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51 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Tuesday; 495 Active

in News/Coronavirus
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s active coronavirus cases increased by 20 on Tuesday from Monday.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 50 new recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases.

At the same time, the state reported 51 new laboratory-confirmed and 20 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 495 active cases. 

Laramie County had the highest number of active cases at 90; Albany had 87; Sweetwater had 51; Uinta 49; Natrona 40; Sheridan 32; Campbell and Park 25; Teton 20; Carbon 15; Fremont and Lincoln nine; Sublette seven; Goshen, Niobrara and Washakie six; Big Horn five; Converse four; Crook three; Platte two, and Hot Springs, Johnson and Weston reported one active case.  

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 58,835 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020.

Of those, 57,629 have recovered.

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Cheney Blasts Trump From House Floor On Night Before Expected Ouster From Leadership

in News/Liz Cheney
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

On the eve of her expected ousting from Republican leadership in Congress, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney on Tuesday evening came out swinging against President Trump in an impassioned speech from the House floor.

In a 6 1/2 minute speech, Cheney said she would not line up with or speak out against Republican leaders who continue to allege that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

“I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy,” Cheney said.

“Today, we face a threat America has never seen before,” Cheney said. “A former president who provoked a violent attack on this capital. In an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.”

Cheney, one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump in January, is expected to lose her leadership position in a vote before the House conference on Wednesday.

She survived an earlier vote by a large margin (145 – 61).  At that point, she could have dropped her criticism of President Trump’s election fraud claims and her desire to see a 9/11 style independent commission to focus on the January 6 attack on the Capitol. 

But she never swayed — even with the likely political consequences.

“What happened on Jan. 6 is unprecedented in our history, and I think that it’s very important that the commission be able to focus on that,” Cheney said in April.

Her push for a commission coupled with continued criticism of Trump’s allegations of election fraud got her into hot water with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans  — including those in Wyoming.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis have offered no support to Cheney.

Cheney said during her speech Tuesday that her position has more to do wth the truth than politics.

“This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that,” Cheney said.

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Cheney is On Her Own; Barrasso, Lummis, Gordon Offer No Support

in News/politics
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s top elected officials are offering no support for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as she fights to retain her U.S. House leadership position.

However, two of the three, Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, vowed to continue working for Wyoming regardless of the outcome of a vote to remove Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference, the No. 3 position among Republicans in the House.

“We have to remember that (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and (Senate Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer are the real threats to Wyoming,” Gov. Mark Gordon told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “Regardless of what the House does, I’ll continue working with our delegation to protect our Wyoming’s way of life and advance a conservative agenda.”

Last week, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Lousiana, confirmed that he is now backing U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, for Cheney’s position. Former President Donald Trump is also expected to endorse Stefanik for the job.

Lummis spokeswoman Abegail Cave directed Cowboy State Daily to a statement the senator gave to the KROE radio station in Sheridan last week about the Cheney situation.

“I served in the House for eight years and I was a member of the Republican conference there,” she said. “[Cheney] is currently the spokesman for that current conference and it’s up to them to determine who they want to lead.”

Lummis added that she didn’t comment on matters in the House of Representatives and how they conduct their business. She noted that during her time in the House, former House Speaker John Boehner lost the support of the conference, which led him to step down and by replaced by former House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“I know how difficult these times can be, having been through it when I was in the House,” Lummis said. “All I can say is, House Republicans will do the best thing for their conference. And I’ll just leave it at that.”

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.

However, when asked by Fox News host John Roberts if Cheney should be replaced, he dodged the question, speaking instead about the importance of returning Republicans to the majority in Congress.

“I chair the conference in the Senate,” Barrasso said. “And we’re focused on the future and taking back the Senate in 2022. We need to be together as a team.”

This isn’t the first time. Two weeks ago while appearing on ABC News, he said the same thing when host Martha Raddatz asked him if Cheney hurt the Republican Party.

“We need to focus on the 2022 elections, so that we can win back the House win back the Senate, get united on the things on which we agree, and then successfully stop the far extreme efforts of this Biden administration and those that are taking the country towards socialism,” he said.

Cheney has faced growing backlash among her Republican colleagues (and many Republicans and conservatives in general) for her vote to impeach Trump following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. She was one of 10 House Republicans to do so.

Since then, Cheney and Trump have been locked in a battle of sorts, with the former president regularly throwing barbs her way. She recently commented on his claims that he truly won the presidential election, saying anyone who believed that the election was stolen was spreading lies and turning their back on the rule of law.

