Tulsa's Golden Driller statue gets Tesla-style makeover

Andrew Nelson lifts the hood of his Tesla Model S in front of the Golden Driller on Tuesday. Tulsa’s statue is joining the effort to help lure automaker Tesla to build its new U.S. assembly plant here.

STATE

AUSTIN (AP) — A federal appeals court Wednesday quickly put on a hold a ruling that paved the way in Texas for a dramatic expansion of mail-in voting due to fears of the coronavirus.

The move by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans came less than 24 hours after a federal judge in San Antonio ruled that Texas must give all 16 million registered voters in the state the option of voting by mail during the pandemic.

A three-judge panel stopped that decision from taking effect for now while the case is reviewed. Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cheered the decision, saying that allowing everyone to vote by mail “would only lead to greater fraud and disenfrachise lawful voters.” U.S. District Judge Fred Biery said in his ruling Tuesday that there was scant evidence to support those claims, and states that already allow all-mail votes have not reported significant fraud.

Voting by mail in Texas is generally limited to those 65 or older or those with a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents voting in person. Paxton has asserted that fear of getting the virus doesn’t qualify as a disability under the law.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Tulsa’s iconic Golden Driller statue is joining the effort to lure automaker Tesla to build its new U.S. assembly plant in Oklahoma’s second-largest city.

The 75-foot tall, golden statue in the heart of the city is getting a makeover that includes a bright-red Tesla logo on its chest, a Tesla belt buckle and a mask to make the oil field worker resemble the company’s CEO Elon Musk. City officials unveiled the new look at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Tulsa Expo Center, where dozens of Tesla electric cars were parked outside a building that hosted the international petroleum trade show for years.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, standing beneath the mammoth statue. “It’s a way of showing how we want to roll out the red carpet and partner with this company.”

The company has reportedly picked Tulsa and Austin, as finalists for its new factory that is expected to employ more than 10,000 people. No timeline for a decision has been announced.

PHOENIX (AP) — A North Dakota construction company favored by President Donald Trump has received the largest contract to date to build a section of Trump’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Republican U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota confirmed the $1.3 billion contract for building the 42-mile section of wall through “really tough terrain in the mountains” in Arizona. That’s about $30 million per mile.

Cramer said Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. offered the lowest price for the project. He did not know how many companies bid.

Trump has promised to build 450 miles of wall along the border with Mexico by the end of the year. So far, the government has awarded millions of dollars in contracts for construction of 30-foot-tall barriers, along with new lighting, technology and infrastructure. The Trump administration says it has already built 187 miles of wall. Some of it is new, but most is replacing old, much shorter barriers that officials say were not sufficient.

NATION

Ford temporarily halted production at two assembly plants Tuesday and Wednesday after three workers tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The shutdowns show the difficulty that automakers and other businesses will have in trying to reopen factories in the midst of the pandemic.

On Wednesday a worker at the pickup truck plant in Dearborn, Michigan, tested positive for COVID-19, Ford confirmed. Assembly lines that make the F-150 pickup truck were shut down while work areas were cleaned, and employees who came in contact with the worker were sent home for 14 days. Production was to resume Wednesday night.

On Tuesday, Ford temporarily closed its Chicago SUV factory twice after two workers tested positive. Production was halted to sanitize equipment.

In all three cases, Ford said the workers contracted COVID-19 outside the workplace.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A lawsuit against the makers of the hit podcast “S-Town,” which tells the story of a man’s troubled life and death in rural Alabama, was dismissed after a settlement was reached with the estate of the show’s late protagonist.

The lawsuit, filed by the estate of John B. McLemore, was dismissed March 12, WIAT-TV reported Tuesday.

“S-Town” was released in 2017 and has been downloaded more than 92 million times. The serialized audio show tells the story of McLemore, an antique clock restorer from rural Woodstock, located west of Birmingham. McLemore called the community “S-Town,” although he spelled out the first word, an expletive. He died before the show was released and his grave is sometimes visited by fans of the podcast.

Craig Cargile, the executor of McLemore’s estate, claimed in the lawsuit filed in 2018 that the show revealed personal aspects of McLemore’s life without his permission and violated Alabama’s Right of Publicity Act.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is targeting the coming weekend for its first attempt to launch a demonstration payload into space aboard a rocket released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747.

The air launch is scheduled for Sunday off the coast of Southern California and will only proceed if conditions are satisfactory, the company said Wednesday.

“Although air-launched systems like ours are less vulnerable to bad weather than fixed ground-launch systems, we’ll be watching the weather closely and being cautious for this maiden flight. Should our flight slip, we have a launch window open at a similar time on May 25th,” it said.

The carrier aircraft, named Cosmic Girl, will take off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and fly out over the Pacific.

WORLD

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — President Jair Bolsonaro unveiled rules Wednesday expanding the prescription of chloroquine, the predecessor of an anti-malaria drug promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump, for coronavirus patients despite a lack of clinical proof that it is effective.

Chloroquine was already being used in Brazil for COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized in serious condition, and under the new regulations, it can be given to people with lighter symptoms such as abdominal pain, cough or fever, according to the Health Ministry.

“There is still no scientific evidence, but it is being monitored and used in Brazil and worldwide,” Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to a “little flu” and feuded with local governments over their stay-at-home measures, said via his official Facebook page.

“We are at war: ‘Worse than being defeated is the shame of not having fought.’”

More than 291,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Brazil, the third most in the world after the United States and Russia, and the announcement came a day after the country’s single-day death toll from the virus hit a new high of more than 1,100. Officials said Wednesday that 888 more died in the subsequent 24 hours.