Montgomery: With the delta variant driving a new wave of COVID-19 cases across the nation, the Montgomery Zoo said it’s canceling its annual Zoobilation event. The Sept. 16 event was planned as an outdoor party with food, music and dancing, with the $50 tickets raising funds for a state-of-the-art reptile facility. That new facility is also planned to serve as an education center for keeper talks, presentations, animal encounters and other programs. The zoo will hold an online auction to serve as a fundraiser for the new facility. That auction will feature jewelry, gift cards, spa treatments, travel packages, hotel stays, restaurant experiences, collectibles and more. More information about that auction is expected soon. You can see more about the zoo at montgomeryzoo.com.
Juneau: Six people who were killed in a sightseeing plane crash were recovered and identified after crews initially struggled to reach the wreckage in southeast Alaska because of poor weather conditions. Alaska State Troopers identified the pilot and five passengers late Saturday following the crash Thursday. The aircraft went down as the pilot was returning the passengers to Ketchikan from Misty Fjords National Monument. The passengers who died were Mark Henderson, 69, and Jacquelyn Komplin, 60, of Napa, California; Andrea McArthur, 55, and Rachel McArthur, 20, of Woodstock, Georgia; and Janet Kroll, 77, of Mount Prospect, Illinois. The pilot was Rolf Lanzendorfer, 64, of Cle Elum, Washington. All five passengers were on an excursion off the Holland America Line cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam. Ketchikan is a popular stop for cruise ships visiting Alaska, and cruise ship passengers can take various sightseeing excursions while in port. Popular among them are small plane flights to Misty Fjords National Monument, where visitors can see glacier valleys, snow-capped peaks and lakes in the wilderness area. The plane’s emergency beacon was activated about 11:20 a.m. Thursday when it crashed near the monument, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration was also investigating.
Page: Houseboat-rental companies for Lake Powell have had to cancel their bookings through August – one of their most popular months – after the National Park Service, which manages the lake, barred people from launching the vessels in mid-July because of low water levels. At the popular main launch point on Wahweap Bay, the bottom of the concrete ramp has been extended with steel pipes so boats can still get on the lake, but that solution will only last another week or two, the park service said. Lake Powell is the second-largest reservoir in the U.S. behind Nevada’s Lake Mead, which also stores water from the Colorado River. Both are shrinking faster than expected, a dire concern for a seven-state region that relies on the river to supply water to 40 million people and a $5 billion-a-year agricultural industry. In 1983, Lake Powell’s water exceeded its maximum level of 3,700 feet and nearly overran the Glen Canyon Dam. The lake is facing a new set of challenges having reached a record low of 3,553 feet last week.
Little Rock: A judge temporarily blocked the state from enforcing its ban on mask mandates after lawmakers left the prohibition in place despite a rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued a preliminary injunction against the law that Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed in April banning mask requirements by governmental entities. The ban was being challenged by two lawsuits, including one from an east Arkansas school district where more than 900 staff and students are in quarantine because of a coronavirus outbreak. Fox ruled the law violates Arkansas’ constitution, saying it discriminates between public and private school students. He said it also infringes on the governor’s emergency powers, as well as the authority of county officials and the state Supreme Court. Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was talking with the governor and Legislature about the ruling to determine the next steps, her office said. Hutchinson, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with the state and legislative leaders, left open the possibility of separately asking the state Supreme Court to uphold Fox’s ruling if it’s appealed.
Redding: A wildfire has claimed a historic fire lookout at Lassen Volcanic National Park, park Superintendent Jim Richardson said Saturday night. The Mount Harkness Lookout is the park’s first loss from the blaze when it burned into the Juniper Lake area. The structure served as an active fire lookout and visitor destination since its construction in 1930, according to the park’s website. The loss of the lookout was confirmed during an infrared flight Friday and also from a pilot’s visual report, Richardson said. As of Saturday night, the blaze had not reached the popular Drakesbad Guest Ranch in the Warner Valley near Chester, Richardson said. Lassen Volcanic National Park closed to visitors Thursday as the fire burned into the park’s southeast corner. Richardson said the fire “ran nearly the length of the entire park up to near Butte Lake, a little over 8,000 acres in the national park.”
Denver: As huge plumes of wildfire smoke from California moved east, Denver’s air quality ranked among the worst in the world Saturday afternoon. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality health advisory until Sunday, warning that people – especially those with respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD – should avoid prolonged outdoor activities and keep windows closed. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Denver expected air quality to improve a bit on Sunday, though it will remain hazy and smoky. U.S. cities, including Denver and Salt Lake City, are being overrun with smoke from distant California and West Coast wildfires.
