In rural county, vaccination rate is low







In this rural Missouri county, the vaccination rate is low and opposition high

Ashlyn Amelung of Iron County and Dylan Turner of Washington County settle in for watching Space Jam at the Starlite Drive-In in Old Mines on Thursday, July 29, 2021. Amelung, 18 and a Missouri State freshman, recently received her first dose of vaccine, encouraged by her parents to do so. Turner, 20 and a student at Saint Louis University, has not gotten the vaccine even though the university requires it. He is unsure if his classes will be online this semester, so he is in no rush. The twin-screen drive-in has been in operation since 1952. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com




POTOSI, Mo. — At home, Matty Minson was surrounded by woods on the outskirts of this small town. He loved to hunt and fish. During the week, for about 20 years, he made the 65-mile drive north to work construction around St. Louis.






Matty Minson

Matty Minson, 42, of Washington County, Missouri, died from COVID-19 on Jan. 6, 2021. Courtesy photo. 


He was proud of building sewer and commercial-grade water systems. Passing by a Chesterfield outlet mall and other places with friends and family, he’d point out his handiwork.

Last fall, COVID-19 ground his life to a halt. First, it was a cough. The initial test was negative, but he kept feeling poorly. He eventually went to Washington County Memorial Hospital and was admitted for a few days. From there, he was sent north, to Missouri Baptist Medical Center, near the infrastructure projects he helped build.

Minson fought COVID-19 in earnest for about two months. He was on a ventilator from Thanksgiving Day until he died Jan. 6. He was 42. His death shook Potosi, population 2,662. He was hearty, hardworking and relatively young.






In this rural Missouri county, the vaccination rate is low and opposition high

A stone left by an unknown person rests at home plate on a softball field in Potosi City Park on Thursday, July 29, 2021. Matty Minson, 42, an avid softball player at the complex, died on Jan. 6 from COVID-19. His daughter Kayelee Bodimer said her father’s employer, Bommarito Construction, is donating money to upgrade the softball facilities at the park in Minson’s memory. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com




As soon as she could, his daughter, Kayelee Bodimer, got vaccinated.

“I definitely recognize it’s everybody’s choice,” she said. “Frankly, for my family and I, if it could prevent one person from going through what we had to experience, it wasn’t a second thought for us. … If you could do one little thing to prevent it, why not?”

As the coronavirus has picked up pace in recent weeks, she is among only 23% of Washington County residents to be fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That’s among the lowest county vaccination rates in Missouri, where just 41% of the population is fully vaccinated.






In this rural Missouri county, the vaccination rate is low and opposition high

Fourth of July decorations, including a military serviceman’s uniform for sale, fill the front windows of Reed’s Relics on East High Street in downtown Potosi on Thursday, July 29, 2021. The rural community of Washington County has only 23% of its residents fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com




Public health experts say if the United States is going to beat the virus, vaccination rates will need to improve in places like Washington County. Overcoming vaccination hesitancy here is going to be difficult, based on interviews with residents and officials. Reasons ran the gamut.

Despite top officials, including conservative Republicans Gov. Mike Parson, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, now urging constituents to get vaccinated, distrust in government is widespread. The message has changed too many times. Too many lies, people say, too many unknowns.

Many residents point out that the COVID-19 vaccines are relatively new and have yet to be fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They say the vaccine isn’t a guaranteed protection. The odds of dying from COVID-19 are very low. And those who do die had preexisting conditions.

Many don’t take the virus seriously, reporting shows. Many already had it. And, they say, despite mainstream media beating the death drum of worst-case scenarios ad nauseam, they survive, sometimes hardly knowing they have it.

There have been 53 COVID-19 deaths in Washington County since the start of the pandemic, according to state data. A refrigerated trailer and stacks of body bags haven’t been needed, as some authorities cautioned early on, said Doug Short, a county commissioner.

“I don’t think COVID scares people anymore,” said Short, 53, taking a break from hauling hay.






In this rural Missouri county, the vaccination rate is low and opposition high

County commissioner and farmer Doug Short, 53, bales hay on a neighbor’s farm outside of Potosi on Thursday, July 29, 2021. Short, who had COVID-19 as did his father, has not been vaccinated. He believes antibodies from the virus are keeping him safe for now. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com




Both he and his father had COVID-19. With the help of prescribed steroids and antibiotics, Short said, he still worked on the farm every day. He had only mild congestion at night.

“I encourage people to get vaccinated, especially elderly people,” Short said.

He said his 83-year-old father was vaccinated at the Washington County Health Department Wednesday. Short planned to ride out any antibodies still in his system and more testing of the vaccine.






In this rural Missouri county, the vaccination rate is low and opposition high

County commissioner and farmer Doug Short, 53, gets ready to bale a neighbor’s hay outside of Potosi on Thursday, July 29, 2021. Short, who had COVID-19 as did his father, has not been vaccinated. He believes antibodies from the virus are keeping him safe for now. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com




“I probably should get the shot,” he said. “My gut tells me to hold off a little bit longer, and that’s what I am going to do.”

‘Living proof’

For some, faith is about the only undeniable truth. Nobody has statistics on all the people God has saved, but Jack Fambrough says he accounts for one.

“I am living proof,” the Pentecostal preacher said of surviving COVID-19.

He and his wife haven’t been vaccinated. Their 19-year-old daughter, who survived five open heart surgeries in St. Louis, is soon headed to James River College, a Christian school near Springfield, Missouri.

“She has to make her own decision because she’s of age,” said Fambrough, 65, who worked a long time at Joyce Meyer Ministries.

