National News Content

The White House Announces New Steps To Try To Curb Surging Gun Violence

WXXI US News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 5:00am
With cities across the country witnessing spikes in violent crime , the White House on Wednesday announced a new plan to tackle gun violence, building on President Biden's vow to make it his priority to curb America's gun violence epidemic. Citing the uptick in violence since the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of Americans out of work and into their homes for extended periods, administration officials said Biden on Wednesday will announce a five-point proposal that includes: Cracking down on gun sellers who violate federal laws, with a new zero-tolerance policy. Giving additional support to local law enforcement to help with summer crime increases. Investing in community violence intervention programs. Expanding summer employment and services, particularly for teens and young adults. Helping formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities. A senior administration official told reporters Tuesday night that the Treasury Department will also inform states

Accomplished Americana musician Cindy Cashdollar returns to Abilene

WXXI US News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 5:00am
Cindy Cashdollar did not use the past year of pandemic retreat as an opportunity to reinvent some aspect of her life. “I did not sit down and learn Japanese flute, or learn Indian raga scales or do anything like that,” she says. “I didn’t learn how to quilt, I didn’t learn how to become a photographer.” What she did do was finally, after all these years, get into the cardboard boxes of history she’d been squirreling away: posters of shows she’s played, photographs of the musicians she’s played with. The older stuff would include Cashdollar playing steel guitar and dobro with Paul Butterfield. And shows with Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band, when she was growing up in Woodstock. Then souvenirs of her move to Austin, Texas, and working with Leon Redbone, Ryan Adams, and Van Morrison. There were a couple of appearances on “A Prairie Home Companion.” Sooooo many people. Bob Dylan. She plays on his “Time Out of Mind” album. But now it is time for Cashdollar to set aside organizing her

At Texas Border, Pandemic’s High Toll Lays Bare Gaps in Health and Insurance

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 5:00am

EL PASO, Texas — Alfredo “Freddy” Valles was an accomplished trumpeter and a beloved music teacher for nearly four decades at one of the city’s poorest middle schools.

He was known for buying his students shoes and bow ties for their band concerts, his effortlessly positive demeanor and a suave personal style — “he looked like he stepped out of a different era, the 1950s,” said his niece Ruby Montana.

While Valles was singular in life, his death at age 60 in February was part of a devastating statistic: He was one of thousands of deaths in Texas border counties — where coronavirus mortality rates far outpaced state and national averages.

In the state’s border communities, including El Paso, not only did people die of covid-19 at significantly higher rates than elsewhere, but people under age 65 were also more likely to die, according to a KHN-El Paso Matters analysis of covid death data through January. More than 7,700 people died of covid in the border area during that period.

In Texas, covid death rates for border residents younger than 65 were nearly three times the national average for that age group and more than twice the state average. And those ages 18-49 were nearly four times more likely to die than those in the same age range across the U.S.

“This was like a perfect storm,” said Heide Castañeda, an anthropology professor at the University of South Florida who studies the health of border residents. She said a higher-than-normal prevalence of underlying health issues combined with high uninsurance rates and flagging access to care likely made the pandemic even more lethal for those living along the border than elsewhere.

That pattern was not as stark in neighboring New Mexico. Border counties there recorded covid death rates 41% lower than those in Texas, although the New Mexico areas were well above the national average as of January, the KHN-El Paso Matters analysis found. Texas border counties tallied 282 deaths per 100,000, compared with 166 per 100,000 in New Mexico.

That stark divide could be seen even when looking at neighboring El Paso County, Texas, and Doña Ana County, New Mexico. The death rate for residents under 65 was 70% higher in El Paso County.

Health experts said Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a shortage of health care options and the state’s lax strategy toward the pandemic also contributed to a higher death rate at the border. Texas GOP leaders have opposed Medicaid expansion for a litany of economic and political reasons, though largely because they object to expanding the role or size of government.

“Having no Medicaid expansion and an area that is already underserved by primary care and preventive care set the stage for a serious situation,” Castañeda said. “A lot of this is caused by state politics.”

