Decatur: A man being booked into jail wound up at a hospital rather than behind bars after a scan revealed a shotgun shell in his abdomen. Prisoners entering the Morgan County Jail routinely undergo a body scan when being admitted, and a recent image showed what appeared to be a shell from a .410-gauge shotgun that had been swallowed inside a person, spokesperson Mike Swafford said Thursday. “He was never booked in,” Swafford said. “When our medical staff saw that, they said, ‘He has to go to the hospital.’ ” The man, who had been arrested by another law enforcement agency in the county, was later released on his own recognizance, Swafford said, and it was not clear what happened to the shell. Authorities did not release the person’s name or the reason for the arrest. The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department posted an image of the scan on its social media account to let people know about the screening process at the jail, Swafford said. While baggies or other containers holding drugs are sometimes uncovered inside prisoners, he said, finding ammunition was unusual. “We don’t see a shotgun shell very often,” he said. “We speculate it had drugs in it, but we don’t really know.”
Juneau: Officials at museums across the state have condemned repeated acts of antisemitic vandalism this year targeting the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage. During instances in May and September, someone placed swastika stickers on the building or carved the symbol associated with the Nazis into the museum door, the Juneau Empire reports. “Alaskan museums are appalled by the attacks, and they are eager to show support for the Alaska Jewish Museum and the Alaska Jewish Campus as they seek to address these crimes and ensure the safety of their facilities and community,” Dixie Clough, director of statewide museum association Museums Alaska, said in a statement. The September acts of vandalism came as the Anchorage Assembly held public hearings about instituting a mask mandate for 60 days as COVID-19 cases spiked. Many opponents packed the Assembly chamber to protest, including some wearing yellow Star of David stickers, similar to the patches Holocaust victims wore, to compare the mandate to what Jews faced under the Nazi regime in Germany. Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, who opposes all COVID-19 mandates, initially defended the use of the stars but apologized the next day, saying that “I understand that we should not trivialize or compare what happened during the Holocaust to a mask mandate.”
Phoenix: A new organization calling itself a nonpartisan school board association is headed by GOP activists, including the first vice chair and treasurer of the Republican Party of Arizona, as well as the daughter of the chairwoman. The Arizona Coalition of School Board Members was launched Oct. 12 as an alternative to the Arizona School Boards Association, with the goal of fostering “a public education environment in Arizona that prioritizes freedom in education, parental rights and educational excellence,” the Arizona Capitol Times reports. “For too long, school board members in Arizona have been left without a choice,” the coalition’s announcement video said. Currently, every school district in the state is a member of ASBA, which dates back more than 70 years and provides advocacy, legal resources and training for member districts. But some parents and conservative groups have voiced opposition to ASBA in recent years over the organization’s positions on issues like Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and, more recently, “critical race theory” and the handling of COVID-19. For instance, ASBA is currently a plaintiff in a case before the Arizona Supreme Court challenging Arizona’s mask mandate ban and other Republican policies tucked into this year’s budget reconciliation bills.
Little Rock: The state Supreme Court on Thursday said the endorsement required for a casino license must come from elected local officials in office at the time of the application, a key victory for the Cherokee Nation’s efforts to build a casino in the state. Justices upheld an Arkansas law and state Racing Commission rule on the requirement, reversing a lower court’s decision that they were unconstitutional. Voters in 2018 approved an amendment requiring the state to allow four casinos. Since then, casinos have opened at racetracks in Hot Springs, West Memphis and Pine Bluff. One of the applicants for the casino, Mississippi-based Gulfside Casino Partnership, submitted its application in 2019 with a letter of support from Pope County’s former judge. Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation Businesses submitted an application with the county’s current judge. “Today’s ruling is exciting and greatly appreciated,” former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, legal counsel for Cherokee Nation Businesses, said in a statement. “I know CNB is ready to put an end to litigation and start building. We anticipate CNB’s license will be issued as soon as the mandate is effective, and we will work quickly to bring final resolution to any remaining lawsuits.” Gulfside, however, said the legal fight over the license was not yet over.
Three Rivers: In the wake of California wildfires, upward of 10,000 trees weakened by fires, drought, disease or age must be removed – work that will keep a nearby highway closed to visitors who seek the world’s two largest sequoia trees. The hazard trees could potentially fall onto people and cars on the section of State Route 180 known as Generals Highway, or they could create barriers for emergency and fire response, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks said Friday. The highway is closed due to the KNP Complex blaze, which was 60% contained after burning 138 square miles of forest, and will remain blocked off to visitors after the fire is out while saw crews cut down trees and trim branches. The road connects Giant Forest – home to the General Sherman Tree, considered the world’s largest by volume – and Grant Grove, home to the General Grant Tree, the second-largest tree in the world. The trees along the highway include sequoias, pine and conifer trees, said fire spokeswoman Kimberly Caschalk. The KNP Complex has been burning since Sept. 9, and forest officials said earlier this month that it may have killed hundreds of giant sequoias, but the full extent of the damage has not been determined. Firefighters took extraordinary measures to protect the most notable trees. Forest staff unwrapped the base of General Sherman on Friday.
Denver: A private ranch with ponds, springs and rare wetland plants will be part of a new state park, Sweetwater Lake. Joined by state and federal parks officials Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis announced the 488-acre ranch near Sweetwater Lake, in a mountainous northwestern county that borders Utah, will also become part of the White River National Forest. The ranch land near the Flat Tops mountain range was acquired in the federal park service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund purchase Aug. 31. The area was among the federal program’s top-priority purchases to increase public recreation and protect the area’s wildlife, cultural and scenic values, the governor’s office said in a statement. In an effort to increase the area’s public recreation, a new boat launch will be available next June. The state also plans to consult with the public and develop a long-term plan to expand and manage recreational activities while preserving the undeveloped nature of the property, Polis said in a statement.
