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In Klamath Falls, Oregon, victory declared over antifa, which never showed up

4 0 07 Jun 2020

About 200 protesters came to Sugarman’s Corner, the local hotspot in downtown Klamath Falls, Oregon, last Sunday night to protest the killing of George Floyd.

Like in many of the protests that have recently sprung up in cities across the United States, the group was made up of white, black and Latino people, members of the Native American Klamath Tribes, and the LGBTQ community; a diverse coalition in a county of 68,000 where 9 out of every ten residents are white, according to Census estimates. They held signs, many of which have become common during recent protests: “Black Lives Matter” and “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Though it was a small gathering, they had company.

Just across the street, hundreds of their mostly white neighbors were there for decidedly different reasons. They leaned in front of local businesses The Daily Bagel and Rick’s Smoke Shop wearing military fatigues and bulletproof vests, with blue bands tied around their arms. Most everyone seemed to be carrying something: flags, baseball bats, hammers and axes. But mostly, they carried guns.

They said they came with shotguns, rifles and pistols to protect their downtown businesses from outsiders. They had heard that antifa, paid by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, were being bused in from neighboring cities, hellbent on razing their idyllic town.

Frederick Brigham, 31, Klamath Falls resident and musician who goes by “Wreck the Rebel,” said he never thought Black Lives Matter protests would come to his town. As one of the few black men who lives there, he felt compelled to attend.

But the presence of armed people who clearly did not support their group was chilling.

“It felt like walking through an enemy war camp,” he said

Demonstrators participate in a anti-antifa protest in Klamath Falls, Oregon on May 31, 2020.Aurora Simpson / PhotoArt by Aurora

While large rallies in major cities have been the most visible part of recent social efforts to change how police treat black people, hundreds more have popped up in small, rural towns, where residents have marched and kneeled to protest police brutality.

Those protests — and some of the violence and looting that have accompanied them — have become the source of growing skepticism and paranoia in conservative circles. The most persistent rumors center on groups of antifa members being put on buses and sent to small towns to wreak havoc.

The rumors are unfounded. But that hasn’t stopped people in some communities, like Klamath Falls, from preparing for the worst. Towns from Washington state to Indiana have seen armed groups begin patrolling the streets after receiving warnings about an antifa invasion, often spurred by social media or passed along from friends. Those actions have yet to erupt in major violence but often bring heavily armed people in close contact with protestors, as it did in Klamath Falls.

The Rumor

Tensions were already high in Klamath Falls. Peaceful protests 150 miles north in Eugene, Oregon, had been followed by a fire in the street and looting. On local social media, rumors were swirling that buses filled with outsiders were planning to infiltrate Klamath Falls to wreak similar havoc.

And so some Klamath Falls residents armed themselves and hit the streets. Those that had children to look after watched the downtown protests from Facebook, according to comments left on the stream.

“As you can tell, we are ready,” one armed man said in a Facebook Live with 124,000 views. “Antifa members have threatened our town and said that they’re going to burn everything and to kill white people, basically.”

Beyond protecting the businesses on Main Street, the armed group asked: “Why would Black Lives Matter need to protest in Klamath Falls?”

The rally lasted about four hours with Klamath Falls Police Department officers standing between the two sets of protesters. On the north side of the street, protesters chanted “George Floyd.” On the south side of the street, chants of “USA,” and “Go home,” erupted throughout the night.

“A lot of these people came out because they swore that antifa buses were in town,” Brigham said. “They couldn’t believe that I was from here. They thought I must be a black man that came from somewhere else.”

Like nearly every other county in the U.S., Klamath County and the county seat of Klamath Falls have private Facebook groups dedicated to local news, mostly filled with postings about lost dogs, local announcements, and constant chatter about what’s heard over the police scanner. It was on Klamath County’s local Facebook news group that some 4,800 members came to talk about the potential threat of antifa, according to posts reviewed by NBC News.

Since nationwide protests began, President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr have without evidence blamed the antifa movement — a loose network of groups made up of radicals who rely on direct action, and sometimes violence, to fight the far right and fascism — for the looting and property damage seen during some of the otherwise peaceful rallies. Last week, Trump announced that he planned to designate antifa as a terrorist organization.

Demonstrators participate in a Black Lives Matter protest in Klamath Falls, Oregon on May 31, 2020.Aurora Simpson / PhotoArt by Aurora

That unsubstantiated finger pointing has coincided with viral rumors on social media — posts on Facebook and Nextdoor that buses filled with thousands of antifa and anarchists were on their way to loot suburban neighborhoods. Some seen by NBC News featured a screenshot of a tweet by a fake antifa Twitter account that Twitter said was created by a white nationalist group.

The first mention of the buses coming to Klamath Falls came on Facebook.

“I am not one to spread false information,” one of the earliest posts stated. “There are two buses heading this way from Portland, full of ANTIFA members and loaded with bricks. Their intentions are to come to Klamath Falls, destroy it, and murder police officers. There have been rumors of the antifa going into residential areas to ‘fuck up the white hoods.’”

Some responding to the posts were incredulous, but few could argue when a screenshot of a direct message from Col. Jeff Edwards, the commander of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing, was posted in one of the groups.

“Team Kingsley, for your safety I ask you to please avoid the downtown area this evening. We received an alert that there may be 2 busloads of ANTIFA protesters en route to Klamath Falls and arriving in downtown around 2030 tonight,” the post stated.

Maj. Nikki Jackson, a spokeswoman for the 173rd Fighter Wing, confirmed in an email that the message had come from Edwards.

“This was an internal message sent by Col Edwards to the Citizen-Airmen of the 173d Fighter Wing for their situational awareness and safety,” Jackson said. “The alert was received from local law enforcement agencies here in Klamath Falls.”

