The latest local news

Local child thinks of mail workers during heat wave

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MOLINE, Illinois — Mail workers in Moline might be relieved to find a present on a few doorsteps.

9-year old Moline resident Lydia Ziegler makes it a habit to leave out a cold drink for the men and women who deliver her family’s mail.

According to her father, Nick, she does this as much as every day or every other day because she feels sorry for people who have to work outside in the intense summer heat. She even makes sure to do it when she’s at the homes of her various grandparents.

When the family is out driving, Lydia looks out at the steps of other community homes and takes note of how unique her contribution is .

Lydia and Nick Ziegler both believe it’s a simple gesture that makes the days of overheating workers just a little bit better.

Demolition Derbies to return to area county fairs

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Two area county fairs will see the annual return of of demolition derby events.

The Rock Island County Fair in East Moline, IL and the Clinton County Fair in Dewitt, IA will feature the car-smashing race in their event schedules.

The derbies will be held at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds at 7 PM on Saturday, July 20th, and at the Clinton County Fairgrounds at 6 PM on Sunday, July 21st.

The events will kick off with Power Wheels for Kids before getting into the main races.

Rules, further information, and contact details are available on the derby group’s Facebook page.

11 things to know about the historic Apollo 11 mission

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(CNN) — Saturday is the anniversary of what many consider to be the greatest achievement of the 20th century.

It’s been 50 years since astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the surface of the moon. Buzz Aldrin followed him out of the Eagle lander while Michael Collins orbited the moon in the Columbia spacecraft.

Celebrations commemorating that day are planned across the country Saturday.

Whether you saw the landing as it happened on Sunday, July 20, 1969, or recently watched rare or never-before-seen footage in the documentary, “Apollo 11,” produced in partnership with CNN Films, there may be some things you’ve forgotten or never knew about the mission.

Training for Apollo 11 was hectic and dangerous

In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy Jr. set a goal many doubted would ever happen: He wanted to land a man on the moon before the decade was over. As pointed out by Charles Beames, the executive chairman at York Space Systems, Kennedy’s Moonshot was part Cold War strategy. If it was successful, it would show America’s dominance in the space race.

To pull it off, the Apollo astronauts and the teams that supported them put in grueling hours of training. They were so busy that they didn’t know much about the events of the 1960s unfolding outside of what they were doing. They would catch up on the Vietnam War and other headlines later.

But the work was also dangerous. On May 6, 1968, Armstrong performed his 22nd flight of Lunar Landing Research Vehicle No. 1 at Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston. Five minutes in, he lost control of the vehicle due to a loss of helium pressure and was ejected 200 feet above the ground as the vehicle crashed and burned on impact.

Later, he would say that the Eagle, the spacecraft he and Aldrin landed on the moon, handled just like the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, which he flew more than 30 times before Apollo 11.

“That of course gave me a good deal of confidence — a comfortable familiarity,” Armstrong said at the time. “It was a contrary machine and a risky machine but a very useful one.”

The woman in the room

On July 16, 1969, the day of Apollo 11’s historic launch, rows of men in shirts and ties lined the consoles inside Kennedy Space Center.

But one woman stood out — 28-year-old JoAnn Morgan.

Morgan, who worked as an instrumentation controller for the mission, was the only woman allowed inside the firing room where NASA employees were locked during Apollo 11’s historic liftoff.

Morgan needed to be in the room to alert the test team if anything went wrong, but she had to get special permission to be there. Morgan also endured obscene phone calls and had to use the men’s restroom because there weren’t any for women.

She went on to pave a path as one of NASA’s first female engineers. After Apollo 11, Morgan’s career took off. From 1958 to 2003, she continued to break barriers and became the first female senior executive at the Kennedy Space Center.

And the woman who helped land men on the moon

Margaret Hamilton was the software engineer who developed the onboard computer programs that powered NASA’s Apollo missions, including the 1969 moon landing.

Hamilton effectively invented the term “software engineer” with her work developing the Apollo guidance computer, the lifeline for astronauts that controlled the spacecraft. The computer processor on the Apollo 11’s lunar module nearly overloaded as the craft neared the moon, which could have forced Armstrong and Aldrin to abort, according to Google, which is honoring Hamilton on the lunar landing anniversary.

But the software cleared all tasks each time it neared overload, allowing the astronauts to enter the landing commands. The software’s emergency preparedness is thought to have helped save the mission, Hamilton wrote.

For the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, Google unveiled a giant tribute to Hamilton in California’s Mojave Desert: More than 107,000 mirrors were positioned to reflect moonlight and form her image for one night on the grounds of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the world’s largest solar thermal power plant.