Mystic: One of five beluga whales acquired from an aquarium in Canada after a legal fight with animal rights activists has died at its new home in Connecticut. Officials at Mystic Aquarium, which specializes in beluga research, said in a Facebook post that the male whale had arrived in May with a preexisting medical condition. It died Friday, despite “round-the-clock medical treatment, testing, and 24-hour monitoring,” the aquarium said in a statement. The whale arrived in May with four others from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, after a lengthy fight to obtain permits from the United States and Canada. Connecticut-based Friends of Animals and other activists had sought to block the transport in a lawsuit last fall against the U.S. Commerce secretary and National Marine Fisheries Service, which had approved the research permit. The group claimed the U.S. permit violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act because government officials did not adequately address the potential harm to the belugas from being moved to Mystic. A federal judge in March declined to issue an injunction. The whales, which range in age from 7 to 12, were born in captivity and left an overcrowded habitat with about 50 other whales to be at the center of important research designed to benefit belugas in the wild, aquarium officials said.
Wilmington: Hundreds of people met Saturday outside a Delaware hospital to protest ChristianaCare’s decision to require employees to get COVID-19 vaccines or be dismissed. More than 300 gathered at Christiana Hospital to protest the mandate, saying there isn’t enough information on vaccines, they doubt their effectiveness and their right to choose is being infringed upon, The News Journal of Wilmington reported. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. ChristianaCare, the state’s largest health care system and largest private employer, has stated that all employees must receive the first dose of the vaccine by Sept. 21, or the health system with terminate workers who don’t unless given an exemption. The hospital estimated in late June that about 70% of its employees had received at least one dose. Other hospitals in Delaware and elsewhere have announced employee vaccine requirements, including Nemours Children’s Health System on Friday.
District of Columbia
Washington: WUSA-TV reported a fire outside of the old Grimke School caused a cloud of smoke that was seen across parts of the District on Saturday, according to D.C. Fire and EMS on Twitter. The fire outside the old school building was at 1923 Vermont Avenue, Northwest. Pictures from D.C. Fire and EMS showed firefighters working to control the large blaze. No one was injured during the fire, which is still under investigation by D.C. Fire and EMS officials.
Tallahassee: Federal officials approved a deal that will allow the Seminole Tribe to operate sports betting and add roulette and craps to its seven Florida casinos, with the state potentially receiving $20 billion over the next 30 years. Gov. Ron DeSantis had worked out the gambling compact with the tribe in the spring, and it was later approved by the state House and Senate. The deal needed final approved from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations. Officials said the agreement will generate an estimated $6 billion through 2030. The Tribe is not currently making any revenue payments to the state.Under the agreement, the Seminoles could begin sports betting Oct. 15 and sports wagering at horse tracks, jai alai frontons and former dog tracks for a share of the income. Online sports betting operated by the tribe also will be allowed.
Savannah: Georgia’s oldest city is planning a giant mural to cover a pedestrian walkway to its new arena. City officials are seeking proposals for the mural, which will be designed by four teams of artists and cover an area spanning 2,400 square feet. Savannah officials said the project will be one of the largest asphalt murals in Georgia. The mural will illustrate a new walkway on the site of Savannah’s historic water works pump house that ends at the Enmarket Arena. The city broke ground on the 9,500-seat arena nearly two years ago and it’s scheduled to open in 2022. City Hall is accepting proposals for the mural project until Sept. 6.
Honolulu: Four Native Hawaiians arrested in 2019 while protesting against construction of a giant telescope on Hawaii’s highest peak were found not guilty of obstructing the mountain’s access road, a judge ruled. Judge M. Kanani Laubach issued her verdict after a trial that began in January 2020 and saw significant delays because of the coronavirus pandemic. Keli’i ’Ioane, Marie Alohalani Brown, Maxine Kahaulelio and Ranette Robinson were the first to go to trial out of 38 mostly Native Hawaiian kupuna, or elders, who were arrested during a swelling effort to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. The other cases are pending. Those who oppose the $1.4 billion project said it will desecrate land on Mauna Kea held sacred to Native Hawaiians. Hundreds of protesters gathered at the base of the mountain in July 2019 to block construction of the telescope. The kupuna allowed themselves to be arrested and some used canes, and others were taken in wheelchairs to police vans. Those who could walk on their own were led away with their hands in zip ties. An international consortium has a state permit to build the telescope. However, in announcing her verdict, the judge noted that during the trial, officials testified that the access road was closed and there were no permits issued for oversized vehicles. The state respects the verdict, which can’t be appealed, said Gary Yamashiroya, special assistant to the state attorney general. The ruling is based solely on evidence presented at the trial of the four defendants, he said.
Lewiston: A large timber sale in north-central Idaho has been put on hold because a federal judge said the agencies that approved the deal failed to consider the latest information on steelhead numbers. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled the U.S. Forest Service and National Marine Fisheries Service didn’t take into account new data that showed the numbers of threatened steelhead were at a 25-year-low when they approved the timber sale in parts of the Upper Lolo, Musselshell, Middle Lolo and Eldorado creek watersheds, The Lewiston Tribune reported. The Lolo Insect and Disease project included clear-cut-like harvest practices and would require the construction of 13 miles of temporary roads. It is expected to produce 44 million board feet of timber and help sustain as many as 963 jobs. Opponents said it would also send sediment into streams in the area, harming threatened wild steelhead that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The federal fisheries service issued a biological opinion that said the project was likely to harm the steelhead that spawn in the streams but that it wouldn’t jeopardize the existence of the population nor adversely affect critical habitat.
