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Minneapolis Public Schools defends policy to prioritize retaining educators of color when determining layoffs

Kobus Louw/Getty Images

(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Ahead of the new school year, Minneapolis Public Schools has defended its agreement reached with the teacher's union this spring to prioritize retaining educators of underrepresented backgrounds when determining layoffs.

Effective in the spring of 2023, the contract provision states that teachers who are members of "populations underrepresented among licensed teachers in the district" may be exempt from district-wide layoffs outside of seniority order, deviating from the traditional "last-in, first-out" system.

The stipulation is a part of a recent collective bargaining agreement between the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) and MPS, which concluded a weekslong teachers' strike in March.

"To remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination, Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) mutually agreed to contract language that aims to support the recruitment and retention of teachers from underrepresented groups as compared to the labor market and to the community served by the school district," a spokesperson for Minneapolis Public Schools said in a statement to ABC News Wednesday.

The policy comes as efforts to diversify teachers in Minnesota are ramping up in the state legislature with the introduction of HF3079, the 2022 Increase Teachers of Color Act.

The legislation seeks to "increase the percentage of teachers of color and American Indian teachers in Minnesota" to ensure that "all students have equitable access to effective and racially and ethnically diverse teachers who reflect the diversity of students," according to the text of the bill.

However, as news of the MPS policy has made national headlines in recent days, critics say the policy's attempts to rectify past discrimination could constitute discrimination itself -- potentially even a violation of the 14th Amendment.

James Dickey, an attorney in Minneapolis, told ABC News that his firm has recently received a "flood of emails" from taxpayers and teachers in Minneapolis who are opposed to the policy and have reached out regarding potential legal actions.

Dickey is senior legal counsel at the Upper Midwest Law Center, a nonprofit public interest law firm in Minnesota, and said that his firm could be "prepared to go forward with litigation" soon.

When asked about efforts to diversify the teaching staff in Minnesota public schools, Dickey acknowledged the concern but said that addressing the issue instead requires reforming the seniority system, suggesting that layoffs should be based on merit, not seniority or race.

"Teachers are not being evaluated based on merit, they're being evaluated based on, you know, first in first and last out. And I think that's the bigger problem," he said.

Responding to criticism, MFT has doubled down on its support of the policy, citing the need for educators to reflect the diversity of their schools' student bodies. While 65% of the students attending MPS in the 2021-22 school year were people of color, only around 30% of the teaching staff were, the district reported.

"No matter where they live in Minneapolis, or what they look like, every student in the Minneapolis Public Schools deserves great teachers and education support professionals who challenge, support and educate all their students in a safe and stable learning environment," the union wrote in a statement to ABC News.

The union wrote that it wanted to create a "transparent, legal, ethical process" to retain the "unique skills and experiences" of educators of color and those of other underrepresented backgrounds in the case of budget cuts and layoffs.

MFT described the agreement as a small step toward dismantling discriminatory systems in education but noted that diversifying educators will be a long haul given the nationwide teacher shortage. There are currently more than 370 open jobs for teachers in MPS, the union said.

Tra Carter, a former behavioral specialist at Clara Barton Community School in south Minneapolis, said he believes MPS could do even more to support teachers of color. Carter, who was laid off last year during the strike, said that at the time, he was the only Black male educator employed at his school.

"Black and brown educators of color are losing their jobs exponentially faster than their white counterparts, so I'm happy again that something got done," Carter said.

"But I don't think that it's ever going to be enough," he added. "I think one of the first steps that the district needs to do is to begin hiring more educators of color and helping those educators that are already in the schools who don't have those teaching licenses or who don't have those degrees, helping those educators so that they can then be in that community."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Memphis man accused of fatally beating his wife at Fiji resort says couple 'never had any physical arguments'

@ Didier Marti/Getty Images

(LAUTOKA, Fiji) -- Bradley Robert Dawson, a Memphis man police say fatally beat his wife last month at an exclusive resort in Fiji, told ABC News the couple "never had any physical arguments in [their] relationship."

