Montgomery: A federal judge paved the way for Alabama to proceed with a lethal injection next month, but also reprimanded the state attorney general’s office for giving false information to the court during the litigation centered on forms given to death-row inmates for selecting an execution method. Chief U.S. District Judge Emily C. Marks dismissed a lawsuit that argued the state failed to give Willie Smith, who has an IQ below 75, required help under the Americans with Disabilities Act in filling out forms that affected the timing of his execution. Smith is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 21 by lethal injection for the 1991 kidnapping and murder of 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson in Birmingham. After Alabama authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method, the state gave death row inmates a brief window to select that as their execution method. The state has not yet developed a protocol for using nitrogen hypoxia and is not setting execution dates for inmates who requested it. Smith did not turn in a form selecting nitrogen. His attorneys argued that the state was required by law to help intellectually disabled inmates like Smith with the form. Marks dismissed the claim, saying the form was not required by state law and that Smith could have have written on his own to request nitrogen.
Juneau: The state plans to emphasize telework for state employees for the next month as the COVID-19 pandemic strains Alaska’s health care system. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, in a memo to state department leaders last week, said the state “must take measures to protect its health care infrastructure while still providing essential government services to its residents.” He wrote that, effective Monday, the state will emphasize telework “to the maximum extent practical, while still maintaining public facing presence and services.” This is to be in effect until Oct. 29, he said. A determination on any possible extensions will be made later, he said. Brian Penner, director of the union that represents supervisory employees, told the Anchorage Daily News the decision was welcomed.
Phoenix: Gov. Doug Ducey has ousted and replaced all five members of the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy in the wake of a newspaper’s critical report about the occupational regulatory panel’s handling of complaints about alleged sexual abuse by therapists. Ducey’s announcement Friday didn’t mention the Arizona Republic’s Sept. 15 investigative report that the board was lax in disciplining therapists accused of abuse, but he said it was crucial that the board “protects massage clients, especially those who are in a vulnerable position.” The announcement also said Ducey’s appointments implemented legislation enacted in 2020 to have the massage board and certain other regulatory panels have majorities of public members once current members’ terms expired. Public members are people not in the regulated occupations. Ducey noted that three of the five new members have experience in victim advocacy and support. The other two are licensed massage therapists with more than 25 years of experience.
Fort Smith: A new individualized-approached, tuition-free charter school will open for Fort Smith high school students next year. The Premier High School-Fort Smith will start enrolling in May and start its first school year in August, said Dennis Felton, state director of Premier schools. The school offers an educational environment that is individualized and small by design, according to the Premier website. “(It’s) for students when traditional school isn’t a fit for them,” said Jake Kurz, director of communications for Responsive Ed. “Sometimes that means a schedule and sometimes that means they need to recover credits (from where) they got behind. Sometimes that means they want to graduate early.” The school's curriculum is more student mastery-based, giving them a chance to work at their pace as opposed to a teacher’s pace, Felton said. The school offers different sessions for students so they can deal with a job or attend to other obligations if needed, Kurz said. The first Premier high school in Arkansas opened in Little Rock in 2013. The Fort Smith school will mark the fourth location in the state.
Los Angeles: U.S. Rep Karen Bass, D-Calif., intends to launch a campaign for Los Angeles mayor, joining a field of candidates that has rapidly grown over the last week, according to three people familiar with her plans. Such a move would deliver another shakeup to a contest that had been a sleepy affair for much of the year. Bass, a high-profile Democrat who has served in Sacramento and Washington, could announce her entry into the mayor’s race as early as this week, those sources told the Los Angeles Times. If Bass enters the race, she would be a formidable competitor, said Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who described himself as an ally of Bass since 1978.
Pueblo: The Coronado Motel, once one of the few spots in the city Black travelers could rely on for safe accommodation – it was one of a handful of places listed in “The Negro Traveler’s Green Book,” a guidebook that identified facilities hospitable to Black guests during the Jim Crow era – received the Stephen H. Hart Award from History Colorado’s State Historical Fund for its commercial, architectural and ethnic significance. It is one of five sites in Colorado to receive the award this year. The motel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places last year. The owners of the then-Coronado Lodge began officially listing the motel in the Green Book in 1957. The Green Book listed hotels, service stations, restaurants, drug stores and other locations that were safe ports of call for Black travelers, who faced discrimination and the threat of harm while traveling throughout the segregated country. Victor Hugo Green published the book annually until just after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Hartford: More than 70 members of the Connecticut National Guard were honored Saturday for their service after completing nearly one-year tours of duty. A welcome home ceremony was held for members of the Middletown-based 143rd Regional Support Group and several members of Detachment 2, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 641st Aviation Regiment at the state armory in Hartford. The Middletown-based soldiers supported Operation Spartan Shield in Jordan from October 2020 to July 2021, overseeing base operations and contracts at various facilities. The Windsor Locks-based aviation regiment conducted 166 C-12 air movement missions throughout eastern Africa in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa from September 2020 to July 2021. “These soldiers left their homes and families during a very difficult time in this country to answer the nation’s call and support U.S. security interests abroad,” Maj. Gen. Francis Evon said in a written statement. “We thank them for their sacrifice and their families who took care of the home front for almost a year. It’s always a great feeling when we get to welcome our people back home after completion of a successful mission.”