On Wednesday afternoon, he sweated through his shirt on an asphalt parking lot in Potosi, the county seat, as he led a team of people giving out free meals. It was part of a federal program helping families during the pandemic. Traffic was steady. They ran out of gallons of milk and two weeks’ worth of breakfasts and lunches for 384 children in an hour and a half.

“A lot of hurting people out here,” said Fambrough.

While public officials yearn for herd immunity, when most of the population is vaccinated and immune to the new coronavirus and its variants, Fambrough and others are skeptical of loving thy neighbor that way.

“Just because the politicians and the news says one thing, there’s so many lies that have been carried out,” he said. “It’s to the point you don’t know who you can believe and who you can trust.”

Asked about leaders like Parson, Blunt and Hawley encouraging vaccinations, he said: “How many pandemics have they been through? None. They can give a recommendation, they can’t give me proof.”

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His proof was in Proverbs, Chapter 3:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart …”

‘Dead or alive’

Compared to the food giveaway, traffic at the Washington County Health Department is slow. These days, about 50 to 60 COVID-19 vaccines are being administered there a week.

“I, myself, believe in the vaccine 100%,” said Shawnee Douglas, the director. “I also have respect for people in the community who choose not to take the vaccine. The great thing that makes us America is that we have a choice. If only this issue hadn’t become so politicized, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Douglas, 54, who grew up in the community, spoke from her office. Red, white and blue lights draped from the ceiling. Other decorations left from the Fourth of July holiday were mixed in with mementos of her Southern Baptist faith.

“I am a Republican,” she said. “They dropped the ball. I don’t think they were ahead of it like they should have been.”






In this rural Missouri county, the vaccination rate is low and opposition high

Dana Eye, left, of the Shirley community in Washington County and her grandchildren give away puppies to Potosi residents, including Carisa Skiles at right, outside the Dollar Tree on Thursday, July 29, 2021. Eye, a four-year breast cancer survivor, says that nobody in her family has received a COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s a trust thing, that’s what it is,” said Eye, who home-schools her grandchildren and has been strongly encouraged by her Ballwin oncologist to be vaccinated. “I had chemo pumped through me,” she said. “I just prayed on it and God said no. He’s wanting me to wait for some reason.” Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com




Douglas said some people have even been scared off because they think the government is trying to implant “chips” to track them. The health department has sought help from area doctors to refer the vaccine, but there is still a wide variety of people who resist it. She said one doctor is among those who champion the liberty of choice.

“It comes down to our human nature,” Douglas said. “People just don’t want to be told what to do.”

She said they are promoting the vaccine through social and local media and at public events. On Wednesday, the large sign in front of the health department didn’t mention the vaccine was free and available, Monday through Friday at 520 Purcell Drive. Another sign out front by the road advertised a farmers market that’s meeting every Wednesday in a nearby pavilion.

Mark Stevens, 46, was over there, selling sweet corn, watermelons, green beans and tomatoes out of the bed of his pickup. He wouldn’t walk across the parking lot to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“You’d have to drag me dead or alive,” said Stevens, who’s 6 feet 2 inches, weighs 340 pounds and throws around a lot of other numbers he’s gleaned from Newsmax, a conservative cable network and website. Stevens said he watches less of Fox News since it started leaning too far left.

“Why trust your life in the hands of an administration that lies about everything,” he said as one of many reasons why he’s not getting vaccinated.

Exhibit A, he said, was the presidential election results, followed by lots of hypocrisy. “(President Biden) supports abortion. … Your body, your choice. But he wants to make us get the vaccine?”






In this rural Missouri county, the vaccination rate is low and opposition high

A McDonald’s sign touts an open dining room in downtown Potosi on Thursday, July 29, 2021. The rural community of Washington County has only 23% of its residents fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com




Debbie Boyer, one of his customers, said she got vaccinated after her sister-in-law died from COVID-19. Now, she’s having second thoughts. She’s upset with the priorities of the federal government championing vaccination while ignoring other hot-button issues.

“They are so afraid of COVID, yet the border is open,” she said. “Are they vaccinating those people? No. They are letting them go anywhere they want. It’s not that I am this dead set Trumper. It’s that this is so blatantly in your face.”

“We’ve got half of America that agrees with us,” Stevens said.

‘How do they know?’

Some people don’t believe COVID-19 exists even though their relatives have been diagnosed with it, said Donna Valle, 46, who manages a drive-in movie theater in Old Mines.

“I think (President Donald) Trump brainwashed them all,” she said with a smile.

Including her mother, who just spent five days in Washington County Memorial Hospital, the 25-bed facility in Potosi. Valle, who has an autoimmune disorder, has been vaccinated. Her mother won’t be.

“She thinks now that she’s had COVID that she’s built up an immunity and can’t get it again because she’s convinced she had the delta variant,” Valle said. “You can’t change her mind. I don’t know what it would take. I have tried to talk to her.”






In this rural Missouri county, the vaccination rate is low and opposition high

Elaine Hawkins scoops ice cream at Reed’s Relics on East High Street in downtown Potosi on Thursday, July 29, 2021. The rural community of Washington County has only 23% of its residents fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and Hawkins is among them. “I had to actually block people on Facebook,” said Hawkins, who has high blood pressure and received the vaccine as soon as it was available. “Members of my own family are against it. They say ‘let me know if you grow a tail.’ ” Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com




COVID-19 also recently hit Tiffany Barton’s family. Her parents and 20-year-old son had it. When she, too, came down with the coronavirus, it was the first time she’d been sick in four years.

