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CARICOM Foreign Ministers hold two-day strategic meeting

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana – The CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) held a Special Meeting on 16-17 2021, hosted by the Consul General of Jamaica in Miami, Florida, USA. It was the first in-person meeting of the COFCOR since the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic in January 2020, bringing together Ministers who had assumed office over the past eighteen months and their colleagues.

The Meeting was strategic in intent and provided the opportunity to define common positions and to thereby strengthen the coordination of approaches on foreign policy matters. Views were expressed on a CARICOM Vision 2050 and Strategic Positioning of the Community in that regard. Threats and opportunities were outlined and discussions centered on the web of relations with international partners, Third States, as well as regional and international organisations which would help to shape a strategic foreign policy agenda for the Community.

The Meeting’s agenda also included the multifaceted effects of COVID 19 including inequitable access to vaccines and the emerging two-tiered system of vaccine approval related to international travel, as well as the barriers to access to concessional financing and other obstacles to economic recovery. Attention was paid to bilateral and multilateral relations within the Western Hemisphere, as well as to concerns arising from areas of political instability in the wider Caribbean region. Discussions on the Community’s relations with regional and hemispheric organisations was also undertaken with a view to strengthening that interface.

The situation in Haiti was discussed and possible modes of intervention by CARICOM to assist a Haiti-driven solution were explored.
  Deliberations also took place with regard to extra-regional partnerships with focus being placed on the recent strengthening of relations with Africa and the required follow-up to the first Summit last month. Relations with the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and the Commonwealth were also discussed.  With regard to the latter where the issue of the renewal of the term of office of the Secretary-General remains pending, the Council reiterated its stance that the incumbent, Baroness Scotland, enjoys the broad support of the Community.  

6-7 MAY 2021

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)     The Twenty-Fourth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held virtually on the 6-7 May 2021, under the Chairmanship of the Honourable Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belize.
The COFCOR was attended by Honourable E. P. Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade of Antigua and Barbuda; Senator Dr. the Honourable Jerome Walcott, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados; Honourable Dr. Kenneth Darroux, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations of the Commonwealth of Dominica; Honourable Oliver Joseph, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and CARICOM Affairs of Grenada; Honourable Hugh Todd, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Guyana; His Excellency Dr. Claude Joseph, Prime Minister a.i. and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of the Republic of Haiti; Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica; Honourable Mark A.G. Brantley, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aviation of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis; His Excellency Albert Ramdin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation of the Republic of Suriname; and Senator the Honourable Dr. Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
His Excellency Reuben Rahming, Ambassador to The Bahamas to CARICOM, represented The Bahamas; Her Excellency Elma Gene Isaac, Ambassador to CARICOM to Saint Lucia, represented Saint Lucia; and His Excellency Allan Alexander, Ambassador of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to CARICOM represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Remarks were delivered by Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, His Excellency Dr. Claude Joseph, Prime Minister a.i and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of the Republic of Haiti, outgoing Chair of the COFCOR, and the Honourable Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration of Belize, the Chair of the COFCOR.
(The statements are available at
CARICOM Foreign Minister re-emphasised the importance for the Region to speak with one voice through the coordination of foreign policy, and the need to find new and more effective ways to strengthen the existing coordination mechanisms while recognising the sovereign right of Member States. It was noted that there continues to be successful coordination but the increasing complexity of international issues requires that it be enhanced.  In that regard, the COFCOR agreed to increase the frequency of its meetings. This would enable Ministers to address in a timely fashion new developments and challenges facing the Community and to shape Community responses and policies.
The COFCOR reiterated the importance of CARICOM’s effective participation in international fora, including through the pursuit of increased CARICOM representation in relevant organisations.  In this regard, Foreign Ministers considered and endorsed a number of CARICOM candidatures to the United Nations (UN), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and other international and regional organisations. They also deliberated on the requests from Third Countries for CARICOM’s endorsement of their candidates to multilateral bodies.

The COFCOR noted the progress made in the strengthening of relations with a number of Third States and groups of states since its last Meeting.  In so doing, it reaffirmed the importance of CARICOM’s relations with its traditional partners and the need to continue to expand the Community’s outreach to other regions and so develop its relations with non-traditional partners and groupings.

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing its public health and economic effects, in particular the need for equitable access to vaccines and to economic recovery financing, were among the Community’s priority concerns discussed and for which assistance was sought.

Ministers discussed relations the African Union. They reaffirmed their readiness for a CARICOM-AU Summit as soon as practicable.

The COFCOR expressed its continued concern that the US embargo against Cuba has a significant adverse impact on the socio-economic development of Cuba and the well-being of the Cuban People.  Foreign Ministers reiterated CARICOM’s support for the termination of the long-standing US economic, financial and commercial embargo against Cuba and agreed to continue to advocate in this regard.


United Nations (UN)
The COFCOR noted the developments regarding pursuit of the Financing for Development (FfD) agenda and the challenges associated with expanding public health expenditures while applying fiscal containment measures in line with the economic downturn arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Foreign Ministers commended the Honourable Prime Minister of Jamaica who joined with the Prime Minister of Canada and the UN Secretary-General to launch an initiative that has resulted in a menu of over 250 policy options to address Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and beyond.   

The COFCOR agreed on the need for global solutions to the various challenges facing Small Island and Low-Lying Coastal Developing States, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COFCOR also agreed that the Community should continue to prioritise the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway in a robust manner, including the launch of a strong COVID-19 economic recovery related appeal to the international community and, in particular the G20, asking for the expansion and extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). The COFCOR encouraged the consideration of innovative debt relief measures such as debt swaps, debt buybacks, and State Contingent Debt Instruments to ease the economic fallout of the pandemic.
 They also agreed to continue to advocate against –

  1. the designation of CARICOM Member States as high-risk territories thereby resulting in the ongoing loss of correspondent banking relationships (CBRs); and
  • the unilateral actions to blacklist some Member States as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.

The COFCOR welcomed the convening of a Food Systems Summit as part of the Decade of Action to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being hosted by the UN Secretary-General in October 2021 and encouraged the highest level of participation from Member States.

The COFCOR agreed to continue to advance a common regional position, at the fourth and final Inter-Governmental Conference for the development of an Internationally Legally Binding Instrument on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) scheduled for 16-27 August 2021.

Organisation of American States (OAS)

The COFCOR received an update on the issues of strategic importance to the Caribbean Community before the Organisation of American States (OAS). Foreign Ministers welcomed the CARICOM Framework Strategy entitled Vulnerability to Resilience put in place by the OAS Secretary-General with the assistance of the CARICOM Caucus. Ministers expressed concern over the limited resources allocated to areas identified as priority to CARICOM and agreed that every effort should be made to ensure that adequate resources are allotted to these areas. Foreign Ministers agreed to raise this matter at the Fifty-First OAS General Assembly, scheduled to be hosted this year by Guatemala. They also reiterated their commitment to the work of the hemispheric body. The COFCOR commended the work of the CARICOM Caucus in Washington D.C.

Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)
The COFCOR reviewed a synopsis of the 2021 Work Programme of the CELAC PPT Mexico and commended the PPT Mexico and CELAC for advancing priorities related to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and economic fronts.

Association of Caribbean States (ACS)
The Council welcomed the assumption to the office of His Excellency Rodolfo Sabonge as the new Secretary-General of the ACS and agreed that CARICOM Member States should continue to act strategically within the Association.
Foreign Ministers commended the coordination efforts in the Greater Caribbean in response to the pandemic.

The COFCOR agreed that COP26 should be the COP of Ambitious Action and that it must result in greater speed in scaling up climate finance flows to SIDS via the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) finance mechanisms, the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund. Foreign Ministers also reiterated their support to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda as Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

In preparation for COP26, the COFCOR emphasised the need for the Member States to engage in wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders at the national and regional levels.

Belize-Guatemala Dispute
The COFCOR received an update on developments between Belize and Guatemala, including in respect of the case, arising from Guatemala’s territorial, insular and maritime claim, that is now before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for final and definitive resolution, in accordance with the Special Agreement to Submit Guatemala’s Claim to the ICJ.

The COFCOR urged Belize, Guatemala and the OAS to respect and implement fully the Confidence Building Measures as agreed under their Framework Agreement of 2005, pending a resolution of the case before the ICJ. They further urged both countries and the OAS to reinvigorate their efforts to engage in the design and development of a mechanism of cooperation for the Sarstoon River, which remains outstanding.

The COFCOR recognises and supports the OAS’ crucial role in the process aimed at resolving the dispute, arising from Guatemala’s claims on Belize, and called on the international community to continue supporting the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone.

The COFCOR reaffirmed its unwavering support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize.

Guyana-Venezuela Controversy
Foreign Ministers received an update on the most recent developments in the controversy between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. They noted that Guyana had begun to prepare its Memorial for submission on 8 March 2022 in accordance with the schedule set by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hear the case on the merits of Guyana’s application concerning the validity of the Arbitral Award of 1899 and the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary between the two countries.

