Holocaust survivor concert, Tiger King auction, crab meat shortage: News from around our 50 states

·53 min read


Montgomery: A production line that makes many of Hyundai’s North American vehicles is being halted this week due to a parts shortage. The shutdown will leave about 1,000 regular workers temporarily unemployed for seven days. The problem is that Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama hasn’t been able to get enough parts because of a semiconductor shortage. As a result, production at the plant will be suspended until June 21. “No other downtime for this reason is expected,” said Robert Burns, vice president of human resources and administration. The company “will continue to work with Hyundai Motor Group’s global purchasing team to allocate microchips to its U.S. manufacturing plant to optimize production in the coming weeks and months,” Burns said. About 3,000 people work at the Montgomery plant. Most of them will continue to work this week. That includes maintenance workers, employees processing completed vehicles, and engine shop employees building engines to be delivered to Kia’s plant in Georgia. The plant produces the Sonata and Elantra sedans as well as the Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs. It began rolling out the new Santa Cruz pickup earlier this month after finishing a $410 million expansion. The company will help workers file unemployment claims, Burns said.


Anchorage: Alaska Wildlife Troopers do not intend to issue a citation to a man recently seen lifting a baby moose over a guardrail in south-central Alaska, though it is illegal to “handle any wild animal in a similar fashion,” an Alaska State Troopers spokesperson said Thursday. Spokesperson Austin McDaniel said Alaska Wildlife Troopers “strongly advise people to stay a safe distance from all wildlife, including moose calves, as the animal may react aggressively towards humans.” Anyone who sees a wild animal that may need help should call the nearest law enforcement agency or the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, McDaniel said in an email. Alaska’s News Source reports an Anchorage man, Joe Tate, was driving home Sunday from a fishing trip with friends when he saw a line of cars and a moose in the road on the Kenai Peninsula. Tate said a mother moose was pacing in the road, and a young calf struggled to scale a guardrail to join her. He estimated watching for about 30 minutes. He said he considered calling wildlife officials or law enforcement but worried an accident could occur in the time it would take for them to arrive. Friends with a trailer got between the mother and the calf, breaking the line of sight, Tate said. Another vehicle positioned itself similarly on the opposite side of traffic.


Zach Brooks, owner of the Arizona Worm Farm, walks through the greenhouse where his crew grows vegetables in south Phoenix.
Zach Brooks, owner of the Arizona Worm Farm, walks through the greenhouse where his crew grows vegetables in south Phoenix.

Phoenix: The Arizona Worm Farm, focused on “turning garbage into food,” is growing produce sustainably in the desert. Worms eat food waste produced by the south Phoenix farm and elsewhere, including a brewery, diverting organic scraps from landfills. The invertebrates turn that into nutrient-rich compost that goes back into the ground and helps plants grow. The farm produces 40,000 to 50,000 worms a week and eliminates 1,000 pounds of waste from Phoenix landfills alone. The food it grows can feed its 10 employees with enough to donate to St. Mary’s Food Bank each week. All branches of the farm form a circle of life. “I’m trying to produce the garden of Eden,” Zach Brooks said. He was in the middle of his second master’s degree in sustainability at Arizona State University when he decided to start the farm, realizing he could put what he was learning into practice as easily as he could buy the materials online. “We didn’t invent anything that’s here on the farm,” he said. “Everything that’s necessary to live a zero-waste life is just a matter of doing it.” The site was the remnants of a cotton farm, its soil difficult for growing fruits and vegetables. “We couldn’t even get weeds to grow,” Brooks said. Nowadays, the soil is wet just beneath the surface, even after days without watering. “I dare you to go any place in Arizona and dig up a square of soil, and you won’t find that kind of life,” he said.


Little Rock: Abortion rights supporters asked a federal judge Monday to prevent the state’s near-total ban on the procedure from taking effect while the groups challenge its constitutionality. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood asked the judge to issue a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction against the ban, set to take effect July 28. The groups filed a lawsuit last month challenging the ban, which prohibits abortions except those to save the life of the mother. The groups filed the lawsuit on behalf of Little Rock Family Planning Services, a Little Rock abortion clinic, and Planned Parenthood’s Little Rock health center. The groups are also representing a doctor who works at the Planned Parenthood clinic. “Absent an order from this Court, (the ban) will inflict on plaintiffs’ patients significant and irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law,” Monday’s filing said. Amanda Priest, a spokeswoman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said the groups’ motion “should not come as a surprise to anyone.” “Attorney General Rutledge will be reviewing the latest action and will proceed,” she said.


San Francisco: A popular trail in Big Sur flanked by redwood trees that leads down through a gorge to a 60-foot waterfall is set to open to the public this week after a 13-year restoration needed when a wildfire destroyed access to it, officials announced Monday. After a $2 million renovation that fixed bridges, retaining walls, railings, steps and signage, the Pfeiffer Falls Trail will open Friday for the public to enjoy, said officials with the California State Parks and Save the Redwoods League, a San Francisco conservation group. To protect sensitive habitat, California State Parks and Save the Redwoods League officials replaced more than 4,150 square feet of asphalt and concrete and seven stream crossings, with the newly aligned trail and a 70-foot-long pedestrian bridge that spans the Pfeiffer Redwood Creek ravine and offers dramatic views, officials said. The Basin Complex Fire damaged the 0.75-mile trail, which connects with the Valley View trail to form a 1.5-mile loop that was the most popular hiking trail in Big Sur before the blaze. A subsequent fire, landslides, and a long closure of Highway 1 delayed the renovation and long-awaited reopening, officials said.


Denver: Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has rejected a request by the state’s Republican congressional delegation to stop paying jobless residents $300 extra a week in federal pandemic relief. The GOP representatives argue the payment, scheduled to run through Sept. 6, is hurting business by deterring unemployed workers from seeking jobs. U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck and Lauren Boebert noted in a Friday letter to Polis that Colorado restaurants and numerous other firms are struggling to hire workers. Many states led by Republican governors have ended the supplemental benefit. “We have to stop paying people that should be working to sit at home on the couch,” Boebert said in a statement. “It’s well past time for the government to end COVID bonuses and stop disincentivizing work.” Colorado Politics reports that Polis rejected the proposal, arguing in part that the benefit is helping business. “If Colorado ended these benefits prematurely, it would harm individuals, business owners, and the broader economy,” he wrote. Colorado is offering its own cash incentives for job-seekers. A “Jumpstart” program rewards those getting hired by month’s end with up to $1,600 in incentives. The state labor department reports some 3,800 new claims for regular state benefits were filed last week, the lowest level since the pandemic began.


