Florence: A prisoner who prompted a nationwide manhunt when he disappeared from a jail this spring has been charged with killing the corrections official authorities said helped him escape. Casey White, 38, has been indicted on a murder charge for the shooting death of Vicky White, Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly announced Tuesday. The pair’s disappearance from an Alabama jail in April sparked a national manhunt that came to a bloody end in Indiana, where Casey White was captured, and Vicky White died. The indictment alleges that during the escape, Casey “White caused the death of Vicky White, who died from a gunshot to the head.” The indictment does not specify who pulled the trigger. Authorities have said Vicky White died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Casey White will plead not guilty at an arraignment hearing, defense attorney Mark McDaniel said in a statement. The defense previously pointed blame at Vicky White for the escape, saying Casey White was in her “care and custody” the entire time of his disappearance from jail. Alabama law allows a murder charge if someone “causes the death of any person” while engaging in certain other felonies such as escape or if the person “recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to a person.”
Anchorage: The U.S. government on Monday agreed to a request from environmental groups to study increasing critical habitat designations in Alaska waters for North Pacific right whales, one of the rarest whale species in the world. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries estimates there are about 30 of the whales left after centuries of hunting, ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements have devastated the species. The agency in 2008 designated about 1,175 square miles in the Gulf of Alaska and approximately 35,460 square miles in the southeast Bering Sea as critical habitat for the whales. Two groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Save the North Pacific Right Whale, in March petitioned the agency to expand the habitat by connecting the existing two areas. This would extend the Bering Sea boundary west and south to Alaska’s Fox Islands, through Unimak Pass to the edge of the continental slope, the agency said in a statement. The proposal would also extend the critical habitat area off Kodiak Island east to the Gulf of Alaska to include new feeding grounds the Center for Biological Diversity has said were confirmed by new research.
Phoenix: The leader of the state’s largest abortion provider said Tuesday that her organization will not resume the procedures in one county even though a federal judge has blocked a fetal “personhood” law that abortion rights advocates feared could lead to criminal charges against doctors and others. Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, blamed “vague and confusing” statements from Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich about a near-total pre-statehood ban on abortions for the decision. That law has been on the books since at least 1901 but has been blocked since shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. That injunction covers Pima County, home to Tucson, so the judge’s decision on the personhood law left open the possibility abortions would resume in Tucson. Brnovich announced last month that the pre-1901 law was enforceable and that his office would seek to have that injunction lifted, although it has not yet done so. “We are not going to put our patients, staff and communities at risk especially when a majority of our frontline providers and patients identify as POC, LGBTQ or immigrants and we know that the criminal justice system is particularly cruel to those communities,” Forteno said in a statement.
Fort Smith: A burn ban has been issued in Sebastian County due to hot weather and a lack of rainfall, County Judge David Hudson said Monday. The ban prohibits burning outdoors of trash, debris, brush or other materials while conditions are extremely hot and dry. “We urge all citizens to work together to protect the lives and property, themselves, their families and neighbors,” Hudson said. “The burning ban will stay in existence until sufficient rain has reduced the fire hazard.” Sebastian County has not had significant rainfall in over a month, and the forecast showed several more days of triple-digit heat with no rain through Sunday. The high temperature each day is expected to be near or above 100 degrees with higher heat indices. “Lawns, fields and wooded areas are exceptionally dry, and the flashpoint for outdoor fires is unusually low. Without any significant rain, conditions will continue to dry out vegetation and spread fire more quickly,” Hudson said Monday. Winds can make wildfires hard to contain and pose a hazard to firefighters who battle outdoor blazes in dry, hot weather. The fine for violators of the ban could be $25 to $300.
San Diego: A TikTok video showing dozens of beachgoers running and jumping out of the way of two fast-moving sea lions has generated nearly 10 million views and sparked conversations about whether the mammals were going after people and reclaiming picturesque La Jolla Cove’s narrow strip of sand. But sea lion expert Eric Otjen of SeaWorld San Diego said what he saw was normal sea lion behavior for this time of year, when males spar as breeding season gets underway. Otjen said the male flopping along at a rapid-fire pace as he darted around people was fleeing the other male closer to the water’s edge that was chasing him because they were likely fighting over which females they could get. Both sea lions had ample opportunities to attack people but instead barreled past them, he said. “He’s got swimmers all around him on his way back out, but they don’t bother him. What this is all about is his right to mate,” Otjen said. “This behavior is not uncommon at all. The reason why the video has gotten like 10 millions views is because everybody is running like Godzilla is chasing them.” And with good reason, he said. “It may look funny that everybody is running, but it’s not a bad choice. You don’t want to be caught in the cross fire. Even if they don’t bite, it’s not a great feeling to have 200 to 300 pounds roll over you.”
Denver: People have a right protected by the First Amendment to film police while they work, a U.S. appeals court ruled Monday in a decision that concurs with decisions made by six of the nation’s other 12 appeals court. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruling came in the case of a YouTube journalist and blogger who claimed that a suburban Denver officer blocked him from recording a 2019 traffic stop. Citing decisions from the other courts over about two decades as well as First Amendment principles, the 10th Circuit said the right to record police was clearly established at the time and reinstated Abade Irizarry’s lawsuit. A three-judge panel from the court said that “Mr. Irizarry’s right to film the police falls squarely within the First Amendment’s core purposes to protect free and robust discussion of public affairs, hold government officials accountable, and check abuse of power.” While bystander video has played a vital role in uncovering examples of police misconduct in recent years, whether it is a right is still being determined in courts and debated by lawmakers. The nation’s five other appeals courts have not ruled yet on the issue, and the U.S. Supreme Court would likely not get involved unless appeals courts were on opposite sides, said Alan Chen, a University of Denver law professor and one of the First Amendment experts also urged the appeals court to rule in favor of the right of people to record police.
