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9.14.20: Brandstad Steps Down as Chinese Ambassador, SD Attorney General Deadly Crash and More

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U.S. Government

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SPM NEWS 9.14.20 - 4:04PM

Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, the U.S. Ambassador to China, will step down early next month.  This will end  a three-year tenure marked by a trade war and increasingly bitter relations between the world’s two largest economies. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing says Branstad confirmed his decision in a phone call with President Donald Trump last week. It did not give a reason for his departure.

Trade relations soured under Trump, and other disputes followed over technology, human rights and the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Branstad became embroiled in a recent controversy when China’s official People’s Daily newspaper rejected an opinion piece by him.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's office says he had not been drinking before he was involved in a deadly car crash. His spokesman says Ravnsborg was driving from a Republican fundraiser in Redfield, South Dakota, to his home in Pierre on Saturday night when he was involved in the crash. Ravnsborg immediately called 911. He had been at a fundraising dinner hosted by the Spink County 

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Credit State of South Dakota
JASON RAVNSBORG

Republicans at Rooster’s Bar & Grill. Bormann says that the attorney general is known to have an occasional drink, but has made it a practice not to drink at the Lincoln Day events. Ravsborg, a native of Cherokee, Iowa graduated from the University of South Dakota Law School and was election attorney general in 2018.

An Iowa judge has ordered Johnson County to invalidate about 16-thousand absentee ballot request forms that the county auditor pre-filled with voters’ personal information and ID number. 

President Trump’s campaign along with several Republican groups argued the Johnson County Auditor violated the secretary of state’s directive to only send blank ballot request forms.

Judge Ian Thornhill agreed. He previously invalidated about 50-thousand ballot requests in a similar case in Linn County. Republican groups sued in three counties—Johnson, Linn and Woodbury—and the court rulings invalidating ballot requests only affect some voters in those three counties. 

The Johnson County Auditor says he’ll start sending new absentee ballot request forms to affected voters in Johnson County soon. Voters can also use ballot request forms from other sources if they wish to vote by mail. Absentee ballots start getting sent to Iowa voters on October 5th.  

Three more people in the state of Iowa have died of complications of COVID-19, including one more in Woodbury County for a total of 59.  There were 32 new cases in the county and around 400 in the state during a 24-hour period.  There have been 1,222 deaths statewide since the beginning of the pandemic and almost 73,000 people testing positive.

Six counties are above 15% positivity rate for testing for school districts to apply for online-only learning.  Sioux County has the highest rate in the state at almost 24%, Lyon more than 18%. Plymouth County is almost at 17%.  Woodbury County is near 13%.  The Siouxland counties with the lowest percentage of new positive test results are Monona and Clay with less than 4%

The number of current cases of COVID-19 continues to fall at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.  There are 32 current cases and 274 in quarantine or isolation.

Meanwhile, health officials in Dakota County show 14 new coronavirus infections and 43 deaths. 

Four-hundred-and-thirty-four people have died in Nebraska.  There are almost 38,200 people testing positive. Governor Pete Ricketts held a news conference this morning.  He reminded Nebraskans to continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines, like wearing face masks, washing hand frequently and practicing social distancing.  He says the precautions will help contain the spread of the disease and keep hospital capacity lower.  He also added 341,000 people have signed up with Test Nebraska. 

Nebraska moved to phase 4 of coronavirus restrictions starting today.  The next step would include removing them all.  However, the Governor says he doesn’t know when that might happen.

Today through the end of the year all students in the Sioux City Community School District will get free meals.  The district notified parents about the program through the USDA on Sunday.  Students who do virtual learning can pick up their food instead. 

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