Montgomery: Gov. Kay Ivey is calling lawmakers into special session this month to vote on a prison construction plan that would use part of the state’s coronavirus relief funds to jump-start the building of three new lockups. In a letter to lawmakers announcing the special session, Ivey painted the construction project as a partial solution to the state’s long-standing prison woes, which have included a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit over violence and a separate federal court order to improve mental health treatment behind bars. “Failure to timely resolve these issues outlined in federal lawsuits could result in detrimental consequences for our state,” Ivey wrote to lawmakers. “Achieving an Alabama solution to these problems – rather than a federal court-ordered solution – is paramount.” While proponents said the construction would be a partial solution, one lawmaker said it would put “old problems in new buildings” unless the state made additional reforms. “Just building prisons without engaging in some sort of comprehensive criminal justice reform is the definition of kicking the can down the road,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa. On the use of federal pandemic funds on the project, England said there are “obviously better uses of the money.” Ivey said the special session would begin Sept. 27.
Anchorage: Dozens of Afghan refugees will be resettled in the state over the next six months, according to a resettlement organization. Between 50 and 100 refugees will come to Alaska starting in September, Catholic Social Services Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services said in a statement. Resettlement will continue through March. Catholic Social Services Alaska CEO Lisa Aquino told the Associated Press it wasn’t known when the first refugees would arrive in Alaska, but the organization will be ready for them. The refugees were described as being in vulnerable populations, such as children, women and the elderly. Many worked for the U.S. government or the military in Afghanistan in positions like translators. Thousands of Afghanis were evacuated after American forces left Afghanistan last month. They were first sent to military bases in the Lower 48 for screening and preparing to be sent to destinations around the U.S. The refugees, including individuals and families, will work with program staff in several areas like employment and English-language skills after arriving in Anchorage. Aquino said it wasn’t known how many would settle in other parts of the state, but it’s expected a majority would remain in Anchorage.
Tucson: As the state’s biggest hospitals fill up with COVID-19 patients – most unvaccinated – physicians in some smaller, more rural communities say their patients who need specialty care are paying the ultimate price. The inability to find a bed has left smaller facilities such as Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital in Green Valley frustrated. A Tucson gastroenterologist drove to Green Valley last week to operate on a patient who couldn’t be transferred anywhere in the state to get the surgery. The hospital has filed a complaint with the Arizona Department of Health Services about the inability to transfer, the Arizona Daily Star reports. The patient lived “only because this doctor was nice enough, was human enough to save his life,” said Stephen Harris, the hospital’s CEO. In Cochise County, Dr. Cristian Laguillo, a senior physician with Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, said he has never felt this helpless trying to assist patients – even while serving a tour in Afghanistan as a combat medic. A surge line was created in April 2020 by the state Department of Health Services to facilitate transfers of COVID-19 patients across the state. But it’s meant to be used to track down beds for COVID-19 patients. Laguillo said he thinks the state surge line has to change to be for all patients in critical need, not just virus patients.
Lonoke: A former sheriff’s deputy charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting a white teenager whose death has drawn the attention of civil rights activists was released Monday on $15,000 bond. Michael Davis, a former sergeant with the Lonoke County sheriff’s office, is set to appear again in court Nov. 15, Little Rock television station KTHV reports. Davis was charged Friday with felony manslaughter in the death of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain. Davis, who is also white, shot Brittain during a June 23 traffic stop. Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley fired Davis in July, saying the former deputy did not turn on his body camera until after the shooting. Investigators have said Brittain was holding a container at the time of the shooting, and they did not find any firearms in or around the teen’s truck. Davis’ attorney has said the former deputy plans to plead not guilty. Brittain was eulogized by the Rev. Al Sharpton and two attorneys who represented George Floyd’s family. They said the teen’s death highlighted the need for interracial support for changes in policing. Brittain’s family and friends have regularly demonstrated outside the Lonoke County sheriff’s office, demanding more details on the shooting.
Sacramento: Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved two measures to slice through local zoning ordinances as the most populous state struggles with soaring home prices, an affordable housing shortage and stubborn homelessness. He signed the most prominent legislation despite nearly 250 cities objecting that it will, by design, undermine local planning and control. The outcome marks the latest battle between what’s come to be thought of as “NIMBY vs. YIMBY.” While most agree there is an affordable housing shortage, proposed construction often runs into “not in my backyard” opposition. “The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” Newsom said in announcing his approval Thursday. He also announced the state will put $1.75 billion into what his administration is calling a new California Housing Accelerator, which he said will speed building 6,500 affordable multifamily units that had been stalled for lack of tax-exempt bonds and low-income housing tax credits. It’s part of $22 billion that the state plans to spend to spur new housing and ease homelessness along with the new laws. The bill by Senate leader Toni Atkins would require cities to approve up to four housing units on what was a single-family lot.
Denver: A state panel has recommended that a mountain peak west of Denver be renamed in honor of a Native American woman who acted as a translator for tribes and white settlers in the 19th century. Thursday’s recommendation comes amid national efforts to address a history of colonialism and oppression against Native Americans and other people of color after last summer’s protests calling for racial justice reform. It is the first of several name changes being considered by the state panel. The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board recommended changing the name of Squaw Mountain, located in Clear Creek County about 30 miles miles west of Denver, to Mestaa’ehehe Mountain, which is pronounced “mess-taw-hay.” The name honors an influential Cheyenne translator known as Owl Woman who facilitated relations between white settlers and Native American tribes in the early 1800s, The Colorado Sun reports. The word “squaw,” derived from the Algonquin language, may once have simply meant “woman.” But over generations, the word morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women, according to experts.
