Africatown: There’s a new recreational program for young people in coastal Alabama who live in this community formed by freed slaves after the Civil War. Organizers say the Africatown Swim-to-Scuba Diving Program launched Saturday at a YMCA in Mobile. One goal is to introduce diving to young residents of the community. Africans who were illegally brought to Alabama as slaves in 1860 founded a community called Africatown after the Civil War. Some of their descendants still live in the area. A team that included divers helped locate and verify the wreckage of the ship that brought the captives to Mobile, the Clotilda. Its discovery was announced in May. A group that helped in the search is part of the program to demonstrate diving to area young people.
Anchorage: A 50-year-old letter in a bottle discovered on the shores of western Alaska has connected a man with the Russian Navy. Anchorage television station KTUU reports Tyler Ivanoff found the handwritten Russian letter this month while gathering firewood near Shishmaref. Officials say Ivanoff posted photos on Facebook, where Russian speakers translated the message to be a greeting from the Russian Navy dated 1969. Officials say Russian reporters located the original writer, Capt. Anatoliy Botsanenko, who says he sent the message while aboard the Sulak. Botsanenko was skeptical he was the writer until he saw his signature at the bottom of the note. He says he was 36 when he wrote the note. Nome radio station KNOM was the first to report Ivanoff’s discovery.
Phoenix: The city’s police officers must undergo training on dealing with people who have mental health issues under the latest reform being rolled out to improve accountability and trust, the agency’s chief said Monday. Chief Jeri Williams announced hundreds of officers who patrol the streets of the nation’s fifth-largest city must attend an eight-hour “mental health first aid” course over the next two years to help them better deal with people who are mentally ill or have substance abuse problems. Phoenix recently began deploying the last of 2,000 body-worn cameras for a force approaching 3,000 members. It also requires officers to keep records of when they point their guns at people and is working with community members to come up with some kind of independent civilian review board.
Little Rock: This spring’s heavy rainfall and flooding left 1.3 million acres of land unplanted in the state. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Lawrence County farmers saw nearly 74,000 idled acres. Jerry Morgan is one of the county’s farmers who says his farm had more than 500 acres of corn, rice and soybeans that he couldn’t plant this year. He says prevented planting insurance helps pay the bills, but it doesn’t bring a farmer to a break-even point. Morgan says this year has been “the hardest” both mentally and physically. Arkansas is the nation’s top rice producer. It reported 510,000 acres of prevented planting of the grain this year. The newspaper reports that rice not planted amounts to about $420 million in lost sales.
Sacramento: State fire officials say acreage burned so far this year is down 90% compared to the average over the past five years. The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says it has fought fires on 38 square miles this year, down from an average of 416 square miles burned over the same period the past five years. Through the same date last year – the worst fire year in state history – more than 970 square miles had burned. The number of fires this year, though, is only down about 15% from last year. Those figures only count 3,400 fires responded to by CalFire this year and not federal lands. The stats are good news, but the state’s worst fires typically flare up in the fall.
Denver: A proposed federal rule could end food assistance for about 33,000 people in the state, including 11,000 children. The Denver Post reports that potential regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture could terminate free or reduced-price lunches and lower the food stamp earnings limit by thousands of dollars. Colorado residents earning less than twice the poverty line are currently eligible for food assistance and free school lunches. The USDA proposal would limit the assistance to those at 130% of the poverty line. Experts say the minimum wage needed to live comfortably in Denver is about $29 an hour, but some families making less would still not qualify for assistance. Officials say the rule would make it difficult for families to build a financial cushion and end reliance on assistance programs.
Hartford: After coming close this year, state lawmakers have yet to decide when to make another attempt at legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana. Legislators acknowledge it’s doubtful there will be a vote this summer or fall. And despite a desire by proponents to revisit the issue when the General Assembly reconvenes in February, it’s unclear whether that will happen. It’s a shortened legislative session and an election year for lawmakers. Proponents have various reasons for wanting to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Connecticut, ranging from addressing inequities in the criminal justice system to generating more revenue for the state’s coffers. Opponents argued that legalizing pot would be costly for the state to administer and enforce, outstripping any potential revenue gain.
