Former Make-A-Wish Iowa CEO arrested on theft charges
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The former CEO of Make-A-Wish Iowa has been arrested on felony charges alleging she stole thousands of dollars from the charity that supports sick children, the group confirmed Friday.
Jennifer Woodley, 40, was booked at the Polk County Jail in Des Moines on Thursday on charges of first-degree theft and the unauthorized use of a credit card. The criminal complaints against her weren’t immediately available, but first-degree theft involves property worth more than $10,000.
The organization announced last summer that it had discovered financial irregularities during a compliance review and that Woodley had been dismissed after serving as president and CEO for just over one year.
Based in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, the Iowa group is one of 60 chapters of Make-A-Wish America, which works to provide support and memorable experiences for children with critical illnesses and their families.
Dave Farmsworth, the board chairman for Make-A-Wish Iowa, said the organization swiftly dismissed Woodley and notified police after discovering the problems last July. He said the organization was “deeply saddened and disappointed by the events” that led to charges against Woodley.
“We thank the Urbandale Police Department for its investigation into this breach of Make-A-Wish’s ethical standards and policies, and we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement,” he said. “We know that we have an obligation to safeguard every dollar given to us.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how much Woodley allegedly misappropriated or whether she has an attorney.
Make-A-Wish Iowa has an annual budget of $4 million, a staff of 16 employees and is governed by a 17-member volunteer board.
During Woodley’s tenure, the 35-year-old chapter granted its 4,000th wish for a child and said it planned to grant about 170 wishes for children per year.
Jail records list Woodley’s new address as Winston Salem, North Carolina, where her husband, Matt Woodley, is an assistant basketball coach at Wake Forest.
The couple has had two daughters who have required brain surgery, and one of them received a trip to Walt Disney World through Make-A-Wish Iowa before Woodley was hired as CEO.
Trump impeachment to go to Senate Monday, launching trial
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to send the article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, launching the start of the former president’s trial on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the deadly Capitol riot.
“There will be a trial,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in making the announcement Friday. “It will be a full trial, it will be a fair trial.”
Trump is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office.
While the transmission of the article launches the trial proceedings, the schedule ahead remains uncertain as the Senate, now in Democratic control, is also working to swiftly confirm President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees and tackle the new administration’s legislative priorities.
Biden says the Senate can do both and Schumer said he also speaking to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell about the “timing and duration” of the proceedings ahead.
“Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process,” McConnell said after Schumer spoke. On Thursday he proposed delaying the start of Trump’s trial to February to give the former president time to prepare and review his case. Trump is still assembling his legal team..
The timing and details ahead rests on negotiations between Schumer and McConnell, who are also in talks over a power-sharing agreement for the Senate, which is narrowly-split, 50-50, but in Democratic control because the vice president serves as a tie-breaking vote.
Under an extended timeline as McConnell proposed, the president’s defense team and House prosecutors would have two weeks to file briefs. Arguments would likely begin in mid-February.
A trial delay could appeal to some Democrats, as it would give the Senate more time to confirm Biden’s Cabinet nominees and debate a new round of coronavirus relief.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a key ally of the president’s, told CNN that Democrats would consider a delay “if we are making progress on confirming the very talented, seasoned and diverse” team Biden has nominated.
Pelosi said Trump doesn’t deserve a “get-out-of-jail card” just because he has left office and Biden and others are calling for national unity.
Facing his second impeachment trial in two years, Trump began to assemble his defense team by hiring attorney Butch Bowers to represent him, according to an adviser. Bowers previously served as counsel to former South Carolina Govs. Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina helped Trump find Bowers after members of his past legal teams indicated they did not plan to join the new effort. Trump is at a disadvantage compared to his first trial, in which he had the full resources of the White House counsel’s office to defend him.
Pelosi’s nine impeachment managers, who will be prosecuting the House case, have been regularly meeting to discuss strategy.
Shortly before the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump told thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House to “fight like hell” against the election results that Congress was certifying. A mob marched down to the Capitol and rushed in, interrupting the count. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem, and the House impeached Trump a week later, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in support.
Pelosi said it would be “harmful to unity” to forget that “people died here on Jan. 6, the attempt to undermine our election, to undermine our democracy, to dishonor our Constitution.”