Chicago: The Chicago home where blues legend Muddy Waters once lived and recorded music is a step closer to landmark status and becoming a museum in his honor. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted final approval of landmark status to the brick two-flat home in the South Side neighborhood of North Kenwood, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. It now moves to the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards and, if approved, to a vote of the full council. Waters, known as the “Father of Chicago Blues,” moved to the city from rural Mississippi in 1943. He moved his family into the home in 1954 and purchased it in 1956. Waters’ family lived on the first floor of the house. He rented out the upstairs and had a recording studio in the basement. Waters’ great granddaughter, Chandra Cooper, now owns the property and is converting it into The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum. Waters’ Chicago home was a gathering place for musicians, and some – including legends like Chuck Berry and Otis Spann – lived there at one time or another. Waters lived in the home until his wife died in 1973. He then moved to suburban Westmont, living there until his 1983 death.
South Bend: St. Joseph County has reached a financial settlement with a former inmate who was wrongfully jailed for more than 40 days after being charged in two counties for the same offense. County commissioners recently approved a $12,500 settlement for Ian McQueen, 42, who was charged in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties with stealing a car. He was kept in the St. Joseph County Jail for 43 days despite being sentenced to probation in Elkhart County for the same crime. Officials blamed a lack of communication between the counties’ court systems for the situation. Court documents showed McQueen stole a car in Mishawaka but was arrested for that offense by police in Elkhart. Two separate sets of charges were then filed in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties for the same offense, the South Bend Tribune reported. McQueen pleaded guilty in the Elkhart case and was sentenced to probation in November 2020. However, because a warrant was issued for his arrest in the pending St. Joseph County case, police there were required to hold him in jail, said Pete Agostino, an attorney who represented the county commissioners in the settlement.
Cedar Rapids: An eastern Iowa official is participating in a trial for a COVID-19 booster shot, and it’s the second time she has been part of one. Cedar Rapids City Council member Ashley Vanorny traveled Friday to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for the trial for a booster shot manufactured by Pfizer, KGAN-TV reported. The trial is expected to last a year. Vanorny received the first of two Pfizer shots in August 2020. At the time, she didn’t know whether she received the vaccine or a placebo. She also didn’t know whether her shot Friday was a placebo. Vanorny said she was recruited for the trials because the researchers were looking for a woman who wasn’t pregnant. “I believe in the science,” she said.
Lawrence: The city of Lawrence and Douglas County will require employees and visitors to wear masks inside their buildings, adding to the local mandates aimed at controlling the more contagious coronavirus delta variant. The rules took effect Monday and applied regardless of whether someone has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Their announcements came the same day the University of Kansas imposed an indoor mask mandate for students, staff and visitors at its main campus in Lawrence and a satellite campus in Johnson County in the Kansas City area. Manhattan, the northeast Kansas city that is home to the main Kansas State University campus, also is requiring masks inside its buildings, as is Kansas State.
Lexington: State and federal authorities investigating potential human trafficking searched three massage businesses in Kentucky this week, according to state police. The businesses were J Spa on Patchen Drive in Lexington, K 1 Spa in Somerset and Sunny Spa in Elizabethtown, state police said in a release. Police served search warrants Wednesday at each location after receiving complaints and tips related to possible human trafficking, illegal immigration, prostitution and operating without a license, according to the release. Police identified customer information at each spa, and state and federal investigations continue. The release did not mention arrests at any of the businesses. In addition to state police, the agencies involved in the searches included the Lexington Police Department, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Police asked anyone with information about the businesses, or others potentially involved in criminal activity, to call state police at (800) 222-5555 or the FBI at (502) 263-6000.
New Orleans: A program that uses oyster shells discarded by restaurants to construct artificial reefs to protect coastal Louisiana is rebuilding itself after being shut down last year by the coronavirus pandemic. The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana program has been working since 2014 to recycle oyster shells to protect wetlands and coastal communities. But with stay-at-home orders and and other pandemic restrictions in 2020, it was shuttered, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported. Before the pandemic, about 20 restaurants produced about 75 tons a month for the effort. Now the coalition and the Chef’s Brigade have 13 restaurants contributing cast-off shells, the website reported. The shells, which would otherwise be sent to landfills, are used to build protections against waves, storms and rising sea levels that contribute to land loss. They also encourage the growth of new oysters and provide a home and food for other marine life.The Chef’s Brigade, which ran a meal assistance program during the pandemic’s first wave, was instrumental in recruiting for the recycling program, according to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
Portland: Maine’s long-shuttered shrimp fishing business has a chance to reopen this winter, but the warming of the ocean threatens to keep the industry shut down. Maine shrimp were once a winter delicacy, but the fishery has been shut down since 2013. Scientists have said environmental conditions in the warming Gulf of Maine are inhospitable for the cold water-loving shrimp. An interstate regulatory board is scheduled to make a decision this fall about whether to extend a moratorium on the shrimp fishery that is set to end this year. Scientists have not seen a lot of good signs that suggest reopening the fishery is a good idea, said Dustin Colson Leaning, a fishery management plan coordinator for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates the business. A 2019 report from the Atlantic States commission found that the shrimp were depleted, the number of shrimp that were able to spawn was “extremely low,” and “recent environmental conditions continue to be unfavorable” for the species. New data about the shrimp will become available this year, but it will be limited because a lot of scientific surveys were canceled by the coronavirus pandemic, Colson said. New England fishermen often caught millions of pounds of the fish every winter. The catch exceeded 10 million pounds in several years in the 1990s and topped that total as recently as 2011 before a collapse in 2013.
