The claim: President Joe Biden ordered dishonorable discharges for 46% of troops refusing the COVID-19 vaccine
A widespread claim on social media suggests U.S. service members who refuse to comply with the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate may soon face reprimand courtesy of President Joe Biden.
“Biden Orders Dishonorable Discharge for 46% of Troops Who Refuse Vaccine,” reads text in a Sept. 29 Instagram post. Another version of the post received more than 5,000 likes in five days before it was deleted.
It’s a screenshot of a now-deleted Sept. 23 article from blogger Sandra Rose.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in an Aug. 24 memo that COVID-19 vaccinations would be mandatory for service members, writing that the country needs a “healthy and ready force.” Four senators responded by introducing a bill that would prohibit the Department of Defense from dishonorably discharging service members who refuse vaccination.
The White House said in a statement that it “strongly opposes” the bill. But it did not threaten dishonorable discharges for service members who haven’t received the shot, as other independent fact-checking organizations have reported.
“The president has absolutely no authority to order a service member dishonorably discharged,” Richard Rosen, director of the Center for Military Law and Policy at Texas Tech University, told USA TODAY in an email.
Rose told USA TODAY she is “not a trained journalist” and that readers view her blog for “entertainment and gossip,” not news. She declined to comment further.
USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram user who shared the claim for comment.
Biden can’t order dishonorable discharges, experts say
The Biden administration hasn’t proposed dishonorably discharging service members who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But even if it did, experts say the president doesn’t have that authority.
Rosen said only a general court-martial, the military’s highest level trial court, can sentence service members to dishonorable discharge. If a service member is found guilty in a trial, the court-martial is still not obligated to dishonorably discharge them.
Dwight Stirling, CEO of the Center for Law and Military Policy think tank, said in an email that a service member’s refusal to get vaccinated would likely result in “adverse administrative action.” That could include: a written reprimand, a derogatory comment in a performance evaluation, a demotion or – “in the most extreme instances” – an involuntary discharge.
There are five types of discharge a service member can receive upon separation from the military, Stirling said: honorable, general, other-than-honorable, bad conduct and dishonorable. The last two can only be issued via conviction by a court-martial.
Stirling said while it’s not impossible for a service member to face a court-martial for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s unlikely.
“In the unlikely event that a service member is involuntarily discharged via administrative action for refusal to take the vaccine, he would most (likely) receive one of the first three types of discharge, most likely an other-than-honorable,” Stirling said. “An other-than-honorable discharge, while not something any service member wants as it is analogous to being fired, is a far cry from a dishonorable discharge, which is analogous to a felony conviction.”
Lindsay Cohn, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, agreed it is unlikely troops would be court-martialed for refusing the vaccine, unless there were “exacerbating circumstances” – like a service member trying to convince others to disobey.
“The military tends to prefer to resolve issues at the lowest effective level, and will elevate to court-martial only if they have no other choice,” Cohn said in an email. “Could the president order them to court-martial everyone who refused the vaccine? Yes, but there is no good reason to do so.”
A Pentagon spokesperson told USA TODAY in an emailed statement that the claim in the social media posts is false. USA TODAY reached out to the White House for comment.
Service members still have time to get vaccinated
Despite the Defense Department’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, service members still have at least a few weeks to receive their first shot.
In mid-September, the Army released a service-wide directive on vaccine requirements. Active-duty troops have until Dec. 15 to get the shot, while soldiers in the Army National Guard and Reserve have until June 30, 2022.
Meanwhile, Military.com reported Air Force service members must be vaccinated by Nov. 2, while Air National Guard members must be vaccinated by Dec. 2. Marines and sailors have until Nov. 28, while reserve component service members have until Dec. 28 to get the shots.
Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Wood told USA TODAY that, as of Oct. 2, there had been no Marines court-martialed for failing to get fully vaccinated.
“Marines who refuse the vaccine today may choose to be vaccinated tomorrow,” he said in an email. “Every effort is made to provide service members with accurate information regarding the vaccine and Marines are encouraged to discuss any hesitancy they may have with qualified medical providers.”
Service members can seek exemptions for a number of reasons, including religious objections and health issues. Those exemptions can be temporary or permanent, the Associated Press reported.
Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll, chief of media relations for the Coast Guard, said the Coast Guard was not directed to dishonorably discharge members who refuse to take the vaccine. However, it is considering “a number of administrative and disciplinary options” for those who refuse the shot.
About 22% of service members unvaccinated
Rose’s blog post claims “46% of troops” – or about 600,000 active-duty service members – have declined to get the the COVID-19 vaccine. But those numbers aren’t quite right.
According to June data from the Defense Department, there are about 2.15 million members of the U.S. military. That includes 1.38 million active-duty service members and 770,000 in the National Guard and reserves.
The Pentagon’s COVID-19 data shows about 1.3 million service members were fully vaccinated as of Sept. 30, with an additional 380,197 who had received one shot. That means about 60% of troops were fully vaccinated and about 78% were at least half vaccinated.
About 22% of service members have not been vaccinated at all – not 46%, as the post claims.
Lt. Cdr. Patricia Kreuzberger of the Navy said that, as of Oct. 6, 84% of Navy service members were fully immunized and 94% had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The Army declined to comment for this fact check. USA TODAY reached out to the two other military branches for comment.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Biden ordered dishonorable discharges for troops refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. The Biden administration did not order the Pentagon to dishonorably discharge unvaccinated troops, and the president doesn’t have the authority to do so.
Fewer than 46% of U.S. troops are unvaccinated. Service members have at least a few weeks to get their shots, and if they don’t, experts say involuntary discharges are unlikely.
Our fact-check sources:
Department of Defense, Aug. 24, MEMORANDUM FOR SENIOR PENTAGON LEADERSHIP COMMANDERS OF THE CO MBA TANT COMMANDS DEFENSE AGENCY AND DOD FIELD ACTIVITY DIRECTORS
U.S. Senator for Texas Ted Cruz, Sept. 21, Sens. Cruz, Marshall, Lankford, Tuberville Introduce Legislation to Prohibit the Military from Dishonorably Discharging Unvaccinated Service Members
Richard Rosen, Oct. 2, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Department of Defense, retrieved Oct. 2, MILITARY JUSTICE OVERVIEW
Dwight Stirling, Oct. 2, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Lindsay Cohn, Oct. 2, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Department of Defense, retrieved Oct. 2, DoD Personnel, Workforce Reports & Publications
Department of Defense, retrieved Oct. 2, Coronavirus: DOD Response
Military.com, Sept. 15, What Happens to Soldiers Who Refuse the COVID Vaccine?
Associated Press, Aug. 9, COVID vaccines to be required for military under new US plan
Pentagon, Oct. 2, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Capt. Andrew Wood, Oct. 2, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll, Oct. 4, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Lt. Cdr. Patricia Kreuzberger, Oct. 5, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Sandra Rose, Oct. 2, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Biden didn’t dishonorably discharge unvaccinated troops
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Russian Troops Dead After Getting ‘Treated’ to Poisoned Meals, Ukraine Officials Say
In a show of hospitality, Ukrainian citizens in the besieged region of Kharkiv have reportedly been “treating” Russian troops local delicacies—laced with poison.
At least two troops from the 3rd Motor Rifle Division of the Russian Federation died immediately after eating stuffed buns served by the residents of Izium, a town about 80 miles southeast of Kharkiv, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine wrote Saturday in an announcement posted to Facebook.
Another 28 Russians are being treated in intensive care from eating the contaminated treats. The condition of these poisoned invaders has yet to be confirmed.
According to the Intelligence Directorate, several hundred Russian soldiers have also suffered severe illnesses from drinking poisoned alcohol while occupying the region. Ukrainian officials said that the Russian military is “writing off these cases as so-called ‘non-combat losses.’”
Though Russian troops have reportedly retreated from the capital of Kyiv. The New York Times reports that insurgent forces are still fighting to gain control of Izium, despite the locals’ culinary efforts. Control of the eastern town would allow Russians to strategically secure access to the occupied Donbas region.
Massive ship called Ever Forward is stuck in Chesapeake Bay
Despite two failed attempts to free it this week, a sister container ship to the Ever Given that got stuck in the Suez Canal last year has been lodged in the Chesapeake Bay for 21 days — and now cargo holders have to pay to help free it.
