought the temperature of the facilities were unusual. After using the restroom twice more — “I figured it out,” Shirkey said.
“It was the toilet that was warm. And so I put my hand in it. And it was hot water.”
Shirkey said he then called maintenance staff to ask them “why taxpayers are paying for hot water in our toilets.”
me: it’s a lame duck session, so nothing wacky will happen
Mike Shirkey: I stuck my hand in the toilet to see how warm it was https://t.co/o1f8ubsKue
— Seasonal Affective Hard Seltzer 🫒 (@VernorsHerzog) December 7, 2022
During his time as Senate Majority Leader, Shirkey also stirred up controversy with sexist remarks directed toward Whitmer, comparing slavery to abortion, pushing election misinformation, admitting that he advised Michigan militias on messaging while insisting they get a “bad rap,” and more.
Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: email@example.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.
Revealed: 2022 Swing state voters split their tickets — citing protecting elections and preventing another Jan. 6 insurrection
The data, compiled by Citizen Data and Protect Democracy, polled voters in five swing states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Across those states, 60% of respondents said that protecting democracy was “very important” in determining their voting decision.
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Voters were also asked to rank their top three most important issues when voting in the midterm, and “protecting elections” ranked third and fourth across the states. In Arizona, it was listed as the fourth-most important issue, with 36% of respondents saying it was their primary focus. Inflation, abortion and immigration took the top three spots in Arizona.
Approximately 20% of voters in the five battleground states said preventing another January 6-style incident was one of their main priorities. The January 6 Committee hearings also played a role in voter decisions, the data showed.
Over 90% of people who had heard about the committee’s work said that the hearings were either somewhat or very important to their midterm vote, with only 7% saying it wasn’t important at all. Among those who had heard about the hearings, 45.5% said it factored into their voting decisions.
In Arizona, registered Republicans and independents who split their votes among GOP and Democratic candidates ranked January 6 as a higher issue than voters who voted only for a single political party. Arizona also had the highest percentage of ticket-splitters who ranked January 6 as an issue, with 20.9% calling it a top issue. That was more than three points greater than the 17.5% of voters who said the same in Wisconsin, the next-highest state.
Those who chose to split their ticket often listed support of January 6 as a major reason for doing so, though spreading of conspiracy theories, support of former President Donald Trump and extremist views ranked higher.
“It is easy to imagine if there was no January 6 committee, that the events of that day would have faded,” Kristy Parker, an attorney at Protect Democracy and a former federal civil rights prosecutor said during a presentation of the data. Parker added that the committee helped people understand what happened that day and start to create layers of accountability.
Mindy Finn, CEO of Citizen Data, which conducted the polling, said that this is the fourth poll the firm has conducted related to January 6 to see how it has impacted voter opinions over time.
“The more voters hear and learn from the committee, the more likely they are to penalize politicians connected to January 6,” Finn said. “The data is pretty clear that not only January 6 was very important, but so was the committee itself for voters.”
Finn added that the data also dispels a belief that democracy itself isn’t a “kitchen table issue” and it is one that voters are really paying attention to now.
“This data really sends a different message,” Finn said. “Just knowing that these issues do matter and they do resonate.”
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Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.