Wilmington: Young students at Odyssey Charter School will come back from summer to find bathroom stalls painted with inspirational messages, rocket ships, flowers, rainbows and more. School counselor Abby Robinson had seen similar projects on Facebook, and with Odyssey’s campus housed in an old office building, she thought murals on the stalls would be more kid-appropriate than plain walls. So with the help of parent and teacher volunteers, she added washroom murals to the stalls in the campus’s lower school. Students in kindergarten through second grade use the bathrooms that were painted. The project has started off with one boys and one girls bathroom, but Robinson hopes to see it expand to the rest of the campus. She says she’d love to see older students take ownership of the project and plan art for the other stalls.
District of Columbia
Washington: A former elected official in the city is accused of threatening to shoot up a Middle Eastern restaurant and “the Muslims standing outside.” WTOP-FM reports former Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bill Starrels pleaded not guilty this month to attempted threats to do bodily harm. Court records say Starrels entered the hookah and shawarma business in May and complained about the noise coming from it. The owner and two employees told police Starrels then threatened to shoot the owner, customers and people outside. The owner says he previously has asked Starrels not to return to the restaurant because of his “harassing” behavior. Starrels was the neighborhood commissioner from 2000 through 2017, when he lost an election.
Fort Myers: The governor says when he visited the Western Wall in Israel in May, he followed tradition by sticking a slip of paper with a written prayer in between crevices of the ancient structure. Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed Monday that his prayer said, “Good Lord, spare us hurricanes this year.” DeSantis recounted his prayer in Fort Myers on Monday while announcing a federal reimbursement request that could provide Florida communities with $150 million in relief from the costs of cleaning up after Hurricane Irma in 2017. The request is awaiting approval from the White House. Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Mokowitz says he also inserted a prayer at the Western Wall on the same trip. He says his prayer was the same as the governor’s.
Macon: Fans of Duane Allman in this town where he lived and died say they didn’t expect the late musician’s old guitar to sell for $1.25 million at a recent auction. The gold-topped guitar is the one Allman played in the hit song “Layla,” for which he performed with Eric Clapton, The Telegraph reports. Until recently, the guitar affectionately called “Layla” had been on display at the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House in Macon. “I don’t think anybody expected that,” Museum Director Richard Brent said of the amount. “The history of it is what sold it.” Brent said the man who bought the guitar at the auction is an out-of-town collector who wishes to remain anonymous. The buyer has agreed to share the instrument with the museum during certain times, so it will be coming back in late November, Brent said.
Hilo: Southwest Airlines has announced plans to offer new flights between Hawaiian islands. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports Southwest says it will begin offering multiple interisland flights as early as next year. Southwest says the flights are expected to travel from Honolulu, on Oahu, to Hilo, on the Big Island, and Lihue, on Kauai, four times daily in each direction beginning Jan. 19, 2020. Officials say the airline is also offering a nonstop, once-a-day flight between Kona, on the Big Island, and Kahului, on Maui. Officials say Southwest began flights this year from Honolulu to Kona and Maui. Airline officials say interisland flight prices begin at $29 one way through Aug. 22 for travel between January and March of 2020.
Boise: A city councilwoman has proposed placing restrictions on rental application fees after residents have complained of high cost. The Idaho Statesman reports Boise City Council member Lisa Sanchez has discussed suggesting an ordinance that would stop people who take fees with no intention to rent, or whose fees are unreasonably high. Sanchez says capping application fees at $50 or completely eliminating them would be a step toward affordable housing in Boise. Officials say there is no timeline on when the council could see the proposed restrictions. Property managers say they are divided on the issue, and an application fee restriction below $50 could damage business. Officials say the mayor is “supportive of the concept” and is interested in exploring it further.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the state will not use federal family planning funds as long as Republican President Donald Trump’s administration prohibits women’s health clinics from referring patients for abortions. The Democrat called Trump’s requirement a “gag rule” Monday on a national conference call in which Planned Parenthood announced it is ending participation in the family planning program rather than follow the rule. Pritzker said Illinois will stop using the $4 million in federal money it typically disperses to 28 agencies providing women’s health care. He said the state is evaluating options for providing services. Pritzker called the rule “an extraordinarily harmful approach that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other category of health care.”
Garrett: A Hoosier who became one of Hollywood’s top silent movie actors will be honored with a historical marker in his hometown. The marker recently approved by the Indiana Historical Bureau will be installed next year for John Bowersox in this DeKalb County city. Bowersox, who was born and raised in Garrett, enjoyed a successful stage career before starring in more than 90 Hollywood movies under the stage name John Bowers. His wife, Maurgerite de la Motte, was also a star, but they were separated when Bowersox died in 1936 following a career slump. DeKalb County historian John Bry tells The (Auburn) Star that Bowersox’s sad ending is believed to have been an inspiration for the main character in the original “A Star is Born” film.
