He knew risks of living with bears
BILLINGS, Mont. — Grizzly bears are part of life in the gateway communities bordering Yellowstone National Park, and backcountry snowmobile guide Charles “Carl” Mock knew well the risks that come with working, hiking and fishing among the fear-inspiring carnivores, his friends said. Mock was killed after being mauled by a 400-plus pound male grizzly while fishing alone at a favorite spot on Montana’s Madison River, where it spills out of the park and into forested land that bears wander in search of food. The bear had a dead moose stashed nearby and wildlife officials say it likely attacked Mock to defend the carcass. The grizzly was shot and killed after charging at a group of seven game wardens and bear specialists who returned the next day. Bear spray residue found on Mock’s clothing suggested he tried to ward off last week’s attack using a canister of the Mace-like deterrent, considered an essential item in the backcountry. He usually carried a pistol, too, but wasn’t on the day he was killed just a few miles north of the small town of West Yellowstone where he lived, according to two friends. While some outsiders questioned the inherent perils of such a lifestyle in the wake of Mock’s death, those who knew him said he accepted the risk as trade-off for time spent in a wilderness teeming with elk, deer, wolves and other wildlife. “People don’t understand that for us who live here, that’s what we do every day,” said Scott Riley, who said he fished, hunted, hiked and kayaked numerous times with Mock over the past decade. “When you send your kid out on a bike on a trail, you send him with bear spray.”
Tax credit to spur vaccinations
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced new employer tax credits and other steps to encourage people reluctant to be inoculated to get the COVID-19 vaccine as his administration tries to overcome diminishing demand for the shots. The moves came as Biden celebrated reaching his latest goal of administering 200 million coronavirus doses in his first 100 days in office. With more than 50% of adults at least partially vaccinated and roughly 28 million vaccine doses being delivered each week, demand has eclipsed supply as the constraining factor to vaccinations in much of the country. In a White House speech on Wednesday, Biden acknowledged entering a “new phase” in the federal vaccination effort that relies on increased outreach to Americans to get their shots, both to protect them and their communities. Biden announced a tax credit for small businesses to provide paid leave for those getting vaccinated or potentially needing to take time off to recover from side effects. Paid for through the $1.9 trillion virus relief package passed last month, the tax change would provide a credit of up to $511 per day, per employee for businesses with fewer than 500 workers to ensure that those workers or businesses don’t suffer a penalty by getting vaccinated.
Habitat set for rare songbird
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. wildlife managers have set aside vast areas across several states as habitat critical to the survival of a rare songbird that migrates each year from Central and South America to breeding grounds in Mexico and the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the final habitat designation for the western yellow-billed cuckoo on Tuesday. It covers about 467 square miles along hundreds of miles of rivers and streams in the western states. Most breeding in the U.S. occurs in Arizona and New Mexico, but the habitat designation also includes areas in California, Colorado, Utah, Texas and Idaho. The designation isn’t as big as initially proposed. Wildlife managers opted to exclude more than 300 square miles of potential habitat after considering updated information about ongoing conservation activities, the lack of suitable habitat in some areas and potential interference with critical infrastructure. “This designation identifies important feeding and breeding grounds for the cuckoo to support the species’ recovery while also balancing the need in finding solutions that support current and future land-use plans,” Michael Fris, field supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, said.
Sweeping probe after verdict
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is opening a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis after a former officer was convicted in the killing of George Floyd there, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday. The decision comes a day after the former officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May, a verdict that set off a wave of relief across the country. Floyd’s death had led to months of mass protests against policing and the treatment of Black people in the United States. The Justice Department was already investigating whether Chauvin and the other officers involved in Floyd’s death violated his civil rights. The new investigation is known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — and will be a more sweeping review of the entire police department. It may result in major changes to policing in the Minnesota city.