Foreign Ministers reiterated the expression by CARICOM Heads of Government of the Community’s full support for the ongoing judicial process that is intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long-standing controversy between the two countries and urged Venezuela to participate in the process.

Foreign Ministers remained very concerned about the threatening posture of Venezuela and reaffirmed their consistent support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.

The COFCOR affirmed the strategy adopted at the Thirty-Second Inter-sessional Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government (February 2021) for the advancement of the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Agenda with priority attention to regional food and nutrition security. Ministers agreed to include the Agenda among the priority issues for engagement with relevant partners and in international fora, including the UN Food Systems Summit and the Summit of the Americas.

The COFCOR received a report from Barbados on preparations for UNCTAD XV and noted that the Conference, which was scheduled to be held in Barbados in 2020, will now be held virtually on 3 October 2021.

Foreign Ministers commended Barbados for its continuing efforts to convene this important Conference and affirmed their commitment to work collectively with Barbados in ensuring that CARICOM SIDS specific issues are reflected in the outcome of UNCTAD XV.

Posted in CARICOM, Columns, COVID-19, Crime, Energy, Environment, General, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Sir David Amess speaks on stage during the Conference In Support Of Freedom and Democracy In Iran on June 30, 2018 in Paris, France

A brutal knife attack kills a UK lawmaker…

It doesn’t matter as it never makes sense when this happens, but at that level in the circumstance? While this in our view just adds to the evil deaths that surround us.


British Conservative lawmaker dies after being stabbed multiple times while meeting constituents

Sir David Amess speaks on stage during the Conference In Support Of Freedom and Democracy In Iran on June 30, 2018 in Paris, France
UK MP David Amess – Anthony Devlin / Getty Images

British Conservative lawmaker dies after being stabbed multiple times while meeting constituents

MP Andrew Rosindell with David

MP Andrew Rosindell who is an OT’s promoter was among those quickly commenting on the sad occasion, said on Twitter: “I am utterly devastated. David was my oldest friend in the House and a close friend for four decades. I feel sick inside at what has happened. We’ve all lost a very special person in our lives. My thoughts and prayers are with Julia and the family on this tragic day.”

One person responding to Rosindell’s tweet noted what is sure to be an immediate reaction to what is difficult to understand took place: “Sir David Amess death: Priti Patel orders immediate police review of MPs’ security arrangements. Maybe Priti Patel should do an immediate review on illegal immigrants breaking into the country and security arrangements Along the coast…”

(1) Andrew Rosindell MP on Twitter: “I am utterly devastated. David was my oldest friend in the House and a close friend for four decades. I feel sick inside at what has happened. We’ve all lost a very special person in our lives. My thoughts and prayers are with Julia and the family on this tragic day. ✝️” / Twitter

See tweet here

Posted in Crime, Featured, International, Local, News, Obituaries, Regional0 Comments


Facebook fact-check fallacies and pandemic panics

Are FaceBook’s “Independent Fact-Checkers” the last word on the Covid-19 vax facts?

BRADES, Montserrat, June 5, 2021 –  Obviously not. But, why that is so important, is especially if we value our freedom (and so, too, the independent media).

Yes, the Facebook warning label we can see was recently used to dismiss the sober concerns by New Zealand Doctor, Damian Wojcik; which  TMR brought to the attention of Montserrat and its huge global readership, hence their effort. So, it is time to use the right of reply to set the matter straight.


As, whenever there is a crisis, officials and other power brokers try to keep a lid on it.

As part of that, they establish a dominant narrative, put out by their favoured voices.  And, yes, historically, you can safely bet your last $5 in your back pocket, that that narrative will at most give half the truth, will promote power agendas, typically reflects someone’s business selling point, and too often will be dangerously manipulative. If they can get away with it, anyone who refuses to toe the line will be smeared as an irresponsible, incompetent misleader of the public, etc, etc. And, far too often, that is utterly unfair to voices trying to warn about overlooked issues and concerns.

Another direct Facebook attachment to (vaccine) video posted

Montserrat’s history since 1989 is littered with cases in point, but that’s just because we have been hit, literally, by crisis after crisis since Hurricane Hugo struck thirty-two years ago.

TMR response: Ah yes! Hmmm, the lack of announced ‘Treatment’ and lack thereof? Consider how this fact has been suppressed and scandalised for over a year, and then ask yourself the question why? That note by Facebook should direct to their claim comparing the “harm” from the vaccine i.e. number of deaths therefrom and the number of “harm” specific caused from the treatment of Ivermectin. Recall their famous ploy of benefits vs risk – where do they bother to apply that? The absence of that answers any suspicions.

A glance at scripture, say, Acts 27 will show this problem is as old as the hills. As regular TMR readers are doubtless familiar with, Mr. Moneybags had his bought-and-paid-for “techie” persuade the Centurion and the passengers to ignore that crazy Jew in chains over there muttering about dangerous sailing conditions. All that was needed to slip forty miles down the coast to a fine harbour was a good afternoon’s breeze. 

Ah, there it is, a gentle South wind. Let’s go.

Halfway there, of course, a wicked nor’easter struck, instantly reducing the ship to sinking condition. By the time it was over, it was through intercessory prayer and the grace of God that they were glad to shipwreck at St Paul’s Bay, Malta.

That’s a bit of history that needs to be regularly expounded from our pulpits.

For sure, Dr. Damian Wojcik deserved a fairer hearing for his sober, quietly presented fifteen-minute, well-researched word of counsel[1]:

  • He is a General Practitioner with twenty-seven years of experience in a practice that includes nutrition and environmental medicine. He is also a Forensic Physician, trained to give expert testimony, and having twenty-seven years’ experience as a Police Doctor.
  • He speaks as spokesman for a circle of other doctors concerned about how the vaccines for Covid-19 are being rolled out; they shared their concerns through an open letter to the NZ Medical Council, Medsafe, and the Royal College of GP’s. (So, yes, this is a case where experts disagree, so it is unjustified to claim that the voice of officialdom and its favoured spokesmen decisively represent THE Science.)
  • He speaks in the name of the famous Hippocratic Oath,[2] which constituted Medicine as a responsible, trustworthy profession, 2400 years ago. The key ethical commitments are, first, do no harm; next, cure if you can; and last, care for always. (Our own doctors take that same oath. If they haven’t our Governments are committing a travesty and worse)
  • He counsels that “there is emerging evidence that Covid-19 vaccines carry a risk of severe adverse reactions and death.” He points to over 4,000 deaths listed by the American registry for such over the past five months, relative to 259 million vaccinations (most vaccines require two “jabs”). This is a fact from a standard source; the issue is the balance of risks and benefits, as well as reasonable alternatives.
  • He then highlights that CDC calculations show this exceeds the total for vaccines over the preceding ten years and it is also over a hundred times higher than the rate for influenza vaccines, signs that this is significantly riskier than is generally acceptable for vaccines.
  • He is concerned that patients are individuals, not Lab Rats to be “sacrificed in a global vaccine experiment,” at least, not on his watch for his patients. This is controversial of course but it is a values statement informed by the fact that the vaccines were sharply expedited and would normally require several further years of tests before general approval.
  • He cites the conceded point as of May 2021, that there is no conclusive evidence that the vaccines prevent infection or transmission of the disease. The hope has been that they will reduce the intensity of disease, hospitalisations, and fatalities.
  • He speaks to the Nuremberg Code,[3] created in 1947 after Nazi Doctors abused patients through dangerous or often fatal medical experiments. This requires that participation in medical experiments must be based on voluntary informed consent.
  • The pivot here is that in his opinion [which is a matter of ethical judgment], the emergency approvals and riskiness of the vaccines constitute a global experiment that requires balanced informed consent rather than coaxing. (Fair comment: if there are significant, widespread long-term problems from the vaccines this may become a serious legal issue.)
  • He specifically speaks of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna, as gene therapy, a controversial opinion, but one linked to the role of mRNA as carrying the genetic code out to cellular machinery for building protein molecules, etc, here, viral spike proteins intended to spark an immune response. (However, on fair comment: there are concerns tied to earlier animal trials with adverse outcomes and even to apparent damaging effects caused by spike proteins in the body.)
  • [AstraZeneca inserts spike proteins into a Chimpanzee virus which is injected to spark an immune response, however the spike protein itself apparently can cause damage to the lining of blood vessels. We all know of the blood clotting concerns.]
  • Again, he speaks to a climate of fear, pressure, and state over-reach, having already noted that vaccine manufacturers are indemnified and insurers will not pay out in case of vaccine-related adverse events. These are again summaries of fact and statements of linked controversial but legitimate opinion or concern.
  • He goes on to call for respectful, courteous dialogue.
  • He reports the current global fatality rate as 0.15%, comparing to the typical infection [not case] fatality rate for seasonal influenza, 0.10%. Such rates seem to be responsible estimates and are clearly comparable. We do not go into a global lockdown with a “warp speed” operation to provide vaccines for the annual flu. Similarly, he suggests that over the past year, as physicians have learned what treatments work, hospital fatality rates have fallen. In this context, he pointed to supplements such as Zinc, Vitamins C and D, adding that “there are at least eighteen randomised clinical trials to support the use of oral Ivermectin in hospitalised patients; which results in significantly reduced mortality.” He suggests that “this information should be more widely applied and not suppressed.”

