Millionth decorated dog, TV set mystery, Washington mural: News from around our 50 states


Huntsville: A man who traveled to all 50 states to mow lawns for free says he’s traveling cross-country again to bring together police officers and the community. Rodney Smith Jr. tweeted Monday to announce his “Mowing with Cops” tour started Wednesday in Apopka, Florida. Smith says on his website that he wants to mow at least one lawn in each state for the elderly, disabled, single parents or veterans, and he’s inviting police officers to mow with him. He had a special police-themed mower made. His website shows it’s painted black and white and has emergency lights. Smith was inspired to begin a free yard mowing service in 2015 after seeing an elderly man cutting his lawn. Individual and corporate donations have helped pay for hotel rooms and other expenses.


Anchorage: Scientists say the chances of a polar bear encounter have increased, with the bears arriving on shore earlier and staying on land longer. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey found changes in sea ice habitat have coincided with evidence that polar bears’ use of land is increasing, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The bears come to land from the Beaufort Sea during the ice-melt season, the average duration of which has increased by 36 days since the late 1990s, researchers said. The bears are arriving “a little bit ahead of schedule,” said Todd Atwood, a research wildlife biologist leading the U.S. Geological Survey’s polar bear research program. Polar bears usually come to shore in mid-August, but residents have reported sightings as early as May in Kaktovik, a small town about 640 miles north of Anchorage, biologists said.


Jugs of water are left for undocumented immigrants May 10 near Ajo, Ariz.
Jugs of water are left for undocumented immigrants May 10 near Ajo, Ariz.

Ajo: A humanitarian organization that provides aid to border crossers says it is opening an office to welcome visitors for a few hours on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings in the southern Arizona desert community of Ajo. The Ajo Samaritarans say they will first open the office in the border town Thursday to provide information about their work. The group says Ajo residents have provided water and other aid to travelers in the Sonora desert for generations. The office will be staffed from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Border volunteer Scott Warren, who is set to be retried in November on two felony counts of harboring migrants in the U.S. without permission, lives in the community and volunteers with the Ajo Samaritans.


Little Rock: A baby raccoon with a brain injury that hinders her mobility is walking again with the help of a wheelchair. Walkin’ Pets, which makes wheelchairs for animals, says the source of Vittles’ injury is unknown, but it prevented her from balancing and supporting herself. Susan Curtis is a wildlife rehabilitation specialist who helps the state’s bats and raccoons. The company says Curtis found Vittles when she was 8 weeks old. Walkin’ Pets project manager Jennifer Pratt says the wheelchair will adjust as Vittles grows. The company says Vittles can use the wheelchair to sharpen her balance and stability so she can walk on her own. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the company says it’s unlikely Vittles will make a full recovery. But early intervention sparks hope.


San Francisco: The city’s school board voted Tuesday to preserve but cover up a public high school mural depicting slavery and the killing of a Native American. After a public outcry, the board voted 4-3 to reverse its June vote to paint over the “Life of Washington” mural at George Washington High School. Instead, staff were directed to work out alternatives to cover the mural with panels or other materials depicting “the heroism of people of color in America” and their fight against racism and poverty, said board President Stevon Cook, who made the proposal. The cover-up will require an environmental review, and the mural will remain on display at least until then. The 1936 work painted directly on the school walls depicts the life of George Washington. Sections of the 1,600-square-foot work were intended to show the darker side of that history.


Denver: The state’s child abuse hotline will not change its policy to accept tips via social media, email or text. The Colorado Sun reports the recommendation came from a statewide task force that determined the hotline is set up to take tips only via phone. The review occurred after an internal memo a year ago raised concerns the child welfare division was not being responsive to texts, social media messages and emails about possible abuse and neglect. Officials say an email account for submitting reports went unchecked for more than four years. Officials determined five cases of possible neglect that were undiscovered until May needed immediate attention. The task force recommended caseworkers receiving written tips should record a report via the phone line before forwarding the written information to the hotline center.