Bridgeport: The state is boosting service along two Metro-North rail lines, a move that comes as ridership on the commuter railroad that serves Connecticut and New York moves closer to pre-pandemic levels. Gov. Ned Lamont announced six new express trains on the New Haven Line and seven new weekday trains on the Waterbury Branch Line began service Monday. It marks a 47% increase in service on the Waterbury line, a 27-mile stretch that has undergone safety and infrastructure improvements. “This is the biggest day on the Waterbury Branch ever,” Jim Gildea, chair of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council and rider on the Waterbury line, said during a news conference in Bridgeport. “This is transformational – transformational not only for the rail commuter such as myself, to get us to our places of destination, but for economic development in the downtowns that this line runs through.” Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said the expanded service coincides with a rise in population in parts of western Connecticut. He said about 4,000 people moved into his city, which is about a two-hour drive from New York City, during the coronavirus pandemic. He said improvements to the rail line were one of the biggest reasons.
Dover: A Delaware Superior Court judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state’s Democratic attorney general against agricultural giant Monsanto Co. over environmental damage from now-banned toxic chemicals known as PCBs. In recent years, PCBs have been at the center of multimillion-dollar settlements reached between Monsanto and multiple states whose waterways had been contaminated, but Judge Mary Johnston rejected public nuisance, trespass and unjust enrichment claims asserted by Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings. Citing her own 2019 ruling in a lawsuit filed by Jennings against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, as well as an earlier lawsuit by the city of Wilmington against gun manufacturers, Judge Mary Johnston noted that Delaware courts do not recognize product-based public nuisance claims. Johnston also said the state has no standing to bring trespass claims regarding PCB contamination of lands and waterways. The judge said while the state may have regulatory control of land and water, there is no basis to support the notion that it has exclusive possession of water. She also pointed out that the state had not alleged that Monsanto had control of the PCBs at the time of the alleged trespass.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington has announced dates and participating restaurants for next month’s Summer Restaurant Week, WUSA-TV reports. The summer promotion is happening from Monday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 21. Participating restaurants will offer multi-course brunch and lunch menus for $25 per person and multi-course dinner menus for $40 or $55 per person for on-premises dining. Many restaurants will also offer cocktail pairings and to-go dinner meals, available at two price points: $70 or $100 for two people and $140 or $200 for four people. “Diners across the region can look forward to what will be a delicious promotion celebrating the season’s summer flavors with menus at great price points,” Kathy E. Hollinger, president and CEO of RAMW, said in a statement “This promotion is designed to give the most options for patrons as they dine their way around our great region.” This year’s slate of restaurants includes some returning heavy-hitters in the D.C. food scene, such as Michelin Star winners Cranes and Bresca, as well as some fresh faces, like the just-opened Il Piatto Italian restaurant and Annabelle, which features a menu crafted by a former White House chef who served three presidents.
Tallahassee: A majority of Sunshine State residents oppose the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights, according to a new poll that also shows strong support in Florida for the gun violence prevention law recently signed by President Joe Biden. However, Floridians give Biden lower marks than Gov. Ron DeSantis on everything from his handling of the economy to COVID-19 and race relations. Just 34% of Floridians approve of Biden’s economic stewardship, according to the survey by the University of South Florida and Florida International University, compared with 50% who think DeSantis is doing a good job with the economy. The survey provides a snapshot of how Floridians view the abortion issue in the wake of last month’s blockbuster ruling striking down Roe, with 57% saying they oppose the decision. There are a wide range of opinions on what Florida policymakers should do next on abortion but little interest in banning the procedure in most or all cases, according to the survey. Just 9% of Floridians said they want a complete abortion ban, while 21% said they want a ban with exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk. DeSantis celebrated Roe being overturned and has promised to “expand pro-life protections.”
Atlanta: Republican U.S. Reps. Jodi Hice and Andrew Clyde are calling on the University of Georgia to end any support for a “Crisis Pregnancy Center” mapping website developed by two professors. Andrea Swartzendruber and Danielle Lambert, both professors in the College of Public Health, created the website, which allows users to identify crisis pregnancy centers in a given city, state or ZIP code. Crisis pregnancy centers offer pregnancy testing and other limited medical services. They are often funded by religious and conservative groups and attempt to dissuade women from getting abortions, according to the website. The website says the centers “frequently provide inaccurate and misleading health information,” and it calls them “fake women’s health centers.” The purpose of the map is to allow people to identify the centers and help facilitate academic research into the centers. Hice and Clyde sent a letter to UGA President Jere Morehead on Saturday demanding that the university end any support for the mapping website. “The website is ... clearly nothing more than pro-abortion activism masquerading as academic research,” the letter said. Although it does not appear to be hosted on a UGA website, the letter points to the use of a UGA email address by the website’s creators as evidence of alleged university involvement.
Honolulu: Three former state prison guards were found guilty of civil rights violations for assaulting an inmate and trying to cover it up, the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday. A U.S. judge ordered Jason Tagaloa, Craig Pinkney and Jonathan Taum into custody after a jury convicted them last week, the department said. A fourth former correctional officer, Jordan DeMattos, previously pleaded guilty for his role in the 2015 assault and cover-up, and he testified for the government at the three-week trial, federal prosecutors said. The Hawaii Department of Public Safety fired the men in 2016. “Justice has been served as those involved were held accountable,” Public Safety Director Max Otani said in a statement. “The Department will not tolerate this type of behavior from any employee.” The guards punched and kicked the inmate while he was lying facedown in a pool of his own blood in the recreation yard at Hawaii Community Correctional Center on the Big Island, prosecutors said. They later wrote false reports omitting the beating, prosecutors said. They face up to 10 years in prison for depriving the inmate’s rights, 20 years for the false report and five years for conspiracy.
