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‘You are going to die’: former nurse pleads guilty to threats against VP Kamala Harris

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Kamala Harris gets threatened by a nurse

A former nurse in Florida is facing a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to harassing Vice President Kamala Harris with threatening videos. 

Admission of guilt: On Friday, 39-year-old Niviane Petit Phelps confessed in Miami federal court to six counts of making threats against Harris, reported Miami Herald.

  • The mother of three, who was arrested last April, admitted to applying for a concealed weapons permit and practicing at a gun range, a Secret Service complaint revealed.
  • Phelps was caught because she sent her imprisoned husband two photos and five videos of her screaming and ranting over the results of the 2020 election.
  • “Kamala Harris, you are going to die,” the defendant said in a video dated Feb.13. “Your days are numbered already.” 
  • “If I see you in the street, I’m gonna kill your ass, Kamala Harris,” she proclaimed in a Feb. 14 video. In another video, she said, “I’m going to the gun range, just for your ass, until you f—kin’ leave the chair.”
  • She claimed she had accepted $53,000 to carry out an assassination against Harris that she planned to complete within 50 days, the Associated Press reported. 
  • One of the images shows Phelps holding a pistol next to a target peppered with bullet holes. The other photo had Phelps’ teenage son also carrying a gun.
  • During the trial, Phelps acknowledged that the prosecutors would successfully convict her beyond a reasonable doubt.

Brewing hate: After charges were filed against her in April, Phelps was suspended and eventually lost her job at the Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she worked for 20 years as a nurse.

  • When authorities questioned Phelps about the two photos and the five threatening videos she sent her husband, she said she “just does not like her,.” referring to Harris.
  • Phelps, who is Black, said she made the threats because Harris, of Black and South Asian descent, wasn’t “actually Black.”
  • She was also angry at Harris over a false belief that she placed her hand over her purse instead of the Bible when she was sworn in as vice president.
  • Phelps’ lawyer, Scott Saul, told Miami Herald that the defendant was just venting to her husband with no plans on following through on her threats. 
  • “[She] was just venting as she was going through a tumultuous time in her life,” Saul said, noting that the threats were “limited to discussions with her incarcerated husband.”

Found by a judge to be a “danger to the community,” Phelps is currently being detained while awaiting her sentencing before the U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez on Nov. 19.

Featured Image via WPLG Local 10 (left), Forbes (right)

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Ask Amy: Tough diagnosis brings disclosure dilemma

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Ask Amy: Woman should leave abusive relationship

Dear Amy: I am 58 years old. I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s two years ago. My friends all know about my diagnosis.

My question relates to my sister. She and I had been estranged for almost a decade. Two years ago, I realized that our disagreements were water under the bridge, and we re-established a relationship. She lives several states away and has no contact with my friends.

I have never disclosed my diagnosis to her.

I don’t want her to come to the conclusion that I broke down the barriers between us because of my illness.

I did that because I love her, and not because I am staring in the face of my own mortality.

I also don’t want to bring stress into her life, she has enough of that, and she will fly into stress mode — that is who she is.

Also, because she is my “big sister” I also know that she will go into: “I’ll take care of you” mode (again, it is her nature), which is not what I need or want to be the basis for our relationship.

On the other hand, I don’t want her to feel betrayed when she inevitably learns about my illness.

Right now, I am able to hide my symptoms well.

When the day comes when this is not the case, I plan on telling her (and her children).

I am extremely torn as to whether I am making the right decision.

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Bill to bring back eviction moratorium filed in Congress

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Bill to bring back eviction moratorium filed in Congress

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., hope to bring back the COVID-era eviction moratorium, a move property owners continue to oppose.

“An extremist Supreme Court cut short eviction protections and put millions of people at risk for losing their homes,” Warren said in front of the White House Tuesday. “Forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes will only make this public health crisis worse as (the delta variant) surges.”

The Supreme Court struck down the federal eviction moratorium late last month, arguing that the Department of Health and Human Services lacked the authority to implement eviction moratoriums and that Congress had to specifically authorize it.