Sioux City: Some fields are getting sprayed to get rid of very hungry caterpillars that have proven problematic for soybean crops. Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Joel DeJong says the agricultural community believes this year’s influx of the painted lady butterfly, or thistle caterpillar, is the largest ever in Siouxland. DeJong says painted lady butterflies have been known to chew half of the leaf area on soybeans. That has led farmers to hire flying crews to begin spraying an insecticide. The Sioux City Journal reports that spraying began in July and is ongoing. The painted lady butterfly normally passes through the region but is spending more time there than usual. DeJong says the region’s current climate has enabled the thistle caterpillars to thrive.
Wichita: Towns along the new Flint Hills Trail park are working to draw visitors as a way to improve the rural economy. The Wichita Eagle reports towns including Osawatomie, Ottawa and Council Grove are planning music festivals, opening breweries and bike shops, and offering Airbnbs to trail visitors. The Flint Hills Trail will eventually stretch 117 miles across east central Kansas. Currently about 95 miles of the state park are open in six counties. Visitors can hike or bike over rocky streams, hills, tallgrass prairie and hardwood forests on the trail, which was named a state park last summer. Kansas parks department natural resource manager Jim Manning says the trail got off to a slow start, but he is confident its popularity will grow.
Louisville: Minors entering the Kentucky State Fair at night now must have a parent or guardian 21 or older with them following a disturbance over the weekend. Kentucky State Police Sgt. Josh Lawson says two adults were arrested and seven unaccompanied teens cited as police investigated the disturbance involving fireworks Saturday night. The new policy going into effect Wednesday requires people under 18 entering after 6 p.m. to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Kentucky Venues said in a news release that proof of age is required, and ID will be verified at the gate. Increased lighting and law enforcement personnel will also be in place during peak hours. The fair runs through Sunday at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
New Orleans: A doctor’s office associated with Children’s Hospital New Orleans will provide telehealth services to some of the city’s charter schools. The professional services agreement plan was announced Monday by Children’s Hospital and NOLA Public Schools, which oversees the system of 78 charter schools. A news release says Children’s Hospital will train school nurses and provide digital exam equipment to connect the pediatrician’s office with kids who have rashes or other minor conditions requiring a doctor. Officials say students can see a doctor or nurse practitioner the day a condition crops up, and parents won’t have to take time off from work for appointments. NOLA Public Schools official Kelli Jordan says the child’s insurance gets billed. Schools don’t pay.
Bar Harbor: This coastal town wants the cruise ship industry to fund local air quality monitoring. Bar Harbor Town Councilor Gary Friedmann tells the Bangor Daily News he’s asked Carnival Cruise Lines to pay for the program. The council voted last week to consider the proposal. Friedmann says Carnival is responsible for about a third of the 180 ship visits scheduled this year for Bar Harbor. He says a spokeswoman told him the town’s anchorage fee could fund the program, but Carnival wouldn’t want to pay directly. Carnival Corp. was fined $20 million in June for continuing to pollute the ocean despite a 2016 conviction and fine. The alleged illegal dumping didn’t happen in Maine coastal waters. A Carnival spokesperson says environmental compliance is a priority, and the company is making important strides.
Annapolis: Attorneys for the city are asking a federal judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit that contends the city has discriminated against people who live in public housing. The Capital Gazette reports that attorneys say conditions of public housing aren’t exclusive to African Americans, so there can’t be racial discrimination. The lawsuit relates to residents who live in public housing apartments that don’t require city inspection or licenses. Lawyers for the city were responding to allegations outlined in a federal lawsuit filed by attorney Joseph Donahue on behalf of 29 residents. The tenants contend the city has lower health and safety standards for public housing. The lawsuit says those communities are primarily occupied by African Americans because of polices of urban renewal that demolished many historic black neighborhoods.
