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Independent autopsy ordered in Ottumwa woman’s death

Judge Myron Gookin has granted Gregory Allen Showalter Sr. an independent autopsy.  Showalter has been charged in the murder of his wife, Helen Showalter.  Defendant Showalter’s attorney, Bob Breckenridge, petitioned the court in August to preserve Helen Showalter’s body after the State Medical Examiner’s Office completed its examination of her remains. Showalter’s request for the independent autopsy was unopposed by prosecutors.

Helen Showalter’s body was transported to Urbana, Illinois, so that it could be examined on Wednesday.  Showalter’s defense has reportedly retained Dr. Shiping Boa, the same forensic pathologist that examined Trayvon Martin’s body in the George Zimmerman case in Florida, to perform the independent autopsy.  Bao was criticized after changing a conclusion contained in his report during his testimony in that 2013 trial and was subsequently fired according to a report in the Daytona Beach News Journal.

According to Court documents, upon completion of the independent examination, Showalter’s body will be returned to Iowa and released to the next of kin to carry out arrangements.

Gregory Showalter, who is charged with first degree murder in his wife’s death, faces a mandatory sentence of life without parole, if convicted.

New Swim Spa Company Readies for Ottumwa Opening

MAAX Spas®, a leading hot tub and swim spa manufacturer based in Chandler, Arizona will begin operations by year-end at the former Universal Rundle facility located at 2908 N. Court,” announced Sharon Stroh, VP of Industrial Development at Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress. The Vita Spa® STR™ and American Whirlpool PowerPool® swim spa lines will be produced and distributed to a market of over 26 countries worldwide from this facility.

For now, building improvements at the 90,000 square foot facility are the priority. A full energy audit has been performed, and upgrades will follow in areas such as roofing, lighting, fire suppression and air quality. Equipment installation and hiring for production, maintenance, and back-office support will occur later this fall.  “We do expect to have spas rolling off the line before 2022,” says Mel Messer, Plant Manager for MAAX Spas®. Hiring projections will add 50 or more jobs to the Ottumwa labor force.

Based on current figures, direct and indirect economic impact will lead to new/retained jobs of 100, nearly $23 million in sales, and almost exactly $6 million in payroll.  “The executives at MAAX Spas have been great to work with and have been very candid with us about their interest in developing a strong manufacturing base here in Ottumwa. I look forward to them settling in and watching their facility produce” says Stroh.

John Johnson, President and General Manager of the spa division of American Bath Group, MAAX Spas’ parent company, says the COVID pandemic had a favorable impact on the spa market. “ABG output in 2020 increased by nearly 40%. People stayed closer to home and made improvements to their personal space so they could enjoy amenities while accommodating a more restricted lifestyle. There’s a definite uptick in growth projections over the next 6+ years.”

MAAX Spas swim spa lines offer 20 models ranging from 12 feet to 18 feet long and holding up to 2500 gallons of water. The swim current feature in swim spas provide a great opportunity for exercise, therapy, and just plain relaxation.

MAAX Spas® has been providing a quality, comfortable spa experience to its customers for over 40 years through a network of over 350 specialty retailers worldwide.

‘The world must wake up’: Tasks daunting as UN meeting opens

By EDITH M. LEDERER

NEW YORK (AP) — In person and on screen, world leaders returned to the United Nations’ foremost gathering for the first time in the pandemic era on Tuesday with a formidable, diplomacy-packed agenda and a sharply worded warning from the international organization’s leader: “We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetime.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rang the alarm in his annual state-of-the-world speech at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly’s high-level meeting for leaders of its 193 member nations. More than 100 heads of state and government kept away by COVID-19 are returning to the U.N. in person for the first time in two years. But with the pandemic still raging, about 60 will deliver pre-recorded statements over coming days.

“We are on the edge of an abyss — and moving in the wrong direction,” Guterres said. “I’m here to sound the alarm. The world must wake up.”

Guterres said people may lose faith not only in their governments and institutions but in basic values when they see their human rights curtailed, corruption, the reality of their harsh lives, no future for their children — and “when they see billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on Earth.”

Nevertheless, the U.N. chief said he does have hope.

Guterres urged world leaders to bridge six “great divides”: promote peace and end conflicts, restore trust between the richer north and developing south on tackling global warming, reduce the gap between rich and poor, promote gender equality, ensure that the half of humanity that has no access to the Internet is connected by 2030, and tackle the generational divide by giving young people “a seat at the table.”