The bill, titled the “Keeping Renters Safe Act of 2021,” would also implement an automatic eviction moratorium that would not require renters to apply, an issue Massachusetts renters and landlords have struggled with, and would remain in effect until 60 days after the end of the public health emergency.

But landlords, who have long opposed the moratorium, said it would only saddle renters with debt they can’t pay.

“Instead of responsibly addressing the crisis at hand, moratoriums leave renters strapped with insurmountable debt and housing providers left to unfairly hold the bag,” said Greg Brown, a senior vice president for government affairs at the National Apartment Association. “Ultimately, any effort to pursue additional moratoriums will only balloon the nation’s rental debt … and exacerbate the housing affordability crisis, permanently jeopardizing the availability of safe and affordable housing.”

Warren argued that a stay on evictions have staved off some COVID-19 spread, and cases spike after they expire. One study from MIT found that the average risk of contracting COVID-19 in states that ended eviction moratoriums jumped 1.39 times in the five weeks following the expiration, and 1.87 times after 12 weeks. The effect was amplified in low-income communities.

The Bay State senator acknowledged that, although Congress approved $45 billion for rental assistance to help landlords, “the money is going out too slowly.”

She cited statistics that almost 90% of the funds haven’t been distributed. “There are still billions of dollars to distribute and millions of families who need that help to avoid losing their homes,” she said.

Massachusetts received $768 million in federal emergency rental assistance funds and has spent almost $270 million on over 40,000 households since March 2020, according to recent data from the Baker-Polito administration.

Massachusetts currently has a temporary law in place that prevents evictions, providing the tenant has filed for rental assistance.

— Herald wire services contributed

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Ross Douthat: The extremely weird politics of COVID

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Ross Douthat: The extremely weird politics of COVID

I want to put a text before you, from February 2020, the ideological landscape into which the coronavirus first arrived. It’s a review in The London Review of Books, a fine highbrow left-of-center publication, covering a book about plague and quarantine in 17th-century Italy. The book, by University of London historian John Henderson, details the attempts by the city of Florence — led by its public health board, the Sanità — to avoid the awful fate of other Italian cities: first by closing the city to commerce and then by imposing quarantines, lockdowns and what we now call social distancing.

The sympathies of the reviewer — Erin Maglaque, another historian of early modern Europe — are not exactly with the Sanità. Like our federal government in 2020, the Florentine state spent lavishly to make its restrictions sustainable, delivering wine and bread and meat to households (“On Tuesdays, they got a sausage seasoned with pepper, fennel and rosemary”) during the mandatory confinement. But the quarantine was also inevitably punitive and authoritarian, and Maglaque’s review details the way public health restrictions reproduced and deepened inequality and how already-disfavored groups — the poor, Jews, prostitutes — were regarded as particularly dangerous “vectors of contagion” and policed accordingly.

Meanwhile, the most sympathetic characters in her account are people who found ways to steal a bit of normal life in defiance of public health restrictions — like two girls, Maria and Cammilla, who danced illicitly with their friends and got those friends’ parents arrested. At the end of the review, Maglaque notes that Florence achieved a much lower mortality rate than other Italian cities — just about 12%, compared with 33% in Venice, 46% in Milan and a staggering 61% in Verona. But she hesitates to give the Sanità all the credit; maybe the disease was just “less virulent” among the Florentines. And besides:

Percentages tell us something about living and dying. But they don’t tell us much about survival. Florentines understood the dangers but gambled with their lives anyway: out of boredom, desire, habit, grief. To learn what it meant to survive, we might do better to observe Maria and Cammilla, the teenage sisters who danced their way through the plague year.

It’s a fine review of a fascinating-sounding book, but I confess that when I reached this ending — and again, I was reading it in early 2020, when COVID was a concern but not yet a world crisis — I rolled my eyes a little. The Sanità’s measures obviously worked! The percentages do tell us about survival, because thousands of Florentines survived to dance and gamble and go to Mass and frequent brothels for years and years after their difficult but temporary spell of quarantine! One could sympathize with the prostitutes who kept working, the peasants slipping “past bored guards as they played cards” or the girls who broke the rules and danced. But given that the Sanità was fighting a disease that killed more than half the population in some cities, it felt like folly to romanticize the rule-flouters.