Why it matters: The Ever Forward (yes, bask in the irony) is the largest ship to get stuck in the Chesapeake Bay and it’s carrying 5,000 containers of … stuff.
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What’s happening: The ship’s owner — Evergreen Marine Corp. — has invoked a maritime law dubbed “General Average,” under which people whose belongings are on a ship must share in the cost of freeing it.
Zoom in: It’s unclear what’s in the thousands of containers aboard the Ever Forward, but at least one cargo holder — a Bloomberg journalist who recently moved from Hong Kong to New York — has been sharing her experience waiting on her furniture.
“The entire contents of our apartment, all of our furniture, lots of books, things of sentimental value are all in a container stuck in the Chesapeake Bay,” Tracy Alloway told NBC Washington.
The U.S. Coast Guard, which is handling Ever Forward’s PR, per the Port of Baltimore, told Axios that “general cargo” is on the ship and referred further questions to Evergreen.
Zoom out: The Ever Forward has been idling near Baltimore, en route to Norfolk, since a wrong turn leaving Baltimore on March 13 ran the boat aground in shallow water (24 feet of water — when it needs 42 to float, per NBC Washington.)
The Ever Forward has been stuck thrice as long as its sister ship sat marooned between the Mediterranean and Red seas last year.
Tuesday and Wednesday were the first attempts to refloat the boat using tug boats.
A third attempt will be coming soon, “using two anchored pulling barges from the stern and five tugs,” Doyle wrote on Twitter.
The big picture: You can stay informed on the progress via istheshipstillstuck.com, a website that went viral last year during the Suez fiasco.
The boat has become a tourist attraction and Downs Park (there’s a $6 entry fee) in Pasadena, Maryland is apparently the best place to see it.
By the numbers: Comparing giant, stuck container ships.
The Ever Forward — currently lodged in Baltimore en route to Norfolk for 21 days and counting — 1,095 feet long, 117,340 gross tons. Ran aground due to a wrong turn in the Bay.
The Ever Given — stuck in the Suez Canal for 6 days – 1,312 feet long, weighing in at 224,000 gross tons. Ran aground due to a large wind gust.
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California has $600M in unclaimed can, bottle deposits
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is sitting on a $600 million pile of unclaimed nickel and dime deposits on recyclable cans and bottles and now wants to give some of that back to consumers.
To get the state’s nearly 40 million residents to recycle more and send more deposits back to them, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration unveiled a plan Friday to temporarily double to a dime the refund for a 12-ounce (355 milliliters) bottle or can. California already pays 10 cents on containers over 24 ounces (709 milliliters), and that would temporarily double to 20 cents.
The move would make California among the highest-paying recycling programs in the country. Rachel Machi Wagoner, director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, said the effort would help California again become the recycling leader it was 35 years ago when it started its cash refund program.
When someone in California purchases a regular-sized soda, a 5-cent charge is applied that can be recouped if the container is brought back for recycling. Under Newsom’s plan, the deposit charge would remain the same but the return amount would double. The goal is to raise the recycling rate for beverage containers from 70% to at least 80%.
Oregon and Michigan already offer 10-cent refunds and advocacy groups say that amount for each glass or plastic bottle or aluminum can has been enough for consumers to recycle at least nine of every 10 containers.
The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog’s President Jamie Court, a frequent critic of the recycling program, called the plan “a very positive step” and “a bold proposal to give people their money back.”
“That money isn’t doing anybody any good sitting in the bank,” Court said. “We need a complete structural fix, but this is a good interim step.”
California’s proposal feeds the latest national effort to boost recycling as beverage distributors face increased pressure to include higher percentages of recycled material in their containers, National Stewardship Action Council executive director Heidi Sanborn said.
Just 10 of the 50 states have deposit programs now, but many are considering them — potentially creating a confusing patchwork and beverage labels crowded with different states’ deposit amounts, something she said distributors want to avoid.
California’s doubling of refunds would be temporary — a duration for the change has yet to be decided — and is expected to cost $100 million. If approved by the Legislature the refund increase would take effect sometime during the next fiscal year that starts July 1.