New London: One restaurant is taking an unorthodox approach to addressing staff shortages: robot servers to serve meals. The operator of the New London location of the Shaking Crab told The Day the ocean-themed restaurant will use regular waiters and waitresses to explain the menu and take orders, but the robots will deliver the meals to the tables. Gulshan Soni told the newspaper the robots can be summoned with a bell. The innovation is partly for showmanship and to draw in customers with something unique, he said, and partly to address staffing shortages being experienced across the industry. The four robots cost between $6,000 and $22,000, Soni said. The restaurant is scheduled to open to the public in early October. The Shaking Crab has more than two dozen locations in the northeastern U.S. and China, according to its website.
Wilmington: In uplifting news for environmentalists, Delawareans can no longer release balloons into the sky, thanks to a law Gov. John Carney signed Friday. The bill that lawmakers passed in June makes it illegal to intentionally release balloons in the First State. Releasing up to four balloons is considered littering and can mean a fine of $25 or more. Releasing five or more balloons brings a fine of $250 and up to eight hours of community service for the first offense. Maryland and Virginia passed similar laws earlier this year. While Carney has dedicated much of his tenure to a litter-reduction campaign, the bill isn’t just intended to prevent residents from suffering the sight of latex balloon remnants scattered across the state. The new law is also meant to protect wildlife, according to environmentalists. “Balloons have long polluted shorelines of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, adding to the plastic pollution that threatens both marine life and the roughly 225,000 jobs in the three states that depend on a clean coast,” Oceana field campaigns manager Caroline Wood said in a statement. Delawareans can still throw water balloons as long as they pick up the trash after they pop. People planning celebrations or mourning events can visit preventballoonlitter.org to find other ideas in lieu of balloon releases.
District of Columbia
Washington: After showing signs of coughing, sneezing and a lack of appetite, nine big cats at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus. The Smithsonian said Friday that six African lions, a Sumatran tiger and two Amur tigers exhibited symptoms and tested presumptive positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. The final results are expected in the coming days, the Smithsonian said on its website. “All lions and tigers are being treated with anti-inflammatories and anti-nausea medication to address discomfort and decreased appetite,” the zoo said on its website. “In addition, all are being treated with antibiotics for presumptive secondary bacterial pneumonia. They remain under close observation.” Due to the social distance between visitors and animals, the public is at no risk for the coronavirus. The zoo confirmed no other animals were exhibiting symptoms as of Friday. Zookeepers conducted an investigation of all staff and animals, and the source of the outbreak wasn’t found, according to the website. The first round of the COVID-19 vaccine made for zoo animals by Zoetis has been authorized for use by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The National Zoo has said it will disburse the first round of vaccines among “susceptible species” in the coming months.
Ocala: A woman floating on a paddleboard in the Silver River used her paddle to push away a large alligator that swam directly toward her in a frightful, up-close encounter captured in startling videos and photographs. The alligator came within inches of Vicki Baker, 60, of Ocala. She estimated the reptile to be nearly as long as her 10-foot paddleboard. It hissed loudly at her. She said at one point it opened its mouth, revealing large teeth and its powerful jaw as it floated on the surface. “What are you doing? Get away from me! Get away from me!” she yelled at the alligator as it swam inches from her paddleboard. “No! Oh, my God, I had to push him away with my paddle!” Nearby, off camera in the video, an employee at Silver Springs State Park can be heard on a speaker advising her: “Ma’am, I’m going to suggest backing up considering you just made him pretty mad.” Baker said she remains puzzled over the encounter. She said she presumed someone else on the water had been feeding the alligator, desensitizing it to humans and helping it associate paddlers on the river with food. “I was afraid,” she said. “I’ve seen them my whole life and have never been afraid.” The encounter happened near Silver Springs, where deep springs feed the Silver River, and the water is so stunningly clear that tourists board glass-bottom boats.
Marietta: The Cobb County district attorney’s office is offering warm, furry support to crime victims and staff. District Attorney Flynn Broady announced Friday that Rose, a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever, is joining the office. The victim witness unit has been working to bring Rose on board, according to a news release from the office. “The level of stress and anxiety that victims of domestic violence experience is drastically reduced with the introduction of assistance animals,” unit director Kimberly McCoy said. “It’s been a long process, but we are excited.” The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Pups with a Purpose program to donate the dog. Pups with a Purpose matches people held in the Forsyth County jail with volunteer citizen dog trainers and Forsyth County Animal Shelter dogs. Rose received specialized training from Rucker Dog Training to prepare her to help crime victims in court, the release said. “Child victims will have the opportunity to have Rose there to calm them down and assure them that they are in a safe place so they can tell their story and not feel afraid of what happens if they tell it,” Broady said.
Honolulu: The state Board of Education has approved changing Central Middle School’s name to honor the Hawaiian princess who once owned the downtown Honolulu property. At a meeting Thursday, the board approved naming the campus Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani Middle School. School and community leaders have been trying since 2019 to rename the school. The princess’ home, Keoua Hale, once stood on the grounds of the current campus, and when she died in 1883, her property was bequeathed to Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, according to documents supporting the name change. After Pauahi’s death in 1885, the board of education purchased the property for what became Honolulu High School in 1895, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. It later became Central Grammar School before it was changed briefly to Ke’elikolani School. It became Central Junior High School in 1928, then Central Intermediate School in 1932 and Central Middle School in 1997, the newspaper reports. “In the 1930s, because people couldn’t pronounce the name, they changed it back to Central,” said the school’s principal, Joseph Passantino, Hawaii News Now reports. “So the significance is huge, especially for the staff who’s dedicated over two years to give her that duty and honor.”
Caldwell: The principal at a southwestern Idaho public charter school has died due to COVID-19, the school’s board said. The school board at Heritage Community Charter School in Caldwell announced the death of Javier Castaneda in a letter to parents. The school’s website links to a GoFundMe page created Friday that said Castaneda died unexpectedly Wednesday as a result of becoming ill with COVID-19. He is survived by his wife and seven children. The school board said in the letter first reported by KTVB-TV that the school will provide counseling resources and other support for children. The school has some restrictions in place due to COVID-19. It made face masks optional. The school said on its website that it focuses on a classical liberal arts education and uses a dual Spanish-language immersion program to provide a strong foreign language emphasis.