“I didn’t get it that bad,” said Barton, 40, a cook at a restaurant in Caledonia, who also substitute teaches for children with special needs. “I am a mom who runs the house and has a job.”

Her 43-year-old husband, Jimmy, a disabled trucker, wasn’t as lucky. Last weekend, she took him to Mercy Hospital in Festus. He was treated for COVID-19 and released.

Jimmy didn’t maintain good oxygen levels, though. At one point Wednesday evening, Tiffany and Jimmy were the only two people waiting in the emergency room at Washington County Memorial Hospital. After Jimmy went in to be treated, Tiffany visited outside about their situation.

She said there’s not enough good data about vaccines, too many media scare tactics and a big government agenda that’s been unreliable.

“If the CDC is constantly changing their guidelines, then how do they know what to give for it?” she said.

No, she won’t be getting the vaccine. Nor will her husband.

“He’s made that very clear,” she said.

Jimmy ended up admitted to the local hospital. By Friday, he’d been transferred to St. Louis.



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Hollywood’s shift to streaming is rewriting the script for stars’ big paydays

 

Like other changes to entertainment distribution through the years, the studio shift toward streaming — hastened by the unforeseen consequences of the pandemic — has Hollywood talent and their representatives demanding a different way to be paid.

Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney over the simultaneous streaming release of “Black Widow” marks perhaps the most significant push back thus far, setting the stage for a significant battle that promises to rewrite the rules over how stars get paid.
While Johansson received an upfront salary for starring in the movie — $20 million, according to Disney’s response to the lawsuit — her complaint notes that making the film available via Disney+ enhanced the value of the streaming service but reduced box-office revenue, depriving her of “box office bonuses” that would be calculated based on what “Black Widow” earned in theaters.
And it follows other expressions of discontent during the past year, as top actors and directors have chafed against studios prioritizing streaming in a way that threatens the theatrical model, and the way that actors traditionally shared in revenue from major hits. Unlike box-office totals, it’s more difficult to cleanly measure that in relation to streaming-service subscriptions.
The lawsuit comes at a pivotal moment for Hollywood — as the industry faces a moment that asks how audiences watch entertainment in the future, and how those who create it be compensated.
“We’re in a bit of a transitional period where the contracts that were struck did not anticipate this type of change in strategy,” Michael Nathanson, a media analyst at MoffettNathanson, told CNN Business. “I would think going forward from this point on every new contract will have to include language that figures out a way to compensate the talent for the potential of a direct-to-video, a direct-to-streaming watch.”

A topsy turvy Hollywood

Disney (DIS) is not alone in advancing this change, nor is Johansson the first star to be irked by the move to streaming.
Warner Bros. (like CNN, a unit of WarnerMedia) surprised talent by announcing plans to simultaneously release its entire 2021 movie slate on its streaming service, HBO Max. Paramount shifted several of its movies to streaming, including “Coming 2 America” and “Infinite,” with the Hollywood Reporter saying that the latter’s star, Mark Wahlberg, wasn’t warned about the change.
Other issues have popped up as studios shifted their major blockbusters to streaming as the pandemic continues. For example, Warner Bros. reportedly paid star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins each more than $10 million as the studio released “Wonder Woman 1984” on streaming service HBO Max as well as theaters in December.
“It’s been a tumultuous year since theaters reopened, and with day-and-date obliterating release windows, and in some cases shattering them beyond repair, the state of Hollywood present and Hollywood future has never been more topsy- turvy,” Jeff Bock, a senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business.
Studios have argued that they need latitude to survive a changing business — a process seriously exacerbated and accelerated when the pandemic closed theaters in 2020 and virtually shut off entire streams of revenue.
Disney’s statement in response to Johansson’s lawsuit suggests that the company doesn’t intend to roll over in this fight. The company responded on Thursday saying that it has fully complied with her contract and that there is “no merit whatsoever to this filing.”
But historically, major players tend to reach some kind of accommodation.
The nature of the changes, however, have implications that go well beyond just top stars, and could affect the relationships between studios and the major guilds that represent actors, writers and directors.

Talent vs. Studios: a tale as old as time

The history of Hollywood shows that these kinds of disputes frequently wind up in court.
In 1943, actress Olivia de Havilland sued Warner Bros., arguing that her seven-year contract violated labor law and forced her to take roles that didn’t interest her. De Havilland won the case a year later after a hard-fought trial that upended the old studio system, establishing performers’ rights to become free agents.
The battlefield shifted to television in the 1990s, when the producers of “Home Improvement” and the producer and star of “The X-Files” sued Disney and Fox, respectively, for what they argued was self-dealing as studios became vertically integrated — or, put more simply production companies and networks were owned by the same entities. All of those cases were settled out of court.
Two decades later, questions about profits in such instances persist.
In 2019 Disney settled a subsequent lawsuit brought by the “Home Improvement” team, arguing that the studio shortchanged them on profits from syndication rights, for an undisclosed sum.
That same year the stars of “Bones,” David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, settled a lawsuit against Fox over profits from that series, after an arbitrator awarded the show’s producers and stars $178 million.
The problem, as studio executives have pivoted to prioritize streaming, is that it’s not always clear how to measure success: studios have been less than transparent about publicly sharing data that would indicate how much money they make from their releases and how many people are watching them.
Do subscribers sign up for Disney+ because they want to see “Black Widow,” given the array of content that’s available on the service? It’s hard to know precisely.
“As talent and a talent representative, how do you measure and how do you monetize success?” Nathanson said. “The metrics have to change… Box office is an easy metric. The data comes out. It’s really hard with streaming to actually know what’s a success or not.”

