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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

President Trump Presents Medal of Honor to Sgt. First Class Thomas Payne

President Donald Trump presented the Medial of Honor to Sergeant First Class Thomas P. Payne, United States Army, for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on October 22, 2015,” according to the White House.

“His heroism and selfless actions were key to liberating 75 hostages during a contested rescue mission that resulted in 20 enemies killed in action,” a White House transcript reads.

Watch the video below.


Thomas Payne Medal of Honor Ceremony Remarks by the President

These are the president’s remarks from the Sept. 11, 2020 ceremony:

“THE PRESIDENT: …Today, it’s my privilege to present the Congressional Medal of Honor to a warrior who has devoted the last two decades to fighting the forces of terror. Please join me in welcoming today’s extraordinary recipient, Sergeant Major Thomas Patrick Payne. Congratulations. Thank you very much.

We’re grateful to be joined by Pat’s really wonderful wife, Alison. And, Alison, thank you, for being here on this very momentous occasion. This is — this is the big one. You know that. This is the big one.

Also with us is Patrick and Alison’s 6-year-old son, Aaron. Aaron, thank you for being here. He got a very nice little award back there: a beautiful pen. Right? You’re going to save that pen. Thank you, Aaron.

I want you to know that your Dad is one the bravest men anywhere in the world. You know that, right? You knew that before — I think you knew that before we knew it. So, congratulations to both.

With us also is our First Lady — thank you, darling; and Vice President Mike Pence — Mike, thank you very much; along with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper — Mark, thank you; Congressman Richard Hudson — Richard — Richard, thank you very much; Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy — thanks, Ryan; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley — Mark, thank you very much. It’s amazing the way all these big generals are showing up. This is something, huh? (Laughter.) This is the big one, as I say — always do. It always will be. The Army Chief of Staff James McConville — James, thank you. Thank you very much, James. And Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston — thank you, Mike. Thank you very much.

I also want to recognize the three Medal of Honor recipients that are with us: Matthew Williams, Edward Byers, and Walter Marm. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. That’s great. A lot of brave people are with us today.

Pat grew up in a small town in South Carolina. His dad is a police officer. His grandfathers served in World War Two, in Korea, Vietnam. Service to our country really goes through their veins very, very rapidly.

Exactly 19 years ago today — on September 11th, 2001 — news of the attack on our nation’s great, great country — this was just an attack like has never happened to us. But it went through Pat’s high school — and went through his classroom. And Pat was sitting there, listening. His teacher solemnly told the students that their generation had a fight to win. They were going to fight and fight to win. In that moment, Pat was called to action. He knew that his country needed him.

Ten short months later, at the age of 18, Pat was in Army basic training at Fort Benning. Soon, he joined the elite ranks of the legendary Army Rangers. Pat became an exceptional soldier and expert sniper. He saw heavy combat in multiple theatres of battle.

In 2010, during a deployment in Afghanistan, his leg was severely wounded by an enemy grenade. While recovering in South Carolina, Pat met with his wife, Alison. Well, that was probably not a bad wound then, was it? Huh? It was worth — (laughter) — I hope you’re going to say it was worth it. (Laughter.) It was.

Less than two years after being injured, Pat competed against some of America’s toughest warriors and won the prestigious Best Ranger Competition, among the most grueling physical contests anywhere in the country.

In October of 2015, on his 14th deployment, Pat was part of a team assigned to plan and conduct an operation to rescue over 70 Kurdish prisoners being held by ISIS barbarians in Iraq. The team soon received horrifying intelligence that the terrorists were planning to massacre their captives and bury them in freshly dug graves. Pat and his teammates raced into action.

After midnight, on October 22, Pat boarded a helicopter and departed on a mission to free the hostages from two buildings guarded by dozens of ruthless and bloodthirsty ISIS terrorists. He was in command of a team clearing one of the compounds. As soon as the ramp to his helicopter went down, Pat rushed into a blistering hail of gunfire. Pat and his team swiftly overpowered the enemy, secured the building, and freed 38 of the hostages.

Then Pat received word that the rest of the assault team was facing harsh resistance in another complex. Pat turned to one of his fellow soldiers and said, “Let’s get into the fight right now. Let’s get into the fight.” He saw that the other building was on fire and he knew more of the hostages were still trapped inside. He and his team climbed up ladders to the roof and opened up fire on the enemy. Multiple ISIS fighters detonated suicide vests, ripping a portion of the building into pieces.

