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USPS has shorted some workers’ pay for years, CPI finds

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Nancy Campos’ back ached as she loaded more than 100 Amazon packages onto her truck. The 59-year-old grandmother, a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, had worked 13 days in a row without a lunch break, and now she was delivering on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to keep up with a never-ending flow of boxes.

At the end of her shift that January day, Campos filled out her time sheet. Then she took a picture of it — for proof.

“I knew what was going to happen,” said Campos, who delivers mail in Midland, Texas, “because it happens every pay period.”

Two weeks later, when she checked her paystub in the payroll system, she said she was missing six hours of overtime pay. That added up to about $201 in lost wages — a week’s worth of groceries.

Postal workers across the country share her frustration.

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This story was provided to The Associated Press by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization based in Washington, D.C.

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The Postal Service regularly cheats mail carriers out of their pay, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation. Managers at hundreds of post offices around the country have illegally underpaid hourly workers for years, arbitrators and federal investigators have found.

Private arbitration records tell part of the story. From 2010 to 2019, at least 250 managers in 60 post offices were caught changing mail carriers’ time cards to show them working fewer hours, resulting in unpaid wages, according to a batch of arbitration award summaries obtained by Public Integrity for cases filed by one of the three major postal unions.

Supervisors found to be cheating were rarely disciplined — often receiving only a warning or more training. In four cities, arbitration documents show, post office managers continued to alter time cards after promising union leaders they would stop.

Since 2005, meanwhile, the Postal Service has been cited by the federal government 1,150 times for underpaying letter carriers and other employees, including one case that involved 164 violations, according to Labor Department data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The agency determined that those workers lost about $659,000 in pay. But it allowed the Postal Service to pay back less than half after negotiations with the agency — a common practice at the Labor Department. About 19% of the cases did not indicate whether the Postal Service paid back employees.

These findings point to widespread wage theft at the iconic quasi-governmental institution. Yet they offer only a partial view of the problem. Not captured are any arbitration cases filed by other postal unions or wage theft grievances settled before reaching arbitration.

Cases keep cropping up as the Postal Service struggles to pay off $188 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities, accrued largely because federal law requires it to prepay retiree healthcare and pension benefits. The agency has cut nearly 142,000 jobs since 2007, and in March 2020, it needed a $10 billion emergency loan from Congress to help pay its bills.

Mail carriers say their supervisors face intense pressure to keep overtime costs down. At the same time, pandemic-fueled spikes in online ordering are overwhelming mail carriers with packages. And they can’t count on getting paid for all their work.

A spokesperson for the Postal Service, David Partenheimer, said the agency does not condone supervisors making unsupported timecard adjustments and takes such allegations seriously.

“This position is messaged to the postal workforce directly from postal leaders, including the Vice President, Delivery Operations, who periodically reissues policies regarding appropriate timecard administration for supervisors,” Partenheimer wrote in an email to Public Integrity. He declined to comment on specific cases.

Campos said the agency still owes her thousands of dollars for two other wage theft grievances they settled before she discovered the missing overtime pay in January. She said her boss promised to pay her back for working the holiday but never did.

“I just had it. Enough is enough,” said Campos, who shared copies of her timesheets and pay stubs with Public Integrity. “We are depending on that money. When you get shorted, it’s the most horrible feeling.”

A systemic problem

Every morning, Campos and thousands of other mail carriers across the United States swipe their badges at a local post office to clock in for work. They sort mail for their routes, check undelivered items and load up their trucks. They swipe their badge a few more times when they begin and end their delivery route and other tasks, and once again when they’re done for the day.

All of this is supposed to happen within an eight-hour shift for most carriers. That’s because the Postal Service doesn’t want to pay overtime, which is 50% extra per hour under federal law. The inspector general has repeatedly admonished the post office for spending billions of dollars in overtime each year and has urged managers to cut back.

But mail carriers say it’s impossible to get back in time. After all, the Postal Service is notoriously short-staffed at a time when carriers are delivering a record number of packages. In 2019 alone, they delivered 1.5 billion items for Amazon — nearly a third of the online retailer’s packages.

That means carriers log a lot of extra hours. And it’s not uncommon for managers to go into the system and delete some of them. Sometimes their changes show carriers ending their shifts earlier or taking an unpaid lunch break, according to Public Integrity’s review of private arbitration decisions maintained by the National Association of Letter Carriers, a labor union with nearly 290,000 members — about 45% of the agency’s total workforce.