The eviction ban is ending and now millions of Americans are waiting for the sheriff to knock on their door

 

Ronald Leonard expects the sheriff to arrive at the door of his Daytona Beach, Florida, home any day after the federal ban on evictions expires on Saturday.

“I’m kind of a wreck,” said Leonard, a retiree who lives on a fixed income. “If I end up on the street, I’ll never survive.”
Like many of the 11.4 million people currently behind on their rent, Leonard was able to remain in his home after his landlord filed for an eviction because of the federal eviction moratorium. Put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September to stop the spread of coronavirus, the order banned the eviction of renters for nonpayment of rent.
The CDC moratorium — controversial and confusing from the startand continually up against a moving expiration deadline — was always a “Band-Aid on a wound that needed to be healed,” said David Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference.
The White House announced Thursday that it would not ask the CDC to again extend the protection, which expires on July 31, and called on Congress to take action. The Biden administration would have liked to extend it (it has been extended four times already) given the rise in the spread of Covid cases due to the Delta variant, but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court’s ruling that, “clear and specific congressional authorization” — new legislation — would be needed for the CDC to extend the moratorium past its current deadline.
The House Rules Committee met on Friday to consider a bill to extend the federal eviction moratorium through December. But there isn’t wide bipartisan support and it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
The Biden administration also asked government agencies to extend their respective bans on evictions, also set to expire July 31. On Friday agencies including the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency extended their more limited eviction protections, banning the eviction of those living in federally-insured, single-family foreclosed properties through September.
The CDC eviction moratorium and other protections have prevented an estimated 2.2 million eviction filings since March 2020, according to Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab and assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University-Newark.
“These moratoria and protections, they haven’t been perfect, but they’ve undeniably had a massive effect in preventing eviction filings,” Hepburn said.
This comes as an unprecedented amount of federal rental relief — $46 billion — works its way through states, cities and local distribution points to the landlords and tenants who need it. The aid is the last lifeline that many renters can grab on to. But for many, it won’t come in time.

Nowhere to go

Leonard, 68, rented his one-bedroom apartment from Tzadik Park, at the end of March 2020, just as the pandemic was spreading across the country. It was to be a fresh start for him after a living situation with family members deteriorated. He planned to stay there for a year while he found a more permanent income-based retirement home.
The former heavy equipment operator lives on $1,159 in monthly Social Security income. With a monthly rent of $819, including utilities, housing costs took up 75% of his income. But he could pay it, even as he struggled to furnish his empty apartment with basics. After July, when his doctor told him to stay in the house for protection from the virus, his expenses went up. He had to pay more for necessities and to have them delivered and he fell behind on rent.
When his rent was not paid in March 2021, along with $1,433 in back rent after several months of partial payments and hundreds more in late fees for not paying in full, his landlord filed for eviction.
Leonard is now $5,688 behind on rent, according to Christina Alletto, chief people officer at Tzadik Properties, which owns and manages Tzadik Park and apartment buildings in more than six states.
He found some security by invoking the CDC protection and applied for rental assistance. But his landlord would not accept the funds, he said.
In an email to CNN Business, Alletto said the company worked with him, providing the necessary documentation to apply for the rent relief, but the assistance he was applying for covered just one month’s rent, not the full balance.
“Mr. Leonard stated in his letter to [apply for the] assistance that he bought new furniture with his stimulus check instead of paying rent, so they denied him further assistance,” Alletto said, referring to the distributor of rental assistance.
Leonard says he had been sleeping on the floor for many months after he moved into the apartment because he hadn’t been able to buy a mattress. He said he spent $69 on an air mattress.
Alletto said Tzadik continues to accept rent relief funds and is willing to work with struggling tenants. “Eviction is always a last resort after all other avenues have been explored with each individual resident,” she said in the email.
But Leonard, who until now had been protected by the CDC’s eviction ban, is running out of avenues to explore. His last-ditch effort to remain in his home is a letter to the judge in the eviction case explaining that he now has an application pending for 12 months of rent relief and expects to receive it, but does not think it will arrive before the eviction ban expires.
With medical problems and nowhere to go but “out on the street,” he asked for more time in his handwritten letter. “All the rent will be paid but I don’t know if it will be paid by the 31st of July….Please help me so I don’t lose everything I own.”

Millions at risk of eviction

There are millions of renters like Leonard at risk of eviction as the clock ticks down on the precarious protection. More than 3 million people said they were likely to be evicted “within the next two months,” according to a Census survey from early July and nearly 5 million renters said they won’t be able to pay August rent, according to the same survey.
Unable to extend the protection, the Biden administration has shifted its focus to accelerating rent relief distribution, streamlining applications and encouraging communities to create off-ramps so that millions of people don’t fall off of an eviction cliff.
“We’ve known for nearly a year that the eviction moratorium would eventually come to an end,” said Dworkin. “In December, Congress appropriated $25 billion to assist renters. We have had seven months to spend that money. There is no excuse that it is not in the hands of those who need it the most.”
While some states and localities are doing better than others in getting the money out, only a fraction of the full $46 billion committed to rent relief — including money from the December stimulus and the American Rescue Plan — has made its way to renters and landlords.
“We are seeing the leading edge of the eviction crisis,” said Dworkin. “It will be concentrated in states that have the heaviest impact and least tenant protections.”
States where residents have the greatest risk of eviction include South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and New Jersey, according to an Eviction Risk Insights report from UrbanFootprint, an urban planning data company. Its research also shows that Black renters are at more than double the risk of eviction compared to White renters, with about 25% of the at-risk population Black and 11% White.
Areas where people are most likely to be evicted are also areas more likely to have lower vaccination rates, according to research from the Eviction Lab.
“Given low vaccination rates in areas at highest risk of eviction and the rapid spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, the public health case for an eviction moratorium is every bit as strong today as it was when the CDC originally instituted the policy,” said Hepburn.

