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Idaho lawmaker accused of rape was warned about his behavior



Idaho lawmaker accused of rape was warned about his behavior

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho lawmaker facing rape allegations from a 19-year-old intern was previously warned against hitting on women who work at the Statehouse after his colleagues heard complaints from other staffers, according to documents gathered by the Legislature’s ethics committee and obtained by The Associated Press.

The investigation into Lewiston Republican Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s conduct began in March when a 19-year-old legislative intern told a supervisor that the 38-year-old lawmaker raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner at a restaurant.

The Boise Police Department has a criminal investigation underway and the Legislature’s Ethics Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Wednesday to determine if the lawmaker “engaged in conduct unbecoming a representative which is detrimental to the integrity of the House.” The Associated Press obtained the investigatory documents on Monday via a public records request.

Von Ehlinger has denied the allegations and maintains the sexual encounter was consensual.

“I take my my service seriously, both to my Country and to my State and the idea that I would be out doing something like this is um, preposterous,” he told the committee according to a transcript of the interview. “And it disgusts me to even be accused of it.”

His attorney, Edward Dindinger, told the AP in an email Monday night that the lawmaker is innocent of wrongdoing and looks forward to putting the matter to rest.

“These are non-issues which only serve to distract from the heinous, demonstrably false allegations which have been leveled against Representative von Ehlinger,” Dindinger wrote.

The ethics committee documents include text messages, letters and transcriptions of interviews the committee did with von Ehlinger, his colleagues, other Statehouse staffers and the young intern who made the rape report. The AP does not normally name victims in alleged sexual assault cases

Several of the people who were interviewed testified that concerns emerged about von Ehlinger’s behavior after they heard that he had flirted with staffers or otherwise made women who worked at the Statehouse uncomfortable.

One staffer asked a supervisor for help after she said von Ehlinger made her feel uncomfortable and asked her on a date.

That situation was resolved with an email from the staffer who told the lawmaker that she was married and not comfortable being alone with him, according to the documents.

In another instance, a lobbyist reported that von Ehlinger followed her around and made her feel uncomfortable during events outside the Statehousen and that at one event she was worried he might have even rifled through her purse, trying to find her home address.

During his testimony, von Ehlinger told the committee that he had previously asked out another woman who works on the Capitol grounds.

At various times, Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke and House Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Megan Blanksma were alerted to the complaints, according to the documents.

Blanksma was concerned to the point that she asked a colleague to warn von Ehlinger that he needed to remain strictly professional and avoid any behavior that could be perceived as flirtatious.

Von Ehlinger did not seem receptive to the warning, Blanksma told the committee.

“I hate to attribute, you know, any particular attitude to him but, it was, he was defensive when he came upstairs and I don’t know that he appreciated the effort or the spirit in which the suggestion was made,” Blanksma said. “I felt that he was pushing back on me even suggesting that path forward.”

Von Ehlinger told the committee that despite the warning, he still thought it was appropriate to ask staffers out on dates because he believed if the individual had a problem with him doing so, they would let him know, “and that the matter would be closed.”

The 19-year-old intern told the committee that von Ehlinger brought her back to his apartment instead of to her car after dinner because he said he had to pick up something first.

When they were inside, she said he physically carried her to the bedroom and at one point he was kneeling on her with his knees on top of her shoulders.

She said she told von Ehlinger she didn’t want to have sexual contact and at one point lied and said she wasn’t on birth control in hopes that he would be dissuaded. She said the lawmaker ignored her, forcing her to have oral sex.

Von Ehlinger’s attorney, however, says the lawmaker passed three lie detector tests with no signs of deception, and that the tests show he never picked up the intern, never sat on her or straddled her, and that he never used force, fear or persuasion to engage in sexual contact with the teen. The attorney, Edward Dindinger provided copies of the polygraphs to the AP.

The documents also include transcripts of a call between the intern and von Ehlinger, in which she confronted him and said he forced her to perform oral sex.

“Like I told you I didn’t wanna do that. I said I was was uncomfortable,” she told von Ehlinger during the call.

Von Ehlinger countered that he thought she was enjoying the physical interaction, but said he now has regrets.

“I um clearly made you feel uncomfortable,” he said, according to the transcript. “And um, I didn’t know that at the time, but I do now. And that’s why I’m, uh, like seriously remorseful about it.”

The intern told the ethics committee that the investigation had been overwhelming, but that she would do what she needed to in order to support the process.

“And that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing my job,” she said. “ … I’m doing my best to hold my integrity.”

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CryptoPunks NFTs sell at Christie’s for $17M, double expectations




CryptoPunks NFTs sell at Christie’s for $17M, double expectations

A collection of nine so-called CryptoPunks were sold at auction as non-fungible tokens for $16.9 million, roughly double what Christie’s estimated the digital art would fetch.

It’s the latest sale of NFTs to bring in eye-popping valuations, piquing interest in the space. NFTs are digital assets that represent ownership of virtual items like art and sports memorabilia. 

Ownership of NFTs are recorded on a blockchain network, which supports cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether.

CryptoPunks were one of the earliest NFT projects and have risen in value as collector’s items. The project included a total of 10,000 small pixel-art portraits of people, zombies, aliens, and apes. Larva Labs, which created the CryptoPunks project in 2017 on the Ethereum blockchain, says on its website that the series “inspired the modern CryptoArt movement.”