Hartford: Gov. Ned Lamont has submitted a request for a major disaster declaration to the Biden administration, seeking federal funds to help the state recover from damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. The Sept. 1 storm dumped as much as 8 inches of rain on parts of Connecticut, resulting in heavy flooding and an estimated $7.2 million in damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure, Lamont said. It also resulted in the death of State Police Sgt. Brian Mohl, whose vehicle was swept away in floodwaters. Lamont’s request would allow homeowners in Fairfield and New London counties, as well residents of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribal Nation, to receive federal reimbursements for the costs of uninsured damage to their housing and personal property. According to Lamont’s request, just 8% of damaged homes in New London County and 23% in Fairfield County had flood insurance. The proposed declaration also would allow municipalities in Fairfield and Middlesex counties to receive up to 75% federal reimbursement of the costs of uninsured damage to roads and other infrastructure, as well as costs for emergency response. The governor’s office said public assistance damage assessments in Litchfield, New Haven and New London counties had not yet been completed.
Wilmington: A federal lawsuit has been filed against a police officer seen on social media repeatedly slamming a man’s head during an arrest last month inside a convenience store. In addition to using “excessive force,” the lawsuit filed in Wilmington’s U.S. District Court claims Patrolman Samuel Waters used a racial slur when arresting 44-year-old Dwayne Brown, who is Black. Waters is white. “Such racial statements are reflective of his state of mind and discriminatory intent in this incident,” says the lawsuit, filed by the Jacobs & Crumplar Law Firm. The Wilmington Police Department, which placed Waters on administrative duty as video of the Sept. 21 incident went viral, could not be immediately reached for comment Monday. The agency has said its Office of Professional Standards immediately launched an investigation into what the video captured. Wilmington Police Department has not released the officer’s name but said he has been on the force for three years. The lawsuit, which only names Waters as a defendant, claims Brown’s constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable seizures guaranteed to him by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated. Earlier this month, civil rights activists called for Waters’ firing and arrest.
District of Columbia
Washington: In an effort to relieve some of the frustration caused by Metro’s rail service reduction, Capital Bikeshare is offering free 30-day memberships to D.C. residents, WUSA-TV reports. Residents can go on the Capital Bikeshare or Lyft Mobile apps and, under the “Ride Plans” section, select “Pricing” to choose a 30-day membership for $0. Users need a valid credit card and phone number to register. Riders will be able to take unlimited free, 45-minute rides on the red classic Capital Bikeshare bikes with no unlocking or travel fee. Longer rides will cost $0.05 per minute for a pedal bike and $0.10 per minute on e-bike rides. “The service disruptions at Metro are deeply troubling for D.C. and the region,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “D.C. is open, and we need a fully functioning transit system to get workers, students and visitors across the city. We have been intentional, over the past several years, about making Capital Bikeshare more accessible and convenient for D.C. residents, and now we are proud to be able to offer this free one-month membership to every Washingtonian who might need it.” Capital Bikeshare has more than 5,000 bikes available at over 650 stations in the region. That includes a 20-bicycle pilot of new adaptive bikes for people with disabilities.
West Palm Beach: The names of three police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a knife-wielding man won’t be released because they’ve invoked their right to remain anonymous under a 2018 amendment to the state’s constitution. The West Palm Beach officers were trying to take Allan Lorenzo Robb, 33, into custody early Oct. 17 when he showed the knife. One of the officers fatally shot Robb after “less lethal” weapons used by two other officers were ineffective, officials said. The police department cited Marsy’s Law as the reason to keep the officers’ names private. The voter-approved Marsy’s Law allows crime victims or their families to request their names be withheld from public documents. A state appeals court ruled in April that the amendment could be used to shield the identities of law enforcement officers involved in use-of-force incidents. Since the ruling, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Boynton Beach Police Department and the Boca Raton Police Department have cited the amendement in such cases. The three officers have been placed on administrative leave while the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate the shooting.
Dublin: Federal prosecutors say more than $57,000 in pandemic relief funding was spent on one Pokemon card. Court records show a Dublin man is charged with lying on an application for an economic relief loan about the number of people his business employed and the company’s gross revenue. He faces one count of wire fraud. According to the court filing, he received $85,000 in August 2020 and used the money to buy a Pokemon card for $57,789. The Telegraph reports defense lawyers issued a statement declining to talk about the case. Rare Pokemon cards can sell for thousands of dollars. Collectors have been bidding up prices for trading cards, video games and other mementos. Dublin, a city of about 16,000 people, is located about 130 miles southeast of Atlanta.
Honolulu: More than half of first responders who applied for exemptions from the city’s vaccine mandate cited religion as their reason for not getting inoculated against COVID-19. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports 57% of all exemption requests among first responders pointed to faith. The city requires all government employees to be vaccinated unless an exemption is granted. Exemptions include religion or medical conditions, and only those who qualify may use regular coronavirus testing to bypass the vaccine requirements. City officials said those applying for medical exemptions must provide a letter from a doctor, and religious exemption applications must include a written statement as to why their religion would prevent vaccination. A federal judge dismissed a complaint last week that sought to stop state and county employee vaccination rules. The court said there are options for testing and exemptions, and the workers are therefore not being forced to take the vaccine, as the lawsuit alleged. The 12 first responders who filed the lawsuit claimed they were being forced to take an “experimental” vaccine. The Honolulu Police Department had the most exemption requests, with over 300 applications. City officials said about 90% of all employees were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 8.
Moscow: Students at state colleges and universities will be able to opt out of some fees under a plan approved by the Idaho State Board of Education on Thursday. The new fee structure allowing students to opt out of fees for activities, clubs and on-campus organizations goes into effect in the 2022-23 school year, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports. Students who decide to opt out of those fees will receive a refund from their school. Student fees – particularly the ones that go to support extracurricular activities, clubs and cultural events – have long been a source of debate in Idaho as lawmakers and administrators struggle to keep the state’s higher education institutions affordable and robust. Officials spent the spring and summer evaluating which student fees could be optional and how all the fees should be labeled. The new plan breaks the fees into four categories. The student enrollment, engagement and success category goes partly toward scholarships, and the institutional operations, services and support category helps fund maintenance. The student health and wellness category of fees helps cover the cost of fitness centers and counseling. The last category – student government fees – pays for student government and helps subsidize student clubs, organizations and activities. A portion of the latter is now optional.