Nampa: An insurance company that covers counties and other public entities in the state says it won’t renew Canyon County’s insurance policy because of increasing risks and a high volume of claims. The Idaho Counties Risk Management Program sent a letter to Canyon County officials May 23 citing “numerous factors including adverse claim development and increasing risk exposures,” the Idaho Press reports. The Nampa-based newspaper obtained the document through public records requests. Canyon County Public Information Officer Joe Decker said the county’s elected officials were not able to offer comment on the ongoing situation. “We are working to evaluate all options, including potential renewal with ICRMP and the potential acquisition of replacement coverage,” Decker wrote in an email. “More information will be forthcoming when available.” Canyon County Commissioners responded to ICRMP in a June 2 letter that suggested the county might appeal the non-renewal notice. They took issue with the decision, saying that “the abruptness and comprehensiveness of this total separation, and the lack of warning or opportunity to cure any perceived issue, is shocking.” The commissioners also said the insurance company’s documentation showing the county’s “loss history” isn’t accurate.
Chicago: Mourners shared memories and tears Tuesday during the funeral for the mother of a 2-year-old boy who lost both his parents in the attack on a suburban Independence Day parade, and they pledged to care for young Aiden McCarthy and ensure he shares in their memories of his mom and dad. Irina McCarthy, 35, and husband Kevin McCarthy died on the parade route in Highland Park on July 4. Strangers cared for their young son in the chaotic hours following the barrage of gunfire that killed seven people and wounded more than 30. A photo of the boy’s round-cheeked face spread online, eventually helping authorities to reunite him with his mother’s parents, who had lost their only daughter. Irina McCarthy’s friends who spoke during the funeral in Wilmette, Illinois, remembered her as a big-hearted, dedicated woman who cherished her relationship with her parents and threw herself into marriage and motherhood. Each speaker pledged to remain a part of Aiden’s life and make sure he hears stories of his parents, noting his own cheerful approach to life that echoes his mother’s smile and can-do attitude. “(Aiden) will be cared for by all of us,” said Vic Lichtenberg, a friend of Irina’s parents. “He will have a family, a home, and he’ll thrive and grow with us. Every moment, every time I look at that child, I see Irina.”
New Castle: Federal prosecutors have charged a former eastern Indiana police officer with civil rights violations, alleging he used excessive force during three arrests, including by kicking a man in the head and shooting another with beanbags from close range. The U.S. attorney’s office announced Friday that former New Castle police Officer Aaron J. Strong has been indicted on three counts of “deprivation (of civil rights) under color of law” and a single count of witness tampering. According to the charging documents, Strong, 44, kicked a man “in and about the head” during an arrest July 12, 2017. On the same day, he used a beanbag shotgun to shoot another man “at close range” in the back during an arrest, prosecutors allege. The federal grand jury that indicted Strong found that both of those incidents took place “without legal justification” and resulted in injuries to both men. The third incident for which Strong was indicted stemmed from a 2019 arrest in which he allegedly used an expandable baton to repeatedly strike a man who had reportedly already surrendered. That man later filed a federal lawsuit accusing Strong of hitting him more than 20 times with the baton, resulting in injuries to his “head, jaw, arms and back.” The 2019 encounter also led to Strong’s conviction on a misdemeanor count of criminal recklessness.
Des Moines: An assistant attorney general is suing the city and its police chief over his arrest during a June 2020 racial justice protest, alleging he was tackled, pepper-sprayed and handcuffed for no reason. The lawsuit filed by Assistant Attorney General Paxton Williams is among at least eight cases filed against Des Moines police. The cases involve protests following George Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police. Paxton, who is Black, alleges police used unnecessary and excessive force in arresting him in front of his home, a few blocks from the Iowa Capitol. The lawsuit, filed May 31 in Polk County District Court, says Williams felt the effects of the pepper spray for several days and suffered shoulder, arm and hip pain. According to court records, a failure-to-disperse citation that Williams received was dismissed under an agreement requiring him to avoid further criminal charges for six months. A representative for the police department did not immediately respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment about the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, Lynn Hicks, declined to comment, calling it a “personal matter.” Paxton also is suing a police sergeant and 10 unnamed officers. Paxton alleges the sergeant told him hours after his arrest that police video refuted Paxton’s claims.
Overland Park: Opponents and supporters of a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution are trying to reach suburban Johnson County voters to state their case on the hotly debated issue, dealing with historically hot weather as their door-knocking campaign ramps up. Both sides have spent millions in television advertisements and campaign activities in recent weeks. And opponents and advocates alike for the amendment are attempting to use the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, striking down the long-standing Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights nationally, to motivate their supporters into turning out for the Aug. 2 vote. As volunteers canvassed houses recently, some voters were engaged and could nearly read back the talking points to volunteers. One was attempting to urge his daughter to vote on the amendment by absentee ballot from Malaysia, where she was on an internship. The vote is on whether the state constitution confers a right to an abortion. A “yes” vote would give the Legislature significantly more power to restrict or even outlaw the practice, though lawmakers would still need to vote to do so. Kansas will be the first state where voters will weigh in on abortion following the Dobbs decision.
Frankfort: A judge has struck down a measure that would have weakened Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s appointment authority over a key ethics commission by shifting power to Republican officials to select a majority of the members. In his ruling Monday, Jefferson Circuit Judge McKay Chauvin said the measure severely “diminishes and diverts” the governor’s constitutional duty to ensure the state’s executive branch ethics code is “faithfully executed.” By shifting appointment authority away from the governor, the law empowered other constitutional officers who aren’t “charged with that same constitutional duty,” he said. The GOP-dominated Legislature passed the measure – House Bill 334 – this year over Beshear’s veto. The new law was set to take effect Thursday but is now blocked by the judge’s decision. Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office said the ruling will be appealed. Under the measure, five statewide officeholders – currently all Republicans – each would make one appointment to the reconstituted state Executive Branch Ethics Commission. The governor would appoint two members to the panel that enforces the executive branch ethics code. The measure would have removed all five current commission members – all gubernatorial appointees.