In most of these cases, managers did not submit the required paperwork to explain the changes or notify the affected employee. Other times, supervisors just told carriers to clock out after eight hours and keep working without pay.

That happened regularly to Maverick Tran and some of his colleagues in San Jose, California, according to a 2019 decision by an independent arbitrator.

Tran told the arbitrator — who acts like a judge in this type of legal dispute — that two supervisors often told him to manually clock out at 6 p.m. if he was running late while delivering the mail.

“I still haven’t unloaded my truck or empty out anything, but I would be off the clock,” he said during a closed-door hearing at the main San Jose post office.

A co-worker said managers would regularly clock him out themselves before he returned to the station. Another carrier said they instructed him to punch out before the end of his shift to avoid “unauthorized overtime.”

One of those co-workers, Rafael Zambrano-Lay, said he was so scared about returning to his post office past 6 p.m. that he would skip meals, forego rest breaks and run while carrying mail to customers’ homes.

Zambrano-Lay did not respond to a request for comment and Tran declined to discuss the case.

Their union representative told the arbitrator that nearly every supervisor in San Jose’s 12 post offices had improperly manipulated employee hours each week for at least three years. In an eight-month period in 2017, the union found that these unauthorized changes shorted mail carriers out of 77 regular hours and 1,864 overtime hours, collectively costing them anywhere from $52,000 to $90,000 in lost wages.

In the arbitration hearing, a Postal Service representative did not explain why managers changed carriers’ time cards. He said the behavior was not widespread.

Nancy Hutt, the arbitrator, disagreed. After reviewing time cards for 240 mail carriers in San Jose, Hutt said she grew alarmed. The data “reflects a widespread practice by management of willfully and repetitively deleting and altering time records of Letter Carriers,” she wrote in her decision.

Other arbitrators expressed similar shock when reviewing such allegations.

“Heinous,” an arbitrator in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote in 2018 when presented with evidence that a manager deleted carriers’ work hours. “It’s an act, in my view, on the same level as theft.”

In Boston, arbitrator Katherine Morgan called the pattern of wage theft “systemic” and “egregious.” In a 2019 decision, she described the time card changes as serious federal offenses “which cannot be treated lightly, and which could lead to fines and even imprisonment.”

In all, arbitrators found that postal managers in at least nine states illegally altered mail carriers’ time cards in recent years, cheating more than 900 mail carriers out of pay. They ordered the Postal Service to stop falsifying time cards and pay back employees they cheated.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Jennifer Williams, a former mail carrier in the Atlanta area. “This is a government job. Nobody should go to work and wonder if they’re going to get paid.”

Williams, 36, said co-workers warned her to keep track of her hours when she was hired as a mail carrier in February 2020. She said she didn’t get her first paycheck and had to file a grievance with the union to get paid. When her second paycheck arrived, Williams said, she was missing five hours of overtime. Another supervisor told Williams that her boss had deleted the hours, according to a lawsuit she filed against the Postal Service in federal court.

When she brought up the missing overtime to her boss on the phone, she said her boss berated her. A few days later, Williams said the mail truck she was driving broke down and she was fired for not finishing her route. She sued in September 2020, claiming she was illegally fired for complaining about wage theft.

“I was really upset because I was depending on working at the post office to keep myself afloat,” said Williams, who said she had to take a low-paid job at a filter factory after she was fired.

Partenheimer, the Postal Service spokesperson, declined to comment on the lawsuit. But in court records, lawyers for the agency denied that a supervisor deleted Williams’ overtime hours or that she was fired for complaining about missing pay. Both parties settled the case in June, with the Postal Service agreeing to pay Williams $2,356 in damages and $3,143 in attorney’s fees.

Williams said she misses working for the post office. She once viewed the agency the same way thousands of other Black Americans have before her: as a stable job with good benefits and decent pay.

The Postal Service has long been one of the largest employers of African Americans in the United States. During the civil rights era, it was a place where Black workers could advance their careers without as many barriers as the private sector, said Frederick Gooding, an African American studies professor at Texas Christian University.

“The (Postal Service) was in many ways a beacon of hope and opportunity,” said Gooding, author of the book “American Dream Deferred: Black Federal Workers in Washington, D.C., 1941-1981.”

