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Flint Prosecutors Drop All Criminal Charges Against Government Officials

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  • Prosecutors in the Flint water investigation announced that they will drop all existing criminal charges regarding the Flint water crisis.
  • Prosecutors explained in a statement that they dropped the charges in order to start a new investigation.
  • They said that when they inherited the investigation from previous prosecutors, they had “immediate and grave concerns” about how it had been handled.
  • Residents of Flint, who already have little trust in the government, are upset with the decision.

Announcement

Michigan state prosecutors said Thursday that they are dropping all pending criminal charges brought against government officials involved in the Flint water crisis.

In a statement, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who took control of the Flint investigation in January, said that they decided to drop the charges in order to launch a new, more complete investigation.

Hammoud and Worthy explained that when they took over the investigation from the previous team of prosecutors, they had “immediate and grave concerns” with how the investigation had been handled.

Contrary to accepted standards of criminal investigation and prosecution, all available evidence was not pursued,” they said in the statement.

They also said that the previous team had let law firms representing former Gov. Rick Snyder and other defendants have “a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement.”

“We cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation. Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation,” they continued.

Hammoud and Worthy also added that the dismissal will not prevent them from refiling the same charges against the officials or adding more charges and new defendants in the future.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel defended the prosecutors in a separate statement.

“I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied and a fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors and investigators are hard at work to ensure those who harmed you are held accountable,” she said.

Flint Water Crisis

The Flint water crisis traces back to April of 2014, when a state-appointed emergency manager switched the city’s drinking water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as part of a cost-saving effort.

However, proper precautions were not taken to prevent lead in the pipes from contaminating the clean water.

Previous coverage about the Flint water crisis.

Fifteen state and local officials involved in the oversight of Flint’s water system were charged by the Michigan attorney general’s office of crimes ranging from willful neglect of duty to involuntary manslaughter.

Seven of those accused took plea deals. Eight others, including the majority of high-ranking officials implicated in the scandal, were still waiting for trials.

Notable among those accused was Nick Lyon, the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Lyon was charged with involuntary manslaughter for his failure to tell the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease linked to bacteria in the Flint River, which resulted in the deaths of at least 12 people.

Residents Respond

While prosecutors argue that the dismissal of criminal charges is necessary to expand the investigation, many Flint residents, who already have low trust in the government but crave justice, are more skeptical.

Nayyirah Shariff, a Flint resident and the director of the grassroots group Flint Rising, told the Detroit Free Press that the announcement was “a slap in the face to Flint residents.”

“This has been bungled,” Shariff said. “I’m very disappointed with Dana Nessel’s office because she ran on a platform that she was going to provide justice for Flint residents, and it doesn’t seem like justice is coming.”

Flint resident Melissa Mays, who founded the group Water You Fighting For, also told the Detroit Free Press that she was upset the decision was made without the residents of Flint. “It’s extremely terrifying,” she said.

Now, we have people who may or may not know what is going on, all it does is reinforce that our voices mean nothing.”

Another Flint resident named Fortina Harris told CNN that he feels helpless. “We’ve been dogged out, misused, abused and we still need to pay water bills and wash our bodies,” he said.

“We don’t get any supplement. No discounts or nothing for buying water. We got to fend for our self.”

Politicians Respond

Political figures who represent Flint in various government bodies also expressed their dissatisfaction with the prosecutors’ decision. Flint City Councilwoman Monica Galloway told CNN that she was “appalled” by the move.

“The lead impact on our children hasn’t even been realized, which means that there’s many unknowns for their future. They haven’t been made whole,” she said.

“It causes me to believe that Gov. Snyder just got a get out of jail free card. The people that are responsible will be walking away free.”

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, who represents Flint, echoed the same sentiment, telling the Detroit Free Press he wants “to see people behind bars.”

“Words cannot express how disappointed I am that justice continues to be delayed and denied to the people of my city,” Ananich said. “Months of investigation have turned into years, and the only thing to show for it is a bunch of lawyers who have gotten rich off the taxpayers’ dime.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, however, expressed more optimism.

“We’re excited about a full investigation,” Weaver said in an interview with a local news station.

“What we deserve is a full investigation because we know what happened in Flint was criminal adn we’ve been waiting for accountability and justice.”

See what others are saying: (The Free Detroit Press) (The New York Times) (NPR)

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Doctors Arrested After Attempting to Give Migrants Free Flu Shots

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  • At least two doctors were arrested after laying down and protesting in front of the U.S Customs and Border Protection’s San Diego headquarters.
  • Those doctors, along with others demonstrating on the sidelines, wanted to be allowed to give free flu vaccinations to migrants detained in a nearby short-term detention facility.
  • CBP officials denied the request, saying it was against policy and arguing that migrants are only held in that facility for 72 hours, but the agency later promised to pass on the request to CBP’s chief medical officer.