As the day went on, the town buzzed with talk of the incoming rioters and residents swarmed to Facebook to report what they were seeing.

“I saw some scattered SJWs and some in black at Albertsons,” one woman posted. SJW is a derogatory reference to social justice warriors.

The antifa buses became a kind of local scavenger hunt. Someone spotted an empty green bus at Klamath Community College. A white bus with “Black Lives Matter” and peace signs painted in green and blue was spotted in the Walmart parking lot. A local recognized that bus as belonging to a local musician, but others didn’t buy it. Someone reported a U-haul in front of T.J. Maxx, or maybe it was the House of Shoes.

Same rumor, different states

Rumors of marauding antifa buses have popped up on local social media networks all across the country, sometimes leading to direct, dangerous action by locals and police departments.

In Forks, Washington, locals felled trees with chainsaws to block a road, fearing that a bus filled with antifa was headed to town. According to the Peninsula Daily News, the bus was occupied by a multi-racial family of four heading home from a campsite. It was eventually surrounded “by seven or eight carloads of people in the grocery store parking lot.”

Forks residents were warned of the antifa invaders by a local gun dealer’s viral video on Facebook.

Police and 9-1-1 dispatchers in South Bend, Indiana, were inundated with calls warning of “busloads of people coming in from the Toll Road.” One tweet, posted by several different, brand new accounts using identical language, warned South Bend residents to “be in by 9 and lock all of your doors.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot decried a “concerted effort out there to misinform” after the city’s police scanner repeatedly warned of antifa buses on their way into town amidst protests Saturday night.

NBC News reviewed similar warnings and posts of panic in local apps like Nextdoor and Facebook groups from all throughout the country this week. “Friends in the NYPD” warned of antifa “being sent to the suburbs” in one post. A post in a Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Facebook group implored residents to “protect yourselves, your family and your businesses” from a “serious rumor” about a group “organizing to riot and loot.”

Similar warnings were posted in Nextdoor groups everywhere from Jacksonville, Florida, to Danville, California. Some local police departments and sheriff’s offices in Idaho and South Dakota posted to social media to assuage residents of the false antifa bus rumors that had gripped local social media.

Four hours away from Klamath Falls, in Coquille, Oregon, Curry County Sheriff John Ward warned residents on Tuesday in a Facebook post that “3 buss loads of ANTIFA protestors are making their way from Douglas County headed for Coquille then to Coos Bay.”

That night, hundreds gathered at the Coos County Courthouse with guns, awaiting arrival of the antifa buses, the Bandon Western World reported.

The morning after the non-riot, a local couple, Douglas and Debra Bankler, published an op-ed in the Western World, saying “there’s not a whole lot worth ‘looting,’ and ‘burning down’ in Coquille — and we mean that in a good way!”

The op-ed was titled “taking on an imaginary enemy.”

Douglas Bankler told NBC News the antifa bus rumor may have started on Facebook, but spread through the town like a real-life game of telephone.

“We live in a tiny, podunk, little Oregon beach town. Five square miles,” he said. “God, please don’t tell us this is going on all over the place.”

‘Antifa retreats’

In the end, Klamath Falls’ largest Black Lives Matter protest saw no looting, no fires and little violence, apart from a few thrown punches, instigated by the armed side of the street, several of the Black Lives Matter protesters told NBC News.

“There was never the feel of a large contingent of a lot of out-of-town folks,” Klamath Falls Police Department Capt. Ryan Brosterhous told local newspaper Herald and News.

One person was cited for disorderly conduct and several were detained and released. “Mostly intoxication,” Brosterhous told the newspaper. The Klamath Falls Police Department did not return emails and phone messages from NBC News.

The armed man who livestreamed the protest, who was worried about antifa coming to murder white people, posted an update to his Facebook page acknowledging the risks had been overblown. “I know your hearts and minds were in the right place,” he wrote, “but a lot of the info was bad.”

Still others remain convinced that antifa had been there that night, run off by the sight of hundreds of armed patriots.

And that’s the story spreading online.

“Antifa RETREATS From Suburb After Business Owner and Neighborhood Show Up With Guns,” stated the headline on the website NewsPunch, one of the internet’s most notorious fake news destinations. The article quotes a Facebook post by Dan Kline, the owner of a local billiards bar.

Demonstrators participate in a Black Lives Matter protest in Klamath Falls, Oregon on May 31, 2020.Aurora Simpson / PhotoArt by Aurora

“I have never felt a threat to my business as I did last night,” Kline wrote in his post. “Antifa didn’t make it to the courthouse and my bar had no incidents. Antifa walked into a hornet’s nest. It was like a sixth grade football team walking into the Oakland Coliseum to take on the Raiders.”

Kline’s post received thousands of likes and shares and was posted in other local Facebook groups from Macomb County in Michigan to Sandpoint, Idaho, according to Facebook’s social media analysis tool, CrowdTangle.

Reached by phone, Kline said he was proud of the way the counter-protest took a stand against antifa, and showed the world what would happen should any outside group try and bring a fight to Klamath Falls. But he also described a different scene than in his Facebook post: a peaceful protest from a “small group of kids.”

“I can see why they felt threatened somewhat, because they actually were,” Kline said of the Black Lives Matter protesters who faced the militia on Sunday. “We didn’t know what we were up against, you know?”

“They were just trying to make a peaceful demonstration, and they ran into a fight.”

Free from the threat of antifa, the armed residents of Klamath County have mostly stayed home in recent days. But Brigham and dozens of other protesters have continued to gather nightly at Sugarman’s Corner.

“It’s been a long time since I felt this much love,” Brigham said in a livestream from Thursday night’s protest, as a large van drove by.