Texas was one of the first states to reopen following the nationwide coronavirus shutdown in March and April last year. Last June — even as cases were rising — Gov. Greg Abbott allowed all businesses, including restaurants, to operate at up to 50% capacity, with limited exceptions. And he refused to put any capacity restrictions on churches and other religious facilities or let local governments impose mask requirements.

In November, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an injunction to stop a lockdown order implemented by the El Paso county judge, the top administrative officer, at a time when El Paso hospitals were so overwhelmed with covid patients that 10 mobile morgues had to be set up at an area hospital to accommodate the dead.

Unlike Texas, New Mexico expanded Medicaid under the ACA and, as a result, has a much lower uninsured rate than Texas for people under age 65 — 12% compared with Texas’ 21%, according to Census figures. And New Mexico had aggressive rules for face masks and public gatherings. Still, that didn’t spare New Mexico from the crisis. Outbreaks in and around the Navajo reservation hit hard. Overall, its state death rate exceeded the state rate for Texas, but along the border New Mexico’s rates were lower in all age groups.

For some border families, the immense toll of the pandemic meant multiple deaths among loved ones. Ruby Montana lost not only her uncle to covid in recent months, but also her cousin Julieta “Julie” Apodaca, a former elementary school teacher and speech therapist.

Montana said Valles’ death surprised the family. He had been teaching remotely at Guillen Middle School in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio neighborhood, an area known as “the other Ellis Island” because of its adjacency to the border and its history as an enclave for Mexican immigrant families.

When Valles first got sick with covid in December, Montana and the family were not worried, not only because he had no preexisting health conditions, but also because they knew his lungs were strong from practicing his trumpet daily over the course of decades.

In early January, he went to an urgent care center after his condition deteriorated. He had pneumonia and was told to go straight to the emergency room.

“When I took him to the [hospital], I dropped him off and went to go park,” said his wife, Elvira. But when she returned, she was not allowed inside. “I never saw him again,” she said.

Valles, a father of three, had been teaching one of his three grandchildren, 5-year-old Aliq Valles, to play the trumpet.

They “were joined at the hip,” Montana said. “That part has been really hard to deal with too. [Aliq] should have a whole lifetime with his grandpa.”

Hispanic adults are more than twice as likely to die of covid as white adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Texas, Hispanic residents died of covid at a rate four times as high as that of non-Hispanic white people, according to a December analysis by The Dallas Morning News.

Ninety percent of residents under 65 in Texas border counties are Hispanic, compared with 37% in the rest of the state. Latinos have high rates of chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity, which increases their risks of covid complications, health experts say.

Because they were more likely to die of covid at earlier ages, Latinos are losing the most years of potential life among all racial and ethnic groups, said Coda Rayo-Garza, an advocate for policies to aid Hispanic populations and a professor of political science at the University of Texas-San Antonio.

Expanding Medicaid, she said, would have aided the border communities in their fight against covid, as they have some of the highest rates of residents without health coverage in the state.

“There has been a disinvestment in border areas long before that led to this outcome that you’re finding,” she said. “The legislature did not end up passing Medicaid expansion, which would have largely benefited border towns.”

The higher death rates among border communities are “unfortunately not surprising,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, who represents El Paso.

“It’s exactly what we warned about,” Escobar said. “People in Texas died at disproportionate rates because of a dereliction on behalf of the governor. He chose not to govern … and the results are deadly.”

Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said the governor mourns every life lost to covid.

“Throughout the entire pandemic, the state of Texas has worked diligently with local officials to quickly provide the resources needed to combat covid and keep Texans safe,” she said.

Ernesto Castañeda, a sociology professor at American University in Washington, D.C., who is not related to Heide Castañeda, said structural racism is integrally linked to poor health outcomes in border communities. Generations of institutional discrimination — through policing, educational and job opportunities, and health care — worsens the severity of crisis events for people of color, he explained.

“We knew it was going to be bad in El Paso,” Ernesto Castañeda said. “El Paso has relatively low socioeconomic status, relatively low education levels, high levels of diabetes and overweight [population].”

