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The Weekend Throwdown

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HURLEY – A snowmobile accident is under investigation after a man from Ixonia, Wisconsin died Wednesday evening. Hurley Police Department and the Iron County Sheriffs Department responded to a snowmobile accident on Trail 77 in the city of Hurley and found the body of the 36 year operator, who was pronounced dead at the scene. […]

IRONWOOD – The Gogebic-Iron County Airport Board is investigating reports of passengers not being able to carry on skis on local flights. The question of skis was part of the interview process with Boutique Air and other airline applicants during the Essential Airline Service interviews in 2019. Boutique Air is working with the TSA to […]

BESSEMER – Residents of the city of Bessemer will be asked to complete an in-depth survey in the next couple of months. The survey asks questions as to where and what the city should accomplish in the next five years to help the council formulate the city’s master plan.  City manager Charly Loper says she […]

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The last federal inmate facing execution before President Donald Trump leaves office was sentenced to death for the killings of three women in a Maryland wildlife refuge, a crime that led to a life sentence for the man who fired the fatal shots.Dustin Higgs, 48, who is scheduled to be executed on Friday at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, says nobody alleges he pulled the trigger. His lawyers have argued it is “arbitrary and inequitable” to execute Higgs while Willis Haynes, the man who fatally shot the women in 1996, was spared a death sentence.

The federal judge who presided over Higgs’ trial two decades ago says he “merits little compassion.”
“He received a fair trial and was convicted and sentenced to death by a unanimous jury for a despicable crime,” U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte wrote in a Dec. 29 ruling.
Defense attorneys won temporary stays of execution this week for Higgs and another inmate, Corey Johnson, after arguing that their recent COVID-19 infections put them at greater risk of unnecessary suffering during the lethal injections. But higher courts overruled those decisions, allowing the executions to go forward, and Johnson was executed Thursday night.
Shawn Nolan, one of Higgs’ attorneys, sees a clear political agenda in the unprecedented string of federal executions at the end of Trump’s presidency. Higgs is scheduled to be executed five days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. A spokesman for Biden has said the Democrat is against the death penalty and will work to end its use.
“In the midst of the pandemic and everything that’s going on right now in the country, it seems just insane to move forward with these executions,” Nolan said recently. “And particularly for Dustin, who didn’t shoot anybody. He didn’t kill anybody.”
Higgs’ Dec. 19 petition for clemency says he has been a model prisoner and dedicated father to a son born shortly after his arrest. Higgs had a traumatic childhood and lost his mother to cancer when he was 10, the petition says.

“Mr. Higgs’s difficult upbringing was not meaningfully presented to the jury at trial,” his attorneys wrote.
In October 2000, a federal jury in Maryland convicted Higgs of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the killings of Tamika Black, 19; Mishann Chinn. 23; and Tanji Jackson, 21. His death sentence was the first imposed in the modern era of the federal system in Maryland, which abolished the death penalty in 2013.
Higgs was 23 on the evening of Jan. 26, 1996, when he, Haynes and a third man, Victor Gloria, picked up the three women in Washington, D.C., and drove them to Higgs’ apartment in Laurel, Maryland, to drink alcohol and listen to music. Before dawn the next morning, an argument between Higgs and Jackson prompted her to grab a knife in the kitchen before Haynes persuaded her to drop it.
Gloria said Jackson made threats as she left the apartment with the other women and appeared to write down the license plate number of Higgs’ van, angering him. The three men chased after the women in Higgs’ van. Haynes persuaded them to get into the vehicle.
Instead of taking them home, Higgs drove them to a secluded spot in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, federal land in Laurel.
“Aware at that point that something was amiss, one of the women asked if they were going to have to ‘walk from here’ and Higgs responded ‘something like that,’” said an appeals court ruling upholding Higgs’s death sentence.
Higgs handed his pistol to Haynes, who shot all three women outside the van before the men left, Gloria testified.
“Gloria turned to ask Higgs what he was doing, but saw Higgs holding the steering wheel and watching the shootings from the rearview mirror,” said the 2013 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Investigators found Jackson’s day planner at the scene of the killings. It contained Higgs’s nickname, “Bones,” his telephone number, his address number and the tag number for his van.
The jurors who convicted Haynes failed to reach a unanimous verdict on whether to impose a death sentence. A different jury convicted Higgs and returned a death sentence after a separate trial. Gloria pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the murders and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Higgs has argued that his death sentence must be thrown out because jurors failed to consider it as a “mitigating factor” that Haynes was convicted of identical charges but sentenced to life in prison. The appeals court concluded that rational jurors could find that Higgs had the dominant role in the murders even though Haynes indisputably was the triggerman.
In their clemency petition, Higgs’ lawyers said Gloria received a “substantial deal” in exchange for his cooperation
“Moreover,” they wrote, “significant questions remain as to whether Mr. Gloria received the additional undisclosed benefit of having an unrelated state murder investigation against him dropped at the urging of federal officers to protect his credibility as the star witness. A federal death verdict should not rest on such a flimsy basis.”
Chinn worked with the children’s choir at a church, Jackson worked in the office at a high school and Black was a teacher’s aide at National Presbyterian School in Washington, according to the Washington Post.
On the day in 2001 when the judge formally sentenced Higgs to death, Black’s mother, Joyce Gaston, said it brought her little solace, the Post reported.
“It’s not going to ever be right in my mind,” Gaston said, “That was my daughter. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it.”