Armstrong was ‘Mr. Cool’

The Apollo 11 crew of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins traveled 240,000 miles in 76 hours to reach the moon. Collins remained in the spacecraft, Columbia, while Armstrong and Aldrin headed to the lunar surface in the Eagle.

As Aldrin and Armstrong approached, Armstrong had to take control and navigate beyond the targeted landing spot. Boulders littered the area, and even though they were running dangerously low on fuel, Armstrong piloted the lander like a helicopter and landed in the perfect spot, all while alarms sounded warnings. When the lunar module landed on the moon, it had less than 40 seconds of fuel left.

Years later, Apollo 11 flight dynamics team leader Jerry Bostick asked Armstrong what he would have done if Houston had called for an abort during the landing phase.

“And he said, ‘Well, I probably would have said, “Say again Houston, I didn’t copy that,” and gone ahead and landed.’ And he would have. And he would have done it. That’s how much confidence that I and the other people involved had in Neil Armstrong. He could do the impossible,” Bostick said.

It was this dynamic that earned Armstrong the nickname “Mr. Cool.” Some people called him “First Man.”

After the successful Apollo 11 flight, Collins saw another side of Armstrong as the three astronauts embarked on a trip around the world to talk about their experiences. Armstrong was their spokesman.

“But what people maybe don’t know about First Man was that First Man was one marvelous proponent of the virtues of the United States and spread those all over the globe,” Collins said.

What the moon landing looked like

The historic moment of Armstrong stepping on the moon roughly six hours later was actually quite blurry as it was seen on TV. The shot came from a camera attached to the lander.

But what many don’t know is that Aldrin was filming Armstrong, too; he captured those monumental steps from above, while inside the lander, looking down the ladder at Armstrong.

Apollo fans and experts have long known about this angle. But the public hasn’t previously seen it uncut and in high-resolution, a view that expands our knowledge of the mission. It can be seen in the “Apollo 11” film.

And then there are the photos. While the lunar surface looks quite alien up close, some of the most breathtaking images were captured when the astronauts turned the camera back to the view of Earth from space.

“Strangely enough, it looks fragile somehow,” Collins said. “You want to take care of it. You want to nurture it. You want to be good to it. All the beauty, it was wonderful, it was tiny, it’s our home, everything I knew, but fragile, strange.”

Collins wasn’t the ‘loneliest man’

While Aldrin and Armstrong landed on the moon, Collins kept circling it. Once Armstrong and Aldrin were finished, he would rendezvous and dock with the Eagle after it left the lunar surface.

Collins was often called “the loneliest man” once he returned to Earth, but he didn’t feel that way — even when he lost contact with Mission Control during his flybys on the far side of the moon.

“It was a happy home. I liked Columbia,” he said. “It reminded me, in a way, of almost like a church or a cathedral. It had the apse, the three couches, and then you went down into where the altar was. That was the guidance and navigation system. And it was laid out almost like a cathedral. And I had hot coffee. I had music I could play if I wanted to. I had people to talk to on the radio, sometimes too many people talking too much on the radio. So I enjoyed that interlude. Being by myself in a machine up in the air somewhere was not unknown to me, and so everything was working well within Columbia, and I enjoyed it.”

A meal on the moon

The first meal eaten in space was in the spring of 1961 by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. He had pureed meat in a squeezable toothpaste-style tube, followed by a tube of chocolate sauce.

The Apollo 11 astronauts, meanwhile, had more than 70 food items to choose from. Among the foods that were eaten on the surface of the moon in the lunar module were beef stew, bacon squares, date fruit cake and grape punch.

Astronauts roaming the lunar surface also had drinking devices with water installed in their space suits, and if they were peckish they could nibble on the high nutrient food bar in their helmet.

400,000 people worked on the Apollo 11 mission

The full triumph of Apollo 11 doesn’t just belong to the astronauts. It also includes the 400,000 people that supported the mission across the country, mainly at Johnson Space Center in Houston and Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Young college graduates flocked to NASA after Kennedy’s 1961 speech.

During Apollo 11, everyone who could possibly be needed or called upon during the mission was in a room at Cape Canaveral or Houston. They each had a specific task. And they all wanted to be there. They jockeyed for places to plug in their headsets and sat on steps.

“It was a can-do attitude,” said Bostick, the flight dynamics team leader. “We were very sober and somber in what we were doing. We took it very seriously. We worked very hard. But at the same time it was fun, we really didn’t think of it as a job, even though we were working 12 hours a day at least, six days a week. We didn’t understand the magnitude of what we were doing.”