In some Texas counties along the border more than a third of workers are uninsured, according to an analysis by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

“The border is a very troubled area in terms of high uninsured rates, and we see all of those are folks put at increased risk by the pandemic,” said Joan Alker, director of the center.

In addition, because of a shortage of health workers along much of the border, the pandemic surge was all the deadlier, said Dr. Ogechika Alozie, an El Paso specialist in infectious diseases.

“When you layer on top not having enough medical personnel with a sicker-on-average population, this is really what you find happens, unfortunately,” he said.

The federal government has designated the entire Texas border region as both a health professional shortage area and a medically underserved area.

Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, about 40 miles northwest of El Paso, said the two cities were like night and day in their response to the crisis.

“Restrictions were far more rigid in New Mexico,” he said. “It almost felt like two different countries.”

Manny Sanchez, a commissioner in Doña Ana County, credits the lower death rates in New Mexico to state and local officials’ united message to residents about covid and the need to wear masks and maintain physical distance. “I would like to think we made a difference in saving lives,” Sanchez said.

But, because containing a virus requires community buy-in, even El Paso residents who understood the risks were susceptible to covid. Julie Apodaca, who had recently retired, had been especially careful, in part because her asthma and diabetes put her at increased risk. As the primary caregiver for her elderly mother, she was likely exposed to the virus through one of the nurse caretakers who came to her mother’s home and later tested positive, said her sister Ana Apodaca.

Julie Apodaca had registered for a covid vaccine in December as soon as it was available but had not been able to get an appointment for a shot by the time she fell ill.

Montana found out that Apodaca had been hospitalized the day after her uncle died. One month later, and after 16 days on a ventilator, she too died on March 13.

She was 56.

This story was done in partnership with El Paso Matters, a member-supported, nonpartisan media organization that focuses on in-depth and investigative reporting about El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juárez across the border in Mexico, and neighboring communities.

Methodology

To analyze covid deaths rates along the border with Mexico, KHN and El Paso Matters requested covid-related death counts by age group and county from Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona. California and Arizona were unable to fulfill the requests. The Texas Department of State Health Services and the New Mexico Department of Health provided death counts as of Jan. 31, 2021.

Texas’ data included totals by age group for border counties as a group and for the state with no suppression of data. New Mexico provided data for individual counties, and small numbers were suppressed, totaling 1.6% of all deaths in the state. (Data on deaths is commonly suppressed when it involves very small numbers to protect individual identities.)

National death counts by age group were calculated using provisional death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and included deaths as of Jan. 31, 2021.

Rates were calculated per 100,000 people using the 2019 American Community Survey.

The ethnic breakdown in Texas’ border counties comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 population estimates.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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Thousands of Young Children Lost Parents to Covid. Where’s Help for Them?

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 5:00am

Five months after her husband died of covid-19, Valerie Villegas can see how grief has wounded her children.

Nicholas, the baby, who was 1 and almost weaned when his father died, now wants to nurse at all hours and calls every tall, dark-haired man “Dada,” the only word he knows. Robert, 3, regularly collapses into furious tantrums, stopped using the big-boy potty and frets about sick people giving him germs. Ayden, 5, recently announced it’s his job to “be strong” and protect his mom and brothers.

Her older kids — Kai Flores, 13, Andrew Vaiz, 16, and Alexis Vaiz, 18 — are often quiet and sad or angry and sad, depending on the day. The two eldest, gripped by anxiety that makes it difficult to concentrate or sleep, were prescribed antidepressants soon after losing their stepfather.

“I spend half the nights crying,” said Villegas, 41, a hospice nurse from Portland, Texas. She became a widow on Jan. 25, just three weeks after Robert Villegas, 45, a strong, healthy truck driver and jiujitsu expert, tested positive for the virus.

“My kids, they’re my primary concern,” she said. “And there’s help that we need.”

But in a nation where researchers calculate that more than 46,000 children have lost one or both parents to covid since February 2020, Villegas and other survivors say finding basic services for their bereaved kids — counseling, peer support groups, financial assistance — has been difficult, if not impossible.

“They say it’s out there,” Villegas said. “But trying to get it has been a nightmare.”