Dover: Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings has filed a lawsuit against chemical company Monsanto and spinoffs Solutia and Pharmacia, alleging long-lasting damage to the state’s natural resources. The lawsuit filed in Delaware Superior Court last Wednesday alleged Monsanto knew as early as 1937 that polychlorinated biphenyls had systemic toxic effects on humans and animals and it seeks to recover damages and clean-up costs, Jennings said in a news release. “Monsanto knew that PCBs were toxic and that once they entered the environment, they would be there to stay,” Jennings said. “Even as PCBs’ environmental harms became undeniable, Monsanto not only continued to manufacture and sell PCBs, but increased production. Now, decades since PCBs were banned, Delaware taxpayers are still footing the cleanup bill. We’re suing Monsanto and its spinoffs to make them pay to clean up their mess.” The suit also claims Monsanto understood and “actively promoted the fact that PCBs do not naturally break down; and continued to manufacture, market and sell PCBs despite full awareness of these dangers.” Bayer, which purchased Monsanto in 2016, responded to the lawsuit saying the company voluntarily ceased all PCB production in 1977, two years before production was banned, The News-Journal reported.
District of Columbia
Washington: Students at George Washington University continue to voice concerns about possible mold exposure on campus. In early September, the university ordered 175 students to temporarily evacuate their housing in Townhouse Row, along 23rd Street NW, because of environmental concerns. According to Maralee Csellar, director of communications at George Washington University, a team that inspected the housing identified conditions “conducive to biological growth”. The university did not say it had discovered mold. Around the same time of that investigation, another GW student also claimed he and his roommates had found a mold-like substance in Shenkman Hall, which is a residential tower located across the street from Townhouse Row. Shenkman resident and GW sophomore Luc Saint-Genies said his roommates were coughing for over a week after they found the material in parts of their living unit. Saint-Genies said he and his roommates were recently moved by the university to emergency housing at the River Inn hotel in Foggy Bottom after GW’s facilities division conducted an inspection of their residence. GW moved Townhouse Row students to two hotels, including the River Inn, after its inspection of that site as well.
Cape Canaveral: Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority and aerospace development agency, is investigating what it will take to bring more Space Force operations to Brevard County, an area already home to two military installations, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and dozens of commercial spaceflight companies. The branch established in late 2019 still needs to make decisions on where to establish some operations like training centers. Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station were among the first former Air Force facilities to be renamed as Space Force installations. Much like the Marine Corps falls under the purview of the Navy, the Space Force is positioned under Air Force leadership. Mark Bontrager, Space Florida’s vice president for spaceport operations, said, Florida could be an ideal location for training facilities, or what are known as technical schools. Tech schools usually come immediately after basic training and prepare new military members – in this case, Space Force guardians – for their specific roles. Vandenberg Space Force Base near Los Angeles, California, was already selected for the first of five STARCOM sub-commands, or “deltas,” but more selections are expected in the coming months. Its command headquarters, however, is still up for grabs.
St. Simons Island: Leaders on one of Georgia’s most popular coastal islands are considering letting developers build closer to sand dunes. The Brunswick News reported that a planning commission that governs construction on St. Simons Island is discussing reducing the required setback for new construction in areas with active dunes from 40 feet to 25 feet. The new rule would increase the required setback from 20 feet to 25 feet for an area without dunes. Commissioners agreed Tuesday to postpone action until November to allow time for a public workshop. The idea originated from a planning commission meeting with Glynn County commissioners to discuss growth on the island. Glynn County Commissioner Cap Fendig said the proposed changes would match Georgia Department of Natural Resources rules. Current Glynn County rules are more restrictive. Dunes can protect beaches and inland areas and also provide habitat for plants and wildlife. Alice Keyes of the environmental group One Hundred Miles said rising sea levels make setbacks even more important.
Lihue: The island of Kauai is planning to revise its coronavirus restriction structure as the delta variant continues to impact the county. Mayor Derek Kawakami said officials will continue to enforce strict COVID-19 safety measures even as the state approaches a vaccination rate of 70%, a milestone earlier set for loosening rules under a tiered reopening plan, The Garden Island reported Friday. “Throughout this pandemic, we have adjusted to the changing realities of COVID-19, and we continually work to keep our community safe while doing everything we can to keep our businesses and activities open,” Kawakami said. Changes will need to be approved by Gov. David Ige. The current tier system would have allowed for all restrictions, including business capacity rules and gathering sizes, to be dropped when the population was 70% vaccinated. About 67% of state residents and 65% of Kauai residents are fully vaccinated.
Coeur d’Alene:, The Coeur d’Alene School District’s Board of Trustees canceled a special meeting on Friday to consider a temporary COVID-19 mask mandate after protesters swarmed the building. The crowd gathered outside of the Midtown Center Meeting Room at 1 p.m., KREM-TV reported. The meeting agenda included a reopening plan for the 2021-2022 school year, including masking and quarantine. Earlier this month, the board adopted a plan that strongly recommended masks be worn in schools. The school district has seen hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases since the first day of school Sept. 7. The meeting was postponed officials said for safety reasons after the crowd banged on doors and shouted at police. A video tweeted by a reporter for KREM showed a large group of people standing outside of the meeting room chanting, “No more masks.” Estimated at up to 200 people, the group then moved to the district’s administrative center, which was placed on lockdown for safety precautions. Many protesters said school board members should be fired for refusing to hold the meeting.
