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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

Donald Trump | Alex Jones | QAnon Supporter (Getty Images/Salon)
Donald Trump | Alex Jones | QAnon Supporter (Getty Images/Salon)

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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.

Posted in Court, Crime, International, Local, News, Opinions, Police, Regional0 Comments


…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?

Posted in Court, COVID-19, Crime, Featured, Health, International, Local, News, Regional, Science/Technology, Travel0 Comments

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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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.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Court, COVID-19, Crime, Education, Health, International, Legal, OECS, Police, Regional, Youth0 Comments


‘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.”

Send us a tip on National Guard conduct

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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

Posted in Crime, International, Local, News, Opinions0 Comments

Officials: 400 escape, 25 dead after Haiti prison breakout

Officials: 400 escape, 25 dead after Haiti prison breakout

By EVENS SANON – February 26, 2021

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian authorities announced Friday that more than 400 inmates escaped and 25 people died in a prison breakout, making it the country’s largest and deadliest one in a decade, with the prison director and a powerful gang leader among those killed.

Some believe Thursday’s jailbreak at the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison in northeast Port-au-Prince was to free gang leader Arnel Joseph, who had been Haiti’s most wanted fugitive until his 2019 arrest on charges including rape, kidnapping, and murder.

Joseph was riding on a motorcycle through the Artibonite area in the town of L’Estère on Friday a day after his escape when he was spotted at a checkpoint, police spokesman Gary Desrosiers told The Associated Press. He said Joseph pulled out a gun and died in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Joseph ruled Village de Dieu, or Village of God, a shantytown in downtown Port-au-Prince, and other communities, including some in Artibonite, which is Haiti’s largest department.

Authorities have not yet provided many details on the breakout except to say that 60 inmates have been recaptured and the investigation is ongoing. State Secretary Frantz Exantus said authorities have created several commissions to investigate who organized the breakout and why. Among those killed was the prison director, identified as Paul Joseph Hector.

Residents who declined to be identified because they feared for their life told the AP that they saw gunmen shoot at prison guards on Thursday before inmates escaped from the Croix-des-Bouquets penitentiary.

The prison is known for a 2014 breakout in which more than 300 of the 899 inmates being held there at the time escaped. Some believed that attack was designed to free Clifford Brandt, the son of a prominent businessman, who had been imprisoned since 2012 for allegedly kidnapping the adult children of a rival businessman. Brandt was captured two days later near the Dominican Republic border.

After the 2014 breakout, officials said they were taking steps to up security at the prison that Canada built-in 2012, including installing security cameras and placing ankle monitors on the most dangerous prisoners. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of those measures were taken. At the time of Thursday’s breakout, the prison held 1,542 inmates, nearly twice its capacity.

Haiti’s largest prison breakout in recent history occurred after the devastating 2010 earthquake in which more than 4,200 inmates fled the notorious National Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Posted in Crime, International, Local, News, Police, Regional0 Comments


Support grows for Capitol riot inquiry after Trump acquittal

By Hope Yen, Associated Press – PA Media – 14 February 2021

House prosecutors who led Donald Trump’s impeachment maintained they proved their case on Sunday while railing against Senate Republicans for “trying to have it both ways” in acquitting the former president.

A day after Mr. Trump won his second Senate impeachment trial in 13 months, bipartisan support appeared to be growing for an independent September 11-style commission to ensure such a horrific assault could never happen again.

The end of the quick trial hardly put to rest the debate about Mr. Trump’s culpability for the January 6 insurrection as the political, legal, and emotional fallout unfolded.

More investigations into the riot were already planned, with Senate hearings scheduled later this month in the Senate Rules Committee. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also has asked a retired Army General Russel Honore to lead an immediate review of the Capitol’s security process.

Legislators from both parties signaled on Sunday that even more inquiries were likely.

“There should be a complete investigation about what happened,” said Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Mr. Trump. “What was known, who knew it and when they knew, all that, because that builds the basis so this never happens again.”

Mr. Cassidy said he was “attempting to hold President Trump accountable,” and added that as Americans hear all the facts, “more folks will move to where I was”. He was censured by his state’s party after the vote, which was 57-43 to convict but 10 votes short of the two-thirds required.

A close Trump ally, GOP senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said he looked forward to campaigning with Mr. Trump in the 2022 election, when Republicans hope to regain the congressional majority.

But Mr. Graham acknowledged Mr. Trump had some culpability for the siege at the Capitol that killed five people, including a police officer, and disrupted politicians’ certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s White House victory.

“His behaviour after the election was over the top,” Mr. Graham said. “We need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again.”