But Pat and his fellow Rangers fought through the fire, the bullets, and the deadly blasts. Pat navigated to the front door and saw the captives were being held behind a metal door secured by two very heavy padlocks. He grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and ran through smoldering flame and smoke. As bullets impacted all around him, Pat succeeded in cutting one of the locks before scorching, sweltering heat forced him to leave the building for some air.

Pat caught his breath in a few seconds and was back. He ran right back into that raging blaze. He sliced the final lock and released the rest of the hostages as the building began to collapse. He received orders to evacuate, but he refused to do so; he didn’t want to leave anyone behind.

Pat ran back into the burning building that was collapsing two more times. He saved multiple hostages, and he was the last man to leave. He wouldn’t leave. No matter what they said, no matter who ordered him to do it, he wouldn’t do it. He was the last one out. It was one of the largest and most daring rescue missions in American history. Pat and his team rescued 75 captives and killed 20 ISIS terrorists.

Pat, you embody the righteous glory of American valor. We stand in awe of your heroic daring and gallant deeds. You truly went above and beyond the call of duty to earn our nation’s highest military honor.

Pat would be the first to remind us that he was not alone that day. In the battle, one Army Ranger made the ultimate sacrifice: Master Sergeant Josh Wheeler. Josh was something. Right, Pat? Josh was something. You’ve — you’ve said that before.

Today, we’re deeply moved to be joined by Master Sergeant Wheeler’s wife, Ashley Wheeler. Ashley, our hearts break for your loss. A great man. That was a great man.

Ashley — where is Ashley? Ashley, please stand up. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Ashley.

Our nation endures because fearless warriors like Josh are willing to lay down their lives for our freedom. Our children can grow up in peace because Josh had the courage to face down evil. Our debt to him and to you is everlasting. And again, thank you very much, Ashley. We appreciate it very much. We will honor him forever. You know that. Very special group of warriors, men — great men.

Pat has said that as soon as our soldiers’ boots hit the ground, they are ambassadors of the American way of life. Everywhere they go, the men and women of our armed forces instill our friends with hope, our enemies with dread, and our fellow citizens with unyielding American pride.

Over the course of his service, Pat has embarked on an astounding — really, an astounding 17 deployments in defense of our nation. General Milley, that’s a lot, right? Is that a lot?

GENERAL MILLEY: That’s a lot, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s a lot. Okay, I needed that little extra confirmation. That’s a lot.

He now serves as an instructor at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, training the next generation of American warriors. Today, he joins the immortal company of our most revered American heroes. Pat, you personify the motto “Rangers lead the way,” and you inspire us all.

It is now my privilege to present Sergeant Major Thomas Patrick Payne with the Congressional Medal of Honor. I’d like to ask the military aide to come forward and read the citation.

Thank you very much.”

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(The Center Square) – The stock market came back from a midday drop on Friday, the day ending with the S&P 500 Index 18.6% below the record high set in early January.

A bear market would have begun if the decline reached 20%.

The stock market tumble is a continuation from declines earlier this week, a week that saw record high gas prices continue to rise. Other contributing factors in the index most closely associated with workers 401(k) accounts are rising interest rates, inflation, the war in Ukraine and China's economy.

“Since 1928, the S&P 500 has had 1 bear market every 4 years on average,” Charlie Bilello, founder of Compound Capital Advisors, wrote on Twitter. “With the S&P down 20% from its peak in January, this is now the 3rd bear market we've experienced in less than 4 years.”

New polling shows the majority of Americans expect a recession as energy prices and inflation continue to soar. Quinnipiac University released new polling this week that showed most Americans are pessimistic about the nation’s economic future.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans (85 percent) think it is either very likely (45 percent) or somewhat likely (40 percent) that there will be an economic recession in the next year, while 12 percent think it is either not so likely (8 percent) or not likely at all (4 percent),” the poll said.

Overall, Americans did not think the economy was doing well before the stock market declines this week.

“Roughly 1 in 5 Americans (19 percent) say the state of the nation's economy these days is either excellent (2 percent) or good (17 percent), while 4 in 5 Americans (80 percent) say it's either not so good (34 percent) or poor (46 percent),” the poll reported. “This is Americans' most negative description of the state of the nation's economy in a Quinnipiac University poll since President Biden took office.”

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(The Center Square) – It’s been two weeks and there’s still no word on who leaked the U.S. Supreme Court draft brief indicating that the court was set to overturn Roe V. Wade and returning the issue of abortion back to the states.