Mission Control was more than a room

The small room depicted in movies often shows team leaders sitting at consoles and staring at monitors.

But to accommodate the thousands of people needed, team members were in various control rooms, staff support rooms, back rooms, simulators, computing complexes and the projection room known as the “batcave.”

Over the years, Apollo Mission Control and its surrounding rooms fell into disrepair. Recently, it was restored and reopened. Apollo flight controllers worked on the project to make sure it was authentic — down to the carpet, wallpaper and even the cigarette butts in the ashtrays.

NASA had an art program

Art was a priority for NASA’s second administrator, Jim Webb. He established NASA’s art program in 1962 and allowed artists to start coming to the agency in 1963. He saw a need for art to capture the history that was being made and portray it for the American people. The artists were given free rein.

Norman Rockwell’s famous painting of astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young originated during the early days of the program, in 1965. Andy Warhol painted a silkscreen series of Aldrin standing on the moon next to the American flag.

Apollo 11 opened the door to space

“The Apollo program made space accessible to us,” said Mason Peck, former NASA chief technologist and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University. “Those brief visits to the moon set a high bar for NASA and for all space exploration since.”

In order for Apollo to be possible, NASA had to build a complex system. Spaceflight navigation had to be configured. Although there was a foundation of the mechanics of flight in the military, space was new territory. Everything was new. Apollo even helped trigger the formation of planetary science as its own field.

“It really built a infrastructure that didn’t exist,” said Marshall Smith, NASA’s director of human lunar exploration. The program created a boost for technology and economy and allowed for the return of lunar samples to Earth, enabling a better understanding of our solar system’s history.”

The Apollo program, which saw 12 men walk on the surface of the moon, was shuttered after the final flight of Apollo 17, in 1972. But by 2024, NASA vows to land the first woman on the moon with the Artemis program.

Millennials abandoned cereal: General Mills is betting that kids and older people will bring it back

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(CNN) — General Mills has a cereal problem. It thinks children and aging boomers can help solve it.

The cereal category has been shrinking over the past several years as increasingly health-conscious consumers turn to other options. But cereal remains important to General Mills: Along with yogurt, it makes up about 30% of the company’s overall business.

To strengthen the category, General Mills is trying a number of different things, like leaning into nostalgic, sugary cereals and exploring new food trends. It’s also banking on changing demographics in the United States to help boost sales, said Jonathon Nudi, group president of North America retail for General Mills, during a recent investor day presentation.

According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the population of children in the United States has been declining or about flat for the past several years. In 2010, there were 74.1 million children in the US. In 2017 that figure was 73.7 million. The group projects that number will tick back up to 74.1 million in 2020, and hit 75 million in 2025.

Meanwhile, the US population is aging rapidly. The Census Bureau predicts that in 2035, older adults will outnumber kids for the first time in the United States.

Those groups have “some of the highest levels of per capita cereal consumption,” Nudi said. By catering to these customers, the company can “drive further category improvement,’ he said.

While Millennials have generally turned away from cereal as a meal -— instead snacking on it during the day or swapping it out for dessert on occasion — kids and older adults who eat cereal still like it for breakfast.

The stronger preference for cereal among older adults and children has been going on for “decades,” said Mike Siemienas, a spokesperson for General Mills.

Cereal is popular among parents looking for an easy, convenient way to prepare breakfast for kids, said Alexander Esposito, research analyst at Euromonitor International. And the sweet flavors tend to appeal to children, he added.

For people over 55, cereal is attractive because it offers certain nutritional benefits, like fiber. While Millennials and younger adults tend to care about “ethical labels,” like organic certifications and may try avoid foods that use genetically-modified organisms, for older adults “the health implications are a bit more real,” Esposito said.

Plus, people who grew up eating cereal tend to eat less when they enter the workforce and start eating breakfast on the go, noted John Baumgartner, an analyst who covers food for Wells Fargo. When they hit retirement age, they may return to the habit, he added.

General Mills uses Cheerios in particular to advertise to customers concerned about heart health. A “hearts matter” page on the Cheerios website notes that the Honey Nut Cheerios “makes heart health enjoyable.” The company is doubling down on that messaging this year, Nudi said, “to clearly communicate the health benefits of this product to boomers.”

Honey Nut and regular Cheerios perform well both with children and older adults, said Siemienas. Two other brands that do well with children are Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms, he added. Older adults prefer Wheaties and Fiber One.

To capitalize on the trend, General Mills is trying to appeal to both age groups.

