Friday, July 31, 2020

Nine ways America is having the wrong conversation about 'reopening' schools by Andrea Ward

“When we think we have a choice between virtual learning and ‘normal’ learning. If our school buildings open for in-person instruction in a few weeks, things are going to look very different. Most of us agree that virtual learning, for the general population, is nowhere near as good as in-person learning. But the measures we would need to take to keep students and teachers safe in our schools would eliminate most, if not all, of what makes in-person learning so great. Collaborative group work? Nope. One-on-one conferences at the teacher’s desk? Sorry, no. Partner discussions, active learning ... you get the idea. Anxious teachers trying to avoid virus exposure may resort to lecturing from the front of the room and passing out worksheets, no matter how much they want to do better. ‘Normal learning’ is not on the table this year.

“When we pretend students are going to follow the safety guidelines. The vast majority of students will try to do their best, but let’s really think about what we will be asking them to do. I teach eighth grade. (I know, God bless me. I get that a lot.) If you haven’t been in an eighth-grade classroom since you were in eighth grade, you might not remember what one looks like. I will tell you. It looks like a whispering, giggling, snoring, snacking, writhing mass of humanity constantly touching each other. The only thing eighth-graders love to do more than touch each other is ignore rules created by adults. Yes, even to the detriment of their own health and safety. (Adolescent brain development at work.) There goes your six feet of separation and your mask requirement. Frequent, sustained hand-washing? Not when the sink is outside the bathroom in the hallway where all your bros are waiting.

“When we refer to the low infection and death rates among kids. Emerging evidence suggests that kids over 10 may contract and spread the virus just like adults do. Still, even if kids do get sick and die at lower rates, schools are also workplaces full of adults. Younger adults, older adults, adults who have underlying health conditions, adults who live with or care for people with underlying health conditions, adults who love working with children and want to serve their communities but don’t want to give up their lives for it. Can we really ask this of them when we have a viable alternative in virtual learning? When people use low child infection and death rates as a reason to open schools, the subtext is, ‘it probably won’t be your kid.’ But it will be someone’s. How many community members are we willing to sacrifice? Don’t answer that. The acceptable number of deaths is zero.

“When we imagine schools can make their programs COVID-safe without additional funding. It feels like every year we say we must ‘do more with less,’ as if it’s possible to make endless increases in efficiency. But I will tell you public education’s dirty secret: We are not doing more with less. When we get less — fewer teachers, fewer support staff, fewer resources, fewer programs — we do less, no matter how much we want to do more. This will be even more true when the pandemic-related decline in state and local tax revenues combines with the need to divert existing budgets to double transportation routes and custodial schedules and purchase PPE and disinfecting products and a plexiglass ‘bubble’ for every desk. How many mobile hotspots and curriculum supports could be purchased with those funds? How many existing programs and positions will need to be cut instead?

“When we equate teachers with front-line workers like doctors and nurses. Yes, it’s true that doctors and nurses voluntarily put themselves into close, personal contact with very sick, very contagious people. But the health care system is largely set up to mitigate the risk of this contact. Doctors and nurses wear extensive PPE. They generally see one patient at a time. Most health care facilities have plentiful disinfectants close at hand and effective cleaning procedures already in place. This is not to dismiss the often grave risks that health care workers undertake with every patient contact. But this contact is an essential function of their very essential work. Teachers can educate students remotely. It isn’t ideal, and we lose a lot of what we value about teacher-student relationships. But it can be done well, and it’s safe.