Arkansas to honor favorite son
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Man in Black is about to get his own day in Arkansas. The Arkansas House on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that would make Feb. 26 “Johnny Cash Day,” voting 92-0 to send the measure to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who will sign it, according to his office. The state Senate approved the bill earlier this month. The day won’t be a legal holiday but instead will be a memorial day marked by an annual proclamation from the governor. It is the state’s latest effort to honor Cash, who was born in Kingsland, a tiny town about 60 miles south of Little Rock. The Legislature in 2019 voted to replace its two statues at the U.S. Capitol with ones of the country music legend and of civil rights leader Daisy Bates. A fundraising effort is underway for both statues.
Shooter was ‘troubled employee’
A man who killed a manager and wounded two workers at a Long Island grocery store was a “troubled employee” who had been reprimanded in recent months for threatening and sexually harassing colleagues, police said Wednesday. Gabriel DeWitt Wilson, 31, a shopping cart collector at Stop & Shop in West Hempstead, opened fire Tuesday in an office area above the retail floor about 40 minutes after talking to a manager about transferring to another store, Nassau County Police Detective Sergeant Stephen Fitzpatrick said. Tips from the public led police to an apartment building about 2 miles away, where officers in tactical gear blocked off doors and cornered Wilson “like a mouse in a trap,” arresting him about four hours after the shooting, Fitzpatrick said.
UK court rules in divorce saga
LONDON — Britain’s high court ruled Wednesday that the son of a Russian billionaire conspired with his father to prevent his mother from getting her hands on what is believed to the country’s biggest ever divorce award, worth around 450 million pounds ($625 million). Tatiana Akhmedova, 48, accused her ex-husband, 65-year-old Farkhad Akhmedov, of hiding assets and that their 27-year-old son, Temur Akhmedov, worked with him in hiding those assets. In the family division of Britain’s High Court, Justice Gwynneth Knowles said Temur Akhmedov had been his father’s “lieutenant” and “schemes” had been carried out with his “knowledge and active assistance.” The judge said very large sums had been transferred to her son and concluded he must pay her around 75 million pounds. “Temur has learned well from his father’s past conduct and has done and said all he could to prevent his mother receiving a penny of the matrimonial assets,” the judge said in her written ruling. “He lied to this court on numerous occasions; breached court orders; and failed to provide full disclosure of his assets.” Knowles compared the dysfunctional family goings-on to the opening of the Russian novel Anna Karenina. “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” she said in her written ruling. “With apologies to Tolstoy, the Akhmedov family is one of the unhappiest ever to have appeared in my courtroom.”
Rebels threaten to depose son
N’DJAMENA, Chad — Rebels in Chad threatened to depose the son of the country’s slain president after he was named interim leader of the strategic central African nation, raising the specter Wednesday of a violent power struggle. It was not certain how close the rebel column was to N’Djamena, the capital city of 1 million people, or whether the military would remain loyal to Mahamat Idriss Deby following his father’s sudden death after three decades in power. The rebel group that the military blamed for President Idriss Deby Itno’s killing said Wednesday in a statement that they were giving his family until midnight to bury him. The fighters gave no indication of their positions after saying the day before that they were “heading toward N’Djamena at this very moment.” The group known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad again decried Deby’s son assuming the presidency. The 37-year-old army commander was chosen to lead an 18-month transition instead of following constitutional protocol after his father’s death.
Thankful for ‘support, kindness’
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has expressed her thanks for all the “support and kindness” shown following the death of her husband, Prince Philip. In a statement Wednesday posted on her Twitter account on her 95th birthday and which she personally signed off as Elizabeth R, the monarch said it has been “a comfort” to “see and to hear all the tributes to my husband” from within the U.K., the Commonwealth and around the world. “My family and I would like to thank you all for the support and kindness shown to us in recent days,” she said in her first remarks since Philip’s funeral on Saturday, which was limited to only 30 guests.
Deputy who killed man on leave
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — A deputy shot and killed a man while executing a search warrant Wednesday. Pasquotank County Tommy Wooten II said at a news conference that a deputy from his department shot Andrew Brown Jr. while serving the warrant about 8:30 a.m.
