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  • Maine doctor convicted on multiple counts of illegally distributing opioids
    on June 22, 2024 at 8:18 pm

    PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine doctor who runs an addiction treatment center has been convicted on multiple counts of illegally distributing opioids including oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl. Dr. Merideth Norris, 53, of Kennebunk, Maine, was found guilty in federal court Friday of distributing the opioids at her practice. According to court documents, she did so without a legitimate medical purpose and knowing that some patients were battling an opioid addiction. She prescribed the drugs, according to court documents, even after patients failed drug tests or were known to redistribute the drugs in the community. A federal jury convicted Norris on 15 counts of distributing controlled substances and she faces up to 20 years on each count. Prosecutors accused Norris of putting her patients’ safety at risk, according to the Portland Press Herald, and failing to heed warning signs like failed drug tests among her patients or advisories from insurance companies about her prescribing of dangerous combinations of opioids and other drugs. Her defense team tried to make the case that Norris helped patients reduce their medications and that the charges ignored the complexity of treating people who were addicted to opioids and struggled to find a doctor, the newspaper said. Norris could not be reached for comment and her recovery center was closed Saturday. Norris has long faced scrutiny for her prescribing practices, including from pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions she wrote. Walmart pharmacies also issued a “central block,” or a nationwide ban, on filling prescriptions written by Norris. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November
    on June 22, 2024 at 8:09 pm

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump told a group of evangelicals they “cannot afford to sit on the sidelines” of the 2024 election, imploring them at one point to “go and vote, Christians, please!” Trump also endorsed displaying the Ten Commandments in schools and elsewhere while speaking to a group of politically influential evangelical Christians in Washington on Saturday. He drew cheers as he invoked a new law signed in Louisiana this week requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom. “Has anyone read the ‘Thou shalt not steal’? I mean, has anybody read this incredible stuff? It’s just incredible,” Trump said at the gathering of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. “They don’t want it to go up. It’s a crazy world.’’ Trump a day earlier posted an endorsement of the new law on his social media network, saying: “I LOVE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE SCHOOLS, AND MANY OTHER PLACES, FOR THAT MATTER. READ IT — HOW CAN WE, AS A NATION, GO WRONG???” The former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee backed the move as he seeks to galvanize his supporters on the religious right, which has fiercely backed him after initially being suspicious of the twice-divorced New York City tabloid celebrity when he first ran for president in 2016. Trump’s stated opposition to signing a nationwide ban on abortion and his reluctance to detail some of his views on the issue are at odds with many members of the evangelical movement, a key part of Trump’s base that’s expected to help him turn out voters in his November rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden. But while many members of the movement would like to see him do more to restrict abortion, they cheer him as the greatest champion for the cause because of his role in appointing U.S. Supreme Court justices who overturned national abortion rights in 2022. Trump highlighted that Saturday, saying, “We did something that was amazing,” but the issue would be left to people to decide in the states. “Every voter has to go with your heart and do what’s right, but we also have to get elected,” he said. Last year, when Trump addressed the Faith & Freedom Coalition, he said there was “a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life” but didn’t offer any details beyond that. In April of this year, Trump said he believed the issue should now be left to the states. He later stated in an interview that he would not sign a nationwide ban on abortion if it was passed by Congress. He has still declined to detail his position on women’s access to the abortion pill mifepristone. About two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal, according to polling last year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Attendees at the evangelical gathering on Saturday said that while they’d like to see a national abortion ban, Trump isn’t losing any of their deep support. “I would prefer if he would sign a national ban,” said Jerri Dickinson, a 78-year-old retired social worker and Faith & Freedom member from New Jersey. “I understand though, that as in accordance with the Constitution, that decision should be left up to the states.” Dickinson said she can’t stand the abortion law in her state, which does not set limits on the procedure based on gestational age. But she said outside of preferring a national ban, leaving the issue to the state “is the best alternative.” John Pudner, a 59-year-old who recently started a Faith & Freedom chapter in his home state of Wisconsin, said members of the movement feel loyal to Trump but “we’d generally like him to be more pro-life.” “I think a lot, you know, within the pro-life movement feel like, well, gosh, they’re kind of thinking he’s too far pro-choice,” he said. “But because they appreciate his Supreme Court justices, like that’s a positive within the pro-life community.” According to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate, about 8 in 10 white evangelical Christian voters supported Trump in 2020, and nearly 4 in 10 Trump voters identified as white evangelical Christians. White evangelical Christians made up about 20% of the overall electorate that year. Beyond just offering their own support in the general election, the Faith & Freedom Coalition plans to help get out the vote for Trump and other Republicans, aiming to use volunteers and paid workers to knock on millions of doors in battleground states. Later Saturday, Trump plans to hold an evening rally in Philadelphia. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Flooding forces people from homes in some parts of Iowa while much of US toils again in heat
    on June 22, 2024 at 8:03 pm