East Moline: Inmates at East Moline Correctional Center have begun a Bachelor of Arts program through Augustana College. State officials said 10 students began studies late in the summer. They are taking courses from professors who lecture on the same subjects on Augustana’s Rock Island campus. It’s the first BA program offered East Moline inmates in more than 20 years. The initial program offers a communications studies major with other majors to be added. The liberal arts curriculum includes history, literature, math, foreign languages, religion, science and the arts. Illinois Department of Corrections Director Rob Jeffreys said a college degree is key to those in custody who want to change their lives and provide financially for their families. Augustana modeled its program after the Bard Prison Initiative. It was featured in the 2019 PBS documentary “College Behind Bars.” Students in the Augustana Prison Education Program pay no tuition or any costs associated with coursework. The program is funded by the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation.
Greenwood: Another Indiana school board meeting was disrupted when residents refused to wear face masks while objecting to the district’s requirement. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the Center Grove school board meeting last Thursday night after those not wearing masks wouldn’t leave so the meeting could start, the (Franklin) Daily Journal reported. Those protesting left after two deputies arrived. A similar disruption happened in the southern Indianapolis suburbs as the Clark-Pleasant board meeting in Whiteland was adjourned after just two minutes last week because some people refused to wear masks. State officials have allowed mask rules and other steps to stem COVID-19 spread even as several school boards have faced vocal – and sometimes misleading – opposition to such actions. A man was arrested in July when a handgun fell from his pocket during a Carmel school board meeting, The Bartholomew Consolidated school board in Columbus decided this past week it will hold meetings virtually because of parent conduct. Center Grove’s board could make a similar move, district Superintendent Rich Arkanoff said.
Centerville: Residents gathered to help break a syrupy Guinness World Record on Saturday by plating 14,280 pancakes in a single-serving. A Hy-Vee store in Blue Springs, Missouri, a Kansas City suburb, set the record of 13,000 pancakes in June. Hy-Vee donated 2,400 pounds of pancake mix to help residents break the record during Centerville’s Pancake Day celebration. The Guinness World Record attempt took place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Pancake Day started in 1948 as a way for manufacturers, including a Pillsbury facility, across Centerville show appreciation for their employees by giving them free pancakes. Community members took on the event and turned it into a regional celebration as manufacturers left Centerville. The town typically serves about 17,000 pancakes on Pancake Day, said Centerville Tourism Director Delaney Evers. This year, pancakes had to be made to strict specifications of at least 5 inches in diameter, but no more than 1 centimeter in thickness. About 100 people volunteered to accomplish the feat.
Olathe: A suburban Kansas City school district is investigating after a student asked a girl to homecoming using an offensive sign. The sign reads: “If I was Black I would be picking cotton but I’m white so I’m picking you for HOCO.” A picture of two white students holding the sign and smiling that was posted online drew sharp criticism on social media, according to the Kansas City Star. School officials in Olathe said they are working to contact everyone involved, including the parents of the students. “The type of behavior displayed in the social media post does not meet the expectations of our core values,” Olathe South High School Principal Dale Longenecker said in a letter sent to parents. “Any behavior like this will be immediately addressed in accordance with our Student Code of Conduct.” A copy of the photo posted on Twitter was criticized by the Arizona Cardinals Isaiah Simmons’, who grew up in Olathe. “This is disgusting. Sad that people think this is funny or acceptable,” he wrote. “Very disappointing and honestly just sad to see this kind of stuff happening in my hometown. I hope this is handled in the correct manner.”
Frankfort: Horse Soldier Bourbon plans to create more than 50 jobs with a new $200 million tourism project in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said. The Pulaski County site will contain a 27,585-square-foot distillery visitor center; 5,000-person amphitheater; 500-person outdoor event space; 3,200-square-foot wedding chapel; and an activity center, shops and more. Horse Soldier Bourbon was founded by retired members of the U.S. Special Forces who were among the first to enter Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The company has been approved by the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority for $29.9 million in incentives for the project.
Grand Isle: Grand Isle officials said the narrow barrier island is closed to all but people who live there or those who own camps there as residents try to recover from Hurricane Ida’s devastating impacts. In a posting on the town’s website Saturday, officials said the widespread devastation caused the town council and the mayor to make the decision to close the island, which is a destination spot for fishing and vacation getaways. “The decision to close the island was a difficult one,” said Mayor David Camardelle in the announcement, “but it is in everyone’s best interest.” Ida came ashore on Aug. 29 just a few miles away near Port Fourchon. The Category 4 hurricane’s ferocious winds and storm surge destroyed the city’s electrical infrastructure. The town said in its announcement that 80% of the structures on the island sustained damage. According to the post, about 200 personnel from various agencies are on the island specifically to help with the recovery. That number is expected to increase as energy provider, Entergy, works to restore the grid, the statement said. But Grand Isle residents have vowed to come back, despite the damage.
Hampden: The northbound stretch of a $45 million bridge replacement project in the Bangor area is almost finished. The project is called the Hampden Bridge Bundle. The Maine Department of Transportation said it planned to shift traffic onto the fourth of four new northbound Interstate 95 bridges on Monday. The transportation department said traffic is still using three temporary bridges to accommodate construction work on the southbound side of the highway. The department said more southbound traffic shifts are expected, and the project will continue into next year. The entire project requires rebuilding eight bridges and rehabilitating a ninth along a 4-mile stretch of the interstate in Hampden.