Baton Rouge: Despite some Republicans hoping to overturn the governor’s recent vetoes, the GOP-dominated Legislature voted not to hold an override session this week. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards rejected 29 pieces of recently passed legislation, all but one authored by Republican lawmakers. Under Louisiana state law, an override session is automatically scheduled when a governor vetoes legislation, unless a majority of lawmakers in either chamber say it’s not necessary. Historically, a majority of representatives and senators send in ballots saying that the session is not needed. However, since 2021, the Legislature has returned to the Capitol twice to override the governor’s vetoes. Lawmakers had until the end of Monday to send in ballots opposing an override session. Twenty-five of the 37 senators and 39 of the 105 representatives returned ballots. With a majority of the Senate voting against the session, it was canceled, Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder announced in a letter Tuesday morning. Bills vetoed by Edwards, following the 2022 regular legislative session, included legislation that would have toughened criminal sentences and banned government entities from denying building entry based on a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
Augusta: The state has added a suite of new rules designed to cut down on catalytic converter thefts from cars. Catalytic converters are sometimes targeted by thieves because they contain precious metals and are fairly easy to detach from a car. The Legislature has passed a law that puts safeguards into the chain of custody for the converters to try to stop thefts. The rules require car dealers to engrave the auto’s vehicle identification number onto the catalytic converter. Recyclers must also engrave or permanently mark either the VIN or their license and stock number. The state’s new rules also require residents who remove unmarked catalytic converters to engrave or mark the converter with the VIN. The state’s new rules go into effect Aug. 8. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows called the thefts “an infuriating trend” and said the new law would “provide some peace of mind to Mainers who are worried they may be next.” The number of incidents of catalytic converter theft has spiked around the country over the past three years.
Salisbury: A video in which a Wicomico County Board of Education member’s teenage son holds a rifle and says a threatening statement against Black people, using a racial slur, was shared among students at Parkside High School on one of the last days of the school year. The community was already on edge – two days before the video was shared, in mid-June, Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office deputy Cpl. Glenn Hilliard, a Black man, was killed in the line of duty in Pittsville. Front of mind nationwide was the killing a few weeks prior of 19 children and two adults in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Wicomico County Board of Education member Tonya Lewis’s 15-year-old son was holding what was later determined to be a pellet rifle in the video. Wicomico County public schools issued a statement the week the video was shared assuring the public the incident was being investigated and saying, among other things: “We are shocked and revolted by both the language and the visual content of this video.” The statement noted federal law prohibits the school district from revealing information about individual students. The sheriff’s office announced June 29 that the teen was being charged with misuse of electronic mail and disturbing school activities, both misdemeanors.
Quincy: A Boston suburb that was the birthplace of two of the nation’s earliest presidents is planning to build a center honoring their legacies. Quincy officials on Tuesday announced the formation of a new nonprofit foundation to raise money and oversee the design and construction of the Adams Presidential Center honoring former President John Adams and his son, former President John Quincy Adams, as well as former first ladies Abigail Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams. Mayor Thomas Koch said the announcement marks the beginning of a formal, public process for building the “long overdue” center, which he hopes will offer more than a traditional presidential library and museum. “We’re in the infant stages, but we envision it as a center for civic engagement, a place to really get some education about the history of our country,” he said during remarks at the Adams Academy. The mayor has proposed the historic former school as a future home for the center. The school was built in the 1800s using money John Adams left to the city of Quincy, which is named after Abigail Adams’ grandfather, Col. John Quincy. Koch has also asked the Boston Public Library to transfer John Adams’ collection of more than 3,000 books to the city to serve as a focal point of the project.
Detroit: The state’s largest district court and bail reform advocates have agreed to settle a federal class-action lawsuit over cash bail practices, which activists say routinely and unconstitutionally jail poor and working-class defendants despite evidence of their inability to pay. Both sides say the reforms announced Tuesday strike at racial inequality in the criminal legal system. On any given day in Wayne County – which includes Detroit, the nation’s Blackest city – nearly three-quarters of those jailed are Black, a proportion much higher than their share of the population. If the reforms narrow that disparity, it could be a model for court systems nationwide, where race and wealth are significant factors in the administration of justice, advocates say. Detroit’s 36th District Court, the American Civil Liberties Union and The Bail Project, a nonprofit that pays bail for people in need, said the status quo wreaks unnecessary havoc on defendants’ jobs, homes and families. “This is a historic agreement that we believe can and should be a template for how courts around the country can adapt their bail practices to what is lawful, constitutional and sensible,” said Phil Mayor, senior staff attorney for the Michigan ACLU.
Minneapolis: A farmer is accused of making $46 million by passing off chemically treated corn and soybeans as organically grown. James Clayton Wolf has been charged in federal court with felony wire fraud. Prosecutors say Wolf falsely labeled crops grown on his rural Cottonwood County farm as organic, defrauded grain buyers and undermined the nation’s organic labeling system. Organic farming uses seeds from non-genetically modified organisms. Crops are grown without chemicals or fertilizers and generate higher prices at market than non-organic crops. Organic crop certification is controlled by the federal National Organic Program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grand jury’s indictment says Wolf’s organic farming certification was revoked in 2020. However, according to the document, Wolf continued selling non-GMO grain falsely labeled as organic through an “associate,” the Star Tribune reports. “Mr. Wolf is a 65-year-old career farmer, who has never been in trouble,” said Paul Engh, his attorney. “He’s led a good life and now seeks his vindication.” Wolf is scheduled to appear before a magistrate judge July 22.
Gulfport: Animal shelters across the Mississippi Gulf Coast are coping with too many animals and too few staffers and volunteers. The Sun Herald reports that one shelter, the Jackson County Animal Shelter, is being forced to considering euthanizing healthy, adoptable dogs. Kennels are stacked on top of one another with dogs of all ages and breeds at the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport. The shelter has 500 animals, more than it can handle. “It’s a capacity crisis,” said Katie King, the shelter’s development director. The Humane Society, like many other businesses and organizations on the Gulf Coast, is struggling to fill job vacancies during a tight labor market. It’s a similar story at the Jackson County Animal Shelter. When the Jackson County shelter is at its capacity, staffers are forced to euthanize animals that are not considered adoptable – those that are aggressive or so sick they cannot be treated by the shelter’s vets. “But we are running short on animals that are not adoptable, and we are fearful that we will have to do some that are to make space,” shelter director Joseph Barlow said. HSSM and the Jackson County Animal Shelter are looking for volunteers, as well as donations including cleaning supplies, food, treats and more.
