Nation and world news briefs

Tribune Content Agency

TSA didn’t do enough to protect passengers, staff from coronavirus, whistleblower says

WASHINGTON — A whistleblower says the Transportation Security Administration is not doing enough to protect agents and passengers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates whistleblower complaints, asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the TSA on Thursday, according to a letter the whistleblower’s attorney provided to McClatchy news.

The whistleblower, Jay Brainard, is in charge of transportation security for Kansas. In his complaint, he said the new COVID-19 procedures “do not provide TSA Federal Security Directors with uniform national guidance, training or procedures on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to adequately address the public health dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We did not take adequate steps to make sure that we were not becoming carriers and spreaders of the virus ourselves,” Brainard said in an interview with NPR. “I believe absolutely that that contributed to the spread of the coronavirus.”

More than 700 TSA employees have contracted COVID-19 and five have died since the start of the pandemic, according to the agency. One screening contractor also died of the virus, the agency said.

In a response to The Post, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said, “All guidance from TSA has been in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

—McClatchy Washington Bureau


Ex-Baltimore mayor pleads guilty to perjury in ‘Healthy Holly’ book scandal

BALTIMORE — An Anne Arundel County judge on Friday sentenced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to six months in prison for deliberately lying on financial disclosures forms to hide her lucrative “Healthy Holly” children’s book business.

Under terms of Pugh’s plea deal her time will be served concurrent with a separate, pending three-year prison sentence, which is set to begin next week. During Friday’s hearing in Annapolis, Pugh, 70, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of perjury, admitting she withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars from the disclosure forms she filed during her years as a state senator.

The perjury charge carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but Pugh’s attorneys and state prosecutors recommended the six-month sentence accepted by the judge. She was charged with perjury in Anne Arundel Circuit Court because her crime traces to the financial disclosures from her time serving as a state senator in Annapolis.

Pugh answered a series of questions designed to make sure she was freely pleading guilty but chose not to speak. As he sentenced Pugh, the judge said he was “truly saddened” when he learned of Pugh’s federal charges and the scheme outlined in a federal grand jury indictment.

Assistant State Attorney Charlton Howard introduced bank records from Pugh’s Healthy Holly LLC showing she was the sole owner of the company and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in her financial disclosure forms for the senate Pugh “failed to disclose the interest she had in Healthy Holly LLC,” Howard said.

Pugh pleaded guilty in November 2019 to federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, and two counts of tax evasion. U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow sentenced her to three years in federal prison. The judge also ordered Pugh to pay more than $400,000 in restitution and forfeit nearly $700,000.

—The Baltimore Sun


University of California campuses plan to offer most classes online this fall

SAN JOSE, Calif. — All but two of University of California’s nine undergraduate campuses have now formally announced plans to offer many classes — if not all — this fall, as the four-year university system moves forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, three UC campuses — Berkeley, Riverside and Santa Cruz — became the latest to disclose detailed plans for the fall, joining Davis, Irvine, Merced and Los Angeles. In general, the campuses will deliver the vast majority of classes virtually, except for classes such as science labs and small discussion seminars that are difficult to provide remotely.

At the same, those seven universities have also said they will allow some students to return to campus this fall and stay in dorms, with variations from campus to campus in how they envision doing that.

UC San Diego has yet to formally announce its plans for the fall, but Chancellor Pradeep Khosla wrote in an op-ed Wednesday in the San Diego Union-Tribune that the university will “offer a mix of remote and in-person instruction.”

UC Santa Barbara is the only undergraduate UC campus that has yet to say anything publicly about how classes will operate in the fall. A spokesperson for that university did not return a request Wednesday seeking details about the university’s plans for fall instruction.

Classes across the UC system first transitioned to being delivered virtually in March, as the coronavirus began to spread rapidly across the state.

—The Mercury News


Census Bureau still behind in counting rural areas

WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau has restarted efforts to count people in rural areas of the country amid renewed fears that they may not get everyone.

The agency initially planned to drop off census questionnaires at the door of every rural household without traditional mail service. But it pulled back nearly all active counting operations in March to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

That worries people in states where efforts to count everyone could fall short. In Montana, for example, that may mean losing out on a second congressional seat. Again.

“There is a serious concern that that will hurt us, knowing that we were only expected to receive that seat by about 4,000 to 5,000 people,” said Dan Stusek, a Republican member of the state’s redistricting commission.

Montana lost a congressional seat in 1990, but projections from Election Data Services estimate that the state may regain the seat following this year’s census.

That puts high stakes on the counting efforts of rural households in Montana and other states across the country, as well as Native American reservations and places struck by natural disasters, such as Puerto Rico. Seventeen states are slated to gain or lose a congressional seat after this year’s count, according to an EDS analysis, with margins as slim as 3,000 people.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.