Interviews with nearly two dozen researchers, therapists and other experts on loss and grief, as well as families whose loved ones died of covid, reveal the extent to which access to grief groups and therapists grew scarce during the pandemic. Providers scrambled to switch from in-person to virtual visits and waiting lists swelled, often leaving bereft children and their surviving parents to cope on their own.

“Losing a parent is devastating to a child,” said Alyssa Label, a San Diego therapist and program manager with SmartCare Behavioral Health Consultation Services. “Losing a parent during a pandemic is a special form of torture.”

Children can receive survivor benefits when a parent dies if that parent worked long enough in a job that required payment of Social Security taxes. During the pandemic, the number of minor children of deceased workers who received new benefits has surged, reaching nearly 200,000 in 2020, up from an average of 180,000 in the previous three years. Social Security Administration officials don’t track cause of death, but the latest figures marked the most awards granted since 1994. Covid deaths “undoubtedly” fueled that spike, according to the SSA’s Office of the Chief Actuary.

And the number of children eligible for those benefits is surely higher. Only about half of the 2 million children in the U.S. who have lost a parent as of 2014 received the Social Security benefits to which they were entitled, according to a 2019 analysis by David Weaver of the Congressional Budget Office.

Counselors said they find many families have no idea that children qualify for benefits when a working parent dies, or don’t know how to sign up.

In a country that showered philanthropic and government aid on the 3,000 children who lost parents to the 9/11 terror attacks, there’s been no organized effort to identify, track or support the tens of thousands of kids left bereaved by covid.

“I’m not aware of any group working on this,” said Joyal Mulheron, the founder of Evermore, a nonprofit foundation that focuses on public policy related to bereavement. “Because the scale of the problem is so huge, the scale of the solution needs to match it.”

Covid has claimed more than 600,000 lives in the U.S., and researchers writing in the journal JAMA Pediatrics calculated that for every 13 deaths caused by the virus, one child under 18 has lost a parent. As of June 15, that would translate into more than 46,000 kids, researchers estimated. Three-quarters of the children are adolescents; the others are under age 10. About 20% of the children who’ve lost parents are Black, though they make up 14% of the population.

“There’s this shadow pandemic,” said Rachel Kidman, an associate professor at Stony Brook University in New York, who was part of the team that found a way to calculate the impact of covid deaths. “There’s a huge amount of children who have been bereaved.”

The Biden administration, which launched a program to help pay funeral costs for covid victims, did not respond to questions about offering targeted services for families with children.

Failing to address the growing cohort of bereaved children, whether in a single family or in the U.S. at large, could have long-lasting effects, researchers said. The loss of a parent in childhood has been linked to higher risks of substance use, mental health problems, poor performance in school, lower college attendance, lower employment and early death.

“Bereavement is the most common stress and the most stressful thing people go through in their lives,” said clinical psychologist Christopher Layne of the UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. “It merits our care and concern.”

Perhaps 10% to 15% of children and others bereaved by covid might meet the criteria of a new diagnosis, prolonged grief disorder, which can occur when people have specific, long-lasting responses to the death of a loved one. That could mean thousands of children with symptoms that warrant clinical care. “This is literally a national, very public health emergency,” Layne said.

Still, Villegas and others say they have been left largely on their own to navigate a confusing patchwork of community services for their children even as they struggle with their own grief.

“I called the counselor at school. She gave me a few little resources on books and stuff,” Villegas said. “I called some crisis hotline. I called counseling places, but they couldn’t help because they had waiting lists and needed insurance. My kids lost their insurance when their dad died.”

The social disruption and isolation caused by the pandemic overwhelmed grief care providers, too. Across the U.S., nonprofit agencies that specialize in childhood grief said they have scrambled to meet the need and to switch from in-person to virtual engagement.

“It was a huge challenge; it was very foreign to the way we work,” said Vicki Jay, CEO of the National Alliance for Grieving Children. “Grief work is based on relationships, and it’s very hard to get a relationship with a piece of machinery.”

