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Van Hollen tours Cambridge redevelopment

CAMBRIDGE — U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., joined entrepreneurs, developers and local officials on a tour of the Packing House factory renovation project on Friday, July 16, in Cambridge.

Cross Street Partners, in partnership with Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, is in the midst of a major renovation of the former Factory F of the Phillips Packing Company, with an eventual goal of restoring and re-purposing the 60,000 square foot facility as a center for local food and beverage production, food business incubation, and other non-profit and entrepreneurial uses.

Mayor Andrew Bradshaw and County Councilman Lenny Pfeffer along with other officials and stakeholders joined Van Hollen and staff from Cross Street and ESLC. The tour took participants through the future location of a shared-use kitchen, and oyster processing facility, and upstairs through space intended for Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development offices, media production facilities and other uses.

“It’s going to be an exciting venue that brings together all sorts of different kinds of people,” according to Van Hollen. He said in addition to bringing people in the community together, “it will be a magnet for people from the whole region...that’s why we’re asking for some federal funds to try to support it,” he said.

“What can be better than eating some oysters, some good drink, music and other things?” he asked.

Van Hollen said he is seeking $1.4 million for the Packing House from a variety of source. He said funding was not guaranteed, but he promised to “work hard” to get it.

Cross Street’s Margaret Norfleet-Neff said while the project is not going to be completed, the developers’ intention is to begin to put the site to use this winter. “We really want to be active in the winter,” she said, “Everybody knows what to do in the summer.

Packing House will soon have a shared-use kitchen called Four Eleven Kitchen, a project headed up by Beat the Rush Delivery owner Amanda Kidd.

“It was really amazing to be able to walk through the space with the senator explaining the operation we seek to have,” Kidd said after the tour.

“We’re creating a commercial kitchen space that will empower, elevate and establish a thriving food economy within the county and the surrounding areas,” Kidd said of the project she is heading up, “We’re closing gaps between the larger corporations and small food businesses and creating opportunities.”

She is grateful for the opportunity: “It’s a prayer answered, it’s amazing...I’m really excited for the opportunity that it’s going to present for the community.”

Kidd believes she is qualified to understand what new “foodtrepreneurs” face as they enter the market. “Being an business owner in the food industry, I’ve seen and I’ve heard the challenges that food entrepreneurs have” She said she wanted to be a “catalyst” for those in the Four Eleven Kitchen program that will use the space.

Blue Oyster Environmental founder Johnny Shockley showed the tour the layout of the high tech oyster processing equipment and oyster raw bar.

After the tour, Shockley pointed out the connection of the senator’s family heritage in Maryland’s oyster industry (Van Hollen’s family was one of the first major oyster processors in Baltimore) with his current advocacy.

“He (Van Hollen) is very passionate about the oyster industry, very knowledgable and appreciative of the industry and the grassroots economy that it develops,” Shockley said.

Shockley said Van Hollen recognizes the importance of both integrating the oyster industry into clean water initiatives, as well as the capitalizing on advances in oyster technology, what Shockley called “a revolutionary answer to an age old problem — the oyster industry and a clean Chesapeake Bay.”

Mike Detmer is a staff writer for the Dorchester Star and Star Democrat based in Maryland. You can reach him at mdetmer@chespub.com.

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Survey: 20% of Americans, 32% of Republicans worry COVID vaccines are part of government microchip plot

WASHINGTON — Twenty percent of Americans and 32% of Republicans worry that COVID-19 vaccine is being used by the U.S. government to install microchips, according to a new poll from The Economist magazine and survey firm YouGov.

The survey shows political divides and some of the reasons behind continued hesitancies toward the coronavirus vaccines.

It also comes as the Biden administration pressures Facebook and other social media platforms to restrict “health misinformation” and anti-vaccine content. There is also a renewed push for COVID mask mandates and restrictions — especially for the unvaccinated — as government health officials worry about the Delta variant of the virus.

Vaccine hesitancy is coming more from Republicans with 29% saying they won’t get vaccines. That compares to 23% of independents and just 4% of Democrats, according to the survey.

Overall, 42% of Republicans and 35% of independents are opposed to or are still unsure about getting a COVID vaccine versus 10% of Democrats, according to the 1,500-person survey which was conducted July 10 to 13.

In terms of reasons for not getting COVID vaccine shots, the YouGov survey found 85% of unvaccinated respondents felt the threats of the virus were being overstated for political reasons. That compares to just 25% of the vaccinated. Forty nine percent of the unvaccinated are also concerned about vaccines causing autism.

The survey’s question about being worried about the government using COVID mass vaccine efforts to microchip and track Americans digs into some of the political and cultural reticence around vaccines and the government’s mass COVID vaccination efforts.

