Posted on

California homeless quarantine in hotels, more rooms needed

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Anxiety mounted every time someone at the homeless shelter sneezed or residents got too close. For Matthew Padilla, a 34-year-old with a pacemaker and asthma, catching the novel coronavirus would likely mean death.

So he jumped at the chance to move into a hotel room for free as part of a new California program. Within days, he and his husband, Nito, were in a room near Los Angeles‘ Koreatown, where meals are delivered along with health screenings.

“At the shelter I was constantly getting up, checking on him,” said Nito Padilla, 36. “And here I know he’s safe. I know he’s OK.”

The Padillas are among roughly 7,000 people in California who have been moved out of shelters, vehicles and rough streets to ride out the pandemic in hotels, an effort Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in March to shield some of the state’s 150,000 estimated vulnerable homeless.

Newsom has praised the progress, although counties are still struggling to acquire rooms and squabbles have developed in some cities. Local officials say the process has been complicated as they find appropriate hotels, negotiate leases and get staffing in place. It’s something counties have never done at this scale.

New York City has also tried to decompress its shelters, which typically hold more than 57,000 people, by sending homeless people into hotels and other temporary lodging. But only about 3,500 typically live on the streets there, compared to tens of thousands in California’s largest cities.

Some homeless advocates in California say officials should be working much more quickly given the fast-moving pandemic. In San Francisco, which has moved more than 1,000 of its estimated 8,000 homeless into hotels, nonprofits raised money to get rooms for some who couldn’t get them. Activists have pleaded with Mayor London Breed to do more.

St. Anthony’s charity quickly got rooms nearby for 22 people who were staying at its seasonal overnight shelter. Felicia Senigar, the charity’s housing clinic manager, said she cried along with residents as they got socks, hygiene kits, a $50 Walgreens gift card and a bag of groceries. The housing will last for 30 days.

“They had nowhere to go, and for us to send them out there while this was going on,” Senigar said, choking up.

Newsom announced in late March that federal funding would help pay for at least 15,000 hotel rooms during the pandemic. But Los Angeles County, with the state’s largest concentration of homeless people at about 60,000, set its own goal of 15,000 rooms. By Wednesday, the county had housed about 1,800 people at two dozen hotels. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has said the process was more complicated than officials anticipated, but predicted the numbers would rise.

In his new budget this week, Newsom proposed spending $750 million in federal stimulus funding to buy some of the hotels to permanently house the homeless.

“It is definitely moving too slowly to meet the crisis head on,” said Shayla Myers, senior attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation in LA, which serves vulnerable populations.

Clients must be referred for a room. The names of participating hotels are guarded to protect the privacy of residents and to shield hotels from people showing up wanting a place to stay. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to pay 75% of the cost of “Project Roomkey” for homeless people who are at least 65, or have health issues, including having contracted the virus.

The Padillas say check-in consisted of a security check, health screening, a recitation of the rules and paperwork. They leave the room for errands, medical appointments or just for a bit of fresh air. Curfew is 7 p.m. and temperatures are checked when people return.

Most people with the virus experience fever and cough for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority recover.

The shelter was good about promoting hygiene and implementing social distancing rules, the couple say, but some of their fellow residents didn’t take the threat seriously.

“People were getting mad that they couldn’t sit together at lunch tables,” said Nito Padilla.

Bobby Daniel, who is 65 and was living in his car, says he knew the pandemic was a big deal when cafes shuttered and he could no longer linger over an espresso, working on his laptop.

He was surprised and elated when he got into a Los Angeles hotel room after years trying to get indoors. At one of two hotels run by St. Joseph Center, he has water and soap to tend to his ear, where doctors recently excised a growth. Daniel is free to leave the hotel to exercise and uses a microwave to steam kale, chard and broccoli, a luxury he didn’t have in the decade he’s lived in his car.

“You feel hopeful, you feel peaceful, you feel fortunate, you feel grateful,” Daniel says. “It’s almost hard to believe.”

