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Florida schools on frontlines of state’s mask war



Photograph: Michele Eve Sandberg/REX/Shutterstock

With about two weeks to go until the start of a new school year, Miami father Jerry Greenberg is feeling anxious.

With the more contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 fueling record-breaking positive cases across Florida, Greenberg’s biggest fear is that his son and daughter will catch the deadly respiratory disease even if they are wearing masks.

Related: ‘The Pied Piper leading us off a cliff’: Florida governor condemned as Covid surges

“They will be exposed to [other] kids not wearing masks and they could get sick,” Greenberg said. “I think they can safely go back in person, but only if they all wear masks. Without masks, I don’t see how it can be safe.”

Thousands of other parents across Florida find themselves in the same predicament as Greenberg, whose son is starting ninth grade at Palmetto Senior high school and whose daughter is entering sixth grade at Palmetto middle school. Both public schools are located in Miami-Dade county, where the largest school district in the state is mandating all students wear masks on school buses, but has stopped short of applying the restriction on campuses.

In a statement earlier this week, the Miami-Dade public schools superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, said the district is re-evaluating its decision to implement a mask-optional policy in light of updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending any children age two and up, as well as all school staff, wear masks indoors.

A volunteer escorts a first grader wearing a mask to a classroom on the first day of school in Davie in October 2020.

A volunteer escorts a first grader wearing a mask to a classroom on the first day of school in Davie in October 2020. Photograph: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Carvalho is leaning on the advice of a taskforce of medical and public health experts, which is expected to make its recommendation in the coming week before the 23 August start of the school year.

Except, Florida’s hard-right Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, looms large over any decisions the state’s school districts make about requiring students to wear masks inside educational buildings.

In recent weeks, DeSantis has veered further to the right by reiterating his disdain for Covid-19 restriction measures. He held a secret meeting with anti-mask medical professionals, signed an executive order that gives parents the final decision on whether their children will wear masks in school and promised to cut off state funding to any school district that forces children to put on face coverings.

DeSantis, who’s soared to the top of 2024 Republican national contenders list by carrying on the legacy of former president Donald Trump, even earned a sharp rebuke from Joe Biden, who on Wednesday said governors pushing anti-mask policies “get out of the way of the people trying to do the right thing”. The following day, DeSantis fired back at a news conference.

“Well, let me tell you this: if you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way,” DeSantis said. “Well, I can tell you in Florida, the parents are going to make that decision.”

A person protests against school mask mandates in Tampa in May.

A person protests against school mask mandates in Tampa in May. Photograph: Octavio Jones/Reuters

DeSantis’ threat to shut off state funding hasn’t stopped some school districts from bucking his ultimatum.

The Alachua county school board voted to require all students wear masks for the first two week of classes. The school board in Leon county, where the state capital of Tallahassee is located, implemented a mandatory mask rule for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. And after initially indicating it would comply with DeSantis’ order, the Broward county school district announced this week that it would keep its mask mandate in place.

While DeSantis’ hardline approach plays well with the Trumpian base of the Republican party, his stance is baffling considering recent state data on Covid-19 infections shows more children are getting sick and going to the hospital during this fourth wave, said Ceresta Smith, a 67-year-old retired Miami-Dade public schools teacher whose granddaughter lives with her.

“You are asking for trouble when our intensive care units are filling up and hospitals are getting overextended,” Smith said. “Just the thought that my granddaughter is going into a situation where they are not taking extreme precautions is worrisome.”

Between 23 and 30 July, Florida had 10,785 new Covid-19 infections among children under 12 for an average of 1,540 new cases a day, according to the state department of health. It’s more than a 600% increase compared to the same time period in June. The health department’s data also shows that pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations averaged 32 cases a day during the week of July 23.

Amid Florida’s Covid-19 resurgence, even conservative educators are having a hard time accepting DeSantis’ hardline.

Shawn Beightol, a Miami-Dade high school teacher who is a Republican, said the governor is not following key principles of conservatism of allowing local governments to make their own decisions. Even though he is vaccinated, there is a small chance he can still catch COVID-19 and get sick, he noted. “By threatening to withhold funding, DeSantis is not practicing conservatism and he is removing control from local school boards,” Beightol said. “It’s more of a facist-type leadership model.”

By blocking school districts from enforcing student mask wearing, Beightol said, staffers and students at Florida public schools are in for another year of disruptions and calamity resulting from people exposed to infected individuals having to be isolated and quarantined. “Last year, at my school, we started at 80 percent capacity,” Beightol said. “Within a month we were at 50 percent capacity and then down to 10 percent capacity. I think this year will start out the same way.”

Beightol, who is the administrator for several Facebook pages where public schools teachers can vent, said educators fall into three categories: vocal pro-maskers, vocal anti-maskers and pro-maskers who stay out of the line of fire.

“I don’t think putting our lives and children’s lives are worth taking the risk,” Beightol said. “The right thing to do is to mandate masks until we know for sure what the efficacy of the vaccine shots are against the Delta variant or any other variant.”