HURLEY — The Wisconsin Department of Transportation issued its first quarterly transportation aid payment of the year earlier this month, with municipalities around Wisconsin receiving a combined $126 million — including more than $470,000 to Iron County and its cities and towns.  The payments represent part of the cooperative work with local governments across the […]

MADISON – This weekend is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Winter Free Fishing Weekend. All this weekend residents can enjoy winter fishing without a license or trout stamp. Anglers are advised to review trout regulations and 2020-2021 Hook and Line regulations for more information. All other fishing regulations apply.

The U.S. Forest Service is set to release an environmental impact statement that would pave the way to create one of the largest copper mines in the United States


January 15, 2021, 1:58 PM
• 4 min read

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The U.S. Forest Service is scheduled to release an environmental review that will pave the way to create one of the largest copper mines in the U.S., against the wishes of a group of Apaches who have been trying for years to stop the project.
The expected Friday publication of the document will start a 60-day clock for a tract of land in the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix to be turned over to international mining giant Rio Tinto and its subsidiary, Resolution Copper.

A judge late Thursday denied a request from Apache Stronghold, a group led by former San Carlos Apache Chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr., to halt the publication until the larger question over who legally owns the land is settled.
U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan in Phoenix said he recognizes “the anxiety that having one’s sacred land taken from them and used for purposes that run counter to their spiritual beliefs, might cause.”
But Logan said the Forest Service and other defendants also have a right to respond to the allegations, and he saw no proof they had been served. He set a Jan. 27 hearing.
Environmentalists contend the Forest Service is being pressured to push the review over the finish line before Donald Trump leaves office, complicating efforts to stop the project.
The Forest Service said that’s not true, while the mining company contends the publication already is delayed by months.
The mountainous land near Superior, Arizona, is known as Oak Flat or Chi’chil Bildagoteel. It’s where Apaches have harvested medicinal plants, held coming-of-age ceremonies and gathered acorns for generations.

An area where dozens of warriors leapt to their deaths from a ridge adjacent to the proposed copper mine, rather than surrender to U.S. forces during westward expansion, is protected as a special management area.
Nosie’s group alleged violations of religious freedom and constitutional rights in the federal lawsuit filed this week. It also contends the Forest Service legally can’t transfer the land because it belongs to Apaches under an 1852 treaty.
Nosie said he’s hopeful the court or politicians will take action to preserve the area as it is.
“I think with a new Congress, new administration, they will be able to take a new look at it based on the Constitution, our religion and based on the consequences of having this mine that’s looking to devastate and destroy this area forever,” Nosie told The Associated Press this week.
The land swap was approved in December 2014, tucked into a must-pass defense bill. The late Republican Sen. John McCain, a major recipient of Rio Tinto campaign contributions, backed it. Before that, stand-alone bills never gained Congress’ approval.
Resolution Copper is set to receive 3.75 square miles (9.71 square kilometers) of Forest Service land in exchange for eight parcels the company owns elsewhere in Arizona.
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, both Democrats, tried unsuccessfully to reverse the land swap. Grijalva said this week that it remains one of his top priorities.
Resolution Copper said it has spent about $2 billion so far to gain access to the mine and conduct studies. More time and money will go into securing permits and constructing the mine, which wouldn’t begin operating for at least 15 years.
The company said it has committed to spending $100 million for cultural heritage and recreation projects, among other things, to help ease the impacts of mining. It has tweaked its plans after receiving input from other tribes, some of whom have members who were hired to help inform archaeological surveys.
The Oak Flat Campground would remain open to the public until it’s no longer safe for people to go there. Eventually, the mine would swallow it.
The project proposal calls for the use of block caving, a method Resolution Copper maintains is safe and environmentally sound, to extract the remaining ore from depths as much as 7,000 feet below ground level.
Through this method, ore is selectively mined in a controlled way as the ground underneath it collapses under its own weight.
Resolution Copper has said the mine could have a $61 billion economic impact over the project’s 60 years and create 1,500 jobs — points that supporters repeatedly have stressed.
Environmentalists are concerned about the toxic waste that would be dumped on nearby wildlands, and the potential for groundwater contamination.
Rio Tinto was criticized last year for blasting through 46,000-year-old aboriginal rock shelters in Australia’s Juukan Gorge. The company’s CEO and two other top executives were fired.