At Experience Camps, which each year offers free weeklong camps to about 1,000 bereaved kids across the country, the waiting list has grown more than 100% since 2020, said Talya Bosch, an Experience Camps associate. “It is something that we are concerned about — a lot of kids are not getting the support they need,” she said.

Private counselors, too, have been swamped. Jill Johnson-Young, co-owner of Central Counseling Services in Riverside, California, said her nearly three dozen therapists have been booked solid for months. “I don’t know a therapist in the area who isn’t full right now,” she said.

Dr. Sandra McGowan-Watts, 47, a family practice doctor in Chicago, lost her husband, Steven, to covid in May 2020. She feels fortunate to have found an online therapist for her daughter, Justise, who helped explain why the 12-year-old was suddenly so sad in the mornings: “My husband was the one who woke her up for school. He helped her get ready for school.”

Justise was also able to get a spot at an Experience Camps session this summer. “I am nervous about going to camp, but I am excited about meeting new kids who have also lost someone close in their life,” she said.

Jamie Stacy, 42, of San Jose, California, was connected with an online counselor for her daughter, Grace, 8, and twin sons, Liam and Colm, 6, after their father, Ed Stacy, died of covid in March 2020 at age 52. Only then did she learn that children can grieve differently than adults. They tend to focus on concrete concerns, such as where they’ll live and whether their favorite toys or pets will be there. They often alternate periods of play with sadness, cycling rapidly between confronting and avoiding their feelings of loss.

“The boys will be playing Legos, having a great time, and all of a sudden drop a bomb on you: ‘I know how I can see Daddy again. I just have to die, and I’ll see Daddy again,’” she said. “And then they’re back to playing Legos.”

Stacy said counseling has been crucial in helping her family navigate a world where many people are marking the end of the pandemic. “We can’t escape the topic of covid-19 even for one day,” she said. “It’s always in our face, wherever we go, a reminder of our painful loss.”

Villegas, in Texas, has returned to her work in hospice care and is starting to reassemble her life. But she thinks there should be formal aid and grief support for families like hers whose lives have been indelibly scarred by the deadly virus.

“Now everybody’s lives are going back to normal,” she said. “They can get back to their lives. And I’m thinking my life will never be normal again.”

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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This story can be republished for free (details).

Categories: National News Content

Harlem Globetrotters To The NBA: 'Don't Get It Twisted,' Make Us A Pro Franchise Now

WXXI US News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 3:03am
The Harlem Globetrotters say it's high time for the NBA to make them a part of the highest professional basketball league as a franchise. In an open letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver , the Harlem Globetrotters called on Silver to recognize the team's decades of contributions to the league. "As the NBA grew, you were able to attract the best Black players, but we remember who helped the NBA get it all started," the letter read. It went on to say, "You can't just act like we don't exist anymore. It's time to right the wrongs and rewrite history. It's time for the NBA to honor what the Globetrotters have done for OUR sport, both here in the U.S. and around the globe." The team is an exhibition basketball team and, since its inception in 1926, has won 27,000 games and played in 123 countries. The team said in its letter it believes it is on par with the other professional teams out there today. Notable players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton got

Tokyo Olympics To Be A Dry Event After Organizers Abruptly Reverse Course

WXXI US News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 12:35am
SEOUL, South Korea — Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics abruptly reversed a decision, announced the previous day, to sell alcohol at Olympic venues, following criticism from medical experts and ordinary Japanese. The games are due to start in one month's time, despite calls for them to be canceled, due to the pandemic. Organizers portrayed the decision as an anti-virus measure. A weekend poll by the Kyodo News Agency found 86% of respondents believe that the games would spread the coronavirus. But organizers also appear to be responding to charges of showing Olympic athletes and sponsors preferential treatment. "Are the Olympics an exception, after having placed a burden of anti-infection measures on restaurant operators for so long?" Haruo Ozaki , Chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, asked at a recent press conference. Tokyo is currently under restrictions that limit alcohol consumption to groups of no more than two people, for up to 90 minutes between 11 AM and 7 PM, at bars and

Malik Evans trounces Mayor Lovely Warren in Democratic primary, paves way to City Hall