The isolation can be tough for people used to being on crowded streets, in encampments or shelters, said Jennifer Hark Dietz, the executive director at PATH, a homeless services nonprofit in Los Angeles.

“So our staff are doing a lot of what we’re calling ‘emotional wellness checks’. Just talking to folks over the phone. Letting them know we’re here to support them. Making sure they are connected to others,” she said.

Caseworkers provide books and puzzles and the rooms have TVs to help pass the time. Residents get fresh air breaks and at one hotel, a walking path in the parking lot allows for socially-distanced strolls.

As director of outreach for the nonprofit The People Concern, Shari Lachin spearheads efforts to get people off the streets stretching from Hollywood to Skid Row in downtown LA. It’s not always easy to convince people to take a hotel room.

Caseworkers had multiple conversations with a man in his mid-60s named Billy who slept on the streets near LA’s Echo Park, Lachin said. He was reluctant to move into a hotel despite struggling with diabetes, asthma and a heart condition. Then he changed his mind and has “done a total 180.”

In San Francisco, officials agreed to house 13 of those put up by St. Anthony’s, said executive director Anthony Ramirez. He’s grateful but he looks out in the Tenderloin neighborhood, where about 2,000 people continue crowding into tents or sleeping on cardboard, and wishes the city were doing more.

“There’s going to be a time to reflect when this is all said and done: What went wrong, what didn’t, were there voids in leadership?” he said. “At least we’re seeing some traction.”

___

Har reported from San Francisco.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

Law enforcement ties, long delay complicate Arbery case

ATLANTA (AP) – There was an abundance of evidence when officers arrived at the scene on a February afternoon in coastal Georgia: A man, apparently unarmed, lying on the street, soaked in blood. The suspected shooter, a shotgun, eyewitnesses. And video of the incident.

But no arrests were made in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery for more than two months, not until after video of the shooting in Brunswick surfaced and stoked a national uproar over race relations.

Now local prosecutors are being investigated for their handling of the case. And a newly appointed investigative agency and prosecutor must untangle the criminal probe, build a case and make up for lost time and missed opportunities.

Among the questions they must answer: Did shooting suspect Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory, both white, get special treatment because the elder McMichael used to work for the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney’s office? Did investigators treat the shooting as a potential murder, or as a justifiable homicide? And might the outcome have been different if Arbery weren’t black?

___

The 911 operator sounded confused by the caller’s description of a purported crime: A man was in a house under construction.

“You said someone’s breaking into it right now?”

“No, it’s all open. It’s under construction,” the caller says, “And he’s running right now. There he goes right now.”

The dispatcher says she’ll send police, but “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”

A second call comes in six minutes later: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a black male running down the street.”

The operator is trying to get more details when a man yells, “Stop. … Damnit. Stop.” Then, after a pause, “Travis!”

According to the police report, Gregory McMichael said he saw a person he suspected of burglary “hauling ass” down the street. He and son Travis grabbed their guns, hopped into a pickup truck and chased him down.

He told police they wanted to talk to Arbery and tried to corner him, but Arbery began to “violently attack” Travis McMichael, the report says. The two fought over the shotgun, and Arbery was shot. The McMichaels claimed self-defense.

Police called the district attorney’s office, where Gregory McMichael had worked for more than two decades, for advice, and they were released.

Arbery’s mother got a call from an investigator.

“He went on to say that Ahmaud was involved in a burglary, and in the midst of the burglary he was confronted by the homeowner, and in the midst of that confrontation, there was a fight over the firearm and Ahmaud was shot and killed,” Wanda Cooper-Jones told The Associated Press.

___

Law enforcement in Brunswick has a checkered history, and over the past decade police have faced numerous lawsuits and increasing scrutiny. Just days after Arbery’s killing, Glynn County Police Chief John Powell and three former high-ranking officers were indicted in what investigators described as a cover-up of an officer’s sexual relationship with an informant.

Officers calling the DA for guidance is not unusual. But there’s disagreement over what happened next.

