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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to include marijuana legalization in budget despite GOP opposition

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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to include marijuana legalization in budget despite GOP opposition

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers included plans to legalize recreational and medical marijuana as part of his new two-year budget, looking to generate $165 million.

Evers would aim to use the money raised through marijuana sales to fund rural schools and poorer communities in the state.

“Legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin — just like we do already with alcohol — ensures a controlled market and safe product are available for both recreational and medicinal users and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state,” Evers said.

“Frankly, red and blue states across the country have moved forward with legalization and there is no reason Wisconsin should be left behind when we know it’s supported by a majority of Wisconsinites.”

Evers also said that the sales would provide more state revenue, create jobs and cut down on criminal justice costs, WPR reported.

Voters in 16 Wisconsin counties and two major cities supported the use of marijuana, most of which were related to medical marijuana.

The motion will likely be blocked by the Republican-controlled legislature. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester recently said he would support legalizing medical marijuana but not recreational marijuana.

Vos requested that the issue of recreational use be handled separately from the state budget, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

State Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, labeled the governor’s proposal as “divisive.”

“The bottom line is, he knows, I know, we know that the Republican Legislature is not going to legalize marijuana, per se,” Bernier said. “So, let’s talk about the things we can do, and work together.”

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Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America

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Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rita Fentress was worried she might get lost as she traveled down the unfamiliar forested, one-lane road in rural Tennessee in search of a coronavirus vaccine. Then the trees cleared and the Hickman County Agricultural Pavilion appeared.

The 74-year-old woman wasn’t eligible to be vaccinated in Nashville, where she lives, because there were so many health care workers to vaccinate there. But a neighbor told her the state’s rural counties had already moved to younger age groups and she found an appointment 60 miles away.

“I felt kind of guilty about it,” she said. “I thought maybe I was taking it from someone else.” But late that February day, she said there were still five openings for the next morning.

The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation.

In some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones, with rural Republican lawmakers in Democrat-led states complaining of “picking winners and losers,” and urbanites traveling hours to rural GOP-leaning communities to score COVID-19 shots when there are none in their city.

In Oregon, state GOP lawmakers walked out of a Legislative session last week over the Democratic governor’s vaccine plans, citing rural vaccine distribution among their concerns. In upstate New York, public health officials in rural counties have complained of disparities in vaccine allocation and in North Carolina, rural lawmakers say too many doses were going to mass vaccine centers in big cities.

In Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama, a dearth of shots in urban areas with the greatest number of health care workers has led senior citizens to snap up appointments hours from their homes. The result is a hodgepodge of approaches that can look like the exact opposite of equity, where those most likely to be vaccinated are people with the savvy and means to search out a shot and travel to wherever it is.

“It’s really, really flawed,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who noted there are even vaccine hunters who will find a dose for money. “Ideally, allocations would meet the population’s needs.”

With little more than general guidance from the federal government, states have taken it upon themselves to decide what it means to distribute the vaccine fairly and reach vulnerable populations.

Tennessee, like many states, has divvied up doses based primarily on county population, not on how many residents belong to eligible groups — such as health care workers. The Tennessee health commissioner has defended the allocation as the “most equitable,” but the approach has also exposed yet another layer of haves and have-nots as the vaccine rollout accelerates.

In Oregon, the issue led state officials to pause dose deliveries in some rural areas that had finished inoculating their health care workers while clinics elsewhere, including the Portland metro area, caught up. The dust-up last month prompted an angry response, with some state GOP lawmakers accusing the Democratic governor of playing favorites with the urban dwellers who elected her.

Public health leaders in Morrow County, a farming region in northeastern Oregon with one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates, said they had to delay two vaccine clinics because of the state’s decision. Other rural counties delayed vaccines for seniors.

States face plenty of challenges. Rural counties are less likely to have the deep-freeze equipment necessary to store Pfizer vaccines. Health care workers are often concentrated in big cities. And rural counties were particularly hard hit by COVID-19 in many states, but their residents are among the most likely to say they’re “definitely not” going to get vaccinated, according to recent Kaiser Family Foundation polling.

Adalja said most of these complications were foreseeable and could have been avoided with proper planning and funding.

“There are people who know how to do this,” he said. “They’re just not in charge of it.”

In Missouri, where Facebook groups have emerged with postings about appointment availabilities in rural areas, state Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, a Democrat from the Kansas City suburb of Independence, cited a need to direct more vaccine to urban areas.

The criticism drew an angry rebuke from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who said vaccine distribution has been proportional to the population and critics are using “cherry-picked” data.