Storrs: The new president of the University of Connecticut has begun implementing a plan he hopes will double research spending in the next decade, but he warns that unfunded pension liability could hurt the school’s ability to attract and keep top researchers. Thomas Katsouleas began his tenure at the state’s flagship school Aug. 1 and spoke Wednesday at his first Board of Trustees meeting. Elevating UConn’s status as a top research institution is among his top priorities, he said. He hopes to increase the school’s research money from about $265 million to more than $500 million in federal grants and other funding within a decade. But he also warned that UConn and its medical arm, UConn Health, are handicapped by an unfunded pension liability, which is estimated at $52 million this fiscal year.


Dover: The governor has signed into law a package of bills aimed at making it easier for formerly incarcerated people to get professional licenses in some trade fields. Delaware State News reports Gov. John Carney signed three bills Monday that supporters say they hope will improve employment access by removing roadblocks for ex-convicts facing reentry challenges after prison. The bills are designed to help job-seekers obtain licenses in trade fields as plumbers, electricians and massage therapists. The bills modify the impact of criminal history on applicants’ license eligibility by allowing the massage board and electrical examining board to grant waivers for people with certain felony convictions to obtain licenses. It also prohibits the boards from considering some convictions that are more than 10 years old.

District of Columbia

Washington: A new survey from FutureBrand rates the District of Columbia as the No. 4 city in the world, WUSA-TV reports. The study examined culture, business, tourism, quality of life and value systems. It also noted tolerance and environmental friendliness. According to FutureBrand’s site, it unites global experts in strategy, design and innovation to future-proof businesses through brand experiences that drive profitable, long-term growth.


Kissimmee: A homeowner association says it’s against the rules for an Army veteran to fly a Puerto Rican flag outside her home. The Rolling Hills Estates HOA in Kissimmee recently told Frances Santiago that flags other than a U.S. flag, a military flag or a sports flag aren’t permitted. Santiago tells Orlando television station WFTV-TV that she and her husband, Efrain, decided to fly the flag to support protesters demanding the governor’s resignation in the U.S. territory. Three weeks later, she got a violation notice from the association in the Orlando suburb. The couple says it may be time for the HOA to revisit its rules, especially with Kissimmee’s growing Puerto Rican population. They’ve hired a lawyer and say they have no intention of lowering their flag.


Georgia bulldog Que walks the field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Nov. 10, 2018.
Georgia bulldog Que walks the field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Nov. 10, 2018.

Athens: Sports Illustrated is celebrating college football’s 150th season by ranking the top 10 all-time greatest mascots, putting the University of Georgia’s bulldog in first place. The magazine includes both real and costumed mascots in this week’s edition. Following Uga is the Duck at the University of Oregon, Mike the tiger at Louisiana State University, Bevo the longhorn bull at the University of Texas and Stanford University’s Tree. The University of Colorado’s 1,200-pound live buffalo named Ralphie, University of South Carolina’s costumed gamecock named Cocky, Western Kentucky University’s Big Red, Syracuse University’s orange named Otto and University of Tennessee’s bluetick coonhound named Smokey closed the list. The latest Uga is the 10th iteration of the mascot, which the magazine says has been a staple since 1956.


Honolulu: The state Supreme Court has ruled Hawaii’s constitution requires reasonable access to Hawaiian language immersion programs. Hawaii News Now reports the justices ruled the programs are a necessary component in restoring Hawaiian language and culture. The case brought by the parent of two schoolchildren on Lanai says the island’s only public school did not offer a Hawaiian language immersion program. In a 4-to-1 decision, justices ruled that access to a Hawaiian language class only a few times per week was not sufficient. The ruling says steps must be taken to build an immersion program. In a written dissent, Justice Paula Nakayama says the state should provide “as many students as possible” with access to immersion programs but disagrees that the state constitution requires it.


Boise: The U.S. Forest Service says $25,000 is being used for a federal-state project in eastern Idaho to identify road-killed animals in a major wildlife migration corridor to determine collision hotspots and potential locations for wildlife crossing structures. The agency says 75% of historical migration routes for elk, bison and pronghorn have been lost in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Freemont County has many of the remaining migration routes but a high rate of wildlife-vehicle collisions. The project started earlier this summer and uses volunteers to identify dead animals on U.S. Highway 20 and State Highway 87. Officials say the information can help the Idaho Transportation Department better understand wildlife-road conflicts through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.


Central Illinois farmers harvest soybeans in Pleasant Plains, Ill.
Central Illinois farmers harvest soybeans in Pleasant Plains, Ill.