“They got the big guy RV,” Brigham said to an audience of 14 viewers. “That’s not antifa. It’s just somebody in an RV trying to go on vacation.”

“A lot of people still think buses with antifa are coming,” he said. “Don’t believe in the fear. Believe in this love.”

Covering a White House fortified for a war zone

6 0 07 Jun 2020

WASHINGTON — For the past three years, I’ve covered a culture war from inside the White House. This week, it felt more like I was covering an actual war.

The White House has become a fortress inside a fortress following the protests triggered by the death of George Floyd. Entering feels like going into a Green Zone in the nation’s capital, with block after block of tall, black reinforced fencing erected in recent days.

There are tan military vehicles rolling past the Pennsylvania Avenue Starbucks and camo-clad troops patrolling the corner where tourists used to buy red, white and blue USA sweatshirts.

Lafayette Square, across from the White House — normally full of selfie-taking tourists, older men playing chess and a handful of often-eccentric protesters — is now behind the steel fence perimeter and filled with National Guard troops and armed Secret Service agents. Protesters have been pushed back so far they can no longer be seen and are barely heard from the People’s House.

Covering this White House, I’ve witnessed countless moments, big and small, that I could have never anticipated. This week provided more than its fair share.

It started Monday evening as I watched military-style vehicles packed with D.C. National Guard troops roll into the White House campus. About an hour later, the president was speaking in the Rose Garden, threatening to send the military into U.S. cities to calm unrest.

“We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now,” he said.

As he spoke, the sound of explosions from flash-bang grenades used by law enforcement to clear the park reverberated across the White House grounds. One blast was so strong I could feel it rattle my chest. Between booms, there was the drone of a police helicopter overhead and sirens. These were the sounds I would have expected to hear from the White House if the country were under attack by a foreign invader.

Then there was eerie silence.

Police in riot gear stand in front of the White House on June 2, 2020.Olivier Douliery / AFP – Getty Images

Moments later, I watched from our camera position on the White House North Lawn as Trump emerged from the front door of the White House, something presidents rarely do. With the smell of the dispersants used to the clear protesters still hanging in the air, he walked out of the White House gates flanked by his top aides and Secret Service agents and headed across the fortified park for the church visit that would come to symbolize one of the biggest controversies of his presidency.

That night as I drove home, the streets and sidewalks around the White House were nearly deserted. One street I tried to turn down was blocked off by a row of law enforcement officers lined shoulder to shoulder in riot gear. While driving down another street, at least a dozen police cars zoomed past me, sirens blaring, heading the wrong way down the one-way street.

The next morning, as I entered the White House grounds, I passed dozens of U.S. Secret Service shields drying in the sun after being hosed off.

As the protests outside the White House grew over the week, so did the security process at the White House, despite fewer reports of violence. Large groups of Secret Service agents in riot gear gathered on the White House grounds as the days passed, and on Thursday, crews were erecting a new layer of fencing outside the White House as I entered at 5:30 a.m.

The US National flag above a darkened White House past tear gas smoke as protesters and police clash on May 30, 2020.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP – Getty Images

But by Friday afternoon, while soldiers in camouflage fatigues continued to patrol the area on the other side of the tall, black fence, the sounds were much different. The booms of the flash-bangs had been replaced with the bass of rock music playing from the other side of the park, where the protests had taken on a street-fair atmosphere.

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And the president, who started the week talking about sending the military into American cities, ended it back on the campaign trail in Maine, talking about lobsters and scallops and visiting a nasal swab plant.

“Next year will be the greatest year, I think, economically speaking, in the history of our country,” he told a group of fishermen.

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Blackout Tuesday on Instagram was a teachable moment for allies like me

6 0 06 Jun 2020

This week I discovered the extent to which some of my attempts at allyship were hurting, not helping, the struggle for black liberation. As a queer woman of color, this was a difficult pill to swallow. But I wasn’t alone. #BlackoutTuesday forced a lot of us wannabe allies to confront the ways in which our allyship can be misguided and, frankly, lazy.

On Tuesday, as Americans across the country searched for ways to express solidarity with black people, #BlackoutTuesday took social media by storm. It was an ostensible display of allyship — posting a black square with the aforementioned hashtag — with a promise not to post anything else that day and instead take the time to think about the ways in which many nonblack Americans benefit from structural racism.

While Tuesday morning saw a great many Instagram feeds flooded with black tiles, by the evening, many of these posts had been deleted, with people attempting to make amends.

While Tuesday morning saw a great many Instagram feeds flooded with black tiles, by the evening, many of these posts had been deleted, with people attempting to make amends. I was one of these people. There was an important lesson to be learned, if people were paying attention, and it had nothing to do with policing behavior or judgement. Rather, the #BlackoutTuesday debacle was a reminder that being an ally, sometimes, means making mistakes. But a true ally doesn’t give up when corrected; a true ally listens and course-corrects without shame or resentment. I say this as someone who’s wished, on numerous occasions, friends and family would do the same when I point out their transgressions, but who can still gets defensive if I’m not being thoughtful about it.

This all started with an initiative introduced by two black women in the music industry, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, as a call for their colleagues to halt business for a day and use the time to reflect on how white people in the industry exploit and make money off black talent. But the campaign swiftly took on a life of its own and snowballed into #BlackoutTuesday, whereby the whole world was apparently supposed to stop and reflect.

Two problems quickly arose. The first was that many people posting their black tiles as a sign of solidarity were using the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM. This well-meaning display of solidarity was drowning out crucial information for organizers and protesters. The second problem was that, on a more theoretical level, silence is not really the preferred mode of allyship for something like police brutality. And as many black people explained, showing up, seeking out discourse about racial injustices and listening to and elevating black voices were much more important to many activists than inaction and reflection.