Cheerios is continuing a partnership with Ellen DeGeneres to try to reach to her fans. Reese’s Puffs, geared toward a younger audience, has partnered with rapper Travis Scott. General Mills has also revamped the look of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, decorating the box with “Cinnamojis.”

Baumgartner pointed out that General Mills just needs to keep cereal sales steady to do well, because it relies on other parts of its business, like snacks and pet food, for growth.

“They don’t really have to have the cereal category be a growth category,” he said. “As long as it’s flat to slightly up, I think that’s all they really need.”

Sportscast July 19, 2019

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Baseball teams in Iowa begin their first step to making it to the state tournament.  Central DeWitt stays undefeated beating Anamosa 8-5.

Davenport Central wins a back and forth game against Dubuque Senior 8-5.

Davenport West has lead disappear late, then the Falcons get a walk off win over Clinton 7-6.

Pleasant Valley comes back to beat Cedar Rapids Jefferson 8-5.

Bettendorf falls to Linn-Mar 6-5.

Iowa Hawkeyes meet the media at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.  The Hawks are excited about their team and have high expectations this season.

Firefighters battle flames, extreme heat at Davenport house fire

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DAVENPORT, Iowa -- On Friday, Davenport Firefighters tackled a house fire with heat index values above 110 degrees.

It happened in the 1400 block of West 3rd Street in Davenport just after 1:00 p.m. Heavy smoke could be seen coming from the backside of the two-story apartment building.

"They went at it pretty fast and they got it stopped pretty quick," said District Fire Chief, Neil Gainey.

But that home is one of many Davenport firefighters will respond to as temperatures climb higher into the 90s. And as temperatures rise, so does the risk.

"They're working harder, they're breathing faster and your air bottles deplete quicker," said Chief Gainey.

Davenport firefighter, Nathan Numkena, said temperatures as high as today's is a little more concerning. A risk much larger than the flames they fight - and it begins before they even head out the door.

"You're getting in your gear and it's been sitting out in the station and it's already hot when you put it on," said Numkena. "You're sweating just sitting on the fire truck, heading out the door, and we got the windows down and it's hot no matter where you go."

An intense heat firefighters are fighting by staying hydrated. Emergency Medical Technicians on scene, standing by with water, ready to treat anyone in need of help -- even those in uniform.

"You're not going to last as long in there," said Numkena.  "Your heart rate starts going up a lot faster, it's just some of the natural processes for your body when it gets hot."

Chief Gainey said on days with high heat, he rotates his crew every 5-10 minutes.

"Their core temperature goes up real fast," said Chief Gainey. "So as soon as possible if we could get their jackets off and get them down to just their pants or their boots and allow the heat to dissipate off of them."

And for newcomer, Nate King, even on his third shift ever with the department, he has learned quickly how to stay cool.

"I just try to maintain thinking normally, breathing normally, and just trying not to get too hyped up," King said. "Just try to calm my nerves."

Nerves that could weigh heavy on those who put their lives on the line in this heat.

"If you do get hit with heat stroke or heat exhaustion - you're more prone to it," said Numkena. "So kind of it will effect your career not just today, but down the road. But you know, we're never thinking of that stuff. We just go in to do what we have to do."

No firefighters or residents inside the building suffered heat-related injuries. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

YOUR HEALTH: Detecting the deadliest cancers with computer programming

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ORLANDO, Florida – One of the biggest challenges in cancer treatment is catching it at an early stage before it has spread.

"Something around 30% to 40% cancers is missed during the early stages of screening," explained Naji Khosravan, a researcher with the Center for Research in Computer Vision at the University of Central Florida.

Lung and pancreatic cancers are very often difficult to treat, especially when the cancer has spread to other organs.

Today, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer that has spread is 5%, it's 3% for pancreatic cancer.

But doctors may soon have new tool to help in the fight against cancer.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) system to detect tiny specks of lung cancer in CT-scans.

"The radiologists tend to miss them because they look like you know like the normal tissue and it is very natural to miss those tumors," said Ulas Bagci, professor at UCF's Computer Science Center for Research.

The researchers train the system to look for patterns in the scan to find tiny tumors.   Then the system analyzes it and determines whether the tumor is cancerous.

Bagci says small tumors can be missed 30% to 40% of the time, but with the Artificial Intelligence system, "our overall system has more than 90% accuracy and for specific tumor size our system is able to detect more than 95%."

"So we are actually helping them to improve their screening strategies and especially for very small nodules," said Bagci.

The success has led them to a partnership with the Mayo Clinic in Florida to develop a similar system to spot pre-malignant cysts in the pancreas that can lead to pancreatic cancer.

