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By Robert A. Vella

In the news today, we’ll examine the depths to which President Trump is pursuing retribution against his perceived enemies just as all dictators have done throughout human history, two white supremacists who pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism related charges, health concerns regarding the coronavirus outbreak in China and brain injuries suffered by U.S. troops in Iraq, and two political “earthquakes” in Ireland and El Salvador which further threaten democracy as fervent nationalism and authoritarianism continue rising around the world.

Trump’s retribution

From:  EXCLUSIVE-Justice Department anti-human trafficking grants prompt whistleblower complaint

WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) – A U.S. Justice Department anti-human trafficking grant program is facing internal complaints, after two nonprofits were denied funding in favor of two less established groups whose applications were not recommended by career DOJ officials.

The awarding of more than $1 million total to the two groups, Hookers for Jesus in Nevada and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation in South Carolina, has triggered a whistleblower complaint filed by the Justice Department’s employee union to the department’s Inspector General.

An internal department memo seen by Reuters shows that as of September 12, two long-established nonprofits – the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix – were originally on the list of recommended grant winners after receiving high marks from outside contractors hired to review applications. The annual grants help nonprofits and local governments aid human trafficking victims.

[…]

Chicanos Por La Causa has opposed the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The head of Catholic Charities in Palm Beach has participated in past Democratic National Committees [emphasis by The Secular Jurist] as a delegate or standing committee member. Both groups said they filed strong applications and intended to continue competing for grants.

Each, Reuters found, was ranked as a Tier 1 applicant, the highest level, after scrutiny by outside reviewers. Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation were ranked in Tier 2, one level lower. To help select grant recipients, the Justice Department contracts with outside experts called “peer reviewers” who evaluate and score applicants. The reviewers’ identities were not listed next to their comments, so Reuters couldn’t contact them.

Racists plead guilty

From:  Louisiana man pleads guilty to setting fire to three black churches

The son of a Louisiana deputy pleaded guilty on Monday to setting fire to three black churches, according to federal prosecutors.

Holden Matthews, 22, admitted in court to setting fire to the Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish, the heart of south central Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole country, during a span of 10 days in March and April, 2019, the US Department of Justice said.

Matthews pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act — one count for each church– and guilty to one count of using fire to commit a federal felony, the DOJ said.

From:  White supremacist pleads guilty in Las Vegas bomb plot case

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A self-described white supremacist pleaded guilty Monday in Las Vegas to collecting materials and planning to bomb a synagogue or office of the Anti-Defamation League, or shoot people at a fast food restaurant or a bar catering to LGBTQ customers.

Conor Climo, 24, stood rigidly in yellow jail scrubs, answering, “Yes, your honor,” while U.S. District Judge James Mahan questioned him about encrypted internet chats with an FBI informant and his membership in Feuerkrieg Division, an offshoot of a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division.

Global health concerns

From:  13th American diagnosed with coronavirus as death toll tops 1,000 in China

A 13th American was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus on Monday as the death toll in China topped an ominous 1,000 with health officials struggling to contain the epidemic.

The Chinese National Health Commission said on Tuesday that 1,016 people have died from the disease in China, with the death toll crossing 100 in a day for the first time. There were 108 deaths on Monday, including 103 in Hubei province, where the newly identified virus first emerged. A total of 42,638 people have been infected in China, according to the National Health Commission, while another 319 have been infected outside of China, including 12 new cases in the past day, according to the World Health Organization.

From:  More than 100 U.S. troops diagnosed with brain injuries from Iran attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military on Monday disclosed a more than 50% jump in cases of traumatic brain injury stemming from Iran’s missile attack on a base in Iraq last month, with the number of service members diagnosed climbing to over 100.

No U.S. troops were killed or faced immediate bodily injury when Iran fired missiles at the Ain al-Asad base in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike at the Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.

More political earthquakes

From:  ‘Political earthquake’ in Ireland as nationalists win historic result

The left-wing nationalist party Sinn Féin surged to a historic result in the Irish general election over the weekend, upending the country’s two-party system as the wave of anti-establishment populism that has shaken up democracies around the world appeared to reach Ireland.

Sinn Féin, long associated with the nationalist terrorist group the Irish Republican Army or IRA, won the largest share of the popular vote in Saturday’s election, coming ahead of Ireland’s two major centrist parties that have traditionally divided power between them for a century.

With over 96% of ballots counted on Monday, Sinn Féin had 24.53% of the first preference votes, Fianna Fáil had 22.18% and Fine Gael had 20.86%.

From:  El Salvador president’s power play stokes democracy concerns

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – President Nayib Bukele’s use of armed soldiers in El Salvador’s parliament over the weekend has alarmed political foes and rights groups, with growing fears about democratic backsliding in the crime-ravaged Central American nation.

Bukele, 38, on Sunday showed up in the National Assembly with a group of uniformed soldiers wielding automatic weapons for a special session he convened, amid attempts to pressure parliamentarians to pass his crime-fighting plan. He also warned lawmakers that the people have a right to “insurrection.”

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