Hartford: Schools that still use Native American nicknames and mascots could take a financial hit if they continue to use those images without written consent from a state- or federally recognized tribe in their region, according to a provision tucked into a massive state budget implementation bill that’s up for a vote Monday. Municipalities face the prospect of losing their allotment of revenue from the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Fund, an account that’s funded with the state’s 25% share of slot machine revenues generated at the two casinos owned and operated by the federally recognized Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes. The provision was included in the budget bill by state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, the co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. “Towns around this state have been told year after year by Connecticut’s Native American tribes that their nicknames and mascots are horribly offensive,” Osten said in a statement. “If certain cities and towns won’t listen to their fellow citizens, then they can certainly do without the tribal money that they are showing such disrespect toward.” It’s estimated that about a dozen schools in Connecticut still use Native American names or images. Some communities have already changed the names of their athletic teams in recent years.


Wilmington: Crab cake lovers have something to be, well, crabby about this summer: It might be harder and more expensive than ever to fill up on their favorite shellfish. A bevy of Delaware restaurants have begun limiting crab cake sales and even temporarily suspending “crab nights” because of a shortage of picked crab meat, as well as a sharp increase in prices to meet the growing demand. One reason for the shortage is that businesses are having a hard time finding employees to pick the sweet meat out of the crabs’ sharp shells. This year, just like last summer, restaurants and shops in beach resort towns did not get a stream of annual seasonal foreign workers because of travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic. According to Seafood News.com, crab meat prices have been rising and are at a high because of a lack of inventory, exacerbated by supply limitations in Asia due to COVID-19 and logistic constraints. And, locally, another problem, at least for now, could be there are fewer male crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. A survey from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Virginia Institute of Marine Science estimates the total abundance of blue crab in the Chesapeake Bay in 2021 was 282 million crabs, a below-average total for the 32 years of survey results.

District of Columbia

Washington: The owners of a bar said Monday that they are investigating a weekend incident in which security guards were seen dragging a Black woman down a staircase and throwing her out of the establishment. Nellie’s Sports Bar’s owners also said on Facebook that they have “terminated, with immediate effect, the independent security vendor hired to protect our guests during Pride Week.” Video posted on social media early Sunday shows a bouncer dragging the woman – identified by local media as Keisha Young, 22 – down the stairs as observers scream, “Oh my God!” Some patrons are then seen fighting with the guards. On a video call Monday with her lawyer, Young said: “I feel like, even just separating race from it, no man should ever handle a woman in that way. That should never be OK,” according to Washington’s WRC-TV. A crowd gathered outside Nellie’s Sunday night to protest Young’s treatment. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday: “Obviously, entrepreneurs enforce rules in their restaurants. But they’re not allowed to assault anybody.” Nellie’s owners said the bar “will be closed this week as we evaluate this regrettable situation,” and they vowed to cooperate with any law enforcement investigation.


Tallahassee: Gov. Ron DeSantis visited a South Florida Jewish temple to denounce anti-Semitism and stand with Israel on Monday as the Republican governor cloaked himself in religion while signing a bill into law that would require public schools in his state to set aside at least one minute of silence for children to meditate or pray. His visit to the Shul of Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center in Surfside, had the air of a campaign event. DeSantis seemed to blush when the Rabbi Sholom Lipskar introduced him as a “great governor and future world leader.” It has been speculated that the governor, who is running for reelection next year, might run for president in 2024. DeSantis visited the temple to sign two bills into law. One would expand the role of volunteer ambulance services, while the other makes Florida one of at least 15 states, according to a legislative analysis, that would compel public schools to hold moments of silence. The state had already been among roughly 18 other states that gave schools the option to do so. “The idea that you can just push God out of every institution and be successful – I’m sorry, our Founding Fathers did not believe that,” DeSantis said. The ambulance bill allows some volunteer first responders, including those run by faith-based groups, to use emergency lights and sirens when responding to emergencies. Some Orthodox Jews rely on these volunteer ambulance services to help overcome religious sensitivities that prevent some people form using traditional emergency services.


Atlanta: The state is establishing a therapeutic foster care program to provide specialized treatment for children with an assortment of behavioral, mental and developmental challenges. Georgia is providing $6.7 million to begin the program that Tom Rawlings, director of the Division of Family and Children Services, called a pilot initiative that he hopes will expand in the future. A similar program existed over a decade ago, and Rawlings and other advocates see its return as a major step toward strengthening welfare services for children with intense treatment needs. “There is this, I believe, very special population of children with very severe emotional issues, often co-occurring autism spectrum and mental health issues, and we as a state really have to develop a more specialized system,” Rawlings said. “And I think that this is a major step toward that.” Therapeutic foster care differs from traditional foster care in several ways. Children placed in a therapeutic care home have individualized care needs that often arise from past trauma. Foster parents in a therapeutic program are trained to handle these challenges and provide around-the-clock care. Children in this program also receive crucial treatment services, usually involving therapy.


Honolulu: The U.S. is giving Native Hawaiians surplus land as compensation for acres that were meant for homesteading but used instead by the federal government. The land transfer also attempts to help right wrongs against the Indigenous people of Hawaii, officials said Monday. The 80 acres in Ewa Beach formerly used for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center will eventually provide up to 400 homes while helping fulfill terms of a settlement authorized by Congress in 1995 to compensate Native Hawaiians for 1,500 acres that were set aside for homelands but subsequently acquired and used by the federal government for other purposes, officials said. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s voice choked with emotion while making the announcement Monday. “Yes, it’s a happy day, but it’s also a sad day because we remember the tragedy that befell the Native Hawaiians throughout their tumultuous history,” said Haaland, the first Native American woman to lead a U.S. Cabinet agency. “Since that time, our country has learned a great deal. And now we are in an era where we recognize the importance of healing the generational traumas that caused pain and heartache.” The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 was meant to provide economic self-sufficiency to Hawaiians by allowing them to use land to live on, with a 99-year lease for $1 a year.