Springfield: All 18 of the state’s job centers offering services for people searching for work are accepting in-person appointments after shifting to remote operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Department of Employment Security announced. In-person appointments began Monday at five offices in Burbank, Chicago, Joliet and North Aurora. Other centers began accepting appointments in August and in early September. Officials encouraged people to use the agency’s website to apply for unemployment benefits, search for work and use other services. Appointments, have to be made at least 24 hours in advance by calling the agency’s hotline, at (217) 558-0401, and last 20 minutes. Anyone entering an office must wear a mask and should reschedule their appointment if they feel sick or have been exposed to COVID-19. Help will still be available over the phone as the job centers reopen for in-person services.
Terre Haute: Organizers of a planned museum about basketball great Larry Bird are starting to assemble thousands of items ahead of its expected opening next year. The museum will be part of the new Terre Haute Convention Center, which remains under construction with an anticipated completion date of March 2022. It will include items donated by Bird and others from his career with the Boston Celtics, Indiana State University and the U.S. Olympic team. The site for work on cataloging the memorabilia is being modified for security and should be ready within weeks, the Tribune-Star reports. “As other items are collected, they can be housed in one location,” memorabilia consultant Shelly Keen said. “It’s just going to make things move a little more swiftly than what it was before.” Bird grew up in the southern Indiana town of French Lick. He created excitement during his days at Indiana State in Terre Haute when he led the school to the NCAA title game in 1979, although the Sycamores lost to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team. When the Celtics won the 1984 NBA Championship, Bird dedicated the win to Terre Haute. He was the Indiana Pacers coach and a top team executive after his playing career.
Waterloo: The city’s first Black police chief is facing intense opposition from some current and former officers as he works with local leaders to reform the department, including the removal of its longtime insignia that resembles a Ku Klux Klan dragon. Joel Fitzgerald said his 16-month tenure in Waterloo, a city of 67,000 with a history of racial divisions, is a “case study” for what Black police chiefs face as they seek to build community trust and hold officers to higher standards. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said the attacks were driven by misinformation and racism toward him and his boss, the city’s first Black mayor. “I don’t think there’s been any police chief in America in a small- or medium-sized department that have endured this for the reasons I have endured it, and I think the reasons have to do with race,” said Fitzgerald, who previously served as the chief of larger departments in Fort Worth, Texas, and Allentown, Pennsylvania. “This is my fourth job being the first Black police chief. I’ve dealt with pushback in other places but never so overt. Never so nonfactual.” The backlash has intensified since last fall, when the City Council began pushing to remove the department’s emblem – a winged creature known as a griffin that had adorned patches on officers’ uniforms since the 1960s. After a messy process, the council voted 5-2 last week to order the department to remove the symbol from its uniforms by the end of September.
Lansing: A nurse who texted a co-worker a picture of a dementia patient slumped over in a wheelchair and then suggested she was responsible and deserved thanks has pleaded guilty to intentionally administering the wrong medication. The Kansas City Star reports 37-year-old Jennifer Lynn Reavis, of Atchison, is free on bond as she awaits sentencing on charges of endangerment, unlawful administration of a controlled substance and battery. She pleaded guilty to the charges Friday in Leavenworth County District Court. In May 2019, administrators with Twin Oaks Rehab Center in Lansing contacted police after discovering a patient had been getting evening medications along with the anti-anxiety drug Ativan and Benadryl when she was not supposed to receive them. “Your (sic) welcome! I hope she is asleep most of the day tomorrow,” prosecutors said Reaves wrote to an oncoming night nurse in a text that included the photograph of the victim apparently sleeping in a wheelchair. “Hint hint.” The medication caused the patient to become lethargic and be hospitalized, prosecutors say. Reavis admitted to police giving the medicine to the woman, saying she tried to wander away from the nursing home.
Louisville: On the first Saturday after a new “safety zone” law went into effect at the state’s only abortion clinic, some protesters ignored the 10-foot-wide restricted area at the entrance as they followed patients to the door, shouting and berating them. No police were present to enforce the zone meant to ensure safe access to EMW Women’s Surgical Center, where patients often must pass through shouting, jostling anti-abortion protesters waving graphic signs of fetuses. “Repent, murderer!” self-proclaimed sidewalk preacher Jesse Morrell shouted as he and others stepped inside the restricted area to follow a young woman to the door of the clinic. The city’s police department put out a statement Sunday saying it had more urgent priorities than trying to enforce the new city ordinance, which requires officers to witness a violation before they can issue a citation. Morrell, a regular protester outside EMW, said he doesn’t feel constrained by the restricted area. “The thing about these buffer zones is that if you don’t test them, they just get bigger,” he said. “Eventually the whole street will be a buffer zone if we don’t stand up for our rights.” The protests Saturday grew increasingly chaotic as more protesters arrived, swarming vehicles that pulled up to the curb to drop off patients, shouting and admonishing them as they exited.
Baton Rouge: A Louisiana-based research organization and a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi are joining forces in a research project aimed at restoring and protecting the Chandeleur Islands in the northern Gulf of Mexico. In a news release announcing the effort, USM noted that the islands provide habitat for gulf fish and wildlife and offer storm protection for coastal Louisiana. Led by Dr. Kelly Darnell, an assistant research professor at USM, the project is one of 20 awarded a combined $2.3 million to find ways of best managing natural resources in the Gulf, including marine mammals, shorebirds, barrier islands, seagrass and fisheries. The projects, slated to begin this month, are funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RESTORE Science Program. The Water Institute of the Gulf, based in Baton Rouge, will be among those working with Darnell. Others include the University of Florida, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Darnell’s project, which relates to seagrass ecosystems along the Chandeleur Islands, was given $127,065. The project will provide usable data for restoration and long-term management of the islands.
