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Social Media Flooded With False Claims That BLM, ANTIFA Responsible for Siege of Capitol

Some right-wing figures even claimed that well-known QAnon supporters and white supremacists were, in fact, “Antifa” leftists.

Elias Marat

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In the aftermath of the brief storming of the U.S. Capitol building by pro-Trump militants, right-wing figures have been flooding social networks with allegations unsupported by evidence that anti-fascists (ANTIFA) were the true culprits for the botched insurrection.

In some cases, the claims were demonstrably false, with the individuals accused of being “ANTIFA” activists actually being notorious QAnon figures and outright neo-Nazis.

At about 3 p.m. Pacific Time, California Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), the GOP state Senate leader, tweeted a link to a conspiracy theory alleging that members of the anti-fascist movement had stormed the Capitol, not rioters and militia members supporting the outgoing president. She later deleted the tweet after it attracted press attention.

“Patriots don’t act like this,” Grove tweeted, linking to a post by pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood. “This was Antifa.” Grove later posted a revised version that read: “This behavior is unacceptable and un-American.”

Republican U.S. Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Mo Brooks also spread the conspiracy theory on Twitter. Late Wednesday, Congressman Matt Goetz pushed the false claims on the House floor.

Disgraced former NYPD Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whom Trump pardoned last year for his 2010 conviction on eight felonies, also went viral after posting a so-called “ANTIFA ALERT” that falsely claimed two of the men who appeared in a number of news agency photos from the siege on the Capitol were Black Lives Matter supporters.

In fact, the two are well-known neo-Nazi leaders — and neither was even in attendance at the D.C. rally, it turned out.

The man on the right whom he accused of being a left-wing activist was Matthew Heimbach, a notorious white supremacist Trump supporter and former head of the defunct Traditionalist Workers Party. Heimbach earned national notoriety after being caught on video assaulting a young Black woman protesting at a 2016 Trump campaign rally. Heimbach also helped promote the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended in violence and death.

The other person misidentified in the photo is “Jason Tankersley,” the founder of the neo-Nazi Maryland Skinheads. However, the man in the yellow hoodie turned out not to be Tankersley.

I am not now nor have I ever been a member of antifa and I was not in DC today,” Tankersley posted on his Facebook page shortly after the Capitol riots. 

Heimbach also emphatically denied being anywhere close to Washington on Wednesday, saying that he was instead with his step-daughter 600 miles away at his home in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the time.

The two weren’t the only prominent hard-rightists that social media conspiracists accused of being left-wing rabble-rousers.

Among the more memorable images from the storming of the U.S. Capitol were images of Jake Angeli, a pro-Trump activist wearing Viking-themed tattoos, a strange fur outfit, horned hat, and painted face. Since 2019, Angeli has stationed himself on the sidewalk outside the Arizona State Capitol preaching fringe conspiracy theories espoused by QAnon.  

According to Arizona Central, the self-styled “QAnon Shaman” would shout, “You all know who Q is?” while explaining to passersby that Q “was a government agent who wanted to ‘take the country back’ from pedophiles and globalists.”

Other social media users identified Angeli as a “familiar face at pro-Trump rallies” and posted images of the activist posing with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

However, viral social media posts from pro-Trump accounts made the demonstrably false claim that Angeli is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist movements. Another Facebook user groundlessly alleged that because Angeli has an account on audition website Backstage.com, he must be a “BLM/Antifa PAID ‘Actor.’” The post is quickly making the rounds on the social media platform.

The photo of the “Q Shaman” at a BLM protest is real, no doubt. Yet the photo has been manipulated to crop out his QAnon sign. As it turns out, Angeli was present at the BLM protest as a pro-Trump counter-protestor.

Meanwhile, conservative newspaper The Washington Times posted a bizarre story that claimed, with zero evidence, that “Trump supporters say that antifa members disguised as one of them infiltrated” the mob that stormed the Capitol building. The article was cited by Rep. Matt Goetz in his widely-derided Wednesday night speech.

Citing an unnamed “retired military officer” the newspaper said that the facial recognition firm XRVision was able to match two of the participants in the Wednesday invasion of the Senate floor to “two Philadelphia antifa members.”

As it turns out, the facial recognition software mismatched the image of the two individuals to a page on PhillyAntifa.org outing Heimbach and Tankersley as neo-Nazis.

