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Blaming, targeting FBI agents is as wrong as it is dangerous

FBI officials are seen outside the FBI building in Kenwood on Thursday.  An armed person tried to breach the building and then fled.  The police chase of the suspect's vehicle has a portion of I-71 in Clinton County closed off.
FBI officials are seen outside the FBI building in Kenwood on Thursday. An armed person tried to breach the building and then fled. The police chase of the suspect’s vehicle has a portion of I-71 in Clinton County closed off.

The day after an armed man was killed after earlier trying to breach the Cincinnati FBI field office on a reported mission to kill agents “on sight,” we happened to be driving through West Virginia and passed an exit for a road named “Jerry Dove. ”

I knew the name, but I couldn’t immediately place it. My wife Googled: “Jerry Dove was an FBI special agent…”

I quickly finished the sentence: “…who was killed with Special Agent Benjamin P. Grogan in a shootout with heavily armed serial robbers near Miami, Florida, on April 11, 1986, in what became known as the FBI’s bloodiest day.”

I had covered that case extensively for The Associated Press while based in Miami.

Some 130-140 rounds were exchanged in five minutes, with five agents also wounded before seriously injured agent Edmundo Mireles emptied his service revolver into a car the two men with superior firepower were trying to escape in. The two men had been leading secret lives as violent robbers of banks and armored cars before Mireles killed them.

The FBI headquarters in Sycamore Township, Thursday, August 11, 2022. Mid-morning, a man, dressed in body armor, tried to get through the visitor screening facility.  He flew up I-71 <a href=real sustanon 250 for sale toward Clinton County. ” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/Ym4aHSv7gw6CC6rl3pOjPw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ1Nw–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/0vtfPX.lbnx7HMN9acxZ5g–~B/aD00MTYwO3c9NjQxNDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/cincinnati-com-the-enquirer/6dc5a8a2de66b39e4a6897b642e49588″>
The FBI headquarters in Sycamore Township, Thursday, August 11, 2022. Mid-morning, a man, dressed in body armor, tried to get through the visitor screening facility. He flew up I-71 toward Clinton County.

Mireles joined a tradition of FBI agents who have taken down some of this nation’s most dangerous criminals, going back to early 20th Century gangsters John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson and “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

Dove, 30, of Charleston, West Virginia, and Grogan, 53, of Atlanta, were added to the FBI’s Wall of Honor for agents who died in service.

It has grown considerably since, now totaling 88 after two agents were killed last year while serving search warrants in Sunrise, Fla.

The 42-year-old Columbus, Ohio, man killed Aug. 11 by police in southwest Ohio was triggered by the FBI raid Aug. 8 on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. – some 60 miles north of the FBI building named for Dove and Grogan.

The agents in Florida had search warrants issued by a federal judge who concluded they had probable cause for the search the Justice Department has since said was for top secret and other sensitive documents improperly taken from the White House.

The raid caused an uproar from Trump and his supporters, and off-the-rails comments from extremists comparing agents to the Nazi Gestapo.

“The FBI has gone rogue,” claimed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia. Greene, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., were among those calling for defunding the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In this still image taken from WKEF/WRGT video, an FBI agent stands guard as members of the FBI Evidence Response Team work outside the FBI building in Kenwood, Ohio, Thursday, Aug.  11, 2022. An armed man decked out in body armor tried to breach a security screening area at an FBI field office in Ohio on Thursday, then fled and was injured in an exchange of gunfire in a standoff with law enforcement, authorities said.
In this still image taken from WKEF/WRGT video, an FBI agent stands guard as members of the FBI Evidence Response Team work outside the FBI building in Kenwood, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. An armed man decked out in body armor tried to breach a security screening area at an FBI field office in Ohio on Thursday, then fled and was injured in an exchange of gunfire in a standoff with law enforcement, authorities said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray − who was appointed by Trump − called the overheated rhetoric “deplorable” and agents were warned to step up precautions for their personal safety and their families’.

That was followed after the Cincinnati FBI building incident by a bulletin warning of “unprecedented” levels of threats against agents on multiple social media platforms.

Over the years, the FBI has investigated a variety of suspected crimes, including those involving radical leftists.

Maybe Marjorie Taylor Greene is sort of a soul sister with Professor Angela Davis, a Black radical feminist once on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list?

Gangsters don’t like them, either. The critically acclaimed 1997 movie “Donnie Brasco” starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino was based on the true story of agent Joseph Pistone, who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family, gathering evidence resulting in scores of convictions.

Had Pistone been detected by the brutal crime family, he would have surely been put to “sleep with the fishes,” likely after horrifying torture.

Chris Hoffman, special in charge, FBI, left, and David M. DeVillers, US Attorney for Southern District of Ohio, discuss corruption charges against Jeff Pastor, city council member and Tyran Marshall Tuesday November 10, 2020.
Chris Hoffman, special in charge, FBI, left, and David M. DeVillers, US Attorney for Southern District of Ohio, discuss corruption charges against Jeff Pastor, city council member and Tyran Marshall Tuesday November 10, 2020.

And more recently in Cincinnati, it was the work of undercover FBI agents that led to corruption charges against three Democratic council members.

Back in the late ’90s, I was coaching youth baseball in the Atlanta area. One player had the ideal Dad − he helped me out in practice, he never complained or second-guessed me out loud, and he was just a nice guy.

Also, I eventually learned, he was an FBI agent.

At times he gave me tips for news coverage. I saw him outside the federal courthouse, wearing his suit and sunglasses, and giving no sign of recognition.

I assume he has retired by now, but imagine if you were an FBI agent today with a young family and wondering what an extremist cranked up by reckless rhetoric might try to do to them?

Everyone, regardless of your politics, should respect agents for doing their duties.

Asked about the FBI search, Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., made that point.

“My first reaction is to stand with the men and women of the FBI, who are simply doing their jobs,” she said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, spoke out Monday, calling the attempted attack on the FBI Cincinnati office “very scary.” He said any attack on law enforcement “is a horrible, horrible thing and we certainly denounce that type of activity.”

But other Ohio “law-and-order” politicians were, sadly, mostly quiet about the threats.

Dan Sewell writes a regular Sunday political column for The Enquirer. He can be reached at his personal email, dsewellrojos@gmail.com.