“When we assume that the greatest threat to children’s mental health and well-being comes from staying home. Schools provide critical support for student mental health, and we would need to be creative to serve students’ social and emotional needs well remotely. But when we use student mental health as a reason to go back to school during a pandemic, I wonder if we have deeply considered the environment we propose to send students back into. This will not be a year of teacher hugs and lunch with their friends and awesome collaborative projects. All the normal stresses will be compounded by anxiety about the virus, constant vigilance about safety, and possibly even the need to cope with the deaths of teachers or classmates. We also need to acknowledge the needs of special education, English learners, at-risk, low-socioeconomic-status, and other groups of vulnerable students that receive essential services through public schools. This decision is a no-win for many of them. Families of special-needs students may not be equipped to provide the continuous care or specialized education that their children receive at school. Parents in immigrant and low-income households may have jobs that lack the flexibility to stay home with children doing virtual learning. But COVID-19 has run rampant through low-income families, multi-generational households, and communities of color for just this same reason. The impacts of disease and death are often amplified in families living with economic and other types of insecurity, and we will not do these families any favors by putting their children at greater risk of contracting the virus.
“When we say that the entire U.S. economy depends on kids being in school buildings. The obvious truth is that if parents must work outside the home, their children must be supervised. But when we speak as if in-person school is the only solution to this problem, we reveal a profound lack of creativity and narrowness of thinking. If our government and employers have an interest in maximizing labor force participation and economic productivity — and they do — then they must take the lead in solving the problem of what to do with the children. During normal times, public school is the solution. These are not normal times, and our normal solution is unsafe, so we need an alternative. Perhaps employers could be incentivized to offer parents maximum flexibility. Schools could help families form small ‘pods’ to share supervision while limiting their exposure. Teachers could support virtual learning by meeting in person weekly with very small groups. Or maybe the federal government could offer schools and families something like the billions (trillions?) of dollars it paid out to major corporations at the beginning of this crisis, seemingly without a second thought. Bottom line: the economy is not going to come roaring back to life if we provide the virus with a previously untapped population of 56 million hosts who mostly don’t understand personal space.
”When we compare ourselves to Denmark (or almost any other country). Yes, Denmark and lots of other countries have begun sending their children back to school without evidence of an increase in virus transmission. But these countries have largely controlled community spread of COVID-19; we have not. Why should we think our infection rates will behave like other countries’ when we have completely different baseline data? We are, as we’ve always said, exceptional.

“When we suggest that this is an easy call. This is a devastating decision for anyone in the position to make it. Suffering is sure to follow any choice, no matter how thoughtful. I have no decision-making power, but as an educator, I have spent countless hours envisioning the geographical space of my classroom, mentally marking off 6 feet here and there, thinking about what kind of personal forcefield I might be able to MacGyver that would allow me to crouch down next to a student, look them in the eye, have a real conversation. Prefigured on empty spaces, it seemed like it could work. But then the faces of my students filled the hallways of my imagination, shouting, laughing, pushing, hugging, breathing, because that’s what they need, and that’s what they’ll do if we put them all back together. They’re human. We’re human. The acceptable number of deaths is zero” (Des Moines Register).

-Andrea Ward is a teacher in central Iowa.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Last Words to All of Us from John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis, who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death. He wanted it to be published on the day of his funeral. His staff provided a copy of the essay to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the morning of July 30, four hours before his 11 a.m. funeral is to start.

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society.

Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me.

In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars. Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle.

Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare.

If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence.

He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.

Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself. Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.

Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, though decades and centuries before you.

The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war.

So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

-John Lewis 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

SPRINGFIELD – The following is a joint statement from Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin and Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery

Together, the Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers represent 238,000 employees in public and private schools, colleges and universities in the state of Illinois and in doing so we protect the safety of more than 2.5 million students. We believe that some types of in-person instruction can be achieved with health and safety mitigation in any individual community, but absent a practical safety plan that includes a clear line of responsibility and enforcement, we call for the 2020-21 school year to begin with remote learning.

We are working to ensure that any district providing in-person instruction in Illinois is prepared and able to abide by the safety measures outlined by the state, the federal government, and medical professionals. If those measures are not met, we will do everything we can to protect our students and those who care for them – teachers and professors, bus drivers, classroom aides, secretaries, building janitors and everyone in between. No avenue or action is off the table – the courts, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board – nothing, including health and safety strikes. The entire weight of the IEA and the IFT will be used in whatever way is necessary to protect the students and the staff who educate them.

If a return-to-learning plan is not safe, we will act. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. Unions were founded on workplace safety. The COVID-19 pandemic brings us back to our roots. This is the power of belonging to a union – to be able to collectively stand to protect those who need it – employees, students and their families. We especially need to protect those students who live in communities where health care is lacking, non-existent or unaffordable. We are in this together and we are in this to keep everyone healthy, safe and learning.

Since this pandemic began, our members have risen to the occasion. We rebuilt the public education system in a week. We delivered food and schoolwork, dove headfirst into remote learning, and did our best to provide normalcy and emotional support for our students. We miss them. We want to see them more than anything, but we want to do it safely.