Boise: Four housing organizations in the state are getting coronavirus relief funding to help cover the cost of emergency housing vouchers. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $2.4 million total to the Housing Authority of the City of Pocatello, the Boise City Housing Authority, the Southwestern Idaho Cooperative Housing Authority, and the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the Idaho Press reports. The money will cover 217 vouchers and related administrative costs, according to a prepared statement from HUD, and is part of $1 billion being awarded to housing organizations nationwide. As of January 2020, Idaho had about 2,300 people “experiencing homelessness on any given day,” according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Addressing our nation’s homelessness crisis is a top priority for HUD,” HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a statement. Deanna Watson, the executive director of the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority, said increases in rent levels have a lot of people getting priced out of the market. The vouchers will work by subsidizing rents in a place with fair market rents, Watson said. In addition, there’s assistance in some of the fees that come with finding houses, security deposits and case management.


Springfield: A cave system closed more than a decade ago is reopening to the public. The state Department of Natural Resources announced last week that Illinois Caverns in Monroe County would reopen Wednesday. Officials closed the southern Illinois cave in 2010 as a precaution for bats who live there due to the spread of a fatal disease called white-nose syndrome. WNS is named after the white fungus found on the muzzle, ears and wings of infected bats. White-nose syndrome cannot be transmitted to humans or other animals, but officials feared humans exploring caves could spread it from one location to another, endangering more bats. Joe Kath, the department’s Endangered Species Program manager, said the disease’s prevalence in bats hibernating within Illinois Caverns has been relatively low since the closure compared to other locations in the state. “The caverns – one of the state’s scenic wonders – attracted visitors from across the state, which is why the decision was made to close them,” Kath said. “Our biologists felt that proactively closing Illinois Caverns, and other state-managed caves across the state, was the best option to protect the state’s bat population from (white-nose syndrome).” Illinois Caverns will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and seasonally from April through October.


Indianapolis: Two legal organizations are suing the state to prevent Gov. Eric Holcomb from pulling out of a federal unemployment program that’s paying benefits to hundreds of thousands of residents. Macey Swanson Hicks & Sauer law firm and Indiana Legal Services, an organization that provides legal assistance to low-income Hoosiers, filed a joint civil lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court, claiming the end of the benefits would hurt their clients and people across the state. The organizations argued that Indiana law requires the state to procure federal insurance benefits to its citizens. “These benefits have provided life-sustaining and crucial assistance to many Hoosiers during the pandemic,” Jon Laramore, executive director of Indiana Legal Services, said in a statement. “The legislature passed a law creating a right to these benefits, and we’re asking Governor Holcomb to follow the law.” The Republican governor announced last month he was ending the federal benefits June 19 because many businesses in the service industry are struggling to fill jobs. While economists are skeptical that unemployment benefits are the reason people aren’t returning to low-wage jobs, Holcomb is banking on the benefits cut to drive more people back to work.


Des Moines: Officials at the city’s public water system on Monday asked customers to begin using water wisely and cut lawn irrigation by 25% as water usage reached new highs and drought conditions slowed the flow of rivers. The combination of high demand and low water flow resulted in Des Moines Water Works demand reaching 90% of capacity Friday. The utility that serves 500,000 customers in central Iowa said it delivered nearly 90 million gallons of water that day. “We have taken proactive steps to ensure we have enough water for customers, but the Raccoon River is low enough that you can walk across it. Now, we are asking our customers to do their part and use water wisely,” CEO Ted Corrigan said. The flow rate in the Raccoon River, which is a major water source for the DMWW, is down to less than 300 cubic feet per second compared the median flow of 4,000 cubic feet per second. The average high temperature for Des Moines for the first 13 days of June was 88, significantly above the normal of 79.9, according to the National Weather Service. The city has had 0.02 inches of rain this month. The average is 5.26 inches. In Iowa, 46% of the state is classified as in moderate drought, up from 29% the week before, said the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Topeka: The state is going to struggle to vaccinate more residents, a top aide to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said, and thousands of families will lose extra food aid because top Republican legislators on Tuesday ended a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic. Will Lawrence, the governor’s chief of staff, said the state will no longer be able to use its National Guard to distribute vaccines or personal protective equipment, and addressing COVID-19 is “just going to be more difficult.” Senate President Ty Masterson announced the cancellation of a meeting of eight leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature set for Tuesday afternoon. A law enacted in late March required the legislative leaders to sign off on an extension, and Masterson’s announcement meant the state of emergency was to expire at the end of Tuesday after being in place since March 2020. Kelly accused Republicans of “political obstruction.” She told reporters last week that she wanted the state of emergency to continue at least through August. “A state disaster response has never been, and should not be, political,” Kelly said in a statement. But “it is time for Kansas to return to normal,” Masterson, R-Andover, said in a joint statement with two other GOP leaders, Senate Majority Leader Larry Alley, of Winfield, and Vice President Rick Wilborn, of McPherson.


Frankfort: State residents now have the option of getting their driver’s license renewed online. The service launched Monday, with Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray saying it would lead to “greater efficiency, greater security and more choices” for drivers. Online renewal is available for those with standard-issue or Real ID licenses that will expire within six months or have been expired for less than a year, officials said. Renewals must also maintain the same card version as well as the same name and address as their current license. Applications for a replacement license or a license with a name or address change must still be made in person. Online renewal is among the options available due to the phased transfer of licensing services to the Transportation Cabinet’s regional offices from local offices of the circuit court clerks, officials said.


Baton Rouge: People caught with small amounts of recreational marijuana will soon face a misdemeanor fine and no possibility of jail time, under a bill that Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday he has signed into law. The measure sponsored by state Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, won narrow, bipartisan support in the legislative session that ended Thursday. With the Democratic governor’s signature, the new law will take effect Aug. 1. Glover’s bill makes possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana – a half-ounce – a misdemeanor crime carrying a fine up to $100 with no possibility of jail time, even for repeat offenses. “This is not a decision I took lightly,” Edwards said in his statement announcing the bill signing. He described the legislation as another step in Louisiana’s “criminal justice reform efforts.” “In addition to carefully reviewing the bill, I also believe deeply that the state of Louisiana should no longer incarcerate people for minor legal infractions, especially those that are legal in many states, that can ruin lives and destroy families, as well as cost taxpayers greatly,” Edwards said. Several municipalities around Louisiana already had switched to fines rather than arrests for possession of small amounts of recreational cannabis, and the state has a legal medical marijuana program.