Mansfield: A local woman is a finalist for a national award that recognizes outstanding individuals with hearing loss. Eighteen-year-old Catherine Fitzgerald is among three finalists for the 2019 Oticon Focus on People Award. Denmark-based Oticon manufactures hearing aids. The Sun Chronicle reports that Fitzgerald developed a guide to help local police assist people like her with hearing loss. During a nine-week police department internship earlier this year, Fitzgerald led American Sign Language training sessions for officers and produced an ASL pocket guide that’s now in demand from other police departments. Award recipients get $1,000 for themselves and another $1,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. The winner will be announced in November.
Suttons Bay: A beer company is ensuring that a northern Michigan school district starts the new year with no student lunch debt. A foundation affiliated with Mitten Brewing paid $2,700 to erase unpaid meals and snacks in the Suttons Bay district, near Traverse City. “We’re just very blessed,” Superintendent Mike Carmean says. He tells the Traverse City Record-Eagle that some students were nearing $100 in lunch debt. Chris Andrus, an owner of Mitten Brewing, responded after one of his bartenders criticized a Pennsylvania school district for threatening parents over lunch debts. Joe Symons also is a substitute teacher in Suttons Bay. Dan Frank, general manager of Mitten Brewing in Northport, says “one of the beauties” of being in a small community is acting on local needs.
St. Paul: A court defeat in a case over the way Minnesota taxed trust accounts in other states could end up costing about $130 million this budget cycle. The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimated it will have to repay about $67 million, plus interest, in rebates over the next two years for overtaxing some trust accounts. It also expects to collect about $34 million less per year in trust-related taxes. Courts found the state’s attempt to tax accounts in other states as “resident trusts” was unconstitutional, and the outcome became final this summer after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Minnesota Public Radio News first reported about the exposure, which was revealed in recent bond-sale documents.
Meridian: A recording studio is now open at a museum called The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience. The Meridian Star reports the Governor’s Recording Studio is equipped with technology for recording and for musical rehearsals and tracking and session work. It can also handle long-form audio recording for documentaries and podcasts and audio beds for commercials. The studio in Meridian is equipped with a drum set and a baby grand piano. Singer and musician Steve Azar, a native of the state, recorded a song called “One Mississippi” at the studio in April.
Jefferson City: The Missouri Public Defender’s office plans to experiment with sending text messages to defendants reminding them of their court dates in an effort to reduce the number of people in jail. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the project is designed to ensure defendants don’t face jail time for missing court dates. The program will begin in St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, Troy and Kennett. In some Missouri courts, if defendants don’t show up at scheduled court hearings or other legal appointments, their absence has led to failure-to-appear charges and jail time. They sometimes received bills to cover their time in jail. Under a new state law going into effect later this month, courts won’t be able to jail people for failing to pay previous jail debts.
Missoula: Missoula County is seeking a $200,000 grant to start a farm that would be staffed by jail inmates. County Commissioner Josh Slotnick is the co-founder of Garden City Harvest, which rents some garden plots, allows people to buy shares of the produce grown in some areas and supports school gardens. He says inmates working in the garden, alongside community volunteers, could build job skills and confidence that could prevent them from returning to jail. Kristen Jordan, director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, says similar community farming programs elsewhere have shown success in reducing recidivism. The Missoulian reports the county is seeking the three-year grant from the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation.
Blair: A banker who leads a nonprofit wants to transform an old college campus into a place where former foster care youths could live and learn trades. The former Dana College campus in Blair would become a holistic site where foster youths who have aged out of state systems could live, learn and work. Many of the buildings would retain their original uses: Dorms would remain dorms or become apartments, the library likely would remain a library, and training would take place in former classrooms. The campus church would also reopen. Ed Shada told the Omaha World-Herald he came up with the idea while working on an annual event devoted to getting homeless people connected to the services they need. Shada is president of the nonprofit Angels Share, which is working to rehab the campus buildings.
Las Vegas: Fearing they could be overwhelmed with visitors, officials in the remote county that’s home to the Area 51 military base have drafted an emergency declaration and a plan to team resources with neighboring counties and the state ahead of events next month tied to the “Storm Area 51” internet drive. The elected board governing Lincoln County, which has about 5,200 residents, conditionally approved two events Monday for tiny desert towns near the once top-secret U.S. Air Force test area known in popular lore as a site for government studies of outer space aliens. Officials are concerned visitors will crowd campsites, gas stations, and public medical, internet and cellphone services. The Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel is scheduling a three-day music festival Sept. 20-22 dubbed Alienstock. The Alien Research Center souvenir shop in Hiko plans a Sept. 20-21 exposition.