Dawson, 38, is facing a murder charge in connection to the death of Christe Chen Dawson, 36, while the couple vacationed on their honeymoon. The couple was married in February.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday with ABC News from a jail visiting room, Dawson said he fled on a kayak to a neighboring island on July 8, the day police said Chen died of multiple blunt trauma wounds to her head.

"I just wanted to give her some space. It was normal for me to take a walk," he said. He added that the couple was drunk at the time of their argument.

Chen's body was discovered the next day by a housekeeper at Turtle Island Resort, an exclusive resort that caters to only 14 couples at one time and was the site of the 1980 film "The Blue Lagoon." Dawson was arrested two days later. The police did not tell him of his wife's death, Dawson said. Authorities, however, told ABC News that Dawson initially confessed to the murder but stopped cooperating once he secured legal representation.

Incarcerated since his arrest, Dawson appeared at a preliminary bail hearing at Fiji's Lautoka High Court Wednesday wearing a red collared shirt, shorts and flip-flops, and was handcuffed to another man. Judge Riyaz Hamza rejected a request from Dawson's attorney to release his client on bail before his trial.

"This case may take two years -- why should he remain inside for that long?" said attorney Iqbal Khan. Hamza postponed the bail hearing to Sept. 1 due to a technicality with the postmortem report, which was not yet finalized.

During the same hearing, Hamza also rejected a request from an attorney for the Chen family to serve as a formal party to the case, which would have allowed them access to evidence used in the trial. Hamza said Fiji law makes the prosecutor the sole representative for victims in criminal cases.

According to a police report obtained by ABC News, a vacationer staying at Turtle Island at the same time as the couple, said Dawson and his wife appeared happy the evening of the alleged fight. The vacationer said she later heard "loud banging sounds" from the couple's room, according to the police report.

"It was as if someone was drunk and unable to control themselves inside. And then we heard a loud scream followed by a big loud bang and after that there were complete silence," she told police, according to the report. A staff member confirmed to ABC News that the resort received a complaint that night about the noise emanating from the couple's room. The resort waited until the next day to check the room when the couple failed to show up for meals.

"We cooperated with the authorities during the investigation and the police left the island over a week ago," the resort told ABC News in a statement in July. "It is our understanding that charges have been filed in the case. Our highest priority is the safety and concern for our guests and team, both who we value as family, and we are extremely saddened by the event. We continue to send our condolences to Ms. Chen's family, friends, and colleagues. Given the need to respect the privacy of our guests and the ongoing legal investigation, please direct all further inquiries to the authorities."

Dawson, an IT specialist, said he is "praying every day" for Chen, whom he described as "my everything."

"What I can say is I am so sorry for the situation we are all going through now. We were supposed to have amazing holidays and I lost my wife," he said.

"Just thinking she is not here anymore is so painful. I am thinking of her all the time," he said. "We were supposed to have an amazing life."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


5th set of human remains found in receding Lake Mead

Alfredo Alonso Avila / EyeEm / Getty Images

(LAS VEGAS) -- Another set of human remains were found in Lake Mead near Las Vegas, the second time this month that remains have been found in the country's largest reservoir, officials said Wednesday.

The remains were discovered at Swim Beach in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area around 8:00 p.m. Monday, according to the National Park Service.

With the help of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's dive team, park rangers responded and set up a perimeter to retrieve the body, the NPS said.

The Clark County Medical Examiner was contacted and is working to identify the person and discover the cause of death, the park service said.

This is the fifth time since May and the second time this month that human remains have been found in Lake Mead, where water levels are receding at a historic rate.

Lake Mead, formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, supplies drinking water to millions of people in California, Arizona, Nevada and part of Mexico.

Officials said the water levels are so depleted, they could soon reach "dead pool" status, in which the water is too low to flow downstream to the Hoover Dam. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the minimum water surface level needed to generate power at the dam is 1,050 feet.