There is, again on final fair comment, manifestly nothing in this that warrants branding his remarks as “False Information.” Facebook’s fact-checkers themselves need to be fact-checked.


[2] See

[3] See

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, COVID-19, Crime, De Ole Dawg, Environment, Health, International, Local, News, Opinions, Regional, Scriptures0 Comments

Olivia and Anna

Girl, 6, ‘kidnapped’ by dad weeks ago tragically confirmed as body found in sea

Olivia Gimeno Zimmerman disappeared on April 27 alongside her one-year-old sister Anna. Today, authorities confirmed a body found off the coast of Tenerife was hers mirror

TMR: This and all like this, can get you to feel feelingless. But just imagine this could be happening to hundreds of thousands and millions around the world, straight in our faces, to our most elderly, elderly and, not so elderly; moving on to some vulnerable youths!

By Natalia Penza & Chiara Fiorillo 11 JUN 2021

Olivia and Anna
Olivia and Anna went missing on April 27 (Image: SOLARPIX.COM)

A six-year-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped by her dad weeks ago has been confirmed as being a body found on seabed.

Olivia Gimeno Zimmerman disappeared alongside her one-year-old sister Anna on April 27.

Their father Tomas Gimeno went to pick Anna up from the home of his former partner, Beatriz Zimmerman, and then collected Olivia from an after-school German learning centre before they went missing.

Search teams yesterday located a body more than 3,300ft underwater in a sports bag weighed down with an anchor off the coast of Tenerife.

Following fingerprint tests, authorities have today confirmed the body was that of Olivia.

A spokesman for the investigating judge in charge of an ongoing court probe said: “Fingerprint tests carried out this morning on the body recovered yesterday in the sea off Tenerife have confirmed beyond any doubt that the body is that of Olivia’s.”

Tomas Gimeno
Tomas Gimeno allegedly nabbed the two girls (Image: SOLARPIX.COM)

The girl’s sister Anna and dad Tomas Gimeno, 37, are yet to be found nearly two months after the trio vanished, sparking an international manhunt.

Gimeno is believed to have taken the two little girls on his boat, with traces of the father’s blood located on board, El Pais reports. Support My WeightHow To Shred Fat Around Belly and Thighs (Do This Every Day)eToroLearn how you can invest in leading brands with 0% commission with eToroby TaboolaSponsored Links

A child safety car seat was also found floating in the sea and the Civil Guard has confirmed that it belonged to Anna, according to the Spanish newspaper.

Olivia and Anna
An international search was launched after the two girls disappeared (Image: SOLARPIX.COM)

Overnight Spanish media reported claims investigators suspect Gimeno drugged and killed his daughters at his home before putting them in separate bags, taking their bodies out to sea and throwing them into the ocean with the anchor attached.

Opened medicine packets containing sedatives and muscle relaxants were allegedly discovered in his living room, Catalan newspaper El Periodico reported.

Gimeno had allegedly been seen on CCTV loading several bags onto his boat at Marina Tenerife in Santa Cruz the night the girls went missing.

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A security guard said he had seen a man fitting his description alone, with no sign of the youngsters, the report claimed.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s partner Georgina Rodriguez was among celebs who highlighted the girls’ disappearance in the days after they went missing.

Georgina, 27, said in an emotional post to her 24 million Instagram followers shortly after the mystery disappearance: “I hope with all my heart that the girls are found safe and well and can hug their mum again soon.”

Santa Cruz mayor Jose Manuel Bermudez reacting to the discovery on Thursday, saying: “There are no words to express the terrible desolation I feel. From respect at the mother’s pain and with all the caution the terrible news that is reaching us deserves, I want to express to the family all the solidarity of the citizens of Santa Cruz.”

Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez tweeted: “I cannot begin to imagine the pain of the mother of little Anna and Olivia, who disappeared in Tenerife, following the terrible news we have just heard.

“I send a hug and my love and that of my whole family, who today show solidarity with Beatriz and her loved ones.”

Such as this:

Posted in COVID-19, Crime, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments


Democracy, while, America urgently needs a real investigation of the Trump regime — or it will all happen again


We recently learned that Trump’s minions spied on reporters — and no one cares. These crimes must not be forgotten

By Chauncey DeVega
Published May 13, 2021
Donald Trump, Stephen Miller and Bill Barr (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, and Bill Barr (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

During Donald Trump’s time in office (and arguably beyond), he and the Republican Party inflicted many deep wounds on American democracy and the rule of law. President Biden and the Democrats have done an admirable job of slowing the bleeding. But for the victim’s life to be saved, the weapons must be seized, and the wounds treated and healed. For that to happen the full truth of the Trump regime’s crimes must be publicly revealed.

Unfortunately, such an outcome appears unlikely. In the most recent example of organized forgetting by a country that would rather look away from the truth than confront it, we learned last week that under Trump the Department of Justice obtained the phone records of reporters who were investigating the Trump-Russia collusion scandal. Then we immediately stopped talking about it.

At Politico, Josh Gerstein reports:

An editor at the Post, Cameron Barr, said in a statement that the newspaper is “deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists,” but there was nothing close to widespread outrage at the news that an authoritarian president and regime and his flunkies apparently spied on journalists who were investigating crimes against democracy. This obvious abuse of power is largely being treated as a non-event of little public importance. That is precisely how authoritarianism is normalized — when the public no longer cares about the crimes committed by those who hold power. 

These acts were committed under a president who repeatedly described the free press as “the enemy of the people” and “fake news,” in a Goebbels-like campaign to create an alternate reality in which the Great Leader is never to be challenged and free speech and other rights are to be crushed.

Moreover, the same president and regime repeatedly embraced, fawned over and admired foreign dictators and autocrats who imprison and kill journalists. In his book “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” former national security adviser John Bolton recalls Trump saying of journalists: “These people should be executed. They are scumbags.”Advertisement:

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Given the Trump regime’s use of Border Patrol officers and other pseudo-police agents to seize protesters and reporters off the streets in Portland and other cities last year, it is terrifying to imagine how “enemies of the people” would have been detained had Trump’s coup succeeded and he remained in office.

The collective non-reaction to the Trump regime’s targeting of journalists is just another example of the way uncomfortable and dangerous truths about the Age of Trump are disappearing into the memory well. Congress needs to convene a truth commission and other public investigations before all such truths have vanished. There are many questions about the Trump presidency that must be asked and answered for the United States to move forward in a safe and responsible way.

Were the coup attempt and the Capitol attack directly planned by Donald Trump and his inner circle? What role did Republican members of Congress play in the assault? What was actually discussed in the Oval Office meeting where the coup attempt was allegedly discussed with Trump by disgraced former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and various others? Why were the military and law enforcement essentially ordered to stand down by the Trump administration? What figures in the Trump administration may have coordinated such orders and plans? How is the Trump-inspired right-wing extremist movement being funded and coordinated?Advertisement:

The people of Puerto Rico were basically abandoned to die after Hurricane Maria. What role did Trump himself play in that decision? What other Trump regime officials were involved?

What role did William Barr and the Justice Department play in concealing the Trump regime’s crimes, attacking his personal and political enemies and in other ways undermining the rule of law? And what specific role did Barr and other senior officials play in concealing and distorting the Mueller report’s findings about the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia during the 2016 election?

Why did the Trump regime refuse to treat white supremacists and other right-wing hate groups and paramilitaries as serious threats to the country’s safety and security? How many such individuals and organizations have infiltrated the country’s military, police, law enforcement and national security apparatus more generally?

Beyond immigration policy, what role did Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller — who has shown himself to be an unrepentant white supremacist — play in policy-making more generally? Given the creation of concentration camps and an explicit policy of causing misery and hardship for brown and Black migrants and refugees, did the Trump regime commit crimes against humanity?Advertisement:

A new report from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that at least 900,000 people have died from the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. That number is roughly 50 percent higher than the official death toll of almost 600,000.

Public health experts have estimated that the number of deaths might have been limited to 100,000, had the Trump regime and Republican Party acted responsibly during the early months of the pandemic. Do these actions rise to the level of criminality? Did Trump and his Republican supporters commit democide against the American people?

There are many other questions to be asked as well about financial crimes, corruption, election-rigging, voter suppression and attacks on civil rights, as well as the federal government’s response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter people’s uprising.

To this point, Republicans in Congress are blocking any attempt to hold a proper investigation of Trump’s coup attempt and the Capitol attack, very likely because they are implicated as co-conspirators. Advertisement:

Too many Democrats — including President Biden — are eager to move on, perceiving a public accounting for the crimes of Jan. 6 (and the Trump regime more generally) as a distraction from their broadly successful policy agenda.

