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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO — A bipartisan group of 21 members of Congress has appealed to the Mexican government to free a Marine veteran of Afghanistan who is being held on weapons charges in a prison in Tijuana.

Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, now in the Marine reserves, has been held in the La Mesa prison since April 1 after he was charged with being an arms trafficker.

Tahmooressi insists that he mistakenly drove across the border at San Ysidro in a truck stuffed with all of his possessions, including a handgun, rifle and shotgun.

Led by Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Juan Vargas (D-CA), the 21 members of Congress sent a letter to the Mexican government through its embassy in Washington. A separate letter was sent by Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) to Secretary of State John Kerry.

“We fully respect Mexico’s right to enforce its laws, but we believe Andrew is not a criminal or a weapons trafficker,” said the letter signed by Hunter, Vargas and the others. “He is a Marine Corps veteran who served his country honorably, and simply got lost in an area that he was unfamiliar with.”

The members of Congress hope that the Mexican attorney general will use his authority to drop the charges.

Tahmooressi had recently moved to San Diego from his home in Florida. He has said he was looking to meet with friends in San Ysidro but got confused in the lanes leading to the border crossing and missed the turnoff to remain in the U.S.

While in the La Mesa prison, Tahmooressi attempted to escape but gave up when a guard fired a warning shot. There is no indication that Mexican authorities plan to add an escape charge.

Tahmooressi served with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment, and was meritoriously promoted to sergeant. He is now in the Individual Ready Reserves.

He had moved to San Diego in hopes of receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla.

“I urge that everything possible be done to ensure his safety, well-being, fair treatment and quick return,” Peters wrote to Kerry.

Allen Ormond via Flickr.com
Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.