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Young servicemen reject vaccine, warning commanders and nation

WASHINGTON – Americans entering the military understand the loss of personal freedom. Many of their daily activities are prescribed, as are their hairstyles, clothing, and personal conduct.

So when it comes to taking a coronavirus vaccine, many troops – especially enlisted youth as opposed to their officers – see a rare opportunity to exercise their agency.

“The military tells me what, how and when to do almost everything,” said Sgt. Tracey Carroll, who is based out of Fort Sill, an Army post in Oklahoma. “They finally asked me to do something and I have a real choice, so I said no.”

Sergeant Carroll, 24, represents a wide range of members of the military – a largely young and healthy group of Americans from all corners of the country – who refuse to be vaccinated, which for now is optional among staff. They cite a range of political and health concerns.

But this reluctance among young soldiers is a warning to civilian health officials about the potential hole in large-scale immunity that medical professionals deem necessary for Americans to reclaim their collective lives.

“Ultimately our military is our company,” said Dr. Michael S. Weiner, former Department of Defense chief medical officer, who now holds the same role for Maximus, a government contractor and technology company. “They have the same social media, the same families, the same issues as society as a whole.”

About a third of active duty or National Guard soldiers refused to take the vaccine, military officials recently told Congress. In some places, like Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the country’s largest military installation, acceptance rates are below 50%.

“We thought we would be in a better position in terms of acceptance rate,” said Col. Joseph Buccino, a spokesperson at Fort Bragg, one of the first military sites to offer the vaccine.

Although Pentagon officials say they do not collect specific data on those who refuse the vaccine, it is widely believed that refusal rates are much higher among younger members and that enlisted staff are more likely to say no than those who refuse the vaccine. officers. Military spouses appear to share this hesitation: In a December poll of 674 active-duty family members conducted by Blue Star Families, a military advocacy group, 58% said they would not allow their children to receive the vaccine.

For many soldiers, the reluctance reflects the concerns of civilians who have said in various public health polls that they will not take the vaccine. Many fear that the vaccines are unsafe or have been developed too quickly.

Some of the concerns stem from the misinformation plaguing Facebook and other social media, including the false rumor that the vaccine contains a microchip designed to monitor recipients, that it will permanently deactivate the body’s immune system, or that it will permanently shut down the body’s immune system. it is a form of government. control.

In some ways, vaccines are the new masks: a preventative measure against the virus that has been politicized.

There are many military members like Sergeant Carroll, officials said, citing the rare chance of avoiding a vaccine among the many required, especially for those deploying overseas.

Young Americans who are not in the military, and who think they don’t have to worry about falling seriously ill from the coronavirus, are likely to adopt their own version of the challenge, especially in the face of confusing information and sometimes contradictory on how much protection offered by the vaccine.

“I don’t think anyone likes to be told what to do,” Dr. Weiner said. “There’s a line in American DNA that says, ‘Just tell me what to do so I know what to press.’ “

Other soldiers cite the anthrax vaccine, which was believed to cause unwanted effects in members of the military in the late 1990s, as proof that the military shouldn’t be on the front lines of a new vaccine.

In many cases, the grounds for refusal include all of the above.

A 24-year-old female first-class aviator in Virginia said she refused the shot even though she was an emergency medic, like many of her squadron. She only shared her point on condition of anonymity because, like most enlisted members, she is not allowed to speak to the news media without official approval.

“I would rather not be the one testing this vaccine,” she explained in an email. She also said that since access to vaccines became a campaign theme during the White House race in 2020, she was more skeptical and added that some of her colleagues had told her they would rather part ways with it. army rather than taking the vaccine if it did. mandatory.

The military has offered the vaccine to older personnel, medical front-line troops, immediate response and contingency forces, some contractors from these groups, and some dependents of active-duty troops. .

So far, hundreds of thousands of people in these categories have been shot.

The vaccine, unlike many other inoculations, is not required by the military at this time because it has been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. Once it becomes an approved standard vaccine, the military can order troops to take the vaccine.

The prevalence of fear about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine frustrated military officials.

“There is a lot of disinformation out there,” Robert G. Salesses, acting deputy defense secretary, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. A member of the committee, Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, suggested that military personnel who refuse vaccines “risk an entire community” where the bases are.