The American people have short attention spans, are traumatized by the Age of Trump and the pandemic, and have been taught as a culture that ignoring bad things will make them go away. Confronting the truth about the Trump regime and American neofascism, how it came to be and the ongoing threat it poses requires a maturity, patience and dedication that too many Americans do not possess.

A truth commission could at least potentially provide a proper accounting for the Age of Trump, and help create a shared narrative for the American people. Such a commission would also quite likely uncover crimes committed by the Trump regime that to this point have remained hidden.

But there is no full and genuine public accounting for the crimes of the Trump regime, it is all but certain that Donald Trump will not be America’s last neofascist president but instead its first. To hold no serious investigation is also to grant permission for more right-wing terrorism and political violence. The Republican Party has already decided that free and fair elections are a priori illegitimate, and their outcomes are illegal if the Democrats win. Advertisement:

Today’s Republicans are obsessively working to create a type of one-party state and apartheid autocracy. If the Age of Trump is allowed to drain away down the memory well, they will probably succeed. America’s multiracial democracy will then exist only as a fading memory, until that too is forgotten. 

Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

Joe Manchin and Donald Trump: The two men who threaten it all –

Joe Manchin and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Joe Manchin and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

The end of QAnon: U.S. Democracy still isn’t safe

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Is Vaccine Bribery a Crime? Suspicion!

COVID-19 – Who is guilty, publicists, givers, or receivers?

…this experiential ’emergency’ approved vaccine…”

Governor Andrew Pearce and Premier Joseph E Farrell at press conference with their push for greater uptake of vaccine

Bribery is not an uncommon crime, practiced throughout the world Montserrat, being no exception. But perhaps it is the impunity with which it is done particularly at general election time, that although prominently on the law books that it goes un-noticed, most times as many do.

There is this report that ‘Many of the fatalities or serious illness worldwide, associated with the COVID-19 vaccines thus:’ “…died after receiving the ‘vaccine’ jab”, leaving the open lies that follow to even sound plausible. Yes, like, the Health officials say they will investigate the death(s), to report following no investigation 99.9% of the times, ‘it was found that the death was from causes unrelated to the vaccine.’

That was no different from the response by Governor Pearce, and Premier Farrell who said in response to a Bennette Roach’s question, at a press conference, “Has there been any reports of adverse effects, mild or severe by anyone after having received the vaccine…?

“Absolutely none. I have not heard. And of course, there are some cases in the UK and the US very early about blood clots,” said Premier Farrell.
He would later retract: “ So there’s a greater good to take the vaccine than not to have it and contrary to what might be happening,” admitting, “and yes, there might be a few incidences of reactions

He offered an explanation, “We [don’t] want to know for certain that it is the vaccine. Well, there were underlying problems,” and now without apology, ”but we can’t deny that there might have been some reactions.”

Governor Pearce meantime softened his earlier stiff response to the suggestion that ‘the least they (Govt Health officials) can do is people who they have requested to, and are willing to take the COVID vaccine, that there are risks in doing so. He was adamant that there were no deaths, etc among the millions of people, referring to WHO’s reports, which he said is who he listens to regarding advice about the vaccine.

The question to him then was put to him on March 23, when he was referred to the UK’s advice of caution while advising that the benefits of taking the vaccine far outweigh the associated risks, and that the least that should be done here was the same as far as risks are concerned.

The question put differently at his half-hour press conference with the Premier. “Has there been anything done to help people understand that they should not just be told to go take the vaccine, but that there can be issues and that they should be able to be feeling very free and not being pushed to take the vaccine?”

Governor Pearce was first to respond: “Their advice is this vaccine is safe. And please take it to a man and woman PAHO WHO, the UK regulatory authorities, the EU counterparts. These are real things. These are not armchair experts. These are real people, lifelong experts. We need to listen to them. You raise the issue of the, or the issue of the clotting risk was mentioned.”

(I did not ask or mention anything about blood clotting in my question! Did that mean that there had been such reports?

The Governor continued: “That has been very openly and publicly noted by the health officials; there is a very small indicative risk not proven, that something in the order of four to six people may develop out of a million, may develop some particular clotting complication four to six out of a million,” referencing the UK and US but not Montserrat.

He went on to admit, “… yes, there might be a few incidences of reactions. We don’t know for certain that it is the vaccine. Well, there might be underlying problems, but we can’t deny that there might have been some reactions.”

The thrust and indeed the purpose of that press conference was an attempt at convincing Montserrat residents to access the ‘AstraZeneca vaccine of which the UK Government had provided over 3000 doses.

As at that point,1299 of the first dose and 771 second doses had reportedly been administered.

Vaccines arrive

The first batch of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, containing 3000 doses, arrived on Montserrat from the United Kingdom on February 3, 2021 in unusual officialdom. On Monday, February 8, the Ministry of Health began to administer the vaccines to individuals who had already registered. 351 persons had already registered following the call to take the vaccine.

(l-r) Governor Andrew Pearce, Expanded Programme on Immunization Manager, Nurse Violet Brown, Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Camille Thomas-Gerald, Chief Medical Officer (Ag), Dr. Bramiah Kassim and Premier Joseph E. Farrell,

Following its announcement and delivery of monetary and other support, in late 2020, the UKG promised that UK Overseas Territories would be provided with COVID-19 vaccines.

Residents receive vaccines – adverse reaction complaints

People were steadily receiving the vaccine after being encouraged, even online to register by about February 16, but not too long after, with the deadline date of the vaccines, May 30, a few weeks away Governor Pearce called on the Montserrat media to promote the ‘uptake’ of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine had been rolled following receipt of vaccine doses from the UK Government.

There began some expressions of concern about the ‘vaccine’ as it was early reported, that the production of the vaccines had been rushed and there was little knowledge including the belief that the vaccines came with risks of severe or even fatal reactions.

Following the press conference where the Governor had updated the media about the vaccine roll out and the island’s state of the pandemic now past a year old, he appeared offended when asked about the information being provided to the public about the vaccine and its efficacy and the obligation to receive it.

By mid-April the Ministry of Health, responded to rumblings and reports, difficult to confirm, that Montserrat residents taking the vaccine have had varying reactions therefrom, and by then were issuing advice to would-be recipients of the vaccine. Then there were outside similar reports including those of blood clots and low platelets in a small number of people receiving their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19.

The Ministry must have known that the Premier had changed course while saying as they now say, that there have been no reports of adverse effects to the drug on Montserrat, “yes, there might be a few incidences of reactions…We [don’t] know for certain that it is the vaccine…”

The Chief Medical Officer however in response to expressed concerns, said: “The risk of these adverse reactions are very minimal,” improving on what the Governor said about the “…calculated risk to be four (4) in a million persons,” adding the end tune, “The benefits of vaccination, therefore, continue to outweigh the risks.  Given this, the Ministry will continue its vaccination programme, and residents are encouraged to continue to register.”

She added, however, at this stage the Ministry is not in a position to offer alternative vaccines,” continuing the now suggestion that ‘persons who are concerned or have questions, are therefore advised to speak with a health care provider to understand their own personal risk of COVID-19 infection and vaccination.

“Another official later said, “going forward persons receiving the vaccine will be fully informed on how to monitor for symptoms that might be related to an adverse event, and what action should be taken in the event of such symptoms arising,” the Ministry of Health official stated.

The push for vaccine uptake and an attempt at bribery

It’s with that background as suspicions in the community spread that there may have even been someone who died following receiving the vaccine a matter which became more aggravated later, There was the May 5 press conference. The Governor and the Premier both sought to explain that Montserrat going forward in preparation to begin to do something that might bring back reason to existence in Montserrat.

Premier Farrell said the pandemic has hit the island hard and they are also thankful that the crisis has not been worse. Montserrat had 20 positive cases and one death.

He said with his responsibility for tourism, it was important to restore confidence for people outside who want to come and live or visit adding that his government’s intent was to ensure that this confidence is restored.

“The only effective tool we have at this moment is a vaccine. There’s no getting away from it,” the Premier declared, adding that the goal was to give residents the ability to eventually move about with no need to wear masks and to gather in unlimited numbers.

 “We can only do it with your help,” he clamoured, addressing the media.

Both top Government officials at the press conference announced that 900 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine received on the island in February due to expire May 31, 2021, were still available. The Governor and Premier agreed and insisted it would be a tragedy if the vaccines are dumped as due to restrictions, they are unable to share them.

The governor explained that due to agreements signed between the pharmaceutical company, the UK Government, and the local government, the batch of the vaccine here would need to remain on the island.

With a total of 1,299 people having taken the first dose of the vaccine, and 771 having received the second dose, the premier said that reopening the island hinged on vaccinated numbers increasing dramatically over the coming few months.

They both hinted that making the vaccine mandatory, would be undesired and that Cabinet has talked around the matter, discussing what incentives to put in place to encourage greater uptake of the vaccine on island.