In this Friday, Sept.  14, 2018 photo, Associated Press senior correspondent Dan Sewell poses for a photograph outside the scene of a shooting that occurred the previous week at Fountain Square, in Cincinnati.  "Over four decades with The Associated Press, I have many times thrown clothes into a bag, withdrawn a wad of cash, and stuffed my laptop with notebooks and pens before rushing by car or plane to a terrible event in someone else's hometown, state or country,"  said Sewell.  "This time, it was in my town."  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
In this Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 photo, Associated Press senior correspondent Dan Sewell poses for a photograph outside the scene of a shooting that occurred the previous week at Fountain Square, in Cincinnati. “Over four decades with The Associated Press, I have many times thrown clothes into a bag, withdrawn a wad of cash, and stuffed my laptop with notebooks and pens before rushing by car or plane to a terrible event in someone else’s hometown, state or country,” said Sewell. “This time, it was in my town.” (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Opinion: Blaming, targeting FBI agents is as wrong as it is dangerous

Vietnam says homosexuality ‘not a disease’ in win for gay rights | LGBTQ News

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Phong Vuong was preparing for the launch of a campaign advocating for the legalization of gay marriage when he heard that the government had decided that homosexuality was “not a disease”.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health also announced that it was outlawing conversion therapy.

“This announcement that being LGBT is not a disease and condemning the practice of conversion therapy, this is like a dream,” Vuong, the LGBTI rights program manager at The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy, and Environment (iSEE), told Al Jazeera.

“It is something that we never thought would have happened, let alone coming from the most trusted source for medical information in Vietnam… I think the impact on queer youth will be very, very evident.”

The health ministry’s August 3 dispatch is being celebrated for its protection of queer Vietnamese in medical settings and as fuel for an ongoing petition for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Still, it is unclear how the decision will be enforced with many LGBTQ people still threatened with conversion therapy and often facing harsh treatment from family.

The official announcement, sent to provincial and municipal health departments nationwide before being released on the government’s online information portal on August 8, states that Vietnam’s health minister had received information that some healthcare establishments were claiming to offer “cures” for homosexuality.

Based on this, and citing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) removal of homosexuality and being transgender from the International Classification of Diseases, it goes on to outline five primary guidelines for the health system.

Education should be strengthened so all medical providers have correct knowledge about “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” it says, and that queer people must be treated equally in medical environments. In addition, LGBTQ identity cannot be treated as a disease, while involuntary treatments are prohibited and mental health services can only be provided by experts on sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, supervision and inspection of medical facilities should be increased.

“This is important in the way that it affirms that being LGBT is not something you can fix,” Vuong said. “When a queer child gets taken to a medical facility… if they know about this, it can be used to defend themselves.”

A portrait of ICS director Linh Ngo.
Linh Ngo, ICS director at the organization’s headquarters in the Binh Thanh District of Ho Chi Minh City [Photo by Govi Snell]

The fight for queer rights

Sustained advocacy for LGBTQ rights preceded the Health Ministry’s announcement.

“It’s not like one day the Ministry woke up and decided it’s time to do this… It took years of effort,” Linh Ngo, director at ICS Center, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, told Al Jazeera.

The fight for the demedicalization of queerness can be traced to iSEE’s “Leave with Pride” campaign, which was launched in November last year. The campaign petitioned WHO Vietnam to officially assert that LGBTQ identity is not a disease.

iSEE and collaborators created a stunt video to raise awareness for the campaign which posed the question: If queerness is a disease, shouldn’t LGBTQ Vietnamese be able to get sick leave?

In the video, volunteers asked superiors for time off for their “homosexual disease”. The volunteers were berated, cursed at, and asked to leave without their request being granted.

This April, WHO Representative to Vietnam Kidong Park issued a statement in support of ending the medicalization of queerness.

“We got a statement from WHO and with a lot of help from other civil society partners, we got the Ministry of Health to also respond,” Vuong said of the recent Health Ministry dispatch.

Along with ICS Center, iSEE is now pushing the 2022 I’m with you, or I Agree campaign, which is working to secure support for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Just three days after its debut on August 10, the campaign had surpassed its goal of 250,000 signatures – more than a million people have signed the petition.

“It’s been great just participating and witnessing this,” said Dieu Anh Nguyen, working for ICS in Ho Chi Minh City. “I think we are basically making history.”

Revellers at Hanoi Pride wear rainbow wigs and carry rainbow flags
Participants hold rainbow flags while they attend the annual LGBTQ parade in Hanoi, Vietnam, September 22, 2019 [REUTERS/Kham]

The petition will continue until same-sex marriage is legalized, Ngo said. The country’s Law on Marriage and Family is expected to be considered for revision by the governing body of the Communist Party of Vietnam in 2024 or 2025.

The country’s first campaign for the acceptance of gay marriage goes back nearly a decade.

In 2012, the ceremonial wedding of two men in the Mekong Delta was broken up by police. Same-sex marriage had been banned in 2000 and the grooms were fined for breaking the law and forced to leave their hometown.

The incident, as well as the punishment of other same-sex nuptials, led to the first Tôi Đồng Ý campaign in 2013.

The “I Agree” campaign went viral on social media. Soon, many Facebook profile pictures in Vietnam featured equal signs painted onto cheeks and foreheads or Tôi Đồng Ý posters. In the country’s capital, Hanoi, events were staged in support of the campaign in the lead-up to the eighth meeting of the National Assembly in 2014.

The movement successfully led to the decriminalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, but LGBTQ marriages are still not legally recognized.

“Vietnam is very open right now and has a lot of potential for LGBTI rights but there is not yet any civil protection,” Ngo said.

The threat of conversion therapy

A, whose identity Al Jazeera is protecting, is a trans Vietnamese who has been living in the United States and had been unable to see his parents for two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The announcement from the Ministry of Health is a major win … but I will also say this is not automatically like everything is fine,” A told Al Jazeera.

Women smile for a photo at a PFLAG event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Posing for a photo at a PFLAG event in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam [Photo by Govi Snell]

When he finally returned home to Vietnam in July, his family tried to take him for conversion therapy.

A was able to negotiate his way out of the situation but said it is common for queer millennials and Gen Z Vietnamese to face such treatment.

“The specter of conversion therapy hangs in every queer Vietnamese person’s household,” A said. “It is one of the most common things that my friends and I have talked about in terms of why we choose to disclose or not disclose.”

Arwen in Ho Chi Minh City agrees.

The 36-year-old considers himself one of the “lucky ones”. Unlike many of his friends, his family accepts him.