And not just folly but a particular kind of left-wing folly — still worse, left-wing academic folly — whereas my more pro-Sanità reaction felt impeccably right wing. In a crisis the government needs to act to save lives, even if ordinary liberties need to be suspended. Yes, there will be unevenly distributed injustices; yes, it’s good to point that out. But if the Sanità’s temporary authoritarianism saved thousands of lives, then it deserved the gratitude of Florentines, despite the costs.

That was my view in February 2020. It was also my view in March, April and May 2020, when I was a COVID hawk but many other American conservatives embraced a much more libertarian position on how to respond to our own pandemic. Indeed, by late spring, it was commonplace for the right to critique the Sanità of Anthony Fauci on roughly the same grounds that The LRB’s reviewer critiqued the 17th-century Florentine authorities — arguing that lockdowns were instruments of class discrimination; that elites flouted the rules while demanding compliance from the lower orders; that distancing imposed too much unhappiness and loneliness and misery, especially on the young; that the bare living preserved by public health restrictions wasn’t worth the cost to life in full.

Over the past 16 months, I have shifted somewhat in this COVID-dovish direction. I think schools should have been open everywhere last fall; I think mask requirements should have mostly gone away with widespread vaccination; I think you can see in certain public health mandarins and certain countries chasing COVID zero a pathology of control that is incompatible with human flourishing. I also have a general sympathy for Americans who haven’t been immediately on board with all the rulings from our Sanità — in part because I have had my own difficult medical experiences and in part because there has been so much obvious expert-class bumbling throughout the pandemic.

But at the same time, I remain a COVID hawk relative to many conservative writers and talkers. Knowing what we know now, I would have supported much more draconian measures in February 2020, in terms of travel restrictions, border closures and quarantine requirements, than anything we did. I still think the March response to the first coronavirus wave — shut everything down and spend a lot of money until we figure out just how bad this is going to be — was fundamentally correct.

Likewise, maintaining indoor mask mandates, social distancing rules and limits on mass gatherings into the winter of 2021 still seems entirely reasonable, especially since the speed with which we developed vaccines created a window in which restrictions that lasted mere months could save a lot of lives. And more recently many Republicans have let reasonable doubts about vaccine mandates undercut their commitment to finding ways, by hook or crook, to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Informing my continued COVID-hawk status is the fact that while the COVID death rate has not been nearly as a brutal as those 17th-century Italian percentages, it has still been much, much higher than a lot of COVID doves wanted to initially believe. In the first months of the pandemic, I was often reassured by conservative friends that data would reveal that more people had already been infected than the official numbers showed and thus the disease was far less lethal and herd immunity far closer than official projections assumed. Or, alternatively, that the first plunge in death rates in the late spring of 2020 was the disease burning itself out, independent of anything we did, and that the belief that this needed to be treated as an extended emergency was all hype from anti-Trumpers.

These friends were wrong. And as someone who thought of my COVID-hawkish position as the more right-wing one, I have found it remarkable that through all those hundreds of thousands of deaths — deaths that many doves didn’t think would happen — the American right’s libertarian stance has mostly stuck.

But as someone who can see lots of specific issues on which the doves and libertarians have a point, I’m equally fascinated by how dramatically liberals have swung against any acknowledgment of what until very recently seemed like a core left perspective — that stringent public health responses are inherently authoritarian and inevitably ratify various forms of inequality and social control.

As Justin E.H. Smith, an American-born academic in Paris, noted in a recent essay, a left that just a little while ago seemed committed to Foucauldian critiques of biopolitics and fears of what governments do with emergency powers now is “dug in so deeply on the side of anti-anti-vaxx signaling” that it can’t “acknowledge anything worrisome about the new high-tech hygiene regime, about how hard it might be to dismantle it once it has outlived its purpose, about how it might sprout new purposes that are inimical to human thriving.”

What’s especially striking is how smoothly and absolutely these shifts happened — how quickly, and without embarrassment or backward looks, much of the right started talking like Michel Foucault and his disciples and much of the left starting embracing the mindset of the Florentine Sanità, as if those had been their natural and inevitable positions all along.

