Montgomery: In an effort to support military readiness, Maxwell Air Force Base has become the first military installation in the country to open its base school to children who do not live on base. Starting this school year, all children of full-time, active-duty military members stationed to Maxwell or Gunter Annex can apply to enroll at the Maxwell Elementary and Middle School. Previously, the school was only open to children living on base – an issue for many families who preferred not to live in base housing but didn’t believe their children could receive an adequate education elsewhere. This became especially troublesome when, three years ago, Maxwell leaders became publicly vocal about how the area’s schooling options made fulfilling the Air Force’s mission more difficult. Former Air University Commander Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton said in August 2018 that more than half of Air War College airmen came to Montgomery without their families, with schools the No. 1 reason. Simultaneously, the secretaries of the Army, Air Force and Navy announced that a community’s support of military families would be a factor in the decision to relocate or close bases. An internal report in 2019 would later rank Maxwell 150 out of 154 Air Force installations for public education support.
Juneau: The state House passed legislation Tuesday calling for an $1,100 dividend to residents from Alaska’s oil wealth fund, but there are different interpretations as to whether much of the money that would be used for the checks is available. The bill, which passed 24-16, calls for spending $730.5 million, with $330 million of that from the statutory budget reserve fund, for a dividend this year. That’s where a recent court decision and failed votes earlier this year come into play. The fund was long considered among the accounts subject to being swept into the constitutional budget reserve to repay it for money that has been used from it. Lawmakers can reverse the sweep and restore funds to their original accounts. But earlier this year, they failed to secure the votes to do so. Megan Wallace, director of Legislative Legal Services, told a Senate committee Monday a recent court decision suggests the statutory reserve is not subject to the sweep. Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office contends otherwise. “The fund has been swept,” Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said by email. He said the Legislature can change that with a three-quarter majority vote. The dividend would be about $585 if the statutory budget reserve funds were deemed swept, according to the Legislative Finance Division director.
Mesa: Before Alice Cooper and his band head back out on the road for their first tour since the start of the pandemic, the legendary rocker will lead a band of instructors and students from his Solid Rock Teen Center in a handful of his greatest hits at the grand opening of a new teen center in Mesa at 5 p.m. Friday. “I’m gonna sing with them and just give everybody an idea of how far some of these kids have come,” Cooper said. The band includes young guitar hero Conrad Varela, who won the rocker’s annual Proof Is in the Pudding contest in 2018. The original Solid Rock Teen Center opened in 2012 in Phoenix, built in partnership with Genesis Church and Cooper’s Solid Rock after more than a decade of fundraising. Cooper and his wife, Sheryl, worked with Mesa Public Schools to expand the concept into a second location. Both teen centers offer music, arts and dance programming to ages 12 to 20. The Mesa center also has a playground and basketball court. “It used to be a school,” Cooper said. “So we left the monkey bars up. We left the children’s play area. It’s just a cool area for teenagers to hang out.” The grand opening, to be held outdoors, also serves as a kickoff event for this year’s Proof Is in the Pudding contest, for which musicians ages 12-26 can register to compete through Sept. 1 at alicecoopersolidrock.com.
Little Rock: The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators climbed again Tuesday, as the state’s top health official said he was worried about a further surge in cases from the coming Labor Day weekend. The Department of Health said the number of coronavirus patients on ventilators rose by 27 to 388, making it the second day in a row the state has reached a new high. Arkansas reported 2,626 new cases and 22 more deaths. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped by 45 to 1,212. There were 531 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units around the state. Only 19 ICU beds were available, the department said, though it was unclear how many were equipped for COVID-19 patients. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state’s hospitals will be adding 64 ICU beds in September. State Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero said he expected hospitalizations – which have surpassed what Arkansas saw during the winter surge – to rise further in the coming weeks. “Every holiday weekend we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in the number of cases, so we are concerned,” Romero said. He and Hutchinson also said they were concerned about a spike among children and urged parents to get those 12 and up vaccinated. Hutchinson said 30% of active virus cases were 18 and younger.
Sacramento: More than 80% of the people eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines in California have received at least one dose, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday – a pandemic milestone for the nation’s most populous state amid signs a recent surge in new cases is abating. Newsom said the news puts California among the top 10 states in vaccination rates, despite having the population of 21 other states combined. Inoculations have steadily increased in recent weeks after Newsom announced state employees and teachers must either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. He’s also requiring all of the state’s roughly 2.2 million health care workers to get inoculated or risk losing their jobs. Newsom said California has averaged 600,000 doses administered for the past two weeks, with the number having increased 44% since July Fourth. “But again, 80% is not where we need to go. We still need to reach out to those that are on the fence,” Newsom said Tuesday at a vaccine site in Oakland. Of all the people tested for the coronavirus in California, about 4.6% test positive for the virus – among the lowest rates in the country. That rate has fallen from 7.1% just a few weeks ago, Newsom said, and is likely a byproduct of more people being vaccinated. Data has shown cases of fully vaccinated people getting the virus are largely rare and mild.
Denver: The federal government is launching an emergency roundup of more than 780 wild horses in a drought-stricken area of the state despite a last-minute appeal by Gov. Jared Polis to pause the operation so that what he called more humane options to control the size of the herd can be considered. The Democratic governor urged Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Tuesday to postpone the roundup, scheduled to begin Wednesday, for at least six months. Polis cited concern about the fate of captured horses and questioned the Bureau of Land Management’s argument that the drought afflicting the U.S. West has dramatically reduced water and food to the extent that the survival of the 900-horse herd and other wildlife is in jeopardy. “I believe that better cooperation with the state and advocates could improve assurances about their long-term well-being and the avoidance of any potential slaughter,” Polis wrote. An Interior Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the roundup in the barren, 250-square-mile Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area in northwestern Colorado will proceed as planned. The BLM has escalated its roundups of mustangs throughout the West, citing the megadrought worsened by climate change and devastation to the lands on which the horses roam. Critics contend the roundups favor cattle grazing.