Some of his friends have been taken out of school and sent to work, others were given “voodoo treatments,” trapped in their homes, or forced to have sex with someone of the opposite gender as a “cure”, he explained.

In 2015 survey found one in five queer Vietnamese had been forced to see a doctor to have their “sickness” treated, 9.7 percent of the 2,363 survey respondents said their families had enlisted a shaman to “remove spells,” while 60 percent had been forced to change their appearance and gestures, or reprimanded and put under psychological pressure.

Mong Nguyen was a parent who struggled to accept her gay son.

“​​In 2011, I found out that my son is gay,” she told Al Jazeera. “I scolded him every day. I blamed him and wanted him to stay away from his gay friends.”

A year later, Nguyen found out her son had made a suicide attempt.

“I wanted to change to save my kid,” she said.

Today, Nguyen is an active member of the Vietnam Association of Parents and Relatives of the LGBT Community (PFLAG). On August 17, she stood wearing heart-shaped rainbow earrings and holding a Tôi Đồng Ý fan at a PFLAG event in Ho Chi Minh City.

Mong Nguyen speaks at a PFLAG event in front of US and Vietnamese flags
Mong Nguyen leads a PFLAG event at the American Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam [Photo by Govi Snell]

The sight of seeing so many parents show their support for their LGBTQ children left a 32-year-old entrepreneur in tears because it was so far removed from her own experience.

“I was accidentally found out by my mum when I was 14. Since then I’ve felt like no matter what I do, I’m not good enough,” she said, asking for her name not to be disclosed.

“The [Ministry of Health] announcement clearly helped to boost up my own confidence when I faced her,” she told Al Jazeera. “Mum is a pharmacist — a scientific person… So an official announcement from a legitimate scientific body clearly meant something to her.”

Enforcement of queer rights

While encouraged, queer rights advocates say more needs to be done to ensure the Health Ministry’s guidelines are enforced. And they note the dispatch lacks a legal basis.

“Far too often effective enforcement fails in Vietnam,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia division, told Al Jazeera.

“Uprooting anti-LGBT beliefs in traditional Vietnamese society will require concerted effort… It’s not like just issuing an order and ‘presto’ everything changes overnight.”

A in the US pointed out that despite the recent announcement, healthcare providers are still offering treatments that claim to “correct one’s gender”. Particularly, Mai Huong Daycare Psychiatry Hospital in Hanoi and Vinmec International Hospital, which has seven locations across the country.

Both hospitals offer treatments based on the idea that there are “real gays” and “fake gays,” the latter of which is considered “curable”.

A links the popularity of this harmful notion to a health column by Dr. Tran Bong Son. The column had an “outsized influence” during the 1990s through the early-2000s when sources of information were limited and the government was putting increased focus on the family unit and eradicating “social evils”.

“In reality, there are many people who are real gays, but there are also many who are fake gays,” Mai Huong’s website states.

The hospital claims to have “cured” a 16-year-old female who dressed as a boy and was considered to have a “gender issue”. “After seven months of treatment combining chemotherapy with different psychological therapies, the girl has returned to her normal state and no longer wants to be a man as before,” it says on its website.

Over the phone, a Mai Huong receptionist told Al Jazeera patients need to be asked a series of “psychological questions” to determine if they are a “real gay” or a “fake gay”.

“If fake then we will have a treatment for it,” the receptionist said.

The Vinmec website gives a list of “cures” for “gender identity disorders” which include “psychological treatment” so the patient “accepts their body’s gender and no longer wishes to live like a person of the other sex”.

At Vinmec in Ho Chi Minh City, a customer relations team officer told Al Jazeera they do not offer special services for LGBTQ people.

A receptionist at its Hanoi clinic told Al Jazeera over the phone that the Ministry of Health’s announcement only applied to “real gays”. Treatment would depend on a case-by-case basis and they “can only cure the cases when patients are confused [about] their genders or after a big shock”.

A man walks into Vinmec hospital in Ho Cho Minh City, Vietnam.
Vinmec International Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The hospital still advertises so-called cures for gender identity issues online [Photo by Govi Snell]

For Vuong, the medical “treatments” underline the flaws in the Health Ministry’s announcement.

“When there is something done [by a medical practitioner] that is wrong there should be a punishment for that,” Vuong said.

“There is no measure or mechanism for people who are affected by this [conversion therapy] to seek retribution.”

Additional reporting by Thao Nguyen Hao.

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Democrats’ Chances of Beating Ron DeSantis With Under 48 Hours to Primary

Democrats aim to defeat Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in his reelection bid in November, but with less than 48 hours until the Florida primary, it is unclear which Democratic contender will take on the GOP incumbent who looks well-positioned to win a second term.

DeSantis has emerged as one of the most prominent Republicans on the national stage. His response to the COVID-19 pandemic and his efforts to lean into the culture wars through controversial policies and legislation have drawn backlash from Democrats and some moderate Republicans. Meanwhile, polling suggests that DeSantis is a strong 2024 presidential contenderparticularly if former President Donald Trump is not in the race.

As a result, Democrats hope to handicap the GOP governor by ousting him via the ballot box in November from the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee. With Florida’s primary taking place on Tuesday, recent polls show mixed results as to which Democrat is favored to take on DeSantis.

The leading Democratic gubernatorial contenders are Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried and Congressman Charlie Crist, who represents Florida’s 13th District. Notably, Crist previously served one term as Florida’s governor from 2007 to 2011. He was elected as a Republican, but became an independent in 2010 before joining the Democratic Party in 2012.

Ron DeSantis
Above, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Unite and Win Rally in support of Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano on Friday in Pittsburgh. Polls show DeSantis leading both of the top Democratic candidates aiming to challenge him in November.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The most recent public poll for the Democratic primary was conducted by the University of North Florida from August 8 to 12. It showed Fried ahead of Crist by 4 points. The agriculture commissioner had the support of 47 percent of likely voters and the congressman had the backing of 43 percent. The survey included 1,624 likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent.

However, a poll carried out just a few days earlier, from August 2 to 3, by St. Pete Polls showed Crist leading by a large double-digit margin. The congressman was backed by 56 percent of likely voters compared to Fried’s support of just 24 percent—a difference of a whopping 32 points. The survey included 1,361 likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent.

Whether Crist or Fried ultimately win their party’s nod on Tuesday may not make much of a difference. DeSantis currently appears to be polling well ahead of both candidates, although Crist is performing somewhat better than Fried overall.

