How One Washington State Senator Is Rationalizing The Measles Outbreak (HBO)

CLARK COUNTY, Washington — The United is currently home to six ongoing measles outbreaks. But with 70 confirmed cases, Clark County, Washington in particular, has gotten a lot of attention. It’s quickly become a classic example of what happens when parents hesitate to vaccinate their children. Still, the spread of a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease hasn’t been enough to change everyone’s minds about vaccines.

Washington State Senator Lynda Wilson told VICE News during a recent interview that she believes the measles vaccine has caused more harm than the disease itself — a statement that has been debunked by multiple peer-reviewed studies, including a massive study published this week. She also said she hasn’t actively reached out to any scientists or doctors to verify her opinion on the matter. “I’m kind of busy up here, and so I’m just dealing with what I’m getting from my constituents,” she said.

The measles is a nasty disease that can lead to serious complications, including swelling of the brain and pneumonia. It also kills around 1 or two children out of every 1000 who become infected. That’s why scientists recommend the vaccine, which is both safe and effective. But right now, Clark County has an unusually low vaccination rate.

So, Senator Wilson’s view of vaccines aren’t just emblematic of the crisis — they could also have an impact on upcoming legislation. A proposed bill would eliminate one of Washington’s non-medical vaccine exemptions, the philosophical exemption, and Senator Wilson has already said she plans to vote to keep the exemption. “I don’t believe that everyone should be having to do them,” she said, in reference to vaccines.

Despite having vaccinated her own children when they were younger, Wilson doesn’t think parents should be required to do so with their own kids — at least not American parents. “The cases are coming from out of the country,” she said. “So, you know, maybe what we should do is start thinking about requiring vaccinations if you’re coming into our country. Maybe they should be vaccinated instead of requiring all of our people to be vaccinated.”

The CDC says that the current measles outbreaks are linked to travelers. But there’s little evidence to suggest that vaccinating visitors to the United States would be at all effective. That’s because the measles vaccine, called MMR, is only 93 percent protective after a single dose, so people who aren’t vaccinated can still get sick. That’s why scientists say it’s important for communities to reach a certain vaccination rate — a concept called “herd immunity.” When a high number of individuals in a community are vaccinated, that limits the spread of disease and prevents those who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated from becoming sick.

“Measles continues to exist in other countries and within the United States,” a spokesperson for Clark County Public Health told VICE News. “As long as measles is present elsewhere, it’s only a plane, car, train or boat ride away from our community and will continue to be a risk for our community or any community with large unvaccinated populations.”

Senator Wilson says the current outbreak is under control. Moreover, she says the people who were infected will benefit from the disease. “We didn’t have any deaths, and we didn’t have any hospital stays. So I don’t know that it’s unacceptable,” she said. “I mean, now these people have full immunity for the rest of their lives.”

VICE News went to Washington state to see how the measles outbreak is impacting a parent, a pediatrician, and a legislator.

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Students Uninvite Gov. Ralph Northam From The First Stop On His Apology Tour (HBO)

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam hoped that today would kickoff his statewide apology tour. But last night, his first attempt to atone for the yearbook photo of a klansman and man in blackface, and for wearing blackface to moonwalk as Michael Jackson, fell apart.

The governor doesn’t deny moonwalking, but he does deny he’s in the photo on his yearbook page.

The governor planned to appear at historically black Virginia Union University for an event honoring the Richmond 34 civil rights activists. While some of the honorees were happy to let their ceremony serve as a place for the Governor to begin learning and apologizing for his racist act, the current VUU student body felt blindsided.

VUU’s Student Government Association President, Jamon Phenix, penned a letter addressed to Governor Northam demanding he back out of the event, explaining that the students “feel as though your presence takes away from the historical significance of our commemoration.”

Phenix says he invites the Governor to return to campus later this year. When asked why he would delay the chance to reconcile, Phenix told VICE News that the Governor’s mere presence at the event, without the opportunity for students to ask questions or have a discussion, didn’t add value. “There was no real reconciliation. If he was to attend, he would not be on the platform and he would not have said anything. Where’s the reconciliation inside of just a presence?”