Doctors Push Vaccine Program Request

After three days of protests, doctors wishing to give flu shots to detained migrants have found some success, even after at least two were arrested during demonstrations. 

On Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials eased tensions after meeting briefly with protest leaders. In that meeting, officials told protesters that they would pass on a request to start a pilot program that would allow doctors to vaccinate detained migrants at a San Diego facility.

That request has now been forwarded to CBP’s chief medical officer, with officials telling the doctors to expect a follow-up call later this week.

The concession comes after an event Monday, where around 20 medical doctors walked up to a short-term migrant detention center in San Diego. Reportedly, those doctors carried coolers full of vaccines and were hoping to inoculate at least 100 individuals in the facility; however, they said they would vaccinate all willing migrants.

At the center, they were told to come back the following day to meet with border officials. When they reportedly again asked to be allowed to vaccinate migrants on Tuesday, CBP told them no.

“This is intentional cruelty,” Marie DeLuca, an emergency medicine research fellow, said. “People are needlessly suffering and dying. You can’t lock people up in inhumane conditions, watch them get sick, and then refuse them access to medical care.”

After being denied, they began to demonstrate outside of the Border Patrol headquarters. Six people then laid in front of the headquarters’ driveway, with others on the sidelines chanting: “Shame on you!”

Federal Protective Service officers gave those people a six-minute warning to get up, but they were eventually arrested when they refused. That group reportedly included at least two doctors.

Those people were soon released after being given a notice to appear in federal court and a citation “for failure to comply with the lawful directions of a federal police officer.”

California Border Patrol Says Vaccinations Don’t Align With Standing Policy

Later that day, the Department of Health and Human Services Press Secretary tweeted, “Of course Border Patrol isn’t going to let a random group of radical political activists show up and start injecting people with drugs.”

The CBP also told multiple news outlets that it has never vaccinated migrants in its custody because most migrants will either be released or transferred to a different federal agency within 72 hours of being detained. Because of that, a spokesperson said that “operating a vaccine program is not feasible.”

However, short-term detention centers are becoming increasingly congested, and many are struggling to push migrants through that three-day window. Border Patrol has even admitted to holding hundreds of children way past that date. Currently, the average wait time is about six days, twice the legal wait time.

Additionally, that spokesperson noted that long-term detention centers run by ICE and the Department of Homeland Security do vaccinate migrants.

“We would encourage those who wish to volunteer medical services to go to shelters and NGO facilities, both in the U.S. and in Mexico, to donate their time and services,” the spokesperson said in a statement. 

Although it has refused to offer flu shots, the CBP did say it followed a CDC recommendation to hire more nurses and physicians assistants, including increasing its staff from about 20 a year ago to 250 as of now.

Wednesday morning, Senator Kamala Harris tweeted about the incident, saying, “It makes no sense to deny flu vaccines to immigrant children in U.S. custody.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union also responded to the tweet from the DHS Press Secretary later than evening.

“When our government refers to doctors as “radical political activists” and flu vaccines as “drugs,” it becomes clear how far we’ve slipped from the realm of reality.,” it said.

Migrant Children Are Dying of Flu at Higher Rates

Doctors for Closed Camps said it decided it wanted to distribute vaccines following a recent wave of migrant children dying from the flu either while in government custody or soon after their release. In August, it was reported that six migrant children had died, with three of those children dying from the flu. 

In a letter penned by doctors with Harvard and Johns Hopkins, those doctors said, “Influenza deaths are fairly rare events for children living in the United States.”

“While comparisons are difficult for many reasons, this rate of death from influenza appears to be substantially less than the rate in detention facilities,” they added.

Last week,  ProPublica obtained and published footage of the final moments of one of those children, 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vasquez.

In the video, Vasquez can be seen collapsing in his cell. According to Propublica, no guards ever came to check on them. Later, Vaquez gets up and goes to the bathroom, but again, he collapses. 

According to the report, this is the last time he was ever seen moving. The video then goes blank for a few hours, with guards reportedly conducting three wellness checks in that time.

When the video starts again, Vasquez is in the same position. A cellmate later woke up to find Vasquez laying in the bathroom. He then called for a Border Patrol agent, who found that Vasquez did not have a pulse.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The San Diego Union-Tribune) (Fox 5 San Diego)

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Trump Slammed Over Latest Tweet About Greta Thunberg

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  • After 16-year-old Greta Thunberg was named Time’s Person of the Year, President Donald Trump posted a tweet saying the teen must “work on her anger management problem.” 
  • Many criticized Trump for mocking Thunberg just a week after his wife slammed a law professor for using their teenage son’s name as a punchline.
  • Others have instead pointed to his own temperament as a point of hypocrisy.