At a recent event in Dallas, Texas, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the Manhattan Institute, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke about the leak and his concern for the rule of law and credibility of the court.

A roughly 8-minute clip of his talk was published by C-SPAN, in which he said, “I think we are in danger of destroying the institutions that are required for a free society. You can’t have a civil society, a free society without a stable legal system.

“You can’t have one without stability in things like property or interpretation and impartial judiciary. I’ve been in this business long enough to know just how fragile it is.”

Prior to the draft opinion being leaked this year, Thomas said it was impossible to think that even one line of one opinion would be leaked by anyone.

“No one would ever do that,” he said. “There’s such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, belief in what we were doing, that that was beyond anyone’s understanding or at least anyone's imagination, that someone would do that.”

Now, “look where we are,” he said. “That trust and belief is gone forever. When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It's like kind of an infidelity, that you can explain it, but you can't undo it.”

New York University professor Melissa Murray holds a similar sentiment. She told the New York Times last week that the leak “violates the omertà that traditionally has shrouded the court’s deliberations. To the public, this not only looks like the kind of maneuvering that we’ve come to expect from politicians, it also strips the court of the mystique it has generally enjoyed.”

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts’ reputation is also at stake. He has a lot riding on whether or not the leaker is identified and punished, Dan McLaughlin at National Review Online notes.

“John Roberts’s Court is at stake here,” he argues. “If decisions can be leaked in draft form with impunity in order to influence their outcomes, this will become a regular feature of high-profile cases, placing the Court under even worse pressures and threats than already exist.”

The Supreme Court isn’t the only institution that’s changing, Thomas said. Universities, colleges, law schools have all changed over the last few decades. Today, the climate on most campuses doesn’t allow for peaceful debate of differing views, instead policies of censorship are creating a “chilling effect” on speech.

He recently met with students attending the University of Georgia, where he said students expressed that they can’t publicly affirm pro-life or traditional family views because of the climate on campus.

At Yale Law School, his alma mater, students could once freely speak about anything, “it was anything goes, you do your thing I do my thing,” he said. Now. there’s censorship, he said.

"I wonder how long we're going to have these institutions at the rate we're undermining them,” Thomas said. “And then I wonder when they're gone or they are destabilized, what we'll have as a country – and I don't think that the prospects are good if we continue to lose them."

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(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden's Department of Homeland Security "Disinformation Governance Board" has been put on hold after quickly falling into controversy, according to media reports.

The Washington Post on Wednesday reported a pause for the board, which DHS head Alejandro Mayorkas announced at a Congressional hearing last month.

Mayorkas told lawmakers the board would use federal law enforcement power to address disinformation. He gave the examples of bad information given to migrants as well as Russian disinformation.

"The goal is to bring the resources of (DHS) together to address this threat," he said before Congress in April.

Soon after, videos emerged online showing the woman tapped to lead the board, Nina Jankowicz, making a series of controversial comments. News outlets reported her resignation Wednesday.

Critics also raised concerns about how such a board could be used to silence free speech. Several lawmakers took issue with the board.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., posted a video on Twitter saying the “Soviet-style censorship agency” is evidence “the Marxist left are coming after your most basic constitutional rights.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but the Department of Homeland Security just set up a new office that’s going to be a speech police,” Rubio said after the board was announced. "They’re basically going to be focused on misinformation … so instead of the Department of Homeland Security focused on stopping drugs from coming into America or securing the border, stopping illegal immigration, they’re not going to be focused on that. They’re focused on policing speech, on making sure that people cannot share information or say things that they decide is misinformation."

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(The Center Square) – Stocks tanked Wednesday after major retailers’ earnings reports were down significantly because of inflation, sparking a selling frenzy. Wall Street closed with the largest drop in one day since March 2020.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average drop of nearly 1,200 points was the ninth-largest single-day drop in U.S. history, Seeking Alpha reports.

The stock market began to tank by midday. By noon EST, NASDAQ was down 400 points and the DJIA was down by 800 points. Then the DJIA dropped by roughly 1,100 points after 2pm EST and closed with a near 1,200-point loss.

The market closed with the DJIA down by 3.6%, the S&P 500 down by 4% and the Nasdaq down by 4.7%.

Overall, the DJIA dropped 1,164.52 points, closing at 31,490.07. The S&P 500 dropped 165.17 points, closing at 3,923.68. The Nasdaq dropped 566.37 points, closing at 11,418.15.