Peter Murphy, an elected commissioner in Glynn County, alleged that the DA’s office told police arrests weren’t necessary.

The district attorney’s office calls that a “malicious lie” and says it was police who raised the justified shooting angle.

Police say they were told the day of the shooting that more follow-up was needed but the McMichaels weren’t flight risks and could go home. A second prosecutor brought in after the first recused herself quickly decided no charges were necessary. He was eventually removed over his own conflict of interest.

J. Tom Morgan, a former metro Atlanta district attorney, said it would be a “big misstep” for the DA to advise police against arrests if officers decided a crime likely occurred.

“I can’t imagine saying ‘stand down.’ … If police believe they have probable cause, I’m not going to second-guess them,” Morgan said.

In any homicide, it’s important to interview witnesses immediately. If that was delayed because officers were told not to make arrests, it could make it harder for prosecutors to bring a successful murder case and easier for defense lawyers to argue the crime scene was tainted.

Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson said it appears investigators started with an assumption of justified shooting.

“Because of all of the assumptions that are made, all of the steps in the investigation that are not taken, they made the job much more difficult for the AG’s office,” Stinson said.

___

The shaky video emerged May 5 showing Arbery running from the McMichaels. Travis McMichael and Arbery appear to struggle over the gun. Gregory McMichael hops from the back of the truck. Arbery is shot and falls to the ground. It doesn’t show Arbery with a firearm.

Amid widespread outrage and calls for justice, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over. Both McMichaels were arrested on charges of aggravated assault and murder May 7. GBI director Vic Reynolds said there was clear probable cause.

The legal case now stretches beyond coastal Georgia, with the FBI weighing potential federal hate crime charges.

A third prosecutor was removed after the state attorney general said the case had grown in “size and scope.” Now Cobb County’s Joyette M. Holmes, one of seven black DAs in Georgia, is overseeing things.

The first DA, Jackie Johnson, defends her involvement. So does the second DA.

“I’m confident an investigation is going to show my office did what it was supposed to and there was no wrongdoing on our part,” Johnson told AP, denying her office discouraged arrests or suggested the shooting may have been justified.

The McMichaels have pleaded not guilty, and their attorneys caution against a rush to judgment.

___

Brumback reported from Atlanta and Long reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

Ben Carpenter, Alaska Republican, likens coronavirus screening stickers to Star of David

JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska lawmaker defended asking whether stickers that individuals may be asked to wear as part of a Capitol coronavirus screening process will be “available as a yellow Star of David.”

Republican Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski said Friday he was serious in making the comment in an email chain with other legislators. He was responding to proposed protocols aimed at guarding against the virus as lawmakers prepare to reconvene Monday. The protocols suggest stickers be worn to confirm someone at the Capitol had been screened.

“The point is, tying it to the Star of David shows, who amongst the human population has lost their liberties more than the Jewish people?” he said in an interview. “And if there were more people standing up for the loss of liberties prior to World War II, maybe we wouldn’t have had the Holocaust.”

“This is about the loss of liberties within our people, and we’re just turning a blind eye to it,” he said, adding that virus fears are “causing us to have policies that don’t make any sense.”

In his email, Carpenter asked about the screening process. “If my sticker falls off, do I get a new one or do I get public shaming too? Are the stickers available as a yellow Star of David?”

Rep. Grier Hopkins, a Fairbanks Democrat, responded to Carpenter’s email by calling the remark “disgusting. Keep your Holocaust jokes to yourself.”

The state has reported 388 cases of COVID-19 involving Alaska residents and eight cases involving nonresidents. There have been 10 deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to the state health department.

The Legislature, which recessed in late March amid coronavirus concerns, plans to reconvene Monday, prodded by a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of plans to distribute federal coronavirus relief funds.

The sole focus will be on taking action aimed at clearing up concerns about the funding, according to Senate majority communications director Daniel McDonald and a release from the House majority.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy submitted plans for distributing federal aid dollars to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee under a process set out in law. The process allows a governor to submit plans to accept and spend additional federal or other program funds on a budget item.