Throughout the region and in particular much closer home the talk of making the vaccine a mandatory requirement, Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister Gaston Browne announced his intention to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for Antiguan & Barbudan residents. He stated, “…it is going to be an inescapable fact that people have no choice but to get vaccinated…[t]hey either do so voluntarily to protect lives and livelihoods or be forced to do so.”

But, the anxiety to have the vaccines used up on Montserrat and the resulting uptake by more persons, opened up a situation that made the suggestion of bribing persons to take vaccines a reality.

With all their pronouncements, however, the government maintained: “While the COVID-19 vaccine has not been proven to reduce the chances of catching the virus it does reduce incidences of hospitalisation and mortality.”

The bribery attempt

Both Governor and Premier at the press conference mentioned as was quickly reported on one online social media platform, that businesses, Aravins and Victor’s Supermarkets were offering a $50 voucher for people who choose to be vaccinated.

A social media frenzy picked up with Victor’s Supermarket saying as shown here, that they did not make any such offer.

At the May 5 press conference… Governor and Premier seek support for their push for the vaccine uptake

Aravins Supermarket it was also reported had also denied having made the offer. But about the same time, the social media information was being published, Governor’s press officer issued an email to make a correction, “to the Governor’s opening statement on local businesses who have agreed to support: Aravins Enterprises has agreed to off[er] the $50.00 voucher. Victors Supermarket will be supporting the Government’s Public dissemination campaign on health messages through their various media platforms.”

Immediately after the press conference, DiscoverMNI reported on its Facebook page also, it “understands, Aravin’s Supermarket, who had initially agreed, has decided not to offer the $50 voucher to vaccinated persons due to negative comments circulating in the public domain about the initiative.

Victor’s refutes support announcement of Governor and Premier

“Victor’s Supermarket will be using its channels to support a planned public education campaign.”

Questions of Bribery attempts not peculiar to only Montserrat

Bribery has become so commonplace, yet it is a crime all around the world.
Many of the fatalities or serious illness worldwide, associated with the COVID-19 vaccines thus: “…died after receiving the ‘vaccine’ jab”, leaving the open lies that follow to even sound plausible. Yes, like, the health officials say they will investigate the death, to report following no investigation 99.9% of the times, ‘it was found that the death was from causes unrelated to the vaccine.’

That is no different from the response of Governor Pearce and Premier Farrell.

In an MSNBC article: “Ohio’s $1 million COVID-19 vaccine lottery is bribery at its best”, it continues: “Going without a mask isn’t enough incentive? How about $1 million?”

So, while Ohio has the highest potential payout, other states have been reaching out to people through their wallets. …West Virginia’s lagging numbers prompted Gov. Jim Justice to propose giving $100 savings bonds to residents ages 16 to 35 who get vaccinated. (They›re still working on how to deliver those bonds to the newly vaccinated.)

The author writes, ‘My favorite bribery scheme so far? Beer. In New Jersey, participating breweries will provide a free beer if you show your proof of vaccination as part of the state government’s “Shot and a Beer” program. (Get it? It’s a pun.) It’s a better name than Erie County, New York’s “Shot and a Chaser” program — but the latter is the best anecdotal evidence we have so far that these programs can get results, especially if you offer the shots at the brewery, too.’

It’s a well-reasoned set of concerns. But the article ends by noting that a “policy of paying people for Covid-19 vaccination should be adopted only as a last resort if voluntary vaccine uptake proves insufficient to promote herd immunity within a reasonable period of time.”

More. In Chicago, the city will have a series of free concerts that will be open only to people who can prove they›re fully vaccinated.


 When one checks the definitions of UK laws on bribery – “Bribery Act 2010: Joint Prosecution Guidance of The Director of the Serious Fraud Office and The Director of Public Prosecutions | The Crown Prosecution Service ( or The Principal bribery offences – Bing The principal bribery offences – “The offence of bribing another person includes offering, promising or giving a financial or other advantage intending to induce or reward improper conduct, or knowing or believing its acceptance to amount to improper conduct. [i] “Improper” means breaching an expectation of good faith, impartiality or trust.”

Looking more deeply it might be as opined by professionals, there may not be any culpability in these instances, regarding giving or taking vaccine may not be “improper” conduct.” So then the question would have been asked, “what is improper conduct”? The forcing of people perhaps might run against the Constitution taking it back to Article 4(2) of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Following, Article 7 says: “…In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.”

Government reacts officially

It wasn’t too long after the initial soundings of whispered reports some even publicly expressed that vaccinated persons had been having varying reactions as a result of the ‘jab/s’, as serious as deaths.

In a release on April 15, 2021 acknowledging international reports of blood clots and low platelets in a very small number of people receiving their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Sharra Greenaway-Duberry noted that the Ministry ‘has been in continued discussions with the UK Health Security Agency to understand the scope of the issue and implications for Montserrat,’ as the public’s health and safety remain a top priority.

The government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme began on February 8, 2021. A report indicated that “hospital records show there were a total of 14 deaths on Montserrat from February to mid-May,” according to a Government release expressing concern surrounding COVID-19 VACCINATION concerns.

“Among those deaths, there were at least four (4) people who died in local terms, suddenly, (good today, not reporting illness, but dead tomorrow.) The records however also indicated that of the deceased, two persons received their first dose of the Oxford- AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

‘’There was no indication based on investigations carried out by the ministry that these persons died as a result of any complications related to the COVID-19 vaccine which they received,” the Ministry release said on May 11.

That release also indicated that it is customary, (with other stakeholders) “to investigate all instances of sudden deaths,” confirming, that there were two sudden deaths over the past days which are currently under investigation.”

It is not clear whether the other two sudden deaths, (or others) one of which it also suspected was the result of the vaccine, or died after taking the vaccine, were also investigated or had postmortems.

The rumblings were enough to cause the Ministry of Health and Social Services in the said press release, ”to ask that the public remains calm while we await the results of the post-mortems.”

Mandating the vaccine?

This release reached us only moments after TMR (The Montserrat Reporter) posted two comments with stories on its Facebook page, regarding vaccines and in one case specifically, the AstraZeneca vaccine, and adverse effects on recipients.

We had published that with growing actions as these, the least, the seemingly not so straight government of Montserrat should do, is stop trying to ‘force’ or bribe residents to take the said vaccine or any of them!

This further confounds the uniformed rumblings of the said government ministers about mandating vaccination for any public servant or others in Montserrat.

The Ministry of Health release, after the last push by Government to have more people access the AstraZeneca vaccine, which after a brisk ‘uptake’ by encouraged residents, came to an almost standstill.

The autopsy results – No link!

On May 21, 2021, not surprisingly the Government reported, “Recent investigations into two sudden deaths have found no link to the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID- 19 vaccine.”

The Ministry Officials went on to indicate with quoting, that “Dr. King was able to conclusively rule out COVID-19 vaccination as a contributor to the deaths of the individuals given the medical history and other medical findings.”

Please let us see the ‘Dr. King’s’ report.

Finding confidence or becoming aware of their further obligation, the Ministry took the opportunity to note further, now trying to silence the suspicions and rumblings, that “other deaths which occurred since the vaccination programme began in February, were not as a result of any complication from the COVID-19 vaccine,” advising that they “will duly inform the public should any local safety concerns of the AstraZeneca vaccine be found,” adding incredulously, “To date, no severe reactions to the vaccine have been noted locally.”

Ramping up the call for more vaccine takers

(l-r) Penny Maloney, CMO Shara Greenaway-Duberry, and Professor Ian Cumming

It appeared that none of the latest moves to convince the rest of the population to receive the vaccine, as it was reported that at least 500 doses of the vaccines were sent over to Anguilla; as well as a high-powered visit from the UK by Professor Ian Cumming, Public Health England UKOT’s Programme Advisor, (accompanied by Consultant Dr. Autilia Newton CCDC PHE) to raise awareness on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination programme being administered by the Ministry of Health, as well as to look at the island’s health service, and also to share the information which they hope will encourage more people to be vaccinated… The Health professor said: “We don’t need to have an outbreak to convince people they need to take the vaccine. COVID-19 is not going away.”

In later discussions, Dr. Greenaway-Duberry said one of the reasons given by residents for not wanting to be vaccinated is the perception of low risk of catching COVID-19. “Montserrat has had 20 cases and our borders are essentially closed,” she said. “There is a perceived low risk of importation.”

Speaking further to Governor and Premier’s earlier push for the vaccine greater uptake, she said that changing the current quarantine protocols however, goes hand in hand with more residents being vaccinated to reduce the chance of a new outbreak.

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Choksi is in Dominica jail – a matter that can be scandously embarrasing for neighboring islands

Stories from Antigua Breaking News (online) keeps running coverage on the matter 

The Montserrat Reporter TMR – Facebook – Published by Bennette Roach: The Citizenship Investment Program (CIP) prominent in the islands of St. Kitts-Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica (let’s give them the acronym, SAD), CIP in this article from Antigua is now ‘Criminal Investment Program’. The CIP is often in the regional news.

