ALBANY, N.Y. — Brian Benjamin’s indictment on federal bribery charges came as a “surprise” to Gov. Kathy Hochul, who claimed Wednesday she was caught off guard by the scandal that ensnared her hand-picked right-hand man. The governor said she made the best decision she could “based on the information I had at the time” when choosing Benjamin to be her lieutenant governor last year, despite ethical questions raised before his appointment. “Clearly, we need a better process. It was very disappointing to me personally how this played out,” she told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. Benjamin resigned Tuesday, ...
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Ginni Thomas pal spreading ‘misinformation’ to an army of volunteers who could create 'mischief and mayhem' on Election Day
A conservative attorney who brought John Eastman into Donald Trump's orbit is training an army of election deniers to aggressively monitor polling places.
Cleta Mitchell, a campaign finance lawyer who has worked closely with Ginni Thomas, is holding summits around the country as part of her Election Integrity Network, and recordings obtained by The Guardian show election deniers providing false and inflammatory instructions to guests interested in becoming poll watchers.
“I’m very familiar with the groups that are staging this," said Gary Sims, the elections director in North Carolina’s Wake County. "Some of these individuals I’ve been dealing with for over a decade now. It’s just that, honestly, after the events and post-events of 2020, these groups have a charged-up base. Before, they didn’t have an audience. Now they have an audience because of that. So they are capitalizing on that audience.”
“What they stated was, I want to say disinformation, not misinformation, because it was not true,” Sims added. “It’s actually intentionally trying to villainize us.”
The nonprofit organization is funded by the Conservative Partnership Institute -- where Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows is a senior partner -- and has gotten money from the former president's PAC and some of his donors, and the summits host speakers from FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, Citizens United and Heritage Action, while West Virginia secretary of state Mac Warner and Josh Findlay, the RNC’s national director of election integrity, spoke at events -- which cost $20 to attend and bar reporters.
“We don’t allow media to come to our summits, mainly because they’re never nice to us,” Mitchell said at the event. “They make fun of us.”
Mitchell's organization aims to motivate 2020 election conspiracy theorists to develop relationships with local law enforcement to determine whether they are “effective or silent partners," and they were directed to learn who was responsible in the state attorney general's office for working with election officials and decide whether they're a "friend or foe."
"[That's] absolutely outrageous," said David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research. “They’re citizens, they’re professionals -- they’re our neighbors. If we start to view our fellow citizens as our enemies, we’re lost.”
Barb Byrum, the clerk in Ingraham County, Michigan, said she was glad to see more people interested in the election process, but she's worried that inexperienced poll watchers might not understand how the process works and spread bad information -- accidentally or intentionally.
“You have those people who may have worked the precinct who intentionally don’t understand the procedures and that can then, with some level of authority, spread misinformation,” Byrum said.
She has already received about 100 GOP applications, where she usually gets only a handful, and she has encouraged local clerks to give first-time election workers, whether Republican or Democrat, jobs with less responsibility, such as handing out "I voted" stickers, and she's watching out for volunteers who raise red flags.
“If they are prepared to act in bad faith, or slow down the process, or create any mischief or mayhem on election day," Byrum said, "I will make sure they are held accountable in my county."
Whoopi Goldberg said that she's ready to expand the court because the one tradition of the Supreme Court is that it is in balance and serves as the point of reason for the country. That's no longer the case, she argued, saying that it has been thrown completely out of balance.
Republican Ana Navarro argued that President Joe Biden "can direct his cabinet department, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health to look at every way and every vehicle to give women and to give families resources to make things better. But the truth is, this is not a monarchy. He is not an emperor. He is not a dictator. This is a democracy where there are three equal branches of government. So, he can't snap his fingers and make this go away."
She explained that Republicans "got in line" and that Christian Republicans have been working toward this for a long time. And even though they hated Donald Trump, they sucked it up so they could ensure they got anti-choice judges added to the court.
"So, you want to do something? Vote," Navarro explained.
But that demand of giving money and voting isn't resonating with many Democrats, particularly women, who feel like more should be done. Just a week after losing their rights, Congress is leaving Washington to go home for the Fourth of July holiday break. Actor Craig Robinson even revealed that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) fled the country to The Bahamas.
"Mitch McConnell and all the rest of them looked the other way when Trump was grabbing women by their genitalia," said Joy Behar. "When he was dissing Gold Star families, when he was making fun of John McCain who was a hero in the Vietnam War, and everything else that that guy did because they wanted the Supreme Court, and he has gotten his wish. And by the way, why do you blame Biden? Biden had a promising agenda, and it was derailed by the DINOs in Congress. Manchin and Sinema. Manchin-ema. That's what happened. So, don't blame Biden, the guy is trying. He put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. That was good. I mean, there are many things that he's done."
See the women continue the debate below:
How mosquitoes seek out and feed on their hosts are important factors in how a virus circulates in nature. Mosquitoes spread diseases by acting as carriers of viruses and other pathogens: A mosquito that bites a person infected with a virus can acquire the virus and pass it on to the next person it bites.