Alton: A marker will be placed at the site where the state’s first soybeans were planted. Officials of the Illinois State Historical Society will join Lewis and Clark Community College representatives when the marker is dedicated Aug. 23 in Alton. The Telegraph reports Dr. Benjamin Franklin Edwards traveled to San Francisco in 1849 and helped shipwreck survivors from Japan. They reportedly showed Edwards their appreciation with a gift of “Japanese peas.” Edwards returned to Alton in April 1851 and gave six of the peas to a friend, who planted them in his home garden. The U.S. Agriculture Department reports Illinois’ 2018 soybean production totaled 688 million bushels. Alton Mayor Brant Walker says commemorating the soybean planting adds a new chapter to the city’s history.


Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett speaks about a new program to equip Indianapolis Metro Police Department officers with body-worn cameras during a Feb. 4 press conference.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett speaks about a new program to equip Indianapolis Metro Police Department officers with body-worn cameras during a Feb. 4 press conference.

Indianapolis: The city’s police chief says a budget proposal dedicating $1.2 million toward officer body cameras doesn’t mean they’re coming quickly. A city spending plan released Monday by Mayor Joe Hogsett includes the body camera funding boost as the police department is in the midst of a pilot program in which some officers are using such cameras from three companies. Police Chief Bryan Roach says a decision on how to proceed with the cameras for the department’s some 1,100 street officers is months away. Roach says the $1.2 million would be enough to start a body camera program but estimates that’s about half of what would be needed each year. The fatal police shooting of a man earlier this month involved Indianapolis officers without body cameras.


Adair's 250,000-gallon yellow water tower has two smiley faces painted on it. One smile beams east, the other west.
Adair's 250,000-gallon yellow water tower has two smiley faces painted on it. One smile beams east, the other west.

Des Moines: Gov. Kim Reynolds held a news conference at the Iowa State Fair on Wednesday to make a special request of towns: Show the world your hometown pride for an opportunity to win a custom water tower. The “Home Town Water Tower Contest” encourages towns throughout the state to submit their own two-minute video that features a “water element” in their community. The winner of the contest will receive a new water tower complete with a one-of-a-kind design from a local artist. Video submissions will be accepted through Sept. 30. A public vote to be held Oct. 1-11 will determine the winning video. Iowans take a great deal of pride in their unique water towers. The “Ol’ Smiley” water tower in Adair has long been a roadside icon. Last year, Sioux City spent thousands painting the phrase “Home of Sioux City Sue” on their water tower.


Riverton: A Route 66 destination in southeast Kansas is receiving a cost-share grant from a federal preservation program that is expected to end this fall. The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program awarded Nelson’s Old Riverton Store a $2,500 matching grant to upgrade its exterior. The Joplin Globe reports the Riverton store opened in 1925, one year before U.S. 66 was designated. Originally intended to last 10 years, the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program was extended for another decade in 2009. It is set to expire in October. Bill Thomas, chairman of the Road Ahead board of directors, says supporters are working to ensure the passage of federal legislation to designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail and to ensure the National Park Service oversees the trail.


A press conference about the acquisition of Jewish Hospital is held at the University of Louisville on Wednesday.
A press conference about the acquisition of Jewish Hospital is held at the University of Louisville on Wednesday.

Louisville: University of Louisville trustees have approved the school’s purchase of a financially struggling hospital under a plan that would include a $50 million state loan. UofL trustees approved the transaction at a meeting on campus Wednesday. The deal will significantly increase UofL’s footprint in the medical sector of Kentucky’s largest city. Under the deal, UofL would purchase the greater Louisville market assets of KentuckyOne Health Inc., which includes Jewish Hospital. The deal includes the promise of state support though a $50 million loan. Half of the loan would be forgivable if job retention and other conditions are met. Trustees authorized UofL President Neeli Bendapudi to negotiate and finalize the agreement.