As military leaders insist that vaccine acceptance rates will increase as safety information continues to spread, officials and advocacy groups are scrambling to improve rates, holding sessions of briefing with health leaders like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. On some bases, health workers follow up with those who refuse the vaccine to explore their reasons.

This week, the military held live Facebook sessions with high-ranking officers to spread the word that the vaccine was a godsend, and hundreds of commentators hesitated throughout. “This vaccine has not been proven to save lives,” one person wrote.

Concern is felt at the highest level of Pentagon leadership. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III released a video on Wednesday saying, “You know, I took it myself.”

“After talking to my doctor, I thought it was the right thing to do, not only for my health, but also for my ability to do the job and contribute to our readiness,” Mr. Austin.

Many public health experts say such appeals from leaders from above may be the least effective method of convincing groups that distrust the government or authority figures.

“Many enlisted people watch an admiral get vaccinated and say, ‘I don’t see myself in you at this point in my life,’ noted Dr. Weiner. “I appreciate that you have a vaccine, but it’s not me.

Staff Sgt.Jack Jay, who is stationed at an Army base at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC, has heard all kinds of fear, mistrust, and savage conspiracy theories from his peers – and has tried to gently share his own views.

“The reasons range from political to history of ongoing, unproven research, and due to our age group and medical condition, we are not a population at high risk for hospitalization,” said the Sergeant Jay, 33, who has already taken his photo.

“The best I can do is respect the other person’s reasons even if I don’t agree,” he said. “However, if any of my peers make false statements as if they were true, I will challenge them to support their argument with legitimate sources.”

The thread of politics weaving through these discussions complicates the conversation, Sgt. Jay said, and mirrors those he sees on Facebook and elsewhere outside of the military.

“The military is just a good barometer of what is likely to happen at the national level, because of our country’s thinking processes at the moment,” he said.

In making decisions, “the most important factor is knowing someone who has received the vaccine,” said Jennifer Akin, director of applied research at Blue Star Families. “There are so many stories out there, it’s hard to know what to do. We try to provide people with reliable information from reliable sources. “

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Trump loyalists reject ‘the failure of the Republican establishment of yesteryear’

ORLANDO, Fla .– A month after Donald J. Trump left, thousands of his Tory allies and other far-right leaders on Friday began trying to center the Republican Party around his presidency’s grievances, pushing false statements about the US electoral system. , denouncing what they called the culture of liberal cancellation and poking fun at the wearing of masks.

Gathered at the first major conference of pro-Trump conservatives since his defeat, politicians and activists sought to assert their adherence to a conservatism as defined by Mr. Trump, and the need to break with many policies and ideas that had animated American law for decades.

Some speakers at the event, the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference, went so far as to declare the mainstream Republican Party nearly dead. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, has vowed that the Tories will never return to “the bankrupt Republican establishment of yesteryear.” Others have firmly asserted Mr. Trump’s position as party leader and dismissed talks among some Republicans about leaving the former president.

“Let me tell you right now,” said Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, “Donald J. Trump is not going anywhere.”

The line received the loudest applause of conference events on Friday morning, the start of a three-day affair that will end with a speech by Mr. Trump on Sunday afternoon.

As the speakers touched on politics, it was about setting sweeping positions on China, immigration, and to some extent the laissez-faire economic policies that had allowed tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google to amass so much. Power.

But the agenda for the opening of the conference was anchored mainly in grave warnings of an imminent collapse of American society at the hands of “awakened crowds” and “Marxist leftists”; complaints about conservative censorship; a false insistence that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged”; and the suspicion of anyone who has not shared his willingness to fight back and stand by Mr. Trump’s side.

As the conference began, Democrats in Washington neared a House vote on a nearly $ 2 trillion coronavirus relief program that has Republican opposition. Yet even as minority parliamentary leader Kevin McCarthy, sporting a ‘No Pelosi Payoffs’ button, denounced the measure on Capitol Hill on Friday, little was said about it or anything else related to it. President Biden’s agenda.