Finding new protections

Valeria Allieti, a single mother who lives in Las Vegas, found her income upended when the pandemic kept her from cleaning houses.
She fell behind on the $1,270 a month rent she pays for the four-bedroom house she shares with her three sons. But she found protection under the eviction moratorium.
Allieti said she was reluctant to apply for rent relief — accustomed as she was to being a single mom who needs to fix the problem herself.
“I don’t feel I’m powerful because of the moratorium,” she said through a translator. “I feel like a bad person. I have always been able to do it by myself.”
But she now owes about $6,000 in back rent and sees applying for assistance as her best protection against eviction after the CDC moratorium expires.
Nevada has extended its eviction protection to those who are in the process of applying for rental assistance. The state has also passed a law to seal eviction records from the pandemic.
“Despite the eviction moratorium and the tenant protections we’ve won, we’re facing an uphill battle,” said Lalo Montoya, political director and housing justice coordinator at Make the Road Nevada.
For Allieti, that means waiting as patiently as she can for the rent relief to arrive so she can pay what she owes and stay in her home.
“Right now I feel that I can’t focus on my day-to-day,” Allieti said. “I feel like I’m lost in the clouds. I’m worried about the prospect of losing our home, of the uncertainty about what could happen.”
If you are looking for emergency rental assistance, there is a searchable list of available programs at the US Treasury and also lists managed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Housing Conference.

Senate passes bill to award Congress’ highest honor to first Black NHL player

 

The US Senate passed legislation this week to grant Congress’ highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the first Black player to compete in the National Hockey League.

The bipartisan measure to honor Willie O’Ree unanimously passed the chamber on Tuesday. It now must be approved by the US House of Representatives for O’Ree to be awarded the medal.
Known as “the Jackie Robinson of hockey,” O’Ree, 85, broke the NHL’s color barrier in 1958 with the Boston Bruins, one of six teams at the time.
Despite being blind in one eye from a previous hockey injury, O’Ree played in 45 games in the NHL with the Bruins, scoring four goals and recording 10 assists. He retired from the sport in 1979 at age 43. He has spent the past two decades as the NHL’s diversity ambassador, working to expand the sport.
O’Ree previously told CNN that while he understood the significance of fulfilling a personal career goal of playing in the NHL, he hadn’t realize in the moment that he had become the first black player in league history by stepping onto the ice.
“I didn’t realize that I was breaking the color barrier until I read it in the paper the next morning,” he said.
In every game he played in, O’Ree previously told CNN, he heard name calling from opposing players and from fans in the stands. “Besides being Black and being blind in my right eye, I was faced with four other things: racism, prejudice, bigotry and ignorance,” he said.
The legislation would award O’Ree the nation’s highest civilian award that Congress can bestow “in recognition of his extraordinary contributions and commitment to hockey, inclusion, and recreational opportunity.”
The bill was first introduced in 2019 by Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. They reintroduced the legislation in February.
In a statement, Stabenow called O’Ree a “trailblazer for young people across the country,” touting his work on the NHL initiative “Hockey Is For Everyone.”
“From the hockey arena to serving young athletes in his community, Willie O’Ree’s legacy has inspired generations,” Scott said. “Willie’s career didn’t end on the ice; it was punctuated by the generations of athletes he helped navigate the path he paved.”
“I look forward to the House acting quickly on this well-deserved recognition of Willie’s historic achievements,” the senator added.
O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 for his off-ice contributions to the sport. The Bruins retired O’Ree’s No. 22 jersey in February.

Man convicted of murder is freed by evidence that was on file for more than 30 years


“I feel exceedingly joyful, happy, that finally, you know … after 30 or more years, after constantly knocking on the door for somebody to please hear me, that day finally came,” 60-year-old Curtis Crosland told CNN.

He has now returned home to his five children, fiancée and 32 grandchildren. “It’s a great feeling to still be dad, to be wanted and desired, and open arms to receive you, that’s been the greatest part of being exonerated, that I come home to a loving family that wants and needs me,” said Crosland.

Crosland’s conviction — based on testimony from two witnesses who later recanted statements they had made implicating him in the case — was overturned in June.

Crosland was found guilty in 1991 of second-degree murder, robbery, and possessing an instrument of crime in the 1984 killing of a Philadelphia store owner.

Documents that could have helped acquit or exonerate him were in files at the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office from the beginning of the case, according to the lawsuit. The documents contained troubling information regarding the credibility of two key witnesses as well as police records which pointed to another suspect, the lawsuit states.

But that information was suppressed and there was no other evidence that connected Crosland to the crime, the CIU said in the news release.

The killing of ‘Tony’ Heo

Il Man "Tony" Heo is pictured with his two children in 1977 or 1978.

Il Man “Tony” Heo, a Philadelphia grocery and deli store owner, was killed by a masked shooter in 1984. Heo was shot just minutes before he was due to close his store for the night, according to Heo’s son Song Il “Charles” Heo.

“He was a really fun guy, humorous, positive, smiling, joking person,” said Heo’s son. Heo said his father was very well liked in the community and had a reputation for helping people.

The crime went unsolved for years and Crosland did not become a suspect until 1987, according to his lawyer, Claudia Flores.

Crosland was working as an assistant to a physical therapist and in 1987 was preparing to attend college in hopes of becoming a physical therapist himself.