Rep. Gohmert and various social media users also claimed that the man in the yellow hoodie had a hammer and sickle tattoo, with one widely-shared tweet even leaping to the wild conclusion that this was somehow evidence of a Communist Party of China (CPC) hand in Wednesday’s unrest. In truth, as many social media users point out, the tattoo is a logo from a video game.

XRVision later successfully forced the Washington Times to retract the claim, as well as the entire article from their website.

The Times also repeated the dubious claim that a so-called Antifa chapter sent out a message calling on members to “to disguise themselves as Trump supporters by wearing the distinctive red Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that right-wing social media users and white supremacist groups have used fabricated social media posts and sock puppet accounts to frame Antifa for planning violent incidents. Groups such as neo-Nazi organization Identity Evropa have long been exposed for generating fake messages from non-existent “Antifa” national organizations.

Facebook executives have said that the goal of circulating such content is to plant a single false flag that can then be used to sow distrust about the target group.

Following last year’s outbreak of protests against police brutality and systemic racism, Trump and his supporters began attempting to brand Antifa a domestic terrorist organization that was responsible for the unrest resulting from the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

However, the term Antifa originates in the 1930s when left-wing activists opposed to far-right authoritarianism emerged as a global movement. In recent history, the phrase has come back as a political orientation opposed to ultranationalism and fascism in the U.S., Latin America and Europe.

Those who identify with the term typically favor direct action and autonomous mutual aid over policy reform. While many right-wing politicians such as Trump have tried to brand antifa as an organization, the group is not a formal organization.

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Exotic “Blue Jet” Lightning Shooting From Electrical Storm Captured by Space Station

Elias Marat

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State-of-the-art equipment on the International Space Station (ISS) has captured a brilliant view of a thunderstorm from above, including a clear view of a strange type of lightning known as a blue jet.

The footage could help us better understand how lighting originates and even how storms distribute greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, offering important pointers on weather systems in general.

However, the footage also offers a damned cool perspective of electrical storms that we’ve never enjoyed until now.

In video released by the European Space Agency that was captured in February 2019, blue-colored lightning bolts can be seen shooting upwards from storm clouds over the Pacific island of Nauru into the highest reaches of the stratosphere.

Blue jets are types of lightning that shoot upwards from thunderclouds into the stratosphere, striking altitudes exceeding 30 miles (50 km) in under a second. While our typical lightning interacts with a mixture of gases in the lower atmosphere to create glowing white bolts, blue jets excite stratospheric nitrogen to create a luminous blue hue.

While the phenomenon has long been observed from aircraft and ground-level vantage points, the European Space Agency’s Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) at the ISS, which is about 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth, have enabled researchers to get the best glimpse yet of a blue jet arising from a sudden burst of electricity emanating from the top of a thundercloud, according to research published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.

“Elves,” or rapidly-expanding rings of optical and UV emissions, were also generated by the flash. The emissions, which took place at the bottom of the ionosphere, were a result of the interaction between electrons, radio waves, and the atmosphere.

Blue jets and elves, like other upper-atmospheric phenomena such as mythological-sounding sprites, are important to our understanding of how radio waves travel through the air, with potential ramifications on our communications technologies as well as the more fundamental questions of how lightning is initiated in our clouds and how greenhouse gases are concentrated in the atmosphere.

However, spotting these brilliant light shows has been difficult for earthbound observers. Yet the highly sensitive tools installed on the Space Station in 2018 – including photometers, optical cameras, and an X- and gamma-ray detector –were able to capture the elusive phenomena.

The knowledge gleaned from the footage could prove crucial to researchers finally making sense of the processes unfolding in the upper atmosphere.

“This paper is an impressive highlight of the many new phenomena ASIM is observing above thunderstorms and shows that we still have so much to discover and learn about our Universe,” said Astrid Orr, the Physical Sciences Coordinator for human and robotic spaceflight at the European Space Agency.

“Congratulations to all the scientists and university teams that made this happen as well as the engineers that built the observatory and the support teams on ground operating ASIM—a true international collaboration that has led to amazing discoveries,” Orr added.