“It’s an easy trend to jump onto, it’s easy to understand, it doesn’t take a lot of effort or energy, and, visually, it’s quite powerful if you’re just scrolling and all these people have black screens,” said Katie Petitt, a black activist who founded the nonprofit Current Movements. But Petitt, who previously worked as an organizer with Black Lives Matter, D.C., and Movement for Black Lives, D.C., noted that the Instagram hashtag also lacked analysis and nuance. “There’s the historic nature of the silencing of our voices as black people and in this movement of ending police brutality and having justice in this country.”

Invariably, as the backlash swelled Tuesday afternoon, warring factions emerged. The dialogue became reductive, self-righteous and at times hostile. A number of people on my feed railed against those who participated in the “performative allyship” of #BlackoutTuesday — the irony, of course, being that these condemnations became equally performative. Quickly, the whole thing started to devolve into a game of “Who’s the better ally?”

As the backlash swelled Tuesday afternoon, warring factions emerged. The dialogue became reductive, self-righteous and at times hostile.

When I first noticed there was controversy around this, I sought out black perspectives. One such voice was that of Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a black activist, thought leader and co-founder of Campaign Zero, which seeks to tackle police brutality through policy advocacy.

“Look, social media is a critical tool,” Cunningham said in her video on the topic. “It is a tool to educate people about white supremacy. It is a tool for people to learn and reflect on their own anti-blackness. It is a tool for people to be able to advocate on behalf of victims of police violence, racism and actually do the work that it takes. It is also an important tool for activism organizers to stay connected.”

In the video, she encourages people who want to be allies to be actively engaged and, instead of falling silent, to uplift black voices. One of her suggestions was to follow #AmplifyMelinatedVoices on social media channels. “If we all get on our Instagram and everything is black, we’re not talking about the things that matter,” she said.

So instead of falling silent, I listened to the words of these activists and followed their lead. I sent my contacts an email template addressed to the Minneapolis Police Department, demanding all four of George Floyd’s killers be held accountable — an email I sent, myself. Then I found and changed my Instagram bio to a link that produced an automatically generated email, demanding accountability over Breonna Taylor’s killing ­— another email I sent. I did research about which organizations to support and settled on the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP, and the Black Visions Collective (one of the groups Minnesota Freedom Fund redirected donors to after being overwhelmed with donations).

In a post apologizing for my misstep, which actually helped occlude black voices rather than elevate them, I shared these organizations’ information and urged others to consider donating. I sought out and shared content from black thought leaders, about allyship, activism and the struggle more broadly.

And do you know what? It took about a third of my day. That, in and of itself, was a huge wake-up call. Doing the work of anti-racism in a deliberate way takes time, energy and resources. (I mean, of course it does.) It was absurd for me to think that a post that took less than three minutes before I’d had my coffee on Tuesday morning would be as meaningful.

But that realization is kind of the point. Allyship is an ongoing process, no matter if you’re supporting LGBTQ communities or black Americans or Muslim Americans. “A good ally looks like someone who’s really done their work around understanding what white supremacy is, how it’s played out in their lives and how they’ve benefited from it,” Petitt said. “And not just white people, right? All nonblack people can embody white supremacy.”

The silver lining here is that people seem to be more and more open to engaging with these critiques. “In the 24 hours that this whole thing had its flow, I’ve seen a lot of really thoughtful [posts],” Petitt told me. Countless people on her social media, she said, who would ordinarily never talk about race, apologized and attempted to course-correct. “And for them to recognize their own ignorance and do it so publicly is no small thing.”

This isn’t about who can perform their wokeness the best. This is about continually seeking out the best, most effective solutions to these systemic problems and not taking it personally when the people in the communities you are trying to support point out problematic or unhelpful behavior. Posting a black square on Tuesday doesn’t inherently make you a bad ally — but it doesn’t inherently make you a good one, either.

How to buy face masks with filters, according to medical experts

7 0 06 Jun 2020

Editor’s note: As we will report below, experts agree that face masks with filters — and without — do not replace or relieve the need to wash your hands and practice safe social distancing, and they absolutely do not alone prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In this article: What are face mask filters? | Do they prevent coronavirus? | How to find the right face mask filter | Where to buy face masks with filters

Face masks have become the norm after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Americans wear masks in public to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In response, many companies have pivoted to making face masks. Consumers can now find masks in almost any style and material, including cotton, polyester and nylon. Many masks come with a filter built-in or as a replaceable feature. You can also buy filters separately and insert them into face masks that allow for it. Equipping a face mask with a filter should increase its effectiveness in filtering out particulate, explains Nidhy Varghese, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist in Texas. “Having a cloth mask and inserting another fabric or material for additional filtration and protection may improve the protection offered by a home mask,” she said. “This may be particularly helpful for masks made from loose fiber weaves, which offer little resistance to air flow.”

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

But not all face masks come with filters. So how do you choose the right face mask with a filter, and how should you shop for third party filters? To figure that out, we consulted medical experts on how to shop for filters for your face masks and compiled some of the best filters out there.

What are face mask filters?

There are different types of face mask filters, ranging from basic pieces of cloth to carbon filters and HEPA filters. Face mask filters will typically sit in between the two outer layers of the mask, and are used to further filter out particulate in the air.

Full coverage of George Floyd’s death and protests around the country

Homemade filters

You don’t necessarily need to buy a specialized filter to get effective mask filtration. A piece of high-thread count fabric may work just as well, said Josh Davidson, MD, an allergy and immunology specialist in California.