The committee signed off despite questions about whether use of that process was appropriate for some of the items. Some legislators argued the items in question should have been taken up by the full Legislature.

The lawsuit raises similar issues.

A 90-day session limit set in law has passed, but the constitution permits sessions of up to 121 days, a deadline that will be reached Wednesday. The constitution allows a 10-day extension if there is sufficient support for one.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

Donald Trump emergency powers details sought by senators

WASHINGTON — The day he declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency, President Donald Trump made a cryptic offhand remark.

“I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about,” he said at the White House.

Trump wasn’t just crowing. Dozens of statutory authorities become available to any president when national emergencies are declared. They are rarely used, but Trump last month stunned legal experts and others when he claimed – mistakenly – that he has “total” authority over governors in easing COVID-19 guidelines.

That prompted 10 senators to look into how sweeping Trump believes his emergency powers are.

They have asked to see this administration’s Presidential Emergency Action Documents, or PEADs. The little-known, classified documents are essentially planning papers.

The documents don’t give a president authority beyond what’s in the Constitution. But they outline what powers a president believes that the Constitution gives him to deal with national emergencies. The senators think the documents would provide them a window into how this White House interprets presidential emergency powers.

“Somebody needs to look at these things,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said in a telephone interview. “This is a case where the president can declare an emergency and then say, ‘Because there’s an emergency, I can do this, this and this.’”

King, seven Democrats and one Republican sent a letter late last month to acting national intelligence director Richard Grenell asking to be briefed on any existing PEADs. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wrote a similar letter to Attorney General William Barr and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

“The concern is that there could be actions taken that would violate individual rights under the Constitution,” such as limiting due process, unreasonable search and seizure and holding individuals without cause, King said.

“I’m merely speculating. It may be that we get these documents and there’s nothing untoward in their checks and balances and everything is above board and reasonable.”

Joshua Geltzer, visiting professor of law at Georgetown University, said there is a push to take a look at these documents because there is rising distrust for the Trump administration’s legal interpretations in a way he hasn’t seen in his lifetime.

The most publicized example was Trump’s decision last year to declare the security situation along the U.S.-Mexico border a national emergency. That decision allowed him to take up to $3.6 billion from military construction projects to finance wall construction beyond the miles that lawmakers had been willing to fund. Trump’s move skirted the authority of Congress, which by law has the power to spend money in the nation’s wallet.

“I worry about other things he might call an emergency,” Geltzer said. “I think around the election itself in November – that’s where there seems to be a lot of potential for mischief with this president.”

The lawmakers made their request just days after Trump made his startling claim on April 13 that he had the authority to force states to reopen for business amid the pandemic.

“When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said, causing a backlash from some governors and legal experts. Trump later tweeted that while some people say it’s the governors, not the president’s decision, “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.”

Trump later backtracked on his claim of “total” authority and agreed that states have the upper hand in deciding when to end their lockdowns. But it was just the latest from a president who has been stretching existing statutory authorities “to, if not beyond, their breaking point,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.

Questions about Trump’s PEADs went unanswered by the Justice Department, National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of a national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said PEADs have not been subject to congressional oversight for decades. She estimates that there are 50 to 60 of these documents, which include draft proclamations, executive orders and proposed legislation that could be swiftly introduced to “assert broad presidential authority” in national emergencies.

She said the Eisenhower administration had PEADs outlining how it might respond to a possible Soviet nuclear attack. According to the Brennan Center, PEADs issued up through the 1970s included detention of U.S. citizens suspected of being subversives, warrantless searches and seizures and the imposition of martial law.

“A Department of Justice memorandum from the Lyndon B. Johnson administration discusses a presidential emergency action document that would impose censorship on news sent abroad,” Goitein wrote in an op-ed with lawyer Andrew Boyle published last month in The New York Times.

“The memo notes that while no ‘express statutory authority’ exists for such a measure, ‘it can be argued that these actions would be legal in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack based on the president’s constitutional powers to preserve the national security.”’