Concord: The state is getting a $5 million federal grant to analyze efforts to reduce children’s blood-lead levels and identify human health impacts from flooding, among other projects. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant will allow the state’s Public Health Laboratories to enhance its biomonitoring program. The laboratories will work with families of children with elevated blood-lead levels and determine what private wells and people are most at risk during flooding events. The laboratories also will test an EPA superfund site in Berlin to determine how vulnerable residents are and track and study exposure statewide to tobacco smoke and other substances.
Secaucus: A man fell out of a New Jersey Transit train car Monday night when the doors opened on the wrong side of the tracks, an official confirms. The unidentified man fell out as the train car arrived at the Secaucus station, says Jim Smith, spokesman for NJ Transit. A passenger said there was commotion when people realized the man fell. “The train was packed, standing room only,” Michelle Della Serra says. “We got to SEC, and everyone in the middle of the car (where the doors opened) started shouting for help and for someone to pull the emergency brake.” NJ Transit said that the incident was under investigation but that preliminary findings indicate the doors opened because of “human error” by someone on the train’s crew, Smith says.
Santa Fe: Organizers say they’re bringing back a reenactment of a 17th-century conquistador reclaiming the city after a Native American revolt. The Caballeros de Vargas says it will hold an event at this year’s Fiesta de Santa Fe that will include Hispanics and Native Americans, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports. Amid public outcry, the Caballeros de Vargas last year retired the dramatization of the Spanish reentry into Santa Fe after abandoning the city during the Pueblo Revolt. Native American activists had long complained it was offensive. Group president Thomas Baca-Gutierrez says the new ceremony will emphasize “the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary” in the lives of Spanish settlers and Native Americans. Baca-Gutierrez says the Caballeros are already considering nominations for this year but plan to ask for nominations from the community in the future. The Fiesta begins Aug. 31.
New York: The state has a new law banning floating digital billboards in navigable waters, including the Hudson River and the East River. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the ban into law Tuesday, calling the signs an eyesore. It applies to any digital billboard or floating sign that uses flashing, intermittent or moving lights. One of the lawmakers behind the ban, Sen. Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, says billboards belong in Times Square, not in the state’s waterways. The CEO of one floating sign company says he’s disappointed by the ban, but his company plans to continue using signs that it believes are allowed under the new law.
Raleigh: An omnibus wildlife regulation bill sent to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk would create new fees and raise others – some for the first time in over 30 years – for activities related to hunting and fishing. The House gave final legislative approval to the wildlife resources measure by a 108-12 vote Monday night. It passed the Senate earlier this month. The bill, among other things, would raise the annual resident hunting and inland fishing licenses from $20 to $25. Higher license fees for nonresidents also would go up. Bill sponsor Rep. Jay Adams of Catawba County says new prices for various permits were vetted in committees and are in line with similar permits in surrounding states. Adams says licensing revenues remain with the state Wildlife Resources Commission.
Bismarck: Regulators say the volume of natural gas flared in the state in June reached an unprecedented level due to shutdowns of several natural gas processing facilities and pipelines. The Bismarck Tribune reports that the amount of natural gas burned off as a byproduct of oil production during June jumped 155 million cubic feet per day, to 687 million cubic feet per day. Statewide, companies flared 24% of all gas produced, or double the 12% target. North Dakota set an oil production record in June at 1.42 million barrels per day. Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms says July flaring numbers could still be high, but they could improve in August and later in the year as more pipelines and processing plants come online.
Akron: Officials say the public school that basketball superstar LeBron James helped create in his hometown eventually will expand to serve middle schoolers but won’t add first and second grades as previously thought. Akron’s I Promise School aims to help at-risk children through academics and social and emotional support and services. It opened last year as a partnership between Akron Public Schools and James’ foundation. The Akron Beacon Journal reports the district board this week changed the plan for the school, which serves third through fifth grades. It’s expected to add one grade each year through eighth grade. But the vision of adding lower grades was dropped due to limited space in the building and the challenges of identifying the most at-risk kindergarteners with limited information from just one year.