Baltimore: Four enormous container cranes have arrived in their new home in Baltimore after a two-month trip from China. The cranes, which are some of the tallest in the world, squeezed under the Chesapeake Bay and Key Bridges on their way to the Port of Baltimore, stopping traffic on the spans on Sept. 9, news outlets reported. Each crane is about 450 feet tall, about 25 feet taller than the current cranes, port officials said. With the cranes hanging off each side of the ship, they were about 176 feet tall, leaving just about 10 feet of clearance under the bridges, according to the state and Coast Guard. The new cranes will help double the port’s container capacity once the Howard Street Tunnel is expanded to allow freight trains to carry containers stacked two-high. Ports America Chesapeake, which runs the Seagirt Marine Terminal under a lease with the state, purchased the massive cranes, which will allow longshoremen to unload two even larger and wider container ships at once. The 1,740-ton cranes can reach 23 containers across a container ship and each can lift 187,500 pounds of cargo at once.
Lowell: A University of Massachusetts Lowell researcher has received a $2.7 million federal grant to continue her research into the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institutes of Health grant will help engineering associate professor Joyita Dutta look at the disease from a network perspective, viewing the interconnections between the regions of the brain, the university said in a statement last week. She will use machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to build models from existing patient imaging data. She aims to develop models that predict the progression of primary protein markers for Alzheimer’s disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s last year. That number is projected to rise to 14 million by 2060. There is no known cure for the disease.
East China Township: Three years after DTE Energy paid more than $5,000 to relocate rare milkweed plants at its future Blue Water Energy Center site in East China Township, the plants are thriving. Daniel Okon, a DTE Energy senior environmental specialist, said 400 Sullivant’s milkweed stems were relocated in 2018 and the population has grown to 502 stems. Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterfly, a candidate under the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Milkweed and flowering plants are needed for monarch habitat. Adult monarchs feed on the nectar of many flowers, but they breed only where milkweeds are found, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Sullivant’s milkweed differs from common milkweed, with smooth leaves instead of the common variety’s rough leaves, and a pink vein pressed closely to the stems. Sullivant’s milkweed is classified as threatened and legally protected in Michigan. It has been observed in eight Michigan counties with the most occurrences found in St. Clair County, according to scientific biodiversity resource the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
Minneapolis: Gov. Tim Walz proposed a $10 million relief package for farmers who suffered losses because of drought across most of Minnesota this summer – a plan that would require a special legislative session to approve. The Democratic governor’s proposal includes $5 million in rapid response grants for livestock producers and specialty crop growers for costs of water-related equipment such as tanks, pipelines, wells, water wagons and irrigation equipment. It also includes $5 million for zero-interest disaster recovery loans for losses not covered by insurance. But Walz said he’s still insisting that Senate Republicans agree not to fire Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm if he calls lawmakers back for a special session that was already in the works for a $250 million bonus package for front-line workers in the COVID-19 pandemic. Negotiators from the House Democratic and Senate GOP majorities and the Walz administration missed a Labor Day target for agreeing to which workers are most deserving and how much money they should get. Republicans so far have not backed off a threat to use the Senate’s confirmation powers to oust Malcolm over the administration’s pandemic response. Walz called on them to “put the political posturing and things aside” and get both packages done without ousting his health commissioner.
Greenwood: A hospital in the Mississippi Delta has been losing millions of dollars a year, and its CEO said the problems are exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic as nurses, laboratory technicians and respiratory therapists are being hired by out-of-state hospitals for short-term contract work at higher salaries. Leaders of Greenwood Leflore Hospital held closed-door hearings in the past week to brief local officials and its employees about proposals for a financial turnaround. CEO Jason Studley said no layoffs or terminations are anticipated, although some positions might not be filled as employees leave, the Greenwood Commonwealth reported. Studley told the newspaper he would publicly release details of the financial plan in the coming week. The hospital has about 1,000 employees and is owned by the city of Greenwood and Leflore County. Local government officials asked for Tuesday’s meeting. “I think we’re on the right track to move forward,” said Leflore County Supervisor Sam Abraham after emerging from the closed-door session with the hospital board and top administrators. The hospital has spent nearly all of the $25 million in federal pandemic relief money. For the first 11 months of the current budget year, it has lost $13.2 million, even after using $11 million in federal grant money. For the same period last year, the loss was $755,000 when $15.5 million in coronavirus grant money was used. The hospital started the current budget year with $52.8 million cash on hand. By the end of August, it had $28.3 million.
Woodson Terrace: The FBI has opened an investigation into the arrest of a Black man during which cellphone video showed three white officers allowing a police dog to repeatedly bite him. Woodson Terrace police Chief Randy Halstead said in an email to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his department was “fully cooperating” with the investigations being conducted by the FBI and the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office into last week’s arrest. Federal officials and St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell declined to discuss their investigations with the newspaper. Officers were called Monday morning to a report that a man had broken into a business in Woodson Terrace, according to a police statement posted on Facebook. The man appeared to be on drugs and threatened officers, and they warned him the dog would be used if he continued to resist arrest, the department wrote. Cellphone video from an onlooker showed the dog biting the man’s foot as he yells. The dog’s handler holds it by a leash but allows the biting to go on for about 30 seconds. After the officer pulls off the dog, the man appears to take a step but stumbles and the dog lunges at him again, biting a leg for another 30 seconds until the officer stops the animal. The man was treated at a hospital and released. He hasn’t been charged with any crimes. Protesters gathered outside the Woodson Terrace Police Department on Friday to demand the firing and prosecution of the three officers.
