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Palace appoints lawyers to probe Meghan Markle bullying claims: report

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Buckingham Palace is reportedly bringing in independent external investigators to probe the allegations of bullying against Meghan Markle by royal staffers.

The palace initially said it was launching its own investigation into the Duchess of Sussex, but has now decided that a third-party law firm should conduct the probe, the Sunday Times of London said in a new report.

The Duchess has been accused of creating a toxic work environment and allegedly reducing aides to tears when she lived at Kensington Palace after marrying Prince Harry in May 2018.

The move to bring in outside investigators is expected to further heighten tensions between the Sussexes and “The Firm,” following the couple’s explosive tell-all with Oprah Winfrey.

In addition, the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are not expected to be invited to take part in the inquiry, which aims to “learn lessons” by taking evidence from past and present employees, The Times said.

Multiple current and former staffers who were prevented from giving evidence in court during Markle’s recent legal case about privacy are expected to speak to the investigators, the outlet added.

Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry seen together in happier times on March 18, 2918.
Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry seen together in happier times on March 18, 2018.
TheImageDirect.com

Last month, two senior aides alleged they were bullied by Markle, while another former staffer claimed to have been personally “humiliated” and that two others had been bullied, the paper reported.

Markle denies the allegations, but a royal source told the outlet: “The actual worst incidences haven’t come out. There are some harrowing stories to tell.”

Another palace source told the Sunday Times: “There’s a lot that could come out in the wash that hasn’t been told.”

News of the independent probe emerged as allies of Prince Charles accused Harry of “hypocrisy,” challenging his claim that his dad had “cut him off” financially.

Markle denies the allegations, but a royal source told the outlet: "The actual worst incidences haven't come out. There are some harrowing stories to tell."
Markle denies the allegations, but a royal source told the outlet: “The actual worst incidences haven’t come out. There are some harrowing stories to tell.”
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

They claim the Prince of Wales was “upset and cut up” about Harry’s remarks during the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah.

“It was a surprise to hear he’d been cut off, given the bank statements. The prince continued to provide Harry and Meghan with financial support after their move to America, while they found their feet,” a source close to Charles told the Sunday Times.

“What f–king hypocrisy. When Harry and Meghan left last year, they wanted to become ‘financially independent,’” a friend of Charles told the outlet.

The bullying complaint against Markle was first made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, who was the couple’s communications secretary at the time.

“I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year,” Knauf wrote in an email to a senior courtier in which he described her behavior as “totally unacceptable,” the Sunday Times reported.

“The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights,” he added in the email, which was forwarded to HR but did not progress.

It is understood that the palace is intent on not allowing the inquiry, which will begin imminently, to “be played out in public” to ensure all those taking part “feel comfortable,” according to the report.

Prince William seen with his brother, Prince Harry, on April 26, 2018.
Prince William seen with his brother, Prince Harry, on April 26, 2018.
REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool/File Photo

A royal source told the paper that the probe “will take as long as it will take.”

A palace spokesman told the Sunday Times: “Our commitment to look into the circumstances around the allegations from former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is being taken forward but we will not be providing a public commentary on it.”

A rep for the Sussexes declined to comment, but when the allegations were first made, lawyers for the duchess said the reports were a “calculated smear campaign.”

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II walks past Commonwealth flags in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle, England to mark Commonwealth Day in this image that was issued on Saturday March 6, 2021.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II walks past Commonwealth flags in St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle, England to mark Commonwealth Day in this image that was issued on Saturday March 6, 2021.
Steve Parsons/Pool via AP

In the stunning sit-down with Oprah, Markle revealed her sister-in-law, Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, made her cry before her wedding, she didn’t receive help transitioning into royal life and that someone in the royal family raised concerns about “how dark” baby Archie would be when he was born, among other bombshell allegations.

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FDA finds peeling paint, debris at US plant making J&J’s COVID vaccine

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A US plant that was making Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine must fix a long list of problems including peeling paint and unsanitary conditions and practices to resume operation, according to a highly critical report by the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts said addressing the issues raised in the scathing FDA inspection report could take months.

Neither J&J nor the FDA has said when they expect vaccine production to restart at the Baltimore plant owned by Emergent Biosolutions. Only two other plants are currently equipped to supply the world with the key drug substance for J&J’s vaccine.

“It may take many months to make these changes,” said Prashant Yadav, a global health care supply chain expert at the Center for Global Development. He described some of the issues raised by the FDA as “quite significant.”

No vaccine manufactured at the Emergent plant has been distributed for use in the United States. However, J&J said it will exercise its oversight authority to ensure that all of the FDA observations are addressed promptly and comprehensively.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on a pause in the US over a potential link to a blood clotting condition.
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The health care conglomerate has drawn scrutiny for months over its halting process to scale up production of a vaccine that is easier to handle and, by virtue of being a single shot, easier to use than other authorized vaccines.