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Cody Couple Pleads Not Guilty To Murder Charges Of Two-Year-Old

in News/Crime
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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

At a court appearance last week, a Cody man and woman formally denied allegations that they fatally abused a 2-year-old child.

Moshe Williams, 30, and Carolyn Aune, 28, each pleaded not guilty to a count of first-degree murder. The couple is charged in connection with the April 4 death of Williams’ daughter, Paisleigh Williams.

Authorities say Paisleigh appeared to have been dealt a forceful “gut punch” sometime between the night of March 25 and the afternoon of March 27, when Williams took her to the hospital. The blow was severe enough to separate her intestines and eventually caused her death, police say in charging documents; medical professionals also reportedly found evidence that the girl suffered broken bones and other injuries in the weeks and months before her death.

Charging documents quote Williams and Aune as both telling police that they did not abuse the child. Aune and Williams reportedly offered various theories as to how Paisleigh might have been injured — while also casting suspicion on one another.

The murder charges allege that both Aune and Williams intentionally or recklessly inflicted physical injuries and killed Paisleigh. However, police have not yet been able to determine how the child was injured or who was responsible. At preliminary hearings for the two defendants, Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters noted the ambiguity around the child’s death. The Cody Enterprise quoted Waters as saying there are some “issues” with the case brought by the Park County Attorney’s Office.

Ultimately, the judge found there was enough evidence to demonstrate “probable cause,” and he allowed the case to advance toward a trial in district court. However, for Williams and Aune to be convicted, Park County prosecutors will face a much higher bar — needing to convince 12 jurors of the couple’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Aune and Williams are presumed to be innocent.

“You don’t have to prove anything,” District Court Judge Bill Simpson reminded the couple during Wednesday’s arraignment, as he went over their constitutional rights. “The burden is on the state.”

Simpson will not be presiding over the case, explaining that he handled a previous, unrelated court case involving Williams. The case will instead be assigned to fellow Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Bobbi Overfield of Thermopolis. However, in order to speed the case along, Simpson handled last week’s arraignment.

Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield offered that “if arraignment is a critical stage, and if the court [Simpson] believes it has a conflict, it would make more sense to have Judge Overfield do it.”

“But the state definitely understands and thinks it’s appropriate to start the speedy trial clock,” Hatfield added. “We don’t want to prejudice the defendants in any way”

“So do you have an objection on behalf of the state?” Simpson asked.

“No objection, your honor,” Hatfield said.

Now that Williams and Aune have been arraigned, Judge Overfield will need to schedule a trial within the next 180 days. The couple remains incarcerated at the Park County Detention Center, with bail set at $1 million cash for each defendant. Simpson indicated that Judge Overfield may hold a hearing to consider lowering their bonds.

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Pipeline Shutdown Won’t Crank Prices in Wyoming

in Energy/News
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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming drivers will likely not feel the pinch at the pump that has hit many drivers throughout the eastern and southern United States following a weekend ransomware attack on the country’s largest gasoline pipeline.  

The Houston-based Colonial Pipeline, which supplies more than 45% of the fuel used on the East Coast, transports fuel from Texas to New York. When the company closed 5,500 miles of the pipeline following the attack as a precautionary measure, it affected 17 states, including the nation’s capital.

The shutdown led to a spike of up to 6 cents per gallon, bringing the national average price of gas to just under $3 per gallon this week, according to the AAA. The price is just 3 cents per gallon shy of the record fuel prices set in November 2014.

However, in Wyoming, most prices climbed by only 3 cents per gallon in the last week to average almost $2.98 per gallon.

Mark Larson, of the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, said Wyoming is in a good position to weather the impacts of the pipeline shutdown because it is home to four refineries and is a hub for a number of pipelines.

The larger concern for Larson is the cyberattack itself, which he said is the first such attack he’s seen in his 40 years in the industry.

“This is new normal type stuff that we haven’t seen before,” he said. “Infrastructure and cyberattacks have been on the forefront of national security for some time now,  but I was surprised that a pipeline could be impacted.”

Larson and Aldo Vazquez, a spokesman for AAA Mountain West, agreed that the upcoming Memorial Day holiday will have a larger impact on Wyoming’s gas prices.

With 90% of travelers on the weekend expected to drive to their destinations, the increased demand for gasoline will probably force prices up by about 2 cents per gallon, Vazquez said.