Mystic: Officials at Mystic Aquarium are asking that they be allowed to resume research on four beluga whales that was halted following the death of the fifth whale imported this spring from Canada. The request is part of a three-page report made public Monday by the National Marine Fisheries Service detailing the Aug. 6 death of a male whale known as Havok. The report was posted at the same time the aquarium issued a public statement that a female whale named Jetta, reported to be gravely ill last week, is improving and being watched closely. “While it is too early to be optimistic, there have been incremental improvements in the whale’s white blood count, overall gastric health, appetite, and stabilization of her weight,” said Stephen Coan, the aquarium’s president and chief executive officer. “We are by no means out of the woods, and we have a long way to go before we can say there has been a significant recovery.” Coan said the aquarium has flown in experts from around the country to assist in the treatment of Jetta. It is not yet known if her condition is related to those that caused the death of Havok, who was found, Coan said, to have gastric ulcers and other preexisting problems, including a deformed heart. A cause of death has not been determined.
Wilmington: The city’s big fat Greek Festival will likely be much slimmer when the full version returns next week. There will be daily dance performances and live music. Folks can dine at the festival or place to-go orders for Mediterranean favorites including gyros, Keftedes, pastitsio, spanakopita, baklava and melomakarano. Food will be sold in the parking lot of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Organizers have removed a few vendors that traditionally sell wares and other items to create extra space outside for seating so guests can socially distance and feel more comfortable, said George Rassias, committee member for the Greek Festival. This year marks the 45th annual Greek Festival, to be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Sept. 11. Last year was the first time in the festival’s history it didn’t launch the first week of June. Instead, the festival adopted an order-to-go model and offered festival favorites in late June, then again later that fall. The event was spread out due to COVID-19 restrictions. Before the pandemic, the Greek Festival sometimes attracted up to 50,000 guests. Earlier this year, the June festival drew about 5,000 people. Rassias said his hope is to return to the traditional June date next year.
District of Columbia
Washington: Georgetown University has canceled its homecoming festivities planned for the fall because of coronavirus concerns, WUSA-TV reports. The Hoya, Georgetown’s student-run newspaper, first reported the move by the private Catholic university located in the heart of D.C. that serves roughly 7,500 undergraduates at its campus. “We have made the difficult decision to forego Homecoming Weekend this fall,” Paul Lanzone, Georgetown University associate vice president of alumni engagement, said in a statement. “Please know we remain committed to engaging and celebrating our students and alumni ... throughout this year we will highlight other opportunities for our students to learn about and celebrate our many, storied Hoya traditions ... providing alumni various opportunities to celebrate with one another in our alumni communities across the globe.” Georgetown Univesity said in its letter that more information about what the school will do to engage with alumni will be released as the school year continues.
Key West: An annual celebration of debauchery and outrageous costumed parties in the Florida Keys is canceling its famous parade this year due to the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases, but events connected to the 42-year-old festival are still being held, according to planners. The Fantasy Fest parade and a street fair in Key Fest slated for the end of October have been canceled, and a masquerade march through the city’s Old Town section has been put on hold until organizers can determine that it’s safe to hold, Nadene Grossman Orr, the festival’s director, said in a statement earlier this week. Attendees of the adult-oriented festival are being asked to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and they should come prepared with proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test, as well as face masks, she said. “We cannot look into the future, but we can certainly see what is happening in our community today, and the impact that the new variant of COVID-19 has made,” Grossman Orr said. “Fantasy Fest – will look different this year but it is not canceled!” In pre-pandemic times, the 10-day fest attracted up to 75,000 visitors each year around Halloween for dozens of adult parties, costumed marches, street fairs and balls. The highlight was the Fantasy Fest parade, a Mardi Gras-worthy procession of floats, with often scantily dressed revelers.
Savannah: Defense attorneys for the men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery won’t be allowed to present evidence of the slain Black man’s past legal problems when their clients stand trial for murder, a judge ruled. Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father and son, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. are awaiting trial this fall for chasing and killing 25-year-old Arbery last year as he ran in their neighborhood outside coastal Brunswick. Jury selection is scheduled to start Oct. 18. Attorneys for the McMichaels wanted the jury to hear about Arbery’s past run-ins with law enforcement, including two arrests, to cast doubt on prosecutors’ contention that he was merely an innocent jogger. Defense attorneys say the white men reasonably suspected Arbery had committed a crime when they began the pursuit that ended in his death. Prosecutors argued that defense lawyers were seeking to put Arbery on trial by making his criminal record and other prior problems part of the case. None of the three defendants knew Arbery or anything about his past prior to the shooting. Prosecutors said his past was irrelevant to their decision to arm themselves and ultimately shoot a man who was trying to run away.
Honolulu: The state’s public school system is looking to the U.S. mainland for teachers for online classes as the islands struggle with a surge in coronavirus cases. As the highly contagious delta variant continues to infect more people, schools are seeing an increased demand for online instruction. Department guidelines say teachers doing telework must live in Hawaii. The state Board of Education last week urged administrators to look at changing the residency requirement, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Sean Bacon, interim assistant superintendent for the state Department of Education, said an internal committee is being formed to reexamine hiring guidelines. The new school year began last month, and the department currently offers limited remote learning options. As of last week, there were about 2,300 students, or 1.4% of the student population, enrolled in distance-learning programs offered by their schools, according to officials. Another 450 students were enrolled in a statewide program for students whose schools aren’t offering remote options. Administrators say more teachers are being interviewed, and more classes are being added.