To this day, Black workers are overrepresented in the Postal Service. Though 12% of the overall U.S. workforce, they make up 19% of the agency’s mail carriers, 38% of its clerks and 31% of its mail handlers. Asians also represent a larger-than-average share of the postal workforce.

Wage theft within the agency might disproportionately harm these workers, but that’s unclear. Arbitration documents and Labor Department records don’t track each employee’s race or ethnicity. Yet the repeated paycheck theft tests the notion that the Postal Service is a desirable place to work.

“I would never have expected this from the post office,” said Campos, the Texas mail carrier. “This used to be an honorable job.”

Campos, who has worked as a carrier for three years, says she filed three grievances against her supervisors for unpaid work. They have since settled the complaints, she said, and management agreed to pay her a yet-to-be determined amount, including the extra hours she worked when delivering an “overburdened route” — a long one that regularly takes more time to finish than it’s supposed to.

Several of her co-workers are also waiting to be paid for similar reasons, she said, but she suspects that no one will be punished for ripping them off.

The arbitrator in the San Jose case told the Postal Service to pay employees what they’re owed. Tran, Zambrano-Lay and other carriers sued the agency in federal court a few months later. They want cash damages in addition to back pay. As of February, the Postal Service had paid back employees in that case a total of $570,000, attorneys for both sides reported to the court.

Accountability is rare

About two dozen employees gathered for a tense meeting at a San Antonio post office in February 2019. The station manager, Ruben Vela, was agitated. He told them that union outsiders were arriving to cause trouble.

When union steward Steven Ramirez showed up, Vela got in his face and berated him in front of everyone at the meeting, a witness said.

Ramirez had discovered that Vela and at least one other supervisor regularly deleted 25 employees’ work hours over a period of two years, according to an arbitration decision from later that year. In some cases, the arbitrator found, the other supervisor forged an employee’s initials approving the changes.

Employees who were at the 2019 meeting later said that Vela described the time card changes as a “simple mistake.”

Public Integrity was unable to reach Vela for comment.

Kirk Fraser, one of the mail carriers at the meeting, said he was devastated, according to the arbitration document. He called the practice an “immoral and egregious” breach of trust.

“Clearly, falsifying dozens of (USPS) forms does not equate to a simple mistake, but rather something that was done deliberately,” he told the arbitrator, according to the decision. He and some of his co-workers said they didn’t understand why Vela wasn’t fired.

Instead, the Postal Service said in arbitration that Vela was temporarily restricted from accessing the time card system until he could retake training on the proper way to handle time card changes. The agency told the arbitrator that they had paid back the employees.

Union representatives Richard Gould and Adam Reyna were incensed with the light rebuke. They asked the arbitrator to order the Postal Service to ban Vela from supervising letter carriers.

“This kind of thievery would have resulted in the immediate removal if perpetrated by a letter carrier, but inexplicably the Postal Service appears to have taken the position that (its) supervisors should be somehow held to a lower standard than the craft employees they manage,” the union representatives stated.

The Postal Service representative argued that any further punishment would impact the supervisor’s career and rob him of “due process.” The arbitrator decided not to mandate harsher discipline, agreeing with that argument.

A similar scene has played out in several closed-door hearings across the country. The Postal Service will acknowledge the unlawful time card changes and agree to pay back workers. A union advocate then asks an arbitrator to sanction the supervisors involved. The arbitrators say they can’t under the contract, ordering supervisors to take training instead.

That doesn’t always make a difference. A union representative begged an arbitrator in Chicago to take action after supervisors were found deleting employee work hours at all 11 offices in the city. Internal mediators had already ordered those supervisors to stop multiple times, but they wouldn’t.

“Cease and desist orders have not been effective in convincing Chicago Management to enforce the prohibition against stealing time,” the union advocate argued, according to the December 2020 decision. The arbitrator said she didn’t have the authority to mandate monetary penalties, and instead required post office leaders to meet with supervisors and tell them to stop. She also told the Postal Service to let the union do periodic time card reviews.

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, declined to comment on individual cases and said the union addresses time card fraud through the grievance-arbitration system and in the courts.

“Meanwhile, we are constantly monitoring these situations to make sure USPS complies with arbitration decisions and grievance settlements,” he said in a statement to Public Integrity.