Other pressing issues on the agenda of world leaders include rising U.S.-China tensions, Afghanistan’s unsettled future under its new Taliban rulers and ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region.

The three most closely watched speakers on Tuesday morning are U.S. President Joe Biden, appearing at the U.N. for the first time since his defeat of Donald Trump in the U.S. election last November; Chinese President Xi Jinping, who in a surprise move will deliver a video address; and Iran’s recently elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.

The General Assembly’s president, Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, opened debate by challenging delegates to rise to the occasion. “There are moments in time that are turning points,” he said. “This is one such moment.”

In his speech, Biden, too, called this moment “an inflection point in history” and said that for the United States to prosper, it “must also engage deeply with the rest of the world.”

Ahead of the opening, Guterres warned the world could be plunged into a new and probably more dangerous Cold War unless the United States and China repair their “totally dysfunctional” relationship.

The U.N. chief said in an interview this weekend with The Associated Press that Washington and Beijing should be cooperating on the climate crisis and negotiating on trade and technology, but “unfortunately, today we only have confrontation” including over human rights and geostrategic problems mainly in the South China Sea.

Biden, in his speech, insisted he was “not seeing a new Cold War or a world divided” and said Washington is ready to work with any nation, “even if we have intense disagreement in other areas.”

On the latest speakers list released earlier this month, China’s speech was supposed to be delivered on Friday by a deputy prime minister. But the U.N. confirmed Monday that Xi will give the country’s video address instead. His speech and any comments about the U.S. rivalry are certain to be closely watched and analyzed: China’s presence in the world, and its relationship with the United States, affect most every corner of the planet.

Other leaders scheduled to speak in person during the meeting, which ends Sept. 27, include King Abdullah II of Jordan, the president of Venezuela, and the prime ministers of Japan, India and the United Kingdom along with Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Leaders delivering prerecorded statements this year include the presidents of Egypt, Indonesia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. French President Emmanuel Macron was supposed to deliver a pre-recorded statement on Tuesday, but the government said Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will now deliver the country’s address virtually on the final day.

France and China have reacted angrily to the surprise announcement by Biden, alongside the leaders of Australia and Britain, of a deal to provide Australia with at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. Australia had signed a contract worth at least $66 billion for a dozen French conventional diesel-electric submarines and their construction was already under way.

Le Drian told a news conference Monday that there is a “crisis of trust” between the United States and its oldest ally, France, as well as Europe, which has been excluded from the new US-UK-Australia alliance focused on the Indo-Pacific and aimed at confrontation with China. He said Europeans “should not be left behind,” and need to define their own strategic interests.

By tradition, the first country to speak was Brazil, whose president, Jair Bolsonaro, isn’t vaccinated. He reiterated last Thursday that he doesn’t plan to get the shot any time soon, justifying his refusal by saying he had COVID-19 and therefore has a high level of antibodies.

A key issue ahead of the meetings has been COVID-19 entry requirements for leaders to the United States — and to the U.N. headquarters itself. The U.S. requires a vaccination or a recent COVID-19 test, and the U.N. will operate on an honor system whereby anyone entering the complex attests that they do not have symptoms and have not tested positive in the last 10 days.

Guterres, in his opening speech, pointed to “supersized glaring inequalities” sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate alarm bells “ringing at fever pitch,” upheavals from Afghanistan to Ethiopia and Yemen thwarting global peace, a surge of mistrust and misinformation “polarizing people and paralyzing societies” and human rights “under fire.”

The solidarity of nations to tackle these and other crises “is missing in action just when we need it most,” he said. “Instead of humility in the face of these epic challenges, we see hubris.”

___

Edith M. Lederer, chief U.N. correspondent for The Associated Press, has been reporting internationally for nearly 50 years. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EdithLedererAP

Threat made to North Mahaska student

The Mahaska County Sheriff’s Office is looking into threats made to a North Mahaska High School student.  The threats were made on social media Monday night (9/20).  After Sheriff’s Deputies talked to the student and his parent, it was learned the threats were made via Snapchat to the student and the high school building.  The threats were reportedly made when the student refused to send inappropriate photos to the sender.  The preliminary investigation indicates the sender is not from the Mahaska County area.  There were more than a usual amount of Mahaska County Sheriff’s officials around the school Tuesday morning (9/21) as students and staff arrived.  The investigation is continuing.