A recent peer-reviewed study found the most efficient masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilters cotton” with a thread count of at least 180, and a thicker and tighter weave. It’s equally important the mask (and filter) fits snugly against your face, and that there are no gaps around the outside of the mask. While you can easily cut fabric to make a homemade filter, it’s often easier (and more effective) to purchase a filter specifically designed to be inserted into a mask, said Varghese.

Carbon filters

Carbon filters are used in air purifiers to absorb, remove and capture particulate in the air, Davidson said. Airborne particulates react chemically with the carbon in the filter, causing it to stick to the filter. Carbon filters are used to trap allergens like dust, mold, smoke and chemicals in the air.

Face masks sporting carbon filters typically come with a replaceable filter that helps remove bacteria from the air and, additionally, helps absorb particulate on the surface of the mask. While they may help purify the air around you, they likely won’t increase the efficiency of filtering out viruses, said Davidson.

HEPA filters

Additionally, retailers like Amazon are selling insertable HEPA filters: high efficiency particulate air filters. HEPA filters are typically found in air purifiers or central air systems and are used to clean the surrounding air of particulates. While there are benefits to using a HEPA air purifier in the home — especially as most of us spend more time indoors — the effectiveness of an individual filter inserted into a face mask is unclear as of now.

“A standalone HEPA filter remains ideal, particularly in a bedroom environment, a workplace, wherever a person spends most of their indoor time,” said Davidson. “When outdoors, inserting one of these filter cartridges cannot worsen the efficacy of the mask itself. However, it likely won’t approach 99.97% filtration. The verdict: these can help. However, they’re not absolute protection.”

If you’re shopping for HEPA filters — for either your face mask or any other filtering device — keep an eye out for specific labeling. Any air cleaner that has a real HEPA filter has been tested and approved by nonprofit Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology. This means they are true HEPA filters. Some filters might label themselves as “HEPA-type” or “HEPA-like” — these filters are not verified, so they may not be as effective, explained Verghese.

Do face mask filters prevent coronavirus?

No. The CDC reports that COVID-19 is primarily spread through person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated surfaces. While recent studies aim to determine the effectiveness of certain fabrics in filtering out particulates, there’s limited information about the effectiveness of inserting a HEPA filter into a manufactured or DIY face mask, said Kenneth Mendez, CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Consumers should be wary about filters or face masks that claim to filter out the virus completely. “While a face covering will not give you total protection from catching COVID-19, it will help you and others reduce the chance of spreading it, especially if you aren’t aware that you are infected,” he said.

Above all else, Mendez stressed, masks are not a replacement to social distancing or hand-washing.

How to find the right mask filter for you

The two most important considerations when shopping for both masks and individual filters are fit and breathability. An additional layer of filtering in your mask may make it more difficult to breathe through. If a filter is utilized, it should be sandwiched between the outer layers of the cloth masks for an optimal fit, said Mendez. “We recommend manufactured or DIY masks that include multiple, breathable layers, which fully cover your nose and mouth,” he said.

To know if your face mask is effective in filtering out particulate, he recommends shining a light up against the material. If the light shines completely through the mask, consider adding more layers or a different fabric. The mask should block the light almost completely, Mendez said.

There are other important things to keep in mind while shopping for masks, otherwise. We cover those extensively in our guide to buying face masks. Here’s a refresher: The CDC has outlined five criteria to consider when looking for a mask:

  1. They must fit snugly (but comfortably) against your face
  2. They must be secured with ties or ear loops
  3. They must include multiple layers of fabric
  4. They must allow for breathing without restriction
  5. They must be washable without damage or shape change

A recent study found the quality of fabric plays a role in how effective a cloth mask is at filtering out particulate. The most effective design, according to the study, was a dual-layer mask which included both a heavyweight cotton layer and a lighter cotton or silk layer.

Where to shop for face masks with filters

If you’re shopping for a filter face mask, we’ve compiled face masks that either come with a carbon filter or option to insert a disposable filter, like a HEPA filter. Below, we’ve included only those masks whose listed features adhere to the CDC’s recommended criteria and the expert guidance we share above.

1. Avocado Green Mattress Organic Cotton Face Mask

The maker of eco-friendly mattresses is making 100-percent organic cotton fabric face masks available in packs of four. They can allow for a separate filter to be inserted. The brand has so far made more than 130,000 non-medical grade masks, and will be donating on percent of sales to the EcoHealth Alliance.

2. Casetify Reusable Cloth Mask

The technology brand is pivoting to making reusable masks. The masks come in five different colors and are made of cotton material — plus, they come already fitted with a filter, plus two additional ones. For every mask sold, Casetify will donate a surgical mask to a medical worker in need via Direct Relief. The company is also selling packs of 10 interchangeable carbon filters.

3. Hedley & Bennett The Wake Up & Fight Mask

These reusable masks come in plenty of different styles and are designed to be used with a filter, such as a HEPA filter, inserted within the fabric. The masks were developed with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and are one-size-fits-most. Each purchase provides a mask for you and a donation of one for a frontline worker.

4. Honeycomb Carbon Filter Masks (Out of Stock)

This mask comes with a disposable carbon filter inside layers of cotton and polyester. The outer layer is mesh and comes in five different colors. These masks are both washable and reusable.

5. Kinglight

These activated carbon filters come in packs of 10, and are made of non-woven fabric and cotton. The filter’s five layers effectively filter out emissions, exhaust and other particulates.

6. Ministry of Supply Mask Kit (Pre-Order)

Each mask, made of washable fabric, comes with 10 disposable filters. The masks are made out of 3D Print-Knit technology, a knit that’s 3D printed. For each mask sold, the company is donating a mask to frontline healthcare workers at Boston Medical Center.