Chicago: A North Carolina man who moved to Chicago was one of the victims of John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing 33 young men and boys in the 1970s, authorities said Monday. Francis Wayne Alexander would have been 21 or 22 when Gacy killed him sometime between early 1976 and early 1977, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said at a news conference in announcing the identification of Alexander’s remains. In a statement, Alexander’s sister, Carolyn Sanders, thanked the sheriff’s office for giving the family some level of “closure.” “It is hard, even 45 years later, to know the fate of our beloved Wayne,” Sanders wrote. “He was killed at the hands of a vile and evil man.” Alexander’s remains were among 26 sets police found in the crawl space under Gacy’s home just outside the city. Three victims, meanwhile, were found buried on Gacy’s property, and four others whom Gacy admitted killing were found in waterways south of Chicago. In 2011, Dart’s office exhumed the remains of eight victims who had been buried without police knowing who they were. Dart called on anyone who had a male relative disappear in the Chicago area in the 1970s to submit DNA. Alexander is at least the third identified from that batch. The effort also has helped police solve at least 11 cold cases of unrelated homicides and helped families find loved ones who had gone missing but were alive.
Stinesville: The town is offering to sell a set of vacant downtown buildings for $1 in hopes of finding new life for its tie to southern Indiana’s once-thriving limestone industry. The cluster of four one-story limestone buildings was built in the Monroe County town of Stinesville between 1886 and 1894. The Indiana Landmarks historic preservation group is working with the 200-person town about 10 miles northwest of Bloomington and has suggested the buildings could become an events venue, a restaurant, or a workspace for artisans or craftspeople, WRTV reports. The landmarks group described Stinesville as a boom town in the 1890s with nearly 1,000 residents as stone workers and carvers arrived for jobs at nearby limestone quarries. “The buildings embody the rich history of the local limestone industry and subsequent growth in the town in the late nineteenth century,” the preservation group said. Indiana Landmarks is accepting development proposals through Nov. 15. The town and Indiana Landmarks will then review the submissions based on “experience, qualifications, financial responsibility, capacity to undertake the project, and the appropriateness of the rehabilitation plan.”
Des Moines: Two decisions handed down Friday by the state Supreme Court promise to limit prosecutors’ ability to file amended charges close to trial, but a dissent warns that prosecutors may be forced to overcharge defendants to avoid having to refile cases from scratch. Under Iowa court rules, prosecutors have 45 days after someone is arrested to file a formal indictment or trial information specifying the charges against them. After that date, prosecutors can ask the court for permission to amend the charges, but not if the amendment would charge a “wholly new and different offense” or otherwise infringe on the defendant’s rights. In two cases decided Friday, James Vandermark and Jameesha Allen both argued a district court had wrongly allowed prosecutors to upgrade their charges at the last minute. The high court split 4-3 in favor of the defendants. In both cases, a court approved the amended charge over objections by the defense, finding the new charges were “substantially similar” to their original charges. Both trial courts were mistaken, Justice Christopher McDonald wrote, as the new charges each involved different elements to be proved and a substantially greater potential sentence. In his dissents, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote that the majority disregarded a number of precedents but agreed the law is “somewhat murky.”
Topeka: Law enforcement agencies across the state have received hundreds of complaints of bias over the past 10 years, but records available to the public show only two alleging racial bias resulted in consequences for officers, an Associated Press examination of the data shows. Advocates for racial equality question how that could be the case and suggest that law enforcement investigating complaints against other officers and a lack of transparency are problems. “We have the police policing the police,” said Sheila Officer, chairwoman of citizens group Racial Profiling Advisory Board of Wichita. She said independent citizen panels should conduct investigations of complaints. Law enforcement agencies and groups interviewed by the AP would not comment on the low overall rates at which bias complaints have been sustained but said that in their own departments, complaints are thoroughly investigated by officers independent of those accused. Kansas defines biased policing as an officer’s “unreasonable” use of a person’s race, ethnicity, national origin, gender or religion when enforcing laws. Lawmakers in 2011 required agencies to submit to the attorney general’s office annual reports outlining how many complaints they’d received and what they did about them.
Louisville: Repeated waves of COVID-19 cases, long hours and chronic staff shortages are taking a severe toll on the state’s nurses, with many citing stress, burnout and distress over encounters with hostile patients and family members. Further, as the pandemic drags on, nurses once viewed as health care heroes have found themselves confronted by some critics who claim COVID-19 isn’t real or are angry about measures such as vaccines and mask-wearing. “Now nurses have to change out of their scrubs to go to the grocery store,” said Delanor Manson, CEO of the Kentucky Nurses Association, which on Friday released a survey of nurses statewide about the state of their profession. Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to place immense demands on nurses, who account for about 53% of the state’s health care workforce, she said. A chronic shortage of nurses in Kentucky – also a national problem – has left nurses working long shifts in understaffed facilities, leaving them stressed, exhausted and burned out, found the survey from the nurses’ group. About 25% said they expect to leave their jobs within the next three months, which officials said would further worsen the shortage.