Goitein said she especially worries about any orders having to do with military deployment, including martial law.

“You can imagine a situation where he (Trump) engineers a crisis that leads to domestic violence, which then becomes a pretext for martial law,” said Goitein, who insists she’s simply playing out worst-case scenarios.

She said she wonders if there is a PEAD outlining steps the president could take to respond to a serious cyberattack. Would the president aggressively interpret telecommunications law and flip an internet kill switch, or restrain domestic internet traffic? she asks.

Bobby Chesney, associate dean at the University of Texas School of Law, said some fears might be exaggerated because while Trump makes off-the-cuff assertions of authority far beyond past presidents, he doesn’t necessarily follow up with action.

Says Chesney: “His actions don’t match the rhetoric always – or even often.”

This story has been corrected by deleting Goitein quote beginning, “What I worry about …” because of a misunderstanding over its context.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

Senior living community grants residents’ quarantine wishes

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – Roland Jones longed for a summer vegetable garden, where he could plant tomatoes and beans and not have to bend over far to tend them.

On May 12, Jones got his wish.

In the courtyard at Abbotswood at Irving Park, administrators at the senior living community installed two raised wooden planters and two pots.

They even installed a sign, naming the space “Mr. Jones’s Veggie Patch.”

Tomato plants and Jones’s heirloom butter beans have begun to grow in the planters; Jones will plant string beans in the pots.

Jones, 84, came out the morning of May 12 to see it.

“You all are too much,” he told administrators. “I’m overwhelmed.”

Jones’ fulfilled wish came from Abbotswood’s “Quarantine Wishes.”

Executive Director Allison Pait created the program to give residents some sense of normalcy during the coronavirus pandemic.

No active cases of COVID-19 have been reported at Abbotswood, Pait said.

But residents’ group outings and activities have been canceled to protect them.

They dine in their own apartments, not in the dining room with other residents. But they can walk the hallways, provided they wear masks and maintain social distance.

Pait had noticed how residents were affected by the isolation of not being able to see family and friends in person, only virtually.

“Our residents who were usually positive and upbeat were less so day by day,” Pait said.

She sent a request form to each resident, asking what they want or miss most. She encouraged them to get creative.

Residents asked for life’s simpler pleasures.

Pait, along with Resident Relations Director Markeith Thomas and the staff, set out to turn wishes to reality.

“I thought that granting these wishes could be an upbeat and personal way to show residents that we care, make them smile and give them something to look forward to during these uncertain times,” Pait said.

So far, they have made nearly a dozen wishes come true.

“Sometimes we have to be a little creative, and sometimes we’re able to deliver on what it is they are looking for,” Pait said.

Along with the granted wish, residents receive a handwritten card and poem.

“They see us going to extra mile to try to make a tough situation a little better,” Pait said. “It certainly has brightened their days.”

Martha Robinson Spangler asked for fresh strawberries.

Pait’s family owns a strawberry farm in Lumberton. They brought in fresh strawberries from the Jack Pait Strawberry Farm.

Olga Perez requested live music.

So Pait arranged for friend Nancy Pitkin, a pianist and vocalist, to perform a concert in the courtyard. Residents opened their doors and windows to listen.

Pait herself has given haircuts to several men.

Jim English missed exercising in the Abbotswood fitness center, now closed. So staff moved a recumbent bike outside. It’s sanitized after each use, Pait said.

Addie Winslow wanted geraniums to plant. Staff helped prepare a flower bed and gave her the geraniums.

Elizabeth Heafner had bought one geranium to plant outside her screened porch. Staff planted several more.

“I sit on my porch and watch the bumblebees enjoy the flowers, too,” Heafner said.

“They are doing a great job during this awkward period we seem to be in,” she said.

Evelyn Dooley said that she and her husband, William, asked for the opportunity to watch a movie in a theater with other residents.

“I was looking for company, but of course they couldn’t provide that,” Evelyn Dooley said.

But Abbotswood could provide a meal and a movie for the Dooleys.