Chill Greta, Chill

President Donald Trump posted another controversial tweet about climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg on Thursday, prompting a new wave of backlash and accusations of hypocrisy. 

On Wednesday, Thunberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year after earning international attention for calling on leaders to combat the climate crisis. 

“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” Trump wrote early Thursday in response to a tweet congratulating the teen for the recent honor.

Following the President’s tweet, Thunberg updated her Twitter bio to describe herself as: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”

Source: @GretaThuneberg

This is now the second time the president has shared this type of message about Thunberg online. Following her infamous remarks at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September, Trump tweeted a seemingly sarcastic message that read, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

At the time, Thunberg also changed her Twitter bio to include the president’s comments. 

Source: @GretaThunberg

Trump Faces Accusations of Hypocrisy 

However, this time around, Trump’s tweet has received even more criticism considering his wife’s recent stand against the treatment of her minor son. 

Just last week, First Lady Melania Trump slammed Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan for dropping a joke during her impeachment hearing testimony that included the name of  13-year-old Barron Trump. 

“The constitution says there can be no titles of nobility,” Karlan said. “So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

The FLOTUS quickly took to Twitter to condemn Karlan for the remark, writing, “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

Karlan apologized for her joke later that day, but many people came to her defense arguing that Melania Trump has remained largely silent about her husband’s treatment of minors, including Thunberg and migrant children at the border. 

Many of those same critics also pointed out that Trump’s aggressive rhetoric goes against the first lady’s Be Best initiative which focuses on the well-being of youth and advocates against cyberbullying.  

So after Trump’s latest tweet about the young activist, many took to Twitter to point at what they considered another example of hypocrisy. Some also hit back at Trump’s “anger management” comment by criticizing his own temperament. 

The tweet sparks so much discussion that #BeBest became the No. 1 trending Twitter topic worldwide.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The New York Times) (Newsweek)

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Youth Pastor Who Smacked Reporter’s Butt on Live TV Speaks Out

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  • The runner who was caught on camera smacking a reporter’s behind during live coverage of a race has been identified as Tommy Callaway, a youth pastor and Boy Scout leader. 
  • In an interview with Inside Edition, Callaway said he made a “misjudge in character” and says he was not aware of where exactly he had “touched” the reporter, Alex Bozarjian.
  • Bozarjian has condemned his behavior and filed a police report, meanwhile, local race officials banned him from future races.

Smack Video Goes Viral

A runner who smacked a Georgia reporter’s behind during a live news segment spoke out on Tuesday in his first television appearance since the viral incident. 

The smack happened Saturday when WSAV-TV reporter Alex Bozarjian was covering the annual Savannah Bridge Run. Several participants waved at the camera as they ran by during her segment, but one man decided to smack Bozarjian on her backside before sprinting away. 

Bozarjian was visibly shocked by what happened as she tried to get back to her live report. 

A Twitter user shared a clip of the incident that quickly went viral. Bozarjian eventually shared that post with her own statement, writing, “To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.”

Reactions 

The incident sparked outrage from Twitter users who were disgusted by the behavior and received notable attention from fellow reporters.

Race officials were also quick to condemn the runner’s behaviors. The director of the Savannah Sports Council, Robert Wells, told Bozarjian the incident was “100% unacceptable” and said the organization would identify the man. 

The following day, the organization announced that it had banned the runner from registering for all of its future races. 

Runner Identified

News outlets and social media users later identified the runner as Tommy Callaway, a 43-year-old married father of two who is both a youth minister and boy scout leader, according to his Facebook and Linkedin profiles.  

Callaway’s lawyer, Joseph Turner, released a statement on his behalf to WTOC Monday, saying his client is a “loving husband and father who is very active in his community.” He added that Callaway was “working with those involved to correct the situation.”

“While we regret the situation, Mr. Callaway did not act with any criminal intentions,” Turner said.

Callaway’s TV Appearance

That same day, Callaway appeared on Inside Edition to further explain what happened. “I was getting ready to bring my hands up and wave to the camera, to the audience, and there was a misjudge in character and decision-making. I touched her back. I did not know exactly where I touched her,” he said.

Callaway added that he took the reporter’s words to heart. “I totally agree 100 percent with her statement and the two most important words were her last two words, ‘Do better,’ and that’s my intention.”

“I did not see her facial reaction as I just kept on running. If I did see her facial reaction, I would have felt embarrassed and ashamed and stopped and turned around to apologize to her.”

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (Inside Edition) (Heavy)

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