Augusta: The state House voted Monday to eliminate Maine’s secretive “fusion center” created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to ensure data is shared among law enforcement agencies. The 88-54 vote followed a whistleblower lawsuit and legislative scrutiny of the center, which was accused of gathering and storing intelligence on gun buyers, power line protesters, and employees of a camp for Israeli and Arab teens. Further votes would be necessary to close the center, which is an arm of the Maine State Police. The proposal provoked fierce debate – and rare bipartisan support – with lawmakers invoking George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” and even making comparisons to Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. Another lawmaker countered by suggesting the bill was a veiled attempt to defund the police. Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent from Friendship, said the goal of sharing information about foreign-based terrorism was admirable but said there was “mission creep” beyond the center’s original purpose. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, said the operator of the fusion center couldn’t demonstrate that it was an effective use of taxpayer dollars or that it offered something new that other law enforcement agencies didn’t already provide.


Annapolis: Maryland’s COVID-19 state of emergency will end July 1, more than 15 months after the deadly coronavirus made its first appearance in the state in March 2020. All remaining health restrictions will end on that date, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday, including mask mandates. “The battle’s not over,” Hogan said. “We’re transitioning from a state of emergency to an ongoing operation.” That operation will include continuing to vaccinate thousands of Marylanders who still need COVID-19 shots and caring for the shrinking number of people sickened by the virus. Over the course of the pandemic, Maryland has seen more than 460,000 cases of COVID-19. Nearly 9,500 people have died, many of them elderly and vulnerable. Hogan said Tuesday that Maryland’s health metrics have improved significantly since the worst peak of the pandemic in the winter. “We have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel,” Hogan said. There will be a 45-day grace period after July 1 to allow Marylanders to adjust to the end of emergency regulations, Hogan said. That includes an extra 45 days to renew driver’s licenses and an extension to the state’s eviction moratorium. Ending the state of emergency does not affect Maryland’s access to federal funds, Hogan said.


Boston: The state is giving away five $1 million cash prizes and five $300,000 college scholarships to residents who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday. The aim of the so-called VaxMillions Giveaway, modeled after a similar program in Ohio, is to drive up the state’s vaccination rate, already one of the best in the nation, he said. About 4 million Bay Staters are already fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Public Health. “So if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines and thinking about getting vaccinated but for whatever reason haven’t, here’s another reason for you to come forward, protect yourself, your friends, your co-workers and your neighbors by getting vaccinated here in the commonweath,” the Republican governor said at a news conference. All legal residents who have been vaccinated in the state are eligible to register for the lottery prizes by going to mass.gov/VaxMillions starting July 1. Residents ages 18 and older are eligible for the $1 million prizes, while residents ages 12 to 17 are eligible for the scholarships, which are in the form of grants via a 529 College Savings Plan managed by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority. The state will hold weekly drawings for five weeks starting July 26.


Allendale Township: Community leaders in western Michigan have voted to keep a statue of Confederate and Union Civil War soldiers with a Black child kneeling between them. The Allendale Township board voted 5-2 on Monday, despite a recommendation from a group that the statue be replaced by one with Union soldiers who are Black, Native American and white. “It’s been made very clear to me that the majority of our residents wish for the Civil War statue to remain in the garden of honor,” said Jody Hansen, township clerk and board member. Dozens of people attended the meeting, which was held outdoors at a park bandshell, 15 miles west of Grand Rapids. “What better lesson can we teach our children than by being able to say, ‘We had this thing. We thought it was OK. We have since learned that we were wrong,’ ” said area resident Cathy Seaver, who wants the statue removed. Trustee Barb VanderVeen, who opposed keeping the statue, asked if the child, which represents a slave, could at least be removed. Trustee Candy Kraker said the artist indicated that removing it would damage the structural integrity.


St. Paul: A group representing landlords announced a lawsuit Tuesday to force an end to the eviction moratorium imposed by Gov. Tim Walz, saying his order makes it all but impossible for property owners to remove disruptive tenants. The Minnesota Multi Housing Association said the governor’s executive order, which was issued in the early days of the pandemic, has become unworkable as it was originally written and is no longer needed. “Over the past year it has become clear that property owners are expected to wait until there is evidence that a person has become so dangerous that other residents have to call the police or move out, or that the rental unit is completely destroyed,” according to the complaint, which was filed in federal court Monday. The association’s CEO, Cecil Smith, told reporters at the Capitol that the lawsuit had been in the works long before legislative leaders agreed Monday to a 15-week “off-ramp” for ending the moratorium. The negotiators said the bipartisan agreement offers strong protections for renters and clear timelines for Minnesotans who owe back rent to secure rental assistance, which is paid directly to landlords. Landlords would be required to send notices to tenants who are behind on their rent 15 days prior to eviction.


Water Valley: A former state lawmaker was found shot to death over the weekend in a rural area outside the burned home where her sister-in-law was found dead after Christmas. Ashley Henley, 40, was a Republican who served in the state House from January 2016 to January 2020 from a district in DeSoto County. The North Mississippi Herald was first to report that Henley’s body was found Sunday night in rural Yalobusha County, about 70 miles south of DeSoto County. Her body was outside the home where the body of her sister-in-law Kristina Michelle Jones was found Dec. 26. The Herald published a photo of a homemade sign at the site with photos of Jones under the phrase, “I was murdered.” Yalobusha County coroner Ronnie Stark told the Commercial Appeal on Monday that the time of Henley’s death had not yet been determined. Stark told WMC-TV that Henley had been mowing grass at the home before she was killed. Henley was a teacher before she was elected to the state House, and she often took her young son to the state Capitol during legislative sessions. She sought a second term in November 2019 and lost by 14 votes to a Democrat. Henley challenged the outcome, saying she believed she had found voting irregularities. A committee in the GOP-controlled House held a hearing and denied Henley’s petition.