“I got a knock at my door (from police), I remember telling my wife and son ‘I’ll be back,’ because I didn’t do anything. I never came back. I never knew what I did, until they told me what I was accused of. It’s like a kidnap,” said Crosland.

Witnesses recanted

The two witnesses upon whose testimony Crosland’s conviction hinged had later recanted their statements implicating him, according to the lawsuit.

One of them, Delores Tilghman, told police in 1988 that she overheard a conversation where Crosland and others were “talking about the murder.” She later recanted that statement, according to the lawsuit.

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A second witness, Rodney Everett, told police officers that Crosland confessed to him that he carried out Heo’s killing. Everett was himself in jail at the time, and hoping for a deal, the lawsuit states. Everett later testified that he had lied when implicated Crosland, according to the lawsuit. Documents which included Everett’s statements were found in police and district attorney’s files by the CIU.

Flores said it’s common for “jailhouse snitches” to provide information to authorities to obtain leniency in their own cases. Everett told Flores when she interviewed him about Crosland’s case that he felt coerced by police to give testimony, she said.

“It was just very brutal. They threaten you. They will use your family and they will tell you what they will do to your family, taking your kids,” Everett told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

CNN has reached out to Tilghman and Everett for comment but has not heard back.

Krasner said the Philadelphia police and district attorney’s office have historically violated their duty to seek justice and uphold the Constitution.

“Too often, they engaged in and tolerated horrendous abuses of power. Numerous police officers coerced confessions through physical abuse, verbal threats, and violations of constitutional rights,” Krasner said in a CIU report.

CNN has also requested comment on the Crosland case from the Philadelphia Police Department, but has not received a response.

Criminal justice system ‘broke’

Crosland said his case illustrates how the criminal justice system is “broke, it’s unfair, it’s unconstitutional.”

He maintained his innocence while in prison and filed multiple petitions, acting as his own lawyer, which he says he learned to do while studying law books in the prison’s library.

Kamala Harris: 'We do have two systems of justice in America'

“You have poor, indigent men that have no access to have a good defense. The system should be designed that every man be treated equally,” Crosland said.

Crosland said he went to court every year during his time in prison to assert his innocence, but faced closed doors from the courts. “I don’t think I ever had a full night’s sleep, but I always told myself the day I’m exonerated I’m going to get my full night’s sleep,” he said.

Crosland said his faith in God kept him strong — but that prison was still a “hellish” struggle every day.

It’s challenging to have someone tell you when you are allowed to do basic things such as wake up, shower, or work, “especially by young (prison) guards who can sometimes be disrespectful,” he said.

One of the toughest challenges for Crosland, he said, was being away from his family.

One his sons, Risheen Crosland, was only 2 years old when his father was sent to prison. When Crosland was exonerated, Risheen was 36 and had two children of his own.

“We faced a lot of childhood trauma not having a father … and grew up in poverty,” Risheen Crosland told CNN. “We didn’t have new clothes, wearing hand me downs, having to be hungry at times … gas turned off, electricity turned off,” he said.

Beyond lacking financial security, he didn’t get to form a normal relationship with his dad, he said. “I didn’t learn how to ride a bike, play catch, play basketball or football (with my dad).” I didn’t have those things growing up with my dad,” he said.

Victim’s son believes racism played a role

Heo said he is happy that Crosland has finally been exonerated in his father’s killing. “I firmly believe Crosland should have been a free man,” he said.

Curtis Crosland and his daughter Wadiyah posed for this picture while Crosland was still in prison.

Heo believes racism played a role in how the police and the prosecutor tried Crosland’s case — and that the prosecutor was racially prejudiced against his own family.

“I think the prosecutor took advantage of my mom’s inability of understanding all the complications of the legal matter. They didn’t feel responsible to explain all the legal details to us,” he said.

Harvard study finds institutional racism 'permeates' the Massachusetts justice system

“There was no translator during court proceedings, they were using Latin words. I didn’t know what was being said, I didn’t have a phone with Google, a lot of things slipped by.”

Flores said every level of the criminal justice system is permeated with systemic racism, which contributed to Crosland’s wrongful conviction.

“Most people serving life in prison without parole in Pennsylvania are Black men. Probably most of these police officers involved are white. It’s a system saturated with systemic racism at every step. From the way crimes are investigated, to jury selection, to the fact that most prosecutors and judges are white,” she said.



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Carrie and Boris Johnson are expecting a second baby after miscarriage heartbreak


Carrie revealed she was pregnant and that she suffered a miscarriage earlier this year in an Instagram post on Saturday.

“Hoping for our rainbow baby this Christmas,” she wrote, referring to a child which is born after a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.

“At the beginning of the year, I had a miscarriage which left me heartbroken. I feel incredibly blessed to be pregnant again but I’ve also felt like a bag of nerves,” she wrote.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds announce pregnancy and engagement

“Fertility issues can be really hard for many people, particularly when on platforms like Instagram it can look like everything is only ever going well,” Johnson added. “I found it a real comfort to hear from people who had also experienced loss so I hope that in some very small way sharing this might help others too.”

The couple already have a son, Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson, who was born in April last year.

The baby was given the middle name Nicholas in honor of two doctors who treated Boris Johnson while he hospitalized by Covid-19.

“Wilfred after Boris’ grandfather, Lawrie after my grandfather, Nicholas after Dr Nick Price and Dr Nick Hart — the two doctors that saved Boris’ life last month,” Carrie said on her Instagram account at the time.

The couple were married in a wedding carried out in secrecy at Westminster Cathedral in London, in May.