For immunologists and infectious disease researchers like me, a better understanding of how a virus interacts with a host may offer new strategies for preventing and treating mosquito-borne diseases. In our recently published study, my colleagues and I found that some viruses can alter a person’s body odor to be more attractive to mosquitoes, leading to more bites that allow a virus to spread.
Viruses change host odors to attract mosquitoes
Mosquitoes locate a potential host through different sensory cues, such as your body temperature and the carbon dioxide emitted from your breath. Odors also play a role. Previous lab research has found that mice infected with malaria have changes in their scents that make them more attractive to mosquitoes. With this in mind, my colleagues and I wondered if other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue and Zika, can also change a person’s scent to make them more attractive to mosquitoes, and whether there is a way to prevent these changes.
A number of factors can make you more attractive to mosquitoes, including the odors you emit.
To investigate this, we placed mice infected with the dengue or Zika virus, uninfected mice and mosquitoes in one of three arms of a glass chamber. When we applied airflow through the mouse chambers to funnel their odors toward the mosquitoes, we found that more mosquitoes chose to fly toward the infected mice over the uninfected mice.
We ruled out carbon dioxide as a reason for why the mosquitoes were attracted to the infected mice, because while Zika-infected mice emitted less carbon dioxide than uninfected mice, dengue-infected mice did not change emission levels. Likewise, we ruled out body temperature as a potential attractive factor when mosquitoes did not differentiate between mice with elevated or normal body temperatures.
Then we assessed the role of body odors in the mosquitoes’ increased attraction to infected mice. After placing a filter in the glass chambers to prevent mice odors from reaching the mosquitoes, we found that the number of mosquitoes flying toward infected and uninfected mice were comparable. This suggests that there was something about the odors of the infected mice that drew the mosquitoes toward them.
Volunteering in a mosquito study may require a few bites.
To identify the odor, we isolated 20 different gaseous chemical compounds from the scent emitted by the infected mice. Of these, we found three to stimulate a significant response in mosquito antennae. When we applied these three compounds to the skin of healthy mice and the hands of human volunteers, only one, acetophenone, attracted more mosquitoes compared to the control. We found that infected mice produced 10 times more acetophenone than uninfected mice.
Similarly, we found that the odors collected from the armpits of dengue fever patients contained more acetophenone than those from healthy people. When we applied the dengue fever patient odors on one hand of a volunteer and a healthy person’s odor on the other hand, mosquitoes were consistently more attracted to the hand with dengue fever odors.
These findings imply that the dengue and Zika viruses are capable of increasing the amount of acetophenone their hosts produce and emit, making them even more attractive to mosquitoes. When uninfected mosquitoes bite these attractive hosts, they may go on to bite other people and spread the virus even further.
How viruses increase acetophenone production
Next, we wanted to figure out how viruses were increasing the amount of mosquito-attracting acetophenone their hosts produce. Acetophenone, along with being a chemical commonly used as a fragrance in perfumes, is also a metabolic byproduct commonly produced by certain bacteria living on the skin and in the intestines of both people and mice. So we wondered if it had something to do with changes in the type of bacteria on the skin.
To test this idea, we removed either the skin or intestinal bacteria from infected mice before exposing them to mosquitoes. While mosquitoes were still more attracted to infected mice with depleted intestinal bacteria compared to uninfected mice, they were significantly less attracted to infected mice with depleted skin bacteria. These results suggest that skin microbes are an essential source of acetophenone.
Viruses can alter the skin microbiome to increase the presence of bacteria like Bacillus, which produce mosquito-attracting odors.
When we compared the skin bacteria compositions of infected and uninfected mice, we identified that a common type of rod-shaped bacteria, Bacillus, was a major acetophenone producer and had significantly increased numbers on infected mice. This meant that the dengue and Zika viruses were able to change their host’s odor by altering the microbiome of the skin.
Reducing mosquito-attracting odors
Finally, we wondered if there was a way to prevent this change in odors.
We found one potential option when we observed that infected mice had decreased levels of an important microbe-fighting molecule produced by skin cells, called RELMα. This suggested that the dengue and Zika viruses suppressed production of this molecule, making the mice more vulnerable to infection.
Vitamin A and its related chemical compounds are known to strongly boost production of RELMα. So we fed a vitamin A derivative to infected mice over the course of a few days and measured the amount of RELMα and Bacillus bacteria present on their skin, then exposed them to mosquitoes.
We found that infected mice treated with the vitamin A derivative were able to restore their RELMα levels back to those of uninfected mice, as well as reduce the amount of Bacillus bacteria on their skin. Mosquitoes were also no more attracted to these treated, infected mice than uninfected mice.
Our next step is to replicate these results in people and eventually apply what we learn to patients. Vitamin A deficiency is common in developing countries. This is especially the case in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where mosquito-transmitted viral diseases are prevalent. Our next steps are to investigate whether dietary vitamin A or its derivatives could reduce mosquito attraction to people infected with Zika and dengue, and subsequently reduce mosquito-borne diseases in the long term.