For districts who have worked cooperatively with local union leadership, with the community and have successfully abided by all safety measures outlined in official guidance or made the decision to begin the academic year remotely, we commend and thank you.

We know we are stronger when we are united.

William Barr before the House Judiciary Committee (by Heather Cox Richardson)

“Attorney General William Barr testified [yesterday] before the House Judiciary Committee. His combative answers confirmed that he is Trump’s man. He is committed to the narrative that dangerous anarchists are endangering law and order, and that Trump was unfairly targeted by FBI agents in what Barr calls ‘Russiagate.’
“Helping him to bolster this narrative were the Republicans on the committee, especially Jim Jordan (R-OH), who began the Republican side of the questioning with both his signature rapid-fire yelling and a video deceptively edited to give the impression that the country and its police are under siege by violent protesters, and that Trump’s crackdowns are necessary to stop them. He is also on board with ginning up accusations of impropriety over the Russia investigation: he began his tirade with the word ‘Spying!’ (An investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general says the investigation was begun properly, and the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed that conclusion.)
“House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) permitted Jordan to show the video, but afterward noted that the committee’s rules required him to say he was doing such a thing 48 hours in advance, which Jordan did not. For Jordan, Congressional hearings are all theater to get sound bites and footage for later news clips that will tell a misleading narrative. As Democrats spoke over Barr, Jordan repeatedly complained at their behavior, saying ‘I do not think we have ever had a hearing where the witness was not allowed to respond to points made, questions asked, and attacks made.’ Jordan, of course, is famous for being the member of Congress most notable for precisely this behavior.
“Barr’s stance is that he is defending the rule of law in America. When Nadler pressed him on whether the crackdowns were simply an effort to aid Trump’s reelection, Barr said he has chosen the cities he has for ‘neutral’ reasons. (They are all Democratic cities, and the Trump campaign has used video from the crackdowns in campaign ads.)
“Barr denied that he had interfered inappropriately in Trump’s friend Roger Stone’s sentencing, although when Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) asked him to name any other case where the DOJ had called for a more lenient sentence for a defendant who had threatened a judge and a witness, Barr did not answer the question.
“Barr denied that he ordered the protesters removed from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. to enable Trump’s photo-op in front of St. John’s church, although he did say he had learned that afternoon that Trump might walk to the church. He also said that the officers clearing the square did not use tear gas, although recent testimony from Washington, D.C. National Guard Major Adam DeMarco says they did.
“Committee Republicans cheered Barr on. Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) asked Barr to use anti-racketeering laws against the protesters. ‘General Barr, this has to stop,’ he said. ‘We can’t let antifa continue terrorizing our country.’
“The most memorable moment of the hearing was when Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asked Barr why he had responded so differently to the Portland protesters than he did to the armed anti-mask protesters who had swarmed the Michigan Capitol and called for the Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, to be ‘lynched, shot, and beheaded.’
“Barr first said he did not know about the Michigan events (this is not believable), and then suggested he was deferring to the state governor. This is belied by the deployment of federal officers in Oregon despite the strong opposition of Oregon Governor Kate Brown. More convincingly, Barr said he was deploying federal forces to defend federal property. Jayapal pointed out that a more likely difference between the two responses was that, in Michigan, white supremacists were threatening to behead a Democratic governor, and in Oregon, protesters were supporting BlackLivesMatter. Overall, the Attorney General signaled that he has every intention of doing all he can to keep Trump in office.
“Although the DOJ has a policy of avoiding roiling the country in the 60 days before an election, Barr says that he will, in fact, feel free within that period to release the results of the pending examination he commissioned into the Russia investigation when it became clear the DOJ’s official inspector general had found the probe was lawfully begun. When that happened, Barr tapped the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, John Durham, to launch his own investigation, traveling with him to Italy and the United Kingdom to talk to people in those countries to investigate the actions of our Intelligence Community. Today, Barr said ‘Any report will be, in my judgment, not one that is covered by the policy and would disrupt the election.’
“And yet, while today’s questioning was about Durham’s report, Barr has repeatedly said that the Russia probe was ‘one of the greatest travesties in American history,’ and that Durham’s job is not to ‘prepare a report’ but establish criminal violations that will lead to prosecutions. Trump supporters expect that Durham’s report will have an important effect on the campaign.
“When Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) asked Barr if it was ever appropriate for a president to solicit or accept foreign assistance in an U.S. election” Barr first responded: ‘Depends on what kind of assistance.’ After Cicilline made it clear he meant any kind of assistance, Barr answered: ‘No, it’s not appropriate.’ (According to Federal Elections Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub it is illegal.)
“Barr reiterated the president’s stance that mail-in ballots will create massive fraud. There is no evidence that this is the case, and many states already have such a system. Indeed, Barr himself, as well as the president, have used mail-in ballot themselves. Barr also said he would leave office if Trump is not reelected, ‘if the results are clear…’” (Heather Cox Richardson).