The Senate acquitted Mr. Trump of a charge of “incitement of insurrection” after House prosecutors laid out a case that he was an “inciter in chief” who unleashed a mob by stoking a months-long campaign of spreading debunked conspiracy theories and false violent rhetoric that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers countered that the then president’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment was nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

The conviction tally was the most bipartisan in American history but left Mr. Trump to declare victory and signal a political revival while a bitterly divided GOP bickered over its direction and his place in the party.

The Republicans who joined Mr. Cassidy in voting to convict were Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

“It’s frustrating, but the founders knew what they were doing and so we live with the system that we have,” Stacey Plaskett, a House prosecutor who represents the Virgin Islands, said of the verdict, describing it as “heartbreaking”.

She added: “But, listen, we didn’t need more witnesses. We needed more senators with spines.”

On Sunday, several House impeachment managers sharply criticised minority leader Mitch McConnell, who told Republican senators soon before the vote that he would acquit Mr. Trump.

In a blistering speech after the vote, Mr. McConnell said the president was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day” but that the Senate’s hands were tied to do anything about it because he was out of office. But the Senate, in an earlier vote, had deemed the trial constitutional.

“It was powerful to hear the 57 guilties and then it was puzzling to hear and see Mitch McConnell stand and say not guilty and then minutes later stand again and say he was guilty of everything,” said Democratic representative Madeleine Dean.

“History will remember that statement of speaking out of two sides of his mouth.”

Ms Dean backed the idea of an impartial investigative commission “not guided by politics but filled with people who would stand up to the courage of their conviction”.

An independent 9/11 style commission, which probably would require legislation to create, would elevate the investigation a step higher, offering a definitive government-backed accounting of events.

McConnell and Republicans who defied Trump face GOP backlash

Alex Woodward – The Independent – 14 February 2021

McConnell Condemned Trump’s “disgraceful dereliction of duty”

The Republican Party remains sharply divided in the wake of Donald Trump’s impeachment for his role inciting a deadly riot on 6 January inside the same halls of Congress where senators convened for his second trial this week.
Senator Mitch McConnell, moments after voting to acquit the former president on Saturday, condemned his “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said he is “practically and morally responsible” for his supporters’ assault on the Capitol.
On Sunday, Trump ally Lindsey Graham said the Senate’s GOP leader “got a load off his chest, obviously, but unfortunately he put a load on the back of Republicans” by giving ammunition to negative adverts ahead of critical midterm elections, as Republicans mount an aggressive campaign to gain a majority in the House of Representatives.

Read more: Follow live updates following Trump’s trial

“That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns,” Senator Graham told Fox News.

He added that Senator McConnell’s speech “is an outlier regarding how Republicans feel” about Mr Trump’s impeachment.

On Saturday night, Donald Trump Jr fired back at Senate minority leader McConnell.

“If only McConnell was so righteous as the Democrats trampled Trump and the Republicans while pushing Russia collusion bull**** for 3 years or while Dems incited 10 months of violence, arson, and rioting. Yea then he just sat back and did jack ****,” the president’s eldest son tweeted.

Mr Trump Jr followed with a call to “impeach the RINOs” – referring to “Republicans in name only” – and oust them from the GOP.

Seven Republican senators who joined Democrats to vote to convict have faced blowback from their party leaders in their home states, signaling fissures within the GOP over the former president’s role in the party.
Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy and North Carolina’s Richard Burr were censured by their state Republican parties for their votes.

“I have no illusions that this is a popular decision,” Mr Cassidy wrote in a column published on Sunday.

“I made this decision because Americans should not be fed lies about ‘massive election fraud.’ Police should not be left to the mercy of a mob. Mobs should not be inflamed to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”
Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry said the senator’s vote is “extremely disappointing” and claimed that Mr Cassidy has “fallen into the trap laid by Democrats to have Republicans attack Republicans”.

Senators Burr and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania are both retiring in 2022, eliminating the likelihood of long-term political blowback.

But the chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party called the trial “an unconstitutional theft of time and energy that did absolutely nothing to unify or help the American people.”

“I share the disappointment of many of our grass-roots leaders and volunteers over Senator Toomey’s vote today,” Lawrence Tabas said.
While Senators Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski still have strong support in their states, the former president’s volatile base of support has routinely rejected their place in the party.

In a lengthy statement on Sunday, Senator Murkowski of Alaska outlined the case against Mr Trump as presented by House impeachment managers, adding that if the evidence “is not worthy of impeachment, conviction, and disqualification from holding office in the United States, I cannot imagine what is”.

The US Senate voted 57-43 to convict Mr Trump, falling short of a two-thirds majority to secure a conviction but representing a bipartisan effort to hold accountable a former president who will continue to loom large over a party moulded in his image.

