May 19, 2022

US Navy Introduces Service-wide Incentives; Supreme Court Denies Request for Firing Squad; Kim Kardashian Sued for Unpaid Wages; White Sox Game Admits 24,000 Fans; ‘I am innocent’: Rev. Pfleger Speaks After Reinstatement by Archdiocese of Chicago

U.S. Navy Introduces Service-wide Incentives for Vaccinated Sailors

The Navy became the first military branch in the U.S. to announce a service-wide incentive to encourage sailors to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The incentives include increased freedom of movement at port calls and removing the requirement of pre-deployment quarantine for sailors who have been vaccinated.

“The science is pretty clear, vaccinations are key to best protecting our Sailors. The more Sailors that are vaccinated, the better for them, their families, the Navy, and the Nation,” said Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans, and Strategy.

Under the updated guidance released on Monday afternoon, sailors who are fully vaccinated will not undergo quarantine before a deployment. Those who have not been administered the vaccine must be sequestered for 14 days before being deployed. Naval commands will also allow increased freedom of movement on ships, based on the vaccination rate and the size of the units.

Across the military, the vaccination incentive programs have only been instituted at the base level, not service-wide guidance. Some Army and Marine Corps bases are offering extra days off and lowered restrictions on freedom of movement for vaccinated service members. 

John Kirby, the Chief Pentagon Spokesman, said that the Pentagon is not considering a standard incentive program for the entire military.

“I think, like the secretary [of defense] said, the best incentive is to know that you’re doing the right thing for your family, for your friends, and for your teammates,” Kirby said.

“There are, of course, local base commanders, and you’ve seen some of them adopting modest ways of recognizing those who have received the vaccine, but they do that at their level,” Kirby added. 

The Pentagon announced last week that there was a surge in military vaccinations over the previous month. The opening of vaccines to the entire military population was followed by a 55% jump in vaccinations in the military sector. From approximately 500,000 troops who have received their first dose as of April 19, the number increased to about 775,000 as of May 19.

Supreme Court Denies Request for Firing Squad by Death Row Inmate

The Supreme Court Monday ruled in 6-3 votes against the request of a Missouri death row inmate suffering from a brain tumor, seeking to have his execution carried out by firing squad. The inmate, Ernest Johnson, fears the state’s lethal injection protocol would likely result in excruciating seizures.

Ernest Johnson is suffering from a tumor that gives him seizures. His condition would be exacerbated if he will be executed by the injection of pentobarbital, a class of drugs known to produce seizures, his lawyers argued.

According to court records, Johnson was convicted of robbing a gas station and killing three clerks 27 years ago. “He bludgeoned their heads with a claw hammer, shot one clerk in the face, and stabbed another at least ten times with a screwdriver,” the state said.

Initially, Johnson requested to be executed by nitrogen gas and not by the drug pentobarbital. In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that a state could decline to use nitrogen gas as a method of execution because it lacked a “track record of successful use.” In that decision, the court said an inmate could look to other well-established methods of execution in other states.

Johnson, after that opinion, sought to amend his complaint, arguing that he should be able to request a firing squad.

The Supreme Court has broadly upheld death by lethal injection. Still, the justices have different stances down along ideological lines when looking at specific challenges by inmates with unusual health conditions.

Earlier this month, Gov. Henry McMaster (R) of South Carolina signed a law allowing a death row inmate to choose execution by firing squad or the electric chair, in the unavailability of lethal injection drugs. South Carolina is now the fourth state to allow executions by firing squad and Utah, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.

“Missouri,” Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion, “is now free to execute Johnson in a manner that, at this stage of the litigation, we must assume will be akin to torture given his unique medical condition.”

Kim Kardashian Sued for Unpaid Wages by Gardeners and Housekeepers

Kim Kardashian is being sued by seven former members of the gardening and maintenance staff of her $60 million Hidden Hills mansion, accusing her of various shady boss-type behavior.

According to the suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles, the plaintiffs claim Kardashian, 40, was late with their pay, withheld 10 percent of their wages for taxes — and then didn’t forward those sums to the government — refused to pay them overtime, and sometimes forced them to work without meal breaks.

They claim they didn’t receive itemized pay stubs, and one 16-year-old ex-employee holds that he was made to work far past the 48 maximum allowable hours for an underage summer employee. Another claims that when he brought up overtime pay, the tax issue, and meal breaks, he was immediately fired.

Andrew Ramirez, his brother Christopher Ramirez and son Andrew Ramirez Jr., and Aron Cabrea, Rene Ernesto Flores, Jesse Fernandez, and Robert Araiza are now suing for unpaid wages and the overtime they say she owes.

The men are represented by Frank Kim of law firm Kim Legal, who is also repping one of Kardashian’s ex-husband Kanye West’s former employees in a similar lawsuit related to the rapper’s opera “Nebuchadnezzar.”