Whatever the explanation, in the short run I think the bare acknowledgment that this weird flip took place might help a little with our polarization — tempering the liberal sense that the right is just a pro-COVID death cult and the right’s sense that the left wants us all to mask up and eat Soylent in our disease-free habitats forever.

In less than two years, we have gone from a world where it was normal for a left-leaning publication to run an essay gently celebrating the defiance of public health rules during a brutal outbreak of the plague, to a world where the defiance of public health rules during a less lethal pandemic is coded as incredibly right wing.

I don’t know exactly why or exactly what it means. I just want people to acknowledge that it has happened and it’s really, really weird.

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New York docs ‘very excited’ about Pfizer vaccines for 5-year-olds on up

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New York docs ‘very excited’ about Pfizer vaccines for 5-year-olds on up

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine works for children as young as 5-years-old. It’s now waiting on FDA approval for emergency use.

“Pfizer is saying that they expect an FDA approval in weeks, not months,” said Dr. Kathleen Grisanti, the president and medical director of Pediatric and Adolescent Urgent Care of WNY. “We’re really hoping, as we move forward in the next month or two, that we’ll be able to start vaccinating these school-aged children.”

“We want to get as many people as possible vaccinated because the more people that are vaccinated in the community, the quicker we can return to normal,” said Stephen Turkovich, who’s the chief medical officer at Oishei Children’s Hospital. “By making the 5 to 11 year-olds within the nation eligible, we will increase the number of eligible people by 28 million.”

People in the community say they’re on board with children in that age group getting vaccinated. “This will help with the curve. I think the numbers are going to go down,” said Tyshawn Thomas. “I’m 100% pro-vaccine, because if you go with science, science is not wrong. So I’m all for it. I think it’s a good idea. It’s about time.”

“I have a cousin who’s in that age group, and I think she’s been wanting to get the vaccine because she’s been very anxious about the whole thing. And with kids being out of school, I think it’s increased their anxiety,” Caroline Terhaar said. “Getting vaccinated would just help them get back into their normal routine.”

Because the vaccine would be for a younger age group, the vaccine dose is lower than what’s used for people older than 11-years-old, but experts say it’s just as effective. “They found that the antibody levels that the vaccine produced were equivalent or even a little bit higher than what we’ve seen in the adults and older children that got the vaccine,” Turkovich said.

Local pediatricians also stress parents go to the experts with their vaccine concerns. “There’s always concern with anything new—and again, we just kind of reassure them that this is not a new technology, that we have been using this type of technology in all sorts of vaccines,” Grisanti said. “We just encourage them to talk to their pediatricians to find out their recommendations and vaccinate their children as soon as it becomes available to them.”

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4 in custody after police pursuit ends in O’Fallon, Mo.

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4 in custody after police pursuit ends in O’Fallon, Mo.

O’FALLON, Mo. – Four people are in custody following a police pursuit Tuesday night that ended along highway 364 in O’Fallon, Missouri.

Police said it started just before 8:00 p.m. when the thieves stole from a store on Mexico Loop Road West. One of the four was left behind and arrested. The other three piled into a car and took off.

Officers eventually used stop sticks to disable the vehicle on 364 where the three bailed out of the moving car. They were arrested after a short foot chase.

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Rockies fall to Dodgers in extra innings to open final homestand of season

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Rockies fall to Dodgers in extra innings to open final homestand of season

On the last night of summer at Coors Field, with a lively crowd split evenly between purple and blue, the Rockies went ahead by two runs over the NL West-contending Dodgers.

But Los Angeles emerged with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.

Colorado was unable to produce clutch hits — 4-of-20 with runners in scoring position — while closer Jhoulys Chacin gave up L.A.’s game-winning run on an Albert Pujols RBI single. The Rockies (70-80) continue their final homestand Wednesday in their second matchup of a three-game series against the Dodgers.

Colorado’s bullpen combination of Robert Stephenson, Tyler Kinley and Carlos Estevez was spectacular Tuesday with no runs allowed on just one hit. The Rockies also had an opportunity to go ahead in the seventh and ninth with no outs and a runner on second. They never came through.

