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Agency recovers $100K in back wages for employees

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Officials with the U.S. Department of Labor say they have recovered thousands of dollars for almost 500 employees in back wages.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions at OKC Metro Alliance.

Investigators say the Alliance placed recovery center residents within their Firstep Programs, a long-term residential drug and alcohol recovery program, in third-party employment.

The company withheld wages to act as a joint employer.

In all, the department was able to recover $100,000 in back wages for 491 employees.

“We worked closely with OKC Metro Alliance to help them develop a business model that complies with the law. Similar recovery centers need to pay attention to this case and make sure they comply with labor laws or call us for assistance,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Michael Speer in Oklahoma City. “Our website has an abundance of information about the many laws covered by the Wage and Hour Division. We encourage employers and workers to call us with any questions or complaints.”

OKC Metro Alliance has agreed to change its business model to avoid further violations.

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North Attleborough schools shut down water fountains because of boil water order

This is a file image of the North Attleborough Public Schools building (WLNE)

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. (WLNE) — The superintendent of North Attleborough schools sent an email to families Thursday warning them of a town-wide boil water order.

This comes after E. coli was detected in the town’s water from samples collected Wednesday.

Superintendent John Antonucci said that all schools in the district shut down their water fountains immediately.

“All water used for here cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, washing dishes or food preparation should be boiled for at least one minute prior to use, or bottled water should be used as an alternative,” the town said in a release.

The town will be distributing bottled water at the Department of Public Works Garage on Smith Street beginning at 3 p.m.

Antonucci said the school district will be providing bottled water but encourages students to bring their own because of a limited supply.

Residents will be notified when the boil water order ends.

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New legal setback for former President Trump

An appeals court has just handed the Justice Department a victory in the battle over documents seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort

ABC NEWS—An appeals court has just handed the Justice Department a victory in the battle over documents seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

The decision comes just hours after New York’s Attorney General filed a $250 million lawsuit against Trump and his family in a separate case and now, Trump is responding.

ABC’s Andrew Dymburt reports.

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Sentencing set for Nov. 14 for McLaughlin man convicted of Aggravated Sexual Abuse of Children and Witness Tampering

A federal jury has found Jerome Moses Goodhouse, Jr., age 30, of McLaughlin guilty of two counts of Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child and one count of Witness Tampering (Aug. 2022).

The charges carry a mandatory minimum of 30 years up to life in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a $300 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered.

In 2017, Goodhouse sexually abused two minor children in McLaughlin on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. After abusing one minor, he threatened her and told her to remain quiet about what he did to her.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services, Standing Rock Agency.

A presentence investigation was ordered, and a sentencing date was set for November 14, 2022. The defendant is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

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Chesterfield adopts new restrictions on solar farms

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County has imposed new restriction on solar farms in an effort to protect wetlands and address other environmental concerns.

The two key changes are an expanded buffer around vulnerable wetlands and a ban on building panels on steep slopes.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Chesterfield considers stricter regulations on solar farms

“The changes are really pretty simple,” a county official said, noting that a 100 foot buffer is already required for all development around Resource Protection Areas (RPAs). RPAs are usually wetlands, whether streams or standing water, that are key to the biodiversity of the county.

Solar panels are now required to be set back an additional 35 feet from that 100-foot buffer, but developers can clear trees and otherwise disturb the ground within that 35 feet – something they cannot do within the RPA itself.

The other addition bans construction of solar panels on steep slopes over 20% grade, or about 11 degrees of incline.

“This is on request from the environmental engineering department, as being a better long term practice for us as we develop more and more of these solar facilities,” the county official said.

Both of those requirements have already been incorporated into planning approval for several proposed solar facilities – the ordinance would simply apply the restrictions universally.