So staff set a table in a vacant apartment with a white tablecloth, china and silverware. They served the couple a lunch of soup, salad, Maryland crabcakes, shrimp tacos and dessert, ordered from Village Tavern.

The living room television became a movie screen, surrounded by a curtain. The Dooley watched the film of their choice, the 1954 war drama “The Caine Mutiny.” They even had popcorn.

“I was very surprised,” Evelyn Dooley said. “It was very charming and very thoughtful.”

Betty and Lee Gorrell wanted to dine in the dining room.

Staff served them a private meal by candlelight, with food ordered from the Village Tavern.

For their efforts, administrators have received lots of thank-you notes.

Pait and her husband, Gregg, made the wooden planters and gave them to Jones.

Dining Services Director Will Eubank helped to install them. Environmental Services Director Felix Pintado filled them with soil. They planted the vegetables.

“Y’all are too good to me,” Jones said after making his way out with his walker to see the results.

He thanked staff for the vegetables – and more.

“You don’t know how much we appreciate you all keeping us safe,” he said.

Jones irrigated the growing plants with water from a plastic jug.

He looks forward to planting green beans. Blue Lake beans are his favorite.

“My wife would eat string beans every day, I believe,” Jones said of his mate, Phyllis.

“You’ll share them, right?” Abbotswood Sales Director Marian Lee asked about the expected bounty of vegetables.

“Of course!” Jones said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

Some seniors visit U. Virginia despite no in-person ceremony

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – The coronavirus pandemic may have delayed the in-person graduating ceremonies at the University of Virginia, but that didn’t stop some seniors from getting pictures taken on campus Saturday, when the events were originally scheduled to begin.

Among those who visited the campus were Madeleine Wallach and two of her fellow classmates, who wore their caps and gowns when they stopped by the school’s famous Lawn. Wallach, of Middleburgh, said they wanted to get their photos taken quickly because campus police were discouraging people from hanging out in that area.

Instead of in-person ceremonies, the university in Charlottesville hosted a virtual ceremony Saturday that included remarks by school President Jim Ryan and appearances by singer Dave Matthews and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. More than 7,000 students received degrees this year.

The university expects to host in-person events on the Lawn either this fall or next spring, depending on pandemic’s progression.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

Phyllis George, female sportscasting pioneer, dies at 70

Phyllis George, the former Miss America who became a female sportscasting pioneer on CBS’s “The NFL Today” and served as the first lady of Kentucky, has died. She was 70.

A family spokeswoman said George died Thursday at a Lexington, Kentucky, hospital after a long fight with a blood disorder.

Her children, Lincoln Tyler George Brown and CNN White House correspondent Pamela Ashley Brown, released a joint statement, saying:

“For many, Mom was known by her incredible accomplishments as the pioneering female sportscaster, 50th Miss America and first lady. But this was all before we were born and never how we viewed Mom. To us, she was the most incredible mother we could ever ask for, and it is all of the defining qualities the public never saw, especially against the winds of adversity, that symbolize how extraordinary she is more than anything else. The beauty so many recognized on the outside was a mere fraction of her internal beauty, only to be outdone by an unwavering spirit that allowed her to persevere against all the odds.”

Miss America in 1971, George joined Brent Musburger and Irv Cross in 1975 on “The NFL Today.” Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder later was added to the cast.

Phyllis George was special. Her smile lit up millions of homes for the NFL Today,” Musburger tweeted. “Phyllis didn’t receive nearly enough credit for opening the sports broadcasting door for the dozens of talented women who took her lead and soared.”

George spent three seasons on the live pregame show, returned in 1980 and left in 1983, winning plaudits for her warmth of her interviews with star athletes. She also covered horse racing, hosted the entertainment show “People” and co-anchored the “CBS Morning News.”

George was briefly married to Hollywood producer Robert Evans in the mid-1970s and to John Y. Brown Jr. from 1979-98. Brown owned Kentucky Fried Chicken and the NBA’s Boston Celtics and served as the governor of Kentucky.

