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Army Veteran Cut Off During Memorial Day Speech

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(Hudson Community Television via AP)

Army Lieutenant Colonel Barnard Kemter’s microphone was deliberately turned off during the portion of his Memorial Day speech where he discussed the holiday’s history.

What We Know:

  • In 1865, a month after their emancipation, a group of black freedmen traveled to a mass grave in Charleston, South Carolina, to give a proper burial to the more than 200 Union soldiers resting there. Memorial Day is believed to be a result of this historic event.
  • Kemter, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, was selected by Hudson, Ohio, to be the keynote speaker at their Memorial Day parade. Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary and event organizer, gave Kemter no guidelines for his speech. He decided to use his speech as an opportunity to educate community members on the history of the holiday.
  • Kemter provided Suchan and other organizers with a copy of his speech a few days prior to the event. He was asked to remove the portion of his speech detailing the history of Memorial Day but was not given specifics.
  • The microphone cut out right as Kemter began to discuss how freed slaves exhumed the bodies of soldiers. Initially, he suspected it to be a technical glitch, but it was revealed by an audio engineer at the event that there was no malfunction. Suchan admitted that either herself or Jim Garrison, adjutant of the American Legion Post 464, turned down the audio.
  • Event staff affirmed that section of the speech was not relevant to the theme of honoring veterans. “I was very disappointed that someone would choose to censor my speech,” Kemter said to The Washington Post.
  • The American Legion Department of Ohio has called for Garrison’s resignation. In a statement issued by Department Commander Roger Friend, they stated, “The American Legion Department of Ohio does not hold space for members, veterans, or families of veterans who believe that censoring black history is acceptable behavior.”

Hudson’s City Council and Mayor issued a statement deploring the behavior. They said, “Veterans have done everything we have asked of them during their service to this country, and this tarnished what should have been a celebration of their service.”

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Headlines

Keystone XL Pipeline Project Cancelled

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(Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Developer TC Energy terminated the project Wednesday after failing to persuade President Biden to reverse his permit cancellation from January.

What We Know:

  • Former President Donald Trump gave the project a green light after stagnation from the Obama administration. Construction began last year on the 1,200-mile pipeline that would have moved 35 million gallons of crude oil daily. The pipeline would have connected Nebraska to other pipelines on the Gulf Coast.
  • Biden canceled the border-crossing permit on his first day in the White House, which has been considered a win for activists. Concerns that burning oil sands crude could make climate change effects worse or harder to reverse were a major part of the decision.
  • TC Energy warned that this decision would lead to the layoff of thousands of union workers. Attorney generals from 21 states went on to sue to overturn Biden’s decision as the pipeline would have created thousands of construction jobs. Robin Rorick, Vice President of midstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute, stated, “This is a blow to U.S. energy security and a blow to the thousands of good-paying union jobs this project would have supported.”
  • The Canadian government had invested more than $1 billion into the project. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau objected to Biden’s decision which has caused tension between the U.S. and Canada. Alberta officials reached an agreement with TC Energy to exit the deal and they plan to try and recoup the investment.
  • Activists are counting this as a major win in their fight for environmental justice. A lot of credit is being given to indigenous communities that have engaged in this fight for years. “We stood hand-in-hand to protect the next seven generations of life, the water, and our communities from this dirty tar pipeline,” the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a statement.

Biden’s decision to revoke the permit aligns with the environmental initiatives of his administration. David Turnbull, Strategic Communications Direction at Oil Change International, said, “The cancellation of Keystone XL is a reminder that this project was never needed and never in public interest, and that it is time for the fossil fuel era to rapidly come to a close.”

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Coronavirus

France, Belgium Ease Virus Curbs

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On Wednesday, France and Belgium announced they would begin easing their COVID-19 restrictions; the countries would do this by allowing cafes and restaurants to serve indoors, dropping overnight curfews, and more.

What We Know:

  • The two nations’ leaders made the announcements, respectively. France’s Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter for his declaration. In his tweet, he emphasized the French citizens’ longing to return to normalcy while also advising people to continue following precautions. French people may now enjoy outdoor dining and stay out past 11 P.M. Additionally, Macron intends on removing the overnight curfew by June 30.

  • Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated the country will now permit parties of up to four people to dine indoors. Indoor events can now function with no more than 200 people, or 75% capacity. Furthermore, their work-from-home mandate is still in effect, but employees may request to spend one day in the office. Employers may accept this request as long as larger offices maintain a daily capacity of 20% of workers.
  • The vaccine rollout across Europe facilitated the newfound lenience. Across the continent, nations are encouraging their subjects to get vaccinated in an attempt to “strike a balance” between public health and reviving industries. Europe wants to renew tourism across the continent, as pandemic travel restrictions devastated the sector the most.

  • To boost travel, the European Parliament voted on Wednesday to approve the Digital Covid Certificate. The new document will permit those who received the vaccine, tested negative, or recently recovered from COVID-19 to travel across the European Union (EU) countries.

Currently, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, and Spain already issued millions of certificates to EU residents.

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National

Judge Overturns California’s Assault Weapons Ban

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(Patrick T Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

US District Judge Roger Benitez deemed the 32-year-old California Assault Weapons Ban unconstitutional in a 94-page decision. The reasoning Benitez applied has come into question by experts.

What We Know:

  • Benitez was nominated in 2004 by President Georgia W. Bush. Despite being overwhelmingly opposed by the American Bar Association, the Senate confirmed him on a 98-1 vote. The ruling stems from a 2019 lawsuit filed by James Miller and the San Diego County Gun Owners, who alleged that the 1989 ban violates their Second Amendment rights.
  • In his decision, he likened the AR-15 to a Swiss Army Knife. He also claimed that studies prove that the harm of an assault rifle being used in a mass shooting is “infinitesimally rare.” He further affirmed that more people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California. None of these claims were accompanied by evidence.
  • California has had more than a dozen mass shootings this year, and since 2017 more than 50 people have died from mass shootings in the state. The CDC has investigated 4,900 reports of post-vaccine deaths and has been unable to find a causal link.
  • Benitez did cite an emergency room physician’s testimony and wrote that injuries from AR-15’s are no different from other legal firearms. Dr. Heather Sher, a radiologist who treated Parkland shooting victims, stated, “Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable […] An Ar-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to the trauma center to receive our care.”
  • He has made other rulings in the gun control debate, such as tossing out the 10 round magazine limit and the use of background checks for ammunition sales. A rule in Southern California has established that cases go to judges with prior experience with the issue, which is how this case ended up with Benitez in the first place.
  • There is potential for this case to come before the Supreme Court, which is now overwhelmingly conservative due to the former administration. It could be used in the battle to overturn regulatory measures and rule that banning military-style weapons is unconstitutional.

The current ban will stay in place until the appeals court hands down the final ruling to the entire state. Benitez has enacted a 30-day stay so Attorney General Rob Bonta can file an appeal. Law Professor Jessica Levinson at Loyola Marymount University stated, “I think it’s incredibly problematic when a federal judge quotes things that are factually incorrect because it hurts the integrity of the branch.”

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