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Aiden Aslin pictured returning home after being released by Russian captors | UK | News

Freed Briton Aiden Aslin has arrived home after enduring months of uncertainty and suffering. Mr Aslin was pictured at his front door in Balderton, Newark, looking tired, but pleased to be back in Britain. Speaking to media outside of his family home in Nottinghamshire, Mr Aslin thanked President Zelenksky and the Saudi authorities for his release. He added: “Me and my family want the privacy after the traumatic experience. Please respect this and when I’m ready to talk to the media I will.”

Prime Minister Liz Truss said yesterday (September 21) that the release of the five Britons had been secured by working with Ukrainian authorities and with assistance from Saudi Arabia, but the identities of the men were not initially confirmed.

Non-profit organisation the Presidium Network, which has been supporting the family of Mr Healy, had said all five had landed safely in the UK and had been reunited with their families.

Dominik Byrne, co-founder of the organisation, said: “We don’t know exactly if they’ve all returned back to their homes yet, but we do know they’re with families at the moment.”

The Foreign Office had not commented on the whereabouts of the men, but today’s pictures confirm Mr Aslin has finally returned home.

Dressed in a burgundy coloured hoodie, grey jogging bottoms, blue t-shirt and flip flops, Mr Aslin opened the front door of his home.

Mr Aslin’s mother Angela said she was “so emotional and over the moon” at the news of her son’s release and return to the UK. Angela, of Balderton, Nottinghamshire, said: “There’s not really much I can say right now. I’m just spending some time with my family as I’m still in a state of shock.

“The last 24 hours have been an absolute whirlwind and I’m just trying to get my head around everything. I’m obviously overjoyed and hugely relieved. It’s quite emotional. I didn’t know if this day would ever come.”

It is a far cry from when Mr Aslin appeared in court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic where he was sentenced to death alongside Mr Pinner in July.

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Ms Truss, who was in New York for a UN summit where world leaders discussed the ongoing war in Ukraine, tweeted: “Hugely welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.”

She thanked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky “for his efforts to secure the release of detainees, and Saudi Arabia for their assistance”. Ms Truss added: “Russia must end the ruthless exploitation of prisoners of war and civilian detainees for political ends.”

According to Russian media, Mr Harding, Mr Hill and Mr Healy went on trial last month in the city of Donetsk. The three, along with Swede Mathias Gustafsson and Croat Vjekoslav Prebeg, all pleaded not guilty to charges of mercenarism and “undergoing training to seize power by force”, it was reported.

A further court hearing in their case had been scheduled for October, the Interfax news agency said, citing a statement by the separatists’ court.

Mr Pinner’s sister Cassandra said the family was already celebrating her brother’s escape to safety. She said: “We are just so happy he’s home, safe and sound. He’s in good spirits – just as funny as always.”

She thanked those involved in organising his return and said she was “just amazed this day has come”.

Cassandra said: “I am just so relieved that my brother and the others are home. It has been hell for everybody but at last the worrying can stop for us. We must not forget all that is still happening in Ukraine, but for now our families can celebrate that our boys are home.”

Mr Pinner’s mother Debbie Price said: “I have no idea how this has happened… but I’m overjoyed. It’s wonderful news.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the release brought to an end many months of uncertainty and suffering, including the threat of the death penalty, for the men and their families at the hands of Russia.

He added: “Tragically that was not the case for one of those detained and our thoughts remain with the family of Paul Urey.”

The British aid volunteer died earlier this year while being detained by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.

In a statement, Mr Cleverly said: “I would like to express my gratitude to President Zelensky and his team for their efforts to secure their release, and to HRH Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman and his team, for their assistance.

“I continue to call on Russia to comply with international humanitarian law and not exploit prisoners of war and civilian detainees for political purposes.”

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Skyrocketing airfares have Unalaska residents wondering if they can stay

A Ravn Alaska plane at Unalaska’s Tom Madsen Airport. (Photo by Theo Greenly/KUCB)

Unalaska Fire Captain Ben Knowles was elated when he heard the news: after roughly two years of waiting, he could use his Alaska Airlines miles to purchase flights to Unalaska. Like most locals, the firefighter relies on using the mileage sharing program to afford steep airline tickets on and off the remote Aleutian island.