“There is no division between rural and urban Missouri,” Parson said during his weekly COVID-19 update last week.

In Republican-led Tennessee, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey notes that the Trump administration deemed the state’s plan among the nation’s most equitable. Extra doses go to 35 counties with a high social vulnerability index score — many small and rural, but also Shelby County, which includes Memphis, with a large Black population.

Last week, state officials revealed some 2,400 doses had been wasted in Shelby County over the past month due to miscommunication and insufficient record-keeping. The county also built up nearly 30,000 excessive doses in its inventory. The situation caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate and the county health director to resign.

In Nashville, Democratic Mayor John Cooper says the fact that city residents can get shots elsewhere is a positive, even if the road trips are “a little bit of a pain.”

“I’m grateful that other counties have not said, ‘Oh my gosh, you have to be a resident of this county always to get the vaccine,’” Cooper said.

Nashville educators Jennifer Simon and Jessica Morris took sick days last week to make the four-hour round-trip to tiny Van Buren County, population less than 6,000.

They got their first shots there in January, when Republican Gov. Bill Lee was pushing Nashville and Memphis area schools to return to in-person classes. Republican lawmakers even threatened to pull funding from districts that remained online.

In-person classes started a couple weeks ago, but the city only began vaccinating teachers last week.

“It was scary, frustrating, and feeling really betrayed,” Simon said.

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Reese’s announces new chocolate-free peanut butter cups

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Taylor Swift’s re-recorded albums eligible for Grammys, prompting ‘greed’ criticism

Go away, chocolate.

The Hershey Company recently announced a new addition to the Reese’s line-up that’s very peanut-buttery. What is surprising, however, is how little chocolate these new cups have.

In fact, these Reese’s cups will be chocolate-free.

Hershey’s announced that it will be celebrating National Peanut Butter Day with the release of a new, all peanut butter cup. According to a press release, the new product will be called the Reese’s Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers Cup and will only be available for a limited time only.

The new candy is similar to an item Reese’s released for limited runs in 2019 and 2020, the Peanut Butter Lovers Cup, which had an extra layer of peanut butter on top of the cup’s candy shell. This time, however, the cup’s entire candy shell is made out of peanut butter and also filled with peanut butter.

It’s a lot of peanut butter. If you don’t like peanut butter, you’re not going to like this candy.

“While launching a Reese’s Cup with absolutely no chocolate might come as a shock, we’re giving the truest peanut butter fans something to go wild about,” said Margo McIlvaine, Reese’s Brand Manager. “The frenzy that comes with changing an icon like the Reese’s Cup is real – but you can still enjoy the classic plus get more peanut butter flavor with a new option that’s every peanut butter lover’s dream!”

Reese’s also announced that the Peanut Butter Lover’s Cup will also be returning. The Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers Cups will be available starting in April of 2021.

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Family with a death wish sets up camp on cliff edge

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Family with a death wish sets up camp on cliff edge

A family in the UK has been rescued from a near-certain disaster after inexplicably deciding to camp out on a cliff’s edge in North Yorkshire.

The family — two adults and a child — were reportedly “unaware of the dangers” when they pitched their tent hardly 2-feet away from a 280-foot drop, according to the country’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

An unnamed “member of the public who was concerned” made the call to British emergency services (999) on Saturday to report the precariously-placed tent, in an area that’s known for “landslips,” they wrote in a statement on Facebook. Police were also sent to the scene to investigate any potential breach of COVID-19 restrictions.

“The family were in an extremely perilous position with no idea of the extreme danger they were in,” said Adam Turner, a senior coastal operations officer for one of the local coast guards involved in the matter. “Cliff edges are really unstable and can easily collapse as recent landslips in the area have shown.”

Details of the fearless family who set camp remain anonymous. Nevertheless, the coast guards’ followers on Facebook were expectedly appalled by the stunt, calling the campers “absolutely clueless” and accusing the adults of “endangering the child.”

However, hiker and alleged witness Barbara Knaggs delivered a measured statement in the replies in an effort to endear compassion toward the family, who may have fallen on hard times, she suggested.

“I saw this couple and child yesterday on the Cleveland Way carrying all [their] gear and did wonder about their situation. As none of us know what this is I really feel it is not right to be horrible towards them,” she wrote.

Turner continued his statement with advice to “keep to paths and stay well back from the cliff edge” as well as to “check the weather and tides” and wear appropriate footwear for slippery, uneven terrain.

“And take a fully charged mobile phone, so if the worst should happen you can call 999 and ask for the Coastguard,” he reminded.

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