New Orleans: A critically endangered Sumatran orangutan at the city’s zoo is pregnant with twins. “We are very excited about this pregnancy,” Bob MacLean, senior veterinarian at the Audubon Zoo, said in a news release Thursday. “Twinning is extremely rare in orangutans – there is only about a 1% chance of this happening.” The births in December or January will be the first for Menari, 12, but the third and fourth sired by Jambi, a male orangutan brought to New Orleans in late 2018 from a zoo in Germany. It may be six years or more before the group’s next babies. Sumatran orangutans wean their offspring at about 7 years old and have the longest period between births of any mammals – 8.2 to 9.3 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The great apes with long red hair have been decimated by hunting as well as the destruction of the forests and peat swamps where they spend nearly all their time up in trees. About 13,500 are believed to exist in sustainable wild populations, and “overall numbers continue to decline dramatically,” according to the IUCN.
Portland: Motorists traveling through the state will pay more in tolls starting next month, as Maine looks to make up for revenue lost during the pandemic. The state faces a $60 million financial shortfall caused by less traffic during the pandemic, The Sun Journal reports. The Maine Turnpike Authority is increasing toll prices for the first time in nine years. About half of the nation’s toll roads increased their fees during the pandemic, said Peter Mills, the authority’s executive director. The authority estimates that about 71% of the higher tolls will be paid by people and companies from other states. The increase is estimated to generate more than $17 million annually. The changes take effect Nov. 1. Among them, the toll for passenger cars going through the new toll booths in York, Maine, will be $4 instead of $3. That change alone is expected to generate more than $14 million of the revenue. The authority had planned to increase tolls in 2028.
Annapolis: Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday urged all eligible residents to get COVID-19 booster shots, especially those with health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and the governor said the state will begin vaccinating children as soon as the federal government approves. Nearly 1.4 million Maryland residents are now eligible to receive a booster, Hogan said. People who received their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna shot six months ago who are 65 and older, 18 and older with underlying conditions, or 18 and older and work in high-risk settings are eligible. People who are 18 and older who received a Johnson & Johnson shot two months ago also are eligible. “We have a robust network of vaccination providers, including pharmacies, primary care providers, mobile clinics, local health departments and community health centers, and we have both the supply and the capacity to provide a booster shot to anyone who needs one,” Hogan said. To help residents determine their eligibility for a booster, state health officials have launched a new portal on covidvax.maryland.gov where residents can enter their information and learn next steps. The state has administered about 280,000 booster shots so far.
Boston: The city is joining other communities across the U.S. with large numbers of university students in planning to challenge the results of the once-a-decade head count, saying the 2020 census undercounted students as well as jail inmates and foreign-born residents. Mayor Kim Janey said in a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau this month that officials believe about 5,000 college students were missed in the city that is home to Boston University, Northeastern University, Suffolk University and the University of Massachusetts Boston. The city made its estimate based on records Boston schools are required to give to the city with addresses for students living off campus. The 2020 census began just as the pandemic took hold and as students were told to leave campuses. The results put Boston’s population at 675,647 people. The county’s corrections department estimates 500 jail inmates were missed, and city officials believe neighborhoods with large numbers of foreign-born residents were undercounted as well, the mayor said. “Issues such as language barriers and government mistrust, particularly with a possibility of a citizenship question, may have resulted in an undercount of these traditionally difficult populations to count,” Janey said.
St. Joseph: A county health officer frustrated with the “politicization of public health” in the COVID-19 era is quitting her job. Courtney Davis has been the interim health officer in Berrien County since July, when she was promoted from deputy. Communications manager Gillian Conrad is also resigning, The Herald-Palladium reports. Davis ordered masks in local schools to reduce the spread of COVID-19, though the order was dropped Sept. 29 when the health department believed its state funding would be in jeopardy. Davis said at the time that it was “appalling” that money was tied to mask policies. Davis said it’s been an honor to work for the department for nearly five years. “However, with the politicization of public health during the pandemic, I can no longer effectively do my job and serve the community with its health and safety always at the forefront,” she said. Davis’ last day is Nov. 3. In stepping down, Conrad said the pandemic had taken a “significant toll” on her mental and physical health. County Administrator Brian Dissette said there has been only one applicant for the job of permanent health officer, a role in which Davis was serving on an interim basis. He said he informed the state health department about the vacancies to try to add more “horsepower” to the search.
Chanhassen: The state’s congressional delegation on Monday introduced a resolution to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to pop superstar Prince, citing his “indelible mark on Minnesota and American culture.” The medal is one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, and past recipients include George Washington, the Wright Brothers, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, the Navajo Code Talkers, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Dalai Lama. “The world is a whole lot cooler because Prince was in it – he touched our hearts, opened our minds, and made us want to dance,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a statement. “With this legislation, we honor his memory and contributions as a composer, performer, and music innovator. Purple reigns in Minnesota today and every day because of him.” Prince, whose many hits include “Little Red Corvette,” “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry,” died April 21, 2016, of an accidental fentanyl overdose at age 57 at his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen. The resolution is led by Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., with the state’s full delegation co-sponsoring. “Prince is a Minnesota icon,” Omar said in a statement. “He showed that it was OK to be a short, Black kid from Minneapolis and still change the world. He not only changed the arc of music history; he put Minneapolis on the map.”
Hattiesburg: Local leaders honored a homecoming queen who gave her crown to a friend whose mother had just died of cancer. Forrest County Sheriff Charlie Sims presented Nyla Covington a citizenship award, and the county Board of Supervisors voted to pay her community college tuition and declared Oct. 18 to be Nyla Covington Day. “I think her act really gave people hope there are still good folks in the world,” Sims said. Covington, 18, was crowned homecoming queen Sept. 24 at Forrest County Agricultural High School. During a ceremony on the football field, Covington immediately walked over to senior homecoming maid Brittany Walters and placed the crown on her head. Walters’ mother, A.J. Walters, an administrative assistant at the school, died the day of homecoming but had made her daughter and husband promise Brittany would take part in festivities that night. Covington told WDAM-TV that Walters started to back away as she extended the crown to her. “I was like, ‘No, come here, get it. You’re your mom’s queen,’ ” she said. “I wanted her to know that, and then I hugged her.” Walters said she felt her mother’s presence through act of kindness. “I can see my mom through Nyla,” Walters said. “They have the same exact caring, giving spirit, and it’s really fulfilling.”