The current Real Clear Politics average shows DeSantis ahead of Crist by about 6.2 points. The incumbent Republican has the backing of about 49.4 percent of Floridians and the Democratic hopeful has the support of about 43.2 percent.

Comparatively, the current Real Clear Politics average has Fried trailing DeSantis by about 9.6 points. The Democratic contender is supported by about 41.4 percent of Floridians while the GOP governor is backed by about 51 percent.

A recent University of North Florida poll, however, showed Fried performing slightly better than Crist against DeSantis. That survey had Fried down by 7 points while Crist was down by 8 points. However, DeSantis garnered 50 percent in both matchups. The poll included 1,624 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 points.

Although Florida continues to be viewed by many analysts as a swing state, Democrats generally face an uphill battle in statewide races. News and poll analysis site FiveThirtyEight assessed that Florida has a 7.6 point partisan lean in favor of Republicans. The partisan lean represents the “average margin difference between how” Florida “votes and how the country votes overall in congressional and gubernatorial elections, according to a blend of presidential and state-legislative election results.”

Notably, a Democrat has not won a gubernatorial race in Florida since 1994. The state also went for former GOP President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. But prior to that, it went for former Democratic President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

California pig welfare rule delays frustrate small farmers

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Ohio hog farmer Joe Brandt changed his operation a few years ago to give his pigs more room and keep pregnant sows out of the narrow crates used by most farms.

Brandt said he wanted to treat his pigs more humanely, but in doing so he also created a niche for his family business amid heightened concerns about the treatment of animals, and that enabled him to charge higher prices for the pigs.

That payoff seemed likely to grow even larger after the January 2022 implementation of a California ballot measure that required all pork sold in the state to abide by the standards Brandt had already implemented but that are rarely seen in large hog farms. With that measure, Brandt and farmers like him would suddenly be the only sources of bacon and pork chops for a state of 39 million people that consumes about 13% of the nation’s pork supply.

Yet, for reasons out of Brandt’s control, it hasn’t happened. California has yet to fully write and approve the necessary regulations, a state judge has blocked enforcement of the law because of that regulatory delay, and the US Supreme Court will soon hear a case brought by a national pork industry group that opposes the regulations. Given all the delays, Brandt wonders if he will ever see the surge in demand he expected when the measure was overwhelmingly approved by California voters in 2018.

“It absolutely would help,” said Brandt, who maintains a herd of about 1,500 sows at his farm near Versailles, Ohio. “It comes down to positioning yourself. If you see something and you’re progressive and you work towards it and you believe in it, I think if a measure like this does pass, you should be rewarded for it.”

Brandt is among hundreds of relatively small farmers who are caught between the state of California and the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council, which represents the nation’s largest pig operations, based primarily in the Midwest and North Carolina.

At issue is whether California’s Proposition 12 violates the US Constitution by interfering with a national system in which about 65,000 farmers raise 125 million hogs annually, resulting in gross sales of $26 billion. California’s regulations would ban pork sales in the state unless the pigs were born to sows with at least 24-square-feet of space and an ability to turn around.

The National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation argue that California’s law violates the Constitution’s commerce clause because it throws a wrench in the nation’s pork system and requires out-of-state producers to incur nearly all the costs of compliance.

After losing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the national associations asked the US Supreme Court to consider their case. Arguments are planned for October.

If the Supreme Court finds California’s law unconstitutional, it could not be fully implemented and the nation’s pork producers would be free to continue their current operations, including the use of so-called gestation crates that protect sows from other pigs but prevent them from turning around. Other aspects of the California law — governing the treatment of egg-laying chickens and cattle raised for veal — could be enforced.

A judge on Aug. 11 placed a similar sow welfare law on hold in Massachusetts, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

Jared Schilling, who raises about 40,000 sows a year near New Athens, Illinois, said his family hoped to gain a competitive edge when they changed their operation to give pigs more room. The move has paid off; he gets premium prices by selling his animals to specialty pork business Coleman Natural Foods. Brandt also sells to Coleman.

But Schilling said his profits would likely rise more if the California and Massachusetts laws are implemented.

“Every industry has to make changes to adapt to what the consumer wants, whether it’s the marketplace or legislation,” Schilling said. “Most would prefer the marketplace but they did vote on it, so someone needs to meet that consumer demand.”

Michael Formica, a lawyer for the National Pork Producers Council, said his group also represents small hog farmers and has no desire to place their needs secondary to large pork producers. Formica argued that the current system already rewards producers who meet what he estimated was the 5% of consumers who want to pay significantly more for pork raised with more square footage and without crates.

What the council opposes, Formica said, is California imposing its standards on the rest of the country, especially since the state produces less than 1% of the pork its residents consume.

“We respect the marketplace determining what the marketplace wants,” he said. “If consumers really wanted this, they would be buying pork chops for $15 or $25 a pound, but they don’t.”

If California’s law is allowed to take effect, Formica said, smaller producers could be hurt because once large suppliers shift to meet the rules, they would eventually be able to produce the same pork at a lower cost than the niche farms.

Charlie Thieriot, chief executive officer of Llano Seco Meats in Chico, California, said his business exceeds the California rules, and he strongly supports Proposition 12, calling its requirements the “tip of the iceberg” for how pigs should be treated. But Thieriot, whose business supplies a number of elite Bay Area restaurants, said national pork producers are adept at operating on thin margins, and he worries that small pig farmers don’t realize the struggle they could face competing directly with big companies if they are forced to become Proposition 12 compliant.

“I think these big producers are really just incredibly smart, incredibly strategic,” Thieriot said. “They will be getting ready for whatever the court decides and they’ll have a Prop 12 compliant product ready when that hammer drops.”

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Follow Scott McFetridge on Twitter: https://twitter.com/smcfetridge

CEA union to vote Sunday night on whether Columbus teachers strike

The Columbus Education Association has announced that more than 94% of members have voted to reject the Columbus City school board’s last final offer and go on strike for the first time since 1975.

The official confirmation came after CEA members could be seen leaving the meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center carrying picket signs available inside that say “On Strike” or contain similar language.

The nearly 4,500-member union — which represents teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists and other education professionals — met for more than three hours at the convention center to vote.

Previous coverage on CEA vote:

The Columbus Education Association members are inside the Greater Columbus Convention Center to vote on whether to initiate a strike against Columbus City Schools.