Tulsa: A police officer has been suspended following his arrest on a gun charge. Tulsa County court records show 34-year-old Jeffrey Shane Statum was charged Friday with carrying a weapon where alcohol is sold. He was booked Saturday and released on $10,000 bail. The Tulsa World reports police took Statum into custody after nightclub managers reported a drunken man with a gun and badge who claimed to be an undercover officer. An affidavit says the man was also reportedly grabbing women without their consent. The affidavit says Statum denied groping women and claimed he wasn’t flashing his badge or claiming to be a part of the department’s special investigations division. Police officials say Statum was placed on leave without pay.
Portland: Health officials say 23 measles cases have been confirmed, the most reported in the state in a single year since 1991. KATU-TV reported Monday that the Oregon Health Authority announced nine new cases were reported in Clackamas and Multnomah counties since the beginning of July. Health officials say none of the nine people who recently contracted measles were vaccinated, and they have all stayed home while contagious. Officials say two of the nine cases were confirmed after the department updated its numbers Aug. 14. Health officials say most of the people diagnosed this year have been children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 1,000 cases have already been confirmed in 30 states this year.
Philadelphia: Loved ones propped photos of more than a dozen young people lost to the opioid crisis against the outside of the federal courthouse Monday as a judge inside heard arguments on whether the city could become the nation’s first to open a supervised injection center. U.S. Attorney William McSwain, an appointee of President Donald Trump, believes the plan normalizes the use of heroin and fentanyl and violates federal drug laws. He has sued to block the site, supported by several leading Democrats in the city, including the mayor and district attorney, and at least seven state attorneys general. In court Monday, U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh Jr. heard from an emergency room doctor and a nonprofit leader supporting the plan to open Safehouse, presumably in the city’s drug-ravaged Kensington neighborhood.
Providence: Federal fishing managers are restricting the fishery for a commercially important species of squid for the rest of the year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says restrictions on the fishery for illex squid, which are also called shortfin squid, begin Wednesday morning. Vessels won’t be allowed to bring more than 10,000 pounds per trip of the squid from federal waters to docks. The agency says the fishery is expected to hit 95% of its annual quota for 2019 on Wednesday. That’s the reason for the restrictions, which will last until Dec. 31. Fishermen from Maine to North Carolina harvest millions of pounds of the squid every year for use as food. Rhode Island is a major state in the East Coast squid industry.
Beaufort: An elementary school has reopened despite a smoldering, toxic fire in a 50-foot trash pile at a nearby recycling center. News outlets report Beaufort County School District decided to open Okatie Elementary as scheduled Monday. The district says a sensor at the school shows the air is safe, despite the ongoing blaze less than a mile away at the site known locally as Trash Mountain. Teachers say it smells like burnt rubber inside the school, The Island Packet reports. “In certain parts of the building, their eyes are stinging,” school board member Tricia Fidrych said. However, the problem of the teachers’ stinging eyes was unrelated to the trash fire, said Robert Oetting, the district’s chief of operations. He blamed a faulty motor on an air conditioning unit that has been resolved.
Rapid City: The percentage of inmates who are serving time for drug crimes in the state has increased in the past five years. Statistics from the Department of Corrections show the percentage of men in South Dakota prisons for drug crimes has increased from 21% in 2014 to 28% in 2019. Among female inmates, 44% were in prison for drugs in 2014 compared with 64% now. The increase happened despite passage of a 2013 criminal justice reform bill that was meant to reduce prison populations. The Public Safety Improvement Act included reforms such as issuing sentences of probation instead of prison for most low-level, nonviolent felonies including certain drug crimes. The Rapid City Journal reports that nationally, 14% of male inmates and 25% of female inmates are serving time for drug crimes.
Memphis: The Plough Foundation says it will grant its remaining assets to local nonprofits as the Memphis-based charity works to close down operations. The foundation said in a news release that it has decided to cease operating within the next four years after decades of charitable donations. The charity was established in 1960 by Abe Plough, founder of Plough Inc., a health care products company. The company merged with Schering Corp. in 1971 and later with Merck in 2009. Plough died in 1984. But the foundation’s charitable work has continued, with more than $300 million in donations in the areas of health care, arts, public education, crime prevention, conservation and civic improvement. Plough also has donated funds to Jewish organizations, the aging population and the homeless.
Waco: A restaurant called George’s that features a mural honoring famous men with the same name has been changed to avoid a trademark dispute. The Waco Tribune-Herald reports owner Sammy Citrano discovered that an alphabet letter he’d put on the mural is a Waco city trademark. Citrano polled the public on how best to change the mural and still salute all things George. The images include former presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and George Washington, plus retired boxer and businessman George Foreman, comic George Lopez and country music superstar George Strait. The updated mural shows Interstate 35 access road bridges over Lake Brazos. Citrano says anyone taking a photo of the mural will know they’re in Waco, Texas.