Boise: Gov. Brad Little has called in 220 medical workers available through federal programs and mobilized 150 Idaho National Guard soldiers to deal with a surge in unvaccinated COVID-19 patients that is overwhelming the state’s hospitals. The Republican governor said during a remotely held announcement Tuesday that the moves are a last-ditch effort to avoid activating for the first time statewide crisis standards of care that could force medical professionals to decide who lives and who dies. The last week has seen about 1,000 newly confirmed coronavirus cases per day, most of them unvaccinated. The number of available intensive care unit beds has been well under 100 during that time, and Little said only four were available Tuesday in the entire state. “We are dangerously close to activating statewide crisis standards of care – a historic step that means Idahoans in need of health care could receive a lesser standard of care or may be turned away altogether,” Little said. The 220 workers through the federal programs include 200 medical and administrative workers available to Idaho through a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration. This is the second time Little has mobilized the Idaho National Guard to help with a surge in COVID-19 cases, this one coming about two months after the first deployment ended.
Anna: The state has rejected a southern Illinois school’s request to use nearly $900,000 in federal COVID-19 cash for artificial turf at the football field and a new track surface. The request was made by the Anna-Jonesboro High School Board, which said kids in gym classes would benefit from the new turf, not just the football team. But the Illinois State Board of Education turned down the project, The Southern Illinoisan reports. The newspaper was told to file a public records request if it wanted more details. A parent, Paula Brue-Hasty, said there were more important needs at the high school, including mental health services and a leaky roof over the art room. School board member Shane Osman said the turf would cause excitement. “Go down and tell these kids that we are getting a turf field, and watch the sheer joy on these kids’ faces,” Osman said at a July 19 meeting.
Indianapolis: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt schools around the state, a survey of Hoosier parents found less than half have gotten their child vaccinated against the disease or plan to do so. In response to the survey – a collaboration among IUPUI, the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Education – 44.8% of parents and caregivers said they will be vaccinating their children or already have. Another 13% said they want to wait and see the effects of the vaccine before vaccinating their child. That leaves another 42.2% of respondents who said they will not inoculate their child or will only do so if required. The response shows the massive hurdle that schools and public health officials face in trying to get more eligible children vaccinated. Nir Menachemi, lead researcher on the study and a professor and Fairbanks Endowed Chair in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and IU Fort Wayne, said knowing someone who died or was hospitalized because of COVID-19 increased the likelihood that a parent or caregiver was willing to vaccinate their child. A recommendation from a trusted health care provider could help address concerns and encourage families to vaccinate their children, the survey showed.
Waterloo: Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and Iowa native Nikole Hannah-Jones is launching a free, community-based after-school literacy program for students in the Waterloo Community School District. The 1619 Freedom School will help students improve literacy skills and develop a passion for reading through “liberating instruction centered on Black American history.” Hannah-Jones, a graduate of Waterloo West High School, said she not only had been wanting to start a literacy program but also was looking for a way to give back to her hometown, among other reasons. In 2018, 24/7 Wall Street named Waterloo, the city with the highest concentration of Black Iowans, the worst city for Black Americans based on unemployment, income disparities, homeownership and high school graduation rates. Additionally, Black students in the Waterloo School District – who make up 26% of the student population there – are 2.2 grades behind their white peers, on average, according to data by ProPublica. The 1619 Freedom School will be a free, five-day-a-week after-school program targeting students whose standardized test scores show they are behind academically, starting with fourth grade students at Walter Cunningham Elementary School, identified as having the district’s highest poverty and segregation rate.
Topeka: Only three of 16 projects financed with STAR bonds are meeting requirements for bringing visitors and spending to Kansas, and it could still take decades for them to return the tax revenue diverted for the bonds, according to a new state audit. Sales Tax and Revenue Bonds allow municipalities to issue bonds for developments, which are then supposed to pay off the bonds through sales tax revenue generated by bringing in tourists from other states to visit. The three businesses that met the goals are the Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and the Hutchinson Underground Salt Museum. The audit found, for example, that the Hutchinson project could take until 2132 to recoup sales tax revenue diverted to support its development. The other two projects could make back lost tax revenues sooner, but it could still take decades, auditors said. The Department of Commerce said the data used for the report was not an effective way of determining how many people visit a development. The agency also said the developments have other positive impacts on the economy and community development.
Owensboro: A new television show developed by the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in western Kentucky is scheduled to be distributed by a cable channel later this year, officials said. Each episode of “My Bluegrass Story” is filmed at the Hall of Fame in Owensboro and highlights different musicians who tell their stories and perform songs important to their careers, a statement from the museum said. The show is set to premiere on RFD-TV later this year. “A nationally distributed television show is part our vision to make the Hall of Fame a premier destination for bluegrass music and to help Owensboro, Kentucky, live out its reputation as the Bluegrass Music Capital of the World,” said Chris Joslin, executive director of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Some of the artists who traveled to Owensboro to film the show include Hall of Fame members Del McCoury and Doyle Lawson.
Lafayette: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is planting acres of native grasses and flowers to create an outdoor ecology classroom. The school says the planned Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom recently got a $7,500 boost to help it grow more plants. Planting began two years ago near a stream that runs through the University Common, a news release said. The university plans to have 4 acres of prairie plants on either side of the stream, which is called Coulee Mine. “Native plants’ expansive, fibrous root systems hold soil, reducing erosion caused by storm water runoff. They slow water drainage, which reduces flooding, and also filter contaminants,” said Gretchen LaCombe Vanicor, director of the University’s Office of Sustainability. The CenterPoint Energy Foundation grant will pay a student worker to propagate and grow seeds from a variety of local plants, the university said. It also will provide supplies and labor for planting and cultivation, as well as covering the cost of trucking in compost for fertilizer from UL Lafayette’s Experimental Farm near Cade, Louisiana. The area will be used for learning and research about stormwater runoff erosion management, native grasses and plants, bees and other pollinators, and soil quality.