Phyllis was a great asset to Kentucky,” Brown told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We had a great partnership. I think we enjoyed every single day.”

From Denton, Texas, George attended the University of North Texas for three years, then went to Texas Christian University after earning a scholarship as Miss Texas in 1970.

In her 2002 memoir, George wrote that a male friend told her sportscasting wouldn’t work because it was a man’s job. George even acknowledged knowing nothing about the industry and having no experience nor another female mentor to follow.

None of it stopped her.

George was a friend of minister Norman Vincent Peale and a devout believer in his best-selling philosophy of positive thinking, George credits that approach for launching a defining career she didn’t expect – one that saw her range into an astonishing variety of ventures and roles, in media, the film industry, food and beauty products, and as the glamorous first lady of the bluegrass state.

“Saying yes to yourself opens up opportunities that can take you anywhere,” George wrote. “Having a mentor in your life who says yes to you is also key. Appreciate your mentors when you’re starting out. And later, always give credit to the people who were there with you at the beginning.”

ESPN sportscaster Hannah Storm remembered George as “the ultimate trailblazer” who inspired other women by showing that careers in sportscasting could be within their grasp.

“A lot of times when you’re dreaming of something as a career option, you have to see it in order to believe it,” she said. “And someone has to be first, and that was Phyllis.”

Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports, called George’s hiring as part of “The NFL Today” team a “groundbreaking decision” that “changed the face of sports television.”

“She had an openness and enthusiasm that made her a valuable contributor,” Pilson said. “She didn’t claim to know a tremendous amount about sports, but she knew about people, which is why her interviews resonated. She could do the best interviews with athletes and family members. She was a warm person and that came through on the set and in the interviews.”

George conducted one-on-one interviews with star athletes such as NFL greats Joe Namath and Roger Staubach.

“People were uncomfortable with the idea of seeing a woman on TV talking about sports in a prominent role,” Storm said. “But someone has to go first. I give her so much respect for truly her courage. She had to put herself out there. Phyllis George did something out of the norm. And I’m forever grateful for her leading the way.”

George wasn’t the first but made her entrance around the time that other women were getting their starts reporting on sports, too.

Jane Chastain was hired at CBS in 1974 and became the first female announcer on an NFL telecast that fall.

Lesley Visser became the first female NFL beat writer during a 14-year career at The Boston Globe that started in 1974. She later worked on “The NFL Today” as well as ABC and ESPN, becoming the first woman assigned to “Monday Night Football” in 1998.

Visser said George “always made you feel important and warm. I never heard her talk about anyone in a negative way. She made everything look so easy. She had a magnetic personality.”

The industry discovered George after she co-hosted “Candid Camera” and the Miss America pageant. She received a 13-week option from CBS in 1974 without a defined role. But a popular interview with reluctant Boston Celtics star Dave Cowens soon earned her a three-year deal and paved the way to her breakthrough role the next year on “The NFL Today.”

George moved on to co-host the “CBS Morning News” in 1985 but quit after less than eight months. Among the people she interviewed was former first lady Nancy Reagan. She later interviewed President Bill Clinton in 1994 as part of her own prime-time talk show.

As a businesswoman, George founded “Chicken By George,” an eight-item line of fresh, marinated chicken breast entrees, and sold it two years later to Geo. A. Hormel & Co. She created “Phyllis George Beauty” in 2003. The cosmetic and skincare product line was sold through a TV home shopping network.

She also wrote several other books and had roles in a pair of Hollywood comedy films.

Phyllis is a pioneer. Her range is what impresses me the most,” former Kentucky and Louisville coach Rick Pitino, now at Iona, wrote in the foreward to her memoir, “Never Say Never: Ten lessons to turn you can’t into YES I CAN.”

“She entered a highly competitive pageant and emerged as Miss America,” Pitino wrote. “She became the first national female sports broadcaster. She flourished in the limelight as First Lady in the state of Kentucky. She’s been successful in business. And she is a respected humanitarian. Each step along the way, she embraced the mission at hand.”