Ocean City: A Pennsylvania girl’s injuries at a Maryland beach are consistent with a bite from a sandbar shark and would be a first for the state, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Experts made the determination after reviewing photos of the 12-year-old girl’s injuries shared by the Ocean City Beach Patrol, department spokeswoman Megan McGinn-Meals said in an email to the Associated Press. There have been a few unconfirmed reports over the years, McGinn-Meals said, but this would be Maryland’s first “confirmed, nearshore ocean bite” that’s not fishing-related. An angler at Assateague Island was bitten in 2014 while releasing a shark from his line and a man clamming near Mills Island in Chincoteague Bay was bitten about the same time, she said. The bite left 12-year-old Jordan Prushinski with 42 stitches for 20 cuts, family members told WBRE-TV. She was in knee-deep water in Ocean City on Monday when she limped out of the water bleeding from the leg, the family said. Other beachgoers, including an EMT and a nurse, helped give Prushinski first aid and the family took her to a hospital. Prushinski said she will go out in the water again once her stitches are out, WJZ-TV reported. “Something like this is rare and rare for it to even happen again,” she said. Sandbar sharks aren’t aggressive and have rare interactions with humans, and beachgoers shouldn’t let this stop them from enjoying the ocean, Ocean City Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin said.
Northampton: Coca-Cola has announced plans to shutter its Northampton bottling plant in the summer of 2023, leaving its 319 employees to find new jobs. The beverage giant announced plans last week to close the plant, as well as sell facilities in Michigan, Missouri and Texas to Refresco, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported. Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said this will be a major economic loss for the city. Narkewicz said the plant is the city’s largest manufacturer, water customer and taxpayer. The property is assessed at $17.7 million, according to city tax records, and the company pays about $306,000 in annual property taxes. The company has benefited from a 13-year tax increment financing agreement with the city that lowered taxes by 50% for the first seven years and by 25% for the remainder. The agreement expires in the summer of 2023. Narkewicz said that representatives informed him that the closure is tied to a restructuring plan that will also close a facility in California.
Custer: A 75-year-old man has been rescued nearly 11 hours after falling about 30 feet from a tree and injuring his back in a remote, wooded area of western Michigan. A conservation officer located the man who was able to call 911 before his cellphone lost reception, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources said. Authorities were told that the man had gone to the Whiskey Creek area near Custer, about 100 miles northwest of Grand Rapids, to prepare tree stands for the deer hunting season. Conservation officer Josiah Killingbeck was on patrol and found the man’s truck. Killingbeck located a faint walking path and found a set of footprints on a dirt bike trail, the DNR said. Killingbeck called out for the man through the woods until he heard a weak reply. He found the man at the base of a large oak tree. The man was carried from the woods on a backboard by emergency support personnel and then airlifted to a trauma center.
Minneapolis: An annual Greek festival in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis has been canceled because of recent unrest in the district, sponsors said. St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church sponsors the Taste of Greece festival, which showcases food, music, dancing and other celebrations of Greek heritage. It had been scheduled for Sept. 9-11. The church said on the festival’s website it “would be unable to find a successful solution to ensure the safety and security” for people or property during the festival. Organizers said they plan to resume the festival next year, the Star Tribune reported. Protests and violent crime have occurred more frequently in the Uptown neighborhood since Winston Smith Jr. was shot and killed by a U.S. marshals task force on June 3. Some businesses in the area have closed because they are worried about the safety of customers and employees.
Jackson: Mississippi judges have the power to delay trials, limit the number of spectators in courtrooms or take other steps to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, the leader of the state Supreme Court said in an emergency order. Chief Justice Michael Randolph issued the order Thursday in response to the rapid spread of illness caused by highly contagious delta variant of the virus. Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation, and state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said 97% of new cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi are among people who are unvaccinated. Randolph’s order said judges can postpone jury trials that are scheduled through Sept. 10. In addition to limiting the number of spectators in courtrooms, judges can require people to wear masks and maintain distance between each other. The order encouraged courts to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing, when possible. Plea hearings in felony cases must still take place in person, but defendants and others in the courtrooms should wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Jefferson City: A man who shot a massive bighead carp last month while bowfishing has set a state record, the Department of Conservation said. Matt Neuling of Perryville shot the 125-pound, 5-ounce fish on July 24 at Lake Perry, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “I was out with my buddy early that morning when we both shot what we thought was a 30-pound grass carp,” Neuling told the department. “My buddy’s arrow pulled out, but mine shot straight through and stayed in there.” Neuling said his friend sent another arrow into the fish. “If my buddy wasn’t with me, there was no way I could have pulled it out of the water,” he said. The department estimated the fish was 10 years old. It also noted that bighead carp are invasive. Missouri separates fishing records by pole-and-line and alternative methods, such as bowfishing.