Former Lenoir City pastor argues why he deserves a new trial after rape and incest conviction

The case drew an enormous amount of media attention back in 2019. The salacious details guaranteed that. A pastor of a small church, accused of repeatedly raping his adopted daughter.

David Richards, a onetime foster care worker at Smoky Mountain Children’s Home, was convicted Feb. 12, 2019, on charges including rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure. The trial in Knox County Criminal Court pitted his adopted daughter Amber, then 21, against her biological sister and David Richards.

Knox News typically does not identify victims in sexual abuse cases, but Amber Richards agreed to be named after the trial.

David Richards was eventually convicted of nine felony counts including rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure for the repeated abuse over a period of nearly two years and was sentenced by Judge Steven Sword to 12 years in prison

Now Richards is back in court with an attorney who specializes in appealing wrongful convictions, asking for a new trial because of evidence discovered after the trial and claims his previous attorney was incompetent.

Amber Richards hugs Knox County Sheriff's Office investigator Allen Merritt outside Knox County Criminal Court in 2019.

Amber Richards hugs Knox County Sheriff’s Office investigator Allen Merritt outside Knox County Criminal Court in 2019.

Issues with credibility arose

The physical evidence against David Richards consisted mainly of bodily fluid samples found on his adopted daughter’s bedframe, which former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation scientist Amory Cannon testified was semen, and the fact that both his and his adopted daughter’s cellphones had been reset to factory conditions, wiping away potentially incriminating text messages she said he sent her.

David Richards, through his attorney, attacked both pieces of evidence.

The judge previously allowed defense experts to examine the cellphones and test the bodily fluid with their experts. Sword also reviewed the TBI records explaining why Cannon came under investigation. After that private review, Sword said the records contain information that helps the defense.

The DNA evidence was tested by the TBI’s Cannon, who left her job at the state’s top law enforcement agency after the trial.

Jurors never heard that she abruptly resigned in 2016 during an internal investigation, apparently due to falsified time cards.

Richards’ attorney at the time, Gregg Harrison, said in an interview he never thought to ask why. He thought his client had a strong case and the fact that the former pastor had undergone a vasectomy years ago would negate the scientist’s testimony.

What evidence was presented on appeal?

David Richards’ new attorney, Stephen Ross Johnson, has substantial experience appealing wrongful convictions. Johnson helped found the Tennessee Innocence Project, was involved in passing the Tennessee Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001, and helped establish the procedures in Tennessee for bringing newly discovered evidence claims.

His appeal argument for David Richards was three-pronged: New evidence that wasn’t heard at trial, undisclosed evidence that could help his client and the typical claim that his previous attorney was incompetent.

Through multiple days of testimony starting back in May, Johnson sought to cast enough doubt on the DNA and cell phone evidence to prompt a new trial. Johnson also presented new evidence that, he argued, undermined Amber Richards’ credibility, including what he said was a prior unfounded claim of sexual abuse.

The defense’s DNA expert testified the DNA found on Amber Richards’ bed frame likely was canine, an assertion disputed by the prosecution. She also cast doubt on Cannon’s testimony at trial, saying it was misleading to tell the jury the DNA tested positive for seminal fluid. Cannon’s testimony made it sound definitive when it wasn’t, she said.

Johnson also provided more context into Cannon’s resignation from TBI, which stemmed from incorrect reporting on payroll timesheets and case notes for work done when she wasn’t in the building. None of her cases were re-tested, Johnson said, even though their integrity should have been in question.

Attorney Stephen Ross Johnson, right, and David Lynn Richards, left, during Richards' sentencing hearing in Knox County Criminal Court on Thursday, May 9, 2019.

Attorney Stephen Ross Johnson, right, and David Lynn Richards, left, during Richards’ sentencing hearing in Knox County Criminal Court on Thursday, May 9, 2019.

Johnson sought to discredit the cell phone evidence, with an expert testifying that one email address was tied to both phones and that neither phone was in Richards’ possession when they were wiped clean.

The performance at trial of David Richards’ former attorney, Gregg Harrison, also was the subject of appeal testimony. Defense experts said it fell below the standard of reasonable care, that Harrison should have tested the DNA and should have hired an expert to check the cell phones.

Judge calls psychiatric testimony ‘shocking’ and not credible

At the end of the hearings, the judge last week took the unusual step of castigating the testimony of a psychiatrist and affirming his belief in Amber Richards.

Sword pointed out he had found both Amber and David Richards to be credible during the 2019 trial, but told Amber, “The jury believed you and I believed you, and I still do.”

The judge said he found the testimony offered at appeal by Dr. Sidney Alexander to be “shocking,” and added, “I found him to not be credible at all as to who you are as a person. I think you have a chance to have a good and healthy life. … I didn’ t find him credible at all, as to who you are as a human being.”

Alexander, a forensic psychiatric examiner, said Amber was suffering from borderline personality disorder probably stemming from a “chaotic, abusive, abandonment-filled life.”

After Johnson’s closing argument, the judge said he would take his time sifting through the lengthy testimony and would rule within two months, adding he expects his decision to be appealed no matter how he rules.

How did we get here?

David Richards, a former minister at My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, and his then-wife took in Amber and her three biological siblings as foster children in 2008, then adopted Amber and her older sister.

Amber Richards was 16 on Dec. 3, 2013, when she told a guidance counselor she had woken up that morning to find David Richards pulling her hand inside his pants.

Judge Steve Sword during David Lynn Richards' sentencing hearing in Knox County Criminal Court on Thursday, May 9, 2019.

Judge Steve Sword during David Lynn Richards’ sentencing hearing in Knox County Criminal Court on Thursday, May 9, 2019.

The next day, the teen sat for a forensic interview and said the abuse spanned from being inappropriately touched in 2011 to being repeatedly raped, starting in the summer of 2013, while she pretended to be asleep.

Amber told authorities where they might find semen stains in her bedroom – a bed comforter, the bed frame and a purple rug.

At trial, David Richards described himself as a divorced, single dad simply trying to rein in a defiant teen. Amber Richards painted him as a vindictive manipulator who punished her when she spurned his offer to take their relationship “to the next level,” after she had endured nearly two years of sexual abuse in his home.

