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Kansas Lawmaker Accused of Kicking Teen in Groin Receives Suspended Sentence

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Before allegedly assaulting the teenager in class, the lawmaker and former substitute teacher ranted to students about God, the Bible, Masturbation, and more.


Samsel Displays Inappropriate Behavior

Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel (R) was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence and one year of probation Monday after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. 

Samsel, a former high school substitute teacher in Wellsville, initially caused outrage in April after displaying bizarre classroom behavior. Footage recorded by students and published by the Kansas City Star showed Samsel ranting about the wrath of God, the Bible, masturbation, suicide, and other topics. At one point, he allegedly even pushed a student against a wall and kicked him in the groin.

While that specific altercation doesn’t appear to have been caught on video, student footage shows what seems to be the aftermath of the alleged assault.

“I’m simply built different, Mark. I don’t feel pain,” the student jokingly tells Samsel after picking himself up off the ground. Samsel responds by asking if the student is about to cry.

“You want to go to the nurse? She can check it for you?” Samsel adds.

“Make babies! Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it? Procreate,” Samsel said at another point in the video. “You haven’t masturbated? Don’t answer that question.”

Other notable quotes include, “Would you like me to introduce [you] to a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times because he has two parents and they’re both females?,” and, “I could put the wrath of God on your right now because that is what he is trying to do. You should run and scream cause the devil’s getting the hell out of my classroom.”

After students reported his behavior, Samsel told local news outlets that he didn’t do anything wrong and that the situation was actually “planned.”

The kids and I planned ALL this to SEND A MESSAGE about art, mental health, teenage suicide, how we treat our educators and one another. To who? Parents. And grandparents. And all of Wellsville,” he also wrote on Snapchat, according to The Star.

However, he later told investigators that he what at his “wit’s end” with “misbehaving students.” Then last month, he announced via Facebook that he had sought mental health treatment and was giving up his substitute teaching license, describing the situation as an “isolated episode of mania with psychotic features’‘ prompted by “extreme stress, pressure and agitation.”

Samsel’s Sentence

Samsel faced additional consequences in conjunction with his suspended sentence and year of probation. He was also banned from using social media, unless for political purposes. He cannot have contact with the students who reported him and must write apology letters to those involved. He must also follow mental health treatment recommendations and take any prescribed medications

Samsel, for his part, apologized in his court appearance via Zoom, saying he never “intended for anyone to get hurt.”

Some parents seem happy with the sentence, like Joshua Zeck, who told the Star, “From the beginning, all I wanted was for Mark to get some help.”

“I don’t want to see anybody go to jail. So if this does him so good and he’s doing better, I’m happy to hear that,” Zeck continued.

Others in the community told the paper that his sentencing was too lenient, including Mary Woods, whose niece had class with Samsel the day of the incident.

“I don’t think that’s enough. He laid his hands on a kid. … He traumatized a lot of these kids. I think it’s bullsh*t, to say so myself.”

As far as whether Samsel will keep his job in the state legislature, Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman said that’s up to voters to decide.

See what others are saying: (The Kansas City Star)(Insider)(NBC News)

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CDC Director Overrules Expert Panel, Says At-Risk Workers Can Get Pfizer Booster

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The panel refused to recommend boosters for Americans whose jobs put them at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but the agency’s head rejected that decision.


CDC Issues Pfizer Booster Guidance

In a highly unusual move, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) overruled the agency’s advisory panel late Thursday and recommended Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 booster shot for people at risk of infection due to their jobs.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s decision aligns with a similar determination by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the day earlier.

On Wednesday, the FDA authorized third jabs of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for select Pfizer recipients six months after they completed the two-dose regime.

The authorization applies to people 65 and older and adults ages 18 to 64 that have a high risk of severe illness or whose jobs or institutional exposure “puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19.”

In a statement announcing the move, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said the third group includes “health care workers, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others.”

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices largely backed the FDA’s authorization in its Thursday decision.

The committee additionally backed third doses for people 50 to 64 who have medical conditions that make them at risk for severe infection. It also said individuals 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions can assess their own personal risk and obtain a booster if they feel it is needed. 

The experts, however, voted 9-6 against recommending the shots for Americans ages 18 to 64 whose jobs put them at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

Walensky agreed with most of the panel’s determination but added the additional recommendation for occupational exposure, explaining that she decided to go against her own advisors in order to bring the CDC more in step with the FDA’s authorization.

“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Walensky said in a statement. 

“I believe we can best serve the nation’s public health needs by providing booster doses for the elderly, those in long-term care facilities, people with underlying medical conditions, and for adults at high risk of disease from occupational and institutional exposures to COVID-19.”

Moderna, J&J Recipients Left Behind — For Now

Walensky added that while the vaccine advisory panel only reviewed data for the Pfizer vaccine, the CDC “will address, with the same sense of urgency, recommendations for the Moderna and J & J vaccines as soon as those data are available.”

There is currently no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix-and-match vaccines made by different companies, and as such, federal guidance encourages people to get boosters from the makers of their original jab.

The CDC has estimated that around 26 million people received their last Pfizer dose at least six months ago.

Around half of those individuals are 65 or older, and is unclear how many more will meet the eligibility requirements for the booster. 