Super charged with perjury
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The superintendent of the Florida school district where 17 students and staff died in a 2018 high school massacre was arrested Wednesday after investigators said he lied to a grand jury investigating events surrounding the shooting. Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at district headquarters and charged with perjury in an official proceeding, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. According to an indictment issued by the grand jury last week and released after Runcie’s arrest, the superintendent lied when he testified before the panel three weeks ago, but it gave no specifics about the alleged falsehood. The jury is investigating whether districts are following school safety laws, including those implemented after the Feb. 14, 2018, slayings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.
US returns to climate fight
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is convening a coalition of the willing, the unwilling, the desperate-for-help and the avid-for-money for a global summit Thursday aimed at rallying the world’s worst polluters to move faster against climate change. The president’s first task: Convincing the world that the politically fractured United States isn’t just willing when it comes to Biden’s new ambitious emissions-cutting pledges, but also able. Success for Biden in the virtual summit of 40 leaders will be making his expected promises — halving coal and petroleum emissions at home and financing climate efforts abroad — believable enough to persuade other powers to make big changes of their own. For small countries already fighting for their survival, global climate progress noticeably slowed in the four years of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the effort. Panama Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes hopes the United States’ high-profile return to international climate work will spur months of one-on-one worldwide deal-making leading up to November. That’s when there will be United Nations talks in Glasgow, where about 200 governments will be asked to spell out what each is willing to do to keep the Earth from becoming a far hotter, more dangerous and less hospitable place. With Biden’s summit, “we can start with that momentum,” Mouynes said. In Panama, freshwater shortages that officials blame on climate change already are complicating shipping through the Panama Canal, one of the world’s main trade routes and the country’s main money earner. Even Panama’s best climate safeguards, like hotlines and surveillance drones to catch rainforest logging, aren’t enough to save the country on their own, Mouynes says.
Pacaya volcano threatens towns
EL PATROCINIO, Guatemala — Residents of small communities living around Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano wake each day wondering if the lava will reach their homes. A lava flow descending the volcano has advanced between El Patrocinio and San Jose el Rodeo. In the case of the latter, the lava has advanced to within two and half blocks of the outermost homes. Emma Quezada, a 38-year-old homemaker in one of those houses, has lived there her entire life and said she’s used to the volcanic activity. Still, this time she’s afraid. “These last three days the lava stopped; we hope it stays there,” Quezada said. Local authorities had spoken to residents about moving the community to another location some 62 miles away, but without the space they have now, she said.
Burton to be Jep guest host
LOS ANGELES — The 200,000-plus LeVar Burton boosters who signed a petition calling for him to be the new “Jeopardy!” host will get to see him try the job on for size. Burton is among the final group of guest hosts for the quiz show, which lost its longtime host Alex Trebek to cancer last November and has put off announcing his successor. Burton’s supporters seized the opportunity to launch an online petition for the actor, who starred on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Roots,” and was the host of “Reading Rainbow,” the children’s educational program. In his career, Burton has “inspired and shaped the minds of several generations of trivia-loving nerds,” according to the petition that, as of Wednesday, had 246,000 and counting signers. In an email, a spokeswoman for Burton said he believes the petition drive and his social media interactions with fans were factors in the invitation for him to be a guest host.
Beheadings shock Afghans
KABUL, Afghanistan — Three children ages 4 to 7 were beheaded Wednesday inside their Kabul home, an Afghan official said, shocking even residents hardened by decades of war. Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said investigators had no suspects in custody, but believed the killings were the result of a family feud. The children’s parents, neither of whom were at home at the time of the killing, told police they have no enemies. The mother told police she had left the children alone while she attended a funeral. Her two boys, ages 4 and 5, and a 7-year-old daughter had returned home from school. A family relative, Mohammad Roheen, said it appeared the perpetrator fed the children juice and biscuits before killing them. There was no evidence of forced entry.