Bangor: The Penobscot River is on track to see the fewest Atlantic salmon in recent years, state officials said. According to a trap count report provided by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Aug. 23, 520 salmon had passed through the Milford and Orono dams this year. The species is hampered by hydroelectric dams on the Penobscot and Kennebec River that reduce their ability to reach spawning grounds upstream. The total is the fewest fish counted, as of the same date, in four years and the fourth-lowest total since 2000, Bangor Daily News reports. Department officials say a bad year does not spell disaster for the species. “There are many factors that might contribute to the lower run this year, the most significant likely being low survival at sea and poor freshwater survival and passage at dams for juveniles in prior years,” said Sean Ledwin, the sea run fisheries and habitat division director for the Department of Marine Resources. Ledwin said salmon returns vary significantly from year to year, especially with the reduced population.
Rockville: A 19-year-old is dead after heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded an apartment complex, authorities said Wednesday. The Montgomery County Police Department said in a news release that one other resident from the complex was still unaccounted for. Shortly before 4 a.m. Wednesday, authorities received multiple calls for flooding in terrace level apartments of the Rock Creek Woods apartment complex, police said. Rescue crews evacuated dozens of people. About 12 apartments were flooded, while another 50 were affected. About 150 residents have been displaced. Three people were transported to area hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries. A firefighter was also taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said the water had almost reached the ceiling when crews arrived at the apartments in Rockville, news outlets report. “In many years I have not seen circumstances like this,” Goldstein said. Maryland’s Emergency Operations Center was activated to “partial” status to support the response to flooding around the state, Maryland Emergency Management Agency said. Schools in Baltimore city and in Baltimore, Howard and Harford counties planned to close early Wednesday because of the inclement weather.
Boston: The city has taken action to protect residents facing eviction and foreclosure by enacting an eviction moratorium and establishing a fund to help homeowners with mortgage, insurance and condominium fees. The Boston Public Health Commission’s interim executive director signed a public health order Tuesday temporarily banning residential evictions, acting Mayor Kim Janey said in a statement. The moves came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Centers for Disease Control’s nationwide eviction moratorium. “The loss of federal eviction protections and the ongoing pandemic has put our most vulnerable neighbors at risk of losing their homes,” Janey said. “I am implementing a housing stability agenda to continue Boston’s public health recovery with emergency assistance for renters and homeowners who need help.” The order “prohibits landlords and property owners from pursuing tenant eviction proceedings in the City of Boston,” the city’s statement said. The moratorium will stay in place as long as necessary, according to the mayor’s office. More details on the $5 million Foreclosure Prevention Fund will be released next week, the mayor’s office said.
Lansing: Republicans who control the Legislature want to limit Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ability to send statewide emergency alerts to wireless devices and broadcast stations except for “immediate” threats. The Democratic governor’s administration used the public alert system a few times early in the coronavirus pandemic to notify residents of stay-at-home orders and mask requirements, frustrating GOP lawmakers. Under legislation approved 20-16 by the Senate on Wednesday, the system could not be activated to announce new laws or executive orders unless it is necessary to “respond to an immediate or nearly immediate loss of life or property.” The bill specifies that threats can include natural disasters, industrial explosions, train derailments and announcements of endangered missing people. Senators passed the measure on party lines, which indicates Whitmer likely will veto it. The House passed the bill in March. Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, called it “legislative micromanagement” of the emergency system. Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, deemed it “preposterous” and “emblematic of a Legislature that is looking for just something to do.” No Republicans spoke in support of the measure before the vote. But Rep. Bradley Slagh, R-Zeeland, has cited resident complaints about Whitmer’s use of the system.
St. Paul: Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday that he would consider calling off a special session planned next month if Republicans pursue a threat to remove the state’s health commissioner. Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said at a rally against mask and vaccine mandates last weekend that he would like the GOP-controlled Senate to oust Jan Malcolm, who has led the response to COVID-19. Abeler, who along with other Republicans has been critical of Walz’s emergency powers and public health restrictions, said it “seems the only language the governor understands is the removal of another commissioner.” The special session is scheduled in order to approve special bonus pay for essential pandemic workers. Going through with the assembly “would give me pause” if Malcolm’s job were at risk, Walz told Minnesota Public Radio News. He said that “the absurdity and recklessness and quite honestly the dangerous talk” of removing the commissioner in the middle of a spike in the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus “makes no sense,” and he’s not going to put Malcolm in that position.
Jackson: Mississippi officials are coordinating with Louisiana officials and the American Red Cross to help not only shelter residents from the neighboring state in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida but also send assistance from the Mississippi National Guard and state firefighters. Gov. Tate Reeves said during a press conference Wednesday that the state is seeing an increase in Louisiana residents coming into Mississippi, causing long lines for gas and increased traffic on the coast. Reeves said he expects this to continue for some time as power outages in Louisiana affect fueling stations. “We are the Hospitality State,” Stephen McCraney, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said about Mississippi’s efforts to help its neighbor. Reeves added that the increase in Louisiana residents coming to Mississippi for gas is due oil refiners being knocked out in Louisiana from the storm and some gas stations being able to take fuel but not distribute it because of power outages. State officials are monitoring the fuel situation closely, he said.