On May 7, human skeletal remains were found near the lake's Callville Bay, according to NPS. The discovery came a week after the decayed body of a man was found stuffed in a steel barrel near the reservoir's Hemenway Fishing Pier, over 20 miles from Callville Bay, according to Las Vegas police.

On July 25 and Aug. 6, human remains were also discovered at Swim Beach.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

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Anne Heche's death following car crash ruled an accident by coroner

Jesse Grant/Getty Images, FILE

(LOS ANGELES) -- Anne Heche's death has been ruled an accident, more than a week after suffering serious injuries in a fiery Los Angeles car crash, city records show.

Heche, 53, died from inhalation and thermal injuries, according to records from the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. She also suffered a sternal fracture due to blunt trauma, the records stated. The day of her death was listed as Aug. 11.

The actress was declared brain dead on the night of Aug. 11 but was kept on life support for organ donation, and her heart was still beating, her representative said. She was peacefully taken off life support on Sunday, her representative said.

Heche was alone in her car on Aug. 5 when she crashed into a home in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles, engulfing her car and the house in flames, according to Los Angeles police and fire officials. No one else was injured in the single-car crash, and the home's resident and her pets were able to escape the blaze unharmed.

She suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and was in a coma in critical condition following the crash, her family and friends said in a statement.

Heche was not expected to survive her injuries, her family said, noting that it "has long been her choice to donate her organs," her family said.

Results from a blood draw completed after the crash showed Heche had narcotics in her system, but additional tests were being run to determine more about the drugs, and to rule out which ones may have been present based on drugs administered at the hospital, according to the Los Angeles Police Department,

Investigators told ABC News no alcohol was detected in Heche's blood sample, though the blood draw was many hours after the crash.

LAPD investigators told ABC News on Aug. 12 that the criminal investigation had ended due to the latest developments in her condition.

Heche is survived by her two sons.

"My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom," her oldest son, Homer, said in a statement Friday. "After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom."

"Rest In Peace Mom, I love you," he said.

ABC News' Alex Stone and Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Florida court rules 16-year-old not 'mature enough' to get an abortion

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(NEW YORK) -- A Florida appeals court ruled on Monday that a 16-year-old girl was not "mature enough" to decide to terminate her pregnancy.

The decision comes after a circuit judge in northwest Florida ruled that the teen could not get an abortion without notification and consent of a parent or guardian, despite the fact the teen has been found to be "parentless."

The teen was requesting to bypass the Florida law that requires all individuals in the state under the age of 18 to receive parental consent before obtaining an abortion. At the time of the original hearing, the teen was 10 weeks pregnant, although it is unclear how far along she was at the time of Monday's decision.

According to the ruling, the teen, unnamed and referred to as Jane Doe 22-B, lives with a relative and has an appointed guardian.

In her initial court filing, the teen said her guardian was "fine" with her pursuing an abortion.

However, Escambia County Circuit Judge Jessica Frydrychowicz denied the bypass request, and a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the decision.

Judges Harvey Jay and Rachel Nordby concurred with the entire decision, holding that the case did not need to be returned to the circuit judge. Judge Scott Makar stood by the decision to block the bypass, but dissented against closing the case, instead asserting that the teen's request should be returned to the circuit judge for further consideration.

According to Makar's dissent, the teen is pursuing a GED with "involvement in a program designed to assist young women who have experienced trauma in their lives by providing educational support and counseling."

The ruling said the teen had endured "renewed trauma" as her friend died shortly before she sought to obtain an abortion.

Makar continued to write that the teen said in a court petition that she was "sufficiently mature" to make a decision about an abortion and was not ready to have a baby, as she did not have a job and the father was unable to assist her.

According to the ruling, the teen came to her circuit hearing with a case worker and a guardian ad-litem child advocate manager. Makar said she had "inexplicably" chosen not to ask for representation by an attorney, which would have been free.