Republican speakers, on the contrary, were applauded by focusing on the themes that animated the party during Mr. Trump’s presidency – the politics between us against them, the concern for personality rather than politics – while also mentioning to hardly the name of Mr. Biden.

It wasn’t until Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, took the stage towards the end of Friday’s sessions that anyone offered an in-depth critique of Mr Biden’s first month in office. Yet the former president’s eldest son spent almost as much time ridiculing Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third House Republican and Trump critic, as he did confronting the current president.

“Liz Cheney and her politics are only slightly less popular than her father on a quail hunt,” said the youngest Mr. Trump, a nearly 15-year-old reference to a hunting accident that didn’t quite landed with the students dotting. the audience.

Other speakers used their time to belittle Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who twice voted to impeach Mr. Trump, sparking laughter and applause.

After days when Republicans proclaimed there would be no civil war in the party, the attacks were a stark reminder that Mr. Trump and his closest associates are determined to purge their critics.

If that wasn’t clear enough in the rhetoric onstage in Orlando, the former president signaled his determination to take revenge by issuing a statement Friday afternoon announcing his support for former aide Max Miller, who is trying to overthrow Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, an Ohio. Republican. Mr. Gonzalez voted last month to impeach Mr. Trump.

“We represent the pro-Trump wing, the first American of the conservative movement,” said Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, who visited Wyoming in January to call for Ms. Cheney’s ouster. “It turns out populism is popular.”

Mr DeSantis has hinted that the current threat posed by the left is too dangerous for the Conservatives to care about the intricacies of politics.

“We can sit down and have academic debates on conservative politics, we can do it,” he said. “But the question is, when the Klieg lights get hot, when the left comes after you: will you stay strong, or will you go to bed?”

For Republicans eyeing a presidential candidacy in 2024, Mr. Trump’s influence has been deeply felt, with Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Cruz and others stressing their willingness to “fight.” It was not clear exactly what they were committing to fight for, but everyone seemed to agree on what they were mobilizing against.

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri had barely finished reminding the public that he had opposed the certification of Mr. Biden’s election before the crowd erupted and gave him a standing ovation. “I stood up, I said, ‘We should be having a debate on electoral integrity,’ said Mr. Hawley.

Notably, however, Mr. Hawley used more of his speech to attack tech companies than to defend Mr. Trump or plead the election.

“The Republican Party was once the party of trustbusters,” he said. “We invented the concept. It is time to reclaim this legacy. “

Likewise, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas – another potential 2024 presidential candidate whose ambitions Mr. Trump could block – has targeted what he has described as the excesses of the left.

“There is no more pernicious threat to America than the rejection of our founding principles, our heritage and our traditions,” he said, vowing “never to bow your knees in front of a crowd. politically correct. “

For all their basic rhetoric, however, Mr. Cotton and Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who also spoke at the conference, were only rewarded with polite applause for their political statements from an audience. apparently not ready to move on from last year. election.

When Mr. Hawley attempted a riff on “Joe Biden’s America,” someone in the audience shouted, “Trump!”

For his part, Mr Cruz used much of his speech to focus on a more pressing issue: damage control.

His appearance came just days after his trip to Cancun, Mexico, for a vacation amid a deadly Texas snowstorm, and Mr. Cruz attempted to defuse the controversy with humor.

“I have to say Orlando is awesome,” he said opening his speech. “It’s not as beautiful as Cancún – but it’s good!”

Mr Cruz has been severely criticized by leading Democrats for abandoning his constituents during a time of conflict. But among Friday’s attendees, the moment was a winning laugh.

In a speech titled “Bill of Rights, Liberty and Cancel Culture,” Cruz urged the left and the media to “clear up” many of the issues that have defined America over the past year.

Shortly before Mr Cruz’s speech, CPAC organizers were mocked by the audience when they interrupted the program to implore them to wear their masks. Still, Mr Cruz went on to poke fun at pandemic-era rules like wearing masks in restaurants, and he also joked about the protests against police brutality that have swept through major cities around the world. last summer, some of which turned violent.

There hadn’t been such protests in Houston, he said, “because let’s be very clear: if there had been, they would have found out what the people of Texas think about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. ” Once again, the audience laughed.

In previous incarnations of this convention, especially following Republican losses, there were wishes to go back to first principles.