St. James: When a school bus suddenly lurched off a rural roadway and tore through a fence and into a field, seventh grader Tandon Baker realized the driver had passed out. The unassuming 12-year-old ran to the front of the bus, put his foot on the brake and put the gear into park. Meanwhile, 15-year-old high school sophomore Emilee Williams called 911 from her cellphone, then began comforting the uninjured but scared younger children. Tandon and Emilee were honored Friday night before a high school football game when Missouri State Highway Patrol Col. Eric Olson presented proclamations from Gov. Mike Parson. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been so proud of two kids,” St. James School District Superintendent Tim Webster said. “Just to be able to act that quickly and selflessly. It takes incredible courage for kids to act like that so young.” Students from grade school through high school were returning home after the second day of classes in the new academic year when the bus driver suddenly lost consciousness. The bus driver, who had been with the district for several years, was airlifted from the scene and died days later. Her name and cause of death have not been released.
Missoula: A western Montana sawmill is closing this fall, putting 99 people out of work when they finish processing its remaining log supply, likely by mid-November. Idaho Forest Group officials notified employees at the St. Regis mill of the decision Monday. The Coeur d’Alene-based company bought the St. Regis mill in 2017. “We made some investments back in January 2020, but it’s not cost-competitive with any of our newer mills,” said Tom Schultz, an IFG vice president. “When the market went up, we were able to mask some of the issues we were facing.” With lumber prices returning to normal, the mill cannot operate without losing money right now, he said. The St. Regis facility has failed to meet production goals due to outdated equipment and difficulty finding workers, Schultz said. The mill produces construction lumber, such as two-by-fours and two-by-six studs. The closure will also affect loggers, truckers and other contract workers. The Idaho Forest Group has 40 job vacancies in Idaho, so some employees would have the opportunity to relocate, Schultz said. The company will also help employees with job fairs, resume writing assistance and interview coaching.
Omaha: The family of a Marine who was among the 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan said they have been overwhelmed with support ever since the 23-year-old’s death last week. Corporal Daegan William-Tyeler Page served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, California, before his death Thursday. The family said Page was raised in Red Oak, Iowa, and the Omaha metro area and joined the Marines after graduating from Millard South High School. “We wanted to send a message of thanks to everyone who has surrounded our family during these first few days. We have been truly moved by the selfless generosity of the countless friends who have showed up at our houses armed with hugs and food and flowers,” the family said in a statement released through a family friend. The statement said the family still did not wish to speak to the media. The family set up a public Facebook site to collect tributes to Page and to help organize a hero’s welcome for him when his body does return home to Nebraska. Page is mourned by his girlfriend, parents, stepmom and stepdad, four siblings and grandparents, the family said in their statement.
Carson City: Any decision to search the cemetery near the former Stewart Indian School as part of a federal review of Native American boarding schools will need to come from the local Washoe Tribe, according to the Nevada Indian Commission. Executive director Stacey Montooth said the commission, with the support of Gov. Steve Sisolak, has been preparing for the possibility of a federal review since U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland made the announcement in June. The unprecedented review, deemed the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, will investigate student deaths and the effects boarding schools have had on Native American tribes. The investigation includes locating boarding schools and any nearby student burial sites and then identifying students and their tribal affiliations. According to Deputy Press Secretary Giovanni Rocco, the U.S. Department of the Interior has already begun compiling decades of files and records to start the review. Federal officials also plan on standardizing the department’s record system, he said. “In late fall, we expect to begin Tribal consultation, where we will discuss ways to protect and share sensitive information, and how to protect grave sites and sacred burial traditions,” Rocco said in a statement.
Concord: A federal grant of more than $801,000 will help strengthen telehealth services at Harbor Health Care and Wellness Center in Nashua during the pandemic, members of the state’s congressional delegation said Tuesday. The funding will help the center obtain computers and telecommunications devices, as well as make improvements to its network and security to provide enhanced telehealth services to patients, including those who identify as experiencing homelessness. Harbor Care offers integrated services in housing, health care, substance use treatment and other areas. On Monday, the delegation announced that 10 fire departments are getting $1.5 million in grants.
Trenton: The state is earmarking $267 million for school districts to set up regular coronavirus testing. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said at a news conference that the funds will come from the federal government and help the state’s more than 600 school districts set up testing programs. The funding comes after Murphy earlier required teachers and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or undergo regular testing. Those people and students who are fully inoculated won’t have to participate in the regular screenings, according to Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. She said schools are “strong encouraged” to set up a testing program but stopped short of mandating it. Schools will have to devise a process to get consent from parents for testing, she said. Murphy also mandated earlier this summer that staff, teachers, students and visitors at schools must wear masks while indoors on school grounds. Schools across the state have just begun their academic years.
Albuquerque: The city’s school system has fired former state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton from her nearly $80,000-a-year occupational education position amid a corruption investigation. Williams Stapleton resigned her legislative position in July amid a criminal investigation into possible racketeering, money laundering, kickbacks and violations of a law governing the conduct of state lawmakers. A lawyer for Albuquerque Public Schools, Luis Robles, said Tuesday that Williams Stapleton had been “discharged.” He declined to elaborate. Williams Stapleton’s attorney, Ahmad Assed, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her behalf Wednesday. The school district previously placed Williams Stapleton on leave after investigators searched her home. Authorities are investigating her connections to a company that received more than $5 million in contracts to do business with the district. Williams Stapleton has not been criminally charged, and Assed has said Williams Stapleton would cooperate with investigators and clear her name. Robles said she can appeal her termination from the school system. The Bernalillo County Commission recently filled the House vacancy created by Williams Stapleton’s resignation by appointing fellow Albuquerque Democrat Kay Bounkeua.