“I thought we pitched well and had some chances because of our pitching,” manager Bud Black said. “But we just couldn’t get the big knock as the game unfolded, especially late in the game.”

Pujols put the game away with an RBI infield single off Chacin that scored the Dodgers’ designated runner in the 10th.

The night began with a pitching duel. Starters Antonio Senzatela and Julio Urias combined to retire a stretch of 23 consecutive batters to keep the game scoreless through three innings.

Garrett Hampson broke through for Colorado in the fourth with a leadoff single. He came home when Charlie Blackmon smacked a two-out RBI double off the wall in right. C.J. Cron followed it up with his own RBI double to put the Rockies ahead 2-0.

“We’ve faced (the Dodgers) a bunch this year and we know what they’ve got,” Cron said. “I don’t know if you can even say: Get to the pen early. It doesn’t really do much when they have the caliber of arms they have down there. It was a tough game.”

Senzatela ran into trouble when he gave up two-out singles in the fifth to Gavin Lux and Luke Raley. A Urias RBI single brought L.A. to within one run. Then Mookie Betts reached base on an infield single that tied the game.

Ryan McMahon ripped a double to deep left to lead off the fifth. He advanced to third on a called balk on Urias. But Ryan Vilade grounded out, Senzatela struck out swinging and Hampson flied out to end the frame. It came back to bite Colorado the next inning when a Max Muncy RBI double put the Rockies into a one-run hole. Los Angeles bolstered its lead, 4-2, on a Will Smith sacrifice fly that scored Muncy.

Colorado fired back in the sixth with two-out RBI doubles from C.J. Cron and Elias Diaz to tie the game.

Senzatela ended his spectacular stretch of quality outings in seven consecutive starts dating back to Aug. 11. He finished the night with four earned runs on seven hits over six innings. He issued zero walks and three strikeouts.

“In the fifth inning I just started making mistakes,” Senzatela said. “They capitalized on that. I think I threw too many pitches in the middle.”

Lambert decision looming. Starting right-handed pitcher Peter Lambert is nearing his MLB return since enduring Tommy John Surgery before the 2020 season. Lambert threw a bullpen session Tuesday.

“I’m going to check with Peter and the pitching coaches to see how he did and how he feels tomorrow. The next step will be for him to throw a game probably later in the week. Either here with us or in Triple-A,” manager Bud Black said. “I want to see how he feels physically. I want to know his emotional state coming back from all these minor league rehab assignments and whether he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues.”

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Massachusetts coronavirus cases increase by 1,283, highest daily death count in months

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Massachusetts coronavirus cases increase by 1,283, highest daily death count in months

Massachusetts health officials on Tuesday reported 1,283 new coronavirus cases and 25 COVID deaths, which was the highest daily death count in more than five months.

Total COVID hospitalizations in the Bay State dropped again, while the positive test rate ticked up.

Virus cases have been climbing for months amid the more highly contagious delta variant. Now deaths have been higher in recent weeks.

The 25 new COVID deaths was the highest single-day tally since April 3’s count of 30 deaths. Last week, the state reported 24 new COVID deaths in one day.

The state’s total recorded death toll is now 18,480. The seven-day average of deaths is now 7.1. The record-low daily death average was 1.3 in mid-July.

After the new 1,283 virus cases, the seven-day average of cases is now 1,222. Two months ago, the daily average was 352 infections.

The positive test average has been coming down, however. The percent positivity is now 2.10%, a dip from 2.98% last month. The daily positive test rate for Tuesday’s report was higher at 2.98%.

There are now 636 COVID patients in the state, a daily decrease of five patients.

The state reported that 173 patients are in intensive care units, and 103 patients are currently intubated.

Of the 636 total hospitalizations, 211 patients are fully vaccinated — or about 33%. Those who are unvaccinated are at a much higher risk for a severe case.

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West St. Paul plans $2.1 million upgrade to Marthaler Park

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West St. Paul plans $2.1 million upgrade to Marthaler Park

A planned overhaul to Marthaler Park in West St. Paul will feature a brand new design, with an improved sledding hill, modern bathrooms and new playground equipment.

