News briefs

NY Gov. Hochul announces $25 million to prevent hate crimes

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Hochul announced the release of $25 million in security funding to help prevent hate crimes during an appearance Wednesday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan.

The funds are in addition to $43 million previously earmarked for nonprofit organizations to improve security at facilities and better protect those at risk of hate crimes or attacks.

“No New Yorker should have fear going to their homes, going to their work, going to their places of worship, or just taking the subway or going out to dinner,” Hochul said, tipping her hat to the late president and governor Franklin Roosevelt and his “four freedoms.” “We have to eradicate that fear once and for all.”

New York, like many other states, has seen an increase in anti-Semitic harassment, graffiti and discrimination in recent years as well as a rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the past year, critics had accused former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of delaying the release of the funds despite the uptick in incidents across the state.

The new funding, which will be used to bolster security at community centers, schools, museums and day camps, will be distributed through the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Additionally, Hochul announced the state is setting up a new online reporting system for reporting hate crimes.

The site will be monitored by the State Police and the Division of Human Rights, which may follow up to determine whether a crime or an act of discrimination in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law has occurred.

—New York Daily News

Loaded gun was in NC kindergartner’s backpack, district says

A teacher found a loaded gun inside a kindergartner’s backpack, sparking an investigation in North Carolina, officials said.

The handgun was discovered Monday morning at Tanglewood Elementary School in Lumberton, roughly 95 miles south of Raleigh, according to Public Schools of Robeson County.

“District Administrators are deeply troubled by this incident due to the age of the student and what could have taken place if the teacher did not take proper action once discovering the handgun,” district spokesperson Glen Burnette said in an email.

Robeson County school officials expect charges to be filed in connection with the incident, which the Lumberton Police Department is investigating, according to district officials. A representative for the police department didn’t immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment Wednesday morning.

“We encourage all parents that own firearms to please take the necessary precautions and store them in secure locations that are out of the reach of our students,” Burnette said.

The weapon found in the bookbag was the fourth loaded gun discovered on the Robeson County district’s campuses since the start of the school year. Two were at Lumberton Senior High School, and one was in a car outside Purnell Swett High School, officials said.

—The Charlotte Observer

US sees highest jump in homicides in 100 years, CDC says

ATLANTA — The homicide rate across the country rose 30% from 2019 to 2020, marking the highest increase in modern history, according to CDC findings released Wednesday.

Crime statistics have indicated the rise, but the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics group examined public health data, including death certificates, to confirm the increase. The previous largest increase in the U.S. homicide rate was a 20% rise recorded from 2000 to 2001 because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the CDC.

“A 30% increase is outstanding, really,” Dr. Robert Anderson, NCHS chief of mortality statistics, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Places that haven’t traditionally had high homicides rates have had increases.”

The CDC’s data was released a week after FBI findings that showed the number of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses across the country increased 29.4% in 2020.

“While their numbers are a little smaller than ours, their data tends to track ours very closely in terms of trends,” Anderson said. “When we saw the numbers we expected that ours would show the same thing.”

—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gorilla tests positive for COVID-19 as KC zoo waits for vaccines

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A gorilla at the Kansas City Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19, zoo officials said.

One of the zoo's western lowland gorillas, named Charlie, was recently diagnosed with the delta variant of the coronavirus, according to a news release. Zoo visitors are not believed to be at risk of infection because of the distance between the zoo's viewing walkways and the animal habitats.

The gorilla is part of a troop of six gorillas, zoo officials said. They're still waiting for test results to come back for the other five, but it's presumed that all the gorillas were infected.

Charlie first started showing sign of not feeling well on Sept. 22, the zoo said. Then he began coughing on Sept. 25, at which point the zoo's veterinary team began treating him.

As the other gorillas await their test results, all are being treated with medications including Vitamin C, Zinc and ibuprofen, according to the release.

The zoo plans to vaccinate all of the great apes, which includes the gorillas, but they are still waiting to receive the necessary doses of the Zoetis vaccine, which was developed specifically for animals.

—The Kansas City Star

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