New Orleans: Authorities have made an arrest in an attack on comedian Andy Dick outside a nightclub where he had performed. In a news release, New Orleans police spokesman Aaron Looney says 46-year-old David Hale was arrested early Wednesday and booked into jail on suspicion of second-degree battery and simple battery. Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Philip Stelly said he did not know whether Hale had an attorney. Dick told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate someone punched him early Saturday, knocking him out for 15 minutes. Dick was outside the French Quarter club when he was punched. Robert Couvillion, who promoted the show, says the performer didn’t have any reason to expect to be attacked. The comedian and musician is known for his role in the 1990s NBC TV show “NewsRadio.”


A girl holds a handful of wild blueberries picked near Sherman, Maine.
A girl holds a handful of wild blueberries picked near Sherman, Maine.

Portland: The state’s wild blueberry industry could be looking at another difficult summer, as the crop is projected to remain much smaller than just a few years ago. The Pine Tree State is America’s sole commercial producer of the wild berries, which are smaller than the more ubiquitous cultivated blueberries often seen in grocery stores. Maine’s crop exceeded 100 million pounds every year from 2014 to 2016 before plummeting to 50.4 million pounds last year. Horticulturist David Yarborough, emeritus wild blueberry specialist with the University of Maine, says a cold winter and wet and cold spring are likely to blame for the lower projections. He says the total harvest might again be only about 50 million pounds. The state’s wild blueberry industry is also struggling with Canadian competition and somewhat low prices to farmers.


Baltimore: A teachers union is calling for fans to be donated to schools as sweltering heat pushes classroom temperatures into the triple digits, but the district says electrical infrastructure may not be equipped to handle it. The Baltimore Sun reports the union hopes to hand out 500 fans in response to a lack of functional air conditioning in city schools, some of which have none at all. But Baltimore Schools Chief Operations Officer Lynette Washington is warning against it, saying the buildings don’t have the electrical load to withstand it. The union is pushing back. President Diamonte Brown is quoted by the paper as responding: “If you’re so concerned about the electricity being overloaded, then fix it.” The paper reports the district has an almost $3 billion maintenance backlog from decades of underfunding.


Boston: It’s a sight for sore eyes for commuters on the MBTA’s Orange Line. The first new trains in decades – six of them initially – are going into service Wednesday on the transit line, which runs from the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston to Oak Grove station in Malden. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority eventually plans to replace the entire existing Orange Line fleet with 152 new trains by 2022. The new vehicles are being built by the Chinese-owned company CRRC at a manufacturing plant in Springfield. The T says the new trains will have more spacious interiors, along with wider doors, more handrails, better lighting, and safety features including audio and visual warnings that the doors on the train are opening or closing.


Big Sean films a music video atop a Channel 4 news truck outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit on May 14.
Big Sean films a music video atop a Channel 4 news truck outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit on May 14.

Detroit: Rapper Big Sean’s philanthropic foundation is hosting another weekend of events aimed at helping youth in his hometown. The 2nd annual Detroit’s On Now Weekend kicks off Saturday with the unveiling of the Sean Anderson Production Studio in the Dauch Campus Boys and Girls Club. It’s part of an effort to help Detroit children launch careers in the entertainment industry. Big Sean will host a discussion Sunday that focuses on mental health and the stigma around it in the black community. Scheduled guests include psychiatrist Jessica Clemons and sociologist and author Michael Eric Dyson. Other planned events include live performances, health screenings, apprenticeship opportunities and carnival rides, as well as free food, haircuts and braiding. The nonprofit Sean Anderson Foundation was organized in 2012.


St. Paul: A record number of prison inmates in the state were placed in solitary confinement last year. The Minnesota Department of Corrections placed inmates in solitary more than 8,000 times in 2018. Minnesota Public Radio News reports the number of solitary sentences has been going up steadily for the past two years. Last session, the Legislature passed a law requiring mental health screening for inmates being placed in solitary. Republican Rep. Nick Zerwas of Elk River, one of the sponsors, says he’s concerned about the numbers. In June, the Corrections Department implemented new regulations that increase the maximum time allowed in solitary from 90 days to a year. Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell says that ultimately, the department wants to provide incentives to help people get back into the general prison population.