Trump was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate at his first impeachment trial. The White House legal team, aided by Trump’s personal lawyers, aggressively fought the House charges that he had encouraged the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden in exchange for military aid. This time around, Pelosi noted, the House is not seeking to convict the president over private conversations but for a very public insurrection that they themselves experienced and that played out on live television.
“This year, the whole world bore witness to the president’s incitement,” Pelosi said.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said it was still too early to know how long a trial would take or if Democrats would want to call witnesses. But he said, “You don’t need to tell us what was going on with the mob scene we were rushing down the staircase to escape.”
McConnell, who said this week that Trump “provoked” his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote. He told his GOP colleagues that it will be a vote of conscience.
Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Trump, a high bar. While a handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they are open to conviction, most have said they believe a trial will be divisive and questioned the legality of trying a president after he has left office.
Graham said that if he were Trump’s lawyer, he would focus on that argument and on the merits of the case — and whether it was “incitement” under the law.
“I guess the public record is your television screen,” Graham said. “So, I don’t see why this would take a long time.”
Lucky few hit COVID-19 vaccine jackpot for rare extra doses
Fortune struck one man in the bakery aisle at the supermarket. Two others were working the night shift at a Subway sandwich shop. Yet another was plucked from a list of 15,000 hopefuls.
With millions of Americans waiting for their chance to get the coronavirus vaccine, a lucky few are getting bumped to the front of the line as clinics scramble to get rid of extra, perishable doses at the end of the day.
It is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
Sometimes people who just happen to be near a clinic at closing time are offered leftover shots that would otherwise be thrown away. Sometimes health workers go out looking for recipients. Some places keep waiting lists and draw names at random. Such opportunities may be becoming more prized as shortages around the U.S. lead some places to cancel vaccinations.
“One of the nurses said I should go buy a lottery ticket right now,” said Jesse Robinson, outside a Nashville, Tennessee, clinic this week where the 22-year-old was picked from a 15,000-name list for a shot. “I’m not going to question it too much. Just glad it was me.”
David MacMillan was grabbing ingredients for a coconut chickpea dish at a Giant grocery store in Washington when a woman in a lab coat from the in-store pharmacy came up to him and his friend.
“I got two doses of the Moderna vaccine. The pharmacy is closing in 10 minutes. Do you want them?” MacMillan, 31, recalled the woman saying. “I thought, ‘Let’s go for it.'”
After MacMillan posted a video of his experience on TikTok, the supermarket chain was inundated for days with calls and people hanging around, hoping to score a shot.
It has become one of the most unusual quirks in the often uneven, monthlong rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Once a vial is thawed from the deep freeze and, even more so, once its seal is punctured and the first dose is drawn, those administering the vaccine are in a race to use it up before it spoils even if it means giving shots to those who don’t fit into the priority list.
While it may be unsettling to see a 20-something getting a shot while an 90-year-old woman in a nursing home is still waiting, public health experts say getting a dose into someone’s arm, anyone’s arm, is better than throwing it away.
“As far as I’m concerned, vaccinate anyone but the dog,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University.
In New York City, a rumor that the Brooklyn Army Terminal had extra doses triggered a rush to the vaccine distribution site, leading to bumper-bumper traffic in the streets and a line of hundreds on the sidewalks until police came out to say they had been duped.
Mike Schotte, 53, and his 72-year-old mother started showing up at pharmacies near their home in Hurst, Texas, in hopes of getting a leftover shot. Eventually they put their names on a waiting list and got a call saying shots might be available if they arrived within a half-hour.
“We didn’t have to speed, but it was pretty close,” Schotte said. “I’m excited that I got it.”
Nashville started its lottery system to avoid more haphazard ways of distributing leftover shots. In one case last month, the city’s health department ended up giving extra doses to two workers at a Subway restaurant in a nearby hospital so they wouldn’t go to waste.
However they get it, those who’ve lucked into getting a first shot are reserved a spot for a second one a few weeks later.
Vaccine clinics expect only a few leftover doses, at most, on any given day. Providers also note that the chances of leftover shots becoming available to the broader public are diminishing with each passing week as eligibility for the vaccine widens beyond the very old, nursing home residents and front-line medical workers.