Albany: Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that she is appointing Kathryn Garcia, the former New York City sanitation commissioner and runner-up in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary, as director of state operations and Neysa Alsina, a chief counsel to the New York City comptroller, as special adviser on pandemic relief. “Kathryn Garcia and Neysa Alsina are tremendously accomplished and dedicated public servants,” Hochul, a Democrat and former lieutenant governor who took over as governor when Andrew Cuomo resigned Aug. 24, said in a news release. “They know how to run effective and professional operations, and they will be instrumental in making our State government work better for New Yorkers and restoring trust in government.” Garcia came in second to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in the June 22 Democratic primary for mayor of New York City. Adams will face Republican Curtis Sliwa in the November general election. Garcia led the city’s sanitation department for more than six years and also ran an emergency food distribution program during the early months of the pandemic. Alsina served as counsel to the New York City Bar Association and as senior policy adviser to Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez before joining the city comptroller’s office last year.
Raleigh: A bill cracking down on violent protests that critics argue could stifle free speech is heading to the governor. The proposal from Republican House Speaker Tim Moore that was fueled by rioting and looting he saw take place in Raleigh last year amid frustration over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police passed the House on Tuesday, 63-41. It now heads to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who has previously expressed concerns with the measure. Moore and other Republicans have said they believe the plan will make criminals think twice before engaging in violence and will give law enforcement the tools they need to prevent a rioter or looter from swiftly reentering the streets after they are taken into custody. If signed into law, the measure would let business owners sue individuals who damaged their property for three times the actual damages they incurred, in addition to court costs and attorneys’ fees. Those who assault emergency responders would be charged with a more serious felony, even if nobody was physically injured. People who are charged with rioting or looting could also be held in jail for up to 48 hours without bond. Democrats expressed concern that the 48-hour lockup period is excessive and said a better solution would be to promote deescalation techniques within law enforcement.
Fargo: Republican Gov. Doug Burgum pleaded Wednesday for North Dakotans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying in his first coronavirus briefing in more than five months that hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. The state ranks 42nd in the country in vaccination rates and is trending worse than during the peak of the winter outbreak. The surge is being driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus, which was first confirmed in the state in late June. “Part of the reason we’re having this press conference today is that we do have a hospital capacity issue that is present and looming,” Burgum said. “We want to make sure that North Dakotans know that the risk is real.” State health officials say the cases are matching low vaccination numbers, with just 1 in every 180 vaccinated people testing positive for the virus compared to 1 in 16 unvaccinated people. One in about 2,700 fully vaccinated citizens has been hospitalized, and 1 in about 16,000 fully vaccinated residents has died. Active cases stand at 2,443, up 188 from Tuesday, and 135 people are hospitalized with the virus. “We are actually on a trend line that looks less attractive and less promising than we were a year ago,” Burgum said. Patients in hospitals are younger and healthier, in several cases with no underlying conditions.
Columbus: Ohio University and Miami University announced Tuesday that they’re joining the list of campuses requiring students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as cases rise. Being fully vaccinated by Nov. 15 will be required for participation in spring semester classes and other in-person activities at OU. At Miami, students must be fully inoculated by Nov. 22, and those who don’t have at least a first dose by Oct. 25 can’t register for spring classes. Echoing guidance from health officials, OU President Hugh Sherman said vaccination is the best protection against the coronavirus. Both schools say they’ll consider requests for exemptions because of medical reasons and reasons of conscience, including sincere religious beliefs. Other schools including Ohio State and Kent State universities previously announced similar vaccination requirements for students and employees. Sherman said new incentive programs are planned at Ohio University for those who get vaccinated before its deadline, but he didn’t share details. In a separate incentive program, state employees have been able to receive $100 for getting vaccinated, and their spouses could receive $25 if they also get vaccinated. As of last week, more than 3,300 employees and 1,000 spouses had participated in that.
Oklahoma City: An appeals court on Tuesday reversed four previous rulings that overturned death penalty cases based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited state jurisdiction for crimes committed on tribal reservations. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled earlier in August that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in what is known as the McGirt case does not apply retroactively. The McGirt ruling found that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction for crimes on tribal reservations in which the defendants or victims are tribal citizens. On Tuesday, the same appeals court vacated its rulings that had cited the McGirt decision in overturning the cases of death row inmates Shaun Bosse, James Ryder, Miles Bench and Benjamin Cole Sr. It was not immediately clear if the ruling reinstates the death penalty in the four cases. “We’re reviewing (the ruling) right now to determine the next steps,” said Alex Gerszewski, spokesperson for state Attorney General John O’Connor. The appeals court issued a one-paragraph ruling in each case saying the court will rule later on each inmate’s request for post-conviction relief. A ruling on post-conviction relief could still overturn, or uphold, either the conviction or the sentence.
Portland: State regulators have fined a crude oil storage company nearly $25,000, saying it performed months of construction work without a permit at its terminal along the Willamette River in Northwest Portland. Newly released documents show the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality imposed the financial penalty last month, claiming the unsanctioned activity at the property posed a risk of discharging harmful sediment into the nearby waterway, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports. The company was given 20 days to contest the fine, but it’s unclear if it did. In a July 7 ruling, the state environmental agency said it was “concerned by the flagrant nature of Zenith’s conduct” because the company continued construction even after state regulators denied its application for a permit to do the work. Details of the fine come days after city of Portland officials refused to grant the company a favorable land use ruling it likely needs to continue and potentially expand its operations. The city’s refusal to grant that blessing will likely weigh heavily against Zenith as it seeks to renew a separate – and necessary – air quality permit with the state environmental agency. Its current permit expired Tuesday.