When Larva Labs created the figures in 2017, it kept 1,000, but gave away the rest for free to anyone with an Ethereum wallet. The collection of CryptoPunks sold at the Christie’s auction house came directly from Larva Labs. Christie’s did not identify the buyer. 

Each CryptoPunks figure was algorithmically generated and has unique attributes, from hairstyle and glasses to hats and smoking accessories. 

The nine that sold at Christie’s included some that had rare traits, which boost their value. CryptoPunk 635, which has a blue face, bandana and sunglasses, is one of just nine so-called alien punks in the entire 10,000-piece series, Christie’s said. Another of the nine sold, CryptoPunk 2, is sought after for being the second in the entire series.

The interest in and value of CryptoPunks has risen along with the NFT movement in recent months.

Over the past 12 months, 9,524 of the 10,000 CryptoPunks have exchanged hands, according to Larva Labs. The total value of all transactions tied to the NFTs is $740 million, Larva Labs says.

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Gurney’s Montauk launches new ‘Bungalows by the Sea’




Gurney's Montauk launches new 'Bungalows by the Sea'

Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Spa has partnered with style icon/celeb event planner Jung Lee, of Fête NY, to launch Bungalows by the Sea.

Lee will also be at Gurney’s teaching flower-arranging classes this weekend.

Each private oceanfront “bungalow” holds up to six people and boasts a seasonal menu with curated cocktails created by Lee and Robert Hamburg, the new exec chef of Gurney’s Montauk.

Lee will also be working with Gurney’s for weddings on the property.

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COVID-19 pet boom has veterinarians backlogged, burned out




COVID-19 pet boom has veterinarians backlogged, burned out

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — During the gloomiest stretches of the pandemic, Dr. Diona Krahn’s veterinary clinic has been a puppy fest, overrun with new four-legged patients.

Typically, she’d get three or four new puppies a week, but between shelter adoptions and private purchases, the 2020 COVID-19 pet boom brought five to seven new clients a day to her practice in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many are first-time pet owners.

Like many veterinarians across the country, she’s also been seeing more sick animals. To meet the demand, vets interviewed by The Associated Press have extended hours, hired additional staff and refused to take new patients and they still can’t keep up. Burnout and fatigue are such a concern that some practices are hiring counselors to support their weary staffs.

“Everyone is working beyond capacity at this point,” said Krahn, who added evening hours last year.

Approximately 12.6 million US households got a new pet last year after the pandemic was declared in March 2020, according to a COVID-19 Pulse Study by the American Pet Products Association.

Meanwhile, fewer people relinquished their pets in 2020, so they needed ongoing care, experts said. And as people worked from home and spent more time with their pets, they’ve had more opportunities to notice bumps, limps and other ailments that could typically go untreated.

Vets were already struggling to meet the pre-pandemic demand, with veterinary schools unable to churn out enough doctors and techs to fill the void.

Krahn left her North Carolina practice three months ago and now oversees nine veterinary and animal hospital clinics across Utah and Idaho under Pathway Vet Alliance.

“All of my practices are booking out several weeks in advance. Clients are actually calling around and scheduling appointments at multiple locations,” and even resorting to emergency care facilities, she said.

Banfield Pet Hospital, one of the largest national providers of preventive veterinary medicine, had approximately half a million more pet visits in 2020 than in 2019. And its telehealth service more than doubled in volume from March through the end of last year.

Thrive, another veterinary hospital primary care group, with 110 facilities across the US, reported a 20 percent increase in demand during the pandemic. Both repeated a common refrain — as humans spent more time with their pets, they were more in tune with their ailments — big and small.

“With COVID, a lot of people became powerless to the ones closest to them,” said Claire Pickens, a senior director at Thrive, “but the one thing they still had the ability to control was caring for their pet.”

Clinics have been forced to streamline, having patients fill out forms online or by phone pre-appointment because hiring additional staff often isn’t an option.

“The industry is growing at a rate that it can’t fill all the roles needed to keep up with the increased demand for services,” said Pickens.

Veterinary positions are projected to grow 16 percent by 2029, nearly four times the average of most other occupations, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Vet tech jobs are expected to increase nearly 20 percent in the next five years.

“We are still short staffed despite active seeking of additional staff,” said Dr. Katarzyna Ferry, Veterinary Specialty Hospital of Palm Beach Gardens.

Verg, a 24-hour emergency and specialty hospital in Brooklyn, reported a 40 percent jump in emergency care since the pandemic began. That’s also meant more pet hospitalizations, straining various specialties like surgery and cardiology.

“The demand continues to grow,” causing extreme weariness in a profession known for its big-hearted workers, said Verg’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brett Levitzke.

“Fear of the unknown with the pandemic leads to more intense emotions from our clients,” said Levitzke. He’s seen expletive-laced outbursts and threats from pet owners and also outpourings of love, with cards and baked goods. After the toll on the staff became noticeable, they hired a compassion fatigue specialist for support.

“Unfortunately, compassion fatigue, anxiety and depression already plagued our profession and the pandemic has certainly taken it to another level,” Levitzke said.

Krahn said she sold her North Carolina practice to Pathway and later took an administrative role with the company in part to provide practical and emotional support to veterinarians, knowing the toll first-hand.

“As veterinarians, its our job to care, but we also take care of people through their animals,” said Krahn. “Doctors and support teams struggle with caring for themselves in a way that preserves them to be able to keep doing this.”

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