The improvements will cost about $2.1 million, said Dave Schletty, the city’s assistant parks and recreation director. The work could begin in 2022 and be completed in 2024.

Improvements for Marthaler Park have been ongoing for some time, Schletty said. The city started working with WSB, a Minneapolis based design and consulting firm, in the mid-2010s, but was held up because the recent Robert Street development cost more than anticipated. Now the plan is to move ahead in three phrases.

“Instead of waiting three years where we could have full funding, we’d rather start,” Schletty said. “With the help of our consultant, we felt like it would be doable and fine to break it into phases.”

  • Phase 1: In 2022, demolish parking lots and put in new ones. The city may also put in a paved trail connecting a parking lot to the River-to-River Greenway Trail.
  • Phase 2: In 2023, improvements will be focused on the central portion, including the playground, picnic area and possibly the bathrooms.
  • Phase 3: In 2024, focus on pond cleanup and the park’s sledding hill.
Rendering for the Marthaler Park in West St. Paul with details on upgrades planned through 2024. (Rendering made by WSB. Courtesy of Dave Schletty)

The city has held public meetings and collected comment cards from residents. Officials have also been working with the Marthaler Park Neighborhood Group, an informal group formed after a shooting at the park to help take care of it.

Carol Keyes-Ferrer, a member of the Marthaler Park Neighborhood Group, said that she wants to see trash and security improve in the park. She looks forward to increased lighting in the park.

“I’m glad that they’re keeping the basketball court and keeping the tennis courts because we see those used a lot,” Keyes-Ferrer said.

Plans for Marthaler Park are not final. The parks department will have a table at the West St. Paul open house on Thursday and will take any questions and suggestions for Marthaler Park. The gathering is located at the city’s Municipal Center, which is across the street from the park.

Schletty encourages residents to contact the city and share ideas.

“I’ve been with the city 20 years, so about the time I started was when we were first talking about (Marthaler Park) improvements,” Schletty said. “To actually see it finally coming together, I’m really, really excited.”

OPEN HOUSE

West St. Paul will host a free Open House at its Municipal Center, 1616 Humboldt Ave. with live music, kids games, police and ire demonstrations, free food and more. The event will run from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 23.

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‘Scared to death’ Vermont advocates rally for emergency housing

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‘Scared to death’ Vermont advocates rally for emergency housing

Posted: Updated:

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — An 84-day extension of emergency housing benefits is set to expire for more than 540 Vermont households this week. Vermont Legal Aid (VLA) and housing advocates are asking the state for more time.

“Most of us are afraid for our lives, the winter itself,” said 24-year-old motel voucher participant Randy Tatro. “If you’re homeless in the winter, and you can’t end up in centers—People will freeze to death.”

April Metcalf, a participant in the voucher program, says she’s lived in several different motels in Central Vermont throughout the pandemic. “It’s just really hard. I’m scared to death, and I’m sure everybody else is,” she said. “When Thursday comes, what are we going do to?”

In a letter to the Department for Children and Families, VLA and shelter providers are asking the department to extend the benefits “for as long as possible, dictated only by room availability,” for 543 households. VLA staff attorney Mairead O’Reilly said that with COVID cases rising due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, ending the benefits doesn’t make sense. “When the legislature approved the administration’s plan to offer benefits for only 84 days, the circumstances were really different,” she said.

Rick DeAngelis, executive director of the Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, said that without an extension, 50 to 75 people in Washington County, Vermont, will lose housing. He said the state should take advantage of the recent decision by FEMA to extend a 100% cost-share through the end of the year. “In this period of uncertainty and crisis, why wouldn’t you use that funding to provide support and protection?” he asked.

The advocates’ letter also points out that while the state is investing in affordable housing and additional shelters, the units won’t be ready in time. Another Way, a drop-in site in Montpelier, is supplying camping gear—tarps, tents, sleeping bags, and meals—to those in need.