“Before the pipeline, AAA predicted that gas prices would increase regionally as summer travel gets underway,” he said.

As of Tuesday, gas prices throughout Wyoming averaged $2.98 per gallon with the cheapest prices at Maverik and Conoco in Newcastle at $2.44 and $2.49 per gallon, respectively, and $2.54 per gallon at a Maverik in Cheyenne.

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National Pollster Dick Morris Thinks Chuck Gray Can Beat Liz Cheney

in News/politics
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A conservative political analyst told Newsmax recently that he believes Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, can beat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in next year’s House primary election.

Dick Morris, author, analyst and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, told Newsmax over the weekend that Cheney was a “gone goose,” adding there is no “split” in the Republican party, but instead a divide of 99% versus 1%.

“She’s a dead duck in Wyoming, where there’s very good candidates including a guy named Chuck Gray who I think is going to beat her in the primary,” Morris said.

Six candidates have announced they will run against Cheney in the August 2022 primary race for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat, with more candidates expected to announce their intentions to run later. The latest candidate to announce was Denton Knapp, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has been living in California since 2017.

Gray, R-Casper, announced his run against Cheney following her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump after the riot at and invasion of the U.S. Capitol earlier this year.

Gray and his legislative colleague Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, have both been critical of Cheney’s refusal to stand by Trump.

“Dick Morris hit the nail on the head by calling out Liz Cheney for her betrayal of Republican voters and her refusal to represent the people of Wyoming, who she tricked into voting for her in the first place,” Gray said. “As the polling shows, I am the most likely to beat Cheney in 2022 because I am the only conservative in this race who has the proven record to show that I will fight to defeat the very same radical socialists in Washington, D.C. that Liz has voted with.”

Gray added that his record shows he is the kind of proven conservative fighter who will put Wyoming first that Wyoming Republicans are ready to rally around.

Cheney dominated in the first quarter of 2021 when it came to fundraising, bringing in more than $1.5 million in donations. Bouchard and Gray came in second and third, respectively.

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Report: Wyoming’s Teachers Least Underpaid In Nation

in News/Education
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While teachers across the country might be underpaid when compared to other professions, a report from the Economic Policy Institute showed that Wyoming’s teachers are the least underpaid.

A statistic from the EPI’s September 2020 report that shows public school teachers make about 20% less than college graduates who are not teachers has been making the rounds on social media lately.

However, the report also showed that Wyoming’s teachers are paid better than most, with their salaries falling below those of non-teachers by about 2%, a fact that was noted by many social media users.

The Wyoming Department of Education was grateful that people took notice of the better pay for teachers in the state.

“It is wonderful to see Wyoming recognized for placing an emphasis on funding teachers,” Wyoming Department of Education spokeswoman Linda Finnerty told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “As we continue to explore the future of education funding in Wyoming, Superintendent Balow will continue to advocate for prioritizing our dollars on teachers and their classrooms.”

Some states, such as Arizona and Virginia, pay their teachers more than 30% less than what other college graduates are earning.

Rhode Island and New Jersey followed behind in Wyoming in paying their teachers the best.

Funding for the state’s teachers and schools became an issue this year, however, with news that Wyoming’s K-12 Education School Foundation Program is facing a $250 million annual structural deficit and the School Capital Construction Account (SCCA) faces a $50 million annual shortfall.

Most of the money for Wyoming’s schools comes from property taxes and a disproportionate amount of those taxes have been paid in the past by the state’s mineral industry. Legislators this year tried unsuccessfully to bridge the gap between income and expenses in the state’s schools but were unable to do so, leaving the shortfall to be covered by a $331 million transfer from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”

State Reps. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment, Steve Harshman, R-Casper, and Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, in an opinion piece published by Cowboy State Daily, noted the state must come up with solution to the shortfalls in education funding.

“Wyoming should continue to look for efficiencies in funding K-12 education,” the representatives said. “It is imperative that Wyoming continue to examine its K-12 educational program to remain relevant in an ever-changing world.”

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Wyoming Tax Collections Up In April Despite Mining Slump

in News/Economy
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Despite a decline of $6.7 million in sales and use tax collections from Wyoming’s mining sector, the state’s tax collections in April grew by $1.3 million over April 2020 figures, according to a state report.

The report “Wyoming Insight,” prepared by the state Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division, said statewide sales tax collections increased by 2.3% over 2020 figures despite the $6.7 million decline in collections from the mining industry.

