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Federal Judge Sides With Native American Tribes Concerned About CARES Act Funding

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  • A federal judge sided with several Native American tribes by saying that coronavirus relief funding should not be given to Alaska Native Corporations, which are for-profit organizations.
  • The CARES Act set aside $8 billion in emergency funding for “Tribal governments.” The tribes involved claimed that ANCs do not meet the definition of “Tribal governments.” The judge agreed with this, and also said there was no proof that ANCs would give aid to tribes that need it. 
  • The tribes in the lawsuit were afraid that if ANCs were allowed to receive funding, they would receive too much of it, leaving tribes left to struggle. 
  • This decision was a preliminary injunction and not a final order. The Treasury Department could still hold aide aside for ANCs as the legal process continues. 

Judge Sides with Tribes

A federal judge sided with Native American tribes who filed a lawsuit against Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, saying that the CARES Act funding set aside for Native American communities should not go to for-profit corporations.

The CARES Act designated $8 billion in emergency aid for “Tribal governments” as they face the hardships of the coronavirus outbreak. Mnuchin stated that Alaska Native regional and village corporations, or ANCs, are eligible to receive the funds, but tribes disagree with his choice. 

There are over 200 ANCs, all of which are for-profit corporations with shareholders and boards of directors that function as holding companies for a multitude of businesses. Several tribes joined the lawsuit to say that ANCs do not meet the definition of an “Indian Tribe” or “Tribal government” and therefore should not get the funding. The tribes also feared should ANCs be allowed to get funding, they would take a large percentage, leaving tribes to “suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief.”

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta agreed that tribes could struggle a great deal if they do not get the proper funding, and sided with them, but only up to a point. 

“The court grants Plaintiffs’ motions—but only in part,” Judge Mehta wrote in his opinion. “The court will preliminarily enjoin the Secretary from disbursing Title V funds to any ANC, but will not direct him at this time to disburse the entire $8 billion in emergency relief to Plaintiffs and other federally recognized tribes.”

Reasons Behind Ruling

Mehta said that ANCs should not get funding and agreed that they should not be considered “Tribal governments.” However, he did not dictate how funds should be dispersed. Because this was a preliminary injunction and not a final ruling, the legal process could continue and the Treasury Department could still hold money aside for ANCs as the process continues. 

Mehta further explained his decision by stating that giving money to for-profit corporations contradicts the will of the CARES Act, and that despite claims that ANCs could use the funding to help tribes, there is no proof that they will. 

“Reading the CARES Act to allow the Secretary to disburse Title V dollars to for-profit corporations does not jibe with the Title’s general purpose of funding the emergency needs of ‘governments,’” Mehta wrote. 

“Neither Defendant nor the ANC Amici present actual evidence demonstrating that ANCs are currently providing public services comparable to Plaintiffs to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” he later added.

The defendants tried to argue that federal courts should not be involved in a case about federal emergency funding. Mehta denied this. 

“While the Secretary’s decisions as to how much to disburse might not be reviewable, his decisions concerning to whom to disburse those funds most certainly is,” he wrote. 

Even though the legal battle could go on, the tribes involved in the case saw this as a victory. 

“This ruling will ensure that tribes and tribal members will reap the intended benefits that Congress envisioned in the CARES Act,” Harry Pickernell, senior chair of the Chehalis Tribe said in a statement. “This ruling will help tribal governments to lead in the aid and recovery of their people.”

The Treasury Department could begin allocating funds as soon as Tuesday.

See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (Huff Post) (Anchorage Daily News)

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Conservatives Slam Elmo For Getting Vaccinated Against COVID-19 

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While critics accused the muppet of promoting propaganda, CDC data shows the shots are safe and effective.


Elmo Gets Vaccinated 

Conservative politicians expressed outrage on Twitter after the beloved “Sesame Street” character Elmo revealed he got vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently cleared the way for children between the ages of six months and five years to get vaccinated against the virus. The famous red muppet is three years old, making him finally eligible for the jab. 

In a video shared by “Sesame Street,” Elmo said that he felt “a little pinch, but it was okay.” 

Elmo’s father, Louie, then addressed parents who might be apprehensive about vaccinating their own kids. 

“I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the COVID vaccine,” he said to the camera. “Was it safe? Was it the right decision? I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice.” 

“I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors, and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love,” he continued. 

Republicans Criticize “Sesame Street”

While some praised the video for raising awareness and addressing the concerns parents may have, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) quickly lambasted the effort.

“Thanks, Sesame Street for saying parents are allowed to have questions,” Cruz tweeted. “You then have Elmo aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.”

Despite Cruz’s claim, the CDC has provided ample resources with information on vaccines for children. 

He was not alone in criticizing the video. Harmeet Dhillon, a committeewoman of the Republican National Committee for California, suggested that Elmo would be taking puberty blockers next. 

Other anti-vaxxers claimed Elmo would get myocarditis and accused “Sesame Street” of promoting propaganda.

COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be both safe and effective against transmission of the virus, but this is not the first time conservatives have turned their anger against a friendly-looking muppet who opted to get the jab. When Big Bird got vaccinated in November, Cruz and other right-wing figures accused the show of brainwashing kids.