WXXI US News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 12:20am
Against a backdrop of civic trauma and deep anxiety about Rochester’s reputation on the statewide and national stages, Malik Evans clinched the Democratic nomination for mayor Tuesday, handily defeating two-term incumbent Lovely Warren. The win by Evans, a member of the City Council, was a lopsided victory in which voters embraced his message of restoring transparency and “building bridges” at City Hall and all but ended Warren’s chances for a third term in office. Unlike her opponent, Warren does not have the endorsement of any other party and, barring the unlikely possibility that she could wage a successful write-in campaign in the general election, her days at the helm of city government will conclude at the end of the year. Unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections as of 10:50 p.m. had Evans leading Warren 67% to 33%, with 105 of 113 election districts reporting. Evans declared victory at 10:30 p.m., bounding onto the stage in the penthouse at the East Avenue

Incumbents, activists win City Council primary

WXXI US News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 12:18am
One way or another, City Council was going to have some new faces on it come the start of 2022. City Council President Loretta Scott decided not to seek reelection as did Council member Malik Evans, who ran for mayor instead. There are five at-large City Council seats up for grabs, and the three incumbents who were seeking the Democratic line won, meaning there were no major upsets Tuesday night. Willie Lightfoot, a fixture of local Democratic politics, led with almost 13% of the vote, while Mitch Gruber pulled in just over 11% and Miguel Melendez received slightly more than 8%, according to unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections. The remaining two ballot lines will, according to unofficial results, go to Stanley Martin and Kim Smith, both activists who ran as part of the reform-minded People’s Slate. Martin, an organizer with Free the People Roc who rose to prominence last year during Black Lives Matter demonstrations the group organized, and Smith, a statewide

Primaries results could shake-up the County Legislature

WXXI US News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 12:17am
Democratic voters seem to have had enough of the power struggle that’s been playing out between two factions of their party in the County Legislature. On Tuesday, voters in several legislative districts effectively unseated key members of the breakaway Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, which has formed an alliance with Legislature Republicans amidst a feud with members of the long-standing Democratic Caucus. "Tonight’s results are clear: Democratic voters throughout Rochester are sick of the political gamesmanship of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, and of their continued support of the County Legislature’s Republican majority," Monroe County Democratic Committee Chair Zach King said in a prepared statement. "Democratic voters clearly believe these particular representatives were putting politics above the people — and above the needs of their districts — and resoundingly rejected these so-called Democrats who consistently caucus with Republicans." The primary results won’t

Rochester school board VP Cynthia Elliott is top vote-getter in primary

WXXI US News - Wed, 06/23/2021 - 12:04am
The Rochester Board of Education is about to have a shake-up, though it was going to regardless of who was to win Tuesday’s primary. Of the nine candidates who were vying for three seats, only one of them, Cynthia Elliott, was an incumbent. She prevailed in Tuesday’s primary and will appear on the November ballot on the Democratic line, as will the two other victors, Camille Simmons and James Patterson. Elliott received just over 18% of the vote, while Simmons pulled in 18% and Patterson got just over 14%. The three winners will likely be victorious in the general election, as is the case with most Democratic primaries in the city. They could, however, face a challenge in Democrat Josh Bauroth, who is running on the Working Families Party line as well. One of the immediate tasks the board will face once they take office in January is choosing the board’s leadership. Van White, who’s been president of the school board since 2014, did not seek reelection, instead choosing to run for a

Defense Secretary Says He'll Support Removing Sexual Offense Cases From Commanders

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 10:54pm
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced he will support changes to the military justice system that would take sexual assault cases away from the chain of command and let independent military lawyers handle them. In a statement on Tuesday, Austin said he will present President Biden with a series of recommendations aiming to "finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military." It's a seismic shift that requires amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which no other secretary of defense has been willing to do. Austin's announcement follows a report by the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, whose mandate from Biden was to find solutions to improve accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support involved in such cases. Austin noted, "The IRC recommended the inclusion of other special victims' crimes inside this independent prosecution system, to include domestic violence. I support this as