Great Falls: Evacuation orders were rescinded for Austin Lane, Sheep Creek Lane and Sheep Creek Road, according to a wildfire update Saturday morning. The Cascade County Sheriff's Office said residents can return to these locations. The fire was burning in difficult and rugged terrain, with fuels and topography driving fire activity. The fire was just over 31,500 acres in size and 7 miles away from Cascade. The fire as of Saturday morning was 40% contained. “The 17% increase in containment comes from firefighter efforts extending a secure fireline from Soldier Creek west to Bird Creek and also in the area of Sheep Creek Lane,” according to the fire update. Evacuation orders are still in place for residents living on Adel Road south of the intersection with the West Hound Creek Road as, well as Cannon Lake Lane.
Omaha: Three people narrowly escaped a flooded elevator following a storm that hit Omaha on Saturday night. Tony Luu said he and his two friends got in his apartment elevator to check out storm damage, KTRK-TV reported. Before the elevator doors could open, Luu said water started pouring in through the vents as they descended. Luu called his roommate for help as they waited in chest-high water for emergency responders to arrive. “We might die if you don’t come help us,” he said on the phone. Luu’s roommate and two other people managed to open the elevator from the lobby by the time the water was up to his neck. “I was swimming out,” Luu said. No injuries were reported.
Las Vegas: Authorities issued an air quality alert for metro Las Vegas on Saturday, citing unhealthy conditions caused by smoke drifting into Nevada from wildfires in California. “Unfortunately, this is expected to continue through today and Sunday,” the National Weather Service ‘s Las Vegas office said Saturday. The Clark County Department of Environment and Sustainability said small dust particles and other pollutants in smoke can aggravate respiratory diseases and contribute to the formation of ozone. Ozone can induce coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath even in healthy people, the department said. The department urged people to stay indoors when smoke is present and to limit outdoor activity and keep doors and windows closed. Residents most sensitive to the unhealthy conditions include those with respiratory problems, cardiac disease, young children or senior citizens, officials said. Unhealthy air conditions were present Friday in the Reno area, prompting the Washoe County Health District to issue an air quality alert. “Smoke and long periods of poor air quality for many areas in northeastern California and western Nevada is expected to persist through at least Saturday,” the weather service’s Reno office said.
Concord: An adult who became infected with the Jamestown Canyon Virus has died, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said. The virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The adult, from Dublin, New Hampshire, was “hospitalized with worsening neurological symptoms and ultimately died,” the department said in a news release. “JCV infection was identified as a contributing cause to their death.” No further information was released about the person. The department said this has been the first detection of the virus in a person in the state this year. The risk of transmission of mosquito-borne diseases to people in Dublin will be increased to high as a result of the identified infection, the department said. The level for the surrounding towns of Harrisville, Peterborough, Jaffrey, and Marlborough will increase to moderate. “Jamestown Canyon Virus and the other mosquito-borne infections can cause serious illness,” said Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist. “As summer progresses into fall, the risk from mosquito-transmitted infections is expected to increase. So residents and visitors to New Hampshire should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, especially as people are encouraged to spend more time outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Since the first report of the disease in New Hampshire in 2013, there have been 15 human cases of JCV. Nationally, there are about 15 human cases of the virus diagnosed each year.
Barnegat Light: Coast Guard authorities said a boater was airlifted to a hospital with injuries reportedly sustained after his vessel ran aground off New Jersey. Authorities said the Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay was called Saturday after the 33-foot pleasure craft ran aground in Oyster Creek Channel near Barnegat Light. A 29-foot-Coast Guard vessel was launched to assist the 62-year-old man, who had injuries to his rib and arm. After he was stabilized, he was taken to Station Barnegat Light and then transported to Jersey Shore Medical Center for additional treatment.
Albuquerque: With more than four months remaining, Albuquerque has had a record number of homicides this year within the city limits. City police said the homicide total hit 81 early Sunday. The previous record was set in 2019, when there were 80 homicides in Albuquerque. The total dropped to 77 in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Albuquerque Journal reported the city isn’t alone in seeing a tremendous spike in violence in 2021. Data released by the Major Cities Chiefs Association showed that in the first six months of 2021, 45 U.S. cities out of the 66 that responded to a survey saw more homicides than in the first six month of 2019.
New York City: Citi Bike said it is aware of a scam in which thieves are switching the QR code stickers on rental bicycles in order to steal bikes unwittingly unlocked by customers. The scammers wait for a renter to unlock a bicycle using the QR code, then ride away on the bike to which the code actually belongs, officials said. “Citi Bike is aware of this issue and, while it has not been widespread, we have been actively working to address it in a number of ways, including upgraded QR decals,” Citi Bike spokesperson Jordan Levine told The New York Post. Each rental ride costs $3. But a customer can be charged $1,200 if a bicycle they rent ends up lost or stolen. June and July were two of the busiest months in the history of the program, with a total of more than 6.2 million rides purchased in New York City, including a single-day high of 126,099 rides on July 24, Levine said.