Little physical evidence existed and in the end it came down to the jury believing Amber’s testimony over that of her adoptive father.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Former Lenoir City pastor argues he deserves a new trial

DeSantis Pores Into School Board Races to Transform Them in His Image

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made remaking school boards a top priority for reelection.
  • He endorsed 29 candidates who support his agenda for the primary taking place August 23.
  • DeSantis is one of the most famous Republicans in America who also campaigned for MAGA candidates.

DORAL, Florida — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is working to line up a slew of loyalists on school boards across Florida as he seeks a second term in the nation’s third-largest state.

“We need help at the local level,” DeSantis said at a firefighters building before 430 enthusiastic supporters during a campaign event on Sunday. “You guys with your power going out and voting is going to make a huge difference.”

The governor has endorsed 29 conservative candidates ahead of Tuesday’s election for school board races, which typically don’t receive much attention and are technically nonpartisan.

School board members make decisions about spending, schedules, supplies, curriculum, and other matters. But in more than a dozen counties where DeSantis endorsed candidates, school boards defied the governor last fall by requiring students to wear masks.

The elections have come into greater focus for voters who were frustrated after schools across the US stayed closed during the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis and other Republicans have taken note of the energy behind these races, and have also moved to restrict school curriculum or practices on race, gender, and sexual orientation.

“We are not going to surrender to wake,” said DeSantis, whose political committee donated to the school board candidates. “We are going to prevail and Florida is the state where woke goes to die.”

Lieutenant Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who also appeared at the event, told the crowd that the DeSantis administration was focused on education because it “is key to opportunity, it’s the key to our future.”

“I’m calling on each and every one of you to join us in this battle to take back our school boards,” she said.

Criticizing the Democratic Party as a “woke dumpster fire,” DeSantis during his speech indicated he would double down on many of the education issues he tackled over the last four years, which are spelled out in his 10-point education agenda on his website.

They include rejecting school lockdowns and to “keep woke gender ideology out of schools.” DeSantis vowed during his speech to support higher pay for teachers.

Florida has among the lowest relative pay for teachers of any other state in the US, according to the National Education Association, even though state lawmakers and the governor increased their pay this past year and gave teachers bonuses.

On Tuesday, DeSantis proposed a plan to reduce Florida’s teacher shortages through providing temporary teaching certificates to police officers, paramedics, and firefighters.

Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar panned the idea in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live as “shortcutting” and said it “doesn’t really get at the root of the problem.”

“We want to make sure that we have fully trained, fully credentialed teachers in our classroom with the experience and support they need to teach every child,” the union leader said.

Casey DeSantis Ron DeSantis

Newly sworn-in Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives with his wife Casey DeSantis, for an event at the Freedom Tower where he named Barbara Lagoa to the Florida Supreme Court on January 09, 2019 in Miami, Florida.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images


DeSantis all anti-lockdown record

Doral, which is in Miami-Dade County, was the first stop on a tour Sunday that was also set to include Sarasota, Volusia, and Duval Counties. The event in Sarasota had a crowd of more than 1,200 peopleaccording to the DeSantis campaign.

In November, DeSantis will face off against either Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried or Rep. Charlie Crist, a congressman from St. Petersburg who previously was the GOP governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. Voters will decide the winner of the Democratic nomination for governor during Tuesday’s primary.

DeSantis has recently been campaigning on behalf of Republicans in other states, including gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and US Senate candidate JD Vance in Ohio.

DeSantis is widely rumored to be eyeing the White House. Stumping for candidates in other states — particularly battleground states — is one way that presidential hopefuls create political allegiances and burnish their brands as leaders of their respective parties.

“It’s really important to raise awareness about his policies right now before he becomes that powerful,” Avani, a 28-year-old transgender woman who was protesting outside DeSantis’ campaign event, told Insider in an interview. She declined to share her last name.

During his roughly 30-minute speech, DeSantis celebrated his actions as governor that included setting new education standards that reduced testing, and requiring school districts to show how they select textbooks.

DeSantis celebrated the way he defied federal health officials and teachers’ unions in the fall of 2020 when he decided to reopen schools during the pandemic. Although he was met with backlash for months, many blue states eventually followed suit as they concluded school closures did more harm than good.

The governor indicated during his speech Sunday that being a parent of three young children has affected his views on schools.

“It makes me and her more sensitive to a lot of the things parents have to think through with kids nowadays,” he said of himself and his wife, Casey DeSantis.

Attendees at the rally said they were enthusiastic about the governor’s political future. Gianni Lehmann, 73, from the Westchester neighborhood in Miami, said “we need new blood” on school boards and that “education has to be the first priority.”

Max Morgan, 50, a DeSantis supporter from Broward, said, “any parent is conservative when it comes to their children” even if they themselves are politically liberal.

“We want the best for our children, we want the safest environment, the best education,” he said.

Opponents of Florida Gov.  Ron DeSantis' education agenda gathered outside a campaign event in Miami-Dade County on August 21, 2022.

Opponents of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education agenda gathered outside a campaign event in Miami-Dade County on August 21, 2022.

Kimberly Leonard/Insider


‘Save our children’

During his speech DeSantis also touted policies that have sparked backlash and lawsuits, including the Parental Rights in Education Act.

Dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” the new law bans discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, particularly in kindergarten through third grade.

“Children are being exposed to things that are robbing them of their innocence,” said Jackie Rosario, one of the school board candidates for Indian River County. “The content is often not age appropriate or grade-level appropriate. We need a new slogan: Save our children.”

But critics say the bill may extend to higher grades because it contains ambiguous language banning such instruction “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” They worry about chilling the speech of LGBTQ teachers and about students being outed to families who don’t accept them.

Another curriculum area DeSantis bashed at his campaign rally was “critical race theory,” which he defined as teaching “kids to hate our country and hate each other because of race.” Republicans have used the term as a shorthand for race-based discussions and trainings that they say are tied to Marxism.

Formally, critical race theory examines racism in US institutions stemming from slavery and the Jim Crow era. Democrats have argued it’s mostly taught in law schools and accuse politicians who favor bans of trying to whitewash history.

The DeSantis event drew roughly 30 protesters across the street who chanted “We say gay!” as the governor’s supporters exited the event.

The protesters held signs condemning a new state law that makes it illegal to have an abortion after 15 weeks into a pregnancy, a state effort to consider blocking transgender minors from accessing puberty blockers, and DeSantis’ education policies.

“Teachers are feeling uncomfortable that they can’t speak their minds, that they can’t be themselves” Avani said.

