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Georgia Man Catches Federal Charges for Price Gouging Masks During Pandemic

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On Thursday, a Stockbridge businessman was arraigned on federal charges for hoarding and price gauging N95 masks during a global pandemic.

What We Know:

  • Milton Ayimadu, also known as Don Milton, 22, was arraigned on federal charges of hoarding and price gouging in violation of the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA). According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia, Ayimadu was charged by a criminal information. No official court records have been found regarding his case.

  • In the press release, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak claims “Ayimadu allegedly saw the unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic as an opportunity to make a profit. Desperate to find personal protective equipment during the pandemic, thousands of customers unfortunately paid his inflated prices.”

  • The claims against Ayimadu state that from early March to May, Ayimadu engaged in hoarding and price gouging of more than 200,000 face masks in violation of the DPA, which President Trump invoked on March 18. On March 25, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, with authority delegated by the President, designated certain health medical resources as scarce materials under the DPA – including face masks that cover the user’s nose and mouth.

  • The businessman allegedly purchased more of the face masks from a foreign country for approximately $2.50 each only to re-sell them to Americans, through his website, BabyPuuPu.com, for double the price. During the two months in which he sold the masks, he engaged in over 22,000 financial transactions. While he priced his masks higher than the general market prices at the time to, allegedly, maximize his profits to “the detriment of consumers desperate for personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” manufacturers of authentic N95 masks continued selling masks for the pre-pandemic price of under $2.00 per mask.
  • The case is being investigated by the F.B.I., U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tal C. Chaiken and Russell Phillips are prosecuting the case. Attorney General William P. Barr created the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force, led by Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, who is coordinating efforts with the Antitrust Division and U.S. Attorneys across the country wherever illegal activity involving protective personal equipment occurs.

  • Acting Special Agent in Charge, Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama, made a statement. “When the nation needed face masks the most, Ayimadu decided to turn our fears into dollars. HSI and its partners are working diligently to investigate and arrest those criminals that have decided to use illegal business practices to increase their profits during this global pandemic.”

No information has been released regarding Ayimadu’s plea. U.S. Attorney Pak made a note to remind the public that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Coronavirus

Viral TikToks Offer Firsthand Accounts of Vaccine Trials, Debunk Misinformation

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As we come closer to a coronavirus vaccine, TikTok users have come to share their experience with the vaccine trial. 

What We Know 

  • The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial has begun, and participants have taken to social media platform TikTok to share their experience. 
  • One of whom, Ashely Locke, started the trial on November 16th in Nashville Tennessee. She posted about her experience, and the post has over 2.8 million views as of Tuesday. 
  • In an interview with NBC News, she discussed her involvement with the trial, “I’ve seen people post TikToks about different journeys they’re having, like weight-loss journeys or moving to a new school and things like that, so I was, like, this vaccine trial is an interesting thing. I’ll post about that,” 
  • Another TikTok User Kate Bredbenner is a doctor of biomedical sciences focusing on biophysics posted on TikTok. In the post, she explains how the vaccine differs from previous vaccines we’ve seen.
@simplebiologistThe coronavirus vaccine is fire #covid #covid19 #covidvaccine #science #scienceismagic #foryou #pfizer #pfizervaccine #womeninstem

♬ original sound – SimpleBiologist

  • After going viral, Bredbenner experienced overwhelmingly positive comments, many genuinely curious about the vaccine. Bredbenner discussed with NBC on her comments, “It makes me feel so good. People are genuinely having real conversations, and people are asking questions, and I think that’s kind of magic.”  
  • Several users have gone viral for their videos about the vaccine, and the hashtag #CovidVaccine has over 41 million views. TikTok serves as a way to communicate this information to a younger audience in a format they’re familiar with using. These users have been flooded with comments asking questions about the vaccine. 
  • The viral TikToks has helped audiences make decisions on the vaccine and debunk misinformation, such as the government using the vaccine as a way to microchip people. 

The vaccine trials will run going into 2021, but it doesn’t seem like TikTok users will slow down updating their audiences. 

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Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year: ‘Pandemic’

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The Word of the Year has been determined, and it’s rather interesting. Not only are we still in the middle of it, but this pandemic has yet to have an ending date.

What We Know:

  • Merriam-Webster announced on Monday that its Word of the Year would be “pandemic.” According to the publishing company, the first big spike for people looking up the word “pandemic” happened on Feb. 3, the same day that the first COVID-19 patient was released from a Seattle hospital. Based on the searches of the word from last year, it skyrocketed to well over 1500%.
  • The editor at large for Merriam-Webster, Peter Sokolowski, stated to The Associated Press that it “probably isn’t a big shock.” According to the New York Post, a pandemic is defined by the dictionary as an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area, such as multiple countries or continents. It typically affects a significant proportion of the population when it’s in the noun form. There were surges in online searches for the word due to people wanting to get a better understanding of what was going on.
  • The company said that the single largest spike in searches for the word “pandemic” happened, not unsurprisingly, on March 11th when the World Health Organization officially declared “COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.” That same day, Sokolowski said, searches for the word were 115,806 percent higher than on the same date last year.
  • Some of the other words that were in the top ten for the word of the year were coronavirus, defund, mamba, Kraken, quarantine, antebellum, schadenfreude, asymptomatic, irregardless, icon, and malarkey. The words icon and mamba both had spiked after the deaths of John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Kobe Bryant.

The word pandemic definitely represents what this year was all about. Out of those ten, all of them are great runner ups for the word of the year. Maybe next time.

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NFL Fines Saints And Patriots For Covid-19 Violations

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The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints have been ordered to pay major fines for Covid-19 protocol violations.

What We Know:

  • The NFL fined the Saints $500,000 after the team posted a video on social media showing unmasked players celebrating their Week 9 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In addition to the fine, the NFL is also taking away a seventh-round draft pick for the violation.
  • The steep fine and loss of draft pick stemmed from the Saints having multiple Covid-19 violations and warnings. The team was fined $350,000 back in September after head coach Sean Payton was seen without a face mask during a game. Payton tested positive for coronavirus in March. Payton responded to the fine by saying “It’s something we’re just going to have to remind ourselves to do.”
  • The Patriots were also fined $350,000 for violations related to the positive tests of several of their players. Patriots QB Cam Newton tested positive for coronavirus in early October. Although he did not play in their October 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, 20 teammates and staff members who had been in contact with him flew out for the game. Just after the game, CB Stephon Gilmore also tested positive.
  • The NFL is also investigating the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos for Covid-19 violations. The two were supposed to play on Thanksgiving Day, but the game was postponed after 19 members from the Ravens tested positive, including QB Lamar Jackson.
  • Broncos QB Jeff Driskel also tested positive for coronavirus before Thanksgiving and the team apparently had a meeting with all of their quarterbacks without masks just after Driskel contracted the virus. The other players in the meeting allegedly took off their tracking devices which are meant to help with contact tracing.
  • The whole debacle led to the Broncos entering their Sunday night game against the Saints without a quarterback. They had to play wide receiver Kendall Hinton at QB to avoid a forfeit and lost 31-3. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio was also fined earlier this season for not wearing a face mask.

Dr. Allen Sills, chief medical officer for the NFL, expects the situation to get harder because of how rapidly the virus is spreading across the country.

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