Jefferson City: Two leading Democratic state lawmakers on Monday asked the Republican governor to call a special session to pass legislation that would safeguard contraception and medical treatment for ectopic pregnancies after a near-total ban on abortion was instituted. Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, of Independence, and House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, of Springfield, wrote in a letter to Gov. Mike Parson that medical and legal experts have “expressed concern and confusion” since the state law banning abortion except in “cases of medical emergency” took effect last month. Most notably, a large Missouri hospital chain briefly stopped providing emergency contraception, fearing that doctors who provide the medication could be at risk of criminal charges, even in cases of sexual assault. Quade said in a phone interview that constituents have called “fearful of whether or not they can get their birth control, if they can get the morning-after pill. What do they do with their IVF treatments, ectopic pregnancy, etc. You know, there’s still a lot of confusion around what the actual law means in the state of Missouri in terms of who can be prosecuted and what is covered.” Parson had already said he plans to call a special session to deal with tax cuts; Democrats want abortion added to the agenda to provide clarity.
Helena: Native American leaders throughout the state are pushing for the return of a sacred white bison that has been housed at the Montana State Historical Society since his death in 1959. Big Medicine is the name given a white bison calf born on the range in 1933, The Daily Montanan reports. Not an albino, Big Medicine had a mostly white coat with a tuft of brown that sometimes appeared near his horns. Many Indigenous cultures, including the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, regarded the birth as an omen of good fortune and renewed hope, and Big Medicine was kept alive on the range for 26 years, nearly triple the age of the average bull bison. The display at the Montana State Historical Society is right across from the archives on the second floor, and he remains one of the most popular attractions. However, the Montana Native American Caucus has supported the effort by the CSKT to bring Big Medicine home, back to where he lived, to be a part of a planned museum and interpretative center. Molly Kruckenberg, executive director of the historical society, said while the decision to return Big Medicine to the CSKT is in the hands of the society’s board of trustees, staff generally support the effort so long as the animal, in somewhat fragile condition, can be returned safely and preserved for the next generation.
Omaha: A newly formed nonprofit says it wants to create a community center for LGBTQ+ people in the metro area and as far away as western Iowa, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Mayor Jean Stothert has thrown her support behind the effort by Omaha ForUs, which said support groups and mental health services would be among the offerings it hopes the center can provide. JohnCarl Denkovich, director of programs for Omaha ForUs, said the city is among just seven in the 50 biggest U.S. cities without such a center in its metro area, according to the newspaper.
Las Vegas: Homicides are down in Clark County in the first half of this year, but authorities say gun violence and domestic killings remain a real concern. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports at least eight people were killed because of domestic violence in the metro area in the first six months of 2022. Across Clark County, 89 people have been killed between Jan. 1 and June 30, including 74 deaths that were investigated by the Las Vegas Metro Police. Across all departments in the county, police investigated three mass shootings in the first half of this year, according to the Review-Journal. At least 30 homicides in the county involved men killed during a fight with another man. “Perceived disrespect associated with social media and in-person fighting has become a significant issue,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told the Review-Journal. “Instead of reacting with their words and feet and hands, now they’re reacting with guns, and that is a disturbing trend.” County authorities had investigated 104 killings by July 1, 2021 – 15 more than this year.
Concord: State homeland security officials said Tuesday that a siren was inadvertently activated at the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station and that there was no emergency and no danger to the public. The state Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency and plant owner NextEra Energy Resources put out statements more than 30 minutes after beachgoers in nearby Hampton and Rye said they heard announcements about 11 a.m. about the beaches being closed because of a problem at the plant. “We are aware of the sirens calling for an evacuation near Seabrook Station,” said Bill Orlove, a spokesperson for plant. “The sirens’ activation was sent in error during testing of the system. ... Seabrook Station is currently operating with no issues that impact the nearby community. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused.” Police and fire departments in the area said the beaches were not closed. “The Seabrook Station Alert was inadvertent there is NO EMERGENCY,” the Hampton Fire Department posted on Facebook. The plant is about 40 miles north of Boston and 10 miles south of Portsmouth. It has operated since 1990.
Atlantic City: Workers at five casinos have ratified new contracts giving them significant raises and are now turning their attention to the two that have yet to settle, their union said Tuesday. Officials with Local 54 of the Unite Here union said 99% of workers who voted in ratification elections Monday approved the new pacts, under which housekeeping employees will immediately see their hourly salary increased to $18, up from varying levels at different casinos. Their pay will increase to $22 per hour at the end of the four-year contract. “It’s hard to sell a housekeeping job at $16 an hour,” said union President Bob McDevitt. “It’s a lot easier to sell one at $20 or $22 an hour.” He said the strike authorization vote is a way to prepare for the possibility that a work stoppage may be needed. “Casino workers have needed raises for a long time,” said Dave Dorfman, a cook at Harrah’s and member of the worker negotiating committee. “Now there is an easier way forward for us, and the money will go a long way towards affording my daily expenses. Next, we need to make sure that Resorts and Golden Nugget workers don’t get left behind.” The union plans to vote July 19 on whether to authorize a strike at those two casinos if new deals are not reached by then.