Meanwhile, Miami dad Greenberg said he’s angry that DeSantis won’t adhere to the CDC guidance on student mask use. His daughter, who is 11, is still in the age group not yet eligible for COVID-19 inoculations, Greenberg said. And is not sure even his vaccinated son is safe.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that this variant poses serious risk to children,” Greenberg said. “It seems to me that our governor is content to send our kids into a slaughterhouse to score political points with his base. There is no excuse for not following the science.”


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A Colorado hiker lost for 24 hours ignored rescuers’ attempts to reach them because they didn’t recognize the phone number



A stock image of a cable car in the mountains. Getty Images

  • A hiker set out to trek Colorado’s highest peak for 24 hours on October 18.

  • They were reported missing, and a search-and-rescue operation was carried out through the night.

  • While the search was underway, the person ignored calls; they didn’t recognize the phone number.

A Colorado hiker who got lost on a trail ignored calls from search-and-rescue officials who tried to locate him for 24 hours, because they didn’t recognize the number repeatedly calling them, according to the New York Post.

In a Facebook post, Lake County Search and Rescue officials described the ordeal, which happened on Mount Ebert, Colorado’s highest peak.

According to the officials, the hiker set out at 9:00 a.m. on October 18, and by 8 p.m. that evening, they began searching for him when an individual reported that he had not returned from his hike.

“Multiple attempts to contact the subject via their cell phone were unsuccessful,” the post said.

The officials said that first, a team of five set out at 11 p.m. to search for the missing hiker and stayed out until 3 a.m. on October 19. A team of three picked up the search a few hours later, at 7 a.m., looking in areas that hikers typically get lost.

But by 9:30 a.m. the following day, the search was called off.

“At approximately 0930 the reporting party reported the subject had returned to their place of lodging. All personnel were out of the field by 1000,” the post said.

The officials said the individual “lost the trail around nightfall and spent the night searching for the trail, and once on the trail, bounced around onto different trails trying to locate the proper trailhead.”

The missing hiker reached their car the next morning and 24 hours after they set out for the day hike, and had no idea a search and rescue operation was underway because they declined calls coming in from the officials.

“One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognize the number,” the officials said. “If you’re overdue according to your itinerary, and you start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, please answer the phone; it may be a SAR team trying to confirm you’re safe!”

Read the original article on Insider


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Police: 2 dead, 4 injured in Boise, Idaho, mall shooting



Police: 2 dead, 4 injured in Boise, Idaho, mall shooting


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When Should You Drink Your Last Coffee of the Day?



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Replay official Carl Madsen died at 71 on Sunday

The NFL announced that replay official Carl Madsen died on Sunday at the age of 71. Madsen died on his way home after working the Week Seven game between the Titans and Chiefs. He had spent the last 12 years as a replay official and had previously spent 12 years as an on-field official. “Carl [more]


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A fire broke out on a cargo ship after about 40 shipping containers fell overboard due to rough seas off the coast of Vancouver Island



Imagery captured of located containers from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles helicopter. US Coast Guard

  • Around 40 shipping containers went overboard when a cargo ship hit rough seas on Friday.

  • A fire broke out Saturday on the same ship, the Zim Kingston, while anchored near Vancouver Island.

  • US and Canadian officials are monitoring the situation, including some containers with “hazardous materials.”

A fire broke out Saturday on a cargo ship, known as the Zim Kingston, that had lost around 40 shipping containers off the coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island the day before, officials said.

The US Coast Guard said in a tweet Friday they were monitoring adrift shipping containers that went overboard after an inbound vessel en route to Canada encountered rough seas. Photos shared by the coast guard showed some of the shipping containers afloat in the open ocean.

The US Coast Guard said Friday 35 floating containers had been located. As of Saturday, five had still not been located, and officials were warning other vessels to be extremely cautious in the area as the containers “may be partially submerged and not visible,” the Vancouver Sun reported.

The Canadian Coast Guard told the outlet some of the containers that fell held hazardous materials, and that the agency would assess for any “pollution threats and hazards.”

A day after the containers fell from the Zim Kingston, a fire broke out on the ship while it was anchored near Victoria, according to the Canadian Coast Guard. The agency told CHEK News reporter Jasmine Bala the fire started in damaged containers that were still onboard.

The Canadian Coast Guard told Bala two of the six containers that are on fire contain “hazardous material.” They also said 10 crew members were evacuated while 11 remain on the ship, with no reports of injuries.

In a warning to other vessels, the Canadian Coast Guard established an emergency zone around the Zim Kingston, saying: “The ship is on fire and expelling toxic gas. Two fallen containers are floating in the vicinity of the vessel. Caution.”