Jefferson City: Gov. Mike Parson enacted a new law Tuesday limiting the duration of local public health restrictions and barring governments from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to use public facilities and transportation. The law took effect immediately upon Parson’s signature, but it may have little immediate effect because most local officials already lifted their coronavirus restrictions on businesses and public gatherings and have not been checking people’s vaccination status. Parson, a Republican, said the law still is important for the future. “Then next time we do get in a crisis, we’re going to have a little bit more safeguards for the general public to make sure they have more transparency and more of a voice in the process,” he said. When under a statewide emergency declaration, the new law limits local orders restricting businesses, churches, schools or gatherings to 30 days, unless extended by a majority vote of the local governing body such as a city council. If there is no state emergency declaration, then local orders closing entire classifications of entities or activities could last for only 21 days, unless extended by a two-thirds vote of the local governing body.


Missoula: Public review has begun for a proposal to boost radio and cellphone service in Glacier National Park, park officials said. The deadline to comment is July 11. The proposal calls for upgrades to communications from the National Park Service, which uses outdated technology or can’t reach remote areas of the park, the Missoulian reports. Currently, cellphone service is only available in the western part of the park at Apgar and the eastern part of the park because of commercial cell towers outside the park borders. “While recognizing that national parks provide disconnected space for many visitors, the plan also proposes a strategy for commercial cellular and/or internet access for public and NPS use in certain developed areas,” such as Many Glacier, Rising Sun, Two Medicine and Lake McDonald Lodge, park spokesperson Gina Kerzman said. The proposal would prohibit large-scale cell towers and commercial telecommunications gear in the backcountry, despite visitors and employees alike relying more on internet access. Signal strength would be limited as much as possible to the four developed areas mentioned in the proposal, Kerzman said, although some spillover might be unpreventable.


Omaha: The state is approaching having 70% of its adult population vaccinated against COVID-19, but the pace of distribution of the shots continues to slow. The state may be close to President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70% or more of all adults with at least one dose of the vaccine by July 4. About 63% of Nebraskans 18 and older had received at least one shot as of Friday, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That rate ranks 24th among all the states. Nebraska has 57% of its adults fully vaccinated. Vermont leads the nation with 84% of its adults having received at least one shot, and 14 states have exceeded Biden’s goal. The CDC said roughly 31,000 shots were distributed in Nebraska last week, which was down from 37,000 the week before and well below the mid-April peak of 150,000 in a week. The number of new virus cases reported in the state continues to fall. Nebraska reported 234 new cases last week, down from 254 the week before and 378 two weeks ago. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska also decreased over the past two weeks, going from 44.86 new cases per day May 30 to 28.43 new cases per day Sunday. Nebraska has reported 223,888 virus cases and 2,258 deaths since the pandemic began.


Clara Bow and Rex Bell at the Walking Box Ranch in the Mojave Desert.
Clara Bow and Rex Bell at the Walking Box Ranch in the Mojave Desert.

Las Vegas: Advocates are building momentum toward setting aside a wide desert area rich with biological diversity and Native American cultural significance for permanent environmental protection. The southern Nevada site would be called Avi Kwa Ame National Monument and encompass a Spanish Colonial Revival house that once belonged to 1920s-era Hollywood actors Clara Bow and Rex Bell on their historic Walking Box Ranch. The rugged and dry landscape is dotted with Joshua trees between mountain ranges west of Searchlight. At more than 594 square miles, it covers an area larger than San Francisco Bay. “There are threats to the sort of peace and the environment that we’re in right now,” Gabriel di Chiara, a Nevada Conservation League organizer, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And we believe establishing this monument will preserve this land and this way of life for future generations, and it’s vitally important.” Conservation advocates providing a tour of the 5,000-square-foot homesite June 9 said they saw hope in President Joe Biden’s administration, a federal conservation plan that aims to protect 30% of American lands and water by 2030, and the appointment of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as the first Native American head of a presidential Cabinet post.

New Hampshire

Manchester: As the number of COVID-19 cases has fallen and restrictions have been dropped in the state, drug overdoses are on the rise in some cities. Suspected overdoses in Manchester and Nashua rose by 26% in May, according to American Medical Response. The 72 suspected overdoses was the most in a single month since June 2019, WMUR-TV reports. Overdoses decreased during the pandemic since more people were inside, said AMR Regional Director Chris Stawasz. “It gives us concern that in the summer months, which we typically see as higher overdose months, we’re going to be back probably at levels we have not seen in several years,” he said. More people now have access to the overdose reversal drug Narcan, officials said. There was record use of Narcan in May in Manchester.

New Jersey

Trenton: Fifteen months after they were shuttered at the height of the pandemic, adult day care centers will be allowed to reopen due to a sharp decline in COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and cases, state officials said Monday. The centers, which provide activities for those suffering from dementia, were closed to protect the elderly March 20, 2020, when there were only 890 cases and 11 confirmed COVID deaths in the state. Since then, New Jersey has tallied more than 890,000 cases and 26,000 COVID-19 deaths, the vast majority of which have been among seniors. The adult centers are some of the few facilities that are still closed due to COVID-19, while most other venues have been reopened for more than a year, and mask-wearing and social distancing have been relaxed. Safety guidance on how to return to operations such as requiring screenings for staff was to be sent out to the centers Monday, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. Among the procedures: Staff must wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Participants can engage in close group activities if everyone is vaccinated. An isolation room is needed for a sick participant. And windows and doors should remain open to promote better ventilation.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging cities and counties to consider banning the sale of fireworks ahead of the July Fourth holiday. She issued an executive order Monday, pointing to the drought that has blanketed much of the state and the fire restrictions that already are in place across New Mexico’s five national forests. While state statutes prevent the governor from imposing a statewide ban, the governor’s office is encouraging municipalities to take action to limit fire danger by adopting fireworks restrictions over the coming weeks. Rio Rancho and Farmington have warned residents that only permissible fireworks will be allowed – such as cone fountains, crackling devices and sparklers – and only in paved or otherwise barren areas. Dona Ana County recently approved restrictions that will span the holiday. “We want to prevent fires in the dangerous conditions we are experiencing,” County Fire Chief Shannon Cherry said, referring to the dry and windy weather. Farmington’s proclamation also will remain in effect for 30 days, but officials said the City Council may extend it if extreme conditions continue.