Helena: A coalition including worker unions and a disability rights group filed a lawsuit last Wednesday against Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen over a law passed earlier this year that eliminates same-day voter registration. The lawsuit was filed by the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the Montana AFL-CIO, the Montana Association of Centers for Independent Living, and several citizens. Montana Federal of Public Employees president Amanda Curtis called the law “a slap in the face” to the tens of thousands of Montana residents who use same-day voter registration and to the majority of Montanans who voted to maintain election-day registration when the question was on the ballot in 2014. “People who work for a living do not always have the privilege to register to vote or address their issues with their registration during the regular business hours,” said Montana AFL-CIO Executive Secretary James Holbrook. County election offices are open later on Election Day. Montana Independent Living Project advocacy coordinator Joel Peden said same-day registration eases the experience of people living with disabilities by saving the need for two trips to election offices. Republicans who supported the measure have said the law would help election officials conduct elections more efficiently while reducing long lines and voter frustration on election day. Secretary of State spokesman Richie Melby called the lawsuit “completely baseless.” This is the fourth lawsuit challenging the same law passed earlier this year by the Republican-dominated Legislature.
Dakota City: The owners of a defunct biogas plant in northeast Nebraska have agreed to pay a $1.1 million fine to the state and federal governments for repeated violations of environmental rules. Big Ox Energy and its owners agreed to pay the fine as part of a settlement with regulators. The company and its insurers previously agreed to be part of a separate $1.75 million settlement with homeowners who accused the plant of sending rancid fumes through the city sewer system and ruining their homes. Big Ox began operations in September 2016, separating solids from industry wastewater to create methane. The plant sold the methane and injected it into a nearby natural gas pipeline. Big Ox was subject to odor complaints soon after it began operations and was cited for numerous environmental violations until it shut down in 2019. “The Big Ox facility’s operations presented a significant risk to their workers and nearby property owners,” said acting regional EPA Administrator Edward H. Chu. The EPA said that some of the liquid wastewater went over the sides of the facility’s roof and onto the ground at least 16 times between 2017 and 2019. On one occasion in 2018, a malfunction at the plant resulted in 80,000 gallons of liquid wastewater overflowing from its equipment. At times the plant was also discharging methane at levels that could be flammable and hydrogen sulfide in amounts that could cause injury or death if it was inhaled.
Carson City: The Great Basin Institute has been awarded a $160,000 federal grant to establish a professional recreational trail building school, which would be the first of its kind in the nation. The funds came from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The proposed school will be in Ely. The hope is to draw outdoor recreation professionals from all over the U.S. Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto praised the idea of the school. She said it will enhance Nevada’s reputation as an outdoor recreation destination, create more jobs and give students practical experience. Kyle Horvath, director of White Pine County Tourism and Recreation, said Ely is an ideal spot with its proximity to the Mountain West.
Durham: The University of New Hampshire is making some of its pandemic-related graduation ceremony changes permanent. The school traditionally has held one large ceremony in its outdoor football stadium, but because of the pandemic, it divided seniors up by their colleges and held a handful of separate ceremonies. That gave students the chance to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas instead of being recognized all at once, and officials have decided to keep that practice going forward. Starting in May, commencement exercises will be moved indoors to the Whittemore Center and graduates will be split up by academic college, the Foster’s Daily Democrat reported.
Trenton: Construction of a nearly 120-mile-long proposed natural gas pipeline from northeastern Pennsylvania to central New Jersey will not go forward, the group behind the project said Monday. PennEast Pipeline Company, which won a recent legal fight against New Jersey at the Supreme Court, nonetheless said the state has failed to provide certain permits and is putting the project on ice. “PennEast partners, following extensive evaluation and discussion, recently determined further development of the Project no longer is supported. Accordingly, PennEast has ceased all further development of the Project,” spokesperson Pat Kornick said in an email. The decision is the latest swing in a long-running effort to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania. It’s also a major victory for environmental groups who opposed the project, arguing it would cut a scar across the landscape, threaten wildlife and contribute the use of fossil fuels. PennEast, a company made up of five energy firms, won federal and Pennsylvania permitting approvals including a key Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certificate that could allow the firm to use eminent domain to acquire land. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court said companies building interstate pipelines can obtain the land they need even in the face of state opposition, once their projects have been given the green light by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Trump and Biden administrations had supported PennEast. Nineteen states had urged the Supreme Court to rule the other way and side with New Jersey.
Albuquerque: Rio Rancho Public Schools canceled classes Monday because of an internet service outage. Officials sent a letter to parents Sunday saying a damaged fiber optic circuit was causing the outage. With no internet, some key systems that involve safety and student transportation would be at risk. District officials said contractors are coming from out of state to do the repairs. Classes were expected to resume Tuesday.
Albany: The state has stopped paying legal bills for employees who worked for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he faces ongoing investigations on the state and federal levels. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s spokesperson Haley Viccaro said last Wednesday that the state stopped paying for those aides’ legal bills after Sept. 2. The administration is now deciding whether there is a legal basis for the state to pay bills for legal services on or before Sept. 2. Viccaro did not specify how many staffers had legal bills paid for by the state. Cuomo and his former aides face an ongoing investigation by the state attorney general into Cuomo’s use of state employees to help with a book he wrote about his leadership during the pandemic and scrutiny from federal prosecutors who are investigating his administration’s handling of nursing home death data. Cuomo is also facing a state ethics commission inquiry. The state has agreed to pay a maximum of $9.5 million in bills for attorneys representing Cuomo and his administration over sexual harassment allegations and other matters, as well as for attorneys investigating the former governor and his administration, according to the Associated Press’ review of available contracts. That figure includes up to $5 million for attorneys who have represented Cuomo’s office. It doesn’t include the legal fees of Cuomo’s private attorney, Rita Glavin, whose bills are being paid by his campaign committee.