Albuquerque: State regulators said Monday that several horses that were feared dead by animal advocates following a weekend of racing at one of the state’s premiere horse tracks are alive and well. Officials with the New Mexico Racing Commission said that only one animal died after being injured during recent trials at Ruidoso Downs and that photographs and veterinary reports submitted to the state show the other seven were in their stalls and were fine. The Washington, D.C.-based group Animal Wellness Action had raised concerns about the horses’ welfare. “Apparently it was so brutally hot the horses had to be vanned back to the stables after they ran, which of course to us means they shouldn’t have been running in the first place,” said Marty Irby, the lobbying group’s executive director. Irby leveled his criticisms as advocates push for track owners and regulators nationwide to be more vigilant now that new federal safety mandates took effect this month and as the industry prepares to adopt more uniform anti-doping rules. Irby was among those who testified before Congress in support of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which was signed into law in 2020. It is being implemented in stages, with the racetrack safety program starting first. The anti-doping and medication rules are expected in early 2023.
New York: Researchers at NYU Langone Health transplanted pig hearts into two brain-dead people over the past month – the latest in a string of developments in the long quest to one day save human lives with animal organs. The experiments announced Tuesday come after a historic but failed attempt earlier this year to use a pig’s heart to save a dying Maryland man – sort of a rehearsal before scientists try again in the living. “We learned so much from the first one that the second one is much better,” said Dr. Nader Moazami, who led the operations at NYU Langone Health. “You stand there in awe” when the pig heart starts to beat in a human body, he said. This time around, Moazami’s team mimicked how heart transplants routinely are done. Once last month and once last week, researchers traveled to a facility housing genetically modified pigs, removed the needed hearts, put them on ice and flew them hundreds of miles back to New York. They used special new methods to check for any worrisome animal viruses before sewing the heart into the chest of each deceased recipient – a Vietnam veteran from Pennsylvania with a long history of heart disease and a New York woman who’d benefited from a transplant earlier in life. Then came three days of more intense testing than living patients could tolerate before doctors disconnected life support.
Raleigh: A federal judge has blocked state laws that greatly restrict who can help people with disabilities request absentee ballots, fill them out and return them. A disabled person needing help to vote by mail can now seek assistance from anyone they choose, not just from a close relative or legal guardian as state law has limited, the State Board of Elections told county election officials after the decision filed Monday by U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle. He declared that such restraints in state law conflict with the federal Voting Rights Act, which allows people who are blind, can’t read or write, or have a disability to pick whomever they wish to assist them, save for the voter’s employer or union. The elimination of these restrictions applies to all citizens with such disabilities, not just the thousands who reside in hospitals, clinics or nursing homes, Boyle ruled in a lawsuit filed last September against the state board by the nonprofit Disability Rights North Carolina. “Voting is a fundamental right in this country, and these barriers not only violated federal law, they effectively denied the dignity, autonomy and humanity of disabled people by preventing their full participation in voting,” Disability Rights North Carolina CEO Virginia Knowlton Marcus said in a news release Tuesday.
Bismarck: A group that wants to legalize recreational marijuana turned in more than 25,000 signatures to the secretary of state Monday in an effort to place the matter before voters in November. The group, New Approach North Dakota, needed 15,582 signatures to get the measure on the ballot for the general election. The organization’s campaign manager, David Owen, said all the additional signatures they gathered show there is broad support for legalization. “We’ve had signature-gatherers in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, Minot, Williston …we were at Country Fest this weekend in New Salem. This was a campaign that was done in less than 100 days, and we averaged 2,000 signatures a week the whole way through,” Owen told KFGO. “We think that this really shows true, strong support across the state, the fact that we were able to get so many people to sign.” Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office has 35 days to review the signatures and determine if enough of the petitions are valid to place the measure on the ballot. The New Approach initiative would allow people 21 and older to legally use marijuana at home, as well as possess and cultivate restricted amounts of cannabis. Public consumption of marijuana would not allowed under the proposed provision.
Columbus: A Franklin County judge described the ongoing effort to put a “green energy” initiative on the ballot in city elections as an illegitimate attempt to steal taxpayer money when he sentenced its leader Tuesday to 120 days in jail for filing a false campaign finance report in 2019. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Chris M. Brown also sentenced John A. Clark Jr., 50, to pay a $2,500 fine, work 250 hours of community service and serve five years of probation. “I’m specifically going to ask the community service be through the Columbus Parks Department so you can work with the people you were trying to steal money from. You’ll work in programs that would’ve been shut down had you been successful,” Brown said. Clark has led multiple petition drives in recent years to get a “green energy” initiative put on the Columbus ballot that, if any had passed, would have diverted more than $40 million of taxpayer money from the city budget toward ProEnergy Ohio LLC, a limited partnership group led by Clark. After a back-and-forth with the City Council and the courts, a version of the initiative that would have redirected $87 million to ProEnergy Ohio made it onto the ballot last November. It was soundly defeated. One of Clark’s attorneys said they’ll appeal the sentence, which they feel was overly harsh.
Oklahoma City: Three proposed new turnpike routes were approved Monday by the Oklahoma Transportation Commission despite concerns by one member about the process being rushed and the absence of a member representing threatened homeowners. The turnpikes are part of Access Oklahoma, a $5 billion, 15-year expansion of the state’s turnpike network that opponents say will uproot hundreds of homes and businesses where new toll roads are proposed between south Oklahoma City and Norman. PIKE OFF, a grassroots group battling the three turnpikes, unsuccessfully asked the commission to delay a vote until a new District 3 representative could be appointed by Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall. John Estus, House spokesman, said the appointment, required after the seat was vacated by T.W. Shannon, is one of hundreds requiring McCall’s attention. “While this is a recent vacancy, it has been prioritized and will be filled very soon,” Estus said. “Nobody has advised the speaker’s office on why the vote on this matter occurred before the appointment was made.” Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said the routes approved Monday can still be adjusted based on talks with property owners and other considerations.