The Teamsters Want To Unionize Amazon Workers. Here's What That Means

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 7:16pm
The Teamsters want to go after Amazon. That was the message on opening day of the three-day, virtual convention of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Members from 500 Teamsters local unions are meeting to lay out priorities for the next five years. Delegates will vote Thursday on a resolution vowing support for Amazon workers across the country. "Be it resolved, that building worker power at Amazon and helping those workers achieve a union contract is a top priority for the Teamsters Union," the document says. The Teamsters, which represents 1.4 million workers in trucking, warehousing and other logistics industries, has had its eye on the e-commerce giant since long before a failed attempt to unionize Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala., earlier this year. In 2020, the Teamsters appointed a national director for Amazon, Randy Korgan, who called the company "enemy No. 1" in a recent op-ed . "There is perhaps no clearer manifestation of how America is failing the working class

Carl Nassib's Experience Coming Out Is Very Different From NFL Players Before Him

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 7:13pm
Updated June 22, 2021 at 9:24 PM ET Carl Nassib has made history as the first active NFL player to announce that he is gay. On Monday, the 28-year-old defensive lineman with the Las Vegas Raiders came out in a video shared on his Instagram page . His team published a statement supporting for him, marking what many hope to be a shift toward more acceptance and inclusiveness in not only the National Football League, but in the wider world of professional sports. The easy-going way Nassib made the historic announcement mattered, Jim Buzinski, a co-founder of the sports news site Outsports told NPR . "There wasn't a coordinated media campaign. He just looked like he was in his backyard recording, you know, a video for his friends. And so I thought that that really gave it really power." Nassib wasn't the first NFL athlete to come out but he was the first to do it as an active player, and he has gotten support in a way that Michael Sam and others didn't when they were similarly candid. Sam

Gun Violence Is Surging In New York, But Advocates Worry About More Policing

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 6:39pm
On a recent summer evening in Queens, New York, several dozen people gathered on the street, where birthday balloons tied to a railing floated in the hot breeze. They were here for Justin Wallace. This would have been his 11th birthday. He was shot and killed June 5, a bystander as a nearby parking dispute erupted. "Where do we go from here? Where do we go from here?" yelled one anti-violence activist into the crowd. It's a question that is on many people's minds. How should communities that have strained relationships with law enforcement deal with gun violence? New York has seen a 73% rise from June last year. Cities across the country have been seeing a spike in gun violence, with calls for action by the White House. Biden to unveil wide-ranging crime fighting plan In addition to more ATF partnerships, the Biden administration plans to unveil Wednesday a wide-ranging crime fighting plan. Many people want the crime wave addressed; the question is how to do it. Distrust of the police

American Airlines Passengers Could Be In For A Summer Of Delays And Cancellations

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 5:26pm
Just as hundreds of thousands of Americans return to the skies again this summer, many of the old inconveniences and aggravations of commercial airline travel are back, too. And experts say travelers should expect ongoing problems throughout the busy summer season. Long lines at security checkpoints, disruptive passengers and lengthy flight delays and cancellations are greeting many air travelers who may not have boarded a plane in 15 months or more because of the pandemic. Passengers on American Airlines have had it especially rough, with the airline canceling hundreds of flights in recent days because of staffing shortages and what the airline in a statement calls "unprecedented weather." The airline canceled more than 120 flights on Saturday, 188 on Sunday, and at least 162 on Monday, Flight Aware reported . Additionally, the flight tracking website said, 760 American flights were delayed Sunday, and nearly 800 flights were delayed Monday. Weather and staffing have caused problems

White House Adviser Says Biden Will Keep Pushing For 'Human Infrastructure Bill,' Too

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 5:07pm
(SOUNDBITE OF "DYNASTY" THEME SONG) AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: If you were around in the 1980s, this TV theme might stir up some memories - memories of Blake, Krystle, Alexis and the whole Carrington family, the main characters of the TV show "Dynasty," which turns 40 this year. Between introducing one of the first out gay characters to mass audiences and offering up scenes of unforgettable camp, the hit prime-time series quickly became iconic TV, especially among LGBTQ+ audiences. For Pride Month, Chloe Veltman of member station KQED visited the stately home south of San Francisco where the show's earliest episodes were filmed. She was joined by a "Dynasty" superfan. Here's that story. CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: Pride Month is in full bloom at Filoli mansion, as I stand underneath the canopy of fluttering rainbow flags waiting for the arrival of San Francisco drag royalty. D'ARCY DROLLINGER: I'm here to check on my house. VELTMAN: That's performer, club owner and "Dynasty" fan D'Arcy Drollinger