Raleigh: A snake collector whose escaped zebra cobra caused a frenzy for days this summer in a Raleigh neighborhood has pleaded guilty to a charge, agreeing in turn to pay restitution and give up his snakes. Christopher Gifford, 21, had been charged last month with 40 misdemeanors stemming from the venomous snake’s escape. Authorities ultimately captured it in late June. The snake actually had escaped last November, according to Gifford’s attorney, but he hadn’t told anyone, media outlets reported. Under Friday’s agreement in Wake County court, Gifford pleaded guilty to failing to report the missing snake. In exchange, the other 39 counts were dropped. The charge he pleaded guilty to also will be dismissed if Gifford successfully completes his probation. “It was a huge mistake,” Gifford said after the court hearing. “Whatever I can do to fix it, I’ve been trying to do.” The deal requires no time behind bars. He must pay $13,162 in part for the emergency and police response to locating the loose snake. And the dozens of snakes that he must relinquish will be used for antivenom and cancer research, said Anna Smith Felts, Gifford’s attorney. Venomous snakes are legal to own in North Carolina, but they must be kept in escape-proof, bite-proof enclosures and owners must notify law enforcement if one escapes. The cobra was reported outside a home on June 28 and captured two days later. During the search, residents were told to stay away from the snake if they saw it and call 911.
Bismarck: The pending sale of a financially troubled coal-fueled power plant is now in the hands of state regulators, who need to sign off on several permits so that the incoming owners can operate it. Affiliates of Rainbow Energy Marketing Corp. seek to purchase from Great River Energy the Coal Creek Station plant and an associated transmission line that runs from the plant’s location in central North Dakota to Minnesota. Great River supplies electricity to 28 rural Minnesota cooperatives, serving about 1.7 million people. The companies have applied for permit transfers from the North Dakota Public Service Commission related to the transmission line and a water pipeline, The Bismarck Tribune reported. The commission is set to hold an informal hearing Aug. 18 to discuss the matter, particularly with Rainbow Energy, Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann said. The Sierra Club, a San Francisco-based group that wants to curb the use of fossil fuels, has been critical of the sale and has argued the process “lacked transparency and engagement.” Rainbow Energy is based in Bismarck and manages power and natural gas assets for clients within the utility sector.
Cincinnati: A Common Pleas judge has ordered a man being sentenced on a felony drug charge to get vaccinated against COVID-19 within two months as a condition of his probation. Judge Christopher Wagner’s office emailed a statement on Friday along with a transcript of Wednesday’s hearing involving Brandon Rutherford, 21. Rutherford pleaded guilty in June to possessing the synthetic opioid fentanyl. “This defendant was in possession of fentanyl, which is deadlier than the vaccine and COVID 19,” Wagner’s statement said. “The defendant expressed no objection during the proceedings and stated no medical concerns, and his attorney did not object. We will have to see what happens now that the defendant is expressing opposition.” Wagner told Rutherford he presumed he hadn’t been vaccinated because he was wearing a mask, which Rutherford confirmed. When asked, Rutherford told the judge he wasn’t worried about the vaccine. “I just never went to get it,” he said. Rutherford’s attorney, Carl Lewis, told WCPO-TV, which first reported the sentence, he had never heard of a judge issuing such an order. “If he truly believes that he’s within his authority to order the individual to get a vaccine, then we’ll have some legal issues,” Lewis said.
Oklahoma City: A judge has ordered the state to reinstate a pandemic-related supplemental federal unemployment assistance program that was cut off to thousands of workers in June. In a letter to attorneys in the case late Friday, Oklahoma County District Judge Anthony Bonner granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting Oklahoma from withdrawing from the program until he issues a final order in the case, or until the program expires in September. “Oklahoma shall notify the U.S. Department of Labor immediately to reinstate and administer the federal unemployment benefit programs,” Bonner wrote. Attorney Brendan McHugh said his clients are pleased and awaiting a detailed order, which Bonner said would come Monday. “It’s always a good day when a judge or the court system tells an elected official they exceeded their power or have gone too far,” McHugh told the Associated Press. Gov. Kevin Stitt in May announced the supplemental payments would end in late June, but was not named in the lawsuit. Alex Gerszewski, spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office, said the order was being reviewed and declined further comment.