Read the original article on Business Insider


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Obama criticizes Youngkin in Va. governor’s race




Obama fires up Virginia crowd for governor’s race he calls a U.S. “turning point”

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) -Former U.S. President Barack Obama urged Virginians to re-elect Terry McAuliffe as governor at a rally on Saturday, emphasizing the race’s significance as an indicator of the country’s political direction and a reflection of its values. Obama and McAuliffe, who served as the state’s governor from 2014 to 2018, spoke before a cheering crowd at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with just 10 days to go before the closely watched, tight Nov. 2 election. Obama told the crowd the Virginia election represented a national “turning point,” where Americans could either become more embattled in the divisive politics that characterized Republican Donald Trump’s presidency and which culminated in an attack by Trump’s supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, or “pull together” to “solve big problems.”


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Fans can’t get over Will Poulter’s transformation as he prepares for Marvel role



Will Poulter is surprising fans with his buff new look.

The former child star is preparing for his role as Marvel superhero Adam Warlock in director James Gunn’s upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” — and it’s no exaggeration to say Poulter is looking muscled up in his latest Instagram video.

The “Dopesick” actor’s fans are taking notice of his physical transformation, with one admirer posting a video on TikTok featuring before-and-after shots of Poulter. “I can’t believe this glow-up,” the fan wrote.

More fans responded to celebrate Poulter’s new chiseled look on Twitter, with one wondering, “sorry when did will poulter get sexy????”

“Holy moly. It *is* true. Will Poulter got jacked,” gushed another.

“omg he looks like hemsworth, someone else chimed in.

Poulter found fame at age 15 after playing Lee Carter in the 2008 movie “Son of Rambow.” After appearing alongside Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in the 2013 comedy “We’re the Millers,” the London-born actor went on to star in the sci-fi flick “The Maze Runner” (2014). He also turned in notable performances in “The Revenant” (2015), “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” (2018), and the critically acclaimed horror movie “Midsommar” (2019).

Gunn confirmed on Twitter that Poulter had won the role of Adam Warlock in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” writing on Oct. 11, “As you guys know I often strike down false rumors, so … um … Welcome to the Guardians family, Will Poulter. He’s an amazing actor and wonderful guy.”

Poulter responded to say he was thrilled to appear in the movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters in May 2023. “Thank you, James. It’s a genuine honour to play this role and to work with you. I’m very excited to get to work,” the English actor wrote.

Just one week later, a reporter for the movie and entertainment blog Flip Your Wig asked Poulter if he was ready to “flex” some serious superhero muscle.

“I better get ready, I guess,” he responded, adding, “Working on it, working on it.”

CORRECTION (Oct. 23, 2021, 1:15 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the age Poulter found fame. He was 15 when the 2008 movie “Son of Rambow” was released.



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Video emerges of Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ co-star Jensen Ackles speaking about the production’s firearm training days before fatal set shooting



Actor Jensen Ackles. Leon Bennett/WireImage

  • “Rust” actor Jensen Ackles discussed firearms training days before a fatal on-set shooting.

  • In a video, Ackles said he was asked by a prop master to fire “off a couple of rounds” on the set.

  • Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the “Rust” set on Thursday.

A video depicting Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” co-star Jensen Ackles discussing the firearms training he received on the film’s set days before the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot during filming has surfaced online.

In the video, which has now been deleted in many places but remains available on Youtube and TikTok, Ackles describes a brief training session he had with the film’s armorer – the technical crew member responsible for prop firearms.

The clip was filmed between Oct. 15-17 when Ackles’ appeared at a fan event in Denver for his show Supernatural, according to Deadline.

“They had me pick my gun, they were like, ‘Alright, what gun would you like?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know,'” Ackles can be seen saying in the view.

He continued: “The armorer was like, ‘Do you have gun experience?’ I was like, ‘A little.’ And she’s like, ‘Okay, well, this is how you load it, this is how we check it and make sure it’s safe.'”

Ackles added that the armorer said she was “going to put some blanks” into the gun. He was then instructed to practice for his scene by firing “off a couple of rounds” into the distance.

“I walk out, and she’s like, ‘Just make sure you pull the hammer all the way back and aim at your target,’ I was like, ‘All right, I got it,'” he said.

No information has been released by authorities that links Jensen to the fatal shooting on the film’s set. It is also not clear whether the same armorer Jensen referenced in the video had worked with Alec Baldwin, who discharged the prop gun that killed 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Multiple reports have confirmed that the gun Alec Baldwin discharged on the film’s set held “live rounds.” According to an affidavit, Baldwin was handed the gun by an assistant director, who said “cold gun,” The New York Times and the Associated Press reported. The term refers to a gun that is not loaded with live rounds.

In a statement given to Insider on Friday, Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, reacted to his wife’s death.

“I don’t think there are words to communicate the situation,” Matthew Hutchins, 38, said. “I am not going to be able to comment about the facts or the process of what we’re going through right now, but I appreciate that everyone has been very sympathetic.”

He added, “I think that we will need a little bit of time before we can really encapsulate her life in a way that is easy to communicate.”

Read the original article on Insider


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