Raleigh: A construction company founded by former NFL players and brothers Torry and Terrence Holt will build a project designed to honor the contributions of African Americans in North Carolina. Leaders of the North Carolina Freedom Park initiative announced Monday that the Black-owned Holt Brothers Construction has been awarded the contract to complete the $5.4 million project in Raleigh. The park, to be located between the Executive Mansion and the Legislative Building. will be anchored by the Beacon of Freedom, a piece of public art that will be illuminated at night. Freedom Park’s leaders broke ground last fall on the park, which is expected to be completed by next year. The Holts grew up in Gibsonville and played at North Carolina State University. Torry Holt was an All-America wide receiver and played on the Super Bowl-winning St. Louis Rams in 2000. The brothers’ construction company has completed other projects such as a Durham County library renovation and North Carolina Central University’s new student center. Freedom Park was designed by the late architect Phil Freelon, who also designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, and the Durham firm Perkins & Will.
Bismarck: U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota’s only congressman, is in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus. Armstrong said in a Twitter post Sunday that he had been experiencing mild coronavirus symptoms and took a test which came back positive. The 44-year-old Republican said he has been vaccinated. “I have been fully vaccinated since January, and I am taking all precautions and recovering at home in North Dakota. I have been advised by my doctor to quarantine for ten days,” Armstrong wrote. Armstrong said he has contacted friends in Congress and will be casting his votes this week by proxy, as Capitol Hill gears up for a busy week that includes a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package. “Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to be in D.C. next week,” Armstrong wrote. “However, the votes we are taking are simply too important to miss, so I have reached out to friends in Congress and I will be casting my votes by proxy.”
Akron: Summa Health is reducing inpatient hospital beds by more than 20% and temporarily stopping some elective surgeries while the Akron-based health system tries to adjust to a nationwide staffing shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a memo distributed to staff at 9 a.m. Monday, hospital executives said Summa would make multiple adjustments to help the care of patients as health care staff at Summa and nationwide are in some cases burned out and leaving the health care field. “We are no longer able to maintain the current level of capacity in our hospitals and we must make adjustments to align with the current level of clinical staff,” Summa executives said. The following measures will go into effect immediately: adjusting the combined inpatient bed capacity at Akron City and Barberton hospitals from 551 to about 430 by Oct. 24; the number of available inpatient beds will be cut from 439 to about 350 at Akron City Hospital and 112 to 80 at Barberton Hospital; improve Emergency Department flow by embeding specialists, primary care physicians and/or hospitalists in the emergency department on the Akron and Barberton campuses to initiate care more efficiently. There will be no changes at St. Thomas Hospital, which treats Summa’s behavioral health patients.
Oklahoma City: A northwest Oklahoma City church hopes to become a transitional living community to temporarily house individuals experiencing homelessness and provide support to help them find permanent housing and a brighter future. Clark Memorial United Methodist Church wants to build up to 20 small structures similar to tiny homes or tiny housing units on its property. The Rev. Bo Ireland, the church’s senior pastor, is also executive director of what is being called the Lazarus Community at Clark Memorial. The name of the new housing community comes from well-known scripture which told the story of Jesus raising a man named Lazarus from the dead. “It’s a ministry that will be bringing back those who are homeless to a restored state,” Ireland said.
Portland: Despite a threat to block new political maps, Republican state lawmakers returned to the state Capitol on Monday – the final day for the Legislature to complete redistricting. Enough GOP lawmakers returned to the House floor to achieve a quorum required to vote. With the Republican reverse, it is likely Democrats will pass new district maps – including a sixth, U.S. House seat. Congressional plans were sent to the redistricting committee on Monday morning to be formally adopted and the House was scheduled to reconvene at 1 p.m. Although Oregon Democrats hold the majority in both legislative chambers, they don’t have enough seats to vote without a few Republicans present. As the House convened Monday morning,47 of 60 House members were present – 40 lawmakers are needed to meet quorum. The Oregon Legislature had until the end of the day on Monday to participate in the once-a-decade job of redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts in accordance with new U.S. Census numbers. If lawmakers missed the deadline, the job of redrawing congressional maps would fall to a panel of five current and former judges appointed by the Oregon Supreme Court, and Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan will be tasked with redrawing the state’s legislative districts. On Saturday, Republicans in the House did not show up for a floor session, upset that Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek earlier this week rescinded a deal she made with them to split power in the redistricting debate, even though Democrats have large majorities in the Senate and House.
Philadelphia: Transgender women in Pennsylvania tried again Monday to knock down state rules that govern legal name changes for people with felony records. The state requires them to wait two years after completing their sentence to apply for a name change. People who have committed the most serious felonies, including rape and murder, are barred from changing their legal names. The 1998 rules are meant to enhance public safety and thwart fraud attempts. However, advocates said the transgender community simply wants the right to use names that match their identities rather than their dead or given names. Gabriel Arkles, senior counsel of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said his clients risk being harassed if they apply for jobs, or are stopped by police, and show identification that doesn’t match their gender identities. “For the people it affects, it has such a profound affect,” Arkles said. “Our clients are transgender people who are just trying to live their lives and are not trying to commit any fraud.” Similar efforts have been underway in other states, with varying degrees of success, he said. Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court, which handles cases involving state agencies, dismissed a related lawsuit last year on procedural grounds without addressing the underlying constitutional claims.
