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Remains of Missing Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillén Identified

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  • Authorities confirmed Sunday that they recovered the remains of Vanessa Guillén, an Army Specialist at Fort Hood who had been missing since April 22.
  • Not long after the body was found last week, soldier and suspect Aaron David Robinson died by suicide as he was about to be taken into custody.
  • His reported girlfriend who was taken into custody, Cecily Aguilar, claims that Robinson killed Guillén, then confessed to her. After this, they both mutilated and disposed of her body by a river 20 miles from Fort Hood.
  • Guillén’s family and lawyer claimed that she was subject to sexual harassment while at Fort Hood. They believe Robinson was among the men who harassed her, however, investigators have not yet found evidence to support this.

Body Identified

Investigators have identified the remains of Vanessa Guillén, an Army Specialist who went missing from Fort Hood in April.

The remains were initially discovered on June 30. While they were believed to be the remains of Guillén, DNA evidence did not confirm the victim’s identity until Sunday evening. The remains were found by a river in Bell County Texas where workers were building a fence. Investigators had searched that exact area nine days prior but did not find the body. 

Guillén was last seen on April 22 in a Fort Hood parking lot. Her family had long been calling for answers in her disappearance, criticizing investigators for slow movement on the case.

The family has also claimed that Guillén experienced sexual harassment while at Fort Hood. While she told friends, family, and other soldiers, Guillén did not formally report these incidents because she feared potential retaliation.

Eventually, social media users joined in on the family’s calls for answers, spreading campaigns for justice in Guillén’s name and holding peaceful protests.

What Happened?

The man suspected of killing Guillén, a fellow soldier named Aaron David Robinson, died by suicide when authorities tried to take him into custody last week. According to Guillén’s family and lawyer, he was among the men who allegedly harassed her. Investigators, however, have said they have not yet found that Robinson harassed Guillén. Investigations are still ongoing. 

Another suspect, Cecily Aguilar, is in custody. She has been identified by numerous reports as Robinson’s girlfriend, and an estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier. Aguilar is facing one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and could face up to 20 years in federal prison if she is convicted. According to a release from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Texas, Aguilar said that Robinson confessed he had killed a female service member to her. He allegedly struck her in the head with a hammer while at Fort Hood. 

Robinson then allegedly transferred the body off to a remote site in Bell County and asked Aguilar to help him dispose of it. Aguilar claimed she recognized the deceased as Guillén before she “helped Robinson mutilate and dispose of” her.  Reports indicate that they had attempted to cut up and burn parts of the body before burying the remains in separate holes.

Guillén’s sister Mayra claims that she met Robinson on the base in the aftermath of her sister’s disappearance. Mayra claimed that Robinson laughed in her face at one point. 

“Not knowing that he had something to do with it, I felt, something was telling me that, that he did something and I wasn’t wrong,” Mayra said during a press conference. 

Calls for Investigation

Guillén’s family, along with their attorney Natalie Khawam, are calling for a Congressional investigation into this case. They believe the investigation thus far has been improper. 

“We will never know what happened, ever, until we get a Congressional investigation because everything that we were given was lies,” Khawam said during a press conference last week. “It was evasive. They were not sincere, they were actually very disingenuous to us.” 

“I don’t know who is covering up for who but it doesn’t matter,” she added.

Khawam is not the only one asking for a probe into the matter. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Jackie Speier wrote a letter calling for the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate Guillén’s disappearance, the circumstances of her workplace, and the Army’s response to both. 

“We are gravely concerned with the appearance that the Army was able to marshal significant

additional investigative resources after her family began a social media campaign with the

hashtags #IAmVanessaGuillén and #FindMySister,” they wrote. “If the Army must rely on relatives, not commanders or comrades, to take the initiative in locating missing soldiers, there is something fundamentally broken in the institution.”

Representative Tulsi Gabbard is also calling for an investigation, as well as legislation to protect those serving in the military from harassment and assault. Guillén’s case has also prompted numerous people who have previously served to tell their own stories of assault in the military using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillén. 

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Washington Post) (NPR)

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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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