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University of California completes fossil fuel divestment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The University of California announced Tuesday that it has divested from all fossil fuels, removing them from its $126-billion investment portfolio.

With 285,000 students, UC becomes the largest educational system in the nation to shed such assets in favor of renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

Environmental goals were included in the university’s published investment framework five years ago.

“As long-term investors, we believe the university and its stakeholders are much better served by investing in promising opportunities in the alternative energy field rather than gambling on oil and gas,” Richard Sherman, chair of the UC Board of Regents’ investments committee, said in a statement.

Jagdeep Singh Bachher, UC’s chief investment officer, said the system has sold more than $1 billion in fossil fuel assets from its pension, endowment and working capital pools and surpassed its five-year goal of investing $1 billion in clean energy projects, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In addition to environmental concerns, fossil fuels have been attacked as being risky investments. Coal prices have been declining and oil prices have plunged because of coronavirus stay-at-home orders that have kept people from commuting to work or other venues.

Man told to wear mask shoots Waffle House cook

DENVER (AP) — A man is accused of shooting and wounding a Waffle House employee in suburban Denver the night after being asked to wear a face covering inside the restaurant, authorities said.

Police in Aurora arrested Kelvin Watson, 27, on Monday on a charge of attempted first-degree murder, KDVR reported. Court records show Watson is represented by the Arapahoe County public defender’s office, which did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Tuesday.

According to an arrest affidavit, employees told investigators Watson came to the restaurant shortly after midnight Thursday, and a waitress told him he needed to wear a mask to be served. The restaurant was only offering carry-out service.

Watson allegedly returned with a mask that he was not wearing and was again told he could not be served. Witnesses said he put a small gun on the counter before telling the cook he could “blow your brains out,” according to the affidavit.

The following night, just after midnight Friday, police said Watson returned and slapped the cook across the face when he was told again he was not going to be served. Watson is accused of shooting the cook in the chest or abdomen outside of the restaurant as the cook ran to get away. The cook was released from a hospital Friday afternoon.

“We are deeply saddened and regret that this senseless act of violence occurred,” Waffle House spokesperson Njeri Boss said.

Aurora does not require masks or face coverings in public places like some other communities in metro Denver.

Baby goat stolen from Baltimore garden reunited with owners

BALTIMORE (AP) — A stolen baby goat was returned home to its community garden in Baltimore late Tuesday night, police said.

Baltimore police were notified just before 10 p.m. that the young Nigerian Dwarf goat named Ed had been “anonymously returned” to his owners, according to a statement from the department.

Ed was reported missing from the Filbert Street Garden on Monday night. His caretakers alleged in a Facebook post that two teenagers tore through a fence, cut off a lock and broke into a barn to steal the animal, which weighs just 20 pounds (9 kilograms) and depends on his mother’s milk to survive.

“We’re not sure if the hope is to sell him or if it is part of some initiation,” the Filbert Street Garden post said. “The community begs whoever did this to please just quietly return Ed.” The post said he’s not old enough to wean from his mother and could die if not returned.

Security video obtained by WBAL-TV appeared to show someone walking down the street with the goat in a crate as the animal cried out.

In an update Tuesday, the garden celebrated Ed’s safe return and thanked police for their help. Authorities did not say whether they were continuing to investigate or were actively looking for suspects.

US roadway death rate up in March despite virus restrictions

DETROIT (AP) — The rate of fatal automobile crashes in the U.S. jumped dramatically in March, even though the number of miles driven plummeted due to coronavirus stay-home orders.

The National Safety Council said Wednesday that based on preliminary figures from states, the number of fatal crashes per 100 million miles driven rose an “alarming” 14% compared with March of 2019.

The group pointed to anecdotal reports from states of an increase in reckless driving and speeding due to nearly traffic-free highways during shutdowns that were in effect in March, the latest month for which statistics are available.

“Per mile traveled, our roads are less safe than they were prior to COVID-19,” said Ken Kolosh, the safety council’s manager of statistics.

The increase came even though stay-home orders didn’t start in much of the nation until the middle of March, Kolosh said.

Yet the number of fatalities per 100 million miles driven was 1.22 in March compared with 1.07 a year earlier.

To be sure, the actual number of traffic deaths in the U.S. fell by 8% in March compared with a year earlier as miles traveled dropped 18.6%, according to the safety council. But Kolosh said deaths should have dropped by the same percentage as the number of miles driven.

In April, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that emptier streets may be encouraging drivers to flout traffic safety laws. Many states reported dramatic increases in speeding. In Los Angeles, speeds were up by as much as 30% on some streets, while authorities in Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah clocked vehicles going over 100 mph, the association said.

Court throws out major literacy ruling in Detroit schools

DETROIT (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out a groundbreaking decision that said Detroit students had a constitutional right to education and literacy, just days after Michigan’s governor settled the case by agreeing to seek millions from the Legislature to improve education.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside an April decision by one of its panels, a rare step. But the deal reached by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer still will stand, a lawyer for students said.

Detroit students claimed poor conditions in schools had made learning impossible. In a 2-1 opinion last month, judges Eric Clay and Jane Stranch said there’s a constitutional right to “access to literacy,” even if the U.S. Supreme Court has never declared it.

The full 6th Circuit has the power to scratch a decision and hear arguments again with multiple judges if a case “involves a question of exceptional importance,” according to its rules.

“It’s not a legally binding decision anymore,” said Evan Caminker, co-counsel for students and the former dean at University of Michigan law school.

Last week, Whitmer, a Democrat, said she was settling the case. She agreed to ask the Republican-controlled Legislature to spend at least $94.4 million for literacy programs in the Detroit district and take other steps. The seven plaintiffs would also share $280,000 for their own education.