Trump and DeVos’s Plan to Reopen Schools Hides a Sinister Agenda by Peter Montague

“…Science does not support claims of perfect safety. Schools are likely high-contact zones. Most schools cannot presently afford regular disinfection; many students and their parents may object to mandatory masks (38 percent of U.S. adults don’t wear masks when they leave the house); certainly not all kids will remain six feet apart. COVID-19 can definitely infect some children, some of whom can pass it on to their families, teachers, school staff and other children.

“States test and report COVID cases differently, but Bloomberg News reports that, in Florida, about a third of all children tested have been positive for COVID-19; in California it’s 8.4 percent; Mississippi, 9.4 percent; Arizona and Washington state, 11 percent. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 3.3 million seniors age 65 and older — prime candidates for serious illness — live with a school-age child. Furthermore, another Kaiser study concluded that one-quarter of all teachers (1.47 million people) are in danger of developing serious illness if infected with coronavirus.

“Almost everyone agrees that children sorely need the many benefits of school attendance — food and friendships, books and basketball courts, time away from family, and a safe place to spend it, plus stimulating interactions as they learn reading, writing and arithmetic. Furthermore, 27 million working parents need their children cared for safely during the week. ‘Safely’ is the hard part.

“Educators say opening schools safely will cost up to $245 billion on health-related renovations — billions that local governments do not have, and which Republicans in Congress have so far refused to provide. The CARES coronavirus relief law, enacted in March, earmarked only $13.5 billion to improve school safety. Since then, Republicans have refused to provide additional funds, instead suggesting that state governments should simply declare bankruptcy. (Bankruptcies occur in federal courts, which would give Republicans a chance to slash social safety nets in Democratic strongholds like New York.)

“To reopen safely, schools need more money and more space. Doubling the distance between students will require twice the space. Part-time online learning will require access to broadband, and laptops or tablets for everyone. According to a recent survey, only 24 percent of teachers report that all their students have access to a tablet or laptop for school work. In addition, everyone will need masks, and schools will require frequent, thorough cleaning.

“The Washington Post reports that Congress is currently negotiating a bill that might give schools another $50 billion to $100 billion — still far below the amount needed to make schools safe. Plus, the Post says, Trump and DeVos are angling to give the money only to schools that open fully. They want to punish schools that open only part-time.

“Why are Trump and DeVos saddling parents and public schools with this impossible dilemma? Trump just wants to win the election November 3 and he apparently thinks opening schools will make everything appear normal. DeVos appears to have a more devious agenda.

“DeVos blurted out her coronavirus plan on ‘Fox News Sunday’ when she said, ‘American investment in education is a promise to students and their families. If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds. Then give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise.’

“It’s no secret that DeVos would like to privatize all public schools. If public schools become hotbeds of infection, confidence in public education will diminish; perhaps then more parents would join DeVos in pressing to eliminate the public school system entirely. This agenda should surprise no one — it has been Betsy DeVos’s religious mission for the past 25 years.

“DeVos is a fundamentalist Christian who has said she wants ‘to confront the culture to advance God’s Kingdom.’ To do that, she said, God led her to reform public education, which in her mind means privatizing it.

“‘It’s been a long-standing goal of the Religious Right to replace public education with Christian education,’ says Julie Ingersoll, a professor of religious studies. ‘The long-term strategy of how to change culture is through education.’ On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state can fund religious schools, which DeVos called ‘a historic victory.’

“DeVos is also a so-called deeply anti-government libertarian. An editor with the Detroit Free Press says DeVos is driven ‘by her conviction that any nontraditional public school is better than a traditional one, simply because it is not operated by government.’

