US pilot jailed in Singapore for breaking quarantine order

Brian Yeargan was the first foreigner sentenced for violating Singapore’s strict quarantine orders. (The Strait Times via AP)
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Updated 15 May 2020

US pilot jailed in Singapore for breaking quarantine order

  • FedEx pilot Brian Dugan Yeargan of Alaska, was sentenced to four weeks imprisonment
  • Several Singaporeans have been jailed for between five and six weeks for leaving their homes

SINGAPORE: An American cargo pilot who admitted to “poor judgment” in breaking a quarantine order to buy medical supplies became the first foreigner imprisoned in Singapore for breaching its restrictions meant to curb the coronavirus, his lawyer said Friday.
FedEx pilot Brian Dugan Yeargan, 44, of Alaska, was sentenced to four weeks Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to leaving his hotel room for three hours to buy masks and a thermometer, defense lawyer Ronnie Tan said.
Singapore has one of the largest outbreaks in Asia, with 26,000 cases. More than 90 percent of those infected are foreign workers living in crowded dormitories, while the government recently began easing restrictions for the local population.
The tiny city-state has strict penalties for those who breach quarantine rules, don’t masks in public or fail to adhere to social distancing measures. Quarantine violators face up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $7,000 or both.
Tan said Yeargan and his two co-pilots were taken to an airport hotel to serve 14-day quarantines upon arriving from Sydney on April 3. It was required because they stated in their health declarations they had visited China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and the United States in the two-week period before their arrival, Tan said.
Health officials checking on Yeargan found him missing from his room on April 5. Yeargan told the court he took the metro downtown to buy a thermometer and a few boxes of masks before he was to fly home on April 6.
Tan said Yeargan needed the items because they were in short supply back home and his wife has been ill. Yeargan’s wife had breathing difficulties but tested negative for the coronavirus in March, he said.
Tan said Yeargan lost his daughter in a tragic incident four years ago and the possibility of another death frightened him. Yeargan told the court his two co-pilots had flown out on April 6 as scheduled but he has been held back in his room. He also said he has to give up an assignment to fly a humanitarian aid mission to COVID-19-hit countries for the US Air Force due to his blunder in Singapore.
“In his address in court, Yeargan said he was sorry, he made a poor judgment and that he shouldn’t have gone out,” Tan said. The American also said he has “the highest regard for the Singapore people and its laws,” Tan added.
The court said in its ruling Yeargan should have asked someone to obtain the items for him.
Tan said Yeargan was relieved as prosecutors had sought a sentence of up to eight weeks. He said he will apply for a remission for good behavior, which could see the American ending his sentence in three weeks.
The Anchorage Daily News reported Yeargan is from the Eagle River community and serves with the Alaska Air National Guard. It said he last spoke to his parents on Mother’s Day. “He’s taking care of himself,” Jim Yeargan was quoted as saying.
FedEx spokeswoman Davina Cole told the newspaper the company adhered to all regulations from government authorities related to containing the virus.
Yeargan was the first foreigner sentenced for violating quarantine orders, but several Singaporeans have been jailed for between five and six weeks for leaving their homes.
Singapore imposed a partial lockdown on April 7 and loosened restrictions Tuesday, with food manufacturers, barbers and laundry shops opening doors three weeks before the lockdown ends June 1.


Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

Updated 28 min 30 sec ago

Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

  • Antony Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden
  • Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America

WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning.
Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the US relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.
In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.
Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lacked the granular experience in managing day-to-day foreign policy issues that Blinken would bring to the job.
Biden is likely to name his Cabinet picks in tranches, with groups of nominees focused on a specific top area, like the economy, national security or public health, being announced at once. Advisers to the president-elect’s transition have said they’ll make their first Cabinet announcements on Tuesday.
If Biden focuses on national security that day, Michèle Flournoy, a veteran of Pentagon policy jobs, is a top choice to lead the Defense Department. Jake Sullivan, a longtime adviser to Biden and Hillary Clinton, is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser.
For his part, Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.
Biden’s secretary of state would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.
Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.
“Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it’s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day,” Blinken told The Associated Press in September. “Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our adversaries. That difference would be felt on day one.”
Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Biden also is expected to tap longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US ambassador to the United Nations.
Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America. He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.
Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the Cabinet selection process. Trump’s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election — a determination that would remove those roadblocks.
“We’re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s “This Week.”
Even some Republicans have broken with Trump in recent days and called on him to begin the transition. Joining the growing list were Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump supporter, told ABC that it was time for the president to stop contesting the outcome and called Trump’s legal team seeking to overturn the election a “national embarrassment.”
Meanwhile, planning was underway for a pandemic-modified inauguration Jan. 20. Klain said the Biden team was consulting with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate over their plans.
“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.