However, Ken Russell, executive director of the site, says it’s a temporary fix. “We’re helping them get stable emotionally to the best of our ability,” he said. “But this feels like pulling the rug out from underneath the motel system. These are human beings we’re talking about, here. These are people who are not outside just because of moral failings, they’re in life crisis.”

Metcalf says she’s hoping and praying for more support from Gov. Phil Scott and his administration. “What do they expect us to do?” she said. “Really.”

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Missouri’s abortion law in federal court; focus on Down syndrome diagnosis

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Missouri’s abortion law in federal court; focus on Down syndrome diagnosis

ST. LOUIS – Missouri could join Texas with one of the strictest abortion laws in the country if a federal court of appeals rules in the state’s favor.

Back in 2019, the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill banning abortions after eight weeks or if the mother receives a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. A day before the law was set to go into effect, a federal judge blocked the measure, and it has been an ongoing legal fight since. A rare move Tuesday as all 11 members of a federal court of appeals heard the case.

“Today, we argued that every single life matters,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said. “We are hopeful that we are on the right side of this issue, and we are going to continue to fight for those most vulnerable among us.”

Just days after lawmakers passed the legislation, Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill which does not allow exemptions for rape or incest survivors. But the focus in Tuesday’s hearing wasn’t how long a woman has to get an abortion. Instead, it was about a mother receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis.

“People who are pregnant, regardless of why they are choosing to have an abortion should be able to have that care here in the state of Missouri,” Chief Medical Officer for Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region Dr. Colleen McNicholas said. “Pregnant folks who are facing an abortion in the context of having a diagnosis of a fetal anomaly, a genetic diagnosis, whether it’s Down syndrome or any other diagnosis, are facing a real traumatic decision.”

Earlier this summer, a three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the law, but after the June decision, the court made a rare move and decided in July to re-hear the case before all the judges.

Schmitt said the focus was on the Down syndrome piece because that’s a relatively new issue for the courts.

“I think that every individual deserves the right to live their life and pursue happiness including those with Down syndrome,” Schmitt said. “This is modern-day eugenics, this is discriminating to the most extreme level of the elimination of an entire class of people because of a trait.”

During a press conference after the hearing, Schmitt, citing a 2019 dissent from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky, Inc.), claimed roughly 70% of babies in the U.S. are aborted due to a Down syndrome diagnosis.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block a law in Texas that bans abortions as early as six weeks, allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who participates. This law makes Texas the most restrictive state in the country for abortions.

“I would say that Missouri is on the list of many states who are on the verge of losing access to abortion and so last week Texas, this week, Missouri,” McNicholas said.

McNicholas said it’s not a decision the state should make for women who are pregnant.

“Anti-abortion groups and legislators have longed tried to find wedge issues to push people to anti-abortion stances but our stance, my stance, the stance of the patients I care for, everyone has a unique situation,” McNicholas said.

Planned Parenthood in the Central West End in St. Louis is Missouri’s only abortion clinic. The Show-Me State is one of five states across the country that only has one clinic. McNicholas said whatever the ruling is, they won’t close their doors.

“This is a public health matter, it is basic healthcare and we will continue to fight for people to have access to that,” McNicholas said.

Under the Missouri law passed back in 2019, physicians who perform abortions after eight weeks could face anywhere from five to 15 years in prison but the woman who made the decision to have the abortion would not be charged. Anyone who participates in an abortion after the knowledge of a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis could be charged with civil penalties which could include the loss of a medical license.

Currently in Missouri, a woman can have an abortion up to 22 weeks. The number of abortions in Missouri per year has decreased significantly over the years in the past decade. According to the Department of Health and Senior Services, the state recorded 6,163 abortions in 2010, but only 46 in 2020.

Here is the list of abortions per year in the last decade:

2010 – 6,163
2011 – 5,772
2012 – 5,624
2013 – 5,416
2014 – 5,060
2015 – 4,765
2016 – 4,562
2017 – 3,903
2018 – 2,911
2019 – 1,368
2020 – 46

Schmitt said he does not know when the court will rule but is hoping for a quick decision.

The hearing in St. Louis comes less than three months before the country’s highest court is expected to hear arguments for a Mississippi law that challenges the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which establishes abortion as a protected right.

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