Makar said the trial was conducted admirably, as the trial judge "displayed concern for the minor's predicament throughout the hearing [and] asked difficult questions of the minor on sensitive personal matters in a compassionate manner."

However, Makar wrote that the case was a "close call" and that the teen "showed, at times, that she is stable and mature enough to make this decision."

Makar said in the ruling that the teen had looked into abortion and had gained an understanding of her medical options and their consequences.

The ruling said the court had found that the teen "acknowledges she is not ready for the emotional, physical, or financial responsibility of raising a child" and "has valid concerns about her ability to raise a child."

Makar, in his dissent, said he believes the trial court wanted to give the teen additional time to deal with her friend's death before deciding to obtain an abortion, and should be able to return to court to further petition her case.

Florida law bans abortions after 15 weeks, significantly sooner than the 24-week cut off that existed in the state's laws prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. The 15-week ban is currently being challenged in state courts.

In the state's "Parental Notice of and Consent for Abortion Act," physicians must get written consent from a parent or legal guardian before performing an abortion on a minor. Exceptions are made in medical emergencies or with a waiver from the parents or guardian.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Texas restaurant owner takes down alligator on his front porch

Courtesy Mike Trinh

(MISSOURI CITY, Texas) -- A Texas middle school student had quite the start to her first day of school after she opened her front door to see an alligator.

Running back into the house, her father didn't believe her until he saw the gator, Mike Trinh wrote in a Facebook post.

Luckily, the Missouri City local said his years of watching the "Crocodile Hunter," the late Steve Irwin, on TV prepared him to take on the gator.

Trinh, the owner of nearby restaurant Mike's Seafood, told ABC News on Wednesday that he had to get his kids to school, so he threw a towel over the gator to subdue it and walk past to his car. However, when he returned from his drop-off duties, Trinh said the gator was still on his front porch.

"I've never had to deal with a gator like this," he said. "You see them in the water, but never crawling through the subdivision and up to the front door."

Trinh said he called Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office who then directed him to the Missouri City Police Department, who Trinh said then directed him to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which hadn't yet opened for the day.

After waiting for about an hour, Trinh told ABC News, he decided to address the gator himself.

"I pinned his mouth closed with a sledgehammer and got onto his back," Trinh said. "I asked my daughter to get duct tape and she started taping his mouth shut. I finished taping up his mouth and then taped his legs together."

Trinh told ABC News Houston station KTRK that he is a former mixed martial arts fighter, which helped guide him in pinning down the animal.

Eventually, Trinh decided to call a local game warden since he hadn't heard back from other officials. However, Trinh said the fee would have been $300 to have someone come take the gator, a price he wasn't willing to pay.

Instead, Trinh and a friend loaded the gator into the back of the truck and drove to a nearby lake. After untaping the gator, Trinh said the animal slid off the back of the truck and into the water.

Experts say that it's unusual for an alligator to approach humans, as they usually will stay within the water.

However, if you do find yourself squaring off with a gator, experts offer several tips on how to fight back and get away.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Traffic deaths for 1st quarter of 2022 highest in 20 years, NHTSA says

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(NEW YORK) -- Traffic deaths for the first quarter of this year were the highest since 2002, according to early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency estimates 9,560 people died from motor vehicle crashes during the first quarter of this year -- up 7% from the same time in 2021.

Traffic-related deaths have been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic. In 2019, NHTSA reported 36,355 people died on U.S. roads -- a number that grew to 38,824 in 2020 and 42,915 in 2021, despite less cars on the road.

"The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction," said NHTSA administrator Steve Cliff.

"We're talking about three years in a row of traffic deaths, not just being up but being up significantly," Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the non-profit Governor's Highway Safety Association said in an interview with ABC News.

Adkins said the surge is due to multiple factors -- including less traffic enforcement on roads and prevalence of dangerous behaviors among drivers.