___

Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky, and Raby from Charleston, West Virginia. AP Sports Writers John Nicholson, Joe Reedy and Gary Graves also contributed to this report.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

‘Little Fires Everywhere’ director Lynn Shelton dies at 54

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Lynn Shelton, an independent filmmaker who directed “Humpday” and “Little Fires Everywhere,” has died. She was 54.

Shelton’s publicist, Adam Kersh, said in a statement Saturday that she died Friday in Los Angeles from an unidentified blood disorder.

Shelton had become the leading voice of the new American independent cinema movement. She caused waves with her low-budget films, then made splashes through her work on television including “Mad Men,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “The Mindy Project” and “GLOW.”

She directed four episodes of the Hulu miniseries “Little Fires Everywhere,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

“We made so many things together,” said Mark Duplass on Twitter. He was a frequent collaborator with Shelton starring in her 2009 film “Humpday,” which was a depiction of male sexuality through a female lens. The actor said he lost a “dear friend” and admired her creativity.

“I wish we had made more,” Duplass said. “Her boundless creative energy and infectious spirit were unrivaled. She made me better. We butted heads, made up, laughed, pushed each other. Like family. What a deep loss.”

Shelton began her filmmaking career in her mid-30s after initially being an aspiring actor and photographer. She went on to write and direct eight feature films in the span of 14 years.

The statement said she had an “infectious laugh, was full of life and had an esprit de corps that touched many.”

Ava DuVernay said Shelton changed her life after handing her an award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012.

“She announced my name with pride,” said DuVernay, who posted a photo on Twitter that included both filmmakers. “Handed it to me with love. Rooted for me long after. I can’t believe I’m typing this. Rest In Peace, Beauty. Thank you for your films. And for your kindness.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

Atlanta zoo partially reopens with new precautions

ATLANTA (AP) – Add Atlanta’s zoo to the list of things that have reopened in Georgia.

Indoor habitats, rides, playgrounds and other attractions remain closed at Zoo Atlanta because of COVID-19, but outdoor exhibits along a one-way flow for visitors opened Saturday for the first time in months, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The zoo is limiting the number of visitors by requiring them to make reservations with specific times to enter the park.

Sylidia Italiano of Kennesaw researched the zoo’s new procedures before becoming one of its first visitors after the coronavirus pandemic.

“We got the first ones,” she said as she awaited the zoo’s 10 a.m. opening. “It’s a nice situation. I do like that they have the indoors facilities closed.”

Zoo employees had to answer a health survey and have their temperatures taken before returning to work. Disinfectant is used on the grounds every 60 to 90 minutes and every hour in the restroom, said Hayley Murphy, Zoo Atlanta’s deputy director.

Workers must wear masks, but the zoo isn’t requiring them for visitors, Murphy said.

At places where people might stop and watch, like the elephant and gorilla exhibits, the zoo has squares set 8 feet (2.4 meters) apart. If too many people get together, employees will encourage them to move along, Murphy said.

“We have been super conservative because we want to make sure the experience is safe not only for our team members and guests but for the animals,” she said.

Nearly 1,600 deaths and more than 37,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in Georgia, health officials said.

___

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Posted on

St. Louis officials hand out 75K masks as reopening looms

ST. LOUIS (AP) – St. Louis officials are handing out at least 75,000 masks as the region prepares to relax stay-at-home orders.

Over the past two days, city officials say they’ve handed out 42,000 masks to more than 30 senior living facilities, including nursing homes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Each employee and resident of the senior centers will receive five masks, Mayor Lyda Krewson said during a briefing Friday.

The city also has distributed 15,000 masks to the city Housing Authority for its residents, and 18,000 to the city’s Human Services Department, which is giving them to the people it serves. That includes recipients of its home-delivered meal program for the elderly.

Meanwhile, Missouri saw 219 new coronavirus cases Saturday, bringing the state’s total to 10,675, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. It marks the first time in seven days that there was an increase of at least 200 new cases.

The state also reported 13 new deaths from COVID-19, raising the total to 589.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up after two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.