    Floodwaters forced people out of their homes in parts of Iowa, the result of weeks of rain, while much of the United States longed for relief Saturday from yet another round of extraordinary heat. Sirens blared at 2 a.m. in Rock Valley, Iowa, population 4,200, where people in hundreds of homes were told to get out as the Rock River could no longer take rain that has slammed the region. The city lacked running water because wells were unusable. Mayor Kevin Van Otterloo said a state helicopter was on its way to help but was called off when boats were able to reach stranded residents. “We’ve had so much rain here,” he said. “We had four inches last night in an hour and a half time. Our ground just cannot take anymore.” Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a disaster for Sioux County, which includes Rock Valley. Drone video posted by the local sheriff showed no streets, just roofs and the tops of trees above water. Elsewhere in the U.S., the miserable grip of heat and humidity continued. The National Weather Service said roughly 15 million people were under a heat warning — the highest warning — while another 90 million were under a heat advisory. Millions of residents across the country have had their lives disrupted by daysof unusually high temperatures. The U.S. last year experienced the most heat waves since 1936, experts said. An Associated Press analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found that the excessive heat contributed to more than 2,300 U.S. deaths, the highest number in 45 years of records. Temperatures around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) were predicted for Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, while Philadelphia; Newark, New Jersey; Columbus, Ohio; and Detroit were bracing for the high 90s. Heat-related hospital visits in New York state lately were 500% higher than on the average June day, according to the Department of Health. “We still have this prolonged heat wave across portions of the Ohio Valley and into the Northeast,” weather service meteorologist Marc Chenard said. “We get a little bit of relief by early in the week, at least in the eastern U.S., the Northeast, but in general above-normal temperatures are going to cover a large portion of the country even into next week.” In southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy said 8,300 customers still lacked power Saturday morning from storm-related outages, compared to 75,000 homes and businesses earlier in the week. Flooding from rain was a problem in southeastern South Dakota and northwestern Iowa. Several highways were closed, including a key stretch of Interstate 29, south of Sioux Falls, where there were no alternate routes. Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city, had more than 7 inches (17.7 centimeters) of rain in three days. In Iowa, power was cut off at wastewater treatment plants in Hawarden and Spencer, which together have 14,000 residents. Aiden Engelkes said he and his girlfriend grabbed clothes, cats and bottled water and left their flooded first-floor apartment in Spencer for a friend’s dry space on the fourth floor. “It’s terrifying,” Engelkes, 20, said, adding that friends across the street were on a roof waiting for help. In New Mexico, heavy rain and flash flood warnings prompted officials to order some mandatory evacuations, with shelters set up for displaced residents. The National Weather Service office announced a flash flood emergency on Friday night through early Saturday. The impacted areas included the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico and communities near Albuquerque. In Ruidoso, a mountain village in New Mexico, full-time residents will be allowed to return Monday after they were forced out by wildfires, though everyday life won’t return to normal. “You’re going to need to bring a week’s worth of food, you’re going to need to bring drinking water,” Mayor Lynn Crawford said on Facebook. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Rains, cooler weather help firefighters gain ground on large wildfires in southern New Mexico
    on June 22, 2024 at 7:18 pm

    RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) — Recent rains and cooler weather are helping more than 1,000 firefighters gain ground on two wildfires in southern New Mexico on Saturday that have killed two people, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands to flee. Fire crews took advantage of temperatures in the 70s, scattered showers and light winds to use bulldozers to dig protective lines while hand crews used shovels in more rugged terrain to battle the fires near the mountain village of Ruidoso. The South Fork Fire, which reached 26 square miles (67 square kilometers), was 26% contained, while the Salt Fire, at 12 square miles (31 square kilometers), was 7% contained as of Saturday morning, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Full containment was not expected until July 15, per the agency. Elsewhere in New Mexico, heavy rain and flash flood warnings prompted officials to order some mandatory evacuations Friday in the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and communities near Albuquerque, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Ruidoso. Las Vegas set up shelters for displaced residents, and some evacuation orders remained in place there on Saturday. Flash flood warnings were canceled Saturday, though the National Weather Service said afternoon storms could produce excessive runoff and more flooding in the area. The wildfires have destroyed or damaged an estimated 1,400 structures. Other fallout from the fires — including downed power lines, damaged water, sewer and gas lines, flooding in burn scars — continued “to pose risks to firefighters and the public,” according to a Saturday update from the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. Evacuations in areas near Ruidoso and road closures were still in effect. In Ruidoso, full-time residents will be allowed to return Monday, though everyday life won’t return to normal. “You’re going to need to bring a week’s worth of food, you’re going to need to bring drinking water,” Mayor Lynn Crawford said on Facebook. Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham were scheduled to tour the disaster area Saturday. President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration for parts of southern New Mexico on Thursday, freeing up funding and more resources to help with recovery efforts including temporary housing, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property and other emergency work in Lincoln County and on lands belonging to the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Much of the Southwest has been exceedingly dry and hot in recent months. Those conditions, along with strong wind, whipped the flames out of control, rapidly advancing the South Fork Fire into Ruidoso in a matter of hours. Evacuations extended to hundreds of homes, businesses, a regional medical center and the Ruidoso Downs horse track. Nationwide, wildfires have scorched more than 3,344 square miles (8,660 square kilometers) this year — a figure higher than the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • California Democrats agree to delay health care worker minimum wage increase to help balance budget
    on June 22, 2024 at 7:18 pm

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democrats in California have agreed to delay a minimum wage increase for about 426,000 health care workers to help balance the state’s budget. The agreement between Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders is part of a larger plan to close an estimated $46.8 billion budget shortfall — the second year in a row the nation’s most populous state has had a multi-billion dollar deficit. Health care workers in California were supposed to get a raise on July 1, part of a plan to gradually increase their pay to $25 per hour over the next decade. Now, if approved by the state Legislature next week, they could get that raise on Oct. 15 — but only if California’s revenues between July and September are at least 3% higher than what state officials have estimated. If that doesn’t happen, the raise won’t start until Jan. 1 at the latest. The delay preserves a hard-fought victory for one of the state’s largest labor unions — and one of Democrats’ largest campaign donors. Dave Regan, president of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, said workers are disappointed they won’t get raises this summer. “But we also recognize and appreciate that legislative leaders and the Governor listened to us as we mobilized and spoke out this year to insist that, despite a historic budget deficit, California’s patient care and healthcare workforce crisis must be addressed,” he said. The minimum wage for most people in California is $16 per hour, which is already among the highest in the nation. The minimum wage for fast most food workers in California is $20 per hour, an increase that began in April and has had ripple effects across the state. But increasing wages for health care workers is trickier because of the impact on the state budget. California employs some health care workers, and it also pays for medical benefits through the state’s Medicaid program. The Newsom administration had previously said the minimum wage increase would cost the state about $2 billion. But if delayed until January, the increase will cost the state’s general fund about $600 million — a figure that would rise yearly to reflect scheduled increases until it reaches $25 per hour for most health care workers. California’s revenues, while declining for much of the past two years, have rebounded recently. “We are confident that the initial raise for workers who have not yet received it will happen in the Fall,” Regan said. In total, the budget agreement would approve $297.9 billion in spending over the next fiscal year that begins on July 1. Newsom and legislative leaders agreed to $16 billion in cuts, including $110 million to a program that helps students from middle-class families pay for college and $1.1 billion in reductions across various affordable housing programs. But Newsom and lawmakers agreed to abandon some previously proposed budget cuts, including one that would have stopped paying for people to care for some low-income disabled immigrants who are on Medicaid. Lawmakers agreed to loan Pacific Gas & Electric $400 million to help extend the life of the state’s only remaining nuclear power plant — money that some lawmakers had opposed because they were worried the state might not ever be paid back. And Newsom agreed to increase how much the state’s Medicaid program pays doctors to treat patients — money he had previously proposed to cut despite concerns from lawmakers that it would only increase a shortage of doctors willing to treat Medicaid patients. Those increases could be withdrawn, depending on the outcome of a November ballot measure. “This agreement sets the state on a path for long-term fiscal stability — addressing the current shortfall and strengthening budget resilience down the road,” Newsom said. Lawmakers are likely to vote on the budget this week. Republicans, who don’t control enough seats to influence legislation, say they were left out of the negotiations. Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire called it a “tough budget year,” but said elected officials were able “to shrink the shortfall, protect our progress, and maintain responsible reserves.” Democratic Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas said the Assembly “fought hard to protect the public services that matter most to Californians.” Brought to you by www.srnnews.com