Providence: An open government coalition is asking Democratic Gov. Dan McKee to allow public agencies to hold meetings online because of a surge of COVID-19 infections. ACCESS/RI said it sent a letter to McKee asking him to issue an executive order because his previous order to waive the requirement that members of public bodies meet in person expired in July. Since then, the coalition said, some public bodies have had difficulty getting enough members to attend in person for a quorum and some members of the public have been reluctant to attend. “Members of the public face a choice between their health and their ability to participate in our democracy,” the coalition said. State legislatures in neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts codified similar executive orders to allow for online meetings until the spring, the coalition added. Rhode Island’s legislature considered allowing online meetings until July 2023, which ACCESS/RI opposed because of the length of time and the belief that in-person meetings should be the default.
Beaufort: Crews are getting ready to start restoring windows in a century-old building in Beaufort that were damaged by hurricanes over the past several years. The work on the 29 windows of the Carnegie Library building is being paid for through a $188,000 federal grant, The Island Packet of Hilton Head reported. Work is expected to start in October and last six months. The windows were damaged when Hurricane Matthew passed just offshore in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. Beaufort officials also hired a building preservation expert to look at the entire former library and provide an estimate for any other worked needed to preserve it. The library in downtown Beaufort is one of 14 in South Carolina and more than 1,600 public libraries across the United States funded by steel industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The old library now houses the Beaufort/Port Royal Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Rapid City: The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has been awarded an $11 million federal grant to develop better material and manufacturing technology to withstand cold weather. South Dakota Mines will partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions and Engineering Lab. The research will be done over five years and is aimed at developing better materials and technology to support the Army’s military objectives in cold and remote regions. U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds said funding for the project has been his top defense appropriation request for three years, the Rapid City Journal reported. Dr. Jim Rankin, president of South Dakota Mines, said the research is a win-win for the university and for national defense.
Memphis: A state senator charged with stealing $600,000 in federal grant money from a health care school she operated has been acquitted on 15 of 20 charges, according to court records. U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl Lipman filed the order Sunday after attorneys for Sen. Katrina Robinson filed a motion Friday seeking acquittal on all charges, Memphis news outlets reported. Robinson, 40, a Memphis Democrat elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2018, was charged in July 2020 with wire fraud, as well as theft and embezzlement involving government programs after the FBI searched the school and her home. She was accused of stealing federal grant money awarded to The Healthcare Institute, which provides training in the health care field, including nursing assistant jobs in geriatric care. The school received more than $2.2 million in federal grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal grant money was earmarked for student scholarships from 2015 through 2019. Robinson’s attorneys argued for an acquittal Friday after federal prosecutors rested their case. They argued that prosecutors didn’t prove allegations that Robinson used the federal grant funds on personal expenses. The trial was expected to continue Tuesday on the five remaining charges, court filings showed..
South Padre Island: A large loggerhead sea turtle rehabilitated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital was flown by private plane Sunday to live at a conservation facility in Texas. The 230-pound female turtle took the nearly 5-hour flight from the Middle Keys to South Padre Island, with the help of “Turtles Fly Too,” a nonprofit group that works with general aviation pilots who donate their aircraft, fuel and time to provide emergency transport for endangered species. Matthew, named for one of her rescuers before her sex was determined, suffered injuries to her shell in May 2020 from a boat strike that left her unable to dive and forage for food – a condition termed “bubble butt syndrome” by the hospital’s rehabilitation staff. “She’s being transported to Sea Turtle Inc. in South Padre Island because she’s unable to dive,” said Bette Zirkelbach, the Turtle Hospital’s general manager, who accompanied the reptile during the flight. “That makes her nonreleasable and she will act as an ambassador for her species there at the Texas facility where they see lots of visitors.” The reptile joins other rehabilitated, nonreleasable turtle patients at Sea Turtle Inc., located on the Gulf of Mexico. The organization’s conservation outreach programs are designed to raise public awareness about sea turtles and the threats to their survival. Matthew’s carapace has been fitted with weights, fashioned to adhere to the shell and help the turtle submerge and rest comfortably during her residency at the Texas center.
St. George: The St. George Marathon returns Saturday for its 45th edition and the first since 2019 after the 2020 race was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The race is set to start at its usual spot north of the city along State Route 18 at the base of the Pine Valley Mountains and descending nearly 2,600 feet in elevation back to the finish line downtown. The race starts at 7 a.m. and will force some road closures and detours along SR-18 and a number of streets in and around downtown. “We are so excited to have the marathon back in 2021. It is St. George’s signature event,” said Michelle Graves, race director and the Deputy Director of Arts and Events for the city of St. George. “This might be the best St. George Marathon ever. There has been a vibrant return to racing and we are happy to have a strong field of runners for this year's event.” This year's event will include a mini-marathon starting at 6:15 a.m, with races of 1 mile and 200 meters at Vernon Worthen Park. Children ages 3 to 12 and people with special needs are invited to participate. After the races, a party in the park is set to last until 8 a.m. Organizers expect about 7,000 runners to participate. Many others have signed on to be volunteers. The annual Mayor's Walk is also scheduled for Saturday morning, with Mayor Michele Randall leading a 1-mile walk from the Washington County School District offices at 121 W. Tabernacle Street over to Vernon Worthen. The marathon has been run every year except last year since 1977 and is regularly rated as one of the most scenic races in the country, as well as one of the fastest because of its downhill course.