Elizabeth Johnson Rice, one of the Richmond 34, disagreed. In 1960, she and her peers entered Thalhimers department store, sat down at a whites-only counter, and were arrested and charged with trespassing. As alarmed as she was that Northam had dressed in blackface, she believes firmly in second chances. “Northam may have trespassed against the black community,” she conceded. “But the word is forgiveness. And that’s, that’s what my heart said that he deserves.”

VICE News met with current and former VUU students in Richmond, VA. Though Governor Northam wasn’t in the room, the question of whether or not he was worthy of reconciliation certainly was.

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This School District In Texas May Create Its Own Police Force (HBO)

JJ Strong has been a cop at Round Rock High, near Austin, for the past four years. His job involves roaming the halls on the lookout for kids causing trouble, whether it be getting in fights, smoking weed, or just generally being up to no good. And all the while, he’s constantly thinking about what he’d do if someone burst into the school with a gun.

“That’s always in the back of your mind,” Strong told VICE News, during his rounds one day last month. “Because if you’re not prepared, if you haven’t thought of a game plan, you’re not going to know what to do.”

In the year since the shooting at Parkland’s Stoneman Douglas High, schools around the country have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep their students safe. Some have installed hi-tech equipment and bulletproof windows. Others have encouraged their teachers to carry their own firearms. But the most fundamental aspect of school safety remains the most traditional: School police.

And now, some changes are coming.

Officer Strong is what’s known as a school resource officer, or SRO, a part of a program that dates to the 1950s, which has grown rapidly over the past few years. These days, it’s getting an overhaul: The Round Rock school district is among those considering trading their SRO program in for a self-contained, in-house police department, something 248 other districts in the state have already done — 34 in the last year alone.

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Trump’s Biggest Enemy In The Courts Gave The Spanish State Of The Union Response (HBO)

Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, was an obvious choice to deliver the Democratic Party’s Spanish-language response to the State of the Union address. He’s the child of Mexican immigrants. He represented a heavily Latino district in Los Angeles during his 24 years in congress.

And as attorney general of the most populous state in the union, Becerra has already sued the Trump administration 45 times to block some of its biggest moves on healthcare, the environment, and, most importantly, immigration.

Trump’s address — in spite of its gestures toward reconciliation — repeated the same message on immigration he’s been delivering since his campaign. That set Becerra up to draw a sharp contrast between Trump and the Democrats for the potential Latino voters watching live on Telemundo and Univision.

“Tonight was supposed to be about convincing us that, from here on out, the deceit and dysfunction would stop, and that cooperation would begin,” Becerra said in his speech. “What we heard was the same tired refrain of building walls.”

But distinguishing the Democratic Party from Trump “isn’t tough,” as Becerra told VICE News. Much harder is reconciling the profound divisions that exist on immigration within the Democratic party — between a newly ascendant left wing that’s turned “Abolish ICE” into a slogan, and an establishment that has for decades played an active role in dramatically expanding the immigration enforcement system.

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We Interviewed The Venezuelan Opposition Leader After Police Came To His House (HBO)

Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old opposition leader has been on the move since he declared himself interim president of Venezuela last week, defying President Nicolas Maduro and thrusting the country into a power struggle.

Despite facing mounting threats and frozen assets, Guaidó hasn’t been afraid to hold events in public, popping up here and there in opposition strongholds where he’s certain he won’t be arrested.

But after giving a speech Thursday on his future plans for the country, he made a quick exit to rush home — where he says Maduro’s Special Actions Force (or FAES) had shown up at the front gate, asking questions about his family.

“Today we saw how the FAE threatened my wife, asking for her,” Guaido told VICE News.

Up until now, Maduro has only targeted Guaido directly, freezing his assets and blocking him from leaving the country. But Guaido sees this visit from police as a new form of intimidation.