"With pancreatic cancers, over half of patients are not diagnosed until a very late stage," said research student Rodney LaLonde.

"So our idea is to find the pancreatic cyst before they turn into cancer," said Bagci.  "It is going to improve the life span of people because you are capturing the lung cancer or pancreatic cancer at the early phrase."

And improving the survival rates of patients.

The researchers have already filed for a patent for the Artificial Intelligence system to detect pancreatic cysts.   Now they are looking to get FDA approval for clinical use for both the lung and pancreatic cancer systems so doctors can start using them in hospital settings.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Putnam Museum uses anniversary of Apollo 11 to teach kids about flight

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DAVENPORT, Iowa - The Putnam Museum is using the 50 year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission as an opportunity to teach a younger generation about the history of the lunar landing.

On Friday, July 19, the children participating in the museum's Flight Academy summer camp had a chance to learn about space, and flight.

Among those students was 10-year-old Anessh Narmeta. He is heading into 5th grade and was building his own rocket that he would launch over the moon.

To be clear, it was a stomp rocket that he was launching over a whiteboard with a moon drawn on it.

Still, he says the activity reminds him how important it is to learn about space.

"I wouldn't know anything about space if it wasn't for the people who went to mars, who went to the moon," he said.

These are the types of lessons that leaders at the Putnam Museum say will help shape the future of the Quad Cities community.

"It's the 50th anniversary of, I’d say, one of man’s biggest achievements and these children weren’t alive at the time. They don’t know about it," said Michele Darland, Relationship Advancement Director at Putnam Museum. "We can teach them what happened, we can teach them about the technology and the science behind it."

Narmeta said he has no plans to become an astronaut.

"I want to stay on earth," the 10-year-old said while considering the demands of the job. "I'm not scared of heights but I am scared of going far away from my family. I get homesick very easily."

However, it's still a lesson he and his fellow campers appreciate. And, it's one that will help them understand the limits of mankind.

The Putnam will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing with a party on July 20.

Anyone 21-years-old or older can attend a party that will spark over-the-moon nostalgia.

The event starts at 7:00 p.m.

Also on July 20, the Putnam will host The Day We Walked on the Moon on the Giant Screen. The documentary, produced by the Smithsonian Channel, tells the story of the historic moon landing through interviews with key figures in mission controlm contemporary astronauts and the families of Buzz Aldrin and Neild Armstrong.

The movie will offer a glimpse into the dangers that existed with the Apollo 11 mission.

The movie will also run on July 21.

For more information, click  HERE.

To Fix the Problem, Fix your Pets; simple message after almost 80 cats rescued from Monmouth home

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MONMOUTH, Illinois-- A cat rescue situation in Monmouth, Illinois is getting my extensive by the minute. The number of felines that need help is growing.

Earlier this week, 79 cats were pulled from a home after neighbors reported the situation to police.

The rescues are now being treated at a number of different animal hospitals and shelters in the area, but some were too sick and had to be euthanized.

Take a step inside the Warren County Animal Control Center. Every single crate and stall is filled with cats rescued from one home.

"Today we're in the process of evaluating. We have several at the vet right now,m" says Monmouth Animal Control Officer Robbin Avery.

After the animals are medically cleared, they can be moved to different shelters to be put up for adoption.

"Some have eye problems, upper respiratory, they have wounds from fleas biting them," says Dan Porter from the Western Illinois Animal Rescue.

But with every step forward, rescuers have taken steps back, finding more cats that need care.

"We do keep coming across more and more that are pregnant, and so the number of 79 is already going to climb probably quite high," says Avery.

Avery sees how a situation like this could get out of control quickly.

"One cat can have hundreds and hundreds of cats over five years, and that's a huge problem," says Avery.

Now in order to move forward, Avery says it's going to take the help of pet owners everywhere.

"Spay and neuter, I wish I could tell you how many times I've repeated that," says Avery.

To fix the problem, fix your pets.

Police have sent an investigation report to the Warren County State's Attorney to consider charges against the people who live in the house where the cats were rescued.

Bernie Sanders’ unionized staffers clash with campaign over guarantee of $15 an hour

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(CNN) — Sen. Bernie Sanders is a staple on the front lines of the labor fight, leading the charge in Washington and around the country to raise the minimum wage for workers to $15 an hour. But within his own campaign, which unionized earlier this year, tense discussions over pay have spilled out into public view.

The dispute threatens to undermine Sanders’ political message and, if it were to escalate, his ability to credibly advocate for workers around the country currently engaged in their own struggles to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions.