St. Louis: The state’s largest utility has set up a data center at the site of one of its coal-fired power plants that it is using to mine the internet for bitcoins. Ameren Corp. officials say the data center could also help stabilize demand for electricity that could help it avoid ramping production down and back up again, which is inefficient. Ameren officials told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch they believe the utility is one of the first regulated U.S. utilities mining cryptocurrencies. The company has already collected more than 20 bitcoins, valued, as of Friday, at more than $60,000 apiece. But critics question the $1 million project because they say it serves to artificially heighten demand for energy from coal, and the utility could put the resources to better use elsewhere such as by pursuing technology like battery storage or electric vehicle charging stations. “This really increases demand on the system and, therefore, demand for coal energy,” said local Sierra Club official Andy Knott, part of the group’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “I think what they’re trying to do is avoid having to ramp down their generators.” Officials with the utility say they envisioned the high-powered computers as a flexible and controlled way to help manage the electrical load.
Helena: Democratic leaders in the Legislature are asking for an investigation into whether the state’s attorney general abused his power by sending a Montana Highway Patrol trooper to a hospital over a complaint from the family of a COVID-19 patient. St. Peter’s Health said three public officials threatened to use their positions to force doctors and nurses to treat the patient with ivermectin, a drug used for parasites that is not federally approved for the respiratory disease, the Montana State News Bureau reports. Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s office acknowledged getting involved but has said it was to investigate a report that the woman’s family was not allowed to contact her and that legal documents were not being delivered. The hospital’s statement said otherwise. State Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour and House Minority Leader Kim Abbott wrote to Senate President Mark Blasdel and House Speaker Wylie Galt on Thursday and asked them to appoint a special counsel to investigate Knudsen’s actions and those of any other public officials who involved themselves in the complaint against the hospital. The patrol’s involvement raised jurisdictional issues. Helena police are usually called for security issues at the hospital.
Beatrice: Homestead National Historical Park rangers and volunteers have helped harvest seeds in the region’s tallgrass prairie to be used to restore disturbed areas of the prairie and increase species diversity. “We are always working on the oldest restored tall grass prairie in the National Parks Service, and this particular year we had to do some work along one of our trails, which did disturb the area, so we need to reseed it with our native plants,” said Jessica Korgie, a park guide at Homestead. The Beatrice Daily Sun reports that in order to restore the prairie, those in attendance walked through the trails near Homestead’s Education Center and collected flower and grass seeds that were ready to be harvested. They also wore tape around their waists and knees, which Korgie said was an experiment to see how seeds are propagated in the prairie. “If you think about the animals that are traveling through the tallgrasses, you have tall animals like deer, and you have small animals like the thirteen-lined ground squirrel,” Korgie said. “So we’re going to put tape up high and tape down low to see what kind of seeds we’re collecting at those heights, and let’s determine what kind of animals might be helping to redistribute this seed to other areas.”
Las Vegas: The school board for the metro area plans to consider whether to terminate Superintendent Jesus Jara’s employment contract this week. An agenda posted Friday for the Clark County School District trustees includes discussion and possible action Thursday on “termination of convenience” of Jara’s contract. Three board members requested the agenda item on Jara’s contract, which the board last May voted 4-3 to extend. It wasn’t immediately clear why the three trustees wanted to discuss Jara’s contract. He has faced criticism over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the decision to operate with 100% distance learning for about a year beginning in March 2020, as well as the school reopening process, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Regarding the board’s intention to consider his contract, Jara said Friday that he intends to focus on working for students and educators until he’s directed otherwise. The board also is scheduled to consider removing Linda Cavazos as its president. Jara has been superintendent since 2018, and his annual salary is $320,000.
Franconia: A fish ladder for trout breeding is being planned at the lake on the site where the Old Man of the Mountain once stood. The project is organized by a fund dedicated to helping to preserve a memorial to the Old Man of the Mountain. The massive, naturally formed granite profile attracted tourists to Franconia Notch for about 200 years before it crumbled in 2003. The memorial project was completed last year. The idea for a fish ladder to restore the natural trout breeding at the lake was first discussed years ago, when the Franconia Notch Parkway along Interstate 93 was built. “It’s a fish ladder leading from Profile Lake through all of the new development we did relating to wetlands and up to what is known as the old breeding pond,” Brian Fowler, president of the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund, told the Caledonian-Record. “Profile Lake’s regional trout breeding area was this pond area, opposite of I-93. … The construction of the interstate cut off this natural breeding cycle.” Since the highway was built, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has stocked the lake with trout. The legacy fund is partnering with the department, Trout Unlimited and the state parks division.
Paterson: Thanks to technological advances over the past decade, people in dire circumstances such as an active-shooter situation can text 911 and get a link back from emergency dispatchers in Bergen and Passaic counties to give authorities permission to see a streaming video recorded by their cellphone camera. “They can watch in real time what’s happening,” said Officer Jonathan Klos, commander of the Passaic County sheriff’s communications division. “And the officers can prepare themselves, which makes everyone a little bit safer – now they know what they’re walking into.” The cellphone video streaming technology, named 911eye, was originally developed in the United Kingdom by Capita, a digital services business that helps first responders. The program allows authorities to do recon of a given area through the caller’s phone camera. “When the dispatcher can see live what’s going on, you’re going to get the right resources quicker,” said Brian Higgins, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the former chief of the Bergen County Police Department. “This compresses the timeline, and responding officers have a heads-up about what’s going on.”