“Since the early 1990s, in her home state of Michigan, DeVos has led and funded a libertarian anti-government movement to give parents ‘school choice.’ This means taking taxpayer money from public schools and giving it directly to parents in the form of ‘school vouchers’ which can be used like cash to pay expenses for sending a child to any school that will accept them, including public schools, private schools, religious schools and ‘charter schools.’ Vouchers are always promoted and defended as a way to give poor people a decent education, but that’s often a cover for other motives.

Charter schools are ‘public’ schools in the sense that the public pays for them. However, charters are privately owned and operated; they choose their own students, manage their own curriculum, and in most places are not answerable or accountable to local school districts or school boards or to anyone else. They can teach whatever they want and manage their money in secret.

“With Betsy DeVos and her husband funding and cheerleading the campaign, in 1994, the state of Michigan bet heavily on charter schools. It has not gone well. In 2014, a yearlong investigation of Michigan’s charter schools by the Detroit Free Press revealed: ‘Wasteful spending and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them.’

“As a lengthy New York Times exposé revealed in 2017, ‘Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. The Children Lost.’ As the Times pointed out, ‘it’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story: It’s a business story.’

“The ‘school choice’ movement is driven by libertarian malice toward all government, but it is also driven powerfully by the profit motive. U.S. public schools spend $694 billion each year and a lot of hucksters — many with no experience as educators — want a slice of that pie.

“Jonathan Kozol, a writer and advocate for public education, has described the ‘corporate predation’ attacking U.S. public schools. In 2007, Kozol reported that a group of investment bank analysts said privatizing public schools offered the biggest profit opportunity since health care services were privatized in the 1970s. ‘The K-12 market is the Big Enchilada,’ one banker wrote.

“Because they can choose their own students, charter schools tend to select students whose parents are well-to-do and resourceful, leaving the public schools with reduced funds to educate the remaining kids, whose parents are poorer. In this way, ‘school choice’ increases inequality in the nation’s educational system.

“In the U.S., conservatism and racism have always gone hand in hand. Vouchers and charter schools have become a legal way to maintain and expand racial segregation. It’s probably no accident that the idea of school vouchers was invented by libertarian economist Milton Friedman in 1955 — the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools must be racially integrated ‘with all deliberate speed.’

“After Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Southern states were looking for a way to evade school integration; private schools were the answer, but they were expensive. School vouchers (and later, charter schools) solved that problem by diverting taxpayer money to private schools, thus legally maintaining racially segregated schools, separate and unequal.

“From the DeVos/Trump viewpoint, privatizing education has another major benefit — eliminating or weakening teachers’ unions, which are among the nation’s largest and strongest remaining labor organizations. As a Republican Party donor and leader in Michigan, DeVos has aggressively opposed unions.

“In 2012, she and her husband pushed through an anti-union ‘right-to-work’ law, outlawing labor contracts that require all employees in a unionized workplace to pay dues for union representation. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision made ‘right to work’ the law of the land nationwide.

“The most important factor in the quality of public schools is funding, but the second most important factor is the quality of the teaching. To maintain quality, teachers — rather than bureaucrats or business managers — must shape the curriculum and control the amount of time teachers spend in collaborative planning and in individual tutoring.

“Furthermore, teacher pay and years of experience are crucial to successful schools. Without collective bargaining provided by a union, teachers cannot have a serious voice in school improvement.

“As Trump and DeVos demand that all schools open in the fall, despite the obvious health hazards to tens of millions of people, we can recognize their cynical plan as part of a long-term strategy by conservatives to eliminate democracy’s most important foundation — an informed populace based on quality education for all.

“To ensure a decent education for all, instead of privatizing schools we could eliminate poverty and stop funding public schools by property taxes, which inherently produces unequal school funding. We could easily fund all public schools adequately and equally, and, finally, we could protect, support and strengthen teachers’ unions. If Democrats are serious about ‘resistance,’ they will take this stand, loud and bold, for public health and quality education for all” (Truthout).

-Peter Montague

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Trump’s New Favorite COVID Doctor Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm and Hydroxychloroquine

“A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Dr. Stella Immanuel a ‘must watch,’ while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.

“Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including ones about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams. 

