With fellow Republican Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) facing pushback and censure in their home states for voting to convict Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection in his just-concluded impeachment trial, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) may get flack, but she has far fewer worries about losing her seat if she runs for re-election.
Murkowski is the only one of the dissident Republicans facing a referendum on her vote in the form of facing voters in the coming midterm election, but recent election law changes in Alaska make the probability of a pro-Trump insurgent nominee from the right unseating her as a nominee highly unlikely.
According to the National Review's John McCormack, Alaska enacted new voting rules in the just concluded election that switched the state's primary to an open one and not divided by parties.
As McCormack writes, "First, Alaska got rid of partisan primaries and established an open primary in which the top four primary candidates will compete in the general election." Add to that, Alaska will be implementing ranked-choice voting that will create another obstacle.
According to Ballotpedia, "A candidate needs a simple majority of the vote (50%+1) to be declared the winner of an election. If no candidate wins a simple majority of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated. People who voted for that candidate as their first choice would have their votes redistributed to their second choice."
McCormack also notes that this will not be the first time that Murkowski has drawn the ire of far-right Republicans. In 2010 she lost the primary to arch-conservative candidate Joe Miller, only to defeat him in the general election by successfully running a write-in campaign.
As the columnist points out, "Since 2016, Murkowski has bucked her party on a number of issues. She declined to vote for Trump or the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020 (just as she had done in 2016)," before adding, "It's been a delicate dance for Murkowski, but if she simply finishes first or second place in the first round of balloting in 2022, she'll very likely keep her seat."
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Giuliani endorses for NYC mayor — but his favorite Democrat says Rudy's support is 'sabotage': report
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has become so toxic since his days as "America's Mayor" that his endorsement was rejected on Friday.
CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer asked Giuliani, who is backing Republican Curtis Sliwa, which Democratic he preferred.
"New York being a heavily Democratic town, who do you think is the best candidate in the Democratic field?" Kramer asked.
"I have to say, with tremendous reluctance because there are so many negatives there, that at least [Eric] Adams talks about reducing crime," Giuliani said. "I'm going to vote for Curtis. I'm a Republican, and if I had to, there's no question that Adams gives us some hope that he can be practical once elected."
But Adams rejected the endorsement.
"I don't — don't with capital D, O, N, apostrophe, T — need Giuliani's endorsement and don't want it, his endorsement," Adams said. "One of the ways you sabotage a campaign is that you come out and endorse the opponent that you don't want to win."
Adams is facing Maya Wiley, Kathryn Garcia, Andrew Yang and Scott Stringer among others in Tuesday's Democratic Party primary.
On CNN Friday, correspondent Jim Acosta tore into Republicans who have embraced the groundless conspiracy theory that FBI agents embedded themselves among Trump supporters to incite the Capitol riot on January 6.
"The partner of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after being attacked at that insurrection, says that former President Trump was the, quote, 'mastermind of that day,'" said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "How incredible is it to see some of these Republicans actually going along with all these conspiracies?"
"They're living in a different world. They're in the Q-niverse, I guess you could call it," said Acosta. "Some of these same Republicans were blaming it on Antifa — now they're blaming it on members of the FBI. You have to wonder who's next."
"Donald Trump is going to get back out on the campaign trail, stoking these same kind of passions we saw on January 6th," continued Acosta. "You have to wonder whether or not it's going to lead to scenes like this. January 6th, he gave this speech, he riled up this crowd and sent them off to the Capitol. These folks who are wondering who stormed the Capitol on January 6th can just look in the mirror. It is these folks in these videos who have been identified by law enforcement. It's clear as day."
Jim Acosta says Republicans are living in the "Q-niverse" www.youtube.com
Tik Toker Brookiebaby888 usually posts humorous lifestyle videos to her 73,000 followers, but earlier this month she fimed herself doing a "magnet vaccine test." Standing in front of her camera, she explained to users that she just received her COVID-19 vaccine and wanted to see if a magnet would stick to her arm. Pressing the round magnet to her deltoid, she gasps in surprise when it barely sticks.
Brookiebaby888 is one of thousands who have done the "vaccine magnet test" on Tiktok, perpetuating the conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 vaccine includes an unidentified magnetic object — maybe a microchip — causing a side effect of becoming magnetic (which is not true). It's unclear if people like Brookiebaby888 are true anti-vaxxers, or just participating in yet another viral social media challenge with deleterious public health effects.