In a September 2019 newsletter, Rolando lamented that one of the biggest problems facing the Postal Service is “a toxic workplace culture that tolerates abuse and wage/time theft.”

One rural mail carrier in North Carolina compared the Postal Service to a “bank robber.”

“It just seems like the post office is above the law,” said the employee, who asked that he not be identified out of fear of retaliation from his supervisors. “They pretty much do anything they want.”

The Postal Service knows it has a problem

Postal Service leaders are well aware that many supervisors have been caught cheating employees. The agency’s inspector general — its independent watchdog — has audited time records at dozens of post offices over the years.

In a 2009 letter to Rep. Paul Hodes, the inspector general’s office confirmed complaints that supervisors at three New Hampshire post offices were changing time cards, underpaying employees by nearly $30,000. A year later, the office found more than 160 suspicious changes during a year-long audit of three post offices in Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire. At least 75 of the changes were not properly documented. Auditors said the Postal Service did not have adequate systems in place to make sure supervisors aren’t shorting employees.

“As a result, we could not determine with certainty the reasons supervisors altered time and attendance records,” the lead auditor wrote.

The agency watchdog recommended that the Postal Service train all supervisors periodically, create another layer of approval for each time card change and do its own periodic audits.

Dean Granholm, then the Postal Service’s head of delivery and operations, agreed to follow the recommendations.

But the wage theft didn’t stop. In 2018, the inspector general alerted postal leaders that more than 100 supervisors in the Boston area had changed time records, deleting hundreds of work hours from 814 postal employees over a period of two years. The auditors reviewed a sampling of 199 changes and found that the majority of them were improperly documented.

Granholm no longer works for the agency and did not respond to a request for comment.

Finally the inspector general looked at the problem on a national level. During a six-month period in 2019, auditors discovered that managers had deleted more than 46,000 work hours from employees across the country. Investigators then examined records at seven post offices in Illinois, Florida and the Washington, D.C., region, finding that 86% of time card changes shorted employees’ pay without proper documentation.

The inspector general made similar recommendations to those from previous audits: talk to supervisors about the time card rules and establish a process to periodically review such changes. The Postal Service agreed to do it.

Mail carriers who spoke to Public Integrity say they believe supervisors keep docking their hours because managers’ annual pay raises depend on keeping overtime spending down. Union stewards and lawyers made the same claims in legal records. The Postal Service would not say whether it does in fact link pay raises to overtime spending.

Mail carriers say the wage theft will continue unless the Postal Service punishes managers doing it.

In the meantime, some carriers take pictures of their time sheets or write down their hours in a notebook. One of the unions developed a mobile app to help with that.

Campos refuses to quit her job, despite it all.

“I’ve invested so much. I don’t want to leave,” she said. “I am 59 years old. Who do you think is going to hire me?”

___

Alexia Fernández Campbell is a senior reporter at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.



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Russian Troops Dead After Getting ‘Treated’ to Poisoned Meals, Ukraine Officials Say

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Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry / Facebook

In a show of hospitality, Ukrainian citizens in the besieged region of Kharkiv have reportedly been “treating” Russian troops local delicacies—laced with poison.

At least two troops from the 3rd Motor Rifle Division of the Russian Federation died immediately after eating stuffed buns served by the residents of Izium, a town about 80 miles southeast of Kharkiv, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine wrote Saturday in an announcement posted to Facebook.

Another 28 Russians are being treated in intensive care from eating the contaminated treats. The condition of these poisoned invaders has yet to be confirmed.

According to the Intelligence Directorate, several hundred Russian soldiers have also suffered severe illnesses from drinking poisoned alcohol while occupying the region. Ukrainian officials said that the Russian military is “writing off these cases as so-called ‘non-combat losses.’”

Though Russian troops have reportedly retreated from the capital of Kyiv. The New York Times reports that insurgent forces are still fighting to gain control of Izium, despite the locals’ culinary efforts. Control of the eastern town would allow Russians to strategically secure access to the occupied Donbas region.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Massive ship called Ever Forward is stuck in Chesapeake Bay

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Despite two failed attempts to free it this week, a sister container ship to the Ever Given that got stuck in the Suez Canal last year has been lodged in the Chesapeake Bay for 21 days — and now cargo holders have to pay to help free it.

Why it matters: The Ever Forward (yes, bask in the irony) is the largest ship to get stuck in the Chesapeake Bay and it’s carrying 5,000 containers of … stuff.