Big Bird’s choice to get vaccinated was not a shocker though, clips dating back to 1972 show him getting immunized against the measles. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hill) (Market Watch)

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Uvalde Puts Police Chief on Leave, Tries to Kick Him Off City Council

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If Pete Arredondo fails to attend two more consecutive city council meetings, then he may be voted out of office.


Police Chief Faces Public Fury

Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo was placed on administrative leave Wednesday following revelations that he and his officers did not engage the shooter at Robb Elementary for over an hour despite having adequate weaponry and protection.

Superintendent Hal Harrell, who made the announcement, did not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid.

Harrell said in a statement that the school district would have waited for an investigation to conclude before making any personnel decisions, but chose to order the administrative leave because it is uncertain how long the investigation will take.

Lieutenant Mike Hernandez, the second in command at the police department, will assume Arredondo’s duties.

In an interview with The Texas Tribune earlier this month, Arredondo said he did not consider himself in charge during the shooting, but law enforcement records reviewed by the outlet indicate that he gave orders at the scene.

Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told state senators on Tuesday that some officers wanted to enter the classrooms harboring the shooter but were stopped by their superiors.

He said officer Ruben Ruiz tried to move forward into the hallway after receiving a call from his wife Eva Mireles, a teacher inside one of the classrooms, telling him she had been shot and was bleeding to death.

Ruiz was detained, had his gun taken away, and was escorted off the scene, according to McCraw. Mireles later died of her wounds.

Calls for Arredondo to resign or be fired have persisted.

Emotions Erupt at City Council

Wednesday’s announcement came one day after the Uvalde City Council held a special meeting in which community members and relatives of victims voiced their anger and demanded accountability.

“Who are you protecting?” Asked Jasmine Cazares, sister of Jackie Cazares, a nine-year-old student who was shot. “Not my sister. The parents? No. You’re too busy putting them in handcuffs.”

Much of the anger was directed toward Arredondo, who was not present at the meeting but was elected to the city council on May 7, just over two weeks before the massacre.

“We are having to beg ya’ll to do something to get this man out of our faces,” said the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old victim. “We can’t see that gunman. That gunman got off easy. We can’t take our frustrations out on that gunman. He’s dead. He’s gone. … Ya’ll need to put yourselves in our shoes, and don’t say that none of ya’ll have, because I guarantee you if any of ya’ll were in our shoes, ya’ll would have been pulling every string that ya’ll have to get this man off the council.”

One woman demanded the council refuse to grant Arredondo the leave of absence he had requested, pointing out that if he fails to attend three consecutive meetings the council can vote him out for abandoning his office.

“What you can do right now is not give him, if he requests it, a leave of absence,” she said. “Don’t give him an out. We don’t want him. We want him out.”

After hearing from the residents, the council voted unanimously not to approve the leave of absence.

On Tuesday, Uvalde’s mayor announced that Robb Elementary is set to be demolished, saying no students or teachers should have to return to it after what happened.

We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.

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Texas Public Safety Director Says Police Response to Uvalde Shooting Was An “Abject Failure”

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New footage shows officers prepared to engage the shooter one hour before they entered the classroom.


Seventy-Seven Deadly Minutes

Nearly a month after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, evidence has emerged indicating that police were prepared to engage the shooter within minutes of arriving, but chose to wait over an hour.

The shooting at Robb Elementary began at 11:33 a.m., and within three minutes 11 officers are believed to have entered the school, according to surveillance and body camera footage obtained by KVUE and the Austin American Statesman.

District Police Chief Pete Arredondo reportedly called a landline at the police department at 11:40 a.m. for help.

“It’s an emergency right now,” he said. “We have him in the room. He’s got an AR-15. He’s shot a lot… They need to be outside the building prepared because we don’t have firepower right now. It’s all pistols.”

At 11:52 a.m., however, the footage shows multiple officers inside the school armed with at least two rifles and one ballistic shield.

Law enforcement did not enter the adjoined classrooms to engage the shooter until almost an hour later, at 12:50 p.m. During that time, one officer’s daughter was inside the classrooms and another’s wife, a teacher, reportedly called him to say she was bleeding to death.

Thirty minutes before law enforcement entered the classrooms, the footage shows officers had four ballistic shields in the hallway.

Frustrated Cops Want to Go Inside

Some of the officers felt agitated because they were not allowed to enter the classrooms.

One special agent at the Texas Department of Public Safety arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting started, then immediately asked, “Are there still kids in the classrooms?”

“It is unknown at this time,” another officer replied.

“Ya’ll don’t know if there’s kids in there?” The agent shot back. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”

“Whoever is in charge will determine that,” the other officer responded.

According to an earlier account by Arredondo, he and the other officers tried to open the doors to the classrooms, but found them both locked and waited for a master key to arrive. But surveillance footage suggests that they never tried to open the doors, which a top Texas official has confirmed were never actually locked.

One officer has told reporters that within minutes of the police response, there was a Halligan bar, which firefighters use to break down locked doors, on-site, but it was never used.

At a special State Senate committee hearing Monday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called the police response an “abject failure” and “antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.”

“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from (entering rooms) 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he said. “The officers have weapons, the children had none.”

We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.

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