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FCC Cafeteria Employees Say They Were Nearly Ruined By The Shutdown (HBO)

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history cost the economy $11 billion dollars, according to a report yesterday from the Congressional Budget Office — and the agency expects $3 billion of that won’t ever be recovered, even after workers cash their back pay.

This is what it looks like to come back from a 35 day unpaid forced vacation.

Jessica Rosenworcel is one of 4 commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission. She and her fellow commissioners, including Chairman Ajit Pai, oversee the agency. Rosenworcel let VICE News document the first day back at work for her staff and other employees at the agency.

The FCC has just over 1,400 employees and most of them were deemed “non-essential” during the shutdown. During the shutdown, The FCC was able to continue it’s planned 28 GHz spectrum auction, but they were not able to take on many of their regulatory functions.

FCC staff will get back pay for the time they were furloughed, but government contract workers like FCC cafeteria employees will not.

One contract worker we spoke to said he had seven bounced checks during the shutdown. “One check charged $35 [in overdraft fees]. Seven charged $210,” Kevin Lee told VICE News.

Another employee, who works at the cafeteria with her husband, said she only ate ramen noodles during the shutdown.

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For Florida’s Felons, The Fight To Regain Their Voting Rights Is Just Starting (HBO)

More than 1.4 million convicted felons gained the right to vote back after Florida passed an amendment to its constitution last year. But getting the amendment passed was just the first hurdle for advocates hoping to re-enfranchise those citizens.

Now, some are worried that calls by Republican leaders in the state to pass legislation clarifying the amendment could end up undercutting it.

Ion Sancho, who served as the Leon County, Fla. Supervisor of Elections for nearly three decades, told VICE News that Florida has been the “genesis of the modern era of voter suppression tactics” — and that talk from GOP state lawmakers about legislating the amendment could be yet another example.

“I am anticipating that they’re going to try to slow-walk it,” he said of Republicans in the state legislature. “They’re going to try to put any kind of impediment they can. “

So far, there are no specific proposals on the table concerning the amendment from Florida legislators. But state Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, says he and other skeptics of the amendment are simply considering options to make it easier for both ex-felons and state officials to verify who’s eligible.

“Whatever we’re doing is going to be about compliance,” he said. “Anything we would do would be how do we validate that…so that there is not mishap or an opening for mischief.”

Baxley pointed to the fact that there is currently no centralized database in Florida where ex-felons can confirm that they’ve finished all the terms of their sentence, a requirement to be able to register under the new amendment. Supervisors of Elections also can’t independently confirm eligibility, and were given no guidance from the Secretary of State on how to implement the amendment.

Still, advocates of the change say they’re ready for any attempts to slow-walk the law, and willing to fight such efforts in court. In the meantime, says Demetrius Jifunza, an ex-felon who fought for the amendment and registered the first day he was eligible, advocates for the amendment are going to focus their efforts on getting people registered and involved in politics — so they can combat any attempts to take their rights away again.

“So, you know, it’s politics and it’s Florida. I mean you could snowball things, put language into something to hold things up,” he acknowledged.

But Jifunza added: “The only way to combat that is if we stay on top of things.”

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Brazil’s Drug Gangs Are Prepared To Go To War Over Bolsonaro’s Gun Crackdown (HBO)

Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, signed a temporary decree on Tuesday fulfilling a campaign promise to tackle the country’s epidemic of violence by making it easier for Brazilians to buy guns.

“I signed this decree, created by many upstanding people, so that at this first moment, upstanding citizens can have peace inside their homes,” Bolsonaro said at the signing ceremomy in the country’s capital, Brasília.

Bolsonaro, a conservative former Army captain, was sworn in as president on Jan. 1 after sweeping to power last year on a hard-line law-and-order platform, pledging to reduce the countrys record murder rate and booming trade in illegal drugs that fuels it.

On the main highway leading into Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s Federal Highway Patrol or PRF say they’re confiscating record numbers of illegal guns and drugs. The officers patrolling the road seized 18 tons of drugs last year — a more than 300-percent increase from the year before.

