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NEWS 6.23.21: New Year's Shooting Plea, Priest Abuse Report, Mental Health Help, Drought & Fireworks

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SPM NEWS 6.23.21 - 4:32PM

A 20-year-old Sioux City man admitted that he shot the shot that killed a woman at a New Year's Eve party. Christopher Morales pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder and three counts of reckless use of a firearm. Morales was originally charged with first-degree murder for the death of 18-year-old Mia Kritis. She was killed and three other people were injured when Morales and others fired into the house where the party was being held. Morales' 18-year-old brother is charged with first-degree murder in the case. Another 18-year-old man has also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Kritis' death. 

South Dakota’s attorney general wants to keep cameras and audio recording devices out of the courtroom when he goes on trial in connection with the death of a man along a Hyde County highway. Jason Ravnsborg faces three misdemeanor charges related to his driving the night he struck and killed Joe Boever. A court document recently filed on behalf of Ravnsborg objects to cameras or audio recordings during his trial, which is scheduled to start Aug. 26. The attorney general is charged with careless driving, operating a vehicle while on an electronic device and driving outside of his lane.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller report on priest abuse in Iowa. The review included 70 Catholic priests and 50 complaints of sexual abuse and misconduct.

The report found while the church had a long, painful history of abuse and coverup, the Dioceses have enacted many reforms during the past two decades.

The report can be found here.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced today the state is putting a total of 30-million dollars in federal relief money into three new education initiatives.

Twenty million dollars will help the Iowa Department of Education and the University of Iowa form a center focused on addressing children’s mental health needs in schools. Seven million dollars will go to the Council Bluffs school district to expand early childhood education. And 3-million dollars will go to Waterloo schools to help close achievement gaps.

Reynolds didn’t say whether she plans to ask state lawmakers to provide funds for these projects when federal pandemic relief money runs out.

“So we’ll evaluate but that’s the whole purpose of doing that to kind of test run and see where we can get the biggest value and most importantly have the biggest impact on our kids in this state so that we set them up to be successful.”

The mental health center is expected to start its work this summer.

Iowa Department of Public Health reports no new deaths from COVID-19 with 110 new cases. There are 69 hospitalized patients with the virus in the state with about 20 in intensive care.

KCCI television in Des Moines reports officials with Mercy Medical Center and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s a majority of the patients are not vaccinated.

Nebraska’s unemployment rate remained one of the lowest in the country as it fell even lower in May. The state’s 2.6% unemployment rate tied with Vermont for the second-lowest rate in the nation, behind only New Hampshire’s 2.5% unemployment.

Nebraska's current unemployment rate is less than half of last May’s 5.4% unemployment when restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic prompted widespread layoffs and business closures.

Iowa’s unemployment rate bumped up to 3.9% in May even as more Iowans worked at jobs. Iowa Workforce Development reported Wednesday that the rate was up slightly from the 3.8% unemployment rate in April. The number of unemployed residents also increased by an estimated 1,300 people. Iowa was tied with Wisconsin for the nation’s 10th lowest unemployment rate. The U.S. unemployment rate for May was 5.8%.

The housing market is experiencing a boom right now and some entrepreneurs are looking at it as an opportunity to grow their own businesses. Victor Oyervides is a retail specialist for the community and economic development program within Iowa State University extension and outreach. He says he has seen many Latinos signing up as subcontractors because bigger companies are reducing their personnel.

 “They want to start up their business and they would have their own business but work under the contracts of the bigger construction company. They would send business to the smaller Latino/x construction companies.”

Although construction costs are higher than in the past, Oyervides and his colleagues expect those expenses to even out. Last year, Latino-owned construction firms in the U.S. increased 32 percent.

The extreme drought affecting Siouxland and much of Iowa has fire officials advising residents not to set off fireworks at home this year for the 4th of July. 

Fourth of July is just around the corner, but Iowa’s severe drought means setting off fireworks might not a good idea.   

Sioux City Fire Marshal Mark Aesoph agrees with that advice.

“Especially anytime you have as dry as conditions we are currently experiencing. While some of the surrounding areas have received rain, a lot of the areas right near Sioux City, we’ve not seen that rain.” 

Aesoph says if you are setting off fireworks, stay away from alcohol and be aware that once you light a firework, you can’t predict where it will go.”

“You know you gotta be up there to ignite it, but you never know when one of those is going to go out the side of a tube, or it's going to tip over, and now be pointed directly at you.”

The city's ordinance allows fireworks to be legally discharged only from 1 to 11 p.m. on July 3 and 4, and from 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 until 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1. 

The parents of an infant who died at a Sioux Falls hospital have agreed to settle their medical malpractice suit against the health care provider. The Argus Leader reports that the terms of the mediated settlement between Avera McKennan Hospital and the baby’s parents, Khayyam and Tejumade Gordon, were not disclosed. The infant's mother brought him to an Avera hospital in Estherville, Iowa, when he was 13 days old because of swelling in his left groin. His condition worsened, and after a couple more visits to the ER, he was transferred to the Sioux Falls hospital, where he had two surgeries in two days and died at less than 3 weeks old.

A campaign group backed by South Dakota’s major health care systems announces it will begin gathering petition signatures for a ballot measure to expand Medicaid to provide health coverage for low-income people. Medicaid expansion is shaping up to be a major question facing voters next year with much of the debate so far centering around the financial costs and benefits of the program. Two separate groups are launching ballot-measure campaigns for the November 2022 election. But top Republican lawmakers are pushing voters to install into the state constitution a higher vote threshold for Medicaid expansion.

A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe challenging the operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline. But U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Tuesday outlined a path for a future legal challenge to an ongoing environmental review, should the tribe seek to make one. Boasberg indicated if the tribe plans to challenge the outcome of the study it must do so in the form of a new lawsuit that would be assigned to his court. He also left open the possibility of reopening the case should any previous orders he made concerning the pipeline be violated. Boasberg in May concluded the tribe had failed to demonstrate a “likelihood of irreparable injury” from the line’s continued operation.

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AP) — Offutt Air Force Base’s 55th Wing has a new leader — the first woman to command the 80-year-old reconnaissance unit. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Col. Kristen Thompson took over command Tuesday, becoming the first woman among the 65 officers who have led the unit since it was established in 1941. She replaces Col. Gavin Marks, who was the first Black leader of the unit. Marks led the 55th Wing through a tumultuous time that included the early stages of recovery from the March 2019 floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. About 300 people, including Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, attended the ceremony.

NEW YORK (AP) — Warren Buffett resigned Wednesday as trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which says it will announce plans in July to answer questions raised about its leadership structure as it deals with the divorce of its two founders. The announcement from Buffett comes weeks after Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they were divorcing after 27 years of marriage but would continue to jointly run the foundation. It's one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. Buffett also said Wednesday that he is halfway to reaching his goal of giving away the entirety of his shares in Berkshire Hathaway, his company. 

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