Harrisburg: Pennsylvanians got drenched by downpours Wednesday and braced for high winds as the remnants of Hurricane Ida plowed through the state, inundating creeks, streams and rivers. “Please, if you can stay home today, please stay home,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at a news conference from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Harrisburg. He warned that urban, river and flash flooding were expected through Thursday. “The best thing all of us can do right now is to stay home and stay safe,” Wolf said. The National Weather Service warned the highest risk of flooding extended hundreds of miles along the border with Maryland and northward into the mountainous area south of State College. The Susquehanna River was projected to crest sometime Thursday, and a minor tornado threat was posted. PennDOT said more than 50 roads were already closed by late morning Wednesday as the system arrived in the western part of the state. Boats were needed to rescue students after a school bus became stuck in high water in the Pittsburgh area. Randy Padfield, the state’s emergency agency director, said the rain falling on already wet soil along with high winds and trees top-heavy with leaves increased the chances that power could go out.
Newport: The COVID-19 pandemic cost the state’s hospitality and tourism industry $2.2 billion last year, a study finds. The research was commissioned by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and completed by students enrolled in Salve Regina University business professor Samuel Sacco’s introduction to econometrics class. It examined the statewide impacts across each of the industry’s four sectors, including food and beverage; events and meetings; lodging; and tourism and attractions. “Rhode Island’s hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit industries in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dale Venturini, president and CEO of the hospitality association, said in a statement. “Our membership of hoteliers, restaurants and attractions were extremely transparent on overall loss of business, but this study further illustrates the magnitude of the financial impact to the third-largest industry in Rhode Island.” The students identified closely with the study, said Sacco, because for many of them the pandemic affected their own employment. Students in Sacco’s class have in previous years completed several other economic impact studies.
Columbia: The state’s highest court said Wednesday that it won’t revisit a dispute between developers and environmentalists over a plan to build homes on a sand spit south of Charleston. The South Carolina Supreme Court is standing by a June decision to overturn permits developers had sought to build a 2,380-foot seawall between Captain Sam’s Spit and Kiawah Island. Kiawah Development Partners, which plans to build 50 homes on the sand spit, has said the wall would protect against erosion from the bordering Kiawah River and allow the construction of a road to the proposed houses. The court sided with environmentalists challenging the project who argued that the wall would have devastated the ecologically sensitive area. Captain Sam’s Spit is just one of three remaining undeveloped beachfronts in South Carolina readily available to the general public, the justices noted.
Sioux Falls: The state’s attorney general was ticketed for going 57 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone last week, just days before he pleaded no contest to traffic charges for a car crash that killed a pedestrian last year. Jason Ravnsborg, the state’s top law enforcement officer, received a ticket Aug. 22 in Hughes County, where he lives. He was charged with “Speeding on Other Roadways” – a second-degree misdemeanor – and fined $177.50. Dakota News Now first reported the ticket. Ravnsborg has not paid the fine or admitted guilt. On Thursday, the Republican attorney general pleaded no contest to a pair of second-degree misdemeanors for a crash last year that killed Joseph Boever, who walking on a rural highway. He avoided jail time but had to pay more than $4,500 in fees. Circuit Judge John Brown tried to order Ravnsborg to “do a significant public service event” in each of the next five years near the date of Boever’s death. Ravnsborg’s attorney, Tim Rensch, objected to that order, arguing that the punishment timeline exceeded the maximum 30-day jail sentence allowed by law. Rensch said he heard from the judge Tuesday that extended public service would not be a part of Ravnsborg’s punishment, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reports.
Nashville: The coronavirus hospitalized about 5,100 more Tennesseans than previously reported over the past 14 months – an increase of more than 20% over prior totals – according to newly backfilled data from the state department of health. Hospitalizations were underreported by anywhere from one patient to dozens on nearly every day since the start of last summer, according to the new data. The largest share of the unreported hospitalizations occurred during the winter surge. Tennessee’s revised hospitalization total, including the backfilled data, is 29,694. Sarah Tanksley, a spokesperson for the health department, said the unreported hospitalizations were revealed because the agency incorporated a new data source from the Tennessee Hospital Association into its COVID-19 tracking efforts. The hospital association receives patient-level virus data from hospitals, which is more detailed than the facility-level data hospitals provide to the state government, Tanksley said. The health department only recently figured out how to combine the two sources of information, allowing for a more complete accounting of the virus’s impact, she said. The state is on pace to set a new record for hospitalizations by the end of the week.
Dallas: An ongoing audit of police crime data found that the data missing from the city’s computer database is almost triple the initial estimate, officials said Monday. About 15 terabytes of police data are missing besides the 7.5 terabytes initially thought to be lost, city spokeswoman Janella Newsome said. “The city continues to assess the impact of the compromise on its operations, whether data recovery specialists can recover data from the physical devices on which it had been stored or other systems, and whether any additional systems citywide have been affected,” Newsome told The Dallas Morning News. City officials ordered the audit after Dallas County prosecutors learned that a city information technician inadvertently deleted 22 terabytes of crime data. Technicians recovered 14 terabytes, but about 7.5 terabytes were likely lost forever. Most modern personal computers hold at most 2 terabytes. City information technology officials became aware of a massive loss of data on criminal cases April 5. The police and city IT departments did not reveal it to the district attorney’s office until earlier this month after prosecutors inquired why they could not find computer files on pending cases. The lost data included images, video, audio, case notes and other information gathered by officers and detectives.