Retail sales fell for a third straight month, as a surge in virus cases kept people away from stores during the holiday shopping season


January 15, 2021, 2:04 PM
• 2 min read

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NEW YORK — Retail sales fell for a third straight month as a surge in virus cases kept people away from stores during the critical holiday shopping season.
The report released Friday is yet another sign that the pandemic is slowing the U.S. economy. Last month, the country lost jobs for the first time since the spring. And government numbers out this week reported a spike in weekly unemployment claims, indicating that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers.

The U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.7% in December from the month before. They also fell in October and November, even though many retailers tried to get people shopping early for their Christmas gifts by offering deals before Halloween.
Some retailers have already indicated that they had an unhappy holiday season. Department store chain Nordstrom, lingerie seller Victoria’s Secret and clothing retailer Urban Outfitters all said sales fell during the holidays.
The Commerce Department said shoppers cut back on spending at electronic and department stores. Sales even fell online, down nearly 6% after rising 19% for the year.
At clothing stores, sales rose 2.4% after dropping 16% for the year. But the biggest increase was at gas stations, likely because people took road trips during the holidays, helping sales rise 6.6% after falling 12% for the year.
Friday’s report covers only about a third of overall consumer spending. Services such as haircuts and hotel stays, which have been badly hurt by the pandemic, are not included.

Three of the key advisers who helped engineer Donald Trump’s’ rise to the presidency in 2016, and who fell from grace under the weight of federal criminal charges, resurfaced during Trump’s final days in office to help engineer his ill-fated attempt to cling to power.Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn all participated in efforts to promote the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” event that ultimately devolved into a riotous and deadly melee at the United States Capitol, leaving five dead and causing Trump to become the only president to be impeached for a second time.

While none of them spoke at the actual rally, Stone whipped up a crowd of Trump supporters in Washington the night before, telling them the president’s enemies sought “nothing less than the heist of the 2020 election.”
“And we say, No way!” Stone said at the Jan. 5 rally.

Flynn promoted the so-called “Jericho March,” a rally of Christians to “pray, march, fast, and rally for election integrity,” according to the group’s website, that also took place on Jan. 6 in the shadow of the Capitol. In the weeks leading up to the event, Flynn told his supporters that they would “need to be fearless as Americans.”
Speaking at a Dec. 12 rally in Washington to promote the Trump effort to overturn the election, Flynn told supporters they had reached a “crucible moment” and “there has to be sacrifice.”
“We’re in a battle … for the heart and soul of the country,” Flynn said. “We will win.”

In this Jan. 28, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks on the phone in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., as National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon look on.

Bannon also played a significant role in promoting the Jan. 6 rally, which was co-organized by “March for Trump,” and he previously served as a prominent sponsor of the group’s cross-country December bus tour ahead of the rally. Shortly after Trump lost the 2020 election, Bannon’s “War Room” podcast was banned from YouTube for suggesting Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded.
“I’d put the heads on pikes. Right. I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats,” Bannon said. “You either get with the program or you are gone.”
Falls from grace
All three men played pivotal roles in Trump’s rise to power, only to see their reputations tainted by criminal investigation.
Stone was one of Trump’s earliest political advisers, working with the real estate mogul long before he ventured into campaign politics. After a brief period working directly for Trump’s presidential bid, Stone took on the role of outside adviser, even as he maintained regular contact with Trump.
Stone was later swept into the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, and faced allegations that he helped coordinate the release of hacked documents by WikiLeaks that were meant to damage Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. In 2019, Stone was convicted on federal charges of obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering, and sentenced to 40 months in prison. Trump commuted the sentence and ultimately issued Stone a pardon.

