Thursday, May 23, 2024

HHS Proposes Formal Debarment Of EcoHealth Alliance

Written by John Leake

To my pleasant surprise, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) actually accepted the House Select Subcommittee’s recommendation to formally debar EcoHealth Alliance, Inc

As stated in the official press release:

“HHS will immediately commence official debarment proceedings and implement a government-wide suspension of U.S. taxpayer funds to EcoHealth — including a hold on all active grants.”

It seems to me that this marks a major shift in U.S. federal agency policy with respect to EcoHealth Alliance.

The decision also opens up a fraught can of worms for the HHS and the NIH (a division of HHS).

Brad Wenstrup and his Congressional Committee have acknowledged and articulated the evidence that EcoHealth and its collaborators in the US and China are responsible for creating the Covid virus.

HHS’s acknowledgement that this evidence is sufficient to warrant debarring EcoHealth Alliance implies that the U.S. government is now formally recognizing the true, manmade cause of the COVID-19 Pandemic instead of trying to sweep it under the rug.


Australia: More Than 3,600 Children ‘Targeted’ With COVID-19 Fines in NSW

Legal advocacy groups are calling for reform of the New South Wales (NSW) fines system after 3,628 children received COVID-19 fines during the pandemic in the Australian state.

A 2024 report looking into children and COVID-19 fines in NSW found that the “penalty notice regime” implemented in NSW was “unsuitable” for achieving public health outcomes for children.

However, NSW Police have defended their response amid the rapidly evolving public health orders at the time, which required compliance and enforcement to limit movement regardless of people’s age.

The report, authored by academics at the University of NSW, University of Wollongong, and University of Technology Sydney, noted more than half of the fines issued to children were fixed at $1,000 (US$665).

The Redfern Legal Centre, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, and Aboriginal Legal Service commissioned the research, which considered statistical data and interview responses from lawyers and youth workers.

Meanwhile, some of the fines were as high as $5,000, despite the authors noting the maximum fine a child can get when found guilty of an offence in the NSW Children’s Court is $1,100.

“Children were liable to the same penalty notice fine as adults for almost all PHO offences, with the exception of two general age-based offences that concerned the failure to wear a face covering,” the report said.

The report noted the public health orders were changed and repealed frantically during the pandemic, with 266 public health orders put out between March 15, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2022.

In addition, a new public health order was brought in or modified every one and a half days during the Delta wave of COVID-19.

“The frequent changes made it especially hard for children to understand the rules, and contributed to errors in police decisions that a person had breached a PHO,” the report said.

One interviewee who spoke to the report authors said there were kids working off COVID fines who “probably shouldn’t have been issued with one in the first place.”

Analysis by the authors found that children in socioeconomically disadvantaged suburbs were “over policed” during the pandemic.

Authors said more than half of the top 30 suburbs where children received the largest number of penalty notices between March 2020 and June 2022 were in the bottom 25 percent of the social economic index.

Discussing the findings, Redfern Legal Centre chief executive officer Camilla Pandolfini said children cannot pay heavy fines and the deterrent effect is low.

“Fines are oppressive, discriminatory, and ineffective when used against children. We call for changes to policy, practice, and procedure to ensure that fines do not compound existing disadvantage and criminalise children,” she said.

Police Note Serious Nature of COVID-19 Led to Rapid Orders

A spokesperson for NSW Police explained public health order compliance was required for the safety of the community. Police could respond to breaches of the orders no matter what the age.

“The virulent nature and serious illness from the Delta variant of COVID-19 resulted in rapidly evolving Public Health Orders, including Local Government Areas of Concern being nominated by NSW Health,” the spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

“A compliance and enforcement response was required to limit movement and ensure compliance with Public Health Orders in these areas to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and protect the community.

“Outside of these identified areas of concern, police still had the ability to respond to breaches of relevant Public Health Orders by issuing infringement notices—regardless of the age of the person involved.”

Meanwhile, report author Julia Quilter called for police to “stop issuing fines to kids” and engage in diversionary and creative problem-solving policing.

“Policing kids by issuing heavy fines during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, in extreme form, the problems with our fines system more generally. Kids have no or little capacity to pay fines and saddling them with crippling debts only sets them up for future failure,” she said.

“This is especially troubling given that fines are disproportionately issued by police to vulnerable kids already experiencing socio-economic and other forms of disadvantage.”

The CEO of Aboriginal Legal Service Karly Warner called for a reform of the “archaic” and “unjust” fines system.

“Aboriginal communities set the gold standard for caring for one another during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet our children paid a higher price because of the government’s punitive approach to enforcing public health orders,” she stated.

Public Interest Advocacy Centre CEO Jonathon Hunyor added, “Creating massive debts for children and families simply amplifies disadvantage and builds distrust in the system.”
Police Faced Challenges During the COVID-19 Response: Inquiry

Meanwhile, the Police Federation of Australia (PFA), which represents 65,000 police officers, including more than 17,000 in NSW, have raised a number of issues in response to the federal government’s COVID-19 Response Inquiry.

In its submission (pdf), PFA noted access to appropriate personal protective equipment for a police “became an issue of concern” during COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns.
“Whilst it is accepted that in normal circumstances it would be the responsibility of the employer, in our case, the respective police forces, to provide such equipment, no provision appears to have been made for a national response to such a crisis,” the association noted.

In addition, the submission noted the pandemic impacted police resources and community attitudes towards police in a range of high profile incidents.

Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) noted extra law enforcement duties during COVID-19 took its toll on frontline police (pdf).

“The burden of the extra workload over the COVID-19 period was felt by the AFP, in particular the frontline officers, who were required to enforce mandated COVID-19 restrictions,” the AFP said.

“On an individual level, policing during the pandemic increased the risk of members contracting the COVID-19 virus through interactions with the public, as well as spreading the virus to family and friends.”




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