Salt Lake City: In response to federal education officials opening an investigation into whether state law banning school districts from imposing mask mandates violates the rights of students with disabilities, Utah’s top education official says the U.S. Education Department has “unfairly defined” what the state is doing. Utah State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson said in a statement Monday that there is a way for schools to require masks. One small county, the liberal-leaning Grand County, has navigated new restrictions in state law to pass a school mask mandate. Dickson said she looks forward to working with federal officials clarify Utah’s position. The mayor of Salt Lake City put a mask mandate in place for its schools after an effort to require face coverings in Salt Lake County was overturned by the Republican-controlled council. One powerful lawmaker has said the city rule is unenforceable and threatened legislative action to constrain mayors’ emergency powers. Utah is one of five Republican-led states now under investigation.
Johnson: Students at the Johnson campus of Northern Vermont University will be studying remotely through the end of the week. In a Tuesday message to the school community, interim President John Mills said the move to fully remote classes came after two cases of COVID-19 were reported among residential students. WCAX-TV reports that in addition to fully remote classes, all school athletics and on-campus activities are canceled through the weekend. Students at Northern Vermont University, which is a part of the Vermont State Colleges and includes a campus in Lyndonville, are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. State statistics from 14 of the 16 colleges and universities in the state show that 92.3% of students are fully inoculated against the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Richmond: Home prices in the area have soared during the pandemic, and new assessments found that the average value of a home has gone up 13.7% over the past year, according to the Richmond Assessors Office. The average value of a home grew from $277,000 to $315,000 – an increase that means the average homeowner will owe $456 more in real estate taxes next year, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. “Richmond is on fire,” said Richie McKeithen, the city assessor. “It’s being eaten up by folks coming to town.” The new assessments sent to property owners last week reflect more than $3.6 billion in new taxable real estate value citywide, according to assessor’s office data. The 12.9% increase from last year surpasses the highest year-over-year gain of the last decade, when values rose 7.3% between 2018 and 2019. Councilwoman Reva Trammell was already getting calls from residents upset by rising assessments. She advised elderly residents to apply for the city’s tax relief programs and said the city’s tax rate of $1.20 per $100 of assessed value is too high. Councilman Michael Jones said he plans to propose a new tax abatement program that’s more accessible to city residents, particularly low-income families in South Richmond.
Puyallup: Visitors to the Washington State Fair, which opens Friday, will be required to wear masks at all times as Pierce County works to stem “unprecedented levels” of COVID-19. Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, health director for Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, announced a health order Tuesday making the mask requirement a condition of the fair’s operation, KING-TV reports. The Washington State Fair – the largest fair in the Pacific Northwest – is scheduled for Sept. 3-26 at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. Masks must be worn indoors and outdoors at all times regardless of vaccination status, according to the order. Exceptions include when eating or drinking, when it is essential to communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, and when it’s necessary to confirm someone’s identity. The order applies to attendees age 5 and up. People who have a medical condition or disability for which a mask could obstruct breathing are also exempt. The fair also plans to offer public coronavirus testing, administer COVID-19 vaccines at two locations, reduce vendors by 25%, and provide additional hand-washing and sanitizing stations. The masking requirement came one day after two hospital leaders said the fair should be canceled due to the stress it would inevitably put on hospitals.
Charleston: The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is planning its 2022 wildflower calendar and says there’s less than a week left to send in photo submissions. Photos must show flowers growing along a road, with the road prominently visible in the photo. Flowers may be natural growth or in a Division of Highways wildflower bed, but photos of cultivated species in arranged beds don’t qualify, the Department of Environmental Protection said in a news release. Photos must have been taken in West Virginia and no more than three per person submitted, each as an 8-by-10-inch color print in landscape orientation, with a high-resolution digital copy on a CD or flash drive. Include name, address, phone number, email address and photo description in upper left-hand corner on back of photo. Photos will not be returned. Submissions are due by Sept. 8 by email to DEP.AAH@wv.gov or regular mail to 601 57th Street, S.E., Charleston, WV 25304.
Madison: A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday to stop the state’s wolf hunt this fall and invalidate a law mandating annual hunts, arguing the statutes don’t give wildlife officials any leeway to consider population estimates. The lawsuit comes after hunters blew past their kill limit during a messy, court-ordered spring hunt in February. Conservationists deluged the state Department of Natural Resources with requests to cancel the fall hunt out of concerns it could devastate the wolf population. DNR biologists recommended setting the fall quota at 130 animals. But the agency’s board voted this month to set the kill limit at 300 animals. Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes are entitled to half the quota but refuse to hunt wolves because they consider them sacred, meaning the working quota for state-licensed hunters likely would be 150 wolves. Wildlife advocates say that’s still too many. “In a parody of reasoned deliberation, the board spurned the recommendations of DNR’s experts, disregarded science, and ignored the facts to arrive at a politically contrived conclusion that flouts the board’s constitutional and statutory responsibility to protect and conserve the state’s wildlife,” the lawsuit says. “Absent court intervention, the result will be another devastating blow to Wisconsin’s wolf population.”
Gillette: The state is set to gain an eighth community college district after Campbell County voters decided to spin off their own district. Of the 5,886 who voted on the issue last month, 4,161 supported creating a new district, and 1,725 voted against it, the Gillette News Record reports. Voters also elected seven trustees for the new Gillette Community College District. County officials certified the results Thursday. Gillette College is in the Northern Wyoming Community College District along with Sheridan College in Sheridan. Discontent in Gillette over the two-college district came to a head when district trustees voted in 2020 to cut sports programs at both colleges to save money amid dwindling state funding. “I moved into this town in 1983, and this was an issue then,” said state Sen. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette. “We’ve never been able to pass a Gillette independent college. So after 40 years, it’s really neat to see us have our own representation, our own board.” The special election had about 30% voter turnout.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 1619 Freedom School, Alice Cooper: News from around our 50 states