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PM News 7.17.20: Honken Execution, IA/NE School Updates and Unemployment

Sioux City, IA - 2004
Associated Press
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The U.S. government has put to death an Iowa chemistry student-turned-meth kingpin convicted of killing two children and three adults.

Dustin Honken, who prosecutors said killed key witnesses to stop them from testifying in his drugs case, received a lethal injection at a Federal Prison in  Indiana this afternoon.

His Federal Capital Murder Trial took place in Sioux City with Ret. Federal Judge, the Honorable Mark Bennett on the bench.

“Dustin Honken was an evil man.”

Bennett says he is personally against the death penalty, but not in the case of Honken.

It is the third execution by the federal government in one week after a hiatus of nearly 20 years.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says when the school year begins next month students must spend at least half of their time learning about core subjects in-person.

Reynolds says extended isolation could harm students’ social and emotional development.

"It’s really imperative that we get our kids back in school, especially those most vulnerable so we don’t leave them behind."

The proclamation allows families to choose remote learning. It also expands who can qualify as a substitute teacher and the length of time they can fill-in.

The Sioux City Community School District is still working on a finalized plan for the upcoming school year it could be done in person, virtually, or a combination of both.  Summer school for some grades, including first, second and eighth starts on August 3rd.

Nebraska’s public schools will use a color-coded scale to decide what restrictions they’ll put in place when schools reopen this fall in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials says schools considered least at-risk for spreading the virus will be labeled green on the scale, and students will attend classes as normal with some screening procedures in place.

Schools facing the greatest risk will be coded red, triggering a return to remote learning only and no participation in athletics.

And schools at moderate risk will end up yellow or orange, leading to restrictions that could include reducing the number of

students in school at one time and requiring masks when feasible.

Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 8% in June as the state’s economy continued to recover after being hit hard by efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Iowa Workforce Development reported Friday that the 8% unemployment rate was down from 10.2% in May.

The number of unemployed residents dropped from 173,000 in May to 131,200 in June.

Iowa’s unemployment rate remains far higher than before the coronavirus pandemic, as the jobless rate was 2.7% in June 2019. The national unemployment rate in June was 11.1%.

Nebraska's unemployment rate rose in June, a month after claiming the nation's lowest rate in the midst of the country's coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says Nebraska's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7% in June, up 1.4 percentage points from the revised May rate of 5.3%.  Despite the increase, Nebraska's rate remained one of the lowest in the nation. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June was 11.1%, a decrease of 2.2 percentage points from the May 2020 rate of 13.3%.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announces the state ended its fiscal year with a $19 million surplus despite revenue coming up shorter than expected. The coronavirus pandemic caused state revenues to fall short of what was estimated by almost $8 million. But the state also spent less than what was budgeted, resulting in the surplus. Some economic signs indicate the state is ready to weather the economic downturn from the pandemic, but recent gains in the job market have also stalled. The Republican governor has touted her hands-off approach to the pandemic, saying it shows that South Dakota is a business-friendly state. 

Insurance company Mutual of Omaha has announced it will replace its longtime corporate logo, which features a depiction of a Native American chief. The move comes as corporations and sports teams face increasing pressure to dump nicknames and depictions that reference American Indians amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice. The company is in the process of creating a new logo. Chairman and CEO James Blackledge said in a news release Friday that Mutual of Omaha is committing an additional $1 million to the $2 million it donates annually to community-based initiatives to address racial equality and social justice.

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