Son of woman found hanged and burned in LA’s Griffith Park hits back at police

  (Twitter / @2UrbanGirls)
(Twitter / @2UrbanGirls)

On August 9, at around 12.30pm, authorities from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) found a body engulfed in flames and hanging from a tree in Griffith Park.

It was the body of a woman who was found northeast of the Griffith Observatory, near a carousel and the Los Angeles Zoo, said the LAPD.

“There are no indicators of foul play,” said detective Michael Ventura, who added that there were no indications to suggest that someone committed an act against her will.

The LAFD (Los Angeles Fire Department) arrived at the scene, who were in charge of locating the human remains and extinguishing the flames. The LAPD, along with the forensic team, lowered the body from the tree and determined that due to extensive burns, the woman had died by self-immolation.

Detectives stated that the body could be that of a “local passerby” and did not provide further details. They found no evidence at the scene, just a can of gasoline next to the tree. The case was treated as an apparent suicide and, according to records, is closed.

The woman was Vanessa Garcia, 36, who was of Mexican descent.

Vanessa Garcia was born on September 9, 1985, and died on August 9 in Griffith Park. Almost a month before her 37th birthday, the Hispanic woman died of suffocation and hanging, according to the records of the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Department, consulted by the The Independent in Spanish.

The woman also had thermal burns, and the cause of death was determined to be suicide, according to the case reports.

However, Vanessa Garcia’s son, Anthony Espinosa, has a different version than the one widely disseminated by Los Angeles authorities. In an exclusive interview with Independent in Spanishthe 21-year-old says that “[the LAPD] said that [his mother’s cause of death] was suicide, but, a few days ago, I found some notes written by her, where she claimed to be sexually trafficked”.

  (Instagram)
(Instagram)

Mr. Espinosa said that several people “drugged her, raped her and threatened her”, according to a series of notes that her mother kept as a kind of diary. “Everything she was experiencing, she wrote down in that diary; there she explains why she did what she did. She was in danger.”

Mr. Espinosa said that the LAPD had his mother’s diary in their possession and believes “they didn’t care”; However, the same agency declared to the media that there are no previous reports or complaints from the family in its records. When requesting information from Mr. Espinosa regarding the case, he said he had no evidence of the complaints allegedly turned over to the authorities.

“My mom didn’t work. I remember that when I was younger, she had a good job and earned a lot of money. I don’t know what year she lost her job, but in 2018, everything went downhill. What I know is that she had a lot of savings, and she lived on that for a while.”

“Her greatest dream in life was to travel the world with us. My mother had three children, including me. Possibly, she could have killed herself because she was injured. They drugged her and raped her so much that her world came crashing down on her.”

  (Instagram)
(Instagram)

“My mom wasn’t in the mafia or anything like that. What I know, according to the notes she left behind before she died, is that she was followed for a long time by an Armenian boy identified as ‘AC'”.

“My mom never opened up to me about it because I was so young, and as I got older, we grew further apart from each other.”

Mr. Espinosa, undone by the death of his mother, assured that Ms. Garcia was very close to her daughter Aaliyah. He revealed that although she and his father broke up, they never had any problems. “My dad takes care of us all the time,” he said. The 21-year-old added that his mother did not have a permanent home.

“There were times when she would come home to the family; then she would sleep in the homes of cousins ​​​​​​and aunts, but then she disappeared again,” he said. When asked about the origin of his last name, he simply said: “Yes, we are all Mexican, but we have family in Bakersfield, Van Nuys and Whittier.”

“They sent an Armenian boy to hit me in the ribs, they also sent another boy to hit me in the face. They also sent another boy to break my legs. They keep attacking me. They keep taking my things from me, they want me to prostitute myself,” reads one of the notes that Vanessa Garcia left in her diary, according to an image shared by her son to the Independent in Spanish.

  (Courtesy Anthony Espinosa)
(Courtesy Anthony Espinosa)

As Mr. Espinosa told The Independentwhen his mother was co-opted by the subjects -unidentified until now- he wanted to faint constantly and, the next day, “she woke up feeling sick in her private parts,” he revealed.

One of Vanessa Garcia’s diary notes hints at her eventual fate, according to her son: “They made her repeat over and over again: ‘I’m going to set fire to my loser prostitute’s eyes’.” Days after that note, the body of the 36-year-old Hispanic woman was found engulfed in flames and hanging from a tree in Griffith Park.

Ms. Garcia’s son says he is sure his mother issued some reports to the police, because he says she recounted it in her diary, but he does not know where they are and no evidence of reports can be found.

One of Ms. Garcia’s friends, who preferred to remain anonymous, revealed that “Vanessa was a sweet girl and always smiling. I have nothing but good memories. She was a free butterfly who met many people because everyone loved her energy. She had a stunning personality, even though she was shy at times.”

Ms Garcia’s death certificate specifies that she had a history of several suicide attempts, Sarah Ardalani, chief public information officer for the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Department said

According to Ardalani, “the canister with the fuel that set the fire was near the tree where Vanessa hung herself.” So far, no relatives have reported that she has been the victim of harassment or any other criminal action, the official said.

For his part, Mr. Espinosa began collecting funds for his mother’s funeral via GoFundMe. As of Friday, people had contributed more than $8,000 of the $20,000 requested by the family.

Kansas recount confirms results in favor of abortion rights

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A decisive statewide vote in favor of abortion rights in traditionally conservative Kansas was confirmed with a partial hand recount, with fewer than 100 votes changing after the last county reported results Sunday.

Nine of the state’s 105 counties recounted their votes at the request of Melissa Leavitt, who has pushed for tighter election laws. A longtime anti-abortion activist, Mark Gietzen, is covering most of the costs. Gietzen acknowledged in an interview that it was unlikely to change the outcome.

A no vote in the referendum signaled a desire to keep existing abortion protections and a yes vote was for allowing the Legislature to tighten restrictions or ban abortion. After the recounts, “no” votes lost 87 votes and “yes” gained 6 votes.

Eight of the counties reported their results by the state’s Saturday deadline, but Sedgwick County delayed releasing its final count until Sunday because spokeswoman Nicole Gibbs said some of the ballots weren’t separated into the correct precincts during the initial recount and had to be resorted to Saturday. She said the number of votes cast overall did not change.

A larger than expected turnout of voters on Aug. 2 rejected a ballot measure that would have removed protections for abortion rights from the Kansas Constitution and given to the Legislature the right to further restrict or ban abortion. It failed by 18 percentage points, or 165,000 votes statewide.