It’s uncertain if any boost in recycling would last once the higher price ends, Sanborn acknowledged, but she hopes instead California will decide to make the increase permanent. She’s also hopeful pressure from states will spur attempts by U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon to craft a national bottle bill.
Newsom’s plan also attempts to ease a bottleneck that began years ago as more neighborhood recycling centers closed and Consumer Watchdog said many grocery stores also were refusing to take back empties in-store as required.
To increase access, Newsom’s administration proposes spending $100 million on grants to add about 2,000 automated recycling machines, also known as reverse vending machines, at high schools, colleges and retailers. Consumers dump their empty containers into the machines, which issue a refund.
Another $55 million would go for state-funded mobile recycling programs in rural areas and other places with few recycling options.
Consumers are very upset that “they are unable to return their bottles and cans and get their money back as promised,” said Sanborn, who also heads California’s Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets & Curbside Recycling.
Sanborn blamed the closure of many California recycling centers on the state’s failure to quickly adjust its complicated payment formula to meet changing market conditions.
Many of California’s recyclables go to China, which toughened standards in 2017 on accepting contaminated material, including plastics. The move “totally slammed the recycling industry” nationwide, said Kate O’Neill, a University of California, Berkeley, environmental science professor and author of the 2019 book “Waste.”
The U.S. market is recovering now with the addition of domestic recycling facilities, but there still is a problem matching supply to demand, O’Neill said.
Recycling officials had expected beverage consumption to drop during the pandemic, as it does during most economic downturns, Wagoner said. Instead, container sales in California increased by 2.5 billion over three years, to 27 billion last fiscal year, meaning a record number of deposits flowing into the state’s recycling fund.
The number of refundable containers recycled in California meanwhile hit a record high of more than 18.8 billion in 2021 — but that still left plenty of money on the table.
Repeated attempts to improve the state’s recycling system have struggled in the Legislature, even as California tries to boost its recycling rates, minimize food waste, and work toward a circular-use economy.
Wagoner said Friday’s proposal is an interim step while the administration continues talks with lawmakers over permanent fixes.
Democratic state Sen. Bob Wieckowski said he tried a bill last year with proposals similar to what the administration is now suggesting, “and they didn’t want to hear about it.” He anticipates people now hoarding their recyclables until the double redemption period, then facing long lines once it begins.
His proposal this year would put more responsibility on producers to recycle their containers.
“It has a little gimmicky nature to it,” Wieckowski said of the state’s plan. “We have 45 Band-Aids on this program, and sometime you have to get out of the Band-Aid business.”
Fort Lauderdale police arrest Black hotel clerk who called for help
New body camera video released by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department shows officers pushing a Black hotel employee before arresting him. The employee, Raymond Rachal, was the person to call the police after an incident in the lobby where Rachal claims a man was yelling racial slurs at him.
Police investigating ‘appalling’ incident recorded inside a Wilmington High School bathroom
Police and school officials in Wilmington are investigating a “serious and disturbing physical altercation” inside a boys’ bathroom this week that left the superintendent of schools “appalled,” not only because of the incident, but because some students recorded video and posted it online.
The video is difficult to watch.
In a letter to the school community dated March 30th, Superintendent Glenn Brand said the incident happened on Tuesday and investigators are working to identify the students involved.
The recording sent to Boston 25 indicates a student was picked up inside the bathroom and had his head forced into a toilet inside a stall in the bathroom. The video below has been blurred due to the ages of those involved.
“I am truly appalled by the actions of these students which are unacceptable and do not represent the core values of this educational community,” said Supt. Brand. ”It is my expectation that each and every one of our students has the right to attend a school that is safe and supportive. While I recognize that the vast number of our students consistently make appropriate choices to support such an environment, we will have zero tolerance for those that do not.”
“The Wilmington Public School prioritizes, above all else, the safety, well-being and respect of all of our students and staff,” said Supt. Brand.
“It is therefore with tremendous disappointment that I write to inform you of a serious and disturbing physical altercation that occurred in one of the boys’ bathrooms (Tuesday),” said Brand. “Not only is the incident itself concerning, but also that some of our students recorded the altercation and posted this online.”