Montpelier: Registration opened Monday for Vermonters ages 75 and older to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster. On Wednesday, people 70 and older can start signing up followed by the 65-and-older age group on Friday. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed booster shots for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans six months after receiving their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. On Friday, those ages 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions or who work in certain occupational settings will become eligible for boosters, the state said. The state is waiting for guidance from the CDC on the type of underlying medical conditions and occupational settings. Booster shots are available where Pfizer vaccines are offered, including at a Health Department clinic, pharmacy or health care provider, state officials said. People must make an appointment to get a shot at a state clinic and are asked to bring their vaccine cards with them. Information can be found on the Vermont Health Department website.
Lafayette: A small earthquake shook southwestern Virginia on Monday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 2.6 happened about 9:37 a.m. It was centered about 2.5 miles north of Lafayette, and was about 8 miles deep. News outlets reported that people in nearby Salem reported feeling the ground shaking, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
Seattle: Twenty-five media and transparency groups are asking the state Supreme Court to allow the release of the names of the Seattle police officers who attended events in the nation’s caital on Jan. 6. The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press and the news organizations filed an amicus brief Friday asking the court to deny an injunction filed by the officers that seeks to block the release of public records that identify the officers. Police officers “are public servants who, when on-duty, wield tremendous power to detain, arrest, jail, and, in extreme circumstances, employ deadly force in connection with their duties,” the groups said. “Without access to officer names, the public has no insight into whether certain officers have been the subject of multiple misconduct investigations or whether police oversight boards are effectively evaluating and responding to repeated misconduct complaints, particularly when such complaints are deemed unsubstantiated.” The officers have argued that they did nothing wrong and revealing their names would violate their privacy. But the media groups said their attendance at a public demonstration that drew thousands of people and news organizations was not a private activity. A message left for Mike Solan, the president of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, seeking comment was not immediately returned. Arguments before the Supreme Court are set for Nov. 9.
Charleston: West Virginia internet customers are being asked to take a broadband speed test to improve access in the state. “Data collected from the speed test will be instrumental in making decisions about broadband access in West Virginia moving forward,” state Department of Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael said in a news release. Information from the tests will be used to create a map identifying where investment in broadband is needed most, the agency said. The test is available at broadband.wv.gov. Click the red button that reads “TAKE THE SPEED TEST” at the top of the page and follow the steps. A few additional questions about location and internet service follow the test, and the whole process takes about 5 minutes. The Broadband Enhancement Council is also involved in publicizing the speed test through a campaign using text messages and digital advertising.
Madison: Cardinal Raymond Burke, 73, one of Catholic Church’s most outspoken conservatives and a vaccine skeptic who was placed on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19, said he has moved into a house but is still struggling to recover from the disease. Burke posted a letter on his website Saturday saying he left a hospital Sept. 3 and moved into a house near his family. He didn’t say where. Burke said he’s going through in-home rehabilitation, still suffers from fatigue and has difficulty breathing. He didn’t detail what his rehabilitation regimen included but said he is making steady but slow progress. He said a secretary from Rome has moved in with him to help him with his rehabilitation and catch up on his work. “I cannot predict when I will be able to return to my normal activities,” Burke wrote. “Seemingly, it will be several more weeks.” He said God saved him for “some work” he wants him to carry out with the help of the church and asked people to pray for him, the world and the church, all of which are “beset with so much confusion and error to the great and even mortal harm of many souls.” He didn’t elaborate.
Casper: Felicia, a mama grizzly bear whose troubles won the hearts of the Internet, has successfully shepherded her cubs through a perilous summer. Her fans miss seeing the bear family grazing and frolicking along Togwotee Pass. But they hope, for Felicia’s sake, that she will stay out of sight. This spring, record numbers of tourists were clogging the roads around Wyoming’s national parks when Felicia emerged from hibernation with two fuzzy, bumbling, roly-poly cubs, and established herself by the side of the highway. Passersby were mesmerized. Bear jams proliferated. The congestion wasn’t just a nuisance, however. Too many drivers were spotting Felicia and her cubs, swerving to the side of a 55 mph highway and leaving their cars to approach the bears – in violation of posted signs that forbade exactly that, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Three government agencies that watch over Felicia, the highway and the land she inhabited, lacked the resources to continually enforce parking laws or uphold the protections that grizzlies, a threatened species, are afforded under the Endangered Species Act. So rather than attempt to manage the people, officials managed the bear. Rangers typically use pain and noise to train bears to fear undesirable locations. That strategy, known as hazing, separated Felicia from her surviving cub for a month in 2019. Though the two ultimately reunited, the cub didn’t survive the following winter. Hazing, though less risky than relocation, isn’t a perfect solution. It can cause bears to act erratically around roads, increasing the risk of collisions. It can separate mothers from their cubs – sometimes temporarily, like with Felicia in 2019, and sometimes permanently. But it can also work. In Felicia’s case, hazing has been effective. Nearly four months after Felicia – known to rangers as grizzly 863 – fled a barrage of rubber bullets, beanbags and noisemakers, the bear has maintained her distance from roads, vehicles and people, and has kept her cubs by her side.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States