But that excitement quickly turned to anger and frustration when he found out just how many miles it would cost.

“Oh, great, thanks…40,000 miles,” Knowles said. “I can fly first class from Anchorage to New York for 40,000 miles. Why would I want to spend 40,000 miles on a Ravn flight that takes three hours, and my bags aren’t gonna get there, or I might not make it?”

The exorbitant cost of air travel has become a — if not the — major topic of conversation in Unalaska.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, fuel costs spiked across the nation, inciting a rise in air travel costs. Then a slew of factors compounded the problem: inflation, bad weather, pilot shortages and loads of people traveling sent those prices even higher. And in Unalaska, 800 air miles from Anchorage, nestled between the Bering Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, those costs are landing a hard blow.

It costs more miles to fly from Anchorage to Unalaska than it costs to fly to Paris.

If you’re paying cash, a one-way ticket off the island on Ravn Alaska — the regional airline that services the community — will be a minimum of about $650, but is usually closer to $750. And if you want a refundable ticket, it’ll be nearly $950, which is more than a seat on the average charter.

Even Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who visited Unalaska in August for a matter unrelated to travel, opened a speech by addressing the airfare issue.

“The cost of an airplane ticket to get out here is attention-getting,” she said. “When it’s close to $1,000 one-way to move you and your family, that’s a problem. When you have multiple cancellations and the airport packed with people, trying to come and trying to go, that’s a problem.”

It’s pretty much always been expensive to fly to and from Unalaska. It’s a doozy of a trip, involving inclement Aleutian weather and a very small runway surrounded by water and mountains.

Still, recent airfare hikes are bringing some Unalaskans to their breaking point.

“It makes everybody rethink their life moving forward,” said Unalaska City School District Superintendent Dr. Robbie Swint Jr. “And I will say, I am rethinking mine too.”

A Ravn Alaska plane at Unalaska’s Tom Madsen Airport. (Photo by Theo Greenly/KUCB)

As costs rise, spirits drop

Up until a few months ago, locals could get a one-way ticket to or from Anchorage on a Ravn Alaska flight for around $400-450 with the company’s Aleutian resident fare. But Ravn abruptly ended that program this summer. Around the same time, ticket prices began jumping. And recently, Ravn announced they would be charging for all bags, citing increased operation and fuel costs. Previously, Alaska residents were able to check two free bags.

Swint said he left the island with his family at the beginning of summer. When he went to book his tickets back, he got a startling surprise.

“Ravn did all this pretty much at one time,” he said. “We went out in June with one price, and then when we came back, it almost doubled.”

The cost for him and his family of six to leave the island is around $7,000 now, and that’s just airfare and just one-way, he said.

“I mean just to travel back and forth to Anchorage, just to Anchorage, you’re not doing anything else, no hotel, no car rental, no food, no travel — if you want to go somewhere else — it’s astronomical right now,” Swint said.

Soaring airline prices aren’t unique to the island. A June report by Adobe Analytics found that prices for domestic airlines had risen about 47% around the nation since the start of the year. But Unalaska’s remoteness and the fact that it’s an island provide particularly unique challenges.

Ravn is the only airline currently providing the island with regular commercial air service to Anchorage. Charters are available through a few different companies, but several don’t offer individual seat sales. Charters also might have to make a stop or two on the way and ticket sales are generally last-minute and will probably cost just as much or more than a commercial flight.

And while Ravn and Alaska Airlines started allowing customers to purchase Ravn tickets by redeeming their Alaska Airlines miles in April, most people are still paying cash because it costs a huge amount of miles to get to or from Anchorage. Travelers used to be able to redeem a flight between Anchorage and Unalaska for about 10,000 miles, under a similar mileage program with a now-defunct airline that covered the region.