Word of the discontent first emerged publicly on Thursday night, in a Washington Post report detailing campaign field staff’s frustration that their base pay, in some instances, does not match the $15-an-hour mandate that Sanders, as a legislator and candidate, has pressed for as the base minimum wage across the country. As the campaign ramps up, field staff are often required to work 10-hour, 6-day weeks, driving down their average hourly compensation.

A source tells CNN that campaign officials were in a room with representatives from the union, discussing the topic, when the campaign was first made aware of the Post’s story.

In a statement to CNN, Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said that the campaign offered the field staff a boost in pay that would guarantee a $15 an hour salary commensurate with a 40-hour work week. That proposal, according to Shakir, was rejected by the membership.

“As strong supporters of organized labor, this formal process is the sole process for making changes to the collective bargaining agreement. It would be anti-union, and likely illegal, for the campaign to negotiate outside this process,” Shakir said. “We look forward to continuing those discussions and obviously are disappointed that some individuals decided to damage the integrity of these efforts before they were concluded.”

As the negotiations continue, Shakir said he would be limiting the work week for field staff to only 40 hours a week.

Jonathan Williams, a spokesperson for the UFCW Local 400 would not comment on the specifics of the negotiations, but in a statement the union said it would continue working with the campaign to sort out the ongoing concerns.

“First and foremost, our union is a democratic organization. We cannot comment on specific, ongoing internal processes between our members and their employer, particularly without the consent of our members,” the union said. “We can say that our union is proud to advocate for every member in every workplace we represent to earn a better life — both during contract negotiations and beyond.”

The leaked details from the negotiations and internal messaging within the campaign came at a particularly uncomfortable time for Sanders, who had only hours earlier praised the House Democrats for their historic vote to pass of the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Four years ago, when I first introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, it was considered an impossible dream,” Sanders said in a statement on Thursday. “Today, I am proud to say that a $15 minimum wage has gone from laughable to inevitable.”

Its fate within his own campaign, though, remains unresolved. Campaign work hours are notoriously hard to plan out and predict, which is one of the reasons three current presidential hopefuls’ staffs — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s and former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro’s — have unionized and others down the ballot have done the same.

A source directly connected to the ongoing negotiations between the Sanders campaign and the union representing his field staff, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, confirmed to CNN on Friday that the two sides are actively negotiating staffers’ pay scale within the confines of the collective bargaining agreement agreed to in early May.

“Political campaigns are cause-driven and because there is always more work that can be done, staffers are typically worked to the bone,” Local 400 President Mark P. Federici said back on May 8, after their contract was ratified. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. Even political work must be subject to minimum standards. I congratulate our members on the Bernie Sanders campaign for making their own revolution.”

But the details revealed on Thursday night underscore the difficulties that have made the unionization of political campaigns so difficult, and unusual, for so many years.

Still, Sanders has been supportive of the effort and the campaign voluntarily recognized staffers’ bargaining unit.

“We cannot just support unions with words, we must back it up with actions,” he tweeted back in March. “On this campaign and when we are in the White House, we are going to make it easier for people to join unions, not harder.”

Sources from both the campaign and the union confirmed that the collective bargaining agreement, ratified in May, set a base pay rate for field staff at $36,000 a year. That salary works out to under $15 and hour based on the 60-hour work week. But in addition to the pay scale, the CBA also provides full health insurance without a premium, mental health benefits, parental leave options, a gas card for use while on the job and other options not traditionally available to low-level campaign staff.

Additionally, the CBA also has a provision within the union construct called “Labor Committees,” which allows for rank-and-file members to serve as part of a democratic process allowing them to raise concerns about various issues. That includes pay, but could also be housing options, workplace environment and benefits.

Parents told children with school lunch debt could end up in foster care

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KINGSTON, Pa. – A Pennsylvania school district sent letters to parents threatening that their children could end up in foster care if the students' lunch tabs aren't paid.

Five of the nine members of the Wyoming Valley West School Board criticized the letter, WNEP reports, but the district's solicitor has doubled down, claiming some parents need the threat of losing their kids to get them to pay up.

School officials said the district has collected more than $500 of the $22,000 owed in lunch money since the controversial letter was sent.

Some anonymous donors have chipped in.

Board members said they were blindsided by the letter's threatening language.

Wyoming Valley West School Board Vice President David Usavage said he cringes at the letter's warning: "the result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care."

"The foster care issue, that just had me," said Usavage. "I couldn't believe that that's what it said."