“Students in Detroit faced obstacles to their education that inhibited their ability to read, obstacles they never should have faced,” Whitmer said.

The lawsuit began when Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, was in office.

‘Cowboys for Trump’ leader chided for ‘dead Democrat’ remark

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — The founder of the group Cowboys for Trump and a New Mexico county commissioner is facing calls to resign after he said in a video, “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

In a video posted Tuesday on social media, Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin said he wished for the Democratic Party to die because it was anti-American and opposed to President Donald Trump.

“I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to the conclusion that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” Griffin said in a video on the Cowboys for Trump Facebook and Twitter pages. The crowd at an unknown event began to cheer.

“I don’t say that in the physical sense, and I can already see where the videos getting edited where it says I want to go murder Democrats. No,” Griffin continued. “I say that in the political sense because the Democrat agenda and policy is anti-American right now.”

But by late Tuesday, a clip of the first part of Griffin’s comments circulated among Democrats who called for Griffin to resign from the Otero County Commission.

“The County Commissioner’s comment is despicable, indefensible, and un-American,” Democratic New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf tweeted Tuesday. “He represents Rs, Ds, and Independents. He should immediately apologize and resign.”

Man accused of running over, assaulting victim in Fargo

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A Fargo man is being held on a possible attempted murder charge for an assault in a mall parking lot.

The 44-year-old suspect is accused of deliberately running over a man in the West Acres parking lot Tuesday and then getting out of his vehicle and assaulting him.

KFGO reports police say the two men know each other and the victim is accused of stealing the suspect’s vehicle in Moorhead, Minnesota.

The victim was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Police arrested the suspect after he drove away from the parking lot.

Oregon high court halts ruling nixing virus restrictions

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court halted a rural judge’s order which had tossed out statewide coronavirus restrictions imposed by Gov. Kate Brown in a case brought by churches arguing the Democrat exceeded her authority.

Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff had ruled that Brown erred by not seeking the Legislature’s approval to extend the stay-at-home orders beyond a 28-day limit. The Supreme Court’s late Monday decision stays Shirtcliff’s decree pending review by all the high court justices.

In a statement, Brown praised the Supreme Court action.

“There are no shortcuts for us to return to life as it was before this pandemic. Moving too quickly could return Oregon to the early days of this crisis, when we braced ourselves for hospitals to be overfilled,” she said.

The lower court judge had issued his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by 10 churches around Oregon that argued the state’s social distancing directives were unconstitutional.

In a seven-page opinion, Shirtcliff wrote that the damage to Oregonians and their livelihood was greater than the dangers presented by the coronavirus. He also noted that other businesses deemed essential, such as grocery stores, had been allowed to remain open even with large numbers of people present and have relied on masks, social distancing and other measures to protect the public.

J&J to stop selling talc-based baby powder in US, Canada

FAIRLESS HILLS, Pa. (AP) — Johnson & Johnson is ending sales of its iconic talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the U.S. and Canada, where demand has dwindled amid thousands of lawsuits claiming it has caused cancer.

The world’s biggest maker of health care products said Tuesday the talc-based powder will still be sold outside the U.S. and Canada.

“Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising,” the company said.

J&J faces about 19,400 cases alleging its talcum powder caused users to develop ovarian cancer, through use for feminine hygiene, or mesothelioma, a cancer that strikes the lungs and other organs.

Of the cases that have been tried, J&J has had 12 wins, 15 losses and seven mistrials. All of the losses have either been overturned on appeal or are still being appealed.

The company insists, and the overwhelming majority of medical research on talc indicates, that the talc baby powder is safe and doesn’t cause cancer.

“Whether or not the powder actually causes cancer, people became hesitant to use the product,” Erik Gordon, a professor at University of Michigan’s business school, said in an email.

J&J spokeswoman Kimberly Montagnino said the company doesn’t plan to settle any of the lawsuits and “will continue to vigorously defend” the product.

Federal judge orders expansion of mail-in voting in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge Tuesday ordered Texas to allow any of the state’s 16 million voters to cast a ballot by mail over fears of the coronavirus, paving the way for what would be one of the most dramatic expansions of mail-in voting in the country.

The decision is unlikely to be the last word. Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who in recent weeks has suggested that steering voters toward wrongly applying for mail-in ballots could result in prosecution, said the state would appeal. He called the ruling by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery a dismissal of “well-established law.”

The fight in Texas is just one of several court battles across the country over efforts, mainly by Democrats, to expand access to mail-in ballots amid the pandemic. In Wisconsin, where election officials drew widespread criticism for holding its April 7 presidential primary even as other states delayed voting, a new lawsuit filed Monday argued that not enough has been done since then to ensure that the upcoming elections can be conducted safely and fairly.

Voting by mail in Texas is generally limited to those 65 or older or those with a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents voting in person. In a lengthy ruling, Biery rejected Paxton’s assertion that fear of getting the virus doesn’t qualify as a disability under the law.

“Clearly, fear and anxiety currently gripping the United States has limited citizens’ physical movements, affected their mental senses and constricted activities, socially and economically,” Biery wrote.

He also dismissed claims that expanding mail-in voting would invite fraud in Texas, citing scant evidence.

The ruling came just days after the Texas Supreme Court, which is entirely controlled by Republicans, handed Paxton a victory by blocking a lower ruling in state court that cleared the way for widespread vote-by-mail. Officials in Tennessee are also fighting efforts to expand mail-in voting under a similar defense as Texas, saying fear of contracting the coronavirus doesn’t meet medical criteria.

Source: https://www.gillettenewsrecord.com/news/in_brief/article_1ea914ee-f9c9-51db-a027-6047da38d1c6.html

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