Ravn Alaska CEO Rob McKinney told KUCB that Ravn has “no control over how many miles Alaska Airlines charges for redemption.”

But Tim Thompson, a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines, told KUCB Ravn does have a choice between two award levels.

Neither McKinney nor Thompson would specify which level Ravn chose.

KUCB also made multiple queries to McKinney asking why Ravn opted to eliminate the Aleutian rate altogether, rather than raise the price. McKinney didn’t directly address those questions, but did respond in an email saying the company’s fuel cost has more than doubled over the past two years, and labor has averaged a 60% increase. He said they’re only pricing tickets based on their costs to operate to Unalaska.

Still, Unalaska Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. said he’s disappointed that Ravn removed the Aleutian resident pricing, and voiced concern that community members will be forced to leave the island in light of these increasing expenses.

“A majority of our people who live here year-round depend on the opportunity to leave and go out for a vacation with their family, and a lot of them don’t make what is necessary to get out today,” he said.

Local organizations take a hit

Ravn offers discounts to certain organizations in the city, like the school district. And even though the airline sometimes gives priority to clinic patients who need to get to Anchorage but may not be in bad enough shape to require a medevac, some still struggle to fly out.

So much so, that they’re avoiding seeking medical care all together, according to Dr. Megan Sarnecki, medical director for the Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic.

“Now people are hesitant to go in at all because of the cost of just flying [to Anchorage],” Sarnecki said. “If your insurance doesn’t cover travel, you’re not going to get your colonoscopy and you’re probably not even going to go get that cardiology workup. So people are putting stuff off.”

She says that can be dangerous, leaving her and her staff facing scary questions like, “are we sitting on a cancer because this person can’t afford to fly in?”

Sarneck said even folks who can afford to fly are often making those trips on their own, rather than with family members.

“People are going off and getting chemo and their family can’t go be there with them,” Sarnecki said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

The clinic isn’t the only local institution taking a hit. High school principal, athletic director and longtime community member Jim Wilson said the cost of flying right now is a huge hurdle for the district.

“If you’re a young teacher making $55,000 a year, and you need to spend $5,000 to $10,000 of that on airfare, it’s difficult to make it,” Wilson said. “And so I think it’s going to impact, not only teacher retention, but I also think we’re going to see it ultimately impact — I really, truly believe — the size of the community as well. People are having to make really hard decisions about whether they want to stay or go.”

There’s no extra money in the school’s budget to help offset the cost of increased ticket prices, he said. That means fewer students will be able to travel for events. He said coaches, staff and families will have to find new ways to come up with extra money, if they want their students to compete.

“They will need to fundraise an additional amount for every one of those tickets, which is going to be anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000, depending on the price,” Wilson said.

Searching for solutions

Part of Unalaska’s problem is its notoriously challenging runway. Landing a small plane in the temperamental Aleutian weather is difficult, but it’s the only current option.

There is some glimmer of hope on Unalaska’s horizons, though. Many locals have been awaiting the return of the Saab 2000 aircraft — a larger plane that previously flew to the island, prior to its involvement in a fatal crash in 2019.

And this week, that return took a significant step towards materializing, when a Saab 2000 aircraft touched down in Unalaska Sept. 14 as part of a test run by Aleutian Airways, a new regional airline operated by Sterling Airways.

Representatives from the new regional airline previously told KUCB that they would begin offering regular flights to the island in fall 2021. Now, almost a year later, the company has run its first test flight to the island with hopes to begin selling flights soon. The airline still needs to get certification through the Federal Aviation Administration and launch a schedule, which representatives from the company said they anticipate in the fall.

A Ravn Alaska plane on its final approach at Unalaska’s Tom Madsen Airport. (Photo by Theo Greenly/KUCB)

While many locals were excited to see the Saab 2000 on the Tom Madsen runway and the promise of competition that comes with it, the new airline doesn’t guarantee lower ticket prices for Unalaskans.