7. OUBA Face Mask Filters

These individual filters are made with activated charcoal and five layers of cotton. These filters help filter out particulates like pollen, exhaust and allergens. Filters come in packs of 20 disposable filters and can easily be inserted to any mask with a pocket.

8. Public Goods K95 Face Masks (Out of Stock)

These non-medical masks are KN95-certified, meaning they adhere to the Chinese standards for respirator masks, according to the CDC. These masks include five layers of polypropylene and cotton filters and have a nose clip to fit the mask more tightly to your face.

9. Vida Mask Filter Replacements

The retailer is selling non-medical face masks, in addition to packs of five insertable filters designed to block airborne contaminants. VIDA recommends users change out the filter every seven days.

10. Vistaprint Face Masks

The printing company has created their own reusable masks that allow for a filter to be inserted. The masks come in three colorful designs and have four filtration layers: a textile exterior, replaceable fiber filter, a cloth layer and a 100-percent cotton inner layer. The company is also selling packs of 10 disposable filters, that can be used for up to 12 hours.

11. Vogmask

These filter masks claim to filter out airborne particulate .3 microns or larger, and additionally come with an exhalation valve and noseband for a tighter fit. The mask is made out of cotton and spandex, and comes in five sizes — and plenty of colorful designs. Most masks are currently sold out, but expected to be restocked soon.

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Democrats move within striking range of taking the Senate, forecasts say

8 0 06 Jun 2020

WASHINGTON — The Senate landscape has improved so much for Democrats that top party operatives are calling and texting one another to say they wish the election were held today.

Election Day is still five months away, but recent polls, fundraising deficits and other problems for Republican incumbents have diminished their prospects and opened up several possible avenues for Democrats to take control of the chamber.

“I would rather be the Democrats than Republicans right now,” said Jessica Taylor, the Senate editor of the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election forecaster. “Democrats have expanded the map and put Republicans on defense even in some very red states.”

The stakes are enormous for the legislative agenda of the next president — a re-elected Donald Trump or apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who leads in national polls and most swing states — as well as the future of the courts. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leader of the liberal wing, turns 88 next year, and the next Senate might get to confirm her successor.

Trump’s struggles in historically Republican states, like Arizona and Georgia, are creating collateral damage for his party’s Senate candidates. Public skepticism of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, and a Biden’s expanding lead since the nationwide backlash to George Floyd’s death, has put many GOP Senate candidates in a difficult position. They’re forced to navigate a polarizing president whose ardent supporters they cannot afford to alienate and whose skeptics they’ll likely need to attract to win.

Democrats currently have 47 seats — four short of an outright majority and three shy of a controlling number should Biden win as his vice president could cast any tie-breaking votes. They’re more likely than not to lose one seat in Alabama, held by Sen. Doug Jones, but have lots of pickup opportunities. GOP-held seats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina are rated “toss up” by the Cook Political Report.

Republicans are defending another five seats — in Iowa, Kansas, Montana and two in Georgia — that are in play but lean GOP, while Democrats are defending a seat in Michigan, where they’re favored. Of the 11 most competitive seats, Republicans are defending nine and Democrats two.

Doug Jones walks through the Senate Reception Room to the Senate chamber before the start of the impeachment trial on Jan. 22, 2020.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

Polls look grim for Republicans

A few months ago, Democrats felt uncertain about winning the majority as Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine are the only Republican targets in states Trump lost in 2016.

Lately they’re feeling so good that Biden said at a fundraiser last week that he believes Democrats will pick up six Senate seats, without elaborating, according to a pool report.

“For the moment, all of the things that need to happen for Democrats to take control of the Senate are happening,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, which plans to spend more than $200 million to win the White House and Senate. “I’m optimistic that we can win back the Senate.”

Democratic presidential candidate former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa on Aug. 10, 2019.Charlie Neibergall / AP
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., listens to testimony during a hearing on Capitol Hill on April 10, 2019.Susan Walsh / AP file

Some GOP operatives fear that races like Colorado and Arizona — once thought to be close — are slipping away while Maine and North Carolina are becoming too close for comfort.

The nonpartisan newsletter Inside Elections rates Gardner’s seat as “tilt Democratic.”

Collins, meanwhile, did not join Trump during his visit to Maine on Friday, although she denied that the president was hurting her chances of re-election. But she said Democrats’ attacks on her have had an impact as she has been out-raised and out-spent: “It’s the barrage of unfounded falsehoods that have taken a toll,” she said.

Arizona’s Republican Sen. Martha McSally has consistently trailed former astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, since last August, including by 13 points in a new Fox News survey.

And in North Carolina, Thom Tillis, the GOP incumbent, and his Democratic opponent, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, were statistically tied in two recent polls.

A Montana State University poll in April found that state’s Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, leading Republican Sen. Steve Daines by 7 points after Bullock’s late entry breathed life into a red-state race that Democrats had all but written off.

And in Georgia, appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, sworn in this year, drew criticism for stock trades made on her behalf after early coronavirus briefings, for which she’s been cleared by the Justice Department. Loeffler, who said she was unaware of the transactions at the time, faces a contentious “jungle primary” that includes Republican Rep. Doug Collins.

Sen. Martha McSally, R-AZ, listens to testimony at a hearing at the Capitol on May 6, 2020.Shawn Thew / Getty Images file
Mark Kelly speaks with guests at a summit in Atlanta in 2014.Branden Camp / AP file

Coronavirus upends the dynamics

Republicans say the political environment will change as coronavirus lockdowns continue to ease after claiming more than 100,000 lives and Americans start to return to work.

“Where we stand today is not an accurate picture of where we will be,” said GOP consultant Brad Todd, who counts Tillis and Gardner as clients. “We’ve been in such an abnormal position for the past 60 days that projecting it forward is careless, if not hubris.”