Flu shot clinics coming in Poweshiek County

The Poweshiek County Public Health Department is gearing up for flu shot season.  They’ll hold a series of flu shot clinics starting Wednesday, September 29.  You might be wondering if getting vaccinated for COVID-19 will also protect you from the flu.  Poweshiek County Public Health Director Shauna Callaway says you should get vaccinated for both flu and COVID-19.

“The question we get more is ‘Can I get them at the same time?  Or ‘Do I have a waiting period?’  And a year ago when we were looking at COVID, there was a waiting period to get any other vaccines around that time.  But now, enough time has gone by, enough research has been done that it is safe to get both the COVID and flu vaccine at the same time.”

The first public flu shot clinic in Poweshiek County will be Wednesday, September 29—and it will be a drive-through clinic at Grinnell Mutual Insurance from 2:30 to 5pm.  You will be required to wear a mask.  Without insurance, a flu shot will cost $30.  Flu shots will be given out every Wednesday in October.  For more information, call 641-236-2385.

Iowa Farm Co-op Hit by Ransomware Attack

A ransomware attack by the BlackMatter gang forced New Cooperative, an association of Iowa corn and soy farmers, to take their systems offline but it said it created workarounds to receive grain and distribute feed, a person close to the business said.

Member-owned New Cooperative said in a statement that the attack was “successfully contained” and that it had quickly notified law enforcement. It said it took its systems offline out of “an abundance of caution” and was working with data security professionals to quickly remedy the situation. It did not specify when the ransomware was activated.

The attack hit just as Iowa’s corn and soy harvesting is getting under way,

Security researcher Allan Liska of Recorded Future said the criminals demanded a $5.9 million ransom for a decryptor key to unlock files they scrambled. He said a sample of their malware was uploaded to a research site either late Friday or early Saturday.

Security researchers believe BlackMatter may be a reconstituted version of the ransomware syndicate DarkSide that disrupted the Colonial Pipeline last spring then announced it was disbanding. BlackMatter claims on its darkweb site not to target critical infrastructure, though many would argue that New Cooperative is exactly that because it provides feed to livestock.

In a post on its darkweb site, BlackMatter threatened to publish 1 terabyte of data it claimed to have stolen from New Cooperative if its ransom demand was not paid by Saturday.

The person close to New Cooperative with knowledge of the case, speaking on condition they not be further identified, would not say whether a ransom was paid.

Based in Fort Dodge, Iowa, New Cooperative stores and markets the grain it collects and offers feed, fertilizer, crop protection and seed, according to its LinkedIn site.

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

By LAURAN NEERGAARD

Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with kids now back in school and the extra-contagious delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.

For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose — a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press.

The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, he said.

“I think we really hit the sweet spot,” said Gruber, who’s also a pediatrician.

Gruber said the companies aim to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for emergency use in this age group, followed shortly afterward with applications to European and British regulators.

Earlier this month, FDA chief Dr. Peter Marks told the AP that once Pfizer turns over its study results, his agency would evaluate the data “hopefully in a matter of weeks” to decide if the shots are safe and effective enough for younger kids.

Many Western countries so far have vaccinated no younger than age 12, awaiting evidence of what’s the right dose and that it works safely in smaller tots. But Cuba last week began immunizing children as young as 2 with its homegrown vaccines and Chinese regulators have cleared two of its brands down to age 3.

While kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Cases in children have risen dramatically as the delta variant swept through the country.

Slight chance of storms

If you’ve been hoping for some rain, there’s a good chance you’ll get it late Monday afternoon and into the evening (9/20).  The National Weather Service says there is a slight risk of severe storms in the No Coast Network listening area.  Damaging winds are believed to be the main threat, but there is a chance an isolated tornado or large hail could occur.  Keep tuned to the No Coast Network for the latest weather updates.

Oskaloosa City Council meets

The Oskaloosa City Council meets Monday night (9/20) with a short agenda.  The Council will consider an agreement for MK Golf Shops to run and maintain Edmundson Golf Course.  The Council will also hold a public hearing authorizing the sale of two alleys adjacent to 907 D Avenue West.  Monday’s Oskaloosa City Council meeting starts at 6 at Oskaloosa City Hall.

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