Waste is common in global inoculation campaigns, with millions of doses of flu shots trashed each year. By one World Health Organization estimate, more than half of all vaccines are thrown away because they were mishandled, unclaimed or expired. The coronavirus rollout appears to have bucked the trend.
Though federal data is not available, health authorities in various jurisdictions contacted by The Associated Press reported very little waste beyond a few notable cases of doses that were accidentally or deliberately spoiled.
In Chicago’s Cook County, Illinois, the health department reported just three of 87,750 doses were wasted, each accidentally spilled by staff. In Ohio, officials said 165 of 459,000 doses distributed as of last week were damaged or lost in transit, thrown away because of vaccine no-shows, or otherwise wasted. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Houston and other cities and states all have similarly reported tiny fractions of waste.
“It’s like gold in Fort Knox,” said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, whose physician network SOMOS has been administering the vaccine in New York City.
Those giving out the vaccines are choreographing an intricate dance to ensure they are handled right. Vials of the Pfizer vaccine contain five doses – and sometimes an extra one – and Moderna’s contain 10. And clinics try their best not to open a new container unless they have a registered recipient scheduled to get inoculated.
At a clinic on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Jill Price said that as the end of the day nears, if it looks like some doses will be left, calls are made to those registered for vaccinations the following day to see if they can come in right away.
“It is such a precious commodity no one wants to waste it,” Price said.
Fauci unleashed: Doc takes ‘liberating’ turn at center stage
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is back.
In truth, the nation’s leading infectious-diseases expert never really went away. But after enduring nearly a year of darts and undermining comments from former President Donald Trump, Fauci now speaks with the authority of the White House again.
He called it “liberating” Thursday to be backed by a science-friendly administration that has embraced his recommendations to battle COVID-19.
“One of the new things in this administration is, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said in one pointed observation during a White House briefing. “Just say you don’t know the answer.”
Fauci’s highly visible schedule on Thursday, the first full day of President Joe Biden’s term, underscored the new administration’s confidence in the doctor but also the urgency of the moment.
His day began with a 4 a.m. virtual meeting with officials of the World Health Organization, which is based in Switzerland, and stretched past a 4 p.m. appearance at the lectern in the White House briefing room.
The breakneck pace showcased the urgent need to combat a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States and reached its deadliest phase just as the new president comes to office.
Fauci made clear that he believed the new administration would not trade in the mixed messages that so often came from the Trump White House, where scientific fact was often obscured by the president’s political agenda.
“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know and what the science is … it is something of a liberating feeling,” Fauci told reporters. White House press secretary Jen Psaki had invited Fauci to take the podium first at her daily briefing.
While choosing his words carefully, Fauci acknowledged that it had been difficult at times to work for Trump, who repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic, refused to consistently promote mask-wearing and often touted unproven scientific remedies, including a malaria drug and even injecting disinfectant.
“It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” Fauci said. He added that he took “no pleasure” in having to contradict the president, a move that often drew Trump’s wrath.
On Friday Fauci went further, saying a lack of candor and facts about the coronavirus pandemic over the last year under Trump “very likely” cost lives because it delayed getting sound scientific advice out to the country.
“You know, it very likely did,” Fauci told CNN. “When you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful.”
Biden, during his presidential campaign, pledged to make Fauci his chief medical adviser when he took office, and the 80-year-old scientist was immediately in motion.
Fauci was up well before dawn Thursday for the virtual meeting with WHO, which Biden had rejoined the previous day after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the group out of anger over how it dealt with China in the early days of the pandemic. Fauci told the group that the United States would join its effort to deliver coronavirus vaccines to poor countries.
In the afternoon, the doctor stood alongside Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the White House as they unveiled a series of executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which is killing more than 4,000 people a day in the U.S., as well as bolstering the nation’s sluggish vaccine distribution program.
Fauci had chatted amiably with reporters while awaiting the tardy new president. He acknowledged it was a long day and said that while he’d prefer to go for a run, he planned to powerwalk a few miles Thursday evening.
It was all a stark contrast after being kept on a tight leash by the Trump administration. Their West Wing press shop had tightly controlled Fauci’s media appearances — and blocked most of them. The doctor went from being a constant presence in the briefing room during the first weeks of the pandemic to largely being banished as Trump grew jealous of the doctor’s positive press and resentful of Fauci’s willingness to contradict him.