Meanwhile, city officials said they are working to arrange meetings with Ravn and Alaska Airlines, as well as the Alaska Department of Transportation and the FAA to discuss ways of alleviating current airfare costs.

There are also tentative plans to renovate Unalaska’s airport in the future, but the groundbreaking for those expansions would be millions of dollars and years away.

For now, the city is looking at appropriating some of the funding for that renovation plan toward more immediate concerns, according to Acting City Manager Bil Homka.

“I think we as a city would rather put money towards that immediate need,” Homka said. “If we can get a million dollars just to fund local airfares and spend $1,000 each, that would be about 1,000 flights, at least for locals. It’s not a permanent fix. We haven’t applied yet. We’re still looking into what we can do and what the requirements are.”

Like Homka said, some of the solutions the city is looking at aren’t permanent. They might only patch up the problem for now and most are still a ways out from actually happening. In the meantime, locals will just have to wait out the storm — or fork out the cash to leave the island, if they can afford it.

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Huntsville, Florence men among 5 federally indicted for fentanyl deaths

ALABAMA (WHNT) — A Huntsville man and two others from Florence are among five recently indicted by a federal grand jury on fentanyl charges, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), all five of the men were charged in the separate and unrelated indictments related to fentanyl that resulted in death.

33-year-old Theophylis Rayvon Pride, aka “OPI” of Huntsville was indicted on one count of distributing fentanyl that resulted in death in July 2021 in Madison County.

A six-count indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court, charging Azarious Taron Williams, 25, and Darien Avante Arnold, 22, both of Florence, with conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine as well as a substance containing fentanyl between November 2020 and June 2022 in Lauderdale County. 

37-year-old JT Toombs, III of Alexander City and 40-year-old Demarcus Leon Hill of Hoover were also charged in a two-count indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl in August 2021 in Talladega County.

The DOJ says that the cases were investigated by the DEA, along with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Huntsville Police Department, Lauderdale County Drug Task Force, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

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Alexis Neiers Rips “Lazy” ‘Bling Ring,’ Despite Never Seeing Sofia Coppola’s 2013 Film

Alexis Haines, née Neiers, the outspoken subject of The Bling Ring, blasted director Sofia Coppola for her 2013 film depicting the glamorous criminal pursuits of Los Angeles teens. Haines, who is telling her own story in Netflix‘s true crime series The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist, ripped Coppola for “lazy” storytelling in The Bling Ring, a fictionalized account of the theft Haines and her friends carried out between 2008 and 2009.

In a Wednesday (Sept. 21) interview with Entertainment Weekly, Haines complained Coppola’s film didn’t look deep enough into the “complexities” of her story, which was told partly through Emma Watson‘s Bling Ring character, Nicki.

“That’s the thing that’s so frustrating when you have someone that’s as brilliant as Sofia Coppola and as wonderful an actor as Emma Watson working on a movie together,” Haines said. “You have this opportunity to do something really great and to dig deeper and to look at the complexities, but it’s just lazy.”

Despite her harsh take, Haines actually hasn’t watched Coppola’s film in full. She told EW, “I’m a busy mom of two kids. If I’m gonna sit down for two hours, it’s not gonna be to watch The Bling Ring,” but added that she saw segments while working on Netflix’s Hollywood Heist series.

“When I was filming this documentary, they had me watch bits and pieces of the movie and asked me my opinion on it,” she explained.

The Netflix series — which features interviews with herself and fellow Bling Ring subject Nick Prugo, plus figures like Audrina Patridge and blogger Perez Hilton — provides deeper context, Haines told EW.

“I think the docuseries is so great because in the media reporting up until very recently there wasn’t really a space for the nuance and the complexity of what happened in the crime,” Haines told the outlet. “The story became sensationalized and there wasn’t space to talk about addiction and mental health. We still have a long way to go, but we’re so much farther than we were in 2010.”

The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist is now streaming on Netflix.

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