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…Covid vaccine lottery is bribery at its best?

by Hayes Brown    
An illustration of a target and a vaccine shaped like a dart hitting the bullseye

Vaccination rates are on the decline in the United States, leaving officials scrambling to figure out how to get needles in arms. The CDC’s announcement that people who are fully vaccinated can go without masks inside and outside might help. But some places are getting more creative. The incentives being offered — ranging from free beer to savings bonds to a chance at $1 million — make total sense given how important the vaccine campaign is, Hayes Brown writes.

“The best reason for getting the Covid-19 vaccine is, of course, not having either yourself, your loved ones, or your neighbors get infected and potentially die from a virus that has killed almost 600,000 Americans,” Brown writes. “But $1 million is a pretty good runner-up, I have to say.”

Read the full article here:

Read Hayes Brown’s analysis and see more great articles at the top of your Friday MSNBC Daily.

Critics of the digital systems argue they discriminate against those who cannot get vaccinated.

But Mr. Griffiths says he is a complete supporter of the documents, which he says are “inevitable”.

“I think the problem is not the vaccine passport and its discrimination. It’s the need to roll things out and have a proper globally equitable vaccine programme,” he said.

The World Health Organisation and World Travel & Tourism Council are among those opposed to vaccine passports amid fears they will create a “two-tier society“.

Last month, Dr. Mike Ryan from the WHO repeated concerns about the ethical and fairness issues surrounding vaccine passports.

“They do need to be considered, especially in a world where vaccine is distributed in such a grossly inequitable way,” he said.

But there places where the issue is taken even more seriously, and others where the whispers need to be silenced and put aside immediately.

Why no declared “treatment” #treatment for COVID-19?

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Illustration of a dollar bill being pinned to a darts board by a vaccination syringe.

Ohio’s $1 million Covid vaccine lottery is bribery at its best Going without a mask isn’t enough incentive? How about $1 million?

Illustration of a dollar bill being pinned to a darts board by a vaccination syringe.
Shots for scratch! Medicine for moolah! Covid immunity for prizes and money! Chelsea Stahl / MSNBC

– May 14, 2021, By Hayes Brown, MSNBC Opinion Columnist

The best reason to get Covid-19 vaccine shots is, of course, to not have yourself, your loved ones, or your neighbors get infected and potentially die from a virus that has killed almost 600,000 people in the U.S. But $1 million is a pretty good runner-up, I have to say.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday announced the “Vax-a-Million” program. Starting May 26, a random Ohioan will be drawn weekly from the Ohio secretary of state’s voter registration database to get $1 million — so long as they’re vaccinated. Another five 12- to 17 year-olds will get the chance to sign up for a possible full-ride scholarship to a state college or university, again provided they’re vaccinated.

Ohio governor: Get vaccinated, win a million dollars

MAY 13, 202101:46

As a former resident of Michigan, I’m loath to say anything positive about the state’s southern neighbor. But this is actually a pretty genius idea from the Ohio government, especially given that “the Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds,” as The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Absent a decent stick — aside from, you know, the risk of dying from a virus — we’ve been forced to find carrots to convince the masses.

Daily vaccination rates have plummeted even as more and more people have become eligible to get their shots. It’s entirely possible that news that people who are fully vaccinated can go about their lives sans masks may change that and get folks who’ve been waiting to go in to see the local stabmonger.

But we’ve been hoping that more education will bring down hesitancy for months now. And while that may be the case among some demographics, others still stubbornly refuse to get vaccinated — looking at you, white Republican men. The Biden administration has so far ruled out any sort of penalty for people who aren’t vaccinated; the Food and Drug Administration still hasn’t approved any of the vaccines yet — it has only authorized them for emergency use, which isn’t the same.

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Why it sure looks like DOJ weaponized subpoenas to target Trump enemies

Barbara McQuade

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Hayes Brown

Absent a decent stick — aside from, you know, the risk of dying from a virus — we’ve been forced to find carrots to convince the masses. That has included encouraging selfies to handing out stickers to what we’re seeing in Ohio now. So it may seem desperate at this point, but I can’t be mad at any and all efforts to get people vaccinated.

Fauci weighs in on CDC’s new mask guidance for fully vaccinated

MAY 14, 202103:05

It might not even take the full million bucks to sway people. Polling backs up the idea that offering smaller amounts of cold, hard cash could make a difference. UCLA’s Covid-19 Health and Politics Project asked over 7,000 people who had yet to be vaccinated whether they’d be more likely to do so if they were paid for it. Thirty-four percent of respondents said $100 would make them more likely to make appointments; 31 percent said 50 bucks would do the trick.

So while Ohio has the highest potential payout, other states have been reaching out to people through their wallets. After a wildly successful rollout, West Virginia’s lagging numbers prompted Gov. Jim Justice to propose giving $100 savings bonds to residents ages 16 to 35 who get vaccinated. (They’re still working on how to deliver those bonds to the newly vaccinated.) As in Ohio, that money would come from federal Covid-19 funds already sent to the state.

How West Virginia health officials are battling Covid vaccine hesitancy

It’s not just money on offer. In Chicago, the city will have a series of free concerts that will be open only to people who can prove they’re fully vaccinated. A hospital group in Alaska is giving away prizes, including airline tickets and money toward the purchase of an ATV. Here in New York City, Shake Shack is offering free fries when you buy a sandwich and flash your vaccination card. Krispy Kreme’s decision to offer free donuts to the vaccinated set off a whole round of discourse about whether the company was encouraging obesity. (It wasn’t, and the fatphobia was rightly shouted down.)

My favorite bribery scheme so far? Beer. In New Jersey, participating breweries will provide a free beer if you show your proof of vaccination as part of the state government’s “Shot and a Beer” program. (Get it? It’s a pun.) It’s a better name than Erie County, New York’s “Shot and a Chaser” program — but the latter is the best anecdotal evidence we have so far that these programs can get results, especially if you offer the shots at the brewery, too.

Are there arguments against bribing the masses to go get their shots? Sure. Back in January, when the vaccines were first being rolled out, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association argued that proposals to pay people up to $1,500 for getting vaccinated were a waste of funds and morally questionable and that they might even backfire.

In a climate characterized by widespread distrust of government and a propensity to endorse conspiracy theories, those who are already COVID-19 vaccine-hesitant might perceive that the government would not be willing to pay people to get vaccinated if the available vaccines were truly safe and effective. Incentive payments might also stoke new fears and, perversely, increase resistance to vaccination.

It’s a well-reasoned set of concerns. But the article ends by noting that a “policy of paying people for Covid-19 vaccination should be adopted only as a last resort if voluntary vaccine uptake proves insufficient to promote herd immunity within a reasonable period of time.”

That sounds a lot like, well, now. That means that if you’re reading this in Ohio, good luck getting a windfall for doing the right thing. I’m rooting for you. It may be the only time I root for someone from Ohio, so savor this moment.

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‘Most humiliating punishment imaginable’: Black National Guardsman allegedly forced to wear heavy chain

As the military reckons with racism and extremism in its ranks, one story of the Maryland National Guard highlights the toll of discrimination.

Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY – Published Apr. 14, 2021

WASHINGTON – Sgt. Bruce Weaver recalls in an instant the heft of the chain that the all-white trainers at the Maryland National Guard forced him to wear during training at officer candidate school. 

For three days, Weaver, a Black soldier in the Maryland National Guard, hauled the chain – running, falling behind under the burden, being hectored by instructors. They claimed it would remind him to follow the chain of command.

He was stunned. It felt as if he’d been subjected to the kind of punishment used by enslavers, Weaver told USA TODAY.

“At first, my inclination was to drag it,” Weaver recalled of the events five years ago. “They said, ‘No, no. You wear it. That will keep you down.’ That hit me. That hit me. I suppressed it and kept going. The next day, they said, ‘You’re still wearing this chain.’ I told them this is inappropriate punishment. It’s also messing with me psychologically. Chains mean something to Black people.”Tweet Facebook Reddit Email Sgt. Bruce Weaver

They said, ‘No, no. You wear it. That will keep you down.’ That hit me. … Chains mean something to Black people.”

A USA TODAY investigation brings Weaver’s previously unreported case to light as it nears resolution after years of delayed investigations and conflicting findings.

Weaver’s case represents a wider problem for the National Guard whose units in each of the states, territories, and District of Columbia operate with a great deal of autonomy and with little oversight of how various units respond to complaints of inappropriate conduct, such as allegations of, racism, sexual harassment, and assault. The National Guard Bureau in Washington, which referees appeals between state Guard units and troops, serves largely in an advisory role.

Eugene R. Fidell, an expert on military law and professor at New York University Law School, referred to a “perfect storm” of factors contributing to a case like Weaver’s: 

  • Lack of oversight by Congress
  • Little transparency into how the state and territorial Guard units operate
  • Need for a uniform process for handling complaints of discrimination

“This case screams out for some remedy,” Fidell said. 

