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Daily Audio Newscast - May 21, 2024

News from around the nation.

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Robert Costello expected back on the stand in New York Trump criminal trial; Oregon prepares to fund early literacy efforts; Indiana expanding shared-cost child-care program; Scorecard: How West Virginia lawmakers vote on clean air, water


The Public News Service Now Newscast, May 21, 2024.

I'm Mike Diffie.

Defense witness Robert Costello, a lawyer who advised Michael Cohen, is expected to resume his testimony today in the Trump-New York criminal hush money trial.

That from CNN.

They report the defense doesn't expect to call any more witnesses after Costello, suggesting that the former president will not testify in his defense.

CNN notes it was a dramatic day in court as the judge, Juan Marchand, briefly cleared the courtroom after a heated exchange with Costello over his behavior on the stand.

The defense also called for a dismissal of charges.

Next to Oregon, a state poised to distribute funds for early childhood learning and literacy.

More from Eric Tegehoff.

In 2023, lawmakers passed the Early Literacy Success Initiative, in part because only about half of the state's students were proficient in reading through third grade.

School districts have since applied for grants with the Oregon Department of Education, and funds are expected soon.

Dr. Marina Merrill with the Children's Institute says the investments are exciting because brains develop faster in a person's first eight years of life than at any other point.

Those years are just so critical, especially that 90 percent of a child's brain is developed by the age of five.

Yet, most of our investments in young children start at age five.

Grant applications from more than 200 districts and charter schools have focused on building a capacity for early literacy through professional development and coaching.

The Children's Institute is holding a webinar tomorrow about the state's investments in evidence-based early learning practices.

And in Indiana, rural Noble County is expanding a shared cost child care program to more Northeast Indiana families.

The Tri-Share program distributes expenses among parents, employers, and county government.

Its goal is to assist working parents increase affordability and boost community well-being and economic stability.

Jenna Anderson with Noble County Early Childhood Coalition says the popularity of the program is starting to catch on.

We actually are planning to expand this program regionally.

We've recently received some funding from the Strategic Development Commission in Northeast Indiana, and that funding is specifically to expand the Tri-Share program regionally.

So, it's only going to get better from here.

Anderson notes some employers are developing their own solutions after losing staff due to child care issues.

While the program doesn't solve the larger capacity problem, it helps with immediate affordability and staff retention.

This story was produced with original reporting from Victoria Leem for Working Nation.

I'm Joe Ulery reporting.

The Tri-Share program assists working parents, particularly single and dual income households.

This is Public News Service.

As Congress prepares to start work on a new farm bill this week, hunters and anglers say billions of dollars in investments in private lands conservation are at stake.

The farm bill expired last year but was given a one-year extension until this September 30th.

It's an omnibus, multi-year law that governs agricultural and food programs, including habitat conservation.

Mark Kenyon, an avid hunter and angler, says the outcome of the bill is crucial for access to lands and waterways in Illinois and other Midwestern states.

Historically, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, these states had prairie, these states had oak savannas, a lot of open ground, the kind of habitat that supports a lot of wildlife and most of that has disappeared, transformed by agriculture.

The last five-year farm bill was approved in 2018, but a renewal effort stalled in Congress last year.

The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to begin marking up the bill later this week.

Mark Richardson reporting.

And for folks in Pennsylvania on the hunt for employment opportunities, the Keystone State offers a favorable landscape.

More from Danielle Smith.

The state's jobless rate stayed at a record low of 3.4 percent in April, better than the national rate of 3.9 percent.

Maysom Martaza with Keystone Research says this positive trend has been ongoing for months with the rate hovering between 3.2 and 3.4 percent over the past year.

He adds the job market is recovering from COVID years and workers are starting to gain a bit more power in the labor market.

The low unemployment rate that persists like that gives workers more leverage in the job market individually and together as well, creating more buying power.

We've also seen in conjunction with the low persistent unemployment rate, last 12 months, real wages have started to go up.

Martaza adds that inflation has started to come back under control and the persistence of the effect is helping the labor market recover.

Finally, from Nadia Ramlegon, as West Virginia leads a group of states in a lawsuit against the EPA's new emissions rules for power plants, a recent analysis highlights the voting records of the state's political leaders when it comes to environmental issues.

Jim Coatson with the West Virginia chapter of Sierra Club says the group's legislative scorecard shows nine state lawmakers consistently voted against environmental protection, with one even voting against their own leadership to take anti-environment stances.

But, he adds, a surprising number of lawmakers have a strong track record for environmental protection.

We were able to identify 10 legislators that had voted pro-environment at least 80 percent of the time.

This is Mike Clifford for Public News Service, member and listener supported.

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