“Immanuel, a pediatrician and religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. 

“She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by ‘reptilians’ and other aliens.

“Immanuel gave her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court at the ‘White Coat Summit,’ a gathering of a handful of doctors calling themselves America’s Frontline Doctors who have disputed the medical consensus on the coronavirus. The event was organized by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors.

“In her speech, Immanuel alleges that she has successfully treated hundreds of patients with hydroxychloroquine, a controversial treatment Trump has promoted and taken himself. Studies have failed to find proof that the drug has any benefit in treating Covid-19, and the FDA revoked emergency authorization of the drug’s use to treat hydroxychloroquine in June, saying it hadn’t demonstrated any effect on patient’s mortality prospects. ‘Nobody needs to get sick,’ Immanuel said. ‘This virus has a cure.’

“Immanuel said in her speech that the supposed potency of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment means that masks aren’t necessary, claiming that she and her staff had avoided contracting COVID-19 despite wearing medical masks instead of the more secure N-95 masks. ‘Hello, you don’t need a mask, there is a cure,’ Immanuel said.  

“Towards the end of Immanuel’s speech, the event’s organizer and other participants can be seen trying to get her away from the microphone. But footage of the speech taken by Breitbart was a hit online, becoming a top video on Facebook and amassing roughly 13 million views  — significantly more than ‘Plandemic’ another coronavirus disinformation video that became a viral hit online in May when it amassed roughly 8 million Facebook views.

“‘Hydroxychloroquine’ trended on Twitter, as Immanuel’s video was embraced by the Trumps, conservative student group Turning Point USA, and pro-Trump personalities like Diamond & Silk. But both Facebook and Twitter eventually deleted videos of Immanuel’s speech from their sites, citing rules against Covid-19 disinformation. The deletions set off yet another round of conservative complaints of bias at the social media platforms. Immanuel responded in her own way, declaring that Jesus would destroy Facebook’s servers if her videos weren’t restored to the platform. 

“‘Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers with start crashing till you do,’ she tweeted. ‘You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name.’

“Immanuel is currently a registered physician in Texas, according to a Texas Medical Board database, and operates a medical clinic out of a strip mall next to her church, Firepower Ministries.  Immanuel was born in Cameroon and received her medical degree in Nigeria.

“In a GoFundMe legal defense fund, which swelled from just $90 to $1,616 hours after her speech, Immanuel claims without offering any proof that members of a Houston networking group for women physicians are currently scheming to take her medical license away over her support for hydroxychloroquine. It’s not clear whether anyone is actually trying to take Immanuel’s license. But many of her earlier medical claims are definitely ludicrous.

“In sermons posted on YouTube and articles on her website, Immanuel claims that medical issues like endometriosis, cysts, infertility, and impotence are caused by sex with ‘spirit husbands’ and ‘spirit wives’—a phenomenon Immanuel describes essentially as witches and demons having sex with people in a dreamworld. 

“‘They are responsible for serious gynecological problems,’ Immanuel said. ‘We call them all kinds of names—endometriosis, we call them molar pregnancies, we call them fibroids, we call them cysts, but most of them are evil deposits from the spirit husband,’ Immanuel said of the medical issues in a 2013 sermon. ‘They are responsible for miscarriages, impotence—men that can’t get it up.’

“In her sermon, Immanuel offers a sort of demonology of ‘nephilim,’ the Biblical characters she claims exist as demonic spirits and lust after dream sex with humans, causing all matter of real health problems and financial ruin. Immanuel blames ailments like fibroids and cysts suffered on the demonic sperm after demon dream sex, an activity she claims affects ‘many women.’  

“‘They turn into a woman and then they sleep with the man and collect his sperm,’ Immanuel said in her sermon. ‘Then they turn into the man and they sleep with a man and deposit the sperm and reproduce more of themselves.’

“People can tell if they have taken an demonic spirit husband or spirit wife, according to Immanuel, if they have a sex dream about someone they know or a celebrity, wake up aroused, stop getting along with their real-world spouse, lose money, or generally experience any hardship. Alternately, they could just be having dream-sex with a human witch instead of a demon. 

“‘There are those that are called astral sex,’ Immanuel said. ‘That means this person is not really a demon being or a nephilim, it’s just a human being that’s a witch, and they astral project and sleep with people.’ 