Its use in the United States has been paused since last week as health officials study a possible link to a very rare but serious blood clot condition.

Emergent has been seeking regulatory authorization to make the J&J vaccine in the United States. It stopped production at the plant recently, saying the FDA had asked it to do so after an inspection.

J&J’s plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, is still producing doses for the world. It has another facility in India, which is currently curtailing exports of the shot as it struggles to vaccinate its own population.

Johnson & Johnson reiterated on Wednesday that it was working to establish a global supply chain in which 10 manufacturing sites would be involved in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to the Leiden plant.

The company has a US government-brokered agreement with rival drugmaker Merck, which is preparing to make doses of J&J’s vaccine.

Failure to train personnel

The FDA in its final 12-page inspection report said it had reviewed security camera footage in addition to an in-person site visit to the Emergent plant.

It found a failure to train personnel to avoid cross-contamination of COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which had also been produced at the site. The agency also cited staff carrying unsealed bags of medical waste in the facility, bringing it in contact with containers of material used in manufacturing.

The FDA reviewed security camera footage and visited the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore.
Getty Images

Earlier this week, the House launched an investigation into whether Emergent used its relationship with a Trump administration official to get a vaccine manufacturing contract despite a record of not delivering on contracts.

Emergent said in a statement that it is working with the FDA and J&J to quickly resolve the issues outlined in the report.

Production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the United States, was previously stopped at the Emergent plant after ingredients from that shot contaminated a batch of J&J vaccine, ruining millions of doses.

The FDA also noted that Emergent did not produce adequate reports showing that the vaccines it was producing met quality standards.

The inspection, carried out between April 12 and April 20, also found the building not of suitable size or design to facilitate cleaning, maintenance or proper operations.

J&J said it was redoubling its efforts to get authorization for the facility as quickly as possible.

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One dead after pair of fires breaks out in Manhattan

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One person was killed and several others were injured in a pair of Manhattan fires Wednesday morning, officials said.

The first blaze erupted in Midtown around 8:15 a.m. inside a DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse at 213 W. 34th St., where an escalator became fully engulfed in flames — sending smoke billowing into the first and second floor and the interconnected 40-story hotel building, fire officials said.

It was not immediately clear which hotel it was.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries putting out the blaze.

“The fire went out, but we have a smoke condition that we’re trying to alleviate,” FDNY Battalion Chief John Porretto said at the scene. “Units are going to remain on scene until all the smoke alleviates.”

The fire marshal will determine the causes of the fire.

A second blaze broke out 15 minutes later on the Upper East Side at 1576 2nd Ave., officials said.

A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th Street in Manhattan that left one dead
A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th St. in Manhattan left one dead.
NYFD

One man died in the fire and a second man was in serious condition at Lenox Hill Hospital, police said.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze and was taken to Cornell Hospital, fire officials said.

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NYC school leaders react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

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The leaders of the city’s public schools and largest charter network both weighed in on the Derek Chauvin verdict with passionate statements about how there is still a long way to go to reach systemic equality.

Department of Education Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter issued a personal commentary Tuesday night after the murder conviction of former Minnesota cop Chauvin.

“I felt pain and rage, deep in my bones,” she said of her initial reaction to George Floyd’s death. “It wasn’t a new feeling. I have felt that many times in my life, as a Black woman, sister, daughter, and mother to Black children—and as an educator who has served children of color in this city for more than 20 years.”

Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would be issuing guidance for teachers and families to help them process the verdict.

Eva Moskowitz with two students, the CEO and Founder of the Success Academy
Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz issued a statement on the Derek Chauvin verdict.
Brigitte Stelzer

“For our Black and brown children to know that they matter, the accountability this verdict represents is so important,” she stated. “In a world that too often tells them otherwise, accountability in this moment tells the Black and brown children in our schools that their lives matter, and lifts up the importance of their futures.”

Several teachers told The Post on Wednesday morning that they planned to broach the topic with their students to allow them to discuss Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s conviction.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would issue guidance to help teachers and families process the verdict.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would issue guidance to help teachers and families process the verdict.
Mark Lennihan/AP

“Because while the individual who took George Floyd’s life will be held accountable, we recognize that systemic racism, and the violence it fuels, is still creating tragedy and inequality across our country every single day,” Ross-Porter said. “We are all part of the work to undo this harm and reach true justice.”

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who oversees the city’s largest charter school network, also issued a statement.

People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“We are grateful that justice has been served and that the judicial process has worked as intended,” she wrote. “We recognize, however, that this verdict does not resolve the systemic inequities that led to Floyd’s death; nor does it heal the anguish we feel witnessing our fellow citizens die at the hands of the public servants tasked with protecting us.”

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