To illustrate how Mr. Trump transformed the party, however, there has been surprisingly little mention of cutting spending at a time when Congressional Democrats are busy restoring credits.

Likewise, the political questions raised were more focused on race and identity than the type of Christian conservatism that once shaped the GOP Abortion was barely mentioned, and little was said about sexuality, even though Democrats in the House passed a bill expanding LGBT rights on Thursday.

Mr. Gaetz scoffed at the decision to remove the gender prefix from the Mr. Potato Head brand. Yet even that reference was on the mind of what he felt was a more pressing issue. “Mr. Potato Head was America’s first transgender doll and even it was canceled,” he said.

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Trump’s Legacy: Voters Who Reject Democracy and All Politics But Their Own

Mr Hanna, 19, was a polling officer in his rural township not far from Mr Biden’s hometown of Scranton, and he cannot accept that Mr Biden won honestly.

“We were overwhelmed, we had over 250 people online,” he said, adding confidently that few were Biden supporters. “It’s mind-boggling for me to believe that we’re going to bed 800,000 votes ahead and waking up, and after those magic bulletins have passed overnight, we’re sort of losing.” .

Such misinformation, which has spread widely online, has been debunked by election analysts, who say that postal ballots counting more slowly over several days strongly favored Mr Biden after the president made their use. toxic to its supporters.

Robert Fuller, of Georgia, remained so furious about the election that he predicted an America abandoning its deepest anchorages. “We will be lucky if we have one country left after this,” he said, citing false allegations of electoral fraud which the president had praised over the weekend in a taped call at most. top Georgia election official, a Republican.

“I foresee a coming civil war, Republicans against Democrats,” Mr. Fuller said. “You know as well as I do, they stuffed the ballots in the states of Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, and Michigan.”

In the second round of the Senate in Georgia on Tuesday, Mr. Fuller, 65, backed Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both lost. The victors – Rev. Raphael Warnock, who will be Georgia’s first black senator, and Jon Ossoff, who will be the youngest member of the Senate – have ensured control of the Democratic House.

Mr. Fuller does not consider any of the winners to be legitimate. Not because they did not win the most votes, but because of their political views, caricatured during the race to the far left of the center.

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Trump presses Pence to reject election votes

“The person with the most votes will be the Speaker,” the amendment continues, unless there is a tie or no one obtains a majority, in which case the House decides.

The work has sometimes been unpleasant for the former vice-presidents. In 1961, the State of Hawaii sent two lists of voters and Vice President Richard M. Nixon, who had just lost the election to John F. Kennedy, had to decide which ones to count. Mr Nixon chose Democratic voters, widening his own margin of defeat. Forty years later, Al Gore was in a similar situation, weighed down with irrefutable objections from fellow Democrats and certifying George W. Bush’s victory – and his own defeat – after a lengthy Florida recount that was put end by the Supreme Court. And Mr. Biden, then vice president, had to reject in 2017 a Democratic challenge to Mr. Trump’s victory.

But disagreeable as it is, J. Michael Luttig, a former US Court of Appeals judge and leading Conservative jurist, said Pence had no choice but to simply count the votes.

“No president and vice-president would – or should – regard either event as a test of political loyalty,” Luttig said. “And if either did, he should understand that political loyalty must give way to a constitutional obligation.”

Under the Electoral Tally Act of 1887, which was passed after the contested election of 1876, in which several states sent rival groups of voters, it is up to Congress to resolve any disputes over qualifications. of state.

If at least one member of the House and Senate raises an objection regarding a state’s performance, this should be taken into consideration, immediately halting the joint session so that members can return to their respective chambers and debate the challenge. during two hours. Then a vote – decided by simple majority – takes place to determine whether to reject that state’s results. It hasn’t happened since the Reconstruction Era, and with Democrats controlling the House and many opposing Senate Republicans, it will almost certainly fail.

Still, Republicans plan to force such a vote, possibly a lot. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has said he will challenge the results of six states, and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri plans to back at least one of them. Dozens of MPs and 11 senators have said they plan to vote against certifying Mr Biden’s victory. Since Mr. Trump and his supporters have contested the results in several states won by Mr. Biden – including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – there could be up to 12 hours of debate Wednesday and a half. – a dozen votes.