Meanwhile, around 23 million Moderna recipients are at least six months past their second vaccine, and about 3.3 million people are at least six months past their Johnson & Johnson jab.

While tens of millions of Pfizer recipients will now be eligible for a third dose, the roughly half of vaccinated Americans who got Moderna and J&J shots will have to wait.

How long that wait will be is uncertain, though federal officials have suggested booster shots for the other two vaccines could be approved in a matter of weeks.

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

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Chris Cuomo Accused of Sexual Harassment by Former ABC News Boss

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News producer Shelley Ross said that while she does not want Cuomo to lose his CNN gig over her accusations, she hopes he holds himself accountable for them in other ways.


Chris Cuomo Accused of Sexual Harassment

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was accused of sexual harassment by his former ABC boss, Shelley Ross, in a Friday op-ed published in The New York Times. 

Ross wrote that the incident between her and Cuomo happened during a farewell party for a colleague in 2005. At the time, she was the executive producer of an ABC entertainment special but was previously the executive producer at “Primetime Live,” where Cuomo was one of several anchors. 

“When Mr. Cuomo entered the Upper West Side bar, he walked toward me and greeted me with a strong bear hug while lowering one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock,” she wrote in the op-ed. 

She claimed that Cuomo said, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.”

She allegedly responded by pushing him away and telling him, “No, you can’t.” She then stepped back to reveal that her husband was sitting behind her, witnessing the interaction, and they left the party shortly after the ordeal.

According to Ross, she received an apology email from Cuomo roughly an hour after the episode. In the subject line, he wrote that he was “ashamed” of his actions, but he opened the message by saying his “hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see [her].

“christian slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own)…and as a husband i can sympathize with not liking to see my wife patted as such,” Cuomo reportedly wrote. “So pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband…and i apologize to you as well, for even putting you in such a position.”

He closed the email by saying he will “remember his lesson” next time, “no matter how happy” he might be to see Ross. 

“My question today is the same as it was then: Was he ashamed of what he did, or was he embarrassed because my husband saw it?” Ross wrote, arguing that while Cuomo considers it a “sincere apology,” she has always viewed it as “an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability.”

Shelley Ross Calls for Accountability

Ross wrote that she does not believe the incident was “sexual in nature.” Instead, she understands it as an arrogant display of masculine power. 

“Whether he understood it at the time or not, his form of sexual harassment was a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff,” she wrote. 

Ross’s op-ed comes just over a month after Cuomo’s brother, Andrew Cuomo, resigned as the Governor of New York following a slew of sexual misconduct allegations. Chris Cuomo faced intense criticism for advising the governor throughout the scandal.

When the allegations against his brother were making headlines, Cuomo went on air during “Cuomo Prime Time” to announce he would not be covering the situation, though he said he has “always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so.”

Ross questioned how genuine that statement may have been, considering both her interaction with him and his choice to support his brother. 

“I am left again wondering about his relationship with truth and accountability,” she wrote. “Has this man always cared ‘deeply’ and ‘profoundly’ about sexual harassment issues? Does he believe enough in accountability to step up and take some meaningful actions?”

When The Times asked Cuomo for a statement regarding the accusation, he said that “As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature.”

“It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC,” he continued. “I apologized to her then, and I meant it.”

Over the last several years, many powerful men have lost their jobs over sexual misconduct claims as the MeToo movement launched a global reckoning with the cultures of harassment that permeate nearly every industry. Ross said she is not looking for Cuomo to be the next person ousted over one of these allegations. Instead, she hopes he will keep his role at CNN and use it to shine a better light on this issue.

She wrote that Cuomo should “journalistically repent” by going on-air “to study the impact of sexism, harassment and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Variety) (Associated Press)

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U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Resigns Over “Inhumane” Deportations of Haitians

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The top-ranking diplomat described the Biden administration’s approach to Haiti as “deeply flawed” while claiming that his policy recommendations were “ignored and dismissed when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.”


Resignation Letter

U.S. Special Envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote resigned from his post Wednesday over the Biden administration’s decision to deport thousands of Haitians who have been camped in a Texas border town.

The administration announced the decision last week after the camp amassed more than 14,000 people in a matter of days, sparking widespread outrage as images of the sordid conditions circulated online. Federal officials are also now blocking thousands of other Haitians from entering the country.

Foote announced his resignation, effective immediately, in a scathing letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that was first reported by PBS.

“I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” he wrote in the letter.

“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.”

Backlash and Support

The Biden administration responded to Foote’s letter by trying to undermine the diplomat and dispute his claims.

In a written statement to reporters Thursday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price denied that Foote’s suggestions were ignored.

“There have been multiple senior-level policy conversations on Haiti, where all proposals, including those led by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process,” he said. 

“Some of those proposals were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process. For him to say his proposals were ignored is simply false.”

Price also condemned the envoy for resigning during “a challenging moment that requires leadership.”

“It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation,” he continued.

On the other side, at least one top official in Haiti cheered Foote’s remarks.

“This is the first time we see a U.S. diplomat who has decided to go against the will of the U.S. government,” Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s election minister, told The Associated Press. “We salute that.”

See what others are saying: (PBS News) (The Associated Press) (The Washington Post)

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