SCOTUS Denies Delay for Execution of Brandon Bernard & Global News

by Debra Brown

Brandon Bernard
Each Wednesday, we recap the most important headlines from our global community to keep you up to speed on world news.


SCOTUS Denies Delay for Execution of Brandon Bernard

A wave of outrage from human rights groups, activists, elected officials, and others over the execution of federal prisoner Brandon Bernard continued to grow behind a coordinated call for the abolition of the death penalty.

For the first time in US history, the federal government has in one year executed more American civilians than all the states combined.

More than three dozen members of Congress are calling on Joe Biden’s incoming administration to prioritize abolishing the death penalty in all jurisdictions, according to a letter sent to the transition team for the President-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

While Biden has pledged to abolish the federal death penalty and to give incentives to states to stop seeking death sentences as a part of his criminal justice reform plan, 40 members of Congress and three congresspersons-elect want to make sure the practice ends on his first day in office.

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat, introduced legislation on July 25, 2019, the same day Attorney General William Barr announced federal executions, which had been stalled since 2003, would resume to rid the federal level of the practice and require resentencing for those currently on death row. The bill has not had any action in the House since August 2019.

Brandon Bernard, 40, was one of five gang members convicted in Texas of killing Stacie and Todd Bagley, who were youth ministers, in 1999. The gunman, Christopher Vialva, was executed in September, while the other co-defendants were given lesser sentences.

Brandon Bernard was the youngest person in the United States to receive a death sentence in nearly 70 years for a crime committed when he was an adolescent.

Brandon Bernard’s execution was scheduled this fall by the government. It was the ninth execution since Attorney General William Barr announced restarting federal executions after a 17-year hiatus.

Four of the five inmates set to die before Biden’s inauguration are Black men. The fifth is a white woman who would be the first female inmate executed by the federal government in nearly six decades.


Hungary Passes Anti-LGBTQ Law Barring Same-Sex Couples from Adopting

Hungary’s parliament has voted to redefine the concept of “family” in the country’s constitution, a move that will effectively bar same sex couples from adopting children. The move has been met with outcry from human rights groups and LGBTQ advocates.

The new law defines marriage as between a man and a woman and asserts that the “foundation of the family is marriage and the parent-child relationship. The mother is a woman, the father is a man.”

As a rule, only a married couple in Hungary can adopt, with some exceptions made for single people, which would have previously been the pathway for a same sex couple.

The decision comes just months after a major EU survey found that six in ten LGBTI people in Europe avoid holding hands in public for fear of discrimination, and that 43% had been discriminated against in the past year.


Facebook Lifts Ban on Political Ads for Georgia Runoff Elections

Facebook said that it would allow some advertisers to run political issues and candidacy ads in Georgia, a change from its recent ban on political ads in the United States and just weeks before a major runoff election in the state could decide the future of the Senate. The move follows months of contentiousness around political advertising on Facebook, which critics have said helps misinformation spread.

Facebook said it would allow authorized advertisers to buy and run political ads targeted to people within Georgia. Only those previously authorized to run such ads on the platform will be permitted, a process that involves identity verification and other safety measures. Facebook’s ban on political ads will otherwise remain in effect for the remaining 49 states. 

Georgia is the home to two consequential Senate runoff elections. Two Democratic candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, are fighting two Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The results will determine which party will control the Senate when President-elect Joseph R. Biden takes office next year.


Calls Grow to Close Fort Hood After Probe into Murders & Sexual Assaults 

The U.S. Army has fired or suspended 14 officers and soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, following an investigation into sexual assaults and murders at the base, including the bludgeoning to death of 20-year-old soldier Vanessa Guillén, whose remains were found in July.

“The military is dealing with large-scale corruption and crime, and it should be treated as such,” says Pam Campos-Palma, an Air Force veteran who leads the Vets for the People project at the Working Families Party.

Based on the findings outlined in the independent review, the panel issued 70 recommendations to change the culture at Fort Hood.


Covid-19 Updates from Around the World: Vaccination Rollout

While many poor nations may be able to vaccinate at most 20 percent of their populations in 2021, some of the world’s richest countries have reserved enough doses to immunize their own multiple times over.

The European Union could inoculate its residents twice, Britain and the United States could do so four times over, and Canada six times over, according to a New York Times analysis of data on vaccine contracts collected by Duke University, Unicef and Airfinity, a science analytics company.

Because of manufacturing limits, it could take until 2024 for many low-income countries to obtain enough vaccines to fully immunize their populations. Some lower-income countries have secured a substantial number of doses that could come on the market next year by leveraging their own drug-manufacturing strengths.

Billionaire Carlos Slim has helped fund a deal for 150 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Latin America, drawing on manufacturing capacities in Argentina and his native Mexico.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is well suited to poorer countries because it is inexpensive and easy to store. 

Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine is being tested as a single dose, making it another contender in the developing world, has pledged up to 500 million shots to low-income countries, without specifying which nations would get them.

China, which has the third-biggest vaccine manufacturing capacity in the world, has indicated that it intends to make its vaccines available to developing countries. 

To address vaccine inequity, the World Health Organization and two nonprofits launched an effort to secure a billion doses for 92 poor countries. A billion more would go to dozens of middle- and high-income nations.

Rich countries, which may well end up with more doses than they need, are also being asked to donate vaccines. Canada has already begun discussions about how it might do that. Even if rich countries donate their excess vaccines, the rest of the world will not have all the doses it needs by the end of next year.

If it turns out this is a vaccine that is required every year, like the flu shot, that will change the projections entirely, said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.


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