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Hutchinson takes over governors group as virus resurges

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican whose state is struggling with a resurgence in coronavirus cases and lagging vaccinations, called combatting vaccine resistance a priority as he took over as head of the National Governors Association.

Hutchinson was elected Thursday as the association’s chairman, moving into the role as the delta variant of the virus causes a resurgence in red states like Arkansas. Hutchinson’s state has been at or near the top of the country in new cases per capita, and Arkansas this week saw its biggest one-day jump in hospitalizations since the vaccine became available.

“We have much work to do to overcome vaccine hesitancy, but we can do it together,” he said at the group’s summer meeting, which was held virtually for the second year in a row because of the pandemic.

Hutchinson is taking the reins from New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is leaving the chairmanship at a time he’s facing multiple probes. They include allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, whether he unethically used state resources for a $5 million deal for his COVID-19 memoir, and his administration’s manipulation of data about COVID-19 outbreaks among nursing home residents.

Cuomo said the pandemic highlighted the importance of governors, as the federal government left it largely up to states to set up massive testing regimes and purchase scores of masks, ventilators and others supplies. He commended Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, a former NGA chairman, for speaking “truth to his own party even when it was hard.” Hogan had said former President Donald Trump left his state vulnerable amid the pandemic.

“Governors have a new credibility, governors have a new status,” Cuomo said. “Let us use it well, and let us use it to do well.”

The NGA chairmanship is the latest national spotlight for Hutchinson, who has gained attention for distancing himself from former President Donald Trump and his state’s embrace of Trumpism. Hutchinson has appeared frequently on cable news and Sunday shows, also talking about the state’s increasingly ominous COVID-19 situation.

Hutchinson warned that Arkansas’ experience could be a grim preview of what awaits other states.

“What I see that we’re experiencing in Arkansas right now with the surge of the Delta variant is going to be a likely experience in the coming months in other states as well,” Hutchinson told The Associated Press in an interview.

Hutchinson this week kicked off a series of town hall-style “conversations” he’ll hold around the state aimed at encouraging people to get vaccinated. The first one began Thursday in Lonoke County, a rural county outside Little Rock where a little over a third of the population is fully vaccinated.

As in other red states, Arkansas’ ability to impose new restrictions because of the latest surge have been curbed by lawmakers angry about restrictions imposed last year. The measures approved by the majority-Republican Legislature include a ban on mask mandates or vaccine requirements by government entities, including schools.

The forums follow other efforts to encourage vaccinations that have had limited success. That included an incentive — offering lottery tickets or gift certificates for hunting and fishing licenses for those who get the shots — that so far has had few takers.

“There’s not much more I can do from a weekly news conference or a daily news conference from the state Capitol,” he said. “I want to get out in the community because it’s each community and local leadership that can greatly expand on what we’re trying to do at the state and national level.”

One way to build confidence at the national level, Hutchinson said, would be for the Food and Drug Administration to grant final approval for the vaccines. That would eliminate the justification used by some who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, he said.

Hutchinson said the NGA’s role in responding to the pandemic will primarily remain communicating with the White House and the federal government, and advocating on behalf of the states. But he said they can also share ideas on how to increase vaccination rates.

“What we’ve learned as governors is communicating between the red and blue states, communicating between the governors, helps us all get the best ideas to address it, to be more innovative,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said governors also need more flexibility from the Biden administration on how they can use funding from the latest round of coronavirus relief funds, and clarity on how they can be used.

The NGA will also likely play a major role in promoting the bipartisan pared-down infrastructure deal. But Hutchinson said there’s not agreement among the association’s members for a second, more expansive package backed by Democrats.

Hutchinson said he’ll also use his chairmanship to promote computer science education in public schools, an initiative he’s advocated at the state level in Arkansas. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, was also elected as the association’s vice chairman.

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Associated Press Writer Marina Villeneuve in Albany, New York contributed to this report

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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