Nigerian governor says 279 kidnapped schoolgirls are freed

GUSAU, Nigeria (AP) — The governor of Nigeria’s northwestern Zamfara state says that 279 schoolgirls abducted last week from a boarding school have been released.

Gunmen abducted the girls from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe town on Friday, in the latest in a series of mass kidnappings of students in the West African nation.

An Associated Press reporter saw hundreds of girls dressed in light blue uniforms sitting at the Government House office in Gusau.

Oregon to receive 34K doses of new COVID-19 vaccine

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon health officials say they expect to receive 34,000 doses of the recently approved, Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Currently, the two vaccines that Oregon has — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — both have reported efficacy rates around 95%, require two doses and need ultra-cold storage.

Johnson & Johnson’s is a single-dose vaccine and can be stored in a refrigerator for months, but has a lower efficacy rate.

While officials say they are excited for the Johnson & Johnson doses, they anticipate that less will be available in the next few weeks following this week’s initial allocation.

OFNHP says St. Charles filed ‘frivolous lawsuit’ ahead of planned strike

The union representing nurses and health professionals at St. Charles said the hospital has followed through with filing a lawsuit to stop a planned strike.

Earlier this week, the hospital’s medical techs gave notice they would strike on March 4 if the two sides were unable to agree on a contract.

Late Friday night, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals issued a statement that said an Unfair Labor Practice was filed by management at the hospital, contesting the length of the notification period.

The hospital said on Monday it planned to file the lawsuit.

St. Charles medical techs vote to strike; give hospital 10-day notice

The union claimed it followed all the requirements of the National Labor Relations Act when it gave the hospital a 10-day notice.

“The hospital’s frantic response is another example of their efforts to break up the bargaining power of the medical providers who are fighting for fair compensation, safe working conditions, and respect in the workplace,” the release said.

“We are a core part of this community, we are essential to its care, and all we are asking is to be treated that way,” said George Wainscott, a certified surgical technologist in the family birthing center. “The workers who are most capable of safely and reliably staffing this hospital are available. The employer is simply unwilling to treat us with the respect and value that we are worth.”

Here’s the rest of the release from OFNHP:

“The hospital filed an Unfair Labor Practice contesting the length of the notification period, something that labor law experts have rightly said shows their misunderstanding of the NLRA. They originally wanted a state court to issue an injunction to halt the strike. By filing in state court—the wrong jurisdiction—they would have been provided an unfair path to an injunction. This matter actually belongs in federal court, which is why it was immediately moved to a federal jurisdiction.

This is another example of extreme tactics that are intended to frighten St. Charles’ employees into submission, something that management often does in an effort to avoid unionization. While this action has been couched in the language of public health, it is a transparent attempt to undermine their own employees’ right to collective action. The union is fighting this in court, and the strike will still commence on March 4th, with community and political leaders from around Bend joining them on the picket line.”

Lady Gaga’s dogs recovered safely after theft, shooting

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lady Gaga’s two French bulldogs, which were stolen by thieves who shot and wounded the dogwalker, have been recovered unharmed.

Los Angeles police Capt. Jonathan Tippett says a woman brought the dogs to an LAPD station Friday evening.

Lady Gaga’s representatives and detectives went to the station and confirmed they were her dogs.

Tippett says it’s not immediately clear how the woman obtained the dogs.

But she’s not believed to have been involved or associated with Wednesday night’s attack in Hollywood that wounded the dog walker, who’s expected to recover.

Lady Gaga had offered a $500,000 reward for the safe return of the dogs.

House nears relief bill passage; Dems mull wage hike rescue

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are edging a $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief package to the brink of House passage.

A final vote approached late Friday even as party leaders tried to assure agitated progressives that they’ll revive their derailed drive to boost the minimum wage.

A virtual party-line House vote was expected on the sweeping relief measure.

It embodies President Joe Biden’s plan to flush cash to individuals, businesses, states and cities battered by COVID-19.

House passage will send the measure to the Senate.

There, Democrats may try resuscitating their minimum wage push and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues.

Grazing rights rescinded for controversial Oregon ranchers

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A senior adviser in the U.S. Department of Interior has rescinded a January Trump administration decision to grant grazing allotments to an Oregon ranching family whose members were convicted of arson in a court battle that triggered the takeover of a federal wildlife refuge by right-wing extremists.

The memo Friday from the Interior secretary’s office found that the Trump administration hadn’t allowed for sufficient time to receive and consider public challenges to the permit for Hammond Ranches Inc.

It directed the Bureau of Land Management to further consider the matter.

Steven Hammond, co-owner of the ranch, and his father, Dwight, were both convicted of arson for setting fire to range land and sent to prison for mandatory five-year sentences.

COVID-19 bill must drop minimum wage hike, arbiter decides

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate parliamentarian has dealt a potentially lethal blow to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a massive COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress.

The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, comes as Democrats prepare for House approval Friday of an initial version of the $1.9 trillion package that still includes the minimum wage boost.

It also forces Democrats to make politically painful choices about what to do next on the minimum wage, which has long caused internal party rifts.

Bust of Black hero of Lewis & Clark trip goes up in Portland

Last year, protesters against racial injustice toppled numerous statues around the country.

Now, one of the first works of art to emerge in their place depicts an unsung hero of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

A huge bust of York, a Black man who was enslaved by William Clark and who was the first African-American to cross the continent and reach the Pacific Ocean, is sitting atop a pedestal amid a lushly forested park in Portland, Oregon.

It was placed there in the dead of night last weekend by persons unknown.

People have flocked to the bust and it has raised awareness about York’s life.

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, flu has disappeared in the US

NEW YORK (AP) — February is usually the peak of flu season, but not this year.

Health officials say flu cases and hospitalizations have been at their lowest levels in decades.

Experts say that measures put in place to fend off COVID-19 are a big factor.

Some think it’s also possible that the coronavirus has essentially muscled aside not only flu, but also some other bugs usually seen in the fall and winter.

The number of flu infections is so low that it’s difficult for CDC to do its annual calculation of how well the vaccine is working.

And it could make planning for next season’s flu vaccine tougher too.