Santa Fe: Legislators are drafting a plan to ease restrictions against retired police officers coming back to work, in an effort to add law enforcement officers across the state in the midst of a labor shortage. At a legislative committee hearing last week, retired police officer and state Rep. Bill Rehm outlined a proposal for changes to retirement provisions for police that would incentivize a return to work. He said officers might continue to draw pension benefits while working and contributing to the pension fund, or they could delay retirement benefits for a bigger payout later. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is calling for the deployment of 1,000 additional police officers across New Mexico amid public frustration with crime. She said she will ask lawmakers for $100 million to underwrite the initiative. New Mexico amended rules at the Public Employees Retirement Association in 2010 to halt so-called double-dipping in response to concerns about fairness and the long-term solvency of the public pension fund for state and local government employees. Opponents of retired police rehiring plans say it can hurt morale by limiting career advancement opportunities for ambitious younger officers and threaten efforts to modernize law enforcement agencies.
Albany: Workers facing layoffs now have a right to ask their employers instead to trim all workers’ hours and have unemployment insurance help offset the losses for everyone, under a law that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed Saturday. The measure is meant to increase awareness of what is known as the “shared work program.” It already exists in New York but hasn’t been very widely utilized, though there has been an uptick during the coronavirus pandemic. Newsday reported in March that nearly 2,700 employers statewide newly enrolled in the program during the pandemic’s first year. The new legislation says workers can petition employers to launch shared work instead of laying people off or rehiring only some of the workforce after a prior layoff. The employer has to respond to the request but doesn’t have to grant it. The law, which took effect immediately, also prohibits retaliating against workers who ask for the arrangement. Proponents say shared work programs help employees keep their jobs, help businesses keep people they’ve trained and make particular sense now. “We need to make sure our recovery efforts focus on supporting workers,” Hochul, a Democrat, said in a release.
Manteo: An abandoned vessel that ran aground on a beach more than a year ago will finally be removed. WRAL-TV reports the removal process is starting just in time for Halloween. Initially, most of the former scallop boat was visible along the shoreline. But it has been slowly sinking into sand along the beach south of Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Oregon Inlet Campground. Now, more than half of it is buried. The haunting 72-foot-long shipwreck became a popular lure for tourists after it ran aground in March 2020. The crew was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. The National Park Service has been warning people to stay away, saying exploring the vessel is dangerous because of unstable sand shifting beneath it. Also, while the wrecked vessel is visible during low tide, it becomes completely surrounded by the ocean during high tide. Officials must remove the vessel before it disappears beneath the sand. The removal project is expected to cost about $295,000. It was expected to begin Monday and take roughly a month to complete.
New Town: A college on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is offering an incentive for students to get COVID-19 vaccines. Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College in New Town announced that students who can verify they are fully vaccinated will receive $500. The shots must be completed by Nov. 4. “We are seeing a resurgence in the number of positive (coronavirus) cases in the Fort Berthold area and across the state of North Dakota and determined it was time to act,” said Twyla Baker, NHSC’s president. “The financial incentive rewards those who have prioritized their health and the health of others. It is also meant to motivate those who have not yet been vaccinated to act.” The Three Affiliated Tribes college offers in-demand certificate programs and associate degrees as well as three bachelor’s degrees.
Columbus: For the first time in its history, the state recorded more deaths than births last year – a development experts say was expedited by COVID-19. Roughly 143,661 Ohioans died last year, while 129,313 were born, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health. So far in 2021, the state has logged 107,462 deaths and 100,781 births. In the 112 years since statewide record-keeping began in 1909, data compiled by the Columbus Dispatch along with the Ohio History Connection shows deaths never previously surpassed births despite countless wars, economic downturns and disease. Ohio’s birthrate has been declining for years, while the number of deaths across the state has risen, meaning the two metrics were likely to swap places at some point. But data shows the pandemic rapidly hastened the switch. The coronavirus killed an estimated 13,927 Ohioans in 2020 alone, according to the state health department. That means the pandemic may account for 97% of the 14,348-person difference in births and deaths in 2020. In 2021, COVID-19 killed more than 9,400 Ohioans, more than the 6,681 difference in births and deaths so far this year. Deaths exceeded births in a record 25 states last year, according to research from the University of New Hampshire. In 2019, just five states saw more deaths than births.
Oklahoma City: A Republican state senator is drawing criticism for referring to Asian Americans as “yellow families” during a legislative committee meeting on racial inequity. Sen. Dave Rader, of Tulsa, made the comment Wednesday to Oklahoma Policy Institute analyst Damion Shade following Shade’s comments during an interim study on racial inequality in economics and the criminal justice system. “It wasn’t until well into your presentation did you go to yellow families; you left yellow families out for quite a while,” Rader said. “You mean Asian Americans?” Shade replied. “You use black term, white term, brown term, so I was just gonna jump in there with you,” Rader said, before asking questions about Black families. The word “yellow” is considered a derogatory term in reference to East Asians. In the late 1800s, Chinese Americans were deemed the “yellow peril,” despite living in the United States for years. Rader said in a statement to KFOR that he has worked to remove barriers to success for all types of people. “I’ve spent my entire life as a football coach and educator, fostering opportunities for individuals of every race and background,” he said. Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews said it’s frustrating Rader would make such a comment during a study on racial inequality.
Portland: A glass recycling plant has consented to either shut down or install pollution control technology, according to an agreement announced between the plant’s operators and the state. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality gave Owens-Brockway, a glass recycling facility in northeast Portland, two options after it reached an agreement with the company to resolve the fine of more than $1 million it issued in June. The glass plant was cited for multiple, ongoing air quality violations of particulate matter emissions as well as permitted opacity. “The best thing Owens-Brockway could do to come into compliance and protect the community is to install pollution controls,” DEQ’s Northwest Region Administrator Nina DeConcini said in a statement. “And if the facility decides to install pollution controls, this agreement requires they demonstrate that the controls achieve a 95% reduction in particulate matter emissions.” Under the agreement, Owens-Brockway must either submit a permit application to install pollution controls by June 30, 2022, or shut down. If the company decides to install pollution control technology, it would have to do so within 18 months of DEQ approval of the application.