Blackfeet Nation Welcomes Back Tourists After Risky Shutdown Pays Off

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 4:38pm
Millions of people will flock to Montana's Glacier National Park this summer after last year's pandemic-caused tourism skid, and they will once more be able sightsee and camp nearby on the recently reopened Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The tourists' return is a relief to the owners of the restaurants, campgrounds and hotels forced to shut down last summer when Blackfeet tribal leaders closed the roads leading to the eastern side of the popular park. Those closures fed worries that a major economic driver for residents on the reservation would be crippled. But the tribe's priority was protecting its elders and stemming the spread of the coronavirus. It worked: The closures and the tribe's strictly enforced stay-at-home orders and mask mandate led to a low daily case rate held up as an example by federal health officials. Now, boasting one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, the reservation is back open for business. Seeing most traffic in three decades On a recent day at

Nearly 500 State Legislators Sign Letter Pleading Congress To Pass For The People Act

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 4:38pm
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit AILSA CHANG, HOST: The For the People Act, a Democratic effort to overhaul voting laws, stalled in the Senate today after failing to attract a single Republican vote. All 50 Senate Democrats backed opening debate, but the bill needed at least 10 Republican votes to proceed. In the lead up to the vote, nearly 500 state legislators had rallied together, signing a letter urging Congress to pass the act. The letter's organizer is Texas state Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat. And when I spoke to him before today's vote, I asked him why he felt the need to bring together all these legislators to send Congress this letter. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER: Well, you know, in my mind, national voting rights reform with the For the People Act is - this is a now-or-never moment in our country. A bunch of us Texas Democrats broke a quorum in defiance of the Republican majority to deny them a vote on voter suppression. And it ended up igniting a national

Nicaragua Cracks Down On Press, Government Jails Opposition Leaders Ahead Of Election

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 4:38pm
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit AILSA CHANG, HOST: The crackdown on opponents of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega continues. Yesterday, a reporter was arrested and charged with aiding foreign intervention in the country. These are similar accusations that have led to the arrest of nearly 20 opposition figures, including former government officials and key business leaders. This crackdown, which began late last month, has virtually wiped out opposition to President Ortega, who's set to run for a fourth consecutive term in November. New York Times reporter Anatoly Kurmanaev was recently denied entry into Nicaragua to cover all of this. He covers Mexico and South America for The Times and joins us now from Mexico City. Welcome. ANATOLY KURMANAEV: Thank you for having me. CHANG: So I understand the airline actually canceled your ticket to Managua shortly before you were even boarding. What happened exactly? KURMANAEV: Nicaraguan authorities didn't approve my entry into the country

Biden Backs Bill To End Sentencing Disparities For Crack And Powder Cocaine

WXXI US News - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 4:38pm
(SOUNDBITE OF "DYNASTY" THEME SONG) AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: If you were around in the 1980s, this TV theme might stir up some memories - memories of Blake, Krystle, Alexis and the whole Carrington family, the main characters of the TV show "Dynasty," which turns 40 this year. Between introducing one of the first out gay characters to mass audiences and offering up scenes of unforgettable camp, the hit prime-time series quickly became iconic TV, especially among LGBTQ+ audiences. For Pride Month, Chloe Veltman of member station KQED visited the stately home south of San Francisco where the show's earliest episodes were filmed. She was joined by a "Dynasty" superfan. Here's that story. CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: Pride Month is in full bloom at Filoli mansion, as I stand underneath the canopy of fluttering rainbow flags waiting for the arrival of San Francisco drag royalty. D'ARCY DROLLINGER: I'm here to check on my house. VELTMAN: That's performer, club owner and "Dynasty" fan D'Arcy Drollinger
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