"States are telling me all across the country that speeds are up, drivers are just continuing to speed," Adkins said. "We really need to bring some of the same attention to speeding that was brought to drunk driving and distracted driving. If we were to get drivers to slow down even a little bit, that make a big difference."

Cliff said states should "double down" on traffic safety, saying, "Through the bipartisan infrastructure law, there are more resources than ever for research, interventions and effective messaging and programs that can reverse the deadly trend and save lives."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Rochester fire captain accused of forcing firefighters to attend racist party retires

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(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) -- A captain of the Rochester Fire Department who was accused of taking firefighters to a party filled with racist tropes has retired.

Following an investigation by the City of Rochester, Capt. Jeffrey Krywy was forced to leave the department by the city, Mayor Malik Evans announced Tuesday, according to ABC News Rochester affiliate WHAM.

"As of Monday, he has chosen to retire before termination proceedings begin," Evans said in a statement to WHAM.

Last week, Jerrod Jones sued the City of Rochester and Rochester Fire Department, accusing Krywy of forcing him and two other firefighters to attend a private party on July 7.

According to the lawsuit, Jones said that when he arrived at the party, he saw a large cut-out of former President Donald Trump and buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken next to Juneteenth flags.

Jones alleged that the Mary Znidarsic-Nicosia, who owned the home where the party was being held, approached him and asked if he wanted to take home the fried chicken.

He also claims that there was an entertainer at the party impersonating Democratic Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart and there was a senior member of the Rochester Police officer at the party.

Nate McMurray, Jones’ lawyer, took to Twitter on Tuesday, criticizing the incident, saying that an independent investigation hasn’t happened yet.

McMurray also criticized Krywy’s retirement because he presumably retired with his full pension.

McMurray did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Jones said that he told acting Battalion Chief George Smith about the incident and Krywy’s involvement and was told it’d be looked into but was assigned to work with Krywy during his following shift, court documents show.

Jones claimed he’s suffering emotional distress, fears that he will be retaliated against by Krywy and others and is currently on leave from the RFD, according to the lawsuit.

He is suing for $4 million in damages.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Six people, including four teens, shot in Memphis

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(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- Six people, including four teenagers, were shot in related incidents in Memphis overnight, police said.

The first shooting was around midnight Tuesday, when officers heard multiple shots and saw a white SUV fleeing the scene, Memphis police said.

Officers responded to where the shots were fired and found an empty white Infiniti SUV in an apartment complex, police said. The SUV, which had been reported stolen, had bullet holes and part of a gas pump hanging from the tank, police said.

Police said they later learned that 19-year-old Reginald Felix, a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy had been in the stolen SUV when they were shot around midnight.

A 25-year-old was also shot at the scene, police said.

A 14-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man took Felix, the 17-year-old and the 16-year-old from the apartment complex to Methodist North Hospital, police said.

While en route to the hospital they were shot by unknown suspects in a dark car, according to police.

The five of them abandoned the SUV and ran to the hospital, police said.

Officers responded to the scene at Methodist North Hospital at 12:47 a.m., according to police.

It’s not clear if the suspects in the dark car and the victims are known to each other, police said. No one from the dark car has been arrested.

Felix and the 16-year-old have since been released from the hospital and are charged with theft, police said.

The 17-year-old remains in the hospital and is expected to be charged with theft, police said.

The 14-year-old and two 25-year-olds remain hospitalized, according to police.

ABC News' Keith Harden contributed to this report.

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Colorado River Basin reservoir levels drop to record lows amid drought

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(DENVER, Colo.) -- Federal government officials announced a more severe water shortage level in the Colorado River Basin Tuesday, saying it is essential that states like Arizona dramatically reduce water use before drinking water supplies or power production are affected.

"The system is approaching a tipping point and, without action, we cannot protect the system and the millions of Americans who rely on this critical resource," Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said in a briefing with reporters.

Reservoirs in the Colorado Basin, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are both at historically low levels after 23 years in drought conditions. Currently, Lake Powell is at 26% capacity, and Lake Mead is at 27% capacity. Combined storage of the two reservoirs is 28% of capacity.