Four other Wyoming Valley West School Board members agree, as does school administrator Joe Muth who signed that letter sent out to about 1,000 parents.

"It could have been toned down. I don't know how to describe it other than I think in writing, it could have been toned down a notch," Muth said.

Wyoming Valley West solicitor Charlie Coslett stands by the letter. Coslett said he's forced 50 families to dependency court for truancy where parents risked having their children placed in foster care because their kids kept skipping school.

"Failure to properly provide for your minor child's nutritional needs, certainly on the scale of relativity, seems to be a more serious offense," said Coslett.

Critics say if a parent doesn't pay a child's lunch bill, it doesn't mean kids are malnourished. By law, the schools must feed them no matter how much their families owe.

"This to me is terrorizing children and families. And it was just so unnecessary," Luzerne County Children and Youth Services director Joanne Van Saun said.

Van Saun says the letter wrongly assumes all families can pay. She pointed to a letter sent to a mother who owed $75.

"Where did that $75 go? Is it going to cigarettes? Is it going to alcohol? We don't know. That's right, we don't know that," Coslett added.

Wyoming Valley West board members believe the district should continue efforts to collect more than $22,000 that is still owed.

Usavage says future letters will be less threatening.

"If someone saw it before it was sent out, someone would have red-lined it and said, 'let's take these two lines out,'" Usavage said.

The Wyoming Valley West School Board now qualifies for enough money to provide free lunches to all students for the upcoming school year.

This year, the district gave free lunches to four elementary and middle schools, and officials think some parents did not pay as a form of protest.

Dollar stores are everywhere. That’s a problem for poor Americans

WQAD News -

(CNN) — As dollar stores sweep across America, they are facing growing scrutiny from opponents who argue that discount chains stifle local competition and limit poor communities’ access to healthy food.

Dollar stores have never been more popular. Yet a wave of cities and towns have passed laws curbing the expansion of Dollar General and Dollar Tree, which bought Family Dollar in 2015. The companies are the two largest dollar store operators in the country, combining for more than 30,000 stores throughout the United States, up from under 20,000 a decade ago. By comparison, Walmart, America’s largest retailer, has 4,700 US stores.

Advocates of tighter controls on dollar stores say the big chains intentionally cluster multiple stores in low-income areas. That strategy discourages supermarkets from opening and it threatens existing mom-and-pop grocers, critics say.

“The business model for these stores is built on saturation,” said Julia McCarthy, senior policy associate at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and a critic of dollar stores. “When you have so many dollar stores in one neighborhood, there’s no incentive for a full-service grocery store to come in.”

Opponents also express concerns that dollar stores don’t offer fresh produce. Dollar General and its dollar store rivals mostly sell snacks, drinks, canned foods and vegetables, household supplies and personal care products at rock-bottom prices.

However, Dollar General and Dollar Tree argue that they benefit communities by offering shoppers convenient places to grab food and essentials at low prices.

“In rural places without existing grocery stores, having a Dollar General might be viewed as an asset,” said Christopher Merrett, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. Dollar stores bring in new sales and property tax revenue for cities, create jobs and expand shopping options for customers, he added.

Dollar stores see an opportunity to grow even more in America. Dollar General and Dollar Tree have plans to open a combined additional 24,000 locations.

But lawmakers around the country are pushing back.

Last week, the city council in Birmingham, Alabama, unanimously approved legislation that would prohibit new dollar stores from opening within a mile of their existing locations.

“While dollar stores proliferated across our community, healthy food options dried up,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin told CNN Business. The new measure will help Birmingham attract and retain grocers in the city’s food deserts, he said.

Oklahoma CityTulsa, Oklahoma, and Mesquite, Texas, have also passed legislation limiting new dollar store openings. And officials in New Orleans, Cleveland and Fort Worth, Texas, are exploring plans to restrict dollar stores in their cities.

“We are disappointed that a small number of policymakers have chosen to limit our ability to serve their communities,” said Crystal Ghassemi, spokesperson for Dollar General. “We believe the addition of each new Dollar General store represents positive economic growth for the communities we serve.”

Dollar store growth

Dollar stores have been around for decades. But they have flourished in the United States since the 2008 recession as more Americans were forced to tighten up their spending.

Although the US economy has strengthened in recent years, dollar stores’ popularity has endured. Wages for a vast number of Americans have grown only modestly. People living paycheck to paycheck have been a boon for dollar stores, and the chains have also reached higher-income shoppers looking for discounts.

“While the economy is doing very well, our core customer continues to struggle,” Dollar General chief executive Todd Vasos told analysts last year. The company’s core customers earn around $40,000 a year or below, $20,000 below the median income.