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Democrats, even some Republicans, applaud as judges reject Trump

Yet even among those who celebrated the outcome of the case, many feared the long-term impact of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on public confidence in democracy and the electoral process.

“Satisfied with the SCOTUS decision, but also immediately a little terrified by the next destination of this crazy train”, Brendan Buck, adviser to the last two Republican speakers, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, written on twitter. He later added: “We should know by now that there is an endless supply of madmen.”

Shortly after, Allen West, a former congressman and president of the Texas Republican Party, criticized the Supreme Court and said in a statement alluding to secession that “maybe the law-abiding states should bind and form a union of states that will respect the Constitution. “

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, called on the Texas GOP to withdraw its statement and fire Mr. West. “My guy Abraham Lincoln and the Union soldiers already told you no,” Kinzinger wrote. on Twitter.

Over the past few weeks, Mr Trump has drawn in his anger at Fox News, the often sympathetic cable network, for accepting the election results, and directed his supporters to Newsmax, which has seen an increase in viewership pro- Trump since polling day. Newsmax presenter Greg Kelly opened his 7 p.m. show on Friday reassuring audiences, “It’s not over.

When a guest, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, described Friday’s court order as a watershed moment for the president – saying there was now a “near zero” chance the Supreme Court could overturn the results election – Mr. Kelly objected.

“I saw strange things happen in a courtroom,” said Mr Kelly, before referring to one of Mr Dershowitz’s most famous legal cases: “I saw OJ Simpson walk ! “

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Texas Supreme Court denies GOP push to reject 127,000 votes

On Sunday, the Texas Supreme Court denied Republicans’ efforts to reject more than 120,000 votes already cast at stopping-off places in Harris County, leaving Republicans the only option remaining at the federal level.

The court decision came without comment.

The effort to get rid of votes from Harris County, which includes Houston and is largely Democratic, now hinges on a nearly identical effort at the federal level, where a judge called an election watch hearing on Monday.

The lawsuit argues that the 10 drive-thru voting sites in Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, operate illegally and are arranged in locations that favor Democrats.

The system was first implemented this year by Chris Hollins, the Harris County Clerk, with the unanimous approval of the County Commissioners, after being tested in a pilot program during the ‘summer.

More than 127,000 voters voted on the sites, and the number could rise to more than 135,000 until election day Tuesday, said Susan Hays, a Harris County lawyer. She said county officials plan to vigorously challenge the lawsuit, which she described as an act of “voter suppression.”

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“It’s crazy,” she said. “Votes should count.”

Democrats on Sunday were hoping the decision by the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court would bode well for their battle at the federal level.

The case will be heard Monday morning by Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, who was appointed by President George W. Bush.

In a motion Friday asking to intervene in the matter, Democrats said they threatened to “throw the Texas election into chaos by overturning the votes of more than 100,000 eligible Texas voters who voted” on the websites of delivery service. The motion was introduced by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the campaign of MJ Hegar, a Democratic candidate for the Texas Senate.

The plaintiffs, which include State Representative Steve Toth and Conservative activist Steve Hotze, argue that drive-by voting “is a violation of federal and state law and must be stopped.”

In a telephone interview on Saturday, Mr Toth said only the legislature has the power to set up a drive-thru voting system. He also said the layout of the sites was geared toward Democratic voters, noting that Mr. Hollins was vice president of finance for the Texas Democratic Party.

“If Hollins is really concerned that everyone is portrayed accurately, why are nine of the 10 settled in predominantly democratic areas?” said Toth, who represents part of neighboring Montgomery County.

He denied the trial was intended to dampen Democratic momentum amid record early voting rates in Houston and other heavily Democratic areas in the final days before the election.

“We are not the ones who deprive anyone of their voting rights,” he said. “Hollins did this.”

In one Twitter statement On Saturday, Hollins said drive-thru voting was “a safe, secure and convenient way to vote,” adding: “The Texas Election Code allows it, the Secretary of State has approved it and 127,000 voters in all walks of life have used it. “

He said his office was “determined to count every vote cast by voters registered in this election” and that voters would be notified if court proceedings required them to take further action.