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U. S. News

Virginia family found nearly $1 million in middle of road, called sheriff department

CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. — A Caroline County family discovered nearly $1 million in cash after running over bags filled with bills while on a Saturday afternoon drive.

Emily Schantz said that she was driving with her family when she noticed the car in front of them swerving around an object in the road.

Schantz ran over the object with her car and pulled over to get the object off the road. She put the bag in the car along with a second bag that she found nearby.

She did not know that she was driving around with close to a million dollars in cold hard cash in her car.

“Inside of the bag, there were plastic baggies, and they were addressed with something that said ‘cash vault,’” Schantz said.

Once they realized the bags were filled with cash, the Schantzes called the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office.

“They came back to Caroline, and found out they’d been riding around with almost $1 million in the truck,” Major Scott Moser said.

Deputies are investigating, but believe the mail bags belonged to the postal service and that the money was meant for a bank, but how they ended up on the road side remains a mystery.

Moser paid the family a visit Monday.

“For someone so honest and willing to give that almost $1 million back, it’s exceptional on their part,” Moser said. “Their two sons were there, so I put the lights on for them, but we are proud and they represented this county well by being so honest.”

“Do the right thing and return it,” Emily Schantz said. “Because it didn’t belong to us.”

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Crime & Safety U. S. News

Dallas salon owner jailed for defying virus shutdown order

DALLAS — Texas’ Republican governor and top law enforcement officer on Wednesday came to the defense of a Dallas hair salon owner who was jailed for keeping her business open in defiance of the governor’s restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Shelley Luther was booked in the Dallas County jail on Tuesday following a video hearing during which she refused to apologize for repeatedly flouting the order, leading the judge to find her in contempt of court and sentence her to a week behind bars.

Luther wascited last month for keeping her salon open despite state and local directives that kept nonessential businesses closed, but she continued to defy the order and tore up a cease and desist letter in front of TV cameras.

“I couldn’t feed my family, and my stylists couldn’t feed their families,” Luther testified Tuesday, saying she had applied for a federal loan but didn’t receive it until Sunday.

Dallas County Judge Eric Moye said during the hearing that he would consider levying a fine instead of jail time if Luther would apologize and not reopen until she was allowed to do so, but Luther refused.

“Feeding my kids is not selfish,” she told Moye. “If you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon.”

Moye wrote in his judgment of contempt: “The defiance of the court’s order was open, flagrant and intentional.” He noted that despite being given the opportunity to apologize, Luther “expressed no contrition, remorse or regret” for her actions.

Annette Norred, a paralegal with the law firm representing Luther, said they are preparing a court filing seeking her release. Luther isn’t sure which program gave her the loan or how she’s allowed to spend it, Norred said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to the judge Wednesday asking him to release Luther from jail. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz also expressed support for her. Both are Republicans.

“I find it outrageous and out of touch that during this national pandemic, a judge, in a county that actually released hardened criminals for fear of contracting COVID-19, would jail a mother for operating her hair salon in an attempt to put food on her family’s table,” Paxton said.

Abbott called the salon owner’s punishment “excessive.”

“Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother,” Abbott said in a statement.

In response, a letter to Paxton signed by Moye and the 11 other Dallas County civil district court judges called the attorney general’s letter to a judge about a pending case an improper communication under the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. The judges told Paxton they “trust this shall not happen further.”

Some online fundraising efforts have been mounted on Luther’s behalf, the largest of which had collected more than $440,000 as of Wednesday evening.

The governor coming to the defense of someone violating his own executive order reflects the increasing pressure he faces to reboot the state at a much faster pace.

As Luther appeared in court Tuesday, Abbott gave permission for hair salons and barbershops in Texas to reopen by Friday, accelerating his own timeline.

Although Abbott last week allowed restaurants and retailers to reopen with limited capacity, he said at the time that mid-May was his goal to get hair salons and gyms up and running.

But some Texans haven’t been willing to wait, including two GOP state lawmakers who let reporters film them getting haircuts outside Houston on Tuesday.

Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University, said Abbott has to balance opening up too slowly and alienating the right wing of his party, and moving too quickly in a way that risks a resurgence of COVID-19 and the loss of moderate Republicans and swing voters.

“Gov. Abbott has been forced to follow a very narrow path,” Jones said.

State Rep. Chris Turner, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, compared Luther’s case to that of a woman who was sentenced in 2018 to five years in prison for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election while on probation.

“To all who are distraught over proud lawbreaker Shelley Luther getting 7 days in jail, I’d like to introduce you to Crystal Mason,” Turner wrote on Twitter.

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U. S. News

President Trump to nominate new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine

The White House said Friday that President Trump intends to nominate Keith Dayton as the next U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, after the position was unoccupied for nearly a year. Dayton is the director of the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch, Germany, and the senior U.S. defense adviser to Ukraine.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was abruptly removed from her post in May 2019. She told House investigators in November she was removed because of a smear campaign orchestrated by “foreign corrupt interests” and Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Yovanovitch was a key witness in the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump last year, which was precipitated by a whistleblower complaint about a July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president where Mr. Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, who is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

In that now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Trump said Yovanovitch was “bad news” and would be “going through some things.”

Ambassador Bill Taylor, who replaced Yovanovitch as the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, also testified in the impeachment inquiry.

Mr. Trump was acquitted in the Senate on impeachment articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in February.

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U. S. News

US flu activity slides, death toll holds steady at 24K

ATLANTA  – America’s flu season continues to ebb even as COVID-19 cases increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lab-confirmed flu cases are now low, but the CDC believes that’s because fewer people are going to doctors because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Overall flu-like activity is lower than a week ago but is still elevated.

“The percent of deaths associated with pneumonia and influenza is above the epidemic threshold,” the agency said Friday.

“The increase is due to an increase in pneumonia deaths rather than influenza deaths and likely reflects COVID-19 activity.”

The severity of this season’s flu viruses remains moderate to low overall.

The CDC estimates that so far there have been at least 24,000 deaths from flu, 39 million flu illnesses and 410,000 hospitalizations.

A total of 166 influenza-associated deaths in children have been reported this season. That’s an increase of 4 since last week’s report.

“This number is high compared to recent seasons but remains lower than the 2017-2018 season during which 188 pediatric deaths were reported,” the CDC said.

Flu activity was high in the District of Columbia and 19 states. (Source: CDC)

Flu activity was high in the District of Columbia and 19 states.

It was moderate in Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Washington.

It was low in California, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Only minimal amounts of flu were reported in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Flu shots are recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.

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Covid-19 U. S. News

NJ governor declares state of emergency amid COVID-19 outbreak

NEW JERSEY — New Jersey’s governor declared a state of emergency Monday amid a coronavirus outbreak.

Five more cases of the new coronavirus have been identified, bringing New Jersey’s total to 11.

“Right now, the overall risk to individuals from coronavirus remains low,” Governor Phil Murphy said. “We are taking this step out of an abundance of precaution and prudence to ensure that we are proactive in our response.”

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and health Commissioner Judith Persichilli announced details of the new cases in a Monday afternoon news conference. Three are hospitalized while two are isolated at home.

Health officials said they are ramping up efforts to prevent the disease from spreading.

There are currently 14 tests in progress and 24 persons under investigation. Officials said Monday they would begin to hold daily briefings on the virus as it begins to affect more residents.

The news comes the same day Princeton University said it was restricting large gatherings and urging students to take classes online.