Portland: Forestry officials said Monday that an invasive beetle known for decimating ash trees throughout North America and Europe was recently discovered west of Portland – a first for the West Coast. The Oregon Department of Forestry said the iridescent green emerald ash borer is considered the most destructive forest pest in North America and had been detected in 34 other states before it was discovered in Forest Grove on June 30, KOIN-TV reports. Officials said it’s the first discovery of the insect on the West Coast. The beetle is believed to have come from Asia through Canada to the U.S. about 20 years ago. The insects have killed up to 99% of the ash trees in some North American locations. The emerald ash borer was discovered in Oregon by Dominic Maze, an invasive species biologist for the city of Portland. He was waiting outside a summer camp in Forest Grove to pick up his children when he noticed several ash trees with D-shaped exit holes in their bark, state officials said. He recognized the holes as a sign of the emerald ash borer and then spotted the beetles. “It’s an ecologically vital tree, as it shades water, keeping it cooler for fish,” said Wyatt Williams, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s invasive species specialist. “The roots stabilize streambanks, reducing erosion.”
Harrisburg: The state’s elections agency sued three Republican-controlled county governments Tuesday, seeking to force their election boards to report primary results that include ballots with undated exterior envelopes – the subject of several other lawsuits. The Department of State sued Lancaster, Berks and Fayette counties in Commonwealth Court, describing them as “outlier counties” that have not properly certified vote tallies from the May 17 election that included nominating contests for U.S. Senate, governor and most of the Legislature. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled May 20 that mail-in ballots without a required date on the return envelope must be allowed in a 2021 county judge race in Pennsylvania. Although the U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt the Senate vote-counting after the primary, three justices signed onto an opinion that said the 3rd Circuit was “very likely wrong.” A Commonwealth Court judge, in a separate case that was directly about reporting this year’s Senate primary election results, ruled June 2 that county boards of election should count mail-in votes that lack the security envelopes’ handwritten dates and report vote totals both with and without those ballots.
Providence: Low-income people who are charged with crimes will be spared from paying court costs and fees if they prove to the court they don’t have the financial means to pay those debts, under a new state law. Recognizing court costs can prove an insurmountable hurdle for some people that can tie them to the courts, state lawmakers this past session passed legislation that eliminates all costs, assessments and fees for those determined to be indigent. Such costs will also be waived for anyone who serves more than 30 days in prison under the law enacted late last month. “It’s done a great deal of healing and relief for those who have been in the system for too many years, too long,” said Cedric Huntley, executive director of the Nonviolence Institute. Huntley recalled one man finally feeling free to get his driver’s license after a judge waived his court costs. “It gives people an opportunity to explore other opportunities. It changed the way he viewed the system,” Huntley said. Previously, state law specified that judges “may” waive fees for those unable to pay, but that lenience was applied unevenly by judges. Under the new law, the fees will be automatically eliminated for the indigent and those serving sentences longer than 30 days.
Columbia: The nation’s ninth-busiest port is at risk of pollution by more than 100,000 gallons of fuel from a Navy aircraft carrier that served in World War II and the Vietnam War before its decommissioning and designation as a National Historic Landmark. The USS Yorktown, located in Charleston Harbor, is experiencing continued corrosion on its outer hull. If hazardous materials leak into the harbor, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster warned it would impair commercial shipping and harm the ecosystem. McMaster – who has supported environmental protection in office but failed to get the endorsement of conservation groups in his 2018 gubernatorial bid – took steps Monday to minimize that risk. Speaking at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, the governor announced an executive order directing the state’s Office of Resilience to study the cost of remediation efforts and remove all 140,000 gallons of fuel from the USS Yorktown. The aircraft carrier also picked up the Apollo 8 crew and spacecraft in 1968 after the first human mission to the moon. “This is a special place for a whole lot of reasons,” McMaster said at a Monday afternoon news conference. “It’s been entrusted to us. And we have to be sure that it continues to flourish.”
Sioux Falls: A pair of campaigns trying to expand access to Medicaid through the November ballot announced Monday that they will join efforts to focus on passing an amendment to the state constitution. The announcement from the two organizations – South Dakotans Decide Healthcare and Dakotans for Health – puts to rest a potential rivalry between the two campaigns. Both brought separate ballot proposals to require the state to make Medicaid government health insurance available to people who live below 133% of the federal poverty level, which is currently about $18,000 for an individual or $37,000 for a family of four. South Dakota is one of 12 states that has not accepted federal incentives to expand Medicaid eligibility, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. South Dakotans Decide Healthcare, which is sponsoring Constitutional Amendment D and is backed by the state’s health care industry, said that Dakotans for Health would join its coalition rather than push its own proposal for a voter-initiated measure. “After conversations with South Dakotans Decide Healthcare members, we have agreed that the best path forward to accomplishing this goal is to join efforts behind one campaign,” Rick Weiland, the co-founder of Dakotans for Health, said in a statement.
Nashville: More of the state’s students met grade-level requirements in reading this year, but the number of students scoring below grade level has also grown. More than 36% of students are on grade level in English language arts, up from about 29% of students last year, according to results from this year’s state assessments. But 25.8% of students are also scoring below grade level – also up from 23.8% of students last year and the highest since 2017. This growing achievement gap is especially acute at some grade levels and among certain groups of students, including Black and Hispanic students and students with disabilities. And it comes as state education officials tout successes in literacy instruction and implementation of statewide efforts to boost reading skills for all students. Students’ TNReady or TCAP scores fall into one of four categories: mastered, on track, approaching and below grade level. A student who tests “on track” is considered proficient for their grade level. This school year, of all students tested from third grade and up, 35.1% of students scored on or above grade level.
Austin: The state’s juvenile prison system is giving employees pay raises to address high staff turnover and staffing shortages that prompted officials to stop accepting new children into the facilities last week. Direct-care staff, including correctional officers and case managers, will be getting 15% raises. The salary hikes had been temporary following an emergency measure in April but will now be permanent, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department announced Friday. The raises are “the first step in stabilizing the agency,” said Interim Executive Director Shandra Carter. In a letter sent last month to Texas juvenile probation chiefs but only made public last week, Carter had said her agency would have to temporarily halt the intake of youth to its five state facilities as the juvenile justice department was “hemorrhaging” staff. Following media reports in 2007 that detailed physical and sexual abuse in state facilities and raised concerns with state judges and lawmakers, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department has worked to improve conditions at its facilities. In a May report to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, the agency’s ombudsman said a leadership overhaul due to “persistent problems” at the juvenile prison system, including on ongoing federal probe, has failed to address the primary cause of the agency’s current turmoil: chronic staff shortages.