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Advocates Hail Biden Executive Order on LGBTQ Rights as the Most Far-Reaching in US History

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Civil rights advocates on Wednesday applauded President Joe Biden for signing an executive order on his first day in office bolstering anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people after years of attacks and rollbacks during the Trump administration, and for signaling that he will move to reverse his predecessor’s ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.

“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the order begins.

The order continues:

Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports. Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination. All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

“It is the policy of my administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” the order states. It goes on to direct the heads of each federal agency to ensure adherence to these principles and to develop plans to implement changes where necessary. 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hailed Biden’s order as “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity” in U.S. history. 

HRC president Alphonso David issued a statement declaring that “today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their president and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal.” 

Biden’s order gives teeth to Bostock v. Clayton County, the June 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which declared that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The executive order also stands in stark contrast to the past four years, a period during which LGBTQ people saw their rights repeatedly eroded and, in the case of transgender people, their very existence as human beings challenged

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement that “on his very first day in office, President Biden is stating clearly that there is no place for discrimination in the federal government.”

Bostock v. Clayton County was a major victory for LGBTQ Americans,” added Keisling. “Today’s executive order moves us another step toward a day when transgender people can openly live as who they are without being targeted for discrimination.”

In one particularly egregious rights rollback, the Trump administration banned transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden will soon turn the page on this dark chapter in civil rights history. Ending the trans ban, said Psaki, will be among the “additional executive actions” the president will take “in the coming days and weeks.”

Blake Dremann, a transgender rights advocate and active-duty Navy lieutenant commander, told NBC News that trans people are “excited for the ban to be lifted” and the day when “we never have to tell another service member that being their authentic selves is a barrier to serving their nation.”

“The resilience and success of trans service members has shown we are committed to the success of the nation,” said Dremann. 

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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The Moon, Mars and Uranus Will “Meet” in an Ultra-Rare Conjunction Tonight

Elias Marat

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Last month, stargazers were treated to a rare “Christmas star” that saw Jupiter and Saturn aligned so closely that they appeared to be on a collision course with one another.

And this week, we will be treated to another rare and spectacular space event.

According to astronomers, over the next few nights Mars, Uranus and the Moon will come in remarkably close proximity in our skies, with Mars passing 1.75 degrees to the north of Uranus while also sharing the scene with the Moon, reports EarthSky.

The infrequent occasion will look best on Thursday evening, just after dusk through just after midnight in the eastern United States, when the Moon and the two planets will appear very close along the southwest horizon.

For those in the U.K., the meeting will happen at roughly 4:43 p.m. but when the sky turns dark, the planets will reach their highest point at roughly 6:06 p.m. before remaining visible until about 12:36 a.m.

Mars, which is the fourth planet from the Sun, will be especially luminous as it stands out from the stars and will lie just above the Moon.

Uranus, however, may appear as a somewhat faint dot. However, the vertical alignment of the three planets should allow us to see all three of the planets with Uranus shining somewhat dimly between the Moon and Mars.

“Uranus will be about 1.5 degrees down and to the left of Mars but will not be visible to the naked eye,” Dean Regas, the astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory, told local12. “You will need binoculars or a telescope to see it since it is almost 2 billion miles away.”

As EarthSky reported, Mars has been increasingly dimmed over the course of the last several months while the Earth has rushed ahead of it in our much more rapid and smaller orbit around the sun.

However, Mars is still shining brilliantly like some of the brightest stars in our skies. If the skies are clear, Mars will be easily visible as a bright, shining celestial object in the vicinity of the Moon.

Uranus, which is the seventh planet from the sun lying at a distance of roughly 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion km) away, will be extremely faint – more than 150 times fainter than the Red Planet.

The planet, which is about four times wider than our home planet – making it the size of a basketball if the Earth were an apple, according to NASA – is the outermost of the planets in our solar system that still remains visible with the naked eye.

However, given that seeing it with the eye requires extremely dark skies, the fact that the moon will be shining – in close proximity, no less – means that stargazers will definitely need binoculars or even a telescope to catch a full glimpse of the rare “meeting.”

“The interesting news is that Mars and Uranus are close together on the sky’s dome, so that – theoretically – you could see Mars and Uranus in a single binocular field of view for the next week or so, if the moon weren’t in the way,” EarthSky added.

So get your binoculars ready, and enjoy!

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