It remains unclear how he will wield that influence without his social media bully pulpit.

Mr Graham told Fox News on Sunday that the former president is “ready to move on and rebuild the Republican Party” ahead of 2022 elections.
In a statement following his acquittal, the former president said his Make America Great Again movement “has only just begun”.

House impeachment managers’ closing arguments on Saturday warned that the insurrectionists are “still listening” and that the assault on the Capitol could be the “beginning” of a violent political legacy initiated by the former president.

“I fear, like many of you do, that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning,” said Congressman Joe Neguse.

“The extremist groups grow more emboldened every day. Senators, this cannot be the beginning. It can’t be the new normal. It has to be the end, and that decision is in your hands.”

Federal law enforcement has warned that far-right militia groups and others supporting the “shared false narrative of a ‘stolen’ election” and opposition to Joe Biden’s presidency and a Democratically-controlled federal government “may lead some individuals to the belief that there is no political solution to address their grievance and violence action is necessary”.

The Department of Homeland Security has also issued a terrorism advisory bulletin due to a “heightened threat environment” through the end of April, following the Capitol violence.

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Republican Sen. Collins on why she voted to convict | Second Trump impeachment trial

Republican Sen. Collins on why she voted to convict | Second Trump impeachment trial
Senator Collins in a most powerful informed truthful presentation on why former president Trump should be condemned for abusing his office on and before January 6, 2021.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, delivers remarks Feb. 13 following Trump’s acquittal in his second impeachment trial. The 57-43 vote was the most bipartisan in history, with seven Republicans, including Collins, voting to convict but 10 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed.

“Context was everything. Tossing a lit match into a pile of dry leaves is very different than tossing it into a pool of water,” Collins said, explaining her vote to convict. She said Trump’s selfish interests are to blame for the Capitol attack. “This impeachment trial is not about any single word uttered by President Trump on January 6, 2021. It is instead about President Trump’s failure to obey the oath he swore on January 20, 2017,” she said.

She condemned his repeated false claims about a stolen election, the call to Georgia election officials asking to “just find 11,780 votes,” and his Twitter invitation to his supporters to come to the Capitol on Jan. 6. She said she voted to convict to uphold the oath she took to defend the Constitution.

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Trump Acquitted – ‘Make America Great Again has only just begun’: Trump defiant after acquittal

Sky News – 13 February 2021

Former US President Donald Trump has been found not guilty in his impeachment trial

Former US President Donald Trump has been found not guilty in his 2nd impeachment trial.

Although the final vote came in as 57 “guilty” and 43 “not guilty”, the Democrats did not reach the two-thirds majority they needed to secure a conviction.

Seven members of Mr. Trump’s own party (Senators Sasse, Romney, Burr, Collins, Murkowski, Toomey, and Cassidy) joined Democrats on the charge of incitement.

In a statement after the trial, Mr. Trump said it was “a sad commentary on our times” that the Democrats had been given a “free pass to transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree”.

He added: “I always have, and always will be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.

“No president has ever gone through anything like it, and it continues because our opponents cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest number ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago.”

Mr. Trump had been charged with “incitement of insurrection” over last month’s violence when the US Capitol was stormed by his supporters, just as Congress was attempting to ratify the 2020 election result.

Just before the 6 January riots, thousands of his supporters gathered at a “Save America” rally on the National Mall, minutes away from the Capitol.
It had been organised to challenge the election result and Joe Biden’s win.

Mr. Trump’s supporters listened to him speak for 70 minutes, during which at one point the former reality star exhorted them to “fight like hell – or you’re not going to have a country anymore”.

The attack began moments after he took the applause.

At the impeachment hearing, Mr. Trump’s defence team had launched a blistering attack on the Democrats, describing proceedings as an “unjust, unconstitutional witch-hunt”.

Michael van der Veen, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, said: “This whole spectacle has been nothing but the unhinged pursuit of a long-standing political vendetta against Mr. Trump by the opposition party.”

He told the hearing Mr. Trump was not to blame and that he had told his supporters to protest peacefully.

It was argued that his speech at the rally was “ordinary political rhetoric” and was constitutionally protected free speech.

t is the first time in history that a US president has been impeached twice.
The first attempt to convict Mr. Trump in January 2020, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, saw him acquitted by a majority of 52 votes to 48 for one charge and 53 to 47 for the second.

Only one Republican voted against him on one of the charges.
In his defiant statement after the conclusion of Saturday’s vote, Mr. Trump hinted he may return to the political spotlight.

He said: “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.

“In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.

“There has never been anything like it!”

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