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Editorial: Short takes on fake cures, fake climbers and fake vaccine qualifications

Editorial: Short takes on fake cures, fake climbers and fake vaccine qualifications

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Missouri lawmaker asked to resign amid stem cell fraud case

Tricia Derges listens to a patient's chest at the Lift Up Springfield medical clinic in Springfield, Mo., in 2018. A federal grand jury has indicted the Missouri state legislator on fraud charges. 

(Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)

There’s a cure for that: Resign

It was a certainty that nefarious people around the country would find ways to exploit people’s desperation during the pandemic, but a sitting Missouri state representative? Freshman Republican Rep. Tricia Derges of Nixa faces a well-earned 20-count federal indictment, accused of illegally providing prescription drugs to clients and falsely claiming that amniotic fluid contains stem cells that, when injected, help cure the coronavirus, Lyme disease, erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. The scam earned her nearly $200,000.

“This amazing treatment stands to provide a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural,” Derges, a licensed assistant physician, posted on Facebook last year. Derges pleaded not guilty on Monday, but House Speaker Rob Vescovo wants her to resign nonetheless.

“The legal process will ultimately determine her guilt or innocence, but this is clearly a time for her to spend with her family as she focuses on her legal issues, and for the people of the 140th District to move forward with selecting a replacement who can effectively advocate for their interests,” Vescovo said in a statement.

In the meantime, she won’t be receiving any committee assignments. Derges ran unopposed in the November election.

‘Courtside Karen’ is no cardboard cutout

Basketball great LeBron James came up with the perfect title to describe a well-dressed woman who sat courtside during a Los Angeles Lakers-Atlanta Hawks game and unleashed a loud, well, shedload of expletives. Referees stopped play and ejected her along with three others. James labeled her “Courtside Karen” in a tweet. Not only was she disruptive and rude, she also removed her mask in violation of NBA pandemic restrictions.

Courtside Karen’s real name is Juliana Carlos. She tried to defend her outburst by claiming that James had said naughty things to her and her husband, but the worst quote that can be heard from James in video footage is when he calls Carlos’ husband, “Ol’ steroid ass.”

He later suggested maybe a few too many drinks had been consumed by the fans and indicated a certain nostalgia for being able to interact with fans — something that today’s cardboard cutouts simply can’t match.

Piqued at fake peak claim ...

Thanks to some sleuthing by real climbers of the world’s highest peak on Mount Everest, two men claiming to have reached the summit were exposed as frauds. The two, Narender Singh Yadav and Seema Rani Goswami, submitted photos as required by the Nepalese government before awarding official certificates of recognition for their 2016 climb. But the photos ultimately led to their downfall.

According to The New York Times, veteran mountaineers identified several anomalies, such as an oxygen mask with no tube connecting to an oxygen tank, and flags hanging limply atop a summit known for its blistering winds. The two were part of a 15-person team, but team leader Naba Kumar Phukon said he told a Nepalese investigation panel that Yadav and Goswami never reached the summit.

Sure, these might seem like trivial matters in a world ravaged by the coronavirus, wars, famine and civil strife. But the truth always matters, regardless of the setting.

... and vexed by vaccination imposters

A millionaire Canadian couple traveled to a remote rural community and posed as motel workers in order to jump ahead in the coronavirus vaccine line, breaking a legally required quarantine to do it, authorities allege. Officials say Rodney Baker, 55, former president and chief executive of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, and his wife, Ekaterina Baker, 32, of Vancouver, chartered a plane to the tiny Yukon Territory town of Beaver Creek.

There, they ignored the required 14-day quarantine for people traveling into the territory, went to a mobile clinic that was dispensing vaccine, and pretended to be employed at a local motel to qualify for shots.

Their scheme fell apart when, after getting their shots, they asked around for a ride to the local airport. “And people were like, ‘Well, why would you be going to the airport?’” said Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker.

The couple was ultimately charged with failing to follow quarantine requirements and could potentially face six months in jail. They were “deceptive and violated emergency measures for their own advantage,” said Streicker, “which is completely unacceptable at any time, but especially during a public health crisis.”

Union fight comes to a head

Amazon’s campaign to prevent workers at a company plant in Alabama from unionizing has included deluging employees with text messages, forcing them to sit through mandatory union-bashing gatherings and even plastering the insides of workplace bathroom stalls with anti-union propaganda. Amazon employees who work at the company’s massive warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, seek to become the first unionized Amazon operation in the U.S.

Next week, the National Labor Relations Board will mail ballots to more than 5,000 of the warehouse’s workers. Union proponents complain of unreasonable productivity quotas, unfair forced overtime practices and other issues. The behemoth online retailer has pulled out all the stops to prevent the workers from unionizing, knowing that if one warehouse does it, hundreds of others across America could follow.

Among worker complaints is that there is inadequate time for bathroom breaks — and then they are confronted in the bathrooms with company fliers opposing unionizing. “They got right in your face when you’re using the stall,” one worker told The Washington Post (which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos). Not exactly the way to coax employees over to the anti-union side.

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