Moreover, Trump frequently undermined Fauci’s credibility, falsely insisting that the pandemic was nearly over. The president regularly referenced Fauci’s early skepticism about the effectiveness of masks for ordinary Americans, a position that Fauci quickly abandoned in the face of more evidence. And he even made fun of Fauci’s first pitch at a Washington Nationals game.
The president’s attacks on Fauci — and his dismissiveness of the science — handicapped medical professionals trying to get Americans to take the virus seriously.
“There was clear political influence on the message of the pandemic. It became political to say that the pandemic was devastating our community because it was interpreted as a judgment on Trump,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious-diseases physician and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. “It actively created enemies of the public health folks in a segment of the population.”
Having Fauci return to a central role, Bhadelia said, is a sign “that science was being repressed and now back.”
As his handling of the pandemic became the defining issue in the 2020 campaign, Trump insisted on portraying the virus as a thing of the past. He also mercilessly attacked Fauci, retweeting messages that called for the doctor’s dismissal and reveled in “Fire Fauci!” chants at some of his rallies.
Trump sidelined Fauci but dared not dismiss him, after aides convinced him of the move’s political danger.
But Fauci, who has now served under seven presidents, persevered, telling friends that he would keep his head down and aim to outlast Trump and the obfuscations of his administration.
“Clarity of message is the most important thing the government can be doing right now; the single biggest disservice Trump did was constantly telling people that pandemic was about to be over,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who has known Fauci for more than 20 years.
In his return to the briefing room, Fauci joked with reporters, seemingly far more relaxed than at any point last year. And as he stepped off the stage, Psaki said she’d soon have him back.
Hank Aaron, baseball’s one-time home run king, dies at 86
ATLANTA — Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record and gracefully left his mark as one of baseball’s greatest all-around players, died Friday. He was 86.
The Atlanta Braves, Aaron’s longtime team, said he died peacefully in his sleep. No cause was given.
Aaron made his last public appearance just 2 1/2 weeks ago, when he received the COVID-19 vaccine. He said he wanted to help spread the to Black Americans that the vaccine was safe.
“Hammerin’ Hank” set a wide array of career hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, including RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases.
But the Hall of Famer will be remembered for one swing above all others, the one that made him baseball’s home-run king.
It was a title he would be hold for more than 33 years, a period in which the Hammer slowly but surely claimed his rightful place as one of America’s most iconic sporting figures, a true national treasure worthy of mention in the same breath with Ruth or Ali or Jordan.
Before a sellout crowd at Atlanta Stadium and a national television audience, Aaron broke Ruth’s home run record with No. 715 off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Hall of Famer finished his career with 755, a total surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007 — though many continued to call the Hammer the true home run king because of allegations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds finished his tarnished career with 762, though Aaron never begrudged someone eclipsing his mark.
His common refrain: More than three decades as the king was long enough. It was time for someone else to hold the record.
No one could take away his legacy.
“I just tried to play the game the way it was supposed to be played,” Aaron said, summing it up better than anyone.
He wasn’t on hand when Bonds hit No. 756, but he did tape a congratulatory message that was shown on the video board in San Francisco shortly after the new record-holder went deep. While saddened by claims of rampant steroid use in baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Aaron never challenged those marks set by players who may have taken pharmaceutical short cuts.
Besides, he always had that April night in 1974.
“Downing was more of a finesse pitcher,” Aaron remembered shortly before the 30th anniversary of the landmark homer. “I guess he was trying to throw me a screwball or something. Whatever it was, I got enough of it.”
Aaron’s journey to that memorable homer was hardly pleasant. He was the target of extensive hate mail as he closed in on Ruth’s cherished record of 714, much of it sparked by the fact Ruth was white and Aaron was black.
“If I was white, all America would be proud of me,” Aaron said almost a year before he passed Ruth. “But I am black.”
Aaron was shadowed constantly by bodyguards and forced to distance himself from teammates. He kept all those hateful letters, a bitter reminder of the abuse he endured and never forgot.
“It’s very offensive,” he once said. “They call me ‘nigger’ and every other bad word you can come up with. You can’t ignore them. They are here. But this is just the way things are for black people in America. It’s something you battle all of your life.”