Salt Lake City: A judge on Monday granted a request from Planned Parenthood to delay implementing the state’s trigger law banning most abortions, as implications of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade reverberate nationwide. With the decision, abortion remains legal up to 18 weeks in Utah, which is among a group of states where abortion rights have been thrown into limbo amid the legal and political challenges shaping the post-Roe landscape with states now holding the power to restrict abortion. “What I’m really doing is saying we have serious things to talk about,” Judge Andrew Stone said after granting an injunction delaying the trigger law. He said the status quo should remain in effect until a challenge from the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliate can be heard fully. Utah is among more than a dozen states with trigger laws designed to limit abortion upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The decision Monday comes two weeks after the court put a temporary hold on the law, which bans most abortions with exceptions for rape, incest or maternal health. Stone, appointed by a Republican governor, blocked its enforcement for 14 days after the state’s branch of Planned Parenthood sued. His decision effectively extends the hold and allows Planned Parenthood clinics to continue providing abortions until the case is resolved.
Montpelier: The newly established Vermont State University unifying three state schools has received accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education, the Vermont State College System announced Tuesday. Vermont State University will be composed of Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College and will welcome its first class in the fall of 2023. Consolidation talks started in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, as increasing costs and declining student enrollment exacerbated the college system’s financial challenges. “Achieving accreditation for Vermont State University is monumental,” Lynn Dickinson, chair of the Vermont State Colleges System Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “Accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education recognizes our strategic planning work, holds us accountable for maintaining high educational standards, and ensures we make continuous quality improvements for our students.” Vermont State University will launch next July and open applications for its inaugural class in the coming months, said President Parwinder Grewal.
Leesburg: A judge on Monday rejected an effort by the Loudoun County School Board to shut down a special grand jury investigating the school system’s handling of two sexual assaults. The school board has said the special grand jury empaneled by Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares is politically motivated and illegally usurps the mandate in the Virginia Constitution giving local school boards authority over educational affairs. Miyares argued that the special grand jury he empaneled is needed to uncover why the school system allowed a boy who had been accused of sexually assaulting a girl in one high school to transfer to another high school, where he was convicted of sexually assaulting a second girl. Miyares launched the grand jury after Gov. Glenn Youngkin, on his first day in office, issued an executive order requesting an investigation by the attorney general’s office. Both Youngkin and Miyares had criticized the Loudoun County board in their successful 2021 political campaigns. They argued the board was not forthcoming in how it handled the case as it revised its guidelines over policies governing transgender students. The assaults attracted national attention in part because the boy – who was convicted in juvenile court – was wearing a skirt when he committed at least one of the attacks.
Spokane: The Biden administration on Tuesday released two reports arguing that removing dams on the lower Snake River may be needed to restore salmon runs to sustainable levels in the Pacific Northwest and that replacing the energy created by the dams is possible but will cost $11 billion to $19 billion. The reports were released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Business as usual will not restore salmon,” said Brenda Mallory, chair of the council. “The Columbia River system is the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest.” If the four Snake River dams were ultimately removed, it would be largest such project in U.S. history. In 2012 the Elwha Dam on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula was removed to restore habitat. At the time, the National Park Service said the elimination of the Elwha Dam was the largest such project in U.S. history. Many salmon runs continue to decline, which environmentalists blame on dams, Mallory said, and her office is leading multi-agency efforts to restore “abundant runs of salmon to the Columbia River Basin.” Mallory cautioned that the Biden administration is not endorsing any single long-term solution, including breaching the dams.
Huntington: The speed limit on two roads near Marshall University have been temporarily reduced while officials conduct a traffic study to determine if permanent changes are needed for pedestrian safety. Crews with the West Virginia Division of Highways installed new signs near the campus last week that reduce the speed limit on 3rd and 5th avenues from 35 mph to 25 mph, The Herald-Dispatch reports. The move stems from ongoing discussions among Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, Marshall University administrators and officials with the West Virginia Division of Highways following the death of a Marshall student last year who was struck by a vehicle on 3rd Avenue while crossing the street at the crosswalk. Days after Cox’s death, Williams asked the Division of Highways to conduct a traffic safety audit on the streets around Marshall’s campus. The study is ongoing, and officials are reviewing possible safety measures. Depending on the recommendations from the study, the speed limit will be evaluated.
Madison: A key Republican leader in the state Assembly has decided to resign early to head to a private-sector job rather than wait until his term ends. Majority Leader Jim Steineke announced in January that he wouldn’t seek reelection. He announced Monday that he will resign July 27. He said the Legislature’s two-year session ended in March, and lawmakers aren’t coming back to do anything before the new session starts in January, so it makes sense to enter the private sector now. The Kaukauna Republican was first elected to the Assembly in 2010 and just months later helped pass Act 10, then-Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip most public workers of their union rights. The GOP caucus made him assistant majority leader in 2013 and majority leader in 2015. Republican Reps. Mike Kuglitsch and Tyler Vorpagel also resigned early after announcing they won’t seek reelection. Michael Best Strategies announced it had hired Kuglitsch on June 14, about a month after Kuglitsch announced he wouldn’t run again. Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin officials announced June 6 that they had hired Vorpagel, just five days after he announced he wouldn’t seek reelection. Republican Rep. Samantha Kerkman resigned June 7 after she won election as Kenosha County executive in April.
Jackson: Citing earthquake safety, workers at the Teton County courthouse say they’re worried about themselves and the public inside the 1968 building, the Jackson Hole News&Guide reports. In March, a consultant presented county commissioners with the results of an engineering study that found the structure not sonically sound. In addition to judicial facilities, it also houses offices for local first responders, according to the newspaper.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pig heart transplants, nuclear siren scare: News from around our 50 states