Todd said Republicans will be helped by elevating the question of which party voters trust to rebuild the economy.

“I don’t see anybody thinking that by October the economy has bounced back completely,” he said.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Jesse Hunt said most Democratic candidates have not yet faced the scrutiny that GOP incumbents have.

“Democratic challengers have lived a charmed life up to this point,” Hunt said. “As the ad wars begin to heat up and the press begins to scrutinize these Democrats, their records and scandals will be laid bare for voters to see and evaluate whether or not they are capable of handling the immense challenges facing the Senate.”

Sara Gideon in Augusta, Maine, in 2016.Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images file
Sen. Suasn Collins, R-ME, adjusts her mask before a committee hearing in Washington on May 12, 2020.Toni L. Sandys / AFP – Getty Images file

But Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Republicans will pay a price for their efforts to repeal or overturn Affordable Care Act protections, as health care remains a top issue for voters.

“Democrats are focused on the issues that matter to voters, including affordable health care coverage, and are reporting record-breaking grassroots support, which is how we’ve expanded the map and continue to move these races in our direction,” she said.

Republicans, meanwhile, are hyping the Michigan race after GOP businessman and Iraq war veteran John James out-raised Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. Polls roundly show Peters leading.

Overall, the Cook Political Report’s Taylor said, “Democratic challengers are by far out-raising the Republicans early on.”

LA Galaxy release Serbian soccer star Aleksander Katai over wifes racist social media posts

7 0 06 Jun 2020

The LA Galaxy said it has released Serbian soccer star Aleksander Katai on Friday after his wife, Tea Katai, shared a series of “racist and violent” social media posts in response to the George Floyd protests occurring across the country.

The Major League Soccer club met with Katai on Thursday after it was made aware of two of his wife’s Instagram posts that she shared the day before. After fans protested outside the LA Galaxy stadium, the club announced in a one-sentence statement on Friday that it would drop Katai from its roster.

The club said the two sides had “mutually agreed” to part ways.

“The LA Galaxy strongly condemn the social posts and requested their immediate removal,” the club said in a statement days before announcing Katai’s removal. “The LA Galaxy stands firmly against racism of any kind, including that which suggests violence or seeks to demean the efforts of those in pursuit of social equity.”

Tea Katai deleted the Instagram posts in question, but the first showed a picture of New York Police Department officers’ driving into a crowd of protesters, with a line in Serbian that translates to “kill those s—s,” The Associated Press reported.

The second post shows an alleged looter carrying a box of sneakers with the caption, “Black Nikes Matter.” A third post called protesters “disgusting cattle,” also in Serbian.

The 29-year-old Aleksander Katai, a new winger for the team who came from the Chicago Fire, had been taking part in voluntary individual workouts this week with Galaxy teammates at the club’s training complex, NBC Los Angeles reported. He had only played in two games with his new club before MLS suspended the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Katai said in his own Instagram post that his wife’s posts were a mistake for which he took responsibility, and he apologized “for the pain these posts have caused the LA Galaxy family and all allies in the fight against racism.”

“I strongly condemn white supremacy, racism and violence towards people of color,” Katai said. “Black lives matter.”

Beautiful, peaceful and diverse: Thousands of protesters flood streets near White House

7 0 06 Jun 2020

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people gathered outside Washington D.C. monuments and the White House on Saturday protesting the killing of George Floyd, years of unanswered calls for police reform and President Donald Trump’s use of the military in response to largely peaceful demonstrations.

“I’m tired of the racism. Just tired,” said Rochelle Grate, a 58-year-old information technology specialist from Fort Washington, Maryland, who described the Saturday protest as “beautiful, peaceful and diverse.”

“This is different,” she said about the protests seen around the country over much of the past two weeks since Floyd, a black man, was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25. “It snapped people not of color to say ‘Man, this is real and I’ve been blind to it.’”

After more than a week of protests in Washington, city officials said they expected Saturday to be the largest demonstration yet with potential for tens of thousands of people taking to the streets.

“We anticipate the largest demonstrations with regards to numbers that we’ve seen in the city to date,” said D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham at a press conference on Thursday. “And we anticipate that the protesters will continue to be as peaceful as they have been over the past couple of days.”

Newsham said no arrests have been made during protests since Tuesday.

Protests in the District at times turned more violent last weekend as police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators outside the White House last weekend after some protesters threw water bottles and bricks across a barricade at law enforcement officers. Some protesters set fire to cars and broke the windows of office buildings in the blocks surrounding the White House.

The tension between protesters and law enforcement in Washington peaked on Monday when police and federal officers forcibly removed peaceful protesters from the street across from the White House so President Donald Trump could take a picture in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, a congregation known as the Church of the Presidents, which was damaged by fire during demonstrations on Sunday.

Later on Monday, military helicopters were seen flying low over protesters. The D.C. National Guard has opened an investigation into the use of the helicopters.

“I’ve only felt fear once and that was on Tuesday when I went out to vote,” said Tom Roucche, 61, a D.C. resident who said he had to pass through hundreds of law enforcement officers to get to his polling location for the districts primary earlier this week. “I felt we were living … somewhere not the U.S.”

Uniformed military personnel walks into the secured White House area ahead of a protest against racial inequality in reaction to the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington, on June 6, 2020.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

“But I’ve never felt fear in the crowds,” said Roucche. “This has been great to see.”

Pamela Reynolds, a 37-year-old teacher from Washington who protested last weekend, said she could see the difference between Saturday and earlier protests.