After retiring in 1976, Aaron became a revered, almost mythical figure, even though he never pursued the spotlight. He was thrilled when the U.S. elected its first African-American president, Barack Obama, in 2008. Former President Bill Clinton credited Aaron with helping carve a path of racial tolerance that made Obama’s victory possible.
“We’re a different country now,” Clinton said at a 75th birthday celebration for Aaron. “You’ve given us far more than we’ll ever give you.”
Aaron spent 21 of his 23 seasons with the Braves, first in Milwaukee, then in Atlanta after the franchise moved to the Deep South in 1966. He finished his career back in Milwaukee, traded to the Brewers after the 1974 season when he refused to take a front-office job that would have required a big pay cut.
While knocking the ball over the fence became his signature accomplishment, the Hammer was hardly a one-dimensional star. In fact, he never hit more than 47 homers in a season (though he did have eight years with at least 40 dingers).
But it can be argued that no one was so good, for so long, at so many facets of the national pastime.
The long ball was only part of his arsenal.
Aaron was a true five-tool star.
He posted 14 seasons with a .300 average — the last of them at age 39 — and claimed two National League batting titles. He finished with a career average of .305.
Aaron also was a gifted outfielder with a powerful arm, something often overlooked because of a smooth, effortless stride that his critics — with undoubtedly racist overtones — mistook for nonchalance. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner.
Then there was his work on the base paths. Aaron posted seven seasons with more than 20 stolen bases, including a career-best of 31 in 1963 when became only the third member of the 30-30 club — players who have totaled at least 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.
To that point, the feat had only been accomplished by Ken Williams (1922) and Willie Mays (1956 and ’57).
Six-feet tall and listed at 180 pounds during the prime of his career, Aaron was hardly an imposing player physically. But he was blessed with powerful wrists that made him one of the game’s most feared hitters.
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt described Aaron as “an unassuming, easygoing man, a quiet superstar, that a ’70s player like me emulated.”
“He was one of my heroes as a kid, and will always be an icon of the baby boomer generation,” Schmidt said. “In fact, if you weigh all the elements involved and compare the game fairly, his career will never be topped.”
Aaron hit 733 homers with the Braves, the last in his final plate appearance with the team, a liner down the left field line off Cincinnati’s Rawley Eastwick on Oct. 2, 1974. Exactly one month later, he was dealt to the Brewers for outfielder Dave May and minor league pitcher Roger Alexander.
The Braves made it clear they no longer wanted Aaron, then 40, returning for another season on the field. They offered him a front office job for $50,000 a year, about $150,000 less than his playing salary.
“Titles?” he said at the time. “Can you spend titles at the grocery store? Executive vice president, assistant to the executive vice president, what does it mean if it doesn’t pay good money? I might become a janitor for big money.”
Aaron became a designated hitter with the Brewers, but hardly closed his career with a flourish. He managed just 22 homers over his last two seasons, going out with a .229 average in 1976.
Even so, his career numbers largely stood the test of time.
Aaron still has more RBIs (2,297), extra-base hits (1,477) and total bases (6,856) than anyone in baseball history. He ranks second in at-bats (12,354), third in games played (3,298) and hits (3,771), fourth in runs scored (tied with Ruth at 2,174) and 13th in doubles (624).
“I feel like that home run I hit is just part of what my story is all about,” Aaron said.
While Aaron hit at least 20 homers in 20 consecutive seasons, he was hardly swinging for the fences. He just happened to hit a lot of balls that went over the fence.
Through his career, Aaron averaged just 63 strikeouts a season. He never whiffed even 100 times in a year — commonplace for hitters these days — and posted a career on-base percentage of .374.
He was NL MVP in 1957, when the Milwaukee Braves beat the New York Yankees in seven games to give Aaron the only World Series title of his career. It also was his lone MVP award, though he finished in the top 10 of the balloting 13 times.
Aaron also was selected for the All-Star Game 21 consecutive years — every season but his first and his last.
His only regret was failing to capture the Triple Crown. Aaron led the NL in homers and RBIs four times each, to go with those two batting crowns. But he never put together all three in the same season, coming closest in 1963 when he led the league in homers (44) and RBIs (130) but finished third in hitting (.319) behind Tommy Davis of the Dodgers with a .326 average.
