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US Citizen Accused of “Invading” Country Before Acid Attack

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  • Milwaukee police arrested a 61-year-old white male for throwing acid on a Hispanic man after allegedly accusing him of “invading” the country. 
  • The victim, a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Peru, was left with severe burns on his face and neck, as well as damage to one eye.
  • Local politicians and community leaders have condemned the attack and authorities are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Acid Attack 

Police in Milwaukee, Wisconsin arrested a man suspected of throwing acid on a Hispanic man Friday, after allegedly accusing him of “invading” the country.

Image result for clifton a. blackwell milwaukee
Source: Milwaukee Police Dept.

Authorities say the 61-year-old white male suspect is being investigated for a hate crime and is expected to face charges soon. Though authorities have not named him, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel identified the suspect as Clifton A. Blackwell, a convicted felon and military veteran. 

The victim, Mahud Villalaz, said the attack happened when the man confronted him about how close he had parked to a bus stop as he was headed into a restaurant for dinner. “You cannot park here. You are doing something illegal,”  he allegedly told Villalaz. 

Villalaz said the man accused him of being in the U.S. illegally and of “invading” the country. Villalaz, 42, is a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Peru 19 years ago.

He said he looked back at his car and noticed that he was parked slightly over where he should have been, so he moved his truck one block forward. When he returned, the man was waiting for him with an open bottle, which Villalaz assumed was liquor. 

Again the stranger accused him of being illegal and invading the country, telling him to go back to where he is from. Villalaz said he told the man “You don’t know my status. I’m a U.S. citizen too.”  He said the man became especially angry when he told him that “everybody came from somewhere else here,” and added that Native Americans had been here the longest. 

That’s when Villalaz says the man threw acid at him. 

Surveillance video shows Villalaz turn his head as the liquid covered the left side of his face. At a press conference Monday, Villalaz explained that his face was “burning really bad” and he ran into the restaurant screaming to wash off, a move doctors say helped lessen his injuries.

He said he was scared for his life because he was worried the suspect might come up behind him. However, he added that he was grateful that the man did not have a gun and that nothing worse happened. 

Villalaz suffered second-degree burns on his face, third-degree burns on his neck, and damage to his left eye from the liquid that police described as a “corrosive substance.” Doctors later told Villalaz they believed the substance was battery acid. Along with scarring his face, the liquid also burned the jacket, sweater, and shirt he was wearing. 

Community Condemns Attack 

The attack has been widely condemned by community leaders, politicians, and relatives. At a news conference on Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the attack was “obviously” a hate crime and blamed President Donald Trump for inciting hatred against minorities. 

“To single out someone because they’re from a Hispanic origin is simply wrong. And we know what’s happening,” Barrett said. “My concern is that more and more people feel that because the president is saying it, that this is OK. It’s not OK, it’s horrible,” he continued. 

“Everybody knows what’s happening. It’s because the president is talking about it on a daily basis that people feel they have license to go after Hispanic people. And it’s wrong.”

Alderman Jose Perez also called the attack a hate crime that will “have a long-term impact on the life of the victim” 

In a statement, Perez added, “This was senseless violence and it needs to stop. We as a community need to come together to work through our differences and learn to respect one another and diffuse conflict.”

“We need those elected officials who are spreading racial hatred to knock off the rhetoric that is designed to divide us. Instead, we need to work to heal the wounds that have been gashed open in the last few years. We as a country are better than this. Milwaukee is better than this.”

Villalaz is still recovering from the attack but said he struggles to explain this incident to his children. “My son calls me today, ‘Daddy what happened with you?’ It was…” he said fighting tears. “What can I tell him? Some crazy guy did this to me.”

He is advising others to “just walk away” if they encounter a similar situation, instead of putting themselves in danger to argue or defend themselves against someone who can’t listen or be reasoned with.

Villalaz’s family has created a GoFundMe page to cover his medical expenses which has already surpassed its $15,000 goal. 

See what others are saying: (Time) (Fox News) (The New York Times

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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