After leading Trump to victory as a top campaign strategist, Bannon also served in Trump’s White House. He left after seven months and, like many top campaign officials, became swept up in the Russian investigation. He was never charged with wrongdoing in that probe. Last August, though, he was charged in federal court in an unrelated case with defrauding donors to a private fundraising effort called “We Build the Wall,” which said it was raising private funds to help expand the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He pleaded not guilty and is out on bail awaiting trial.
Flynn served briefly as Trump’s first national security adviser before he was dismissed for lying about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador. He, too, became a focus of the federal prosecutors and pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. He later recanted before being sentenced, and was also pardoned by Trump.
A source close to Flynn told ABC News the retired general does not believe his words incited violence, and that he does not condone it, saying the riot was “the last thing we expected.”

Former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn looks on as supporters of President Donald Trump rally to protest the results of the election in front of Supreme Court building, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2020.

Trump had invited Flynn and his family to the Jan. 6 rally but the source said they left disgusted at what the confidant said was a pointless gathering on the Ellipse, followed by outrageous political violence on Capitol Hill.
“100% the election was stolen — no one is going to convince us otherwise,” the source said. “But Michael Flynn never called for violence. What happened there was terrible.”
Back in the fold
All three men resurfaced in Trump’s orbit as advisers became increasingly concerned that Trump would lose his bid for reelection to Joe Biden. And as Trump mounted his drive to convince his supporters that he had actually won the 2020 race “in a landslide,” all three picked up the messaging and spread it to their followers.
Even before Election Day, Stone was pushing the notion that vote counts could not be trusted. During a September appearance with extremist agitator Alex Jones, Stone called on Republicans to “be prepared to file legal objections and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.”

Roger Stone, former adviser to President Donald Trump, is flanked by security during a rally at Freedom Plaza, ahead of the U.S. Congress certification of the November 2020 election results, during protests in Washington, D.C., Jan. 5, 2021.

After the election, Stone encouraged protesters to come to Washington to voice objections to the outcome. He was billed as a featured speaker for the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the assault on the U.S. Capitol, but did not appear. Since that day, he has sought to distance himself from the effort, telling ABC News in a statement that he condemned the violence perpetrated on the Capitol by the mob.
“I have no role whatsoever in the January 6 events as I never left the site of my hotel until leaving for Dulles Airport before 6 pm curfew. A careful review of my language of January 5 indicates that I played no role whatsoever in advocating violence or any inappropriate or illegal activity,” Stone said in the statement. “Indeed anyone breaking into the US Capitol, trespassing and destroying property would only be hurting the America First movement that I support.”
In the days after Trump’s election loss, Flynn joined forces with Sidney Powell, the attorney who had helped engineer Flynn’s decision to recant his earlier guilty plea. The two helped lead Trump’s effort to dispute the election defeat, both in court and through a social media blitz that engaged, among others, followers of the conspiracy-driven movement known as QAnon.

The two even met with Trump in the Oval Office, not long after Flynn appeared on the conservative network Newsmax to advocate that Trump impose martial law and command the military to “rerun” the election. At a Dec. 12 rally Flynn falsely told followers “there are paths that are still in play” for Trump to remain in office for a second term. “There’s a lot of activity that’s still playing out,” he said before Trump flew over the crowd in Marine One.
Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor and expert in homegrown terror groups, said Flynn emerged as a hero among extremists. She said Flynn “riled up” the groups ahead of the Jan. 6 election protest, and “incited the most extreme among the crowd to do something about it.”
Bannon’s quiet return
Of the three, Bannon kept the lowest profile in the days after the election. Only in recent days did he surface as someone who appeared to be back in touch with the president about the election, according to Bloomberg News. Bannon was also helping efforts by 501(c)(4) political nonprofits, so-called dark money groups, to overturn the election results, including the bus tour.
In public, Bannon repeatedly used his platform to promote the Jan. 6 rally, hosting rally organizers on his podcast at least 16 times amid the push to overturn the election results.
Two days before the rally and subsequent attack on the Capitol, Kylie Jane Kremer of rally sponsor “Women for America First” appeared on Bannon’s “War Room” podcast to promote the event. “President of the United States, as we know right now, tentatively at 11 he’s going to come and address the nation and then it’s gonna be — the game is going to start on Capitol Hill,” Bannon said. “I think one of the most historic days in American history will be Wednesday.”

In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon delivers remarks at an event in Washington, D.C.

Bannon did not return a request for comment from ABC News.
Two of Bannon’s longtime associates also served in key roles on Jan. 6. Dustin Stockton was one of the lead organizers of the rally, and Jennifer Lawrence ran media relations.
Until 2017, Stockton and Lawrence worked as writers at the far-right media outlet Breitbart when Bannon was executive chairman, according to their LinkedIn profiles. The pair most recently worked with Bannon on his crowdfunding campaign “We Build the Wall,” which in August 2020 resulted in the federal indictments over allegations of defrauding donors.
Neither Stockton or Lawrence returned ABC News’ requests for comment.
Stockton served as “We Build the Wall’s” vice president of strategy and marketing, according to his LinkedIn and social media posts, while Lawrence was the group’s communications director before joining the “March for Trump” group. Stockton and Lawrence were both served warrants for their cellphones, as well as subpoenas to appear before a grand jury, in connection to the “We Build the Wall” group, but neither has been charged, according to CNN.