“Other than that,” Aaron said, “everything else was completed.”
Lawyers want Giuliani investigated, license suspended
NEW YORK — A lawyers’ group filed an ethics complaint against Rudy Giuliani with New York’s courts, calling for him to be investigated and his law license suspended over his work promoting former President Donald Trump’s false allegations over the 2020 election.
Lawyers Defending American Democracy, which includes former judges and federal attorneys among its members, sent the complaint on Wednesday to the Attorney Grievance Committee of the state’s court system saying Giuliani had violated the rules of professional conduct.
“Giuliani has spearheaded a nationwide public campaign to convince the public and the courts of massive voter fraud and a stolen presidential election,” the complaint said.
The complaint called for the committee to investigate Giuliani’s conduct, including his comments at a rally before rioters stormed into the U.S. Capitol, and to suspend his law license immediately while any investigation is being done.
A message was left with the committee seeking comment. An investigation would be the first step in a process that could lead to a disbarment.
Another complaint against Giuliani was filed earlier in January by New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, who asked that disbarring Giuliani be taken up for consideration.
The New York State Bar Association separately has opened an inquiry into whether he should be expelled from that organization, which is a voluntary membership organization.
An email seeking comment was sent to Giuliani’s representative.
The New York Times reported that on his radio show on Thursday, Giuliani said “the whole purpose of this is to disbar me from my exercising my right of free speech and defending my client, because they can’t fathom the fact that maybe, just maybe, they may be wrong.”
3 dead in military helicopter crash were experienced pilots
MENDON, N.Y. — The three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in an upstate New York field this week were experienced pilots with past deployments to Afghanistan, officials said Friday.
Killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, 54, of Rochester, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoye Falls, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, according to the National Guard.
The UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter crashed in a farmer’s field near Mendon, south of Rochester, around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. There were no survivors.
The crew had been conducting night vision goggle proficiency training in the local training area, the National Guard said. The helicopter was based at the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport.
Witnesses who called 911 reported hearing an engine sputtering and said the helicopter was flying very low.
An Army Safety Investigation team arrived at the site Thursday from Fort Rucker in Alabama.
Skoda served in the Army from 1985 to 1987 and joined the National Guard 1987. He was a veteran of the Afghanistan War and was deployed there in 2013 and 2019.
He was a UH-60 senior instructor pilot and maintenance test pilot with nearly 5,000 flying hours and worked full time as a National Guard technician.
Koch, a 20-year member of the Guard, served in the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. He also was a civilian pilot for the New York State Police, which said he was recently honored by the Red Cross for his role in the rescue of an 11-year-old boy who fell 100 feet down a ravine in June.
Koch is survived by his wife and four children, state police said.
Prial served in the Army after earning a commission at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2012.
He served as a medical evacuation platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade and deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015. He became a captain before accepting an appointment as a warrant officer in the Guard so he could continue to fly, officials said.
Prial worked at the Aviation Support Facility as a federal technician.
The remains of the three were recovered from the crash site Thursday and escorted by processions of first responders to the county medical examiner’s office. Residents, some holding flags, came out of their homes and saluted as the vehicles passed.
Biden orders will boost food aid, change rules for federal workers
WASHINGTON – The White House will release executive orders Friday calling for an “all-of-government effort” to provide wider food and other assistance to Americans amid the pandemic and for changes in labor relations rules, including a mandated $15 an hour minimum wage for federal contractors.
“These actions are not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief,” said Brian Deese, director of President Joe Biden’s National Economic Council, referring to the administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, but will nevertheless “provide a critical lifeline to millions.”
The new economic executive orders follow a flurry of other orders and proclamations issued by Biden since his swearing in on Wednesday that include a nationwide mask-wearing mandate for all public transportation systems and a new board to coordinate federal coronavirus testing efforts.
One new order will urge the Agriculture Department to alter two benefit formulas. The first would increase by 15 percent the $5.70-a-day breakfast and lunch allowance for schoolchildren, while the second would update how benefits are calculated for the Thrifty Food Plan that provides food for 40 million Americans.
The first change would amount to an increase of $105 over two months for a family with three children and the second would boost benefits to a family of four between 15 percent and 20 percent, Deese said on a call with reporters late Thursday.