Dollar General caters mainly to low-and-middle-income customers in rural and suburban areas. Dollar Tree targets suburban, middle-income shoppers, while Family Dollar focuses on lower-income urban and rural customers.

Dollar General looks to build stores in rural areas where a big box retailer or grocery store is not within 15 or 20 miles. Around 75% of Dollar General stores are in towns with 20,000 or fewer people, and the chain has its biggest footprint in southern states. (Dollar General has more stores in Texas alone than Costco and Whole Foods do combined nationwide.)

“Dollar General stores often choose to locate at the edge of a rural town, away from the traditional downtown” to draw customers, said Merrett from Western Illinois University. “This is not very different from what Walmart did 30 years ago.”

Dollar stores can open quickly in new areas because they are small and have lower operating costs than grocery stores. Dollar General stores are 7,400 square feet on average, compared to 40,000 square-foot supermarkets. And stores, which employ just a handful of workers to stock aisles, are cheap to run.

Mounting opposition

However, critics say that dollar stores’ unchecked growth harms local communities.

“Some communities see that dollar stores are very serious competitor to their local retail and grocery,” said David Procter, director of the Rural Grocery Initiative at Kansas State University.

Family-owned grocery stores operate at razor-thin profit margins and dollar stores can pressure them with lower prices, experts say. Although most dollar stores don’t sell fresh groceries, they offer many of the same household products and daily essentials as grocers. Those goods are often the highest-margin items and grocery owners can’t afford to lose them, Procter noted.

“When the dollar stores take the bulk of that business, it really is hurting their bottom line pretty significantly,” he said.

Burnell Cotlon, owner of the Lower 9th Ward Market in New Orleans, said his grocery store suffered when Family Dollar opened up in the neighborhood. Cotlon lost valuable detergent, toothpaste and toiletry sales.

“I had to push harder on other items to stay afloat,” said Cotlon, who has gained national recognition for opening one of the only grocery stores in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

But the Family Dollar recently closed, which drove customers back to Cotlon’s store. “As soon as they closed down, my toiletry items jumped back up.”

Other local residents and business leaders worry that dollar stores’ concentration in urban areas deter grocery stores, which offer a wide range of produce and healthy options, from opening.

“There are almost 100 dollar-type stores in a ten-mile radius,” said Fort Worth Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray. “They are heavily located in low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods, which makes their presence feel predatory.”

And Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin, who has introduced a moratorium on new dollar store openings, expressed concern that dollar stores do not offer fresh fruits or vegetables.

“A lot of the people that live in our communities live in food deserts,” Griffin said. Dollar stores “drive out chains that actually offer good, healthy food options.”

Dollar General’s produce initiative

Dollar General is trying to fend off criticism that it does not sell healthy or fresh food.

It has added around 125 “better for you” items to its shelves at approximately 3,400 stores. It plans to reach 6,000 stores by the end of 2019. The products appear under Dollar General’s Good & Smart house brand, and the store carries name brands like Annie’s, Back to Nature and Kashi.

Dollar General has started to offer fruit and vegetables for the first time at around 500 stores, too. CEO Vasos said last year that Dollar General can “drive a tremendous amount of traffic” by adding produce in rural and urban food deserts.

But opponents like McCarthy from the Center for Science in the Public Interest say Dollar General’s produce effort does not go far enough because it only reaches a fraction of the company’s more than 15,000 stores.

Nebraska woman claims Spider-Man sculpture is ‘a hate crime against the church’

WQAD News -

LINCOLN, Neb. – A Nebraska woman is calling for the removal of a statue she says is demonic in nature. The subject of the statue in question – Spider-Man.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the woman believes the six-foot tall statue of the Marvel hero’s hands shooting webs is both “anti-Christian” and “demonic.”

The sculpture contains traditional Spider-Man imagery: hands pointing forward with the middle and ring fingers pressed to the palms, shooting webs.

The woman sent an email to the city’s mayor, saying in part that it was “a sculpture of two hands open, painted Red & Black, and formed into Devil Horns.”

To make matters more interesting, the statue is not even a city issue, according to KOVR. The statue is reportedly part of a public art display called “Serving Hands Lincoln;” the project will benefit a nonprofit, faith-based organization in the area.

The sculpture is supposed to evoke Spiderman slinging webs. But not everyone sees it that way.

"It is a sculpture of two hands open, painted Red & Black, and formed into Devil Horns," a Lincoln woman wrote, calling it a "hate crime against the church."

— Lincoln Journal Star (@JournalStarNews) July 17, 2019


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