Stockton used some of the most incendiary language in the run-up to Jan. 6, at one point telling followers on a Facebook Live appearance to “clean your guns and prepare. Things are going to get worse before they get better.”
On a Facebook Live stream Wednesday night after the Capitol attack, Stockton appeared unrepentant, saying lawmakers were “trying to certify a fraudulent election.”
“I want to stand up against that,” he said. “It’s the whole reason I’ve been on this bus tour. That’s the whole reason I’ve been organizing these events in D.C.”

Two syndromic surveillance systems, the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet) and the National Syndromic Surveillance Project (NSSP), are being used to monitor trends in outpatient and emergency department (ED) visits that may be associated with COVID-19 illness. Each system monitors activity in a slightly different set of providers/facilities and uses a slightly different set of symptoms that may be associated with SARS-CoV-2 virus infection. ILINet provides information about visits to outpatient providers or emergency departments for influenza-like illness (ILI: fever plus cough and/or sore throat) and NSSP provides information about visits to EDs for ILI and COVID-like illness (CLI: fever plus cough and/or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing). Some EDs contribute ILI data to both ILINet and NSSP. Both systems are currently being affected by changes in health care seeking behavior, including increased use of telemedicine and increased social distancing. These changes affect the numbers of people seeking care in the outpatient and ED settings. Syndromic data, including CLI and ILI, should be interpreted with caution and should be evaluated in combination with other sources of surveillance data, especially laboratory testing results, to obtain a complete and accurate picture of respiratory illness.
Nationally, the overall percentages of visits to outpatient providers or EDs remained stable (change of ≤0.1%) for ILI and decreased for CLI during week 1 compared with week 53. During week 1, the percentages of ED visits captured in NSSP for CLI and ILI were 7.5% and 1.3%, respectively. In ILINet, 1.7% of visits reported during week 1 were for ILI, which has remained stable (change of ≤0.1%) compared with week 53 and below the national baseline (2.4% for October 2019 through September 2020; 2.6% since October 2020) for the 39th consecutive week. This level of ILI is lower than is typical for ILINet during this time of year.


The percentages of visits for ILI reported in ILINet in week 1 decreased for two age groups (0–4 years and 50–64 years) compared with week 53. In the remaining age groups (5–24 years, 25–49 years, and 65 years and older), these percentages remained stable (change of ≤0.1%).


On a regional levelexternal icon, two regions (Region 5 [Midwest]and 9 [South/West Coast]) reported an increase in at least one indicator of mild to moderate illness (CLI and/or ILI) during week 1 compared with week 53. The remaining eight regions reported a stable (change of ≤0.1%) or decreasing level of mild to moderate illness during week 1 compared with week 53; however, three of these regions (Regions 2 (New Jersey/New York/Puerto Rico), 4 (Southeast) and 6 (South Central) have reported an increasing trend in at least one of these indicators during recent weeks. The percentage of visits for ILI to ILINet providers during week 1 was above the the region-specific baseline in one region (Region 9 [South/West Coast]).
ILI Activity Levels
Data collected in ILINet are used to produce a measure of ILI activity for all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, New York City and for each core-based statistical area (CBSA) where at least one provider is located. The mean reported percentage of visits due to ILI for the current week is compared with the mean reported during non-influenza weeks, and the activity levels correspond to the number of standard deviations below, at, or above the mean.
The number of jurisdictions at each activity level during week 53 and the previous week are summarized in the table below.

ILI Activity Levels
Activity Level
Number of Jurisdictions
Number of CBSAs
Week 1 (Week ending  Jan. 9, 2021)
Week 53 (Week ending  Jan. 2, 2021)
Week 1 (Week ending  Jan. 9, 2021)
Week 53 (Week ending  Jan. 2, 2021)
Very High
Insufficient Data

*Note: Data collected in ILINet may disproportionally represent certain populations within a state and may not accurately depict the full picture of respiratory disease activity for the whole state. Differences in the data presented here by CDC and independently by some state health departments likely represent differing levels of data completeness with data presented by the state likely being the more complete.
Additional information about medically attended outpatient and emergency department visits for ILI and CLI: Surveillance Methods