More than 70% of the western U.S. is experiencing extreme or severe drought conditions, amplified by climate change.

But the federal government is stopping short of forcing water cuts under its emergency authorities, saying that although state action has been insufficient, they would rather work together to find a solution that avoids harming people that rely on Colorado River water.

Arizona's water allocation must be reduced by 21% in 2023, one of the largest cuts of the seven basin states.

California currently has no required water savings planned for the upcoming year. But the country of Mexico, which also receives an allotment, will need to reduce their allocation by 7% in 2023.

The Bureau of Reclamation could announce additional actions down the line if states don't reach these targets. Officials said the drought threatens the entire future of the Colorado River Basin, including drinking water supplies, power generation, wildlife and the river itself.

"Without prompt, responsive actions and investments now, the Colorado River and the citizens that rely on it will face a future of uncertainty and conflict," Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo told reporters.

Lake Powell is projected to be at 3,521.84 feet by the end of the year, which is 23% capacity. Glen Canyon Dam stops generating power at 3490 feet. Future projections show that under the driest scenario, Lake Powell may drop below 3,490 feet in the middle of 2023. ABC News is working to see if modifications can be made to Glen Canyon Dam to operate below this critical threshold.

Lake Mead is projected to be at 1047.61 feet by the end of the calendar year. Under the driest scenario, Lake Mead could drop below Level 3 shortage as early as the summer of 2023 and reach below 1000 feet as early as 2024.

ABC News is also looking to see if modifications can be made at Hoover Dam to operate below current minimum elevations.

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New York City Department of Education relaxes COVID-19 rules for public schools

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(NEW YORK) -- The New York City Department of Education will no longer randomly test students for COVID-19 when the new school year begins Sept. 8, the department said Tuesday.

Instead, test kits will be sent home for students, parents and teachers to use if they are exposed to the virus.

As part of the department's new COVID-19 protocols, students will no longer be required to submit a daily health screening form.

Masks will no longer be required but are strongly recommended if or when a student is exposed.

The department said that students and staff who test positive or exhibit symptoms must quarantine for five days and then wear a mask on the sixth through 10th day upon their return to school.

Masks are also required when entering a medical office in a school or exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.

Schools are now required to report positive cases to "The Situation Room," a group within the department that tracks COVID-19 cases within the schools.

Recent New York City Education Department data shows that between Sept. 13, 2021 and Aug. 15, 2022, there have been over 250,000 positive COVID-19 cases within the schools, with students making up 190,301 of those cases.

New York City schools will still require all adults, including teachers and contracted employees, entering public school buildings to be vaccinated, the department said. Any other adult entering a building must show proof of at least one vaccination dose.

Students will still not need to be vaccinated to attend classes but will once again need to show proof of vaccination to participate in extracurricular activities, including high-risk public schools athletic league sports.

The city's department of education will distribute over 160,000 air purifiers to schools, track ventilation in buildings daily and upgrade HVAC systems aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Last week, the CDC laid out new guidance regarding COVID-19 as millions of students return to school.

Some rules include: unvaccinated kids no longer having to quarantine; test-to-stay, which allows students who are in contact with someone who has COVID-19 to continue to attend in-person school as long as they stayed asymptomatic and tested negative; and loosening the 6 feet social distancing requirement.

"We're in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools -- like vaccination, boosters, and treatments -- to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19," the CDC's Dr. Greta Massetti, one of the authors of the updated guidance, told ABC News in a statement last week. "This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives."

ABC News' Katie Kindelan contributed to this report.

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Authorities announce new phase in search for missing teen Kiely Rodni

Placer County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

(LAKE TAHOE, Nev.) -- Authorities in Northern California have announced a new phase in the ongoing search for a teenager who disappeared after a party 11 days ago.

