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The nation in brief

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | December 19, 2020 at 3:47 a.m.

Oklahoma schools suspend report cards

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Board of Education has suspended the state's school report cards, but will continue with year-end testing of students.

The board voted Thursday to suspend the school report cards because of what state school Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said is significant disruptions in instruction due to the covid-19 pandemic.

"The reality of 2020 impedes our ability to provide the public with information that can be used to compare school's progress year over year," Hofmeister said in a statement.

Students, meanwhile, will still take federally required tests during the spring that include English language arts, math and science for grades 3-8. The ACT or SAT will also be given to to high school juniors.

"Our priority is to now provide schools with as much information as we can on how students may have been impacted when compared to grade-level expectations, with an emphasis on the impact to students most at risk of falling behind academically," Hofmeister said.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Tennesseans grilled about testing pact

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee officials are getting questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers for entering into a $26.5 million state contract for faulty coronavirus testing and other services before rejecting the deal after having spent $5.9 million on the services provided.

Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and other officials appeared Thursday in front of the Legislature's Fiscal Review Committee to answer questions about the no-bid contract with Nomi Health.

The contract, which state officials signed May 1, was first revealed by WTVF-TV. Email records showed some lab experts with the state Department of Health had objected to the contract. The emails also showed that a Republican consultant pitched the company to GOP Gov. Bill Lee's chief of staff.

However, Tennessee officials later determined the covid-19 tests' ability to pick up on positive samples was not up to the state's standards and ended the contract with the Utah company on June 12.

The company refused to refund $5.9 million of items, including personal protective equipment, technology and hardware setup and a management fee.

Piercey told lawmakers that the state had been flooded with proposals in the spring for covid-19 supplies as governments scrambled to find amid shortages. Piercey said Nomi was the only vendor who included personal protective equipment with the package. But, the equipment ended up including veterinary wipes and arm-length gloves for the birth of livestock.

Republican Rep. Michael Curcio of Dickson, among others, raised concerns about state processes to prevent wasted taxpayer money.

Piercey said she did seek additional input outside of the publicized back-and-forth in the emails.

Kansas City LGBT advisory panel OK'd

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City officials have created a commission to advise them on issues that affect the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

The City Council voted Thursday to create a commission composed of residents appointed by the mayor and council, The Kansas City Star reported.

"It's really going to help elevate our queer voices in this community," Councilman Eric Bunch said after the vote.

Members will advise the council on issues such as economic opportunities, health, safety and quality of life, including the murders of transgender people.

The legislation creating the commission stalled for several weeks amid disagreement over whether it should advise the council or be part of the city's Human Rights Commission.

Supporters of the new group said the commission should work directly with the council, while the Human Rights Commission would investigate specific instances of discrimination.

2nd person held in ex-firefighter's death

CHICAGO -- Two days after the arrest of a 15-year-old boy, a second teen has been charged with a botched carjacking that resulted in the death of a retired Chicago firefighter on the Southwest Side.

Dwain Johnson, 18, of Gary, is charged with first-degree murder, vehicle hijacking and unlawful use of an automatic weapon.

Police say Johnson, the boy and two others were riding in a black Ford Fusion around 2:30 p.m. Dec. 3 when they spotted Dwain Williams, 65, driving a maroon Jeep Grand Cherokee and followed him to a popcorn shop in the Beverly Woods neighborhood.

When he came out, three of them confronted Williams, 65. Williams, who had worked for the Chicago Fire Department for more than two decades, was hit once in the abdomen in an exchange of gunfire and collapsed. The three got back into the car and fled.

Police found Williams lying on the pavement next to his Jeep with his revolver nearby. Three types of shell casings were found at the scene: 9 mm, .40 caliber and .38 caliber.

Police have said that the 15-year-old was known to authorities as a member of a "crew" that stole cars in the south suburbs.

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