Jackson: One of the four tests that the state’s public school students take in high school may be going away. A testing task force is recommending the state Board of Education scrap a now-required U.S. history test. Students formerly had to pass that test, plus exams in English, algebra and biology, to graduate. Now there are alternate routes to graduate, but some Mississippi students still don’t earn a diploma. Teacher groups and others who say Mississippi students take too many tests are pushing for change. The history test also counts in the grading system under which high schools and districts are assigned A-to-F grades. The recommendation will be considered next week by the state’s accreditation commission. If that group agrees, the state Board of Education would likely seek public comment before voting.


Colton Parayko and other Blues players help superfan Laila Anderson hoist the Stanley Cup.
Colton Parayko and other Blues players help superfan Laila Anderson hoist the Stanley Cup.

Chesterfield: The little girl from suburban St. Louis who became the inspiration behind the St. Louis Blues’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup championship is back in school for the first time in two years. Laila Anderson has a rare autoimmune disease that forced her to miss two school years. Until Tuesday. In a video posted by the Parkway School District, Laila says she hopes to inspire as many people as she can. She also jokes that as much as she loves her parents, “I need a break from their faces.” Laila had a bone marrow transplant in January, just as the Blues began their stunning worst-to-first turnaround. She was such a fan that the team flew her to playoff games and made her part of the victory celebration in June.


Helena: The state is looking to support the U.S. Forest Service in fighting off a lawsuit challenging a wildfire mitigation project. The Independent Record reports state Attorney General Tim Fox filed a request Monday to intervene in the litigation over the Ten Mile-South Helena Project. The project calls for forest thinning, logging and burning on more than 27 square miles in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. Helena Hunters and Anglers and the Montana Wildlife Federation filed a lawsuit earlier this year over concerns about the impact of mechanized logging on wildlife. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council also filed a lawsuit, contending the federal agency erred in its environmental analysis for the project. The lawsuits have been consolidated into one case.


Crete: A private university in this state where pot remains broadly illegal plans to offer an online program this fall that will cover the science, cultivation, processing and regulation of marijuana and hemp. Doane University in Crete will offer the three-course program. Chemistry professor Andrea Holmes will help teach the certificate program, and she told the Omaha World-Herald that the industry is growing rapidly. She cited jobs across the country for cultivators, technicians, scientists, geneticists, administrators, salespeople, marketers and advertisers. Nebraska bars recreational and medicinal marijuana, but lawmakers cleared the way this spring for a limited number of farmers to grow hemp, a low-THC version of the cannabis plant. THC is the compound that gives marijuana its high.


Reno: A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled against the state in a battle with the U.S. government over its secret shipment of weapons-grade plutonium to a site near Las Vegas, but the state’s attorney general says the fight isn’t over yet. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s appeal after a judge refused to block any future shipments to Nevada. The court in San Francisco said the matter is moot because the Energy Department already sent the radioactive material and has promised that no more will be hauled there. “The remedy Nevada sought – stopping the government from shipping plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada under the proposed action – is no longer available,” the court wrote. Nevada also wanted the court to order the government to remove the plutonium it shipped last year but didn’t reveal had arrived there until January.

New Hampshire

Concord: A state survey says 24% of high school-age youth reported having used electronic cigarettes and cigars, vaping and hookah devices in a 30-day period, compared to the national average of 13%. The data is from the 2017 New Hampshire Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Tricia Tilley, the state Health Department’s deputy director for its Division of Public Health Services, says the increase puts a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction. She notes a new state law that updates the definitions of electronic smoking devices and liquids and clarifies that all tobacco-related product devices are prohibited in any public education facility or grounds.

New Jersey

James Gandolfini and Edie Falco star in the final season of
James Gandolfini and Edie Falco star in the final season of

Secaucus: For two days this fall, “Sopranos” fans can immerse themselves in the world of the hit show at SopranosCon. The convention, to be Nov. 23-24 at the Meadowlands Expo in Secaucus, will be an “interactive, street festival themed fan experience,” according to the event website. In the midst of the show’s 20-year anniversary and upcoming prequel, super fans will have the chance to meet cast members and even go to an official after-party. Exhibits, screenings, Q&As with cast members, trivia and costume contests are just some of the activities on the itinerary for the event. The layout of the convention will be inspired by the Feast of St Elzear and will celebrate Italian culture in New Jersey with food, drink, art, music, comedy and some show-related businesses, according to the website.