“It was scary, heavy. It wasn’t this,” said Reynolds. When asked what changed the atmosphere, Reynolds said it was the arrests of the Minnesota police officers involved in Floyd’s death. “This feels powerful, like it may make a difference.”

“We now have allies,” said Che Washington, 30, a school counselor in D.C., pointing to how diverse the crowd was on Saturday. “Now it feels like everyone is fighting, they’re at least trying. It’s and affirmation to what we’ve been feeling.”

Protesters gather outside the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, June 6, 2020, for another day of demonstrations following the death of George Floyd.Lauren Egan

Trump’s actions on Monday motivated even more people to join in peaceful protests outside the White House, with thousands of demonstrators showing up throughout the week to call out aggressive policing tactics, racism and the militant approach the Trump administration has taken in response.

On Thursday the White House erected new fencing around its perimeter, adding to the 8-foot fence that was put up around the entrance to Lafayette Square earlier in the week. The parks immediately surrounding the White House, normally accessible to the public, are expected to remain blocked off until next week.

D.C. Mayor Mayor Muriel Bowser said it was a “sad commentary” that “the house and its inhabitants have to be walled off.”

“We should want the White House to be opened up for people to be able to access it from all sides,” she added.

Many D.C. residents have also expressed anger over Trump’s use of federal forces in the district, complaining that the presence of Humvees, Army helicopters and armed soldiers every few blocks has turned the city into a military zone.

Since D.C. is a territory and not a state, the district does not have the authority to override Trump’s use of the military and other federal forces.

On Friday, Bowser, who has been critical of Trump’s actions, renamed a street in front of the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and had “Black Lives Matter” painted along the road in big yellow letters.

Bowser also took to Twitter on Friday night to ask governors to remove their National Guard from D.C., writing that they were brought “without my knowledge and not at my request.”

Unlike more recent large D.C. protests, such as the recent Women’s March or March for Our Lives, Saturday’s events were not organized by a single group and did not include a formal speaking program with a stage and a microphone.

Instead, protesters moved fluidly through the city, marching from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol, and back again.

D.C. began blocking off streets downtown as early as 6 a.m. on Saturday in preparation for the events. Protests were expected to continue through Sunday morning.

Although Bowser had put in place a curfew earlier in the week in response to outbreaks of violence, there was no curfew in effect on Saturday.

George Floyd memorial in North Carolina draws long lines of mourners

8 0 06 Jun 2020

Long lines of mourners formed outside a conference center in Raeford, North Carolina, on Saturday for a memorial service for George Floyd, who died last week in Minneapolis police custody.

Floyd’s body was escorted by the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office ahead of a public viewing that was held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cape Fear Conference B, about 24 miles from Fayetteville.

A private service for family members only is to begin at 3 p.m. and will be broadcast. About 125 people are expected to attend the service, said Maj. Freddy Johnson with the sheriff’s office.

Thousands of people from around the country arrived by car, motorcycle or public transportation to attend to the viewing, NBC affiliate WRAL in Raleigh reported. As a hearse carrying Floyd’s coffin arrived, mourners chanted “black power” and “no justice, no peace.”

Floyd, who was black, died on May 25 after officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes. In a video, Floyd begs as he is pinned on the ground: “Please, please, please. I can’t breathe.”

His death has sparked nationwide protests and ignited conversations on racism and police brutality.

Roger Floyd, George Floyd’s uncle, said what broke his heart the most about his nephew’s death was when he called out to his mother who died years ago from cancer. “That’s when I said he was probably dying at that point,” he told WRAL.

Chauvin, who is white, was fired by the Minneapolis Police Department and arrested on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. The murder charge was upgraded to second-degree Wednesday.

Three other officers involved also lost their jobs and were taken into custody on charges of aiding and abetting murder, according to criminal complaints filed by the state of Minnesota.

A mourner is overcome with grief after viewing the body of George Floyd during his memorial service, on June 6, 2020, in Raeford, N.C.John Bazemore / AP

Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, is a resident of Hoke County, where Raeford is, according to WRAL. She told the outlet that he was born in Fayetteville and eventually moved to Texas.

A memorial service is planned for Houston on Monday, followed by a private service the following day.

Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin issued a statement on Facebook asking for people attending the public viewing Saturday to “be respectful to the sensitivity of the family’s time of grief.”

“The memorial is about the life that Mr. George Floyd lived and this is a time to embrace the family with expressions of love and kindness,” he said.

Gregg Packer said he took an overnight train from Long Island, New York, to North Carolina to attend the viewing.

“I felt like I needed to come down here to support the protests and the family of George Floyd,” he told The News & Observer. “I hope that we can all get along with each other, that we can start treating each other the way we all should.”

People pay their respects during a memorial service for George Floyd, Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Raeford, N.C. (Ed Clemente/The Fayetteville Observer via AP, Pool)Ed Clemente / AP

Barbara Clark, who was also at the viewing, said she was reminded of when she attended the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which erupted after four police officers accused of beating Rodney King were acquitted.

“It reminded me of when I was in California for the riots in ‘92. Always flashing back to the same thing. Black men getting murdered,”‘ she told the outlet.

Erik Carlos of Fayetteville said Floyd’s death hit close to home. “It could have been me. It could have been my brother, my father, any of my friends who are black,” he said. “It was a heavy hit, especially knowing that George Floyd was born near my hometown.”

The first memorial service for Floyd was held Thursday in Minneapolis. Among the attendees were Floyd’s younger brother, Philonise Floyd; family attorney Benjamin Crump; Rev. Al Sharpton; actress Tiffany Haddish; comedian Kevin Hart; rappers T.I. and Ludacris; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey; and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, was also at the service. Her son died in 2014 during an arrest on Staten Island in New York City, as he, too, pleaded “I can’t breathe.”