New York

New York: Dozens of Holocaust survivors clapped, sang and danced Monday at a concert held in their honor in Brooklyn in the first large gathering for New York-area survivors after months of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. The concert by popular Orthodox Jewish singer Yaakov Shwekey was organized by the Nachas Health and Family Network and other groups that help the more than 35,000 Holocaust survivors estimated to live in the New York City metropolitan area. “It’s extremely good for the soul, for the heart, to see people coming out once again and socializing,” said Dolly Rabinowitz, who sat in the front row of the Yeshivah of Flatbush auditorium joined by other Holocaust survivors and students of the Modern Orthodox Jewish school. The survivors, most now in their 80s and 90s, suffered unspeakable horrors in concentration camps. In the past year, many remained isolated at home because they were at a high risk from the fast-spreading virus. “To be out once again is like reviving ourselves. To sit among our children and grandchildren is heartwarming,” said Rabinowitz, who lived through Auschwitz and the Death March. Some held hands and choked back tears when they heard an instrumental version of “Ani Ma’amin,” sung by many Jews herded into cattle cars on their way to concentration camps.

North Carolina

Raleigh: The Constitution Party of North Carolina and North Carolina Green Party have failed to garner enough signatures to remain official political parties in the state for now, an election official said Monday. The State Board of Elections determined earlier this year that the two small parties had fallen short of candidate support thresholds from last November. But the board said the parties would be recognized again to field candidates starting later this year if each collected about 13,900 signatures of registered voters by Saturday. Neither party reached that goal, board spokesman Noah Grant wrote in an email. That means their parties’ registrants – totaling 9,600 between them – will now be re-designated as unaffiliated voters. The confirmed signatures so far – over 2,800 for the Constitution Party and fewer than 10 for the Green Party – will roll over into petitions to field candidates in the November 2022 election, Grant said. The groups would need to be meet the thresholds by next June 1 to qualify. For now, the state will recognize just three official political parties: Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The state’s taxable sales and purchases for the first quarter of 2021 fell nearly 10% over the same period the previous year. Taxable sales and purchases for January, February and March totaled $4.1 billion, a 9.9% decrease over the three-month span in 2020. Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said the drop was due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the state’s economy. Despite the decline statewide, Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Minot all reported increases, led by Fargo at 17.6%. Ten of the 15 major industry sectors reported declines over the year. The mining and oil extraction sector decreased by $438 million, or about 59%. The wholesale trade sector decreased by $250 million, a 23.5% drop. North Dakota’s taxable sales and purchases are a key indicator of economic activity in the state. They also are used to forecast state budgets.


Columbus: Ohioans receiving food stamps would have to undergo a new “asset test” that measures total worth, including the value of cars owned by anyone in a household, under a provision in the Senate’s version of the state’s upcoming two-year budget. The goal of the test is to be sure needy recipients of SNAP benefits get what they deserve, said Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima. “There are a lot of folks who can afford to pay for a variety of things who are still receiving these benefits,” Huffman said this month. The measure incorporates elements of stand-alone legislation introduced earlier this year in the GOP-controlled Senate. Dozens of people representing food banks, legal aid groups and health care advocacy groups have testified against it. Opponents of that bill, pending in the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, say it comes at the worst possible time, as emergency federal benefits enacted during the coronavirus pandemic expire. Those include maximum allotments for food stamp recipients, a $300 weekly unemployment supplement, and a moratorium on evictions. “It will force low-income Ohioans to choose between having food and owning a car to get to work or saving money to prepare for an emergency,” said Kelsey Bergfeld, director of Columbus-based Advocates for Ohio’s Future.


Joe Exotic feeds a tiger at his zoo near Wynnewood, Okla. Exotic is now serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison.
Joe Exotic feeds a tiger at his zoo near Wynnewood, Okla. Exotic is now serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison.

Oklahoma City: “Tiger King” Joe Exotic is selling items seen on the hit Netflix series that elevated the big cat handler into a household name. The auction will also include NFT versions – digital “non-fungible tokens” – of those items and artwork. Exotic, real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, will be selling 3D renderings of cult collectibles sold alongside real-life tangible items seen on the show, as well as digital artworks for fans. Items include Exotic’s Smith & Wesson revolver, a fringed leather jacket and images autographed from prison. Online auction house Mintable will present the auction Friday at officialtigerkingnft.com. Also up for bid are the Tiger King’s black leather jacket and pants set, a bikini worn by adult film actress Rachel Starr, digital trading cards and artwork, and audio recordings of Exotic made from federal prison, where he’s serving a 22-year sentence for hiring someone to murder nemesis Carol Baskin. He was already somewhat of a celebrity in Oklahoma before Netflix launched the “Tiger King” series last year. For years, he ran an exotic animal park near Wynnewood, offering guests an up-close experience with big cats like his namesake tigers. He unsuccessfully sought the Libertarian Party’s nomination for governor in 2018, two years after campaigning for president.


Salem: Nearly 4 in 10 Oregonians strongly or somewhat agree with statements that reflect core arguments of white nationalist and other far-right groups, according to a new statewide survey. DHM Research and the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, both independent nonpartisan organizations, surveyed 603 Oregon residents in a 15-minute online questionnaire Jan. 8-13. They estimate the margin of error is between 2.4% and 4.0%. To recruit respondents, DHM used a professionally maintained panel. It also set demographic quotas and weighted data to ensure a representative sample. Survey results indicated that, compared to a DHM Research panel in 2018, fewer Oregonians believed in protecting and preserving the country’s multicultural heritage. More agreed America “must protect and preserve its white European heritage.” It’s a “disturbing” revelation, said Lindsay Schubiner, a program director at Western States Center, the progressive nonprofit organization that commissioned the research. She said the 4 in 10 represent a growing population in the state that is vulnerable to messages commonly used by white nationalists like the ones posed in the survey, including the “white heritage” idea and that “white people in America face discrimination and unfair treatment on the basis of their race.”