Philadelphia: Workers for the area’s transit system have voted to authorize a strike next month if an agreement isn’t reached on a new contract. The Transport Workers Union Local 234 said a voice vote at a Sunday morning meeting in south Philadelphia approved a motion to allow union leaders to call a strike if an agreement with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is not reached in a week. The union represents about 5,000 bus drivers, cashiers, mechanics, and other workers providing service for buses, trolleys, the subway and elevated train lines. The current contract expires early Nov. 1, a day before the general election. “Our members are essential workers who have risked their lives and put their own families at risk during this pandemic,” union president Willie Brown told The Philadelphia Inquirer. He said the union was asking SEPTA to address “issues related to health and safety and modest economic improvements.” SEPTA said talks have been productive, and it hopes to avoid disruptions with agreement on a “fair and financially responsible” pact. The agency said it is still losing about $1 million a day in revenues due to ridership declines, with more people working at home during the pandemic and ridership not expected to return to February 2020 levels.
Providence: Ninety percent of adults in the state are now at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Dan McKee said Monday. The Democrat said Rhode Island is also now one of the top states in terms of the percentage of its population that is fully vaccinated. Overall, more than 77% of residents have received one vaccine dose, and more than 70% are considered fully inoculated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Rhode Island might be small, but we are mighty – especially when it comes to getting shots in arms,” McKee said in a statement. “Thank you to each and every Rhode Islander who stepped up to get vaccinated. It is because of you that we are leading the nation in vaccinations and economic recovery.” The governor said COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots continue to be available at sites across the state, including community centers, local businesses and schools, and more information can be found at C19vaccineRI.org. The state is averaging about 227 new cases of COVID-19 a day, down from about 264 a day two weeks ago. The state has reported 2,872 deaths from the coronavirus since the pandemic started.
Columbia: The state’s social services agency says it is now paying more money to providers in a program that subsidizes child care for low-income families. The Department of Social Services announced Wednesday that the agency has set up a new reimbursement rate structure for the SC Voucher program. The rates are now set based on the actual age of a child in the program, as opposed to what age group the child is in. That rate increase means families in the program will save money by covering fewer tuition expenses, the agency said in a news release. The new reimbursement structure also puts more money in the pockets of child care providers who may have struggled financially during the pandemic. A top-rated child care provider in the program might now receive $296 a week for full-time care of a child under 1 year old, whereas the previous rate structure would have allowed for a maximum of $205 weekly for any child up to 2 years old. The voucher program pays for more than 11,000 children to attend child care programs each month, according to the agency website. Parents must have an income below 150% of the federal poverty level to qualify.
Rapid City: Computer science students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology have built a new dating app, Lafdr, that matches people based on their taste in memes. After testing a prototype, the app for iOS and Android launched last month. Morgan Vagts and Debbie Liknes, who both graduated from Mines in May, channeled their frustration with existing dating apps by creating their own, the Rapid City Journal reports. Lafdr’s algorithm, built by Liknes, connects like-minded users through the memes they enjoy on the app. “Memes are a great conversation starter,” Vagts said. “It keeps the conversation light and lets people be themselves. … If you can laugh at a meme together, you know you have something in common.” Vagts said Lafdr is designed to help people find friendship or romantic connections, or users can simply browse the memes on Lafdr. Vagts and Liknes spent two years developing the app, which is geared toward college-age students but could potentially appeal to ages 18 to 35. “We were just sitting in Debbie’s living room, talking about the perils of online dating, and she joked about the idea of a meme-based app. And I thought, ‘Yes. That’s brilliant, let’s do it,’ and it evolved from there,” Vagts said.
Nashville: The state’s top medical licensing officials are pushing the state government to crack down on doctors and nurses who spread damaging misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, calling for aggressive probes with the potential to suspend professional licenses and end careers. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners and the Board of Nursing instructed the Department of Health to pursue investigations of medical professionals who made disprovable claims to patients or on social media. Board members told investigators to prioritize cases involving the most obvious falsehoods or outrageous lies – that vaccines are poisonous, cause infertility, contain microchips or can magnetize the body. Investigators should focus less on subjective statements, even if they cause harm and worsen vaccine hesitancy, board members said, because the state lacks the authority and manpower to discipline those who merely discourage vaccination. “I don’t know that we can police opinion, even though it’s wrong and even though it’s causing – obviously causing – major problems in this state,” said Dr. Debbie Christiansen, a member of the Board of Medical Examiners. “But we can tell people they cannot say things that are absolutely false.”
Kerrville: A driver lost control during a drag racing event on an airport runway and slammed into a crowd of spectators, killing two children and injuring eight other people, authorities said. A 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old boy were killed in the crash Saturday afternoon at an event called “Airport Race Wars 2” at the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport, police said in a news release. The organized event was attended by thousands and involved drivers speeding down a runway as they competed for cash. The driver “lost control and left the runway, crashing into parked vehicles and striking spectators who were observing the races,” Kerrville police said. The injured victims were taken to various hospitals, including a 46-year-old woman who was listed in critical condition. The majority of the other injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, although the condition of a 26-year-old man was unknown, authorities said. A 4-year-old boy and a 3-month-old girl were taken to a hospital for precautionary evaluations. The Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website promoted the event as an “action packed, family-friendly day” in which fans could watch the “fastest drag cars compete for over $8000 in total prizes.”
Salt Lake City: The top prosecutor in the state’s most populous county says he will no longer offer plea deals to defendants accused of gun-related crimes, in an effort to combat gun violence. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Wednesday that he was putting people “on notice” that his office will “throw the book at you.” He cited the recently released 2020 Crime in Utah Report, which showed an increase in homicides from 2019 to 2020. Two-thirds of those homicides involved firearms, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. The change means that gun offenders will have to plead guilty to more serious crimes or go to trial, likely resulting in longer sentences behind bars. There would be exception if “evidentiary issues, legal or ethical prohibitions” prevent a conviction, Gill said. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown and Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said they hope the new policy will send a message to prospective criminals and will help halt the “revolving door” of individuals who are repeat offenders.