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What’s happening: The ship’s owner — Evergreen Marine Corp. — has invoked a maritime law dubbed “General Average,” under which people whose belongings are on a ship must share in the cost of freeing it.

Zoom in: It’s unclear what’s in the thousands of containers aboard the Ever Forward, but at least one cargo holder — a Bloomberg journalist who recently moved from Hong Kong to New York — has been sharing her experience waiting on her furniture.

  • “The entire contents of our apartment, all of our furniture, lots of books, things of sentimental value are all in a container stuck in the Chesapeake Bay,” Tracy Alloway told NBC Washington.

  • The U.S. Coast Guard, which is handling Ever Forward’s PR, per the Port of Baltimore, told Axios that “general cargo” is on the ship and referred further questions to Evergreen.

Zoom out: The Ever Forward has been idling near Baltimore, en route to Norfolk, since a wrong turn leaving Baltimore on March 13 ran the boat aground in shallow water (24 feet of water — when it needs 42 to float, per NBC Washington.)

  • The Ever Forward has been stuck thrice as long as its sister ship sat marooned between the Mediterranean and Red seas last year.

  • The ship is not disrupting trade — or blocking passage out of Baltimore Harbor, William Doyle, director of the Port of Baltimore tweeted.

  • Tuesday and Wednesday were the first attempts to refloat the boat using tug boats.

  • A third attempt will be coming soon, “using two anchored pulling barges from the stern and five tugs,” Doyle wrote on Twitter.

The big picture: You can stay informed on the progress via istheshipstillstuck.com, a website that went viral last year during the Suez fiasco.

  • The boat has become a tourist attraction and Downs Park (there’s a $6 entry fee) in Pasadena, Maryland is apparently the best place to see it.

By the numbers: Comparing giant, stuck container ships.

  • The Ever Forward — currently lodged in Baltimore en route to Norfolk for 21 days and counting — 1,095 feet long, 117,340 gross tons. Ran aground due to a wrong turn in the Bay.

  • The Ever Given — stuck in the Suez Canal for 6 days – 1,312 feet long, weighing in at 224,000 gross tons. Ran aground due to a large wind gust.

🗞 This article is by Axios Richmond’s Karri Peifer! Subscribe to the Axios Richmond newsletter (launching soon).

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California has $600M in unclaimed can, bottle deposits

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is sitting on a $600 million pile of unclaimed nickel and dime deposits on recyclable cans and bottles and now wants to give some of that back to consumers.

To get the state’s nearly 40 million residents to recycle more and send more deposits back to them, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration unveiled a plan Friday to temporarily double to a dime the refund for a 12-ounce (355 milliliters) bottle or can. California already pays 10 cents on containers over 24 ounces (709 milliliters), and that would temporarily double to 20 cents.

The move would make California among the highest-paying recycling programs in the country. Rachel Machi Wagoner, director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, said the effort would help California again become the recycling leader it was 35 years ago when it started its cash refund program.

When someone in California purchases a regular-sized soda, a 5-cent charge is applied that can be recouped if the container is brought back for recycling. Under Newsom’s plan, the deposit charge would remain the same but the return amount would double. The goal is to raise the recycling rate for beverage containers from 70% to at least 80%.

Oregon and Michigan already offer 10-cent refunds and advocacy groups say that amount for each glass or plastic bottle or aluminum can has been enough for consumers to recycle at least nine of every 10 containers.

The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog’s President Jamie Court, a frequent critic of the recycling program, called the plan “a very positive step” and “a bold proposal to give people their money back.”

“That money isn’t doing anybody any good sitting in the bank,” Court said. “We need a complete structural fix, but this is a good interim step.”

California’s proposal feeds the latest national effort to boost recycling as beverage distributors face increased pressure to include higher percentages of recycled material in their containers, National Stewardship Action Council executive director Heidi Sanborn said.

Just 10 of the 50 states have deposit programs now, but many are considering them — potentially creating a confusing patchwork and beverage labels crowded with different states’ deposit amounts, something she said distributors want to avoid.

California’s doubling of refunds would be temporary — a duration for the change has yet to be decided — and is expected to cost $100 million. If approved by the Legislature the refund increase would take effect sometime during the next fiscal year that starts July 1.