Recently, the conspiracy theory was popularized and brought to the mainstream when Sherri Tenpenny, a confidant and adviser to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and self described anti-vaxxer, spoke about it at a hearing held by a health committee in the Ohio state legislature.
"I'm sure you've seen the pictures all over the Internet of people who have had these shots and now they're magnetized," Tenpenny said. "They can put a key on their forehead. It sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick, because now we think that there's a metal piece to that."
Misinformation experts say testimonies like Tenpenny's promoting vaccine misinformation, along with the viral videos on social media doing the "magnet test," harm public confidence in the vaccines. The very real public health risk posed by the spread of such misinformation speaks to why people like Tenpenny need to be deplatformed from social media, Imran Ahmed, CEO of The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), told Salon.
"It's profoundly irresponsible to give them uncritical oxygen given that these are publicity hounds who are seeking to sell their product," Ahmed said. "Every time they're given the oxygen of publicity, they become more powerful."
Ahmed suspects that the hearing in Ohio that went viral was likely a publicity stunt for Tenpenny to gain new followers and make more money. Tenpenny is listed as one of the top 12 leading anti-vaxxers according to the CCDH; Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Andrew Wakefield, and Joseph Mercola are also on the list. The CCDH estimates that Tenpenny — who is a practicing osteopathic physician and alternative health entrepreneur who offers "boot camps" in becoming an anti-vaccine activist — makes $2.1 million from these programs collectively, according to the CCDH's report titled "Pandemic Profiteers."
"This is all an enormous scam," Ahmed said. "For them, it's a war of attrition, and the war of attrition is that, let's just say 10 people believe that they can magnetize them — they happen to stick a key to themselves because they're in the middle of a heatwave and it's a hot and sticky and it sticks to them — and they think, 'Oh my god, the vaccine is magnetic.'"
"That's why social media has been so powerful for them," Ahmed continued, "because they've been able to push out misinformation and then slowly start accruing followers without ever necessarily paying the cost for it."
As Ahmed alluded to, it is likely that some people who participate in the vaccine magnet challenge will believe that, for some reason, the COVID-19 vaccine has a mysterious magnetic metal in it like iron, nickel, or cobalt. According to a fact sheet on the FDA's website for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine contains only mRNA, lipids, potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate and sucrose — none of which are ferromagnetic.
For the record: Though it's been debunked time and time again — including by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — the COVID-19 vaccine does not make a person magnetic. The reason the magnets or keys are briefly sticking to some, Deputy Lab Director Eric Palm of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory told BBC News, could be trickery or simply the cause of excess oils on the skin.
"You can easily get a coin to stick to your skin, we've all done that as children — sticking coins to our foreheads," Palm said. "Because of the surface oils, surface tension associated with that... or someone could be using trickery, [such as] band-aid residue or sticky substance."
There are certainly instances of such simple trickery; for example, TikTok user Emilaay442's video of doing the magnet challenge went viral when the magnet stuck. But, as she later explained to BBC News, it was meant to be a "joke" and she actually licked the magnet before applying it to her skin.
So where did this bizarre, dangerous myth come from exactly? It's unclear. In her testimony, Tenpenny suggests that there's something magnetic in the protein being injected, or something related to "5G towers," meaning cell phone radio towers. (Notably, 5G or "fifth generation" cellular technology requires much smaller and less intrusive radio towers than previous generations.)
In some videos, the magnet sticking has been used to advance the microchip conspiracy theory that falsely claims Bill Gates is behind an operation to implant microchips in people via vaccines. As The Verge reported, this conspiracy theory stemmed from a Reddit thread. Indeed, as Ahmed said, the magnet meets microchip conspiracy theory fits into the three types of misinformation that anti-vaxxers spread frequently. This one just happened to stick.
"One is that COVID isn't dangerous, the second is that vaccines are dangerous, and the third is that you can't trust doctors," Ahmed said. Anti-vaxxers "throw out everything" and see what sticks, Ahmad continued. "We've been told that vaccines will do everything from magnetize you to kill you, to all sorts of idiocy — this just happens to have caught fire because of this profoundly hilarious video of Sherri Tenpenny."
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