Montpelier: Residents are being asked for their input on how to spend about $46.9 million to clean up water pollution in the state. The Vermont Clean Water Board is seeking feedback in an online questionnaire on the funding levels and the board’s proposed prioritization of funding, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation said. “The $46.9 million available in the 2023 clean water budget is an all-time high in funds available to improve Vermont’s water quality, in part thanks to additional leveraging of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds,” Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore said in a statement. “This is an exciting milestone and underscores the importance of public input to inform funding priorities.” The funding helps municipalities, farmers and others create projects that reduce pollution washing into waterways, ranging from farmers planting cover crops to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health to municipalities stabilizing roadside erosion, the department said. Water quality projects also help to protect Vermonters from damaging flooding, the agency said. The board’s draft budget is available online. Input can be sent through the questionnaire to the Clean Water Board through Nov. 19. The board will make final recommendations in December.
Richmond: Mike Mason, once one of the nation’s highest-ranking FBI officials, now drives students to school in a yellow bus each morning and afternoon. It wasn’t the career turn he’d imagined for himself. Mason was once the executive assistant director of the bureau, responsible for overseeing all criminal investigations, among other duties. But in his retirement, he felt a pull to help when there was a shortage of school bus drivers. “Probably half of the FBI’s operational resources fell under me,” said Mason, 63, who lives in Midlothian, Virginia. Since late April, he has been working for Chesterfield County Public Schools as a bus driver. While the work differs drastically from his previous profession, “I feel the same sense of duty,” he said. Each morning about 5:30 a.m., Mason carefully inspects his 24-foot-long bus – examining the interior and exterior – to ensure it’s safe for students to ride. “I get it ready to roll,” he said. “This is not hyperbole: I’m smiling every day I start that bus up.” He collects nine students ages 10 to 18 and drops them off at the Faison Center in Richmond, which offers educational programs for autistic children. Mason grew up in Chicago, was raised by a single dad who was a truck driver for the board of education. “That’s part of what makes me smile every morning as I crank this bus up,” he said. “It’s the connection to my father.”
Seattle: Tens of thousands of people were without power Monday after a strong Pacific storm system downed trees and power lines the day before. Most of those still without electricity were in the Seattle area, where utilities reported about 60,000 customers out. Two people died after a tree collapsed onto their car near Issaquah on Sunday. The Seattle Times reports they were traveling in a white sedan on a densely forested roadway when the tree came down across the car. “It’s a freak accident,” said Sgt. Tim Meyer, a spokesperson for the King County Sheriff’s Office. “Just a moment or two’s difference could have drastically changed how this ended.” About a dozen schools in the greater Seattle area were closed Monday or were on a delayed start due to power outages or other issues from the storm. On Sunday, wind gusts topping 60 mph also downed trees on Interstate 90 east of Seattle and cut power to more than 150,000 customers in the metro area and around Puget Sound.
Charleston: The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival held a rally at the state Capitol on Sunday to pressure U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin to support President Joe Biden’s package of social services and climate change strategies, according to a news release. Ahead of the rally, members of the campaign gathered the stories of residents they said would be abandoned by Manchin if he continued to insist on cuts to the package. Rally co-chair the Rev. William J. Barber II, in the release, called the West Virginia Democrat “the new Senator No.” “No to paying home health workers a living wage. No to free community college. No to dental and vision help for senior citizens. No to a $15/hour minimum wage. No to fully protected voting rights,” Barber said, adding that Manchin “still has a chance to say yes.” Also on Sunday, the campaign published full-page and digital ads in four West Virginia newspapers.
Madison: Republicans plan to launch another investigation of how the 2020 election was administered in the state, GOP leaders announced Monday. Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, Senate President Chris Kapenga and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dan Feyen said in a news release that Republican leaders will authorize the Senate’s elections committee to conduct the probe in the wake of findings legislative auditors released Friday. Auditors didn’t find any widespread fraud in the state but did identify inconsistent administration of election law based on surveys of ballots sampled from across Wisconsin. Auditors made 30 recommendations for the Wisconsin Elections Commission to consider and 18 possible legal changes for the Legislature. The GOP leaders’ news release said they would assess “the full impact of WEC’s deficiencies.” The release did not say when the Senate committee would begin the probe, how extensive it might be or whether the committee will be empowered to subpoena records. Elections Commission spokesman John Smalley said he hadn’t seen the release and had no immediate comment. A recount and court rulings have shown Democrat Joe Biden won Wisconsin, but former President Donald Trump and his followers have refused to accept defeat.
Jackson: Dozens of U.S. fellow Marines joined hundreds of Wyoming residents over the weekend to bid a final farewell at a memorial for Rylee McCollum, one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing as they guarded a gate at a chaotic Kabul, Afghanistan, airport during the final U.S. evacuation from that country. Many of the Marines were members of the 20-year-old McCollum’s unit serving in Afghanistan when he was killed Aug. 26. McCollum, a Marine lance corporal, grew up, went to school and enlisted for the Corps in the mountain valley area known as Jackson Hole, home to the town of Jackson. He was honored during Saturday’s Jackson service attended by more than 400 people. “We knew his potential. I knew he had the mindset,” said Staff Sgt. Luis Diaz, who recruited McCollum into the Corps. “I knew he had the spirit to accomplish anything he wanted.” McCollum was a dedicated Marine, enthusiastic and funny, said Cpl. Wyatt Wilson. When something had to be done, Wilson told the Jackson gathering, “I always grabbed Rylee because I knew it would be done right the first time,” the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports. Gov. Mark Gordon, who attended with U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, said Americans “should rejoice that heroes like Rylee are born.”
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Medal push for Prince, FBI bus driver: News from around our 50 states