According to the survey, 27% of white men without college degrees, 23% of Hispanics, 20% of Blacks and 23% of white women without college degrees believe vaccine microchips are definitely or probably true. The YouGov survey found 32% of Republicans believe the COVID vaccines could contain microchips. That compares to 14% of Democrats and 23% of independents.

President Joe Biden, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy are calling for more social media crackdowns on “health misinformation.”

Murthy wants to see health education training in schools and for journalists. He is also telling Americans not to share some vaccine-related content online.

“Each of us has the power to stop health misinformation in its tracks. So the next time you want to share a health-related article or video, check your sources and make sure the information is backed by scientific experts. If you’re not sure, don’t share,” he said in a statement.

On Monday, Biden repeated Psaki’s comments that 12 leading proponents — including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — are responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine posts online.

The U.S. government’s push for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media channels to restrict anti-vaccine content is getting push back from conservatives and libertarians worried it is approaching de-facto censorship.

“Big tech and Biden don’t get to define free speech,” said U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., in response to the government’s misinformation push.

Former President Donald Trump tied vaccine hesitancy into mistrust of the government and news media and kept up his claims that Biden won the 2020 race because of irregularities and improperly counted mail-in votes.

“He’s way behind schedule,” Trump said of Biden’s vaccine pushes. “And people are refusing to take the vaccine because they don’t trust his Administration, they don’t trust the election results, and they certainly don’t trust the fake news, which is refusing to tell the truth.” Trump’s election fraud contentions were turned away by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts.

Biden had wanted to see 70% of the population with at least one COVID vaccine shot by July 4. As of Monday, July 19, 68.2% of the adult population and 56% of the total population had at least one COVID shot.

In Maryland, 57.9% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID, according to the state health agency.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports 48.6% of the total U.S. population and 59.4% of the adult population are fully vaccinated.

Concerns about the Delta variant from India have resulted in renewed mask pushes in Los Angeles County and Las Vegas, even for the vaccinated. France is going to require vaccinations for health care workers and is instituting a COVID vaccine passport. That has sparked protests.

In Maryland, there are currently 134 hospitalizations for COVID statewide. That is down from more than 1,900 hospitalizations attributed to the virus in January.

3 things

1 On this day in history, on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon after reaching the surface in their Apollo 11 lunar module. In 1977, a flash flood hit Johnstown, Pennsylvania, killing more than 80 people and causing $350 million worth of damage. In 2002, 29 people died in a blaze started by bartenders who were doing tricks with fire at an unlicensed night club in Lima, Peru. Famous birthdays Former Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is 85. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen is 41. Dancer-singer-actor Julianne Hough (pictured) is 33. Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg is 33.

2 A teen was arrested in connection with a fire on July 11 in Cambridge. The 14-year-old boy was located and arrested after fire officials investigated a fire in a detached residential garage on the 800 block of Peach Blossom Avenue. The State Fire Marshal’s Office said the fire was set on an exterior rear corner of the structure. A passerby reported the fire at 5:33 p.m., and 15 firefighters from Rescue Fire Company controlled the blaze in about 10 minutes. (Story on A2)

3 Delaware’s high court has ruled that a former small-town police chief who was convicted of official misconduct can hold public office. News outlets report that the Delaware Supreme Court ruled Friday that former Newport Police Chief Michael Capriglione can hold the town commission seat he was elected to earlier this year. The one-page order overturns a lower court’s ruling that barred Capriglione from holding office, stating that he shall be allowed to take the oath of office. The court said it will explain its legal rationale in a more thorough opinion later. “I feel vindicated,” Capriglione said. (Story on A2)

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Andy Harris, GOP allies want answers from NSA on Tucker Carlson spy claims

EASTON — U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st., has joined other conservative lawmakers in asking for information from the National Security Agency regarding Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s claims he was spied on by the U.S. intelligence arm.

Harris — who represents the Eastern Shore — has signed onto a letter from a group of congressional Republicans asking NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone to investigate Carlson’s claims and provide Congress with information on potential clandestine and domestic surveillance.

The NSA has issued a statement denying Carlson’s contentions. The Fox News host said he and his show were spied on while trying to book an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Carlson is a critic of the Biden administration as well as U.S. foreign policies and intelligence activities.

Harris joined 16 other House Republicans in asking for the NSA investigation.

The push includes some of the most ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump including U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

“Spying, unmasking, and leaking the private communications of American citizens weaponizes our intelligence agencies, and this abuse of power must stop. Protecting national security is not only about deterring enemy threats, but it also involves safeguarding our liberties,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., who spearheaded the letter along with U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas.

Gaetz and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have also previously called investigations into Carlson’s claims.