“Immanuel’s bizarre medical ideas don’t stop with demon sex in dreams. In a 2015 sermon laying out an Illuminati plan hatched by ‘a witch’ to destroy the world using abortion, gay marriage and children’s toys, among other things, Immanuel claimed that DNA from space aliens is currently used in medicine. ‘They’re using all kinds of DNA, even alien DNA, to treat people,’ Immanuel said.

“Immanuel’s website offers a prayer to remove a generational curse originally received from an ancestor but transmitted, in Immanuel’s telling, through placenta. Immanuel claimed in another 2015 sermon that scientists had plans to install microchips in people, and develop a ‘vaccine’ to make it impossible to become religious. ‘They found the gene in somebody’s mind that makes you religious, so they can vaccinate against it,’ Immanuel said.

“Immanuel built on her fascination with witchcraft in her 2015 Illuminati sermon, claiming that witches were intent on seizing control of children. In her 2015 sermon on the Illuminati’s agenda to bring down the United States, Immanuel argues that a wide variety of toys, books and TV shows, from Pokemon—which she declares ‘Eastern demons’—to Harry Potter and the Disney Channel shows Wizards of Waverly Place and That’s So Raven were all part of a scheme to introduce children to spirits and witches. Immanuel warned that the Disney Channel show Hannah Montana was a gateway to evil, because its character had an ‘alter ego.’ She has claimed that schools teach children to meditate so they can ‘meet with demons.’ 

“In the sermon, Immanuel preserved special vitriol for the Magic 8-Ball, a toy that can be shaken up to ‘reveal’ any answer. Immanuel claims the otherwise innocuous Magic 8-Ball was in fact a scheme to get children used to witchcraft. ‘The 8-Ball was a psychic,’ she said. 

“Immanuel’s oddball claims about the world extend to politics. She didn’t bring up this allegation publicly in Washington, but Immanuel has claimed that the American government is run in part by non-human reptilians. ‘There are people that are ruling this nation that are not even human,’ Immanuel said in her 2015 Illuminati sermon, before launching into a conversation she had with a ‘reptilian spirit’ she described as ‘half human, half ET.’

“Immanuel has also used her pulpit to preach hatred of LGBT people. Shortly before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, Immanuel warned her flock that gay marriage meant that ‘very soon people are going to be seeking to marry children’ and accused gay Americans of practicing ‘homosexual terrorism.’ In the same sermon, she praised a father’s decision to not love his transgender son after a gender transition.

“‘You know the crazy part?’ Immanuel said. ‘The little girl demands he must love her anyway. Really? You will not get it from me, I’d be like little girl, when you come back to be a little girl again, but you talk—for now, I’m gone.’ 

“Unusually for a pediatrician, Immanuel has praised corporal punishment for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes corporal punishment, and claims that the ‘vast majority’ of pediatricians do not recommend it. ‘Children need to be whipped,’ she declared in a 2015 sermon, before adding that she didn’t think children should be ‘abused.’

“It’s also not clear that Immanuel has abided by her claims that masks aren’t necessary. In her Washington speech, Immanuel claimed that she and her medical staff had avoided any COVID-19 infections while wearing only medical masks. But in two videos shot at her clinic, Immanuel appears to be wearing an N-95 mask, which offers more protection. 

“Immanuel has also alleged that masks of all kinds are superfluous, because COVID-19 can be easily cured with hydroxychloroquine. But in a Facebook video advertising her clinic, Immanuel said anyone seeking treatment should wear a mask before entering the clinic. ‘Wear a mask, or a scarf, or anything to cover your face,’ Immanuel said in the video. 

“Immanuel has seized on her newfound celebrity, tweeting a video demanding that CNN hosts and Dr. Anthony Fauci give her jars of their urine so she can test if they’re secretly taking hydroxychloroquine even as they caution against its use. ‘I double dog dare y’all give me a urine sample,’ Immanuel tweeted in her challenge.

“Now Immanuel is angling for the key rite of passage for any budding MAGA-world personality: a visit to the Trump White House. Late Monday night, Immanuel tweeted that she was open to meeting the president. ‘Mr President I’m in town and available,’ she tweeted. ‘I will love to meet with you.’ (The Daily Beast).