Bar Harbor: Acadia National Park is on track for a record year, as park officials see no signs of visitation slowing down this fall. The park’s busiest year on record was 2018, when there were 3.54 million visits. This year, the number could top 4 million, Kevin Schneider, park superintendent, told the Acadia Advisory Commission. Things have taken off since 2020, which was an off year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2.67 million visits Acadia recorded in 2020 amounted to the lowest annual count the park has had since 2014, the Bangor Daily News reports. But visitation picked up significantly last fall. Since October 2020, “every single month has been a record month” for visitation, according to Adam Gibson, a social scientist for Acadia. The past 11 months have had on average 22% more visitors than the same period from the year before, he said. The park had roughly 800,000 visits last month, and Acadia has welcomed an estimated 2.75 million visitors so far in 2021. The volume of people in the park has resulted in more rescues, said Therese Picard, the park’s chief ranger. The park typically handles two dozen rescues through August of each year, she said, but there have been 50 rescues so far this year. Most of the rescues involve leg injuries of some sort.
Annapolis: BP has inked a 15-year agreement with Annapolis-based CleanBay Renewables to turn poultry litter into natural gas. The partnership involves mixing poultry litter with water in a closed system known as an anaerobic digester. One of the end products is biogas, which includes methane. The biogas can be processed into renewable natural gas and used to fuel vehicles. “We have a portfolio of projects and a corporate strategy to develop 30 (facilities) across the U.S.,” said Thomas Spangler, CleanBay Renewables’ executive chairman. Among the first locations slated to receive such a facility is Westover, in Somerset County, with a groundbreaking scheduled for early in the first quarter of 2022. That is expected to be fully operational by mid-2024. Usually, such facilities employ 26 full-time employees over three shifts a day running 24 hours a day, all year. Completing a two-year construction period could also create an additional 250 jobs. According to Spangler, the initial process behind green-lighting projects started with reaching out to Somerset Economic Development Commission and county planning and zoning officials. At the state level, the company approached the Maryland Department of Commerce, state workforce agencies, and area community colleges and universities.
Plymouth: A museum dedicated to the English colony of Plymouth and local Indigenous tribes is opening a new exhibit to mark the 400th anniversary of Thanksgiving. The Plimoth Patuxet Museums said the exhibit, entitled “We Gather Together: Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and the Making of an American Holiday,” will open Saturday. The exhibit will explore the relationship between Native Americans and English colonists to “better understand the events that led to the first Thanksgiving,” said the museum, which features a replica colonial village and reenactors in Plymouth. It will feature rarely seen artifacts from the museum’s collection, as well as art from across the centuries tracing how the New England tradition grew and emerged as a national holiday in the 19th century, the museum said. “Patuxet/Plymouth is the place where ancient traditions of gratitude in both Indigenous and European cultures merged,” the museum said in a statement. “ ‘We Gather Together’ will explore the ancient and deeply human expression of gratitude that is the bedrock of this national holiday.” The Pokanoket tribe and their sachem Massasoit shared in three days of feasting and entertainment with English colonists in the autumn of 1621, helping to inspire the holiday of gathering and giving thanks, according to the museum.
Ypsilanti: A “Black Lives Matter” street mural painted this summer in southeastern Michigan has been defaced by vandals who covered part of it with white paint. The weekend attack in Ypsilanti left the 260-foot mural’s words “Black Lives” drenched in white paint, while the word “Matter” was untouched. Trische Duckworth, executive director of the community organization Survivors Speak, was joined Sunday by city officials and others who expressed outrage over the vandalism in the city about 35 miles southwest of Detroit. “It was an ugly display of hatred,” Duckworth said. She said that no matter who defaced the mural, the act shows that racism and white supremacy “are not a thing of the past. It’s alive and active.” City manager Frances McMullan said law enforcement is investigating the vandalism. She said in a statement that the city was “sickened by this horrible act of destruction” but that the mural would be restored. The vandals left behind the painted name of a group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist hate group. The Ypsilanti City Council approved the mural at the entrance of a city park in February. Volunteers painted the mural and a second one in June using donated paint. Duckworth said the council is expected to discuss the defaced mural this week.
St. Paul: Agriculture officials in the state say they are seeing an increase in inquiries about mental health. “We are seeing a lot of despair right now, a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety,” said Meg Moynihan, who works for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture with a focus on the human side of farming. Moynihan recently put an ad on Facebook with a link to mental health help. The response caught her attention: nearly 2,500 clicks in 18 days, Minnesota Public Radio reports. “So they’re not just looking at, ‘Oh, there’s the phone number in the ad I could call,’ but they’re clicking through for more information,” Moynihan said. “And I’m hoping that’s some people who want that kind of help and support for themselves. But I’m also hoping it’s for people who might be concerned about somebody they know.” Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen recently surveyed conditions in northwestern Minnesota, where the drought is taking its biggest toll on the state. “I thought I was in Arizona,” he said. “I just looked at this bare church with no grass and the graves, you know, looked like a ghost town. And I kept going, and the pastures were the worst I’ve ever seen in my life.” Peterson said he also met an 80-year-old farmer who’d just sold off all his sheep who said the situation was the worst he’s seen in his lifetime.
Clarksdale: The Mississippi Writers Trail has unveiled a marker for Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer Richard Ford. The marker for Ford, a Jackson native, was placed recently at the Clarksdale Carnegie Public Library. Ford won acclaim with his first two novels, “A Piece of My Heart” and “The Ultimate Good Luck.” “Our library here in little Clarksdale, Mississippi, is just so pleased to pay tribute and to honor one of the most well-known greatest writers of all times, a native Mississippian, a novelist, a short story writer, and a Pulitzer Prize Winner,” Mary Caradine, interim director of the Carnegie Public Library of Clarksdale and Coahoma County, said in a press release. “Mr. Ford’s achievements are known far and wide.” Ford’s novel “The Sportsman” was named one of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 novels published since the magazine’s inception. Ford wrote “The Sportswriter” while living in rural Coahoma County, and he used the book’s protagonist in future novels, including “Independence Day,” for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1996. “Richard Ford is a true international author and cultural essayist who brings a rich view of the Southern experience to his readers,” Visit Mississippi Director Craig Ray said.