"We are moving into a more limited but continuous search-and-rescue effort," Capt. Sam Brown of the Nevada County Sheriff's Office said during a press briefing on Monday. "We are going to have to switch modes and kind of focus on the investigative end and try to figure out where do we go from there."

Kiely Rodni, 16, was last seen on Aug. 6 around 12:30 a.m. local time near the Prosser Family Campground in the small town of Truckee, some 20 miles north of Lake Tahoe. She was at a party with upwards of 300 people when she vanished along with her vehicle, a silver 2013 Honda CRV with California license plates and a sticker of a ram below the rear wiper blade, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Office, which is leading the search and investigation.

Rodni's cellphone has been out of service since then.

"Her cellphone went dead and became virtually untraceable shortly after," Angela Musallam, public information officer for the Placer County Sheriff's Office, told ABC News during an interview that aired Aug. 9 on "Good Morning America."

With no trace of Rodni or her car, detectives are not ruling out a possible abduction, Musallam had said. Though, "right now we don't have any evidence that supports an abduction," Placer County Sgt. Scott Alford told reporters during a press briefing on Aug. 9.

"We're considering everything," Alford said. "This is a missing person's case, this is a search-and-rescue effort."

Dozens of law enforcement personnel have been involved in the search, including foot patrol, aircraft, canine and dive teams. Other local, state and federal agencies, including the Truckee Police Department, the Nevada County Sheriff's Office, the California Highway Patrol and the FBI, are assisting the Placer County Sheriff's Office in the investigation, according to Musallam.

Rodni has also been added to the FBI's missing persons database. Among the more than 1,200 tips the FBI said it has received and combed through, investigators have pursued several leads, including digging up a burial site near the Prosser Family Campground -- only to find the remains of a dog.

"It's important to hold onto hope," Rodni's mother, Lindsey Rodni-Nieman, told ABC News during an interview Tuesday on "GMA." She then added: "It's OK to feel sad and frustrated, it's OK to feel this anguish."

Rodni-Nieman told ABC News the last text message she received from her daughter said she was planning to leave the party in about 45 minutes and would be coming "straight home." That was about an hour before Rodni's cellphone last pinged near a lake.

Authorities, as well as Rodni's family, are urging anyone who saw her the night she vanished to come forward as well as anyone who attended the party to cooperate with the investigation. In particular, investigators are asking for any photographs or videos from that night to help them piece together a timeline. A $50,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to Rodni's safe return.

Last week, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said its detectives have located surveillance footage from a local business in Truckee where Rodni was spotted on Aug. 5 at 6:08 p.m. local time, prior to her disappearance. She was last seen wearing a black spaghetti-strap bodysuit, green Dickies pants with a black belt and black Vans shoes. She also may have a dark gray Lana Del Ray hoodie with the lyrics: "You don't want to be forgotten. You just want to disappear."

However, on Sunday, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said its detectives "have developed information" that Rodni was seen in another video, taken that night at the party, wearing a white sweatshirt with the pink writing "odd future." It remains unclear whether she was wearing that sweatshirt when she vanished.

"I recognize both sweatshirts," Rodni's mother told ABC News. "The darker one belongs to her best friend. The lighter one is something that I've seen her wear time and time again."

Anyone with information about Rodni or her whereabouts can call the Placer County Sheriff's Office's tip line at 530-581-6320 and select option seven. Callers can remain anonymous.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso and Veronica Miracle contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


You can fly in a seaplane between New York City and Washington, DC, starting this fall

Michael A. McCoy/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Anyone looking to ditch Amtrak or the long commutes to and from La Guardia, JFK, or Newark Airport when traveling between New York City and Washington, D.C., will now have another option—a float plane.

Tailwind Air will start flying two daily flights between the Skyport Marina near East 23rd Street in Manhattan and College Park Airport just outside D.C. The plane will take off from the water in New York and land on the runway at the Suburban D.C. airport in College Park, Maryland.