Harrisburg: A ban on employers mandating vaccines for their workers inched ahead in the state House on Tuesday with a committee vote supported by all Republicans and opposed by every Democrat. The main sponsor, Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, called it “a very simple question of workers’ rights.” Diamond has been a fervent opponent of coronavirus mitigation policies and has been publicly skeptical of mask-wearing and vaccines. Labor and Industry Committee Chairman Jim Cox, R-Berks, said lawmakers were responding to increasing reports that employers are requiring COVID-19 vaccines, forcing some workers to choose between the jab or losing a job. An amendment by Cox took out a provision in Diamond’s bill that would have ended employer-mandated tests for marijuana. Diamond said after the meeting that the marijuana testing language lacked support. The bill would let workers or prospective workers avoid workplace-mandated vaccinations by putting into writing that their doctor has concerns it might harm their health; that they have religious or “strong moral or ethical” convictions against a vaccine; that they already contracted COVID-19; or that they are concerned because tge vaccines have not been fully approved by federal regulators.

Rhode Island

Providence: State officials are proposing to build a new laboratory to replace the one run by the Health Department, which is the only Level 3 biosafety facility in the state. Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott is advocating for spending $82 million to replace the State Health Lab that she said had limited capacity to expand testing needed during the coronavirus pandemic because the building’s systems are outdated. “When it came to testing, for example, where we were leaders, we ultimately were inhibited by our ability to expand just because of the confines of the building and the electrical supply for the building,” Alexander-Scott said. “With the next pandemic, we are going to need the ability to expand and shift and streamline.” The medical examiner’s office, state crime lab and environmental testing labs are also located in the same building as the State Health Lab in downtown Providence across from the state Capitol. Gov. Dan McKee included the allocation for the new lab in the proposed budget. If the Legislature approves the spending, it would come from the $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus relief that the state is getting. The new fiscal year starts July 1, and a final budget bill is expected this month.

South Carolina

Vacationer mecca Myrtle Beach may see its biggest summer yet, local tourism officials say.
Vacationer mecca Myrtle Beach may see its biggest summer yet, local tourism officials say.

Myrtle Beach: It may just be loose change, but parking meters are helping to show how tourism is booming along the state’s most popular beach after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted. Myrtle Beach collected as much in parking fees in May as it does in a typical June, Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Office Executive Director Brian Schmitt told The Post and Courier of Charleston. “2021 has just been nuts,” Schmitt said. “In March, we did April numbers. In April, we did May numbers. … If that trend continues, then we hit June with July numbers – which July is typically our best month, our $360,000 month – we expect to maybe see that continue.” The city no longer just collects coins from meters. There are parking lot terminals that take debit and credit cards and a mobile app called ParkMobile that allows drivers to stop their cars and pay with a click of a smartphone, officials said. More traditional ways of measuring tourism are also up in Myrtle Beach. The Chamber of Commerce said hotel occupancy rates are up this summer compared to 2019. The officials don’t use 2020 numbers to compare because of COVID-19 restrictions.

South Dakota

Aberdeen: A federal judge on Monday criminally charged three members of the U.S. Marshals Service with contempt of court and obstructing justice after a dispute with a marshal who refused to disclose her COVID-19 vaccination status and removed prisoners from a courthouse. Three supervisory marshals, including the agency’s Chief of Staff John Kilgallon, were accused of allowing a deputy marshal to leave the courthouse in Aberdeen with prisoners in tow May 10, after the marshal refused to tell the judge whether she had been vaccinated against COVID-19, the Aberdeen American News reports. U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann gave the U.S. Attorney’s Office until Friday to decide whether to charge the marshals, including Daniel Mosteller, the head of the agency in South Dakota, and Stephen Houghtaling, the state’s chief deputy. Kornmann said he was determined to find another prosecutor if the U.S. attorney declined to prosecute the case. Kornmann moved in March to require vaccinations for courthouse employees, but Mosteller told the judge the Marshals Service was not requiring employees to get vaccinated and would not provide their vaccination status to the court.


Nashville: Federal courts released 18% of Tennessee prisoners who requested compassionate release in 2020, a new report from the federal Sentencing Commission shows. At the height of COVID-19 last year, thousands of motions asking for reduced sentences were filed in courts across the nation, according to the commission. Most of those were filed by the defendants themselves. Combined, 336 federal defendants in Tennessee districts filed motions for compassionate release. The courts released 61 of them. The Sentencing Commission tracks federal sentencing trends and policy, regularly releasing reports on that data. The June 10 report focuses only on compassionate release cases. Nationally, a total of 2,549 defendants were compassionately released, their sentences ending, according to the commission. That number is 21% of those who tried. “Compassionate release” is a broad term, usually related to sentencing laws that allow the court to find “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to warrant an early release. At least 6,654 people in Tennessee Department of Corrections custody had contracted COVID-19 as of last week, and 42 of them are believed to have died from the disease.


Dallas: On the cusp of summer, the electric power grid manager for most of the state on Monday issued its second conservation alert since the deadly February blackout, calling on users to dial back energy consumption through Friday to avert an emergency. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said many forced generation outages and record June demand have squeezed the power supply. It appealed to users to set thermostats no lower than 78 degrees and avoid using large electric appliances until demand decreased late in the day. ERCOT predicted a peak demand load on its system of 73,000 megawatts, far above the June record of 69,123 megawatts set between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. June 27, 2018. However, as of 2:30 p.m. Monday, 12,178 megawatts of the grid’s 86,862 megawatts of generating capacity were offline, ERCOT said, leaving a razor-thin margin of reserve capacity of about 2,000 megawatts. “We will be conducting a thorough analysis with generation owners to determine why so many units are out of service,” Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, said in a statement. “This is unusual for this early in the summer season.”


Salt Lake City: Transportation officials have reported nearly twice as many people died in alcohol-involved crashes on the state’s roads last year compared to the year before, despite less commuter traffic during the coronavirus pandemic. The state Department of Transportation said there were 61 fatal crashes involving alcohol last year compared to the 32 crashes in 2019, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Department officials said there was also an 11% increase in traffic fatalities in the state from 2019 to 2020, which includes fatal alcohol-involved crashes. Nationally, there was a 7% increase in traffic fatalities over the past year and a 9% increase in alcohol-involved fatalities, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Robert Miles, director of traffic and safety for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said it’s too soon to know why fatal crashes increased. He said the pattern has surprised everyone, including traffic experts. “I think … most people thought if there is less traffic on the street there will be fewer fatalities; there will be fewer crashes,” he said. “We saw fewer crashes, but we saw more fatal crashes.” Miles said it is possible people began taking more risks while driving because of extra road space created by reduced traffic. But he also said not every type of fatal crash increased in the past year.