Panic set in after major retail corporations like Target and Walmart reported earnings losses. Apple and Microsoft also led big tech losses.

Target shares were down by nearly 25% after reporting first-quarter results that fell far below Wall Street forecasts. Its second-quarter outlook was also weaker than expected with its quarterly gross margin dropping from 30% to 25.7%.

“We were less profitable than we expected to be or intend to be over time,” Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell said, Reuters reported. “These (costs) continue to grow almost on a daily basis and there is no sign right now … that it is going to abate over time.”

Rising fuel and freight costs will add nearly $1 billion more than originally expected in annual cost, Target said.

Wal-Mart stock fell nearly 7% after it also reported a weaker-than-expected financial outlook. It also said it was grappling with rising fuel costs and inflation eating into its profits.

Apple stock fell 5.6%, Intel lost 4.6%, Microsoft lost nearly 5% and HP dropped 7%.

Companies reporting earnings losses cited rising fuel and freight costs as primary factors.

These, coupled with supply chain issues, caused transportation costs to skyrocket in the first quarter. While companies passed on increased costs to consumers, consumers weren’t buying enough to offset company losses.

“Worries over inflation and a hawkish Fed are nothing new, but now add in worries over profit margins and the impact of inflation on the consumer and you have the recipe for a big down day,” Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, said, The Hill reported.

Normally, a drop in consumer demand would force companies to drop prices and subsequently reduce inflation. But supply chain issues, coupled with Biden administration energy policies restricting domestic production of oil and gas, are leading causes of prices skyrocketing across the board.

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(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol are not happy with the new choice for chancellor at UW-Madison.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who is the vice chairman of the Senate’s committee for universities and technical colleges, called Dr. Jennifer Mnookin a “ridiculous choice.”

“Jennifer Mnookin has a very clear history of advocating for the forced indoctrination of college students with critical race theory. She has openly supported mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations regardless of the rights of individuals to make that healthcare determination for themselves.,” Nass said Monday. “It has also been reported that Mnookin met with the scandal plagued Hunter Biden (in 2019) and supported him joining the UCLA faculty to instruct students on drug policies.”

UW Regents unanimously chose Mnookin, who is currently the dean at UCLA’s law school. They announced her selection on Monday.

Nass said the Republican-controlled legislature should take Mnookin’s appointment as a message from the university.

“If the Board of Regents truly believes that Mnookin is the best choice, then the next Republican governor and legislature should find it impossible to provide more taxpayer dollars or allow the board to increase tuition,” Nass added.

UW Regent Karen Walsh told reporters Tuesday that she doesn’t take that threat seriously.

“I don’t think that’s realistic,” Walsh said. “I would like for those folks to meet with Chancellor Mnookin before they threaten our funding. I don’t think they intend to do that. I think they’re much more interested in sitting in a room with us and talking about our differences.”

Mnookin told the same news conference that she is waiting to get to campus, so she can meet with everyone involved with the university.

"I look forward to arriving in Madison and looking for that common ground, and higher education is a place where I hope we can come together,” Mnookin added.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Monday pushed regents to take a look at another chancellor candidate.

“We deserve campus leaders who will encourage healthy debate, diverse thoughts and freedom of expression. Given her obvious viewpoints and political donations, Dr. Mnookin needs to prove she supports free speech on campus and not politically correct ideologies,” Vos said. “After all the work of Tommy Thompson and Rebecca Blank that attempted to strengthen relationships between the university and the Legislature, this is a step backwards. I strongly hope the Board of Regents will reconsider their selection.”

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(The Center Square) – Gasoline prices hit a new high in the U.S. on Monday, with the average cost of a gallon of regular gas at $4.48.

That's an increase of 15 cents a gallon in the past week and 40 cents over this time last month. A year ago, gas prices on average were $3.04 a gallon, $1.44 cheaper.

The average price for a gallon of diesel fuel is at $5.57 a gallon, also a record high. Diesel fuel is used by truckers who transport goods across the country, contributing to 40-year-high inflation that's sending the prices of groceries and other commodities significantly higher.

In California, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is $5.98, highest in the U.S.

President Joe Biden has attempted to blame the rising cost of gasoline on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but prices began elevating shortly after he took office, when he canceled new oil and gas leases on federal lands and placed new restrictions on the industry.

Just last week, Biden canceled three pending oil and gas drilling leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

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