The report showed that gains in collections from the retail trade sector of almost $3.7 million and in the public administration sector of almost $2.2 million offset the decline seen in the mining industry, where collections fell by 73.3% from one year ago.

Collections from the state’s leisure and hospitality industry, hit hard by last year’s coronavirus-related shutdowns, increased by $2 million in April over April 2020, the report said, a gain of 47.4%.

Teton County saw the largest increase in sales and tax collections over last year, $2.1 million, a gain of more than 60%. It was one of 16 counties to see increases in tax collections in April over 2020. The second largest increase was seen in Laramie County, $1 million, 13.6%.

Seven counties saw their tax collections decline during the year, with Campbell County posting the biggest loss, $3.9 million, a fall of 40.5% from April 2020.

Converse County had the second largest decline at $1.4 million.

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C.J. Box Catches Beautiful Rainbow Trout (And He’s Not Telling You Where He Caught It)

in News/C.J. Box
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Catching a great fish is similar to the movie “Fight Club” in that there are specific rules to follow.

The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club, so the script goes in the 1999 Brad Pitt movie.

The first rule of fly fishing is you don’t ask where the fish was caught.

A good angler is not going to tell you. A good angler also knows never to ask.

Wyoming author C.J. Box is a good angler. And he backs it up by posting photos of his catch.

Like he did over the weekend with a beautiful 22-inch rainbow trout that he caught on the North Platte here in Wyoming.

“Great day on the river!* Caught and released this 22-inch rainbow,” Box tweeted.

What does the asterisk mean?  It refers to line two of the tweet.  Where you’ll find the words “Don’t ask…”

That’s for the rookies who would — of course — try to get him to divulge his location.

However, he didn’t give it up, of course. And most of his followers on Twitter didn’t press him.

It wasn’t until a Facebook post on Tuesday (with the same photo) that he even specified the river.

Box did, however, provide some information.

“Can we at least inquire what type of fly you employed,” asked Brent McCarthy.

“Sure,” Box said. “We were using nymph rigs.”

Thus ended the fishing conversation with Box. 

When will fans actually see Box again — in person? He did say that book tours will happen again sometime.

But in the meantime, fans can read his latest book “Dark Sky” or watch one of his two TV shows: “Big Sky” (which was just renewed for Season 2) or “Joe Pickett” — a new series which will start production soon.

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Wyoming to Receive $500K In Magazine Scam Lawsuit

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will receive a settlement of $500,000 in a lawsuit alleging two companies targeted customers nationwide by selling overpriced magazine subscriptions using deceptive mailers designed to look like renewal notices for customers’ legitimate existing subscriptions.

Wyoming joined Colorado in this lawsuit against Atlantic Publishers and Publishers Partnership Services and will also receive $500,000 in the settlement.

Both states’ attorney general offices, as well as the Better Business Bureau, received hundreds of complaints, mainly from people over 60, about the mailers.

One customer, a 94-year-old woman, reported to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office that she sent more than $60 to Atlantic Publishers when she received what she thought was a renewal notice for her “Time” magazine subscription, but when she received the real renewal notice the next month, she called the magazine and was told they had not received her payment. 

Colorado filed a lawsuit in November 2019, and Wyoming filed its lawsuit in January of this year. 

The lawsuits stated that from 2016 through 2019, Atlantic Publishers Group and Publishers Partnership Services sent millions of these deceptive mailers to consumers across the country.  

“Overcharging and misleading older consumers into thinking that the mailers were renewal notices  is unconscionable,” said Colorado AG Phil Weiser. “We are pleased that we were able to work with Wyoming to stop this practice that caused financial stress for many consumers and hurt the operations of legitimate  magazine publishers.” 

Because Atlantic Publishers operated out of Colorado, and Publishers Partnership Services operated out of Wyoming, people from across the U.S. filed complaints with the attorneys general offices in both states.

“This settlement highlights the value of interstate coordination,” said Wyoming AG Bridget Hill. “Working together as  equal partners, Colorado and Wyoming have halted and held accountable those whom we allege used our states as home base for misleading consumers nationwide.”  

Under the terms of the joint settlement, the alleged organizers of this scam, Dennis Simpson and John Ackermann, and their companies will pay $500,000 to each of the attorneys general offices to support consumer protection efforts in Colorado and Wyoming.  

They are also banned from operating magazine subscription businesses in both states and from sending the deceptive mailers to Colorado and Wyoming consumers. 

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