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Elaine Thompson-Herah defends Olympic 100m title in all-Jamaican podium


A month-and-a-half ago, Elaine Thompson-Herah thought she wouldn’t be able to compete at the Tokyo Olympics as she struggled to overcome a nagging Achilles injury. Now, she’s not only a gold medalist, but an Olympic record holder, too.

Her time of 10.61 seconds on Saturday broke Florence Griffith Joyner’s 33-year-old record set in Seoul, spearheading a Jamaican clean sweep of the podium with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in second and Shericka Jackson taking bronze.

Was Griffith Joyner’s world record of 10.49 a possibility? “Most definitely if I wasn’t celebrating,” Thompson-Herah told reporters. Asked again about the world record, she added: “I’m still working, it’s a work in progress … Anything is possible.”

The victory was the 29-year-old’s third Olympic gold medal, adding to her 100m and 200m titles from Rio five years ago.

Thompson-Herah, Fraser-Pryce, and Jackson race clear of the field in the women's 100m final.

Another Jamaican, Usain Bolt, famously won three consecutive Olympic 100m gold medals between 2008 and 2016, and Thompson-Herah now has a chance to do the same in Paris.

“Behind this 10.6 was a lot of nerves, and I said: ‘You can do this, you’ve been here before, just execute,'” she told reporters.

“I have more years. I’m just 29; I’m not 30, I’m not 40. I’m still working.”

With fans barred from attending Olympic events in Tokyo amid the pandemic, the final was held in the near-empty surroundings of the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

However, an impressive light show ensured the minutes before the race weren’t devoid of energy or excitement.

The stadium lighting was dimmed and the track illuminated with the names of each competitor as they were announced to the few spectators dotted around the arena — a dazzling precursor befitting of an event that promised great drama after six athletes had run under 11 seconds in the heats on Friday.

And those present on a hot, humid evening in Tokyo weren’t disappointed, as Thompson-Herah went neck-and-neck with Fraser-Pryce at the halfway point before pulling away in the final stages.

Fraser-Pryce and Thompson-Herah lead the way in the 100m final.

Defending world champion Fraser-Pryce — who clocked 10.74 — now has two golds, a silver, and a bronze in the 100m across four Olympic Games, while Jackson — third in 10.76 — adds to her 4x400m silver and 400m bronze from Rio.

It was a repeat of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when three Jamaican athletes — Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, and Kerron Stewart — also topped the podium.

Asked about the celebrations that will likely ensue back home in Jamaica, Fraser-Pryce said: “I’m hoping they’re not defying the curfew orders, but I’m sure it’s going to be remarkable to have three of our ladies stand on the podium like we did in 2008, it’s incredible.

“I’m hoping that they’re celebrating with a lot of positive energy and they’re celebrating each and every one of the athletes and just continue to support us. There’s a long way to go, we have the 200m and 4x100m.”

The heats for the 200m get underway on Monday with the final taking place the following day.

Thompson-Herah, Fraser-Pryce and Jackson, who has stepped down in distance from the 400m to sprinting events, will face stiff competition from the USA’s Gabby Thomas and the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller-Uibo.

But based on Friday’s race, another Jamaican one-two-three isn’t entirely out of the question; nor, for that matter, are more blisteringly fast times.

Outside the top three, Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou finished fourth for the second consecutive Olympics with a time of 10.91, while Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith was a surprise absentee from the final having failed to qualify earlier on Friday.

She later said she would be unable to compete in the 200m because of an injury.



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Once considered a 'city disease,' Zimbabwe's rural areas are being hit hard by Covid, and panic has set in


The chatter around the canteen is all about the death of a popular health official from Covid-19 in a nearby village.

Panic has slowly set in this part of rural Zimbabwe as news of the death spreads in a place where people had previously considered themselves safe from a virus mostly concentrated in the country’s bustling urban areas.

“This pandemic is scary. Everyone is talking about it and people are panicking. We thought we were safe but surely we need to think again,” Chinyandura, 43, told CNN.

Life in Zimbabwe’s rural areas has continued at a normal pace through the pandemic. Movement was unrestricted and those who wore face masks were often laughed at.

Funerals attracted large crowds and church gatherings would go on for days with no social distancing or face coverings.

By contrast, in the cities, the government has introduced another restrictive lockdown in a battle to curb a surge in coronavirus cases. Long lines form daily at vaccination centers as Zimbabweans rush to get vaccinated in urban areas.

Zimbabwe officially entered the third wave of infections at the start of winter in May, with the Delta variant dominating cases.
Pauline Chinyandura serves a plate of lunch.
Three of the country’s four districts that were declared as epicenters of the outbreak in June, and are now under strict lockdowns, are in predominantly rural areas.
The third wave has increased cases to more than 105,000 and nearly 3,421 deaths as of July 29.

Before the outbreak in her own village, people like Chinyandura thought the pandemic was a ‘city disease.’

“It is something we heard from the radio, it seemed so distant that we never had to worry about it. But now, it is funeral after funeral, it has hit closer to home,” the food vendor said.

“I am always afraid that maybe a customer will infect me with Covid-19,” Chinyandura said.

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The need to survive the day keeps her working, even as the risk of contracting the virus has become a reality.

“I need the money,” she said, while dishing out steaming bowls of sadza, a local staple, to impatient customers.

“There is nothing I can do. I will die of hunger if I do not run this canteen. This face mask is all I have to protect myself from Covid-19, but for how long can I put it on. I have to talk to customers and breathe as well,” Chinyandura said.