It’s uncertain if any boost in recycling would last once the higher price ends, Sanborn acknowledged, but she hopes instead California will decide to make the increase permanent. She’s also hopeful pressure from states will spur attempts by U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon to craft a national bottle bill.

Newsom’s plan also attempts to ease a bottleneck that began years ago as more neighborhood recycling centers closed and Consumer Watchdog said many grocery stores also were refusing to take back empties in-store as required.

To increase access, Newsom’s administration proposes spending $100 million on grants to add about 2,000 automated recycling machines, also known as reverse vending machines, at high schools, colleges and retailers. Consumers dump their empty containers into the machines, which issue a refund.

Another $55 million would go for state-funded mobile recycling programs in rural areas and other places with few recycling options.

Consumers are very upset that “they are unable to return their bottles and cans and get their money back as promised,” said Sanborn, who also heads California’s Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets & Curbside Recycling.

Sanborn blamed the closure of many California recycling centers on the state’s failure to quickly adjust its complicated payment formula to meet changing market conditions.

Many of California’s recyclables go to China, which toughened standards in 2017 on accepting contaminated material, including plastics. The move “totally slammed the recycling industry” nationwide, said Kate O’Neill, a University of California, Berkeley, environmental science professor and author of the 2019 book “Waste.”

The U.S. market is recovering now with the addition of domestic recycling facilities, but there still is a problem matching supply to demand, O’Neill said.

Recycling officials had expected beverage consumption to drop during the pandemic, as it does during most economic downturns, Wagoner said. Instead, container sales in California increased by 2.5 billion over three years, to 27 billion last fiscal year, meaning a record number of deposits flowing into the state’s recycling fund.

The number of refundable containers recycled in California meanwhile hit a record high of more than 18.8 billion in 2021 — but that still left plenty of money on the table.

Repeated attempts to improve the state’s recycling system have struggled in the Legislature, even as California tries to boost its recycling rates, minimize food waste, and work toward a circular-use economy.

Wagoner said Friday’s proposal is an interim step while the administration continues talks with lawmakers over permanent fixes.

Democratic state Sen. Bob Wieckowski said he tried a bill last year with proposals similar to what the administration is now suggesting, “and they didn’t want to hear about it.” He anticipates people now hoarding their recyclables until the double redemption period, then facing long lines once it begins.

His proposal this year would put more responsibility on producers to recycle their containers.

“It has a little gimmicky nature to it,” Wieckowski said of the state’s plan. “We have 45 Band-Aids on this program, and sometime you have to get out of the Band-Aid business.”



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Fort Lauderdale police arrest Black hotel clerk who called for help

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New body camera video released by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department shows officers pushing a Black hotel employee before arresting him. The employee, Raymond Rachal, was the person to call the police after an incident in the lobby where Rachal claims a man was yelling racial slurs at him.



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Police investigating ‘appalling’ incident recorded inside a Wilmington High School bathroom

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Police and school officials in Wilmington are investigating a “serious and disturbing physical altercation” inside a boys’ bathroom this week that left the superintendent of schools “appalled,” not only because of the incident, but because some students recorded video and posted it online.

The video is difficult to watch.

In a letter to the school community dated March 30th, Superintendent Glenn Brand said the incident happened on Tuesday and investigators are working to identify the students involved.

The recording sent to Boston 25 indicates a student was picked up inside the bathroom and had his head forced into a toilet inside a stall in the bathroom. The video below has been blurred due to the ages of those involved.

“I am truly appalled by the actions of these students which are unacceptable and do not represent the core values of this educational community,” said Supt. Brand. ”It is my expectation that each and every one of our students has the right to attend a school that is safe and supportive. While I recognize that the vast number of our students consistently make appropriate choices to support such an environment, we will have zero tolerance for those that do not.”

“The Wilmington Public School prioritizes, above all else, the safety, well-being and respect of all of our students and staff,” said Supt. Brand.

“It is therefore with tremendous disappointment that I write to inform you of a serious and disturbing physical altercation that occurred in one of the boys’ bathrooms (Tuesday),” said Brand. “Not only is the incident itself concerning, but also that some of our students recorded the altercation and posted this online.”

“All students who are found culpable will be held fully accountable and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken as well as the removal of appropriate privileges that are afforded to those students,” said Supt. Brand. “I assure you that we will pursue relevant legal actions should such be deemed warranted following the investigation.”

The superintendent also alluded to other recent trouble at the school.