Tailwind said the flights will operate using eight-seat Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft. The flight time will be between 80-90 minutes and cost $395 one-way.

The airline is touting the ease of the smaller planes, saying passengers have up until 10 minutes before departure to check in for the flight.

"When factoring in the full journey—one hour and twenty minutes in the air (comparable to DCA-LGA service except with no need to access crowded and congested airports on both ends) or the three hours fifty minutes for the Acela—Tailwind Air will offer the fastest, least stressful, premium way to travel between DC and Manhattan. That, paired with the unforgettable views, makes this a compelling experience," Tailwind Air co-founder Peter Manice said in a press release.

College Park Airport is 30-minute drive from Downtown D.C. and connects directly to Metro’s Green Line.

The first departure is Sept. 13.

"Bypassing the congestion of the northeast corridor between New York and Washington, DC remains the core mission of Tailwind Air," Alan Ram, CEO and co-founder of Tailwind Air, said in a statement.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Former prosecutor, advocate for criminal justice reform, facing rape charges

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(NEW YORK) -- Adam Foss, a former prosecutor in Boston whose TED Talk brought him into partnership with singer John Legend on criminal justice reform, raped a woman in a New York City hotel, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said Tuesday.

According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, Foss, 42, met the 25-year-old woman at a Midtown Manhattan hotel after exchanging calls and texts for approximately one month. After the survivor repeatedly said no to Foss’s sexual advances, the two fell asleep, before he allegedly raped the woman as she slept.

Foss pleaded not guilty.

Bragg urged other potential victims of Foss to come forward.

“Our Special Victims Division is survivor-centered and trauma-informed, and we encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of a sex crime to call our Hotline at 212-335-9373. Our prosecutors, investigators, and service providers are available to help.”

Foss was an assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. The National Law Journal named him among the 40 most up-and-coming lawyers in the US. In 2013, the Massachusetts Bar Association voted Foss prosecutor of the year.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Feds bust alleged Mafia gambling operations posing as shoe repair, coffee shop

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(MERRICK, N.Y.) -- Sal's Shoe Repair in Merrick, New York, was doing more than fixing heels and worn soles.

The Genovese organized crime family operated an illegal gambling operation out of the shop, generating "substantial revenue," which was then laundered through cash transfers, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.

Nine purported members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno organized crime families were charged Tuesday with racketeering and illegal gambling offenses for running gambling parlors out of other legitimate-seeming establishments in Queens and on Long Island, including a coffee bar and La Nazionale Soccer Club.

Salvatore Rubino, 58, known as "Sal the Shoemaker," was among those arrested, prosecutors said.

A Nassau County police detective, Hector Rosario, is also among the defendants. He allegedly accepted money from the Bonanno family in exchange for offering to arrange police raids of competing gambling locations, according to the indictment. He is charged with obstructing a grand jury investigation and lying to the FBI.

"Current members of the five families demonstrate every day they are not adverse to working together to further their illicit schemes, using the same tired methods to squeeze money from their victims. Enlisting alleged assistance from a member of law enforcement also proves they are willing to do all they can to hide their illegal behavior," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said in a statement.

Beginning in May 2012, the Genovese and Bonanno families jointly operated a lucrative illegal gambling operation in Lynbrook, New York, called the Gran Caffe. The profits earned through this and other gambling locations generated substantial revenue, which was then laundered through cash transfers to the defendants and through "kicking up" to the crime families' leaders, the indictment said.

"Today's arrests of members from two La Cosa Nostra crime families demonstrate that the Mafia continues to pollute our communities with illegal gambling, extortion, and violence while using our financial system in service to their criminal schemes," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said in a statement.

Among those charged are Anthony "Little Anthony" Pipitone, a captain and soldier in the Bonanno family, and Carmelo "Carmine" Polito, acting captain in the Genovese family, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors detail one call Polito made in October 2019 to an associate asking him to relay a message to a debtor: "Tell him I’m going to put him under the f------- bridge."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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