New Mexico

Farmington: Some Navajo Nation officials are seeking to ask the state to rename a U.S. highway after one of the longest-serving Native American lawmakers in U.S. history. A Navajo legislative committee is requesting New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham name U.S. Highway 491 in honor of the late state Sen. John Pinto, who died in May at the age of 94 and had long sought to turn the deadly U.S. 666 into a four-lane highway and to change its name to U.S. 491. U.S. Highway 491 stretches about 194 miles from Gallup, New Mexico, through Colorado to Monticello, Utah. Pinto was a World War II Navajo code talker and served over four decades in the New Mexico Legislature.

New York

New York: Who’s a good dog? The American Kennel Club says there are now a million of them. The club announced Wednesday that a Bernese mountain dog named Fiona recently became its 1 millionth “canine good citizen,” including dogs past and present. Fiona and owner Nora Pavone had a special reason for pursuing the club’s mark of canine comportment: Fiona spends her days comforting people at the Pavone family’s Brooklyn funeral home. “We wanted her to have proper manners when she’s meeting with so many different people … for her to just be polite and gentle and always in control,” Pavone says. “To gently go up to someone and nudge their hand when they just need her to be next to them.” The club introduced the canine good citizen title in 1989 to promote polite doggy behavior and responsible pet ownership.

North Carolina

Raleigh: The trial is underway in a lawsuit that accuses novelist Nicholas Sparks of defaming the former headmaster of a private Christian school he founded in the state. Saul Hillel Benjamin accuses Sparks of telling Epiphany School parents, a job recruiter and others that Benjamin suffered from mental illness. The jury in the trial that began Wednesday in Raleigh will decide whether the private K-12 school in Spark’s hometown of New Bern, the author and the foundation Sparks created to support the school should pay damages. Benjamin’s lawsuit alleges that the author of “Message in a Bottle” and “The Notebook” defamed him and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Benjamin was in the headmaster’s position for less than five months and says he was forced out.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Traffic at the state’s eight commercial service airports is up 12% in July compared to last year. The state Aeronautics Commission says more than 110,000 people boarded planes at the airports in Bismarck, Minot, Williston, Dickinson, Grand Forks, Fargo, Devils Lake and Jamestown during the month. The Bismarck Tribune says Williston had the highest percentage increase, at nearly 27%. Year-to-date boardings for the eight airports are up more than 10%, to nearly 691,000 passengers. Travelers can reach nine nonstop destinations from North Dakota, though two are seasonal.


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says facial-recognition software isn't being used on state photo databases.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says facial-recognition software isn't being used on state photo databases.

Columbus: Amid concern about the use of facial-recognition capabilities, Ohio’s attorney general says the state database of driver’s license and law enforcement photos hasn’t been used improperly for mass surveillance or broad dragnets. Even so, Republican Attorney General Dave Yost says he’s ordering training requirements for officers who use the facial-recognition system. He’s also requiring that requests for such searches be handled by the state crime lab until those requirements are met. Concerns have been raised about the potential for abuse as federal investigators have searched such databases unbeknownst to drivers whose photos were scanned. Yost says he’ll appoint advisers to help ensure Ohio’s system is an effective law-enforcement tool that also protects people’s privacy and rights.


Medford: No injuries were reported after a 3.4 magnitude earthquake shook a sparsely populated area of northern Oklahoma. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake was recorded about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday about 8 miles south-southeast of Medford and at a depth of about 4 miles. No damage was immediately reported. Geologists say damage is unlikely in temblors below magnitude 4.0. Thousands of earthquakes in Oklahoma have been linked to underground injection of wastewater from oil and gas production. The USGS reports the number of magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes is on pace to decline for the fourth straight year after state regulators began directing producers to close some wells and reduce volumes in others.


Salem: A new law curbing use of the death penalty in the state now appears to go further than supporters intended, after a recent ruling that a former death row inmate cannot be sentenced to death upon retrial. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that the state’s prosecutors are working to determine how many murder cases might be affected. Meanwhile, lawmakers behind the new law said Tuesday that they were surprised and would seek a fix as soon as possible – even asking the governor to call a one-day special session next month. In passing Senate Bill 1013 this year, lawmakers limited use of capital punishment to a narrow set of circumstances, including terrorist acts and murders of children or law enforcement officers. But officials also appeared to take pains to ensure those changes would apply to sentences moving forward.