NATIONAL GUARD: Women welcomed, promoted until they report sexual assault

In a scathing report obtained by USA TODAY, the National Guard Bureau Office of Equity and Inclusion substantiated 11 complaints of discrimination and one of harassment lodged by Weaver and accused Maryland of violating Weaver’s right to due process. 

The Maryland National Guard has exonerated its personnel after several internal investigations and is appealing the bureau’s decision. In his own harsh letter to the National Guard Bureau on April 8, Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, the Maryland National Guard’s adjutant general, accused the bureau’s Office of Equity and Inclusion of attacking the state with “erroneous and unsupported allegations.” Gowen also said the office was acting as an advocate for Weaver and another Black Guardsman who filed a complaint, instead of its mandated role as a “neutral third party.”

He called for a review of the office and corrective action.

“Based on my personal observations, I believe that the National Guard Bureau Military Equal Opportunity program and the offices that support it are not serving justice,” Gowen wrote. “The program has fundamental flaws.”

Racism in the US – and its military

Weaver’s case comes as the nation and military reckons with issues of race – and the National Guard, a confederation of state-run militias, continues to be thrust into the debate in highly visible ways.

In June, when racial justice demonstrations spread in the wake of George Floyd’s death, states and the federal government deployed National Guard troops to city streets. In Washington, D.C., the Guard’s response to mostly peaceful protests received flak for heavy-handed tactics such as buzzing crowds with military helicopters.

In January, tens of thousands of Guardsmen from several states flooded the capital after insurrectionists, some carrying the Confederate Battle flag, the symbol of white supremacy, attempted to overturn the election. Several Guardsmen had to return home after authorities found reason to suspect them of sympathizing with white nationalists.

WHITE SUPREMACY: US Navy, Marines offer white supremacists administrative discharges, clean records

Staff photo by Joe Lamberti

By law, custom and oath, Guardsmen are sworn to uphold the Constitution, including the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and to assemble peaceably. In reality, Guard troops are men and women who reflect a society grappling and at times riven by race. At times those high-minded ideals and ugly divisions conflict as Weaver claimed happened on Nov. 6, 2015, at the Delaware base where Weaver trained.

“This is not the military service that I thought I’d do,” Weaver said. “I don’t view myself as a civil rights activist. What I want is to commission as a data science officer and do something productive for my country.” 

‘Designed to single out and humiliate’

Weaver, 44, lives with his wife and young son outside of Washington, D.C., and has worked for the federal government for 12 years, including 11 at the Food and Drug Administration and one at the IRS. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland and also served in the Marine Reserve before joining the Maryland Army National Guard.

Accustomed to achievement, and raised to control his emotions, Weaver persisted through his punishment during the officer training despite simmering anger.

Maryland National Guard Sgt. Bruce Weaver wearing a chain as discipline after a minor infraction.
Sgt. Bruce Weaver with his wife, Kaye Evans-Lutterodt, and 18-month-old son Oliver Weaver in Wheaton, Md., on April 7, 2021.

“It hurt my pride,” he said. “After that, I felt humiliated.”

Weaver had left a training site without prior authorization, a charge that Weaver disputes. For that, he received what a National Guard Bureau investigator called “the most humiliating punishment imaginable to use against an African American cadet.” 

A photo, taken by a classmate and forwarded to Weaver, shows a chain braided over his right shoulder and entwined around his wrist. The classmate was stunned by the scene, documented it, and wanted Weaver to have proof, according to Weaver. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth wears a protective mask at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2021. She was wounded in Iraq in 2004 while piloting a Black Hawk helicopter as a member of the Illinois National Guard.
Maryland National Guard Sgt. Bruce Weaver wearing a chain as discipline after a minor infraction.

The bureau’s investigator scoffed at the claim by the Maryland instructors that the chain represented the importance of the “chain of command,” the military edict to follow orders of superiors.

“To conclude that such punishment, meted out by an all-white chain of command on a subordinate minority cadet to reinforce that the chain of command is in charge, is simply a mischaracterization of what happened,” the report states.

Maryland National Guard officials denied race was a factor in the discipline. One of its investigations determined that the chain belonged to the Delaware National Guard, which had discontinued its use for discipline in about 2015.

Weaver says he was singled out.

“This punishment was designed to be humiliating on a cultural level as it mirrored slavery,” Weaver wrote. “I have not seen this punishment before … nor have I seen it since. It was uniquely designed to single out and humiliate.”

‘The intent was not what you see’ 

The report points to two instructors for their treatment of Weaver, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Carbaugh and Capt. Jacob Day.

“SFC Carbaugh knew precisely what the chain would mean to both Complainant and the other cadets. SFC Carbaugh wanted to teach Complainant a lesson about who was in charge and he used a heavy chain to accomplish this and the rest of the OCS (Officer Candidate School) Cadre let him,” the Bureau report stated. “The allegation of discrete discrimination based on race or color is SUBSTANTIATED.”

Carbaugh now retired, said in an interview that Weaver had not been singled out because of his race. Instructors had required white and Black candidates to carry the chain, an ammunition can, and a rock because Weaver and others had left another training site without proper authorization, Carbaugh said. The idea was to slow them down and drive home the lesson not to leave anybody behind. 

Weaver did not have to wear the chain, Carbaugh said, but he did have to haul it.

“I can understand the optics of the picture look very bad,” Carbaugh said. “However, the intent was not what you see in the picture.”

Day declined to comment on the advice of military lawyers.

The National Guard Bureau found that Day and Carbaugh had singled out Weaver “and concluded he would not succeed based at least in part on his race,” according to its report. The bureau also found that requiring Weaver “to wear a heavy chain was based on Complainant’s race and the desire to humiliate Complainant and let him know the OCS chain of command was in control.” There was also no evidence that the chain had been used by the Maryland National Guard before or since the incident involving Weaver, the National Guard Bureau report said. 

Carbaugh said the characterization of his action in the National Guard Bureau report was inaccurate and that he had not been interviewed by its investigators about the incident.

“It’s a damning picture, but it’s not an accurate depiction of what happened that weekend,” Carbaugh said. Tweet Facebook Reddit Email Sergeant First Class Andrew Carbaugh

It’s a damning picture, but it’s not an accurate depiction of what happened that weekend.”

The Maryland National Guard investigated and in a January 2020 memo stated that none of Weaver’s allegations of discrimination could be substantiated and that he had offered no “concrete proof” of racial bias. The investigating officer, whose name is redacted, cited sworn statements that “suggest” Weaver did not believe the chain was used in a discriminatory way. 

“I do not find there to be any intent for this item or action to be racist or discriminatory in any way,” the officer wrote in the report.

“The Officer Candidate School program cannot replicate the true stress of combat, so both physical exertion and other stressing events are used to develop our future combat leaders,” the memo said. “OCS candidates are required to carry the chain due to their failure to properly execute leadership responsibilities. Our Investigating Officer interviewed all Officer Candidates and there wasn’t one that felt the practice was racially motivated.”

Weaver disputed the characterization by the Maryland National Guard that he had merely had to carry the chain.

“No other candidates had to wear the chain,” he said.

The Maryland National Guard defended its investigation and is appealing parts of the decision made by the National Guard Bureau, said Maj. Kurt Rauschenberg, a spokesman for the Maryland National Guard.

“We are aware of the allegations made in this case, and we conducted a thorough investigation, which failed to substantiate these claims,” Rauschenberg said in a statement. “We believe the investigation was properly conducted and are aware of the concerns raised by NGB. This case is currently before an NGB Hearing Examiner and will remain open until the examiner has made his final ruling. Until the process is complete, it would be improper to discuss any potential findings.”

A chain’s heavy symbolism

Characterizations of what happened in 2015 are still disputed by the Maryland National Guard and the National Guard Bureau and Weaver.

Weaver filed a formal complaint in 2017, during his second attempt to complete the second of three phases of officer candidate school, he said. Maryland National Guard officials dropped him from the program for failing twice to pass the second phase of the school.

Nobody, however, denies that the heavy chain was used as punishment by an all-white group of instructors on a Black cadet.

A 2017 memo from the Maryland National Guard concedes that the chain had racist overtones and would no longer be used.

“The issues of racial inequities continue to be something that we as an Army must address,” the memo stated. “To that end, the use of carrying a chain to reinforce the importance of the ‘chain of command’ is discontinued. While the investigating officer found no intent to mistreat or create a racially charged situation, this approach is something that all leaders agree leaves too much to personal interpretation.”

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, said discrimination in the Guard and elsewhere is intolerable.

“With regards to the chain: In 2017, the governor’s office was advised by the Guard that the matter was fully investigated and that the practice was discontinued,” Ricci said. “No one, soldier or otherwise, should feel harassed or discriminated against.”

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Who decides who has the ‘ability to lead’?

To Weaver and the National Guard Bureau, racism is at the heart of the chain’s use as a discipline. The bureau’s report noted that the instructors did not want Weaver to become an officer.