Chinyandura’s canteen has no takeaway facility but, to minimize risk, she asks customers to leave after finishing their meals. Some of them consider that rude.

“I love my customers and my canteen helps them relax during lunch but times have changed. They have to leave after eating because it is becoming risky to gather even in small groups,” she added.

Her husband, Alfred Makumbe emerges from a grinding mill, a few yards from his wife’s makeshift kitchen.

Makumbe’s business has also suffered from the hard lockdown in the village, imposed in late June.

Alfred Makumbe at his grinding mill. His business has been affected by Covid.

No province spared

For the first time since the pandemic reached Zimbabwe in March last year, villagers are afraid of venturing out, he said.

“Covid has really affected us. If it does not get you, it will affect your pocket. People are no longer coming due to Covid. The police are always tracking us down, to shut down businesses that attract people,” said Makumbe.

“Covid is here and it is not here to play,” he added.

Agnes Mahomva, chief coordinator of Zimbabwe’s response to the pandemic, told CNN that no province in the country has been spared.

“We are working hard to ensure that the response teams are as robust as possible using existing structures from previous outbreaks,” Mahomva said.

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But Zimbabwe’s vaccination rollout program, which started in February, has not prioritized rural areas and there has been a marked shortage of shots outside the cities.

This is because rural Zimbabwe is largely inaccessible due to poor roads and a lack of telecommunications.

By Thursday last week, 2 million doses had been administered in a country of almost 15 million people. Herd immunity is always a bit slippery, so would be tempted to cut this line.

Zimbabwe has received donations and purchased more than 5 million vaccines, mainly China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube says millions more shots are on the way, although some Zimbabweans may need convincing to take the vaccines because of religious beliefs and general misinformation.

“I do not want to be vaccinated. I will see when I get sick,” Chinyandura says.

“I am part of an apostolic sect and although we stopped all gatherings, we do not take vaccines. I have never been vaccinated in my life,” she added.

However, others from the village such as 87-year-old Tiba Tanganyika told CNN he is desperate to get a jab.

The last time he visited his local hospital seeking a shot, the nurses warned that his blood pressure was too high and he was refused.

“I really want to get it,” Tanganyika said.

‘It hits home if it is someone that you know’

Around 70% of Zimbabwe’s population live in poverty and dilapidated health facilities are themselves in intensive care.

Johannes Marisa, a medical practitioner described the third wave as a “disaster,” and blames potential super-spreader events such as funerals for the rise in rural areas.

“Tradition is believed to be more important than any rules,” Marisa told CNN.

However, the death of the senior health official at Makumbe District Hospital has brought the spread of Covid-19 into sharper focus.

“We just heard of the death … so everyone is panicking. People are afraid of even going to get tested or getting vaccinated because of the increase in cases.

Pfizer-BioNTech to start producing Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa in 2022

“We used to hear that there was Covid but now it is on our doorstep. It always hits home if it is someone that you know,” said Alfred Makumbe, Chinyandura’s husband, who was also related to the official.

“We all need to be serious,” Sikhanyile Sikube, a 28-year-old mother from Domboshava, told CNN The death of the health worker should serve as a warning to those who do not take Covid-19 seriously.”

While winter is almost over, Marisa says Zimbabwe is not yet out of danger.

“We are not yet out of the woods because of the behavior and attitude of the people. The level of complacency is too high with supersonic community spread. We need more discipline,” Marisa added.



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Your new sofa might not arrive until 2022. Here’s why

 

Get ready to wait months, maybe even into 2022, for that new sofa to arrive at your doorstep.

Delays on furniture deliveries have already been frustrating during the pandemic, and they’re about to get much worse.
The newest problem for furniture sellers is the increase in spread of Covid-19 and subsequent factory closures in a key region: Vietnam. Vietnam competes with China as a top exporter of furniture to the United States, according to the US Commerce Department. It exports everything from wooden bedroom and dining room sets to upholstered furniture, such as cushioned dining chairs, couches and ottomans.
The country is also currently in the throes of a coronavirus outbreak caused by a suspected new variant of the virus, which Vietnam’s health minister said has led to new infections in its industrial zones.
The number of daily new infections of coronavirus have risen rapidly in Vietnam since late June, with 9,765 cases reported on July 30, up sharply from 371 confirmed new cases on June 30, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.
The current surge in new infections has put pressure on the government there to increase its vaccine supply and speed up inoculations. So far only one half of 1% of Vietnam’s population has been vaccinated.
In an effort to contain the outbreak, some factories have temporarily closed.

Queens man accused of robbing an 11-year-old girl on her way to a grocery store



Jonathan Perez, 34, allegedly approached the girl early Sunday as she was on her way to a grocery in the Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, a statement from Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz reads.

Perez is accused of pulling her into an alleyway and pushing her, causing her to fall to the ground, before threatening “to kill her and violate her if she didn’t stop screaming,” the statement reads.

Authorities accuse Perez of fleeing with her keys, money and bag, Katz’s statement reads.

The girl was taken to hospital, where she was treated for a cut to her neck, according to the statement.

Perez was being held Friday, awaiting arraignment on charges of robbery in the first and second degree; endangering the welfare of a child; and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, according to the district attorney.

CNN’s attempt to find whether Perez has legal representation wasn’t immediately successful. CNN has also reached out to Perez for comment.

“Nothing’s more important than ensuring that our children are safe on our streets. Because of this defendant’s alleged actions, an 11-year-old’s early morning trip to the grocery store became a nightmare. Now apprehended, the defendant will face justice in our courts,” Katz said.

Perez could face up to 25 years in prison, the district attorney’s office said.



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