Kansas City: A federal investigation is underway after arson damaged a historic church that now serves a congregation predominantly made up of people from South Sudan. John Ham of the Kansas City office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the Kansas City Star that authorities have determined the blaze was intentionally set, making it a federal crime. The fire was discovered about 9:15 a.m. Saturday at the building known as Harlem Baptist Church on the city’s north side. Arriving firefighters discovered the front of the building and an area of stairs going to the basement were fully engulfed in flames and determined that’s where the fire started. One firefighter had to be rescued after the stairway collapsed but was not injured. The church suffered heavy fire damage to the front and smoke and water damage elsewhere. The church, founded in 1907 as the Harlem Tabernacle Church, is the last remaining original building of a non-incorporated community known as Harlem. It now serves as a gathering place for the United Christian Fellowship. Pastor Gabriel Riak said the congregation has Black and white members, including Sudanese and Americans. He said he was grateful no one was in the building, KMBC reports. Members plan to restore the church, which sustained about $90,000 in damage, he said.
Helena: Health officials are begging residents to wear masks indoors and get vaccinated against COVID-19 as hospitals face increasing strain in the absence of any statewide health mandates. Officials in Bozeman and Missoula lamented their inability to implement public health restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus after the Legislature passed several laws earlier this year curtailing the power of local health officers to implement rules such as mask requirements and limits on gathering sizes. “Now is the time when we would have mandates in place,” said D’Shane Barnett, Missoula County health officer. “Unfortunately, we have anti-health state legislators who went out of their way to make that not possible.” Lori Christensen, public health officer for Gallatin County, said the legislative changes have “complicated the scene” in terms of immediate action she can take. She said she trying to navigate “the complexity of the law,” but a mask mandate is not on the horizon. In Missoula, officials have requested 24 National Guard soldiers to assist the county in addressing its COVID-19 surge at health care facilities and in The Sleepy Inn, a facility used to quarantine unhoused people who are diagnosed with the virus or identified as close contacts. Bozeman Health has also put in a request for National Guard assistance.
Lincoln: The state is one of the few in the nation that haven’t legalized cannabis use in some form, but the industry has already launched a lobbying group to help influence the rules that will regulate the industry. John Cartier, president of the Nebraska Cannabis Association, said the organization expects some form of marijuana legalization to be approved in the state in coming years, so it makes sense to be prepared, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. “It is not unreasonable to predict that some form of legalization will happen before this decade is done, and with several ballot initiatives planned for 2022, it could come as early as January 2023,” he said. Two ballot initiatives working in tandem to legalize medical marijuana were filed with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office, and a petition to legalize all uses of marijuana remains on file. Both are seeking to put the question of legalization before voters next year.
Las Vegas: A death row inmate convicted in the 1980 robbery-killing of a man for $2 is no longer eligible for capital punishment and must be resentenced, the Nevada Supreme Court said. The justices ruled Thursday that a New York court’s recent erasure of Samuel Howard’s lone conviction for a violent crime took the death penalty off the table for his Nevada murder conviction, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Howard, 73, has been on death row for nearly 40 years after being sentenced in the fatal 1980 shooting of Las Vegas dentist George Monahan during a robbery. According to the Nevada high court, the vacating of Howard’s New York conviction eliminated the one remaining aggravating circumstance making him eligible for a possible death sentence. Under a new penalty hearing for Howard, a jury would decide between on whether his sentence of life in prison would come with or without the possibility of parole. The last person executed by Nevada was Daryl Mack, in 2006 for the 1988 murder of Betty Jane May, of Reno.
Lebanon: Dartmouth-Hitchcock is starting a dermatology clinic to meet the unique skin care needs of people with Down syndrome. The clinic is opening Tuesday in Manchester. There are many associated skin conditions with Down syndrome, including dry skin, excessive dandruff, rashes around the mouth, acne in the groin and armpits, patchy hair loss, vitiligo, and toenail and foot fungus, Dartmouth-Hitchcock said in a news release. Down syndrome is also linked with other medical conditions such as congenital heart disease, celiac disease, chronic ear infections and thyroid disease. The clinic will consider how treatment plans will affect other medical conditions common with Down syndrome. “Since before the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been my dream to have a dermatology clinic specifically for people with Down syndrome – to really take our time to educate and empower. We are excited to get started,” dermatologist Jillian Rork said in a news release.
Jersey City: An officer safely caught a 1-month-old baby dropped off a second-floor balcony over the weekend, police said. The Hudson County prosecutor’s office said Officer Eduardo Matute was among those called to the Jersey City residence Saturday morning after reports that a man was threatening the baby. He and several officers were positioned below the second-floor balcony as the child was dangled over the balcony railing. Officials said the man dropped the infant after a lengthy standoff, and Matute caught the child. City spokesperson Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said the child was taken to the hospital as a precaution. Mayor Steve Fulop later posted a photo on social media of the officer holding the child, who was wrapped in a white blanket. “Thankfully the baby wasn’t harmed physically,” Fulop said. Wallace-Scalcione said the man who dropped the baby was immediately arrested, and charges are pending. “Kudos to the (Jersey City Police Department) and all the officers involved for their heroics and for bringing a safe conclusion to this dangerous situation,” Prosecutor Esther Suarez said in a Twitter post.
Albuquerque: Amid debate over the state’s system of releasing felony defendants, University of New Mexico research indicates that just under 5% of Albuquerque-area defendants awaiting trial commit violent crimes while free from jail. Findings from the university’s Institute for Social Research’s analysis of more than 10,000 felony cases in Bernalillo County also included that less than 1% of people on pretrial release were arrested for a first-degree felony while on pretrial release, the Albuquerque Journal reports. A senior state courts official said the research indicates that the vast majority of defendants don’t commit new crimes pending trial, but the top prosecutor for Bernalillo County and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said its still troubling that some defendants commit crimes while free. Administrative Office of the Courts Director Artie Pepin said the research “validates the pretrial justice improvements underway in New Mexico.” District Attorney Raul Torrez said through spokeswoman Laura Rodriguez that the few violent crimes committed by people on pretrial release are “an unacceptable price for our community to pay.” Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said it “can still be utterly devastating to a family or a community” when 5% of felony defendants commit a violent crime.
Albany: The state is taking steps to address a mounting shortage of school bus drivers. Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday announced several short-term and long-term initiatives, including opening up new testing sites for commercial driver’s license applicants, expediting the testing and permitting process, and conducting outreach to law enforcement, firefighters, military and other organizations that already have trained drivers. A study by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation two years ago found that 8 in 10 school transportation directors considered driver shortages a major concern, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. A lack of drivers can lead to delayed departures and arrivals and the cancellation of field trips and other extracurricular activities. “Our schools and public health officials have moved mountains to ensure our children receive an in-person education this year, and we are leaving no stone unturned to make sure schools have adequate bus service to bring students to school and back,” Hochul said in a statement. The state is reaching out to more than half a million existing commercial driver’s license holders in the state, including those who are currently unemployed, Hochul said.
Monroe: Union County’s school board voted Monday to modify the district’s quarantine protocols to comply with state law and let the county health department lead contact tracing efforts. The move comes after the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services threatened to sue the district for overhauling contact tracing procedures and allowing most of its 7,000 quarantined students back into the classroom so long as they are not symptomatic or known to be infected with the coronavirus. “UCPS will recognize quarantines in accordance with state law of students and staff who are considered close contacts with a COVID-19-positive case,” said Kathy Heintel, a member of the board. Because it is one of a handful of districts not compelling students or staff to wear masks and does not have an online learning option, some Union County parents say the quarantines have amounted to 14 days of near-total learning loss. Roughly one-sixth of the district’s 39,000 enrolled pupils were stuck at home the week before the district substantially changed its COVID-19 protocols. Fewer than 1,700 kids were quarantined last week after the changes, a 77% weekly drop.
Bismarck: Regulators say the state has officially lost its status as the nation’s second-biggest oil producer. North Dakota produced just over 1 million barrels of oil per day in July, the most recent month for which data is available from the state Oil and Gas Division. The July production marks a 56,000-barrel-per-day or 5% drop from June, the Bismarck Tribune reports. Texas continues to lead the nation in oil production. The Permian Basin spans parts of New Mexico and Texas, and it’s arguably the biggest competition for North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. The southern oil-producing region is closer to major refineries and export terminals, and it attracts significant drilling and investment within the oil and gas industry. North Dakota ranked second, behind Texas, in oil production for nine years. It lost that status to New Mexico in July. The two states had been neck and neck for several months. New Mexico had 82 rigs drilling Friday, far more than the 27 operating in North Dakota. Aside from bragging rights, a state’s position holds other implications. Rankings can affect an oil company’s ability to find investors to fund a project in a state, North Dakota regulators have said. North Dakota had surpassed Alaska to take second place in oil production in 2012.
Columbus: The State Medical Board of Ohio has renewed the medical license of a doctor who drew nationwide attention and derision for claiming COVID-19 vaccines were magnetizing recipients and had a connection to 5G wireless towers. Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, a state-licensed doctor of osteopathic medicine, first received her license in 1984, and it had been set to expire Oct. 1, on its regular two-year basis. Tenpenny spoke to the Ohio House Health Committee in June about her false vaccine claims. She is among the 12 most prolific disseminators of COVID-19 misinformation on social media, according to research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. An anti-vaccine activist since the 2000s, Tenpenny has called vaccines a “method of mass destruction” and “depopulation”; charges $623 for her “boot camp” to train people how to convince others to refrain from vaccination; and sells her book “Saying No to Vaccines” for $578 on Amazon. State law allows the medical board, with the votes of at least six of its 12 members, to refuse renewal of any physician for “making a false, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading statement” in relation to the practice of medicine.
Oklahoma City: The state on Monday scheduled its first executions since it put lethal injections on hold six years ago following a series of mishaps. Included on the list of seven executions is Julius Jones, whose case has drawn national attention. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals scheduled Jones to die Nov. 18 by lethal injection for the 1999 slaying of Edmond businessman Paul Howell, who was shot in front of his family during a carjacking. The court set the date despite a Sept. 13 recommendation by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board that Jones’ death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment without parole. The recommendation has received no decision by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who must make the final decision. Jones’ case was featured in 2018 on the ABC television documentary series “The Last Defense.” That drew the attention of reality television star Kim Kardashian West and numerous professional athletes with ties to Oklahoma, who appealed for clemency. Jones, 41, has consistently maintained that he is innocent of the killing. Oklahoma once had one of the busiest death chambers in the nation, but executions were put on hold following a botched lethal injection in 2014 that left an inmate writhing on the gurney and drug mix-ups in 2015.
Dallas: The Oregon Medical Board has revoked the license of a doctor west of Salem for refusing to follow COVID-19 guidelines in his office, spreading misinformation about masks and overprescribing opioids. According to medical board documents, the board also fined Steven Arthur LaTulippe $10,000 on Sept. 2, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports. LaTulippe sued the medical board in January after his license was suspended for placing patients in danger by disregarding COVID-19 mandates and asking patients to remove their masks. LaTulippe’s family practice, South View Medical Arts in Dallas, did not properly screen patients and relied on the receptionist’s ability to visually gauge whether visitors were sick, according to the medical board documents. At least 95% of patients did not use masks at the clinic between March and December 2020, LaTulippe told medical board officials. LaTulippe made bogus claims to patients that masks were ineffective against COVID-19 and could cause carbon dioxide poisoning, according to the medical board. LaTulippe also made anti-mask comments during a pro-Trump rally in Salem on Nov. 7, 2020. The Multnomah County Republican Party posted footage of his comments to YouTube, which removed the video for violating its community guidelines.
Philadelphia: Supporters of a plan to open supervised injection sites to try to reduce overdose deaths urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to review a court decision that bans the practice. The test case centers on a nonprofit group’s Safehouse project in Philadelphia, though officials in other states are watching closely as they debate similar programs. Nationally, more than 93,000 people died last year from drug overdoses, a sharp spike from just a year earlier. A divided U.S. appeals court had rejected the Safehouse plan in January, although Philadelphia’s Democratic mayor and top prosecutor endorse it. The city itself lost 1,200 people to overdoses last year. The nonprofit group’s plan to open a site was thwarted when former U.S. Attorney William McSwain, a Trump appointee now running for governor, argued that it violated a 1980s-era drug law aimed at “crackhouses.” The district judge rejected McSwain’s argument, but the appeals court agreed with him in a 2-1 decision that nonetheless called the goal of harm reduction “admirable.” Safehouse last month asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision. The amicus brief filed Friday said Congress never intended the crackhouse statute to encompass harm reduction efforts offered by medical personnel.
Providence: The state is offering $4 million in grants to help communities build and expand recreation facilities. Democratic Gov. Dan McKee and the Department of Environmental Management announced Friday that the outdoor recreation matching grants would be available to local municipalities and Native American tribes seeking to acquire, develop or renovate outdoor recreational facilities in their communities. Grant applications are due by Dec. 17. The money is provided through a clean water and green bond approved by voters. McKee said the state’s network of bikeways, open spaces and other recreational assets help attract people and businesses to Rhode Island. “Access to green space and clean, functional recreation facilities improves health, promotes stronger social ties, and enhances neighborhood satisfaction and pride,” McKee said in a statement. Applicants can apply for smaller recreation development grants or larger acquisition grants, capped at $400,000.
Lexington: A school board will consider asking the Legislature to drop what amounts to a ban on school mask mandates to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The State newspaper reports the Lexington County School District 1 board surveyed parents recently and found more than two-thirds supported a mask mandate. A similar percentage of district employees also backed a mandate. At its Tuesday board meeting, Lexington 1 board will consider asking lawmakers to repeal a part of the state budget that effectively bans school mask mandates by denying districts the funds to enforce them. “For months, we have heard from a small and vocal group of parents and staff on both sides of the mask debate,” school board chair Anne Marie Green said in an email to parents. “We wanted to know how our entire community truly felt about masking.” Green told The State she isn’t sure if the board would adopt a mask mandate immediately “because our numbers are going in the right direction.” However, she said the local school board is better positioned to respond to sudden changes than the Legislature, which won’t hold a regular session until early next year. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 2,357 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 17 coronavirus-related deaths Monday, according to the paper.
Sioux Falls: Musicals scheduled in the state’s two largest cities have been postponed or scrapped due to the pandemic. A show that was set to run this past weekend at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux Falls was postponed to Sept. 29-30 after two cast members tested positive for the coronavirus. The production of “Lost in Vegas,” held by local theater company Lights Up, held its opening run last weekend in front of about 200 people each day. After one cast member had tested positive for the virus this past week, the show went on Thursday after officials blocked the first two rows and warned the 150 people in the audience about the results, director Brent Grosvenor said. “We did the right thing. We talked to the cast. The cast made an informed decision still to perform,” Grosvenor said. “We had understudies replacing sick actors, and that’s how the real world works.” After another cast member tested positive for the virus Friday, theater officials called off the rest of the weekend shows. In Rapid City, the Black Hills Community Theatre announced Friday that it had canceled all planned performances of “Matilda” following the increased spread of COVID-19 infections in the region. Theater officials told the Rapid City Journal many younger participants in the show are not yet eligible for vaccinations.
Memphis: State officials say donors have added 144 acres to a state park known for being the first east of the Mississippi River to be open to African Americans. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said the expansion of T.O. Fuller State Park is the result of a donation by philanthropists Hugh and Margaret Jones Fraser and the Carrington Jones family of Memphis. Nonprofits groups The Land Trust for Tennessee and Wolf River Conservancy helped with the acquisition. The park, opened in 1938, was also only the second state park nationwide that was open to African Americans. In 1942 the park was named after Thomas O. Fuller, a prominent African American educator, pastor, politician, civic leader and author. The park includes 8 miles of trails, four shelters, 35 picnic tables, basketball courts, an interpretive center, and diverse landscapes with more than 200 plant species.
San Antonio: A doctor who said he performed an abortion in defiance of a new state law has all but dared supporters of the near-total ban on the procedure to try making an early example of him by filing a lawsuit – the only way the restrictions can be enforced. The state’s largest anti-abortion group said Monday that it’s looking into the matter after Dr. Alan Braid in a weekend Washington Post opinion column became the first Texas abortion provider to publicly reveal he violated the law that took effect Sept. 1. The law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before many women even know they are pregnant. Prosecutors cannot take criminal action against Braid, because the law explicitly forbids that. The only way the ban can be enforced is through lawsuits brought by private citizens, who are entitled to claim at least $10,000 in damages if successful. Legal experts say Braid’s admission is likely to set up another test of whether the law can stand after the Supreme Court allowed it to take effect. Braid wrote that on Sept. 6 he provided an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but beyond the state’s new limit. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences – but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested,” he wrote.