Portland: A coalition of bars in Portland has banded together to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination at the door as the delta variant spreads throughout the state. The coalition of 15 bars is being organized by Teardrop Cocktail Lounge owner Daniel Shoemaker, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. He said he expects to add as many as 30 more establishments in the coming days as they seek to protect customers and staff by allowing only vaccinated guests inside. Each bar in the coalition will create its own rules around what constitutes proof, but generally a vaccine card or photo of it should suffice
Pittsburgh: U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb announced his candidacy for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat, joining a crowded Democratic field in one of the nation’s most competitive races. Lamb is seeking the nomination to replace outgoing GOP U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor, rose to political prominence three years ago when he beat a Donald Trump-backed Republican in a special election that foreshadowed the 2018 Democratic takeover of the House. The Senate race is wide open on both sides and is expected to be among the most expensive in a 2022 U.S. midterm election that will decide party control of an evenly split Senate. Toomey is retiring after two terms. Lamb launched his campaign Friday afternoon at a union hall in Pittsburgh, making a heavy economic pitch to working and middle class voters while slamming Republicans who tried to overturn the last presidential election. Pennsylvania Republican Chair Lawrence Tabas panned Lamb’s entrance into the race, asserting Lamb – considered a Democratic moderate – has a “reckless track record of putting liberal interests over Pennsylvanians.”
Providence: The city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, canceled last year and postponed this year because of the pandemic, has been rescheduled for Sept. 18, organizers said Friday. The parade is scheduled to start at noon and will be preceded by two road races. Former fire Chief Michael Dillon was named the grand marshal, with Citizen’s Bank executive and state Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam as deputy grand marshal. The parade will also honor first responders and front-line workers who have helped the city’s response to the pandemic. Newport’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been canceled two years in a row.
Greenville: The Greenville News reported city officials are considering selling the city’s convention center to Greenville County. The convention center usually runs at a deficit, and the city paid a shortfall of more than $1 million last year as events were canceled because of the pandemic. The convention center was used instead for testing and vaccination efforts against the virus. City spokesperson Liz Brotherton said the Greenville Convention Center is “an important asset to our hospitality and tourism industry,” but said the city can’t afford to absorb the losses on its own. The city’s agreement with SMG, the convention center’s private manager, is scheduled to end June 30, 2022. SMG makes $165,000 a year, and gets paid bonuses if it reduces the amount the city loses on the convention center. Brotherton said the last time SMG got a loss-reduction incentive was in 2019. Selling the convention center to the larger county government could keep it in operation, drawing events to the area.
Sturgis: Law enforcement officials said the first few days of this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally have been among the busiest they have seen. About 700,000 people were expected to celebrate their enthusiasm for motorcycles at the 10-day event that kicked off Friday. “There are more people here than in the 31 years I’ve been doing this,” Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin told the Rapid City Journal on Saturday. Law enforcement in Sturgis and Meade County are reporting their calls for service during the first few days are up dramatically compared to previous years. Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater said officers have issued 207 violations for open containers of alcohol since Friday. The city allows open containers of beer and wine, but not liquor, during the rally in certain downtown areas, but drinkers must purchase a special cup to do so. “You can’t use cans or red cups. You must use the official souvenir cup purchased from the city and have a wrist band,” VanDewater said. The chief said only two arrests have been made for open container violations because the patrons were uncooperative; the rest have been verbal warnings. Arrests have also been made for drugs and traffic violations, police reported.
Nashville: Tennessee has seen a 90% increase in people receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination over the past two weeks, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said. Piercey praised the bump in inoculations while warning that the virus continues to surge throughout the state. She said pediatric cases are “quickly on the rise.” “We’ve had increased vaccine uptake among Tennesseans, and I don’t really care what the reason is. I want our work to be effective but whatever it is that’s causing it, I appreciate that and am encouraged by that,” Piercey said. About 39.4% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated, among the lowest rates in the country. Tennessee’s low vaccination rates recently attracted national scrutiny after Piercey fired the state’s former vaccine director and paused outreach for childhood vaccines. Piercey later said the pause was to ensure that childhood vaccine marketing targeted parents, not children, as some lawmakers claimed.
Austin: The fourth and final phase in the enforcement of a city-wide homeless camping ban began Sunday. From this point forward, arrests are to be made if an individual refuses to leave an area. The heightened enforcement came as city officials are working to try to avoid that scenario by continuing to move people out of encampments and into shelter at hotels owned by the city. That process has been completed at encampments in two areas of town and was set to be completed by the end of last week at a third encampment in downtown along Caesar Chavez Street. All told, about 130 people will have been moved from the three encampments and into two hotels since the middle of June, according to the city. A fourth encampment in northwest Austin is next to be addressed under a City Council plan to connect people experiencing homelessness to housing through the HEAL initiative. Beginning Sunday, arrests will be made if police issue a citation for camping and the cited individual refuses to leave the area. In that scenario, the person being arrested is to be processed through the Downtown Austin Community Court whenever possible so they can be connected to services specific to people experiencing homelessness.