Montpelier: Now that the state of emergency imposed to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic in Vermont is ending, meetings of public bodies must be held in person, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said. During the pandemic, public boards were authorized to hold those meetings remotely. Condos said boards can still allow people to attend remotely, but a physical meeting location must be provided, and those bodies must physically post notices of the meetings. “Vermont’s public servants have made it clear that our government can still operate and make critical decisions during a public health emergency without sacrificing the right of Vermonters to know how their government is making those decisions and their right to participate in the process,” Condos said in a statement Monday. “As we transition towards our shared ‘new normal,’ it is vital that we use the many successes, best practices, and lessons learned from the last 15 months to improve how we, as trusted public officials, best serve the public.” On Monday, after the state vaccinated just over 80% of the eligible population, Gov. Phil Scott lifted all COVID-19 restrictions. The state of emergency that allowed the remote meetings expired at midnight Tuesday.


Richmond: A dental student at Virginia Commonwealth University has been awarded $10,000 by her school to develop a prototype for her invention to help those wearing braces floss between their teeth. Student Christina Gordon first developed her idea for the Proxy-Flosser when she was 10 years old and looking for a better way to complete the tedious task. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports she put something together akin to a floss pick and didn’t think much else about it until she enrolled in dental school. She said she was shocked to learn that a better product still hadn’t been invented, and she began making inquiries about whether her Proxy-Flosser was marketable. She won $10,000 from VCU’s Innovation Gateway, which helps faculty and students commercialize their innovations. Because her idea has not been patented, she is not publicly disclosing the details of her invention.


Seattle: The City Council has approved a law that will require meal-delivery apps to sign agreements with restaurants instead of listing restaurants on the apps and taking orders without permission. Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez, who sponsored the law, said it will protect restaurants, simplify work for delivery-app drivers and give customers more reliable service, The Seattle Times reports. The vote was 8-0 on Monday. Mayor Jenny Durkan hadn’t reviewed the law yet to determine whether she’ll sign it or let it become law without her signature, her office said. Council staff noted the law could result in some restaurants paying delivery fees they’re not paying now, possibly less work for drivers and fewer options for customers. Gonzalez said restaurant industry groups such as Seattle Restaurant Alliance backed the measure, and labor groups and delivery apps were consulted. Delivery apps Grubhub, Postmates and Uber Eats didn’t immediately comment. Brianna Megid, a spokesperson for DoorDash, said restaurants should have the power to make choices affecting their businesses. DoorDash removes restaurants, when requested, she said. Under the status quo, delivery apps can use online menus and other information to list restaurants without permission. Restaurants may not even know they’re listed.

West Virginia

Charleston: Hundreds of demonstrators outraged with Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to a sweeping overhaul of U.S. election law marched through the capital city Monday evening. The Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, denounced the influential moderate Democratic senator and called for a diverse coalition of working people to apply pressure on Manchin, who recently opposed a $15 minimum wage and the price tag of President Joe Biden’s initial $2 trillion infrastructure plan. “West Virginia needs a real senator,” Barber told the crowd at a Charleston park. Then they marched a mile to Manchin’s office. Unable to meet with the senator – an aide told Barber he was in Washington – leaders of the demonstration affixed a poster-sized protest letter to the front doors of the office building. Rallygoers took turns signing their names on it. When Manchin’s aides offered comment cards to collect protestors’ grievances, Barber waved them away: “We don’t want to talk to the staff.” The protest was spurred by Manchin’s decision to oppose a landmark reform of U.S. election law, a proposal known as For the People Act. Manchin said last week that passing reform on a party-line vote risked further stoking partisan divides.


Madison: The superintendents of the state’s five largest school districts told members of the Legislature on Tuesday that they’re “dismayed” that $2.3 billion in federal aid is at risk because of low funding for K-12 schools. Superintendents of the Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay school districts urged lawmakers in a letter to set aside partisan differences and do what’s best for schools. The state budget being written by the Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee does not include enough funding for K-12 schools to ensure that Wisconsin would be able to keep $2.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief money. Republican leaders have repeatedly said they will ensure the funding wouldn’t be lost. The budget committee plans to complete its work this week. As it stands, the new budget would include $128 million more in state funding for K-12 schools than the current one, which is about one-tenth of what Democratic Gov. Tony Evers requested. Evers and Democrats have urged lawmakers to spend more on K-12 schools, especially in light of rosier projections showing the state will collect $4.4 billion more in taxes than originally expected.


Jackson: A recycled wooden sculpture of an enormous troll now lounges in Rendezvous Park. It’s the brainchild of Copenhagen artist Thomas Dambo, who has built trolls all over the world. Their whimsical construction beckons spectators to clamber aboard and, in the case of R Park, serves as a bridge to ferry the fun from the park to a nearby miniature island, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports. Dambo named the Jackson Hole troll “Mama Mimi,” for her motherly guidance – plus, he said, Mimi is a “good, strong” Scandinavian name. “I’m super happy with it,” the artist said of his 80th piece. Mimi is one of the few female trolls in Dambo’s small army, and apart from one tucked in a fjord, she’s the first to interact so closely with water. Mimi’s face and feet were assembled at the artist’s Denmark workshop, but everything else was mapped out and assembled on site. Her hair is made entirely of driftwood roots found washed up on the banks of the Snake River. Rather than buying lumber that’s been shipped across the country, he used leftover pallets from Osprey Beverages, saving them from the dumpster. Mimi’s signature stone necklace was sourced from the river and a team member who offered up an old, oversized rope as a band. Set back a quarter-mile or so from the bridge, Mimi won’t be collecting any toll money from travelers, but she did cost a pretty penny: roughly $50,000 raised by an army of #Trollbackers, plus another $50,000 from private donors.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Holocaust survivor concert, Tiger King auction: News from around our 50 states

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