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FDA warns Alex Jones to stop pitching bogus virus remedies

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials are warning conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones to stop pitching bogus remedies for the coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter Thursday ordering Jones to stop falsely claiming that toothpaste, mouth wash and other products sponsored by his show can help prevent COVID-19.

Jones, known for pushing conspiracy theories about school shootings and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, touted the products on multiple shows last month, according to the letter.

The agency states that by making these claims Jones is promoting illegal, unapproved drugs, which can carry financial penalties and risk product seizures by government agents.

The letter gives Jones’ company, Infowars.com, 48 hours to remove or correct the false material. FDA warnings are not legally binding, but the agency can take individuals to court if they are ignored.

An email seeking comment from Jones’ website was not immediately returned Friday morning.

The FDA has not approved any treatments or vaccines against the coronavirus, and the National Institutes of Health says no scientific evidence exists to suggest alternative remedies help.

The FDA warning follows earlier government warnings against Jones last month. New York’s attorney general Letita James sent a cease-and-desist letter March 12 demanding Jones stop promoting many of the same phony products.

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Justices rule for federal employee over age discrimination

WASHINGTON (AP) — Well, OK, boomer.

The Supreme Court made it easier Monday for federal employees 40 and older to sue for age discrimination.

The justices ruled 8-1 that federal workers have a lower hurdle to overcome than their counterparts in the private sector. The decision came in the case in which Chief Justice John Roberts, a 65-year-old baby boomer, invoked the “OK, boomer” meme during arguments in January for the first time in high-court records.

The court issued the opinion without taking the bench for the third straight week because of the coronavirus. Arguments scheduled for the spring have been postponed indefinitely.

An employee can win a lawsuit by showing that age discrimination was part of the process, even if the people who were selected were better qualified, the court held in an opinion by another boomer, 70-year-old Justice Samuel Alito. The ruling came in the case of a Veterans Affairs Department employee who was in her early 50s when she sued for age discrimination after being denied promotions and training opportunities.

The outcome stands in contrast to a 2009 decision in which the court said age has to be the key factor in a private sector employment decision. The language of the law’s provisions covering private and federal employees is different.

Alito wrote that, “if Congress had wanted to impose the same standard on all employers, it could have easily done so.”

But the opinion also made clear that an employee could not expect to win back pay or the promotion she sought if discrimination was not the key factor in the employment decision at issue. There could be other options, including a court order forbidding the agency from using the same flawed process in the future, Alito wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas, 71, also a member of the post-World War II baby boom generation, dissented.

Supreme Court justices sometimes will imagine themselves in situations like the ones that land people before the high court, but that can be hard to do when the subject is employment discrimination because the justices have lifetime tenure. The youngest justice, Neil Gorsuch, is 52. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, is the eldest.

The case is Babb v. Wilkie, 18-882.

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Supreme Court rejects church challenge to ban on bus ads

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a Catholic church in Washington, D.C., that sought to place religious-themed ads on public buses.

The justices are leaving in place a federal appeals court ruling that found no fault with the Washington transit agency policy that banned all issue-oriented advertisements on the region’s rail and bus system.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington sought to place an ad on the outside of public buses in the fall of 2017. The ad showed the silhouette of three shepherds and sheep accompanied by the text, “Find the Perfect Gift.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh took no part in the court’s consideration of the case because he served on the three-judge panel that heard arguments at the appeals court where he served before joining the Supreme Court in 2018.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a brief separate opinion to assert that the matter would have been different had Kavanaugh been a part of the case. “Because the full Court is unable to hear this case, it makes a poor candidate for our review. But for that complication, however, our intervention and a reversal would be warranted,” Gorsuch wrote, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

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Wisconsin worried about spike in virus cases due to election

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The decision to forge ahead with Wisconsin’s election amid a pandemic has stirred fears about a possible spike in the state’s coronavirus cases in the face of stay-at-home orders and efforts to limit contact with others.

Public health experts, elected officials, poll workers and many voters pushed to delay the election. After the Republican-controlled Legislature refused to cancel in-person voting, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order to do so. But the state Supreme Cour t, less than 24 hours before voting was to begin, blocked the order.

Voters who didn’t get absentee ballots were forced to choose Tuesday between voting in person or staying at home to avoid possible exposure to the coronavirus. Thousands waited in line in Milwaukee, and long waits were reported in Green Bay. Voters and poll workers wore masks and gloves. Volunteers sat behind Plexiglass shields as they handed voters their ballots.

“From a public health perspective, this was counter to all good scientific evidence and advice right now for how to continue to curb the pandemic from having serious impacts in the state,” said Kristen Malecki, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

“The fact that politics interfered with sound judgment and jeopardized public safety is something that should not be ignored.”

Caleb Andersen, 40, said he was concerned that holding the election would wipe out any progress Wisconsin had made in slowing the spread of the virus. Andersen worked at one of Milwaukee’s five polling places, where he said 3,800 people voted. He said he feels certain he was exposed despite all efforts at safety.

Andersen blamed Republicans.

“I don’t see them as a political party as much as I see them as a death cult,” he said. “That is not hyperbole. I am actually struggling to consider them as human. I am shaking with rage right now.”

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos donned a mask, gloves and protective gown to work at the polls on Tuesday. Images and video of him in the protective gear, proclaiming that it was safe for people to vote, drew criticism.

The state reported Wednesday it has had 99 deaths and 2,756 confirmed cases.

Many people who showed up Tuesday to vote in person said they did so only because they had requested but not received an absentee ballot. It wasn’t clear how many people fell into that category, but election officials were overmatched by a record-high 1.3 million requests for such ballots in the lead-up to the election. There were also questions about whether U.S. Postal Service had been slow to deliver some ballots or outright mishandled them.

Wisconsin’s top elections official, Meagan Wolfe, said the elections commission was working with the U.S. Postal Service to locate absentee ballots that never made it to voters, including three bins worth in the Oshkosh and Appleton area, but there was likely no recourse for them given that the deadline to return ballots had passed.

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht called for the Postal Service to launch an official investigation on missing absentee ballots in Milwaukee that were issued and mailed around March 22 and March 23.

Fox Point Village Administrator Scott Botcher said postal workers began returning undelivered absentee ballots to the village about three weeks before Tuesday’s election with no explanation beyond that it might have been a sorting problem in downtown Milwaukee’s post office.

The U.S. Postal Service didn’t immediately respond to a call Wednesday seeking comment.

Ellie Bradish, 40, and her husband Dan Bullock, 40, waited with masks on for about three hours to vote in Milwaukee after their absentee ballots never arrived. The couple applied for absentee ballots March 22. Bradish said the application was confirmed, but the ballots never arrived. Many other voters had similar stories.

“They clearly knew this was going to be dangerous,” Bradish said. “I think and a lot of other people think the safer-at-home order is restarted. This restarts the clock for us. And it’s a shame, I thought we were doing a really good job. And now I’m scared of what’s going to happen.”