Salt Lake City: Smoke filled the skies of Utah as a cold front swept wildfire smoke into the state. The front moving in from the west picked up smoke from fires in California and Oregon, including a growing fire that leveled a small California town earlier this week, National Weather Service meteorologist Christine Kruse told KSL.com. The air quality got so bad that the site WorldIQ Air, which tracks air quality across dozens of cities globally, ranked Utah’s capitol among the worst in the world. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality forecast air quality to reach levels unhealthy for all groups of people in Salt Lake, Davis, Tooele and Utah counties. Division of Air Quality recommended everyone avoid outdoor activity as much as possible and limit driving. Those in sensitive populations were recommended to be even more careful. Several schools canceled outdoor activities. Poor air quality is linked to spikes in multiple health issues, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, heart attacks and stroke. It also increases the risk of viral infections, such as COVID-19, said Dr. Denitza Blagev, a pulmonary physician at Intermountain Healthcare.
North Hero: A lack of security is forcing the court system to reduce in-person services at the Grand Isle Superior Court. The new plan will still allow in-person drop-off of filings two days a week. The changes will not limit the judiciary’s ability to conduct hearings or address other court-related needs of the public. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand Isle Courthouse has been conducting proceedings almost entirely remotely principally because the building lacks the ventilation system necessary to meet court’s COVID-19 protocols. Court Administrator Patricia Gabel said the courts would continue to be available via phone and that remote hearings will continue.
Charlottesville: The University of Virginia is requiring everyone on campus to wear masks indoors starting Monday in the wake of rising coronavirus infections from a highly contagious variant. All students, faculty, staff and visitors – including those vaccinated – will have to wear masks when entering any UVA building, The Daily Progress of Charlottesville reported. The restrictions, in keeping with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came as fall classes begin later this month. Like elsewhere in the country, the delta variant is contributing to an increase in daily cases and hospitalizations in Virginia. “This policy will allow us to start the year at full capacity and reduce the likelihood of a spike in cases driven by the delta variant and a coming together of students from many places,” UVA provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis wrote in an email to the university community Friday. UVA officials said they’re hoping to lift the mask mandate for those who are vaccinated by Sept. 6. Virginia Tech also announced late last week that all instructors and students will have to wear face coverings in classrooms and laboratories when classes begin Aug. 23.
Vancouver: Nearly 50 years after skyjacker D.B. Cooper vanished out the back of a Boeing 727 into freezing rain – wearing a business suit, a parachute and a pack with $200,000 in cash – a crime historian is conducting a dig on the banks of the Columbia River in search of evidence. KOIN reported that Eric Ulis, a self-described expert on the D.B. Cooper case, began a two-day dig on Friday. Ulis and four volunteers are searching for evidence about 10 to 15 yards away from where a boy found $6,000 of Cooper’s ransom money in 1980. Ulis said his theory is that Cooper buried the parachutes, an attache case and the money at the same time, but dug smaller holes instead of a large one. The case of Cooper has become infamous, not only in the Pacific Northwest but also in the country. The FBI Seattle field office called the investigation one of the longest and most exhaustive in the agency’s history.
Lawn: Law enforcement officials said two people have been arrested after they were found chained to pipeline construction equipment in Greenbrier County. Local news outlets reported the two were found Friday morning in the Dawson area secured to pipeline equipment with chains and a welded pipe. According to the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s office, local fire department officials helped extract the pair, who were below ground level in a hole. Deputies said one individual voluntarily climbed out, but the other refused and had to be lifted out. The two face charges of trespassing, obstructing an officer and conspiracy. It was not immediately known if they had an attorney. Known as the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the project has faced various legal challenges from environmental groups because construction has led to violations of regulations meant to control erosion and sedimentation. The 303-mile pipeline will take natural gas drilled from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations and transport it through West Virginia and Virginia
Boscobel: Residents of Grant County are cleaning up debris Sunday after a tornado touched down near Boscobel destroying or damaging homes and farm outbuildings. Initial damage assessments by fire departments in the area indicated six homes were destroyed, five had major damage and 10 had minor damage from the storm that hit Saturday night. As for barns and sheds, 11 outbuildings were destroyed, 10 received major damage and two had minor damage. No injuries have been reported, and no residents have requested shelter, according to Grant County Emergency Management. Volunteers were helping clean up the area Sunday afternoon. The tornado touched down near the Boscobel city limits and traveled southeast roughly four miles, according to initial reports. Crews from the National Weather Service were surveying damage to determine the tornado’s velocity.
Gillette: Former U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi was remembered Friday during his funeral as an honorable statesman and family man who was focused on leadership, tradition and faith. The Wyoming Republican died July 26 after he was hospitalized with a broken neck and ribs for three days following a bicycle accident near Gillette. He was 77. Friends, family, constituents and colleagues gathered at a college athletic center in Gillette for Enzi’s funeral, and a line to get inside stretched out the door before the service started. Enzi’s son, Brad, recalled how his father was so dedicated to his family that he received special permission to leave the Senate between votes so he could travel to Wyoming to hold one of his newborn granddaughters, if only for a couple of hours. Addressing his mother, who was married to Mike Enzi for 52 years, the younger Enzi said, “I’ve never in my life seen a man more enamored, more proud, and more googly-eyed. … You only need to look at photos where he looks at you and not at the camera to remember his love for you.” Wyoming’s entire congressional delegation attended the service, as did several of Enzi’s former colleagues in the Senate, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, The Gillette News Record reported.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States