Weaver had completed the first phase of three in officer training, and his instructors were determined to force him out during the second phase, he said.

“The intent was to degrade,” Weaver said. “To degrade and challenge my ability to lead. And that was successful.”

Weaver’s case has the attention of Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who chairs the Armed Services Committee panel that oversees the National Guard. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth wears a protective mask at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2021. She was wounded in Iraq in 2004 while piloting a Black Hawk helicopter as a member of the Illinois National Guard.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth wears a protective mask at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2021. She was wounded in Iraq in 2004 while piloting a Black Hawk helicopter as a member of the Illinois National Guard.

“Stories like these are painful reminders of how much work remains to make our military a safe and welcoming place for all service members,” Duckworth said. “As the Chair of the Airland Subcommittee, I am focused on rooting out these kinds of degrading and discriminatory incidents that harm our troop readiness and national security. We need greater diversity in the upper ranks of our military leaders, and we need leaders of all backgrounds, genders, and races to send a clear message that they won’t tolerate discrimination of any kind.” 

The Army continues to struggle to attract and promote Black officers to career fields deemed a prerequisite for future senior positions, USA TODAY reported last fall. While white service members make up 69% of active duty overall, they represent more than 87% of the highest-ranked officers.

Those who have achieved leadership positions acknowledge their own struggles for equal treatment as Black officers.

Air Force Chief on his struggles as he takes a job the Air Force’s new chief of staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., is reflecting on current protests, racial injustice, and disparity as he takes on the historic appointment. (June 10)AP

Gen. Charles Brown, the Air Force chief of staff, shared publicly his reaction to Floyd’s death last year.

“I’m thinking about how full I am with emotion, not just for George Floyd but the many African Americans who have suffered the same fate as George Floyd,” Brown said. “I’m thinking about how my nomination provides some hope but also comes with a heavy burden. I can’t fix centuries of racism in our country, nor can I fix decades of discrimination that may have impacted members of our Air Force.”

Brown acknowledged that he was often the only African American in his squadron or the room. 

While 15% of those serving the Army National Guard nationwide are Black, in Maryland that number is 34%. About 25% of its officer corps are people of color, including Black, Asian American, and American Indian troops.

Yet at the time of Weaver’s incident, the OCS instructors were all white. 

One of the bureau’s proposed remedies for Weaver is to allow him to rejoin officer candidate school. Weaver instead wants a direct commission as an officer, an action that would bypass officer candidate school. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act in 2019 allows the military to appoint officers up to the rank of colonel if they have special skills. Weaver wants to serve as a data science officer.

“I don’t think realistically I could go back to OCS in Maryland and get a fair shake,” he said. 

He’s not alone.

‘Hostile work environment’

The National Guard Bureau’s report on Weaver was followed closely by another blasting the Maryland National Guard for treatment of a Black soldier and the investigation of his case.

In that case, the Bureau harshly criticized Maryland’s treatment of Chief Warrant Officer 3 George Ross, according to the document obtained by USA TODAY. The bureau’s report concluded that “race was a factor” in a different white officer’s decision to deny Ross’ bid to join a cyber protection team. The bureau’s finding was “based on the hostile work environment (the officer) created for minorities generally and Complainant in particular.”

As in Weaver’s case, the bureau pointed to a flawed mechanism to report discrimination and harassment, the military equal opportunity complaint process.

Ross filed his complaint in Nov. 2017, and it should have been processed in six months. 

“Like the previous case, this matter is only now through the formal stage,” the report states. “This type of delay is inexcusable.”

Maryland officials’ delay in investigating Ross’ harassment complaint and the “cumulative efforts by the State to hamper or influence the MEO (military equal opportunity) process in this matter are significant and suggest the State is trying to stack the deck against the complainant.”

Among the bureau’s proposed recommendations: Ross be awarded more than two years of back pay and have his attorney’s fees paid and a reprimand issued to the officer it found at fault in his case. 

Ross, through his attorney, declined to comment. Maryland is appealing the decision. In Gowen’s letter, he accused the Bureau of bias in reviewing the case and findings not supported by facts.

Equal opportunity issues aren’t restricted to the Maryland National Guard.

In a survey of other states, USA TODAY found that attendance in required equal opportunity training within the Ohio National Guard was attended by fewer than half its troops. In one document signed and dated December 2018, 41% of listed Ohio National Guard members attended the training. Attendance among senior leaders was not much different: 44%.

Ohio National Guard requires all units to conduct equal opportunity training every six months, but there is no mandatory participation requirement, said spokeswoman Stephanie Beougher. That training is “just one component to the Ohio National Guard (equal opportunity) program to provide a comprehensive effort that ensures fair treatment of all members and develops cohesion and readiness by eliminating discriminatory behaviors or practices,” Beougher said. Other measures include new employee training and additional training available at a commander’s request.Tweet Facebook Reddit Email Author of the National Guard Bureau report

From the looks of the (investigative report) assembled by the State, Complainant is the most unlucky person in the Maryland National Guard.”

Officials at the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Equity and Inclusion determined that Maryland officials “violated the due process rights” of Weaver and Ross in the way they processed their complaints, said Nahaku McFadden, a bureau spokesman, in a statement.

“The National Guard Bureau Equity and Inclusion office takes its role in the Military Equal Opportunity Program seriously,” McFadden said. While their cases are being appealed, the bureau cannot comment further, she said.

The bureau proposed several remedial actions in Weaver’s case and blasted Maryland officials for a shoddy investigation of Weaver’s complaints that took years instead of months to complete. 

“How the State processed this complaint is deeply troubling,” the report states. 

It noted that “every unusual instance just happened to occur in this matter,” including the use of the chain, a poor evaluation of Weaver despite no negative reports on file, and the processing of his complaint, which was mandated to take no more than six months but stretched out over more than three years.

“From the looks of the (investigative report) assembled by the State, Complainant is the most unlucky person in the Maryland National Guard,” the report’s author concludes.

Nearing resolution – in one case

The bureau report criticized the Maryland National Guard for failing to track complaints from officer candidates about racial discrimination. It noted that previous classes of officer candidates had lodged military equal opportunity complaints “regarding how minority candidates were treated, yet the Maryland OCS Cadre remained all white with no minority representation.”

Further, the report noted that personnel in neighboring states had made comments about how Maryland’s all-white training cadre had treated minority personnel, “yet the State did not take such allegations seriously.”

In 2021, its 17-member instructor cadre includes 10 white troops, six Black and one Hispanic member, according to the Maryland National Guard.

The report called on Maryland to review all military equal opportunity complaints since 2016 “to determine if there is a systemic problem with how instructors are treating minority candidates.”

The senior official at the bureau charged with investigating Weaver’s complaint substantiated several claims of discrimination and proposed remedies, said McFadden. The bureau plans to review responses from Weaver and Maryland and make a ruling within weeks. Tweet Facebook Reddit Email Michelle Bercovici, a partner at Alden Law Group in Washington, D.C.

If this cannot happen for Bruce, then the whole system is entirely toothless and unjust … Maryland National Guard needs to be … holding the responsible officers accountable and taking action to investigate and address what may be systemic issues of racism in the (officer candidate school) program.”

Maryland could then request a review of the decision by a general officer assigned to the bureau, said Air Force Maj. Matt Murphy, a spokesman for the bureau. The official deciding on that request could recommend suspension or termination of federal funds for Maryland’s National Guard. The bureau, however, does not have command authority over state National Guard units, which is reserved for state officials.

Rauchenberg, the Maryland National Guard spokesman, acknowledged problems with the military equal opportunity process but, said Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, the adjutant general for Maryland at the time, had reviewed the claims and concluded they were unsubstantiated.

“Fundamental flaws exist in the process of National Guard Bureau’s Military Equal Opportunity program, causing confusion and delays between both the state and NGB levels,” Rauschenberg said. “Although not perfect, the (Maryland National Guard) conducts investigations thoroughly while taking appropriate measures where positive change can be made within our force.”

Michelle Bercovici, a partner at Alden Law Group in Washington, D.C., has advised Weaver as he represents himself in the appeal and called the treatment of his case by the Maryland National Guard to be abhorrent. The National Guard Bureau has substantiated most of Weaver’s claims, and he deserves to be an officer and have a chance to succeed without discrimination, she said.

“If this cannot happen for Bruce, then the whole system is entirely toothless and unjust,” she said. “Next, I think that the Maryland National Guard needs to be held accountable for its failure to uphold anti-discrimination principles, which includes, but is in no way limited to, holding the responsible officers accountable and taking action to investigate and address what may be systemic issues of racism in the (officer candidate school) program.” 

Contributing: Ryan Miller

E-mail USA TODAY Pentagon correspondent Tom Vanden Brook at or follow him on Twitter @tvandenbrookPublished 5:02 AM GMT-4 Apr. 14, 2021 Updated 8:07 AM GMT-4 Apr. 14, 2021

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