In a statement to the Daily Mail, who reported on the lawsuit Monday, he intimated that more might be forthcoming:

“Wage theft and other workplace violations are a widespread problem in Los Angeles. My firm is currently investigating other potential violations against these defendants, as well as other powerful families and businesses on behalf of everyday workers.”

A spokesperson for Kardashian gave the following statement: “These workers were hired and paid through a third-party vendor hired by Kim to provide ongoing services. Kim is not a party to the agreement made between the vendor and their workers. Therefore she is not responsible for how the vendor manages their business and the arrangements they have made directly with their staff.

“Kim has never not paid a vendor for their services and hopes that the issue between these workers and the vendor who hired them can be amicably resolved soon.”

Chicago White Sox Game Admits 24,000 Fans

The Chicago White Sox expanded capacity inside Guaranteed Rate Field to 60 percent Monday as they took on the St. Louis Cardinals. More than 24,000 fans were in the stands Monday night, making it the largest attended event in Illinois in more than a year.

Fans and businesses enjoy increased capacity at Sox games, with the increased number of fans allowed to watch a game in-person Monday to 60% capacity. As the state coronavirus numbers trend in the right direction, the decision exceeds just baseball.

“It wasn’t great, especially for a good baseball team because the Sox started being good again last summer, so I imagine that if they were here with full capacity, we’d have a lot more business,” Joey Casa said.

“We’ve been looking forward to coming to a game for quite some time,” said John Keller, one of the thousands of fans who attended Monday’s game. “It feels safe.”

“When you go out, and you start mingling more in public, it feels more and more normal,” Keller said. “Not to have a mask on – it feels like we’re getting back to how it should be.”

Sox fan Ben Harrison revealed that the ground shaking after a big homer is a feeling he can’t wait to experience again.

It’s a feeling that resonates inside and outside the ballpark. ‘More than Dawgs,’ Casa hopes Monday night is a prelude to what summer could bring.

“The more, the merrier for us, definitely,” Casa said. “I want to be able to sell out every night and have to run back to the house in the neighborhood to get more food.

“I definitely think it’s coming, and I’m looking forward to it.”

“It’s definitely a sign that we’re headed in the right direction,” Samuel Cundari said. “Both of us have been vaccinated, so it’s good to get back out here and kind of return to a sense of normalcy.”

The White Sox went as far as to open up vaccination sites at Guaranteed Rate Field, even offering fans a $25 gift card for anyone who gets a shot before the start of the game.

Over the weekend, the Sox featured vaccination-only sections for fans who presented vaccination cards or other proof along with a photo ID.

‘I am innocent’: Rev. Pfleger Speaks After Reinstatement by Archdiocese of Chicago

The Archdiocese of Chicago has reinstated the Rev. Michael Pfleger as senior pastor of St. Sabina following decades-old child sex allegations. Rev. Pfleger has been sidelined for over five months after two brothers accused him of child sex abuse over several years at the beginning of his career. A third man accused Pfleger of abuse starting when he was 18.

A letter to the community from Cupich says a review of abuse allegations against Pfleger shows “no reason to suspect” he is guilty of the accusations.

“I am innocent of those charges and accusations, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to God and all those who supported me and prayed to me during this time,” Pfleger said. “This has been the most difficult and trying time of my life. I have been frustrated, I have been angry, I have been depressed, and I have been discouraged.”

The entire letter from Cardinal Blase Cupich below.

Dear Members of the Faith Community of St. Sabina,

Thank you for your patience and prayers during the absence of your senior pastor. Father Michael Pfleger. As you know, earlier this year, the archdiocese received allegations of child sexual abuse against Father Pfleger. In accordance with our policies for the protection of children and youth, the archdiocese Independent Review Board assisted by our Office of Child Abuse Investigation and Review, and outside investigators conducted a thorough review of the allegations.

The Review Board has concluded that there is insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations. Having given careful consideration to their decision, which I accept, I now inform you that I am reinstating Father Pfleger to his position of Senior Pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina, effective the weekend of June 5-6, 2021. I have asked Father Pfleger to take the next two weeks to prepare himself spiritually and emotionally to return, realizing that these months have taken a great toll on him. He has agreed to do so.

The weekend he will return is the Feast of Corpus Christi, when we celebrate that we are one in the Body of Christ, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows. It is in this spirit that I ask you to welcome back Father Pfleger, thereby helping him take up again the ministry that has distinguished St. Sabina in the archdiocese and beyond.

This past year has been a time of great trial for us all, and our church, our city, and society are in need of your witness to Jesus’ love. Please know you will have my support and prayers as you continue to be a light in the community.

Sincerely yours,

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago