Contract talks between the Kellogg Co. and its 1,400 striking cereal plant workers are set to resume next weekByThe Associated PressOctober 26, 2021, 5:35 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleOMAHA, Neb. — Contract talks between the Kellogg Co. and its 1,400 striking cereal plant workers are set to resume next week.The Battle Creek, Michigan-based company said Tuesday that the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union that represents those workers agreed to return to the bargaining table starting next Tuesday. The workers have been on strike since Oct. 5.The strike includes four plants in Battle Creek; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee that make all of Kellogg’s brands of cereal, including Rice Krispies and Apple Jacks.The company has said it’s not clear how the strike will affect cereal supplies in stores because it has restarted production at all four cereal plants with salaried employees and outside workers.
The Chicago Blackhawks are holding a briefing to discuss the findings of an investigation into allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player in 2010By STEPHEN WHYNO AP Hockey WriterOctober 26, 2021, 5:13 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Chicago Blackhawks are holding a briefing Tuesday to discuss the findings of an investigation into allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player in 2010.Team owner Rocky Wirtz, CEO Danny Wirtz and former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who ran the investigation, are scheduled to speak. The Blachhawks’ news release about the briefing made no mention of president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman, who TSN reported was involved in a meeting 11 years ago that informed team officials of the assault.The Blackhawks pledged to release the findings of the investigation, which Bowman, former Chicago coach Joel Quenneville and others who were in the organization at the time agreed to cooperate with.Two lawsuits were filed against the Blackhawks: one alleging sexual assault by assistant coach Bradley Aldrich during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010 and another filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan. Aldrich left the Blackhawks after the 2009-10 season.A former player said Aldrich assaulted him, and that the team did nothing after he informed an employee. The lawsuit, filed May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach for the Blackhawks, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.According to TSN, two Blackhawks players told then-skills coach Paul Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behavior by Aldrich. Vincent said he asked mental skills coach James Gary to follow up with the players and management.Vincent was called into a meeting with Bowman, then-team President John McDonough, hockey executive Al MacIsaac and Gary the next day, TSN reported, and said he asked the team to report the allegations to Chicago police, a request that was denied.In addition to running Chicago’s hockey operations department, Bowman is USA Hockey’s men’s GM for the Beijing Olympics. It was not immediately clear if USA Hockey had any plans to address Bowman’s status pending the findings of the investigation.———More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The firing of Tennessee’s former vaccination director caught the state’s top health leaders off guard and sent them scrambling for answers as the health commissioner fumed over the praise coworkers heaped on the ousted employee, documents show.Earlier this year, Tennessee’s Department of Health sparked national attention after Dr. Michelle “Shelley” Fiscus was fired under pressure from Republican legislators incensed over the department’s efforts to get children vaccinated against COVID-19. Fiscus accused Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey of terminating her “to appease a handful of outraged and uninformed legislators.”The Associated Press requested a week’s worth of emails among the health department’s top leadership regarding Fiscus’ firing in mid-July. The records, released for review after several months, paint a more complete picture of an agency in turmoil over the firing of an official who was highly regarded by those fighting to contain the pandemic.The agency last month said it would cost the AP roughly $1,400 to review several hundred records. Ultimately, the department produced some 150 records to view in person at no cost, explaining the discrepancy by saying the initial figure had estimated “potential” costs. The state’s open records law requires that all public records be made available for inspection upon request.Emails provided to the AP show some officials were shocked at Fiscus’ firing.“I am so saddened by this news and honestly cannot comprehend it,” wrote Dr. Jill Obremskey, department medical director. “Dr. Fiscus has put forth a herculean effort to assure COVID vaccine was available to anyone who wanted it. Because of her, many lives have been saved.”In announcing Fiscus’ firing, Dr. John Dunn, state epidemiologist, acknowledged that the news was “sudden, sad and disconcerting to our team members.”“I wish her the very best in the future. Her commitment to public health has been very evident during the COVID-19 response effort over the last 18 months,” Dunn wrote on July 12.Two days prior, in a separate email to CDC officials, Dunn highlighted that Fiscus had helped lead “herculean efforts” to push the COVID-19 shot among the state’s unvaccinated.Dr. Tim Jones, chief medical officer, later told Dunn his kind words about Fiscus had upset Piercey.“By the way, the commissioner is really angry that you wrote anything nice about Shelley in your traditional ‘farewell message’ and that Obremskey reiterated it. It’s been fun around here,” Jones wrote to Dunn on July 14.A department spokesperson declined to comment on Jones’ description, saying it was a personnel issue.The email traffic raises new questions about a letter dated July 9 — attributed to Jones — that recommended the firing of Fiscus.The letter said Fiscus should be removed due to complaints about her leadership approach and her handling of a letter explaining vaccination rights of minors for COVID-19 shots without notifying their parents, which helped prompt the backlash from lawmakers.Tennessee officials, however, didn’t release her performance reviews, which are exempted under state public records law. Fiscus’ husband Brad circulated them in rebuttal, showing she received glowing appraisals over several years. One positive review came as recently as June, when Dunn praised Fiscus for “strong leadership” while her program was under “very intense scrutiny.”A month prior, Republican lawmakers put Fiscus and the department in the hot seat over its childhood vaccine messaging efforts, with one lawmaker floating the possibility of shuttering the health agency as retribution.News of Fiscus’ firing quickly resulted in a barrage of phone calls from Tennesseans and others alarmed by her dismissal and the department’s decision to pause COVID-19 vaccine outreach efforts for eligible minors. Emails show Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s communication team provided a script for the health agency to recite.“(The department) began using the script at about 12:45 and it is not going well…the callers are really upset,” wrote agency staffer Lisa Hanner.Piercey was on vacation in Greece when Fiscus was fired. Few of the emails provided to AP include her correspondence, but a handful indicate she was monitoring media coverage.At least one doctor emailed Piercey to praise her for firing Fiscus, which the commissioner forwarded to Brandon Gibson, Lee’s chief operating officer. There’s no indication in the records that she forwarded any emails from the medical community backing Fiscus.“I am thankful to my colleagues at the Tennessee Department of Health for coming to my defense and admonishing the department leadership’s decision to terminate me from my position,” Fiscus told the AP.“Tennessee’s elected and appointed officials continue to put politics ahead of what is in the best interest of the health and wellbeing of the people of Tennessee and it is the people who will continue to suffer the consequences of these misguided priorities. It’s shameful,” she added.The department did not respond to the records request until Sept. 9, informing the AP it would cost about $1,400 for attorneys to vet and potentially redact about 875 records. When the AP asked to view the records in person as allowed under Tennessee’s open records law, the department updated that the total amount of documents would be 374.Ultimately, the agency only identified 158 documents within the AP’s records request. Asked about the reduced number, a department spokesperson said the original estimate included “potential” records, not a firm amount.
An Alabama apartment complex was paid a visit by an unusual guest as children were coming home from school: an alligator that crawled out of a storm drainByThe Associated PressOctober 26, 2021, 2:58 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMOBILE, Ala. — An Alabama apartment complex was paid a visit by an unusual guest as children were coming home from school Monday afternoon: an alligator that crawled out of a storm drain.Kenisha Miller and her boyfriend, Anthony Patterson, told WKRG-TV that they were driving home when they stopped to do a double-take in a downtown Mobile neighborhood.“We saw a gator coming out of the drainage hole, and I was like, ‘Is that really a gator?’” Miller said.The couple tried to get police and wildlife officials to the scene quickly as the reptile inched toward the complex.A school bus was dropping off kids not even 50 feet (15.2 meters) down the street. Miller and Patterson said other people were initially oblivious to the gator.But a crowd soon formed, with some neighborhood residents trying to record the surprising scene.“They were just as shocked as we were,” Patterson said. “Never (seen) nothing like this, in the hood anyway.”Wildlife officials safely captured the alligator and took it away.
It is still unclear how Jelani Day ended up in the Illinois River.October 26, 2021, 4:04 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleJelani Day’s death is said to have been caused by drowning, according to the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office. The 25-year-old college student went missing in August, while studying to be a doctor at Illinois State University.Illinois State University student Jelani Day, right, is pictured in an undated family photo.Day was last seen on Aug. 24 at the university’s campus in Bloomington, Illinois. His parents reported him missing on Aug. 25 and his car was found two days later in Peru, Illinois.Day was found dead, floating in the Illinois River on Sept. 4. His body was not identified until weeks later by the LaSalle County Coroner, on Sept. 23.”Unfortunately, there is no specific positive test at autopsy for drowning,” coroner Richard Ploch’s statement read Tuesday. “Drowning is considered a diagnosis of exclusion with supporting investigation circumstances when a person is found deceased in a body of water.”The coroner did not find any evidence of intoxication or injury in the forensic autopsy — no signs of an assault, altercation, strangulation or more — and it remains unknown how Day ended up in the Illinois River.Day’s family still suspects foul play in the young man’s death, and said that his personal belongings were found scattered away from where his body was found.Illinois State University student Jelani Day, 25, is pictured in an undated family photo.”Jelani did not just disappear into thin air. Somebody knows something, somebody seen something and I need somebody to say something,” Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, told “Good Morning America” on Sept. 29.The case is still being investigated by local police jurisdictions in the area, along with the FBI.
A man convicted of killing nine people in arson fires in his Ohio neighborhood has been sentenced to life in prison without paroleByThe Associated PressOctober 26, 2021, 3:28 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleAKRON, Ohio — A man convicted of killing nine people in arson fires in his neighborhood was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole for each death.Judge Christine Croce also ordered that Stanley Ford, of Akron, serve the terms consecutively.Ford, 62, has maintained his innocence. He was found guilty Sept. 21 of 26 of the 29 counts against him, including aggravated murder and aggravated arson. A jury recommended this month that he be sentenced to life in prison instead of the death penalty, though the judge had the final say.Besides the life terms for the murders, Croce also imposed an additional 21-year sentence for attempted aggravated murder with a violent offender specification.Ford did not speak at the sentencing. His lawyer —who asked the judge Tuesday to not impose consecutive terms — said Ford plans to appeal the sentence.Summit County prosecutors said Ford killed a couple in 2016 and two adults and five children in 2017. They used surveillance video footage, security alarm records and the testimony of neighbors to show Ford was responsible.Prosecutors said Ford set the fires because of disputes with his neighbors. Ford’s attorney argued at trial that his client could not be identified in the surveillance videos and added that other potential suspects were identified.Ford’s initial trial began in March 2020. After a week of testimony and several delays, Summit County Judge Christine Croce declared a mistrial the following June at the request of Ford’s attorneys, who cited concerns about Ford’s ability to get a fair trial during the coronavirus pandemic.
A 69-year-old Las Vegas woman is accused of defrauding the Social Security Administration of over $120,000 after she allegedly dismembered her dead husband’s body and threw his remains in the trashByThe Associated PressOctober 26, 2021, 3:32 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLAS VEGAS — A 69-year-old Las Vegas woman is accused of defrauding Social Security for years after she allegedly dismembered her dead husband’s body and threw his remains in the trash, according to a federal criminal complaint.Nancy Shedleski deposited $121,000 of her husband’s retirement benefits after he died in 2015 death and Social Security officials didn’t know anything was wrong until they received an anonymous tip in 2019 that the husband had disappeared, according to the complaint filed last week in Nevada.The complaint, which charged Shedleski with theft of government money, identified the husband only as “J.P.S.” and said he was in his 70s when he died.Survivor’s benefits for Shedleski in 2019 if her husband’s death has been reported would have been $14,000, but her husband’s benefits that were distributed that year totaled $24,000, the complaint said.When contacted by federal officials, Shedleski initially said her husband was traveling but later admitted to dismembering his body and disposing of his remains after he died at their Pennsylvania home, the complaint said.“Shedleski confirmed there was no ambulance, no hospitalization, no funeral, no burial and no cremation,” the complaint said.The complaint did not specify the husband’s cause of death or say where the couple lived in Pennsylvania before Nancy Shedleski moved to Las Vegs in 2017.The complaint said her husband last received medical care in 2015 at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Jefferson Hills, which is near Pittsburgh.Shedleski was arrested last Thursday and appeared in court in Las Vegas on Friday. She was not asked to enter a plea and was released on her own recognizance pending a Nov. 5 court hearing.Her court-appointed defense lawyer, Wendi Overmyer, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on behalf of her client.
U.S. home prices jumped in August by a near-record amount from a year earlier, as Americans eager to buy a home drove up prices on a dwindling number of propertiesBy CHRISTOPHER RUGABER AP Economics WriterOctober 26, 2021, 1:45 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — U.S. home prices jumped in August by a near-record amount from a year earlier, as Americans eager to buy a home drove up prices on a dwindling number of properties.The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index soared 19.7% in August compared with a year ago. That increase is just below July’s 20% jump, which was the largest gain on records dating back to 2000. Home prices are now at all-time highs in all 20 cities in the index.Home sales have been healthy for most of this year, spurred by an ongoing desire among many people for greater space to wait out the coronavirus pandemic. Mortgage rates have also been historically low, though they have risen in recent weeks, and many Americans have become wealthier since the pandemic as stock prices have moved steadily higher, enabling them to afford a new home.Phoenix reported the biggest price increase among the 20 cities that make up the index, as it has for more than two years. Its home prices increased 33.3% in August compared with a year earlier. Home prices in San Diego jumped 26.2%, the second highest, and Tampa’s home prices rose 25.9%, the third-largest gain.There are signs that the rapid price gains of the past year are cooling a bit. August’s price increases, compared with a year ago, were slightly lower than in July, the first decline in annual price gains since June 2020. And price increases slowed in 12 of the 20 cities in the Case-Shiller CoreLogic index.“The slowing acceleration in home prices suggests that buyer fatigue is setting in, particularly among higher-priced homes,” said Selma Hepp, CoreLogic Deputy Chief Economist.Mortgage rates rose to 3.1% last week, the highest since April, according to mortgage-buyer Freddie Mac.That increase likely pushed more people to look for and buy homes, before rates move even higher. Sales of existing homes jumped 7% in September.Potential buyers still have relatively few homes to choose from, with just 1.27 million houses on the market in September, down 13% in the past year. That’s pushed many buyers to move quickly.Homes are typically selling within 17 days of hitting the market, according to the National Association of Realtors, and 86% of homes sold in September were on the market for fewer than 30 days.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida fishing guide and environmental activist Paul Fafeita says a highlight for his charter customers is spotting the manatees that forage for seagrass in shallow waters. It’s not so thrilling when they come across the emaciated carcass of a manatee that starved to death.“It’s not good when you’ve got clients on the boat and all of a sudden there’s a dead manatee,” Fafeita, president of the Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County, said during a recent excursion in the Indian River Lagoon, a favorite hangout for the marine mammals along Florida’s east coast. “They’re wanting to see them. They don’t want to see them dead.”Florida is experiencing an unprecedented die-off of manatees this year, with 959 documented deaths as of Oct. 1. That’s already more than any full year on record, and colder weather soon to come could bring another wave of deaths in a population that numbers between 7,500 and 10,200 along both Florida coasts, according to state estimates.Manatee deaths this year will likely double the 593 recorded in 2020, and will far outnumber the latest five-year average of 146 deaths in Florida, according to state figures, with no end to the die-off in sight.“There is a huge sense of urgency,” said Gil McRae, director of the state Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “We’re uncertain how long it’s (high manatee deaths) going to be.”The reason? Seagrass on which the so-called sea cows depend also is dying as water quality declines due to fertilizer runoff, wastewater discharges and polluted water that is increasingly diverted on purpose from Lake Okeechobee to coastal estuaries.These manmade pollutants can cause algae blooms so thick that seagrass can’t get the sunlight it needs to survive, jeopardizing the manatees’ main food supply. Since 2009 about 58% of the seagrass has been lost in the Indian River Lagoon, state estimates show.“The cold hard fact is: Florida is at a water quality and climate crossroads, and manatees are our canary in the coal mine,” said J.P. Brooker, Florida director for the Ocean Conservancy environmental group, in an opinion piece published by The Invading Sea, a collaboration of 26 Florida news outlets focused on climate change impact.“They are dying off in record numbers because we humans have made Florida waters inhospitable to them,” Brooker said. “It’s not just our manatees at risk, it’s a coast-wide ecological problem.”State and federal environmental officials are beginning a manatee habitat restoration program, armed with $8 million in state money approved this year by Florida legislators. They say with cooler winter months on the way, the tendency of manatees to congregate in warmer waters could mean many more of the creatures will starve before the restoration work is completed.“Seagrass restoration doesn’t happen overnight. We can’t really start planting seagrass until we have water quality improvements,” said Michael Sole, vice chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “The winter is coming.”The commission is asking state lawmakers to approve another $7 million in the upcoming legislative session for seagrass restoration, manatee rehabilitation centers and other projects. At a committee hearing last week, McRae said researchers also are studying whether humans can feed manatees without harming them.“Those of you that have paid attention to feeding wildlife know that almost universally, it does more harm than good,” McRae told lawmakers. But if the manatees’ numbers keep plummeting, “there’s a possibility some level of supplemental feeding might be in order,” he said.Manatees have struggled to withstand humans for decades. Boat strikes kill dozens of the slow-moving animals despite no-wake zones in areas the animals frequent, and many more bear lifelong scars from such encounters. There are also threats from red tide outbreaks — and unusually cold weather.They are gentle round-tailed giants, weighing as much as 1,200 pounds (550 kilograms) and living as long as 65 years or so. Manatees are Florida’s official state marine mammal and are closely related to elephants.Perhaps the best-known and oldest manatee in captivity, a male named Snooty, died at age 69, drowning after a hatch malfunctioned in his aquarium at a Bradenton museum in 2017.Manatees were listed as endangered beginning in 1966 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a designation downgraded to the less-stringent threatened category in 2016. A new push is on to list manatees as endangered once again to increase their long-term recovery chances.“Florida manatees desperately need us to help them by cleaning up and protecting their habitat,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director and senior attorney at The Center for Biological Diversity, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit intent on saving imperiled species. The center and other groups plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to boost habitat protections for the manatee.So far, the threatened designation has remained in place. A 2017 federal-state analysis pegged the chance of manatee extinction in Florida at less than a half-percent within the next 100 years.Yet to environmental groups, the struggle of the manatee is a signal that humans are wrecking the coastal estuaries they and many other creatures need to survive.The state Department of Environmental Protection has set in motion a program aimed at sharply reducing the load of harmful releases into the Indian River Lagoon by 2035.The focus is on cutting introduction of nitrogen and phosphorous that is responsible for the seagrass-killing algae blooms. Projects to date have reduced releases of these nutrients by 37% of the ultimate goal, according to the state environmental agency.Meanwhile, efforts to rescue and rehabilitate starving manatees continue at locations such as the SeaWorld theme park in Orlando to the Tampa zoo.The Clearwater Marine Aquarium in September announced plans for a $10 million manatee rescue and rehabilitation facility, the fifth of its kind in Florida.A coalition of 16 environmental and business groups called this summer for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare the manatee die-off an emergency, which could focus resources and attention on the problem. DeSantis hasn’t done it, contending at a news conference it would “spook a lot of people” and possibly trigger economic harm.“We have a lot of money at our disposal,” the governor said.Back out on the water, fishing guide and activist Fafeita said it’s not just the manatees — seagrass reduction also affects other species such as blue crabs and speckled sea trout.“You know, the list just goes on and on and on,” Fafeita said. “Right now, our big concern is the manatee. We’re not going to catch that many fish this year. It’s affecting us some. The true impact to be next year.”—————AP video reporter Cody Jackson contributed from Vero Beach, Florida.