“It’s a traditional route for drug traffickers – not just for drugs, but also heavy arms,” Alcino Galvao da Silva, Unit Leader of the Federal Highway Patrol, told VICE News. “Machine guns, bullets, marijuana, and cocaine… It has grown quite a bit, especially in Rio de Janeiro.”

“Johnny,” as he asked VICE News to call him, has been dealing drugs for the Third Command drug gang since he was 16 years-old. Now at 28 he manages all the drugs corners in the neighborhood and isn’t afraid to defend them by force.

“I can tell you that today I’ve got 35 homicides,” “Johnny” told VICE News. “Fear? We don’t have fear. That’s what we’re here for. To kill and die. We’ll die, but die fighting. It’s our war motto: Die fighting.”

Bolsonaros plan to “give guns to good people,” and ramp up the military’s role by giving security forces more power to shoot and kill armed criminals isn’t getting the drug gangs to drop their guns. Third Command says their stockpilling weapons of war.

“He’s going to take the world into an urban war,” “Johnny” told VICE News. “Instead of us killing the Red Command we’re going to go after the guy who is in the police who listened to one of Bolsonaro’s orders.”

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Ann Coulter Is “Not Going To Complain” Trump Shut Down The Government Over Immigration (HBO)

In 2015, Bill Maher’s audience erupted in laughter when Ann Coulter predicted that Donald Trump would win the 2016 general election. Coulter would become one of Trump’s biggest supporters, writing a book subtly titled In Trump We Trust, and calling the president an “emperor god.” But that was then.

In December, Coulter unloaded on Trump, branding him a “gutless president” and “a vulgar publicity hound.” Within hours, the president’s Twitter follower count conspicuously went from 46 to 45.

He unfollowed Coulter.

“If you had promised to build a wall every single day for 18 months of your winning campaign — the day after your election wouldn’t you have started meeting with, you know, members of — of the Seabees, and — and military types, and allies in Congress to figure out how to get it going so that the day you’re sworn in you’d be down at the border, you’d be talkin’ to the rebar guys, and start building the wall?,” Coulter told VICE News. “Well, Trump didn’t do that.”

With the government shutdown now in its 24th day — and with criticism mounting even from his own party — President Trump has been immoveable on the border wall, after having previously softened on his demand for $5 billion in funding.

“It is self-preservation,” Coulter said. “Because he is dead in the water if he doesn’t build that wall. Dead, dead, dead. Dead.”

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France’s Yellow Vest Protesters Just Won Against Macron (HBO)

According to local media in France, Macron’s government will announce a moratorium on the hike in fuel prices today. The U-turn comes after Saturday’s riots in Paris which the government said were the worst they had seen in 50 years.

It marked the third week of “gilet jaunes” or yellow vest protests across France, named after high-visibility safety jackets the French are required to keep in their cars. The movement first came together on social media to protest an increase in fuel taxes. But among chants of “Macron Resign! Macron Resign!” at the protest, it was obvious it had become about working and middle class being hit hard by the economic policies of President Emmanuel Macron.

“We need a balance between the rich and poor in France,” Jimmy Moreno told VICE News among tear gas and water cannons at L’Arc de Triomphe. Jimmy came to protest peacefully and voted for Macron in the 2017 election but says he wouldn’t vote for him again.

“He has shown himself to be cold-hearted and inhuman, little more than a banker, with no place governing a nation,” Jimmy said the day after the protest at his home in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil.

“What’s happening now because of the government’s violent actions and the yellow vests’ violent reaction, is representative of French history. Every time there is a shift in governance or a revolution, there is violence, it’s unavoidable,” he added.

The government struggled to negotiate with the yellow vests which is an a-political grassroots movement that has no clear leadership. But smashed shop windows, graffiti, and cars burning in the streets got the government’s attention. “We need to violence to stop because the violence we had against police, against institutions last week is just unacceptable so we need it to stop,” said Aurore Bergé, a deputy in the French Parliament and spokesperson for Macron’s party En Marche!.

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