“This incident comes in the wake of a number of other concerns recently involving troubling student behavior. Everyone has an obligation to help foster the type of school environments that our students deserve, including our staff, families and most importantly, our students themselves,” said Brand.

A statement posted to the school’s website on Friday by the Wilmington High School Student Class Officers, called the incident “horrific.”

“If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a million, yet many of us were left speechless by the thoughtless actions of others that transpired earlier this week in one of our school bathrooms,” according to the statement. “These horrific actions perpetrated by an embarrassing group of individuals do not represent who we are as a student body. We are honor roll students, college bound-career focused seniors, varsity athletes, robotic champions and so much more. Our image should not be clouded by these individuals.”

Boston 25 spoke with Wilmington Police Chief Joe Desmond about the incident.

“Obviously there were a lot of kids in the bathroom and this young man was taken and physically dragged into the bathroom,” said Desmond.

The chief says the students pick the student up and lower him head down into the toilet. “It clearly looks like an assault as far as where I come from,” said Desmond.

Police are also looking to see if this incident rises to the level of a hate crime or civil rights violation. Chief Desmond says they have at least three recordings and they are working with the school to identify everyone involved.

“Kids should be able to go to school and feel safe and feel supported and not worried about being picked on or God forbid this incident is horrible. That poor kid” it’s terrible,” said concerned parent Roberta Biscan.

The school superintendent is scheduling bystander training that will be mandatory for all students. According to police, the case is moving quickly and charges are likely to be filed.

Watch for updates on Boston 25.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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Why this huge catfish was released by a fisherman who didn’t even bother to weigh it

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Ivan Garren from Cleveland, Tennessee caught a huge catfish Thursday while fishing in Wolftever Creek.

Garren, who used skipjack as bait, was fishing in a depth of about six feet when he hooked the monster.

He did not weigh or measure the fish but estimated it was about 38 pounds. He wanted to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible after taking a couple of pictures.

More: A 500-pound black bear made its home near a Tennessee college. Here’s how TWRA relocated it

Ivan Garren caught this big catfish in Wolftever Creek in Hamilton County.

“I release all big fish for other people to enjoy,” Garren said.

As big as the fish was, Garren said he has caught bigger.

Wolftever Creek is located in Hamilton County near Middle Valley, Tennessee. It is known for having a large population of catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass and crappie.

Ivan Garren caught this big catfish in Wolftever Creek in Hamilton County.

Ivan Garren caught this big catfish in Wolftever Creek in Hamilton County.

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee fisherman releases huge catfish without weighing



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The Judds reunite for CMT Music Awards performance

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Judds, one of the most successful duos in country music in the 1980s, are reuniting to perform on the CMT Music Awards, their first major awards show performance together in more than two decades.

The mother-and-daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna will perform their hit “Love Will Build a Bridge” on the awards show on April 11, airing on CBS and Paramount+, during an outdoor shoot in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

It’s a fitting backdrop for the five-time Grammy winners, who will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in May.

“It feels both surreal and what a thrill it is. What a thrill to finally get her back on the stage because she’s been waiting for 20-plus years,” Wynonna told the AP of her mother, Naomi. “As a daughter and as an artist, it’s a win-win.”

Originally from Kentucky, Naomi was working as a nurse in the Nashville area when she and Wynonna started singing together professionally. Their unique harmonies, together with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out in the genre at the time.

The Judds won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music and had more than a dozen No. 1 hits, including “Mama, He’s Crazy” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ’bout the Good Old Days).”

In 1990, Naomi Judd announced her retirement from performing due to chronic hepatitis. Wynonna has continued her solo career and they have occasionally reunited for special performances.

“To have all the incredible opportunities that I have had, being reminded of all that, just makes me very humbled and I just want to bask in the moment,” Naomi Judd told the AP.

This is also their first ever performance together at the CMT Music Awards. Country star Kacey Musgraves will introduce the pair prior to the performance.

“Music is the bridge between mom and me, and it it bonds us together. Even in the not easy times,” said Wynonna Judd. “We show up and we sing because that’s what love is about, right? So what a beautiful celebration.”

Hosted by country singer Kelsea Ballerini and actor Anthony Mackie, the fan-voted awards show will also feature performances by Ballerini, Kane Brown, Miranda Lambert, Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Cody Johnson, Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Carly Pearce and more.



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