Harrisburg: State officials have announced plans to close two centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities over the next three years. The Department of Human Services says public meetings will be held next month to gather comment on the plans to close the Polk State Center in Venango County in western Pennsylvania and the White Haven State Center in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County. The Polk center currently serves 194 residents and the White Haven center 112. Officials say the commonwealth has steadily closed most state centers since the 1960s, “when best practices turned toward community-based settings and away from institutions.” Fifty years ago, the department served more than 13,000 people with intellectual disabilities in state-operated facilities, but today fewer than 720 receive care in such facilities.

Rhode Island

Lincoln: Twin River Casino says it is feeling the competitive bite from a new resort casino in neighboring Massachusetts. Twin River said Tuesday that it could be forced to lay off up to 30 table game supervisors to reflect the loss in business. The casino in Lincoln says revenue from table games dipped 34% in July compared to the same month the prior year. July was the first full month of operation for the Wynn Resorts-owned Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett. Twin River said the impact of the competition was greater than it had expected, and it’s exploring the possibility of voluntarily reducing hours to avoid some layoffs – and also hopes business will pick up enough after Labor Day to allow some workers to be rehired.

South Carolina

A rendering from development firm RocaPoint Partners shows a concept for future construction around University Ridge near its intersection with Church Street in Greenville, S.C.
A rendering from development firm RocaPoint Partners shows a concept for future construction around University Ridge near its intersection with Church Street in Greenville, S.C.

Greenville: The mayor says affordable housing must be included in a $1 billion redevelopment project near the city’s trendy downtown area. Mayor Knox White told a meeting last week that he considers affordable housing to be “non-negotiable.” Greenville’s city center is considered a model for revitalization, and officials are looking at a proposal to spend $1 billion on a redevelopment project within walking distance of the area. As many as 1,500 apartments would be built under the current plan, and White says that must include a mix of housing types. The area that’s being redeveloped doesn’t currently include housing, but it’s beside one of the city’s oldest African American communities. Rising home prices are raising concerns about what will happen to area residents.

South Dakota

Yankton: A county commissioner has been banned from entering Yankton City Hall for a year. Yankton County Commissioner Gary Swensen was sent a letter by Yankton’s city attorney outlining the ban. KYNT-AM obtained a copy of the letter, dated Aug. 12. In the letter, City Attorney Ross Den Herder says Swensen’s recent social media posts are “perceived as threatening to City staff and its elected officials.” The Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reports Yankton Mayor Nathan Johnson appeared before the commission last week about Swensen’s posting of a cartoon on social media. The cartoon shows a priest telling a woman who confessed to killing a politician that he is “here to listen to your sins, not your community service work.” Swensen has apologized for the cartoon.


Memphis: The producers of the Hallmark Channel’s made-in-Memphis “Graceland” movies are selling off three films’ worth of props, wardrobe items, Christmas decorations and Elvis memorabilia. The sale does not signal the end of the Hallmark-Graceland relationship – in fact, more Elvis-connected feature-film romances are planned. In addition to Christmas items, the extraneous inventory includes clothes worn by actors in the three Memphis-based Hallmark Channel movies, “Christmas at Graceland” and “Wedding at Graceland,” with Kellie Pickler and Wes Brown, and the upcoming “Christmas at Graceland 2,” now officially titled “Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays,” with Adrian Grenier and Kaitlin Doubleday, which finished shooting last week. The cash-only sale will take place Aug. 22-23 at 1910 Nonconnah Blvd., Suite 106.


San Antonio: An archaeological dig at the Alamo to help preserve the historic Texas mission has unearthed musket balls that experts say could date to the 1800s. The San Antonio Express-News reports the survey of the mission-era west wall of the Long Barrack is meant to help determine how best to protect the oldest component of the Alamo. Crews are digging four pits to help expose the 1700s limestone wall to its foundation in an effort to fight moisture. Archaeologist Kristi Nichols says workers so far have recovered musket balls, a mid-1800s bottle and tin-glazed majolica from the Spanish colonial period. The survey began nearly a month ago. Preservation of the Alamo is part of a wider $450 million development plan for the area.