Provo: Brigham Young University will no longer hold a homecoming parade. The Daily Herald reports that school officials say participation in the tradition is declining, so they’re going to hold more “student-centric” activities instead, including a scavenger hunt and a BYU Birthday Bash. More details are expected to be announced in the fall. The festivities begin Oct. 15 and will end Oct. 19 with a football game against Boise State. Other changes announced Friday include moving the True Blue Foam slide from homecoming to Sept. 11 this year in order to have warmer temperatures and updating the route of the 5K Cougar Run.
Springfield: Officials say an elderly woman was rescued from her burning home by a Meals on Wheels driver. Springfield Deputy Fire Chief Scott Richardson says the driver had stopped to deliver the meals when he saw the house was on fire Friday. Richardson says the woman was the only occupant and was unaware of the fire. Officials say the woman was taken to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. MyNBC5.com reports the home had a lot of smoke and heat damage. The fire chief says that the cause of the fire remains unknown but that it does not appear to be foul play.
Alexandria: A teen volunteering at the Alexandria National Cemetery three years ago noticed a rundown plot nearby where overgrown trees blocked the sign marking it as the Douglass Memorial Cemetery. Sixteen-year-old Griffin Burchard says the cemetery named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass was covered in leaves and had signs of flooding. He soon got his Boy Scout troop, Troop 4077, to help restore the site. They unveiled a new historic marker for the plot Thursday, timing the ceremony to coincide with the 400th anniversary of enslaved Africans’ arrival in Virginia. It quotes Douglass: “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” Burchard led the monthslong restoration as his Eagle Scout project. Spurred by his efforts, the city got state money to determine how many people are buried there.
Seattle: To honor the National Parks System’s 103rd birthday, both it and the Washington State Parks system are giving free admission. The Seattle Times reports single-day visitors to any state park Sunday won’t need a Discover Pass to park. The pass costs $30 a year or $10 a day. The 2011 law that created the Discover Pass system also directed the state parks system to offer as many as 12 free days per year. After Sunday, two free days remain in 2019: Saturday, Sept. 28, which is National Public Lands Day, and Monday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Not all national parks charge entrance fees, but at those that do, there are several options, including a private-vehicle pass that costs $30 and is valid for seven consecutive days or an annual pass.
Wheeling: The state’s new Roman Catholic bishop is set to be installed this week. A ceremony is scheduled for Thursday at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling for the Most Rev. Mark Brennan, who previously was auxiliary bishop of Baltimore. The Wheeling-Charleston diocese includes nearly 75,000 Catholics and 95 parishes and encompasses the entire state. Brennan vowed at an introductory news conference last month to work toward restoring faith in the diocese after a scandal over the former bishop’s sexual harassment of adults and lavish spending of church money. Pope Francis named the 72-year-old Brennan to replace Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned in September 2018 after a preliminary investigation into allegations of sexual and financial misconduct.
Madison: A pair of Republican legislators is introducing a package of legislation designed to combat elder abuse. Sen. Patrick Testin and Rep. John Macco’s bills would expedite hearings in criminal cases involving elderly victims or witnesses and allow brokers and investment advisers to delay transactions from vulnerable adults’ accounts when they suspect financial exploitation. The bills also would allow banks, lenders and check-cashing services to refuse or delay transactions if they suspect a vulnerable adult, strengthen criminal penalties for sexually abusing or physically abusing people over 60, and create sentence enhancers for crimes involving the elderly. The bills stem from recommendations from former Attorney General Brad Schimel’s Elder Abuse Task Force.
Cheyenne: A legislative committee has rejected a proposal supported by landowner groups that would allow people to be prosecuted for trespassing even if they didn’t know they were on private land. The Casper Star-Tribune reports the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee rejected the proposal 8-6. It would have removed language that says trespassing laws apply only when someone “knowingly” enters private property without permission. It also sought to increase the maximum fine from $750 to $1,000. Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, says people should be punished for not taking advantage of the GPS and land ownership information that is available on smartphones. Committee co-chairwoman Tara Nethercott said intent is an important factor in enforcing laws and voted against the measure.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: News from around our 50 states