That would be in addition to the 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits that were part of the $902 billion aid package (PL 116-260) enacted late last year. That increase is scheduled to expire June 30 and Biden’s executive order will encourage Congress to extend that deadline.
The order will also encourage the Treasury Department to take added actions to get the $600 relief checks approved in the December package to families. Millions of households either didn’t get or were delayed in receiving economic impact payments that were part of the March 2020 relief bill.
It will also ask the Labor Department to look into “clarifying” that workers who turn down employment “that will jeopardize their health” can still qualify for unemployment benefits.
Another order will “direct agencies to take more than a dozen discrete actions to improve the jobs of federal workers,” Deese said.
That order calls on the administration to start work that will set the stage for Biden to issue a separate executive order during his first 100 days in office requiring federal contractors to pay workers at least $15 an hour and also to provide emergency paid leave.
It will also rescind three executive orders having to do with collective bargaining agreements with federal workers signed by President Donald Trump that the former president said “will reduce costs and promote government performance and accountability.” In a release, the White House said rescinding the orders “restores collective bargaining power and worker protections.”
The order will also eliminate a new civil service classification, Schedule F, created by Trump in October that would remove much of the job protections for employees in policymaking positions, basically allowing them to be fired without cause. Democratic appropriators had expressed concern this week that the new classification stripped job protections from nearly 90 percent of the career civil servants at the Office of Management and Budget.
“The order will eliminate schedule F which undermines the foundations of the civil service,” Deese said.
First-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons enters into force
UNITED NATIONS — The first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons entered into force on Friday, hailed as a historic step to rid the world of its deadliest weapons but strongly opposed by the world’s nuclear-armed nations.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now part of international law, culminating a decades-long campaign aimed at preventing a repetition of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. But getting all nations to ratify the treaty requiring them to never own such weapons seems daunting, if not impossible, in the current global climate.
When the treaty was approved by the U.N. General Assembly in July 2017, more than 120 approved it. But none of the nine countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — supported it and neither did the 30-nation NATO alliance.
Japan, the world’s only country to suffer nuclear attacks, also does not support the treaty, even though the aged survivors of the bombings in 1945 strongly push for it to do so. Japan on its own renounces use and possession of nuclear weapons, but the government has said pursuing a treaty ban is not realistic with nuclear and non-nuclear states so sharply divided over it.
Nonetheless, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the treaty, called it “a really big day for international law, for the United Nations and for survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
The treaty received its 50th ratification on Oct. 24, triggering a 90-day period before its entry into force on Jan. 22.
As of Thursday, Fihn told The Associated Press that 61 countries had ratified the treaty, with another ratification possible on Friday, and “from Friday, nuclear weapons will be banned by international law” in all those countries.
The treaty requires that all ratifying countries “never under any circumstances … develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices — and the threat to use such weapons — and requires parties to promote the treaty to other countries.
Fihn said the treaty is “really, really significant” because it will now be a key legal instrument, along with the Geneva Conventions on conduct toward civilians and soldiers during war and the conventions banning chemical and biological weapons and land mines.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the treaty demonstrated support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament.
“Nuclear weapons pose growing dangers and the world needs urgent action to ensure their elimination and prevent the catastrophic human and environmental consequences any use would cause,” he said in a video message. “The elimination of nuclear weapons remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.”
But not for the nuclear powers.
As the treaty was approaching the 50 ratifications needed to trigger its entry into force, the Trump administration wrote a letter to countries that signed it saying they made “a strategic error” and urging them to rescind their ratification.
The letter said the treaty “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament” and would endanger the half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of nonproliferation efforts.
Fihn countered at the time that a ban could not undermine nonproliferation since it was “the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty.”
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the treaty’s arrival was a historic step forward in efforts to free the world of nuclear weapons and “hopefully will compel renewed action by nuclear-weapon states to fulfill their commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.”
Fihn said in an interview that the campaign sees strong public support for the treaty in NATO countries and growing political pressure, citing Belgium and Spain. “We will not stop until we get everyone on board,” she said.
It will also be campaigning for divestment — pressuring financial institutions to stop giving capital to between 30 and 40 companies involved in nuclear weapons and missile production including Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.