“All students who are found culpable will be held fully accountable and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken as well as the removal of appropriate privileges that are afforded to those students,” said Supt. Brand. “I assure you that we will pursue relevant legal actions should such be deemed warranted following the investigation.”
The superintendent also alluded to other recent trouble at the school.
“This incident comes in the wake of a number of other concerns recently involving troubling student behavior. Everyone has an obligation to help foster the type of school environments that our students deserve, including our staff, families and most importantly, our students themselves,” said Brand.
A statement posted to the school’s website on Friday by the Wilmington High School Student Class Officers, called the incident “horrific.”
“If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a million, yet many of us were left speechless by the thoughtless actions of others that transpired earlier this week in one of our school bathrooms,” according to the statement. “These horrific actions perpetrated by an embarrassing group of individuals do not represent who we are as a student body. We are honor roll students, college bound-career focused seniors, varsity athletes, robotic champions and so much more. Our image should not be clouded by these individuals.”
Boston 25 spoke with Wilmington Police Chief Joe Desmond about the incident.
“Obviously there were a lot of kids in the bathroom and this young man was taken and physically dragged into the bathroom,” said Desmond.
The chief says the students pick the student up and lower him head down into the toilet. “It clearly looks like an assault as far as where I come from,” said Desmond.
Police are also looking to see if this incident rises to the level of a hate crime or civil rights violation. Chief Desmond says they have at least three recordings and they are working with the school to identify everyone involved.
“Kids should be able to go to school and feel safe and feel supported and not worried about being picked on or God forbid this incident is horrible. That poor kid” it’s terrible,” said concerned parent Roberta Biscan.
The school superintendent is scheduling bystander training that will be mandatory for all students. According to police, the case is moving quickly and charges are likely to be filed.
Watch for updates on Boston 25.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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Why this huge catfish was released by a fisherman who didn’t even bother to weigh it
Ivan Garren from Cleveland, Tennessee caught a huge catfish Thursday while fishing in Wolftever Creek.
Garren, who used skipjack as bait, was fishing in a depth of about six feet when he hooked the monster.
He did not weigh or measure the fish but estimated it was about 38 pounds. He wanted to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible after taking a couple of pictures.
“I release all big fish for other people to enjoy,” Garren said.
As big as the fish was, Garren said he has caught bigger.
Wolftever Creek is located in Hamilton County near Middle Valley, Tennessee. It is known for having a large population of catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass and crappie.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee fisherman releases huge catfish without weighing
The Judds reunite for CMT Music Awards performance
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Judds, one of the most successful duos in country music in the 1980s, are reuniting to perform on the CMT Music Awards, their first major awards show performance together in more than two decades.
The mother-and-daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna will perform their hit “Love Will Build a Bridge” on the awards show on April 11, airing on CBS and Paramount+, during an outdoor shoot in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
“It feels both surreal and what a thrill it is. What a thrill to finally get her back on the stage because she’s been waiting for 20-plus years,” Wynonna told the AP of her mother, Naomi. “As a daughter and as an artist, it’s a win-win.”
Originally from Kentucky, Naomi was working as a nurse in the Nashville area when she and Wynonna started singing together professionally. Their unique harmonies, together with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out in the genre at the time.
The Judds won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music and had more than a dozen No. 1 hits, including “Mama, He’s Crazy” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ’bout the Good Old Days).”
In 1990, Naomi Judd announced her retirement from performing due to chronic hepatitis. Wynonna has continued her solo career and they have occasionally reunited for special performances.
“To have all the incredible opportunities that I have had, being reminded of all that, just makes me very humbled and I just want to bask in the moment,” Naomi Judd told the AP.
This is also their first ever performance together at the CMT Music Awards. Country star Kacey Musgraves will introduce the pair prior to the performance.
“Music is the bridge between mom and me, and it it bonds us together. Even in the not easy times,” said Wynonna Judd. “We show up and we sing because that’s what love is about, right? So what a beautiful celebration.”
Hosted by country singer Kelsea Ballerini and actor Anthony Mackie, the fan-voted awards show will also feature performances by Ballerini, Kane Brown, Miranda Lambert, Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Cody Johnson, Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Carly Pearce and more.
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