Salt Lake City: The state’s newest license plate option features an outline of Utah and five hands of different colors holding it into place. The words “many stories, one Utah” are printed underneath, the Deseret News reports. Gov. Spencer Cox said he hopes someone will see it and think about what it represents. “I hope and believe because of the incredible artwork that it will inspire conversations,” Cox said. The new license plate unveiled at the state Capitol on Thursday honors the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. While there are no direct links to his image or likeness – as a result of legal reasons from the King estate – the design itself is inspired by him and his work as a civil rights activist before he was assassinated in 1968. Utah’s work toward an MLK-themed license plate dates back to 2012, according to Simba Maponga, chairman of the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission. A 2020 bill led by Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, and Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, then paved the way for a license plate to recognize King’s work and life, with money from the plates going toward scholarships for “underrepresented or underserved” students. The winning design was submitted by Eleanor Smith, a former Timpview High School and current BYU student.
St. Albans: The city’s hospital is seeking approval to build a $7.5 million expansion of its emergency department. The Northwestern Medical Center has been considering an upgrade to its emergency department, which was built around 1989, since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, said Jonathan Billings, the hospital’s vice president of community relations. COVID-19 has clearly exacerbated the need, Billing’s told the St. Albans Messenger earlier this month. The emergency room currently has curtained treatment bays to separate patients. “If you have someone with active COVID-19, you can’t put them in a curtained treatment bay,” he said. The expansion would eliminate such use by updating those areas to increase patient privacy and safety and to better limit the spread of infectious airborne diseases, such as the coronavirus, through additional air quality-controlled rooms, Billings told the newspaper. The expansion would add six emergency department treatment stations, bringing the total to 20. About 2,400 square feet would be added, and 6,800 square feet of existing space would be renovated.
Norfolk: A Republican candidate for the House of Delegates has apologized after tweeting a derogatory comment about the appearance of House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn that some Democrats said was an antisemitic attack. The Washington Post reports that Hahns Copeland, who is running to represent the Norfolk-based 89th District, on Friday tweeted a response to a tweet by House Democrats that featured a video of Filler-Corn, who is Jewish, talking about a child care subsidy program. “I was surprised to see a pair of eyes and a mouth with that NOSE,” Copeland tweeted. He apologized in another tweet late Friday, calling the earlier tweet “immature and impulsive.” “It was never intended to be anti-Semitic or reference her ethnicity or religion,” Copeland’s tweet said. He conceded his earlier tweet was “inappropriate and insensitive.” Democrats said it was an antisemitic attack on Filler-Corn. The speaker’s staff said Friday that she had not heard directly from Copeland. “These types of hateful comments are unfortunately far too common today, and they are too often invoked instead of solutions to the real issues Virginians face,” Filler-Corn said in a statement. “I hope this candidate and his supporters choose to do what is right and acknowledge that words from those in office or seeking it have an impact.”
Spokane: This has been a record-breaking year of drought in much of Eastern Washington, state officials say. In April, a huge volume of snow in the Cascade Range measured in at 132% of normal statewide, raising hopes of an abundant water year, the state Department of Ecology said in a blog post last week. But now 16 Washington counties, including 13 in Eastern Washington, are drier than they’ve ever been since record-keeping began in 1895, the blog said. According to the National Weather Service, from March to August the state saw just 6.90 inches of precipitation. Normal during that time is 13.03 inches. To end the current drought in the lower Columbia River area, Ecology Drought Coordinator Jeff Marti said the state would need 11 inches of rain by next April. The odds of that kind of rebound are low. “The question is, will we have a full recovery before next spring?” Marti said. “The odds for significant improvement of conditions are pretty good for Western Washington. But I’m less optimistic about the east side. Based on historic climatology, the odds for significantly ameliorating current conditions is about 1 in 5 across Eastern Washington. For a full recovery in Eastern Washington, the odds are about 1 in 20,” Marti said.
Charleston: A grassroots group is using newspaper advertisements to further push Sen. Joe Manchin to support issues it considers important to low-income West Virginians. The Poor People’s Campaign took out the full-page ads Sunday in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel and The Journal of Martinsburg. The group has repeatedly pressed the influential moderate Democratic senator in an effort that includes conducting a rally at the state Capitol in Charleston last month. Manchin has opposed a $15 federal minimum wage and an elections bill that he said he couldn’t support because it lacked bipartisan support. Senate Democrats unveiled a pared-back elections bill last week. The Poor People’s Campaign also had a news conference scheduled Monday to urge Manchin to help change Senate filibuster rules that have blocked passage of legislation. Scheduled participants include state organizers as well as the group’s national co-chairs. Manchin long has defended the filibuster as many of his Senate colleagues have shifted on the issue.
Madison: The retired conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice leading a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 presidential election released a video Monday threatening to subpoena election officials who don’t comply and saying the intent was not to overturn President Joe Biden’s relatively narrow victory in the battleground state. The unusual 6-minute video from Michael Gableman comes after election clerks were confused by an email his office sent last week that was flagged in at multiple counties as junk or a possible security risk and was not broadly forwarded to municipal clerks as he wanted. Gableman said Monday that if the state’s 1,900-plus municipal and county election officials did not cooperate with his investigation, he would “compel” them to comply. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he would sign subpoenas requested by Gableman as part of the investigation. Vos hired Gableman at a cost of nearly $680,000 in taxpayer money to conduct the investigation. Vos declined to sign subpoenas sought by Rep. Janel Bandtjen, chair of the Assembly elections committee, seeking ballots, voting machines and other data in Milwaukee and Brown counties. Gableman said local clerks who run elections in Wisconsin will be required to prove that voting was done legally.
Casper: The city is considering offering employees a $250 incentive for getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. City workers could also get $100 for dependents or spouses who get their inoculations, as well as $50 for booster shots, and the employees themselves would be eligible retroactively if they’ve already gotten their shots, according to the paper. The proposal is set to be considered at a City Council meeting Tuesday.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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