The vote drew broad attention because it was the first state referendum on abortion since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Gietzen, of Wichita, and Leavitt, of Colby, in far northwestern Kansas, have both suggested there might have been problems without pointing to many examples.

Recounts are increasingly tools to encourage supporters of a candidate or cause to believe an election was stolen rather than lost. A wave of candidates who have echoed former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged have called for recounts after losing their own Republican primaries.

Kansas law requires a recount if those who ask for it prove they can cover the counties’ costs. The counties pay only if the outcome changes.

Leavitt and Gietzen provided credit cards to pay for the nearly $120,000 cost, according to the secretary of state’s office. Leavitt has an online fundraising page. Gietzen also said he is getting donations from a network built over three decades in the anti-abortion movement.

Gietzen said Sunday he does not accept the results of the Sedgwick County recount because of the discrepancy about the way the ballots were sorted and because some of the recount happened Saturday without outside observers present to watch.

“We still don’t know what happened in Sedgwick County. I won’t pay for Sedgwick County,” he said.

He said he’s also concerned about the results statewide because of a report out of Cherokee county in southeast Kansas about the results of one county election being transposed between two candidates when the results were transferred on a thumb drive from one voting machine to a tabulating machine.

Gietzen said he plans to file a lawsuit Monday seeking a full statewide recall.

Gietzen said he won’t publicly report the names of private donors helping him finance the recount, even though a state ethics official says it’s required. Gietzen, who leads a small GOP group, the Kansas Republican Assembly, argues that he is not campaigning for the anti-abortion measure but is instead promoting election integrity.

Votes were recounted in Douglas County, home to the University of Kansas’ main campus; Johnson County, in suburban Kansas City; Sedgwick County, home to Wichita, Shawnee County, home to Topeka; and Crawford, Harvey, Jefferson, Lyon and Thomas counties. Abortion opponents lost all of those counties except Thomas.

In Jefferson County, the margin remained the same, with the pro- and anti-amendment totals declining by four votes each. Linda Buttron, the county clerk, blamed the change on things like ovals not being darkened and “the challenges of hand counting ballots.”

In Lyon County, the anti-amendment group lost a vote. County Clerk and Election Officer Tammy Vopat said she wasn’t sure the reason. But she noted: “You have to factor in human error.”

Johnson County, the most populous in Kansas, faced the biggest recounting challenge because it had the most ballots. It pulled in workers from different departments to help. The sorting process took so long that the actual counting did not begin until Thursday afternoon.

“This is almost like doing an Ironman triathlon and having to add on another marathon at the end,” said Fred Sherman, the county’s Election Commissioner. “So it is quite a gargantuan process.”

___

Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas. Josh Funk contributed to this report from Omaha, Nebraska.

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Dive Group Adventures With Purpose Says It Found Body of Kiely Rodni, Truckee Teen Who Vanished From Party

Just over two weeks later Kiely Rodney mysteriously disappeared from a high school graduation party at a northern California campground, a dive team said Sunday that it found the 16-year-old dead in her overturned SUV.

Adventures With Purpose, a search-and-recovery group known for solving roughly two dozen cold cases, said a six-man dive team affiliated with the group had located the car in a reservoir. The Oregon investigators reported the discovery in a Sunday afternoon Facebook post.

“Car is upside down in only 14′ of water,” the group wrote. “We have CONFIRMED Kiely is inside. Family Notified. Law Enforcement on their way.”

The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, one of roughly 18 agencies involved in the search for Rodni, said that it was aware of the update and was sending deputies out to meet Adventures With Purpose. “We will provide additional information when it becomes available,” the department wrote on Facebook.

The “astronomical” search for Rodni, which spanned at least two states and thousands of acres, saw police accrue 19,951 cumulative man hours and review 1,871 tips, according to figures shared by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday.

Fears that Rodni might never be found had grown 10 days into the search, when local authorities announced that they would be scaling back search efforts to focus on the investigation.

Adventures With Purpose arrived in the area early Saturday, according to the Sacramento outlet Fox 40. Using sonar, divers scoured several bodies of water, including Donner Lake and Boca Reservoir before the group said they made the tragic discovery in the Prosser Creek Reservoir, just a few hundred yards from the site where Rodni was last seen on Aug. 6.

The 16-year-old disappeared without a trace just after midnight attending a high school graduation party at the Prosser Family Campground in Truckee. Authorities say more than 200 teens and young adults were there, drinking and doing drugs.

Magdalene Larson, who told Fox 40 she was Rodni’s best friend, said the senior farewell party was “way, way larger than ever expected,” with attendees coming from outside Truckee—something that wasn’t originally planned.

“There were a lot of guys that approached us,” Larson, who was with Rodni, said. “Definitely, I was getting a gut feeling that during that party that something, something just didn’t feel right with the number of people that were there and how old some of these people were.”

At just 16, Rodni had just graduated from Truckee charter high school in June, her family said. In a video shared by police in the initial days of the search, her mom, Lindsey Rodni Nieman, fought back tears as she pleaded for someone to come forward with information.

“Kiely we love you, and if you see this, please just come home,” Rodni Nieman said. “I want nothing more than to hug you.”

The teen was last seen around 12:30 am at the party, with the last activity on her cell phone coming three minutes later near a lake. She had texted her mom at about 12:15 am to say she’d be on her way home soon but Sami Smith, another of Rodni’s close friends, told Fox News she’d been “partying” with Rodni, and Rodni was too drunk to drive home. She thought Rodni was going to stay the night at the campground instead, she said.

At least 1,200 tips flooded law enforcement’s phones, but cops struggled to get a substantial lead.

About a week into the search police spotted Rodni in a video from the party. She was wearing a pink hoodie with “Odd Future” emblazoned across it. Cops blasted out photos of the hoodie in hopes someone would spot it—either on Rodni or somewhere abandoned in the thousands of acres of woodland that surround the campground she disappeared from.

Photos were also circulated of Rodni’s 2013 silver Honda CRV, which has been missing along with her since the party.

Authorities had begged the 200-plus partygoers to come forward with any information they may have about Rodni. With most attending underage, police promised that nobody would be disciplined for drinking or drug use—two things a police spokesperson said “they know occurred.”

“Our sole purpose in this investigation and search is to bring Kiely home to her family, and we need the community’s help,” Angela Musallam, a spokesperson for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said at a press conference August 15.

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