Salt Lake City: Wildlife officials say they have found and put to death a bear that bit a 13-year-old boy on his ear and cheek at a campground in eastern Utah. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said Tuesday in a news release that officials found the black bear Friday night within a mile of the riverside campground where the incident occurred on Aug. 9 east of Moab. Wildlife officials euthanized the bear after determining it matched the size, color and tracks of the bear that attacked the boy. The boy was treated and released from the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The campground was reopened Monday. This is the second bear attack in Utah this summer. A bear was captured and killed in June after it scratched a boy camping in northern Utah.


Montpelier: The state has launched a website that shows the results of lead testing in water at the state’s schools and child care facilities. The testing is being done at approximately 440 schools and more than 1,200 child care facilities. It’s required under a new law in which schools and child care centers also must make fixes or take outlets, such as drinking fountains, out of service if the results show lead above 4 parts per billion. Officials said Wednesday that the fixes, such as replacing fixtures, are relatively inexpensive. The state is covering the cost of the testing and up to a certain amount of the remediation. Nearly 300 child care facilities and five schools have been tested. The website shows the test results at institutions and if action has been taken.


Richmond: Police say more than 50 television sets have been mysteriously placed on front porches in a neighborhood outside the city. Henrico County police Lt. Matt Pecka said residents found older model televisions outside their front doors Sunday morning. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that video from one doorbell camera showed a person wearing TV-shaped headgear while dropping off a TV set. Police believe more than one person is responsible. A similar incident occurred in a nearby neighborhood last year. It’s unclear if the incident is a crime. Pecka said that dropping off the televisions on front porches is “at most” illegal dumping. Most of the TVs will be recycled. But a couple of residents indicated they would keep their televisions for now.


Seattle's City Council and mayor have been at odds over where revenue from the city's soda tax will go.
Seattle's City Council and mayor have been at odds over where revenue from the city's soda tax will go.

Seattle: The City Council has thwarted a rare veto by Mayor Jenny Durkan by voting for a second time to create a special fund for the city’s soda-tax revenue. The Seattle Times reports the new tax raised about $22 million last year, more than initially predicted, and the mayor and councilmembers disagree on how to spend it. When the council passed the tax in 2017, it indicated the money should be used to boost healthful-food and early-education programs serving low-income communities of color that are targeted by soda marketing. But when the mayor drew up this year’s budget, she used about $6 million from the soda tax to supplant baseline allocations for food banks, a parent-child program and other services that previously had been supported by the city’s general fund. The maneuver freed up $6 million for her other priorities.

West Virginia

Bethany: Bethany College in West Virginia is asking people who like the outdoors to volunteer to help clean up its trail system next month. Projects will include brush cleaning, trail restoration, rubbish removal and outdoor classroom repair. Volunteers should wear work clothes, preferably long pants and sturdy shoes or boots. The school will provide water, bug spray, gloves and tools. The trail system is an asset of Parkinson Forest, which was deeded to the school in 1914. The system includes a waterfall, numerous hiking spots and the outdoor classroom. The cleanup is set for Sept. 15.


Madison: GOP lawmakers in the state found themselves in the unusual position Wednesday of breaking with anti-abortion groups and advocating for a bill that broadens birth control access, an area where Democrats typically lead. Republicans could undermine a key Democratic campaign issue by passing the bill, but they also find themselves in conflict with groups that are typically their allies. Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Family Action, a leading anti-abortion group, oppose the measure on moral and ethical grounds, saying increasing access encourages premarital sex and the odds of unintended pregnancies and abortions. Only doctors can prescribe hormonal birth control under current state law. The bill would allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptive patches and birth control pills, with some caveats.


Gillette: Officials say a firework rocket that was launched during a show for the Pyrotechnics Guild International convention landed in a home and sparked a small fire. The Gillette News Record reports the rocket broke through the roof of the Gillette home about 2 miles from the event center where the fireworks display was taking place Sunday. The Campbell County Fire Department says the flames were extinguished before firefighters got to the house. No one was injured. Guild spokesman Tom Sklebar says the organization will pay for the damages. He says a rocket “took an errant trajectory” after it was launched and hit the house. The fireworks convention started last Saturday and runs through Friday. It features fireworks shows on four nights.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: News from around our 50 states