Cullman: An underwater forest with trees as tall as 60 feet has been hampering the search for the body of a woman who was thrown off a boat about two weeks ago. The Cullman Times reports many trees weren’t cut down as workers created Smith Lake near Birmingham more than 50 years ago. Phil Hutchens, a member of the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office dive team, says standing timber is now complicating the search for 26-year-old Kelsey Nicole Starling of Birmingham, who’s been missing since two boats collided on the night of July 4. Starling was thrown from one of them. One of the drivers is charged with boating under the influence. Teams haven’t been able to find any trace of Starling.
Igiugig: This tiny Alaska Native village is adopting an emerging technology to transform the power of a local river into a renewable energy source. The village council in Igiugig is the first tribal entity in the nation licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to harness river water that’s not connected to a dam. An underwater generator will be installed in coming days in the Kvichak River, part of a salmon-rich system that also provides subsistence food for the community of 70. Officials with Portland, Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. say a trial river run of the RivGen Power System gives them confidence the system will not harm adult fish. Igiugig Village Council President AlexAnna Salmon says the generator is expected to greatly reduce reliance on costly diesel fuel.
Phoenix: Barbie – the iconic Mattel doll, arguably one of the world’s original influencers – is Instagramming her way across Arizona this week. The @BarbieStyle account has partnered with Visit Arizona to showcase travel in the Grand Canyon State. Her post Wednesday shows her and a pal visiting Antelope Canyon, on the Navajo Reservation just east of Page. Before that, she posed at the internationally famous Horseshoe Bend, a dramatic curve in the Colorado River that can be seen from an overlook a few miles south of Page. Barbie’s first stop in the state was the Phoenix area, where she lounged by the pool at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley. Skyler Scott, spokeswoman for Mountain Shadows, says the Barbie photo taken there was not Photoshopped. A crew came to the resort, and Scott says it was fun to watch the detail and planning that went into the post.
Little Rock: A nonprofit plans to develop an online database of opioid-related overdoses in the state. Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane said Wednesday that the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care is spearheading the project. He noted the database will give policymakers accurate information they can use for grants and prevention efforts. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the Justice Department awarded the state a nearly $1 million grant to fund the project. It’s expected the public database will be ready for use within six months. Gina Redford, the foundation’s analytics manager, said the database will only include information on overdoses involving opioids, which include prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and fentanyl along with heroin. Data out Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control shows Arkansas had at least 433 fatal drug overdoses in 2018.
Oakland: An animal rescue group is asking for help caring for 89 baby snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons left homeless last week after a tree fell downtown. International Bird Rescue said Wednesday that it needs donations and volunteers to help feed and care for the baby birds rescued after an old ficus tree serving as a rookery split in half and partially fell last week, said JD Bergeron, the group’s executive director. The group is caring for 89 young birds and eggs rescued from the tree, including 50 snowy egrets and 22 black-crowned night herons. It also rescued 17 eggs that need intensive care and round-the-clock support. Another 20 birds died when the tree fell. The rescue group was already taking care of more than 200 Bay Area water birds at its busy hospital in the city of Fairfield, Bergeron said.
Denver: Officials say greenhouse gas emissions in the state peaked in 2010 and have been in decline since. Colorado Air Pollution Control Division Director Gary Kaufman says the rate of decline has been small, but it’s expected to increase by 2030. The data is included in the Department of Public Health and Environment’s draft inventory of the state’s greenhouse gases. The report projects 125.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other gases will be emitted in the state in 2020. That’s down from nearly 127 million metric tons in 2015 and 133 million metric tons in 2010. A new state law aims to cut emissions to at least 90% of 2005 levels, or about 113 million metric tons, by 2050. Officials project the state will still be well above that goal in 2030.
Hartford: Prisons officials say errors by nurses at the state women’s prison have caused five inmate methadone overdoses in recent months. The Department of Correction tells the Hartford Courant none of the overdoses at the York Correctional Institution in East Lyme was fatal. Two inmates had to be revived with an opioid overdose reversal drug. One York nurse was fired in connection with two of the errors, and three overdoses remain under investigation. Agency spokeswoman Karen Martucci says 300 inmates at York were on methadone treatment last year. She says while the percentage of dosing errors “is extremely low,” the department is reviewing the methadone distribution program and adding safeguards to prevent similar incidents. Prison workers union officials have warned of dangerous understaffing at state prisons.
Wilmington: Ladybug Music Festival, believed to be the country’s largest annual celebration of women in music, has kicked off, bringing with it a new local beer, along with almost 60 acts performing at 15 locations around town. The event Thursday and Friday includes a headlining set paying tribute to the “Ladybugs of Soul,” including Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan. To celebration the occasion, Stitch House Brewery has released its first canned beer, made in collaboration with Milford’s Mispillion River Brewing. Ladybug Rose Lager is an easy-drinking raspberry- and rose hip-infused lager with a light 4% ABV. The cans, which boast Ladybug’s eye-popping colors of pink and yellow, are also sold by the case or in four-packs.
District of Columbia
Washington: Protesters angered by the federal detainment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border blocked access to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in the city this week and staged a sit-in. News outlets reports at least 10 sit-in demonstrators were arrested and charged with unlawful entry. Dozens marched from the National Mall to the agency’s site around lunchtime Tuesday, stopping federal workers from returning to their desks. The demonstration went on for hours as attendees sang and carried signs saying “Never again is now” and “Never again means close the concentration camps.” The protest was one in a string of similar demonstrations outside ICE facilities nationwide during which protesters called for the dissolution of ICE and an end to crowded detainment centers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
West Palm Beach: Officials are hoping a continuous loop of children’s songs played throughout the night will keep homeless people from sleeping on the patio of a city-owned rental banquet facility. West Palm Beach parks and recreation director Leah Rockwell tells the Palm Beach Post they’re trying to discourage people from sleeping outside the glass-walled Waterfront Lake Pavilion, which she says rakes in some $240,000 annually from events. The loop of “Baby Shark” and “Raining Tacos” is a temporary fix to keep homeless people off the patio. Rockwell says the city wants to formalize hours for the facility, which should make trespassing laws easier to enforce. Illaya Champion tells the Post “it’s wrong” to chase people away with music. He says he’ll still sleep there, but “it’s on and on, the same songs.”
Savannah: Coastal Georgia’s largest county wants to help residents prepare for an emergency during hurricane season. The Chatham County Emergency Management Agency in Savannah plans to hold a free “Citizen Hurricane Academy” this weekend. The program includes presentations by meteorologists, local emergency planners and other experts on how evacuation decisions are made, how to prepare financially for a disaster and some basic first aid tips for use in emergencies. The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and runs until Dec. 1. Coastal Georgia evacuated for Hurricane Matthew in 2017 and Hurricane Irma in 2018. Both storms brought damaging wind and flooding to Georgia’s 100-mile coast. Hurricane Michael caused extensive damage farther inland last year.
Kailua-Kona: A developer has agreed to cancel a planned condominium project to preserve a surfing area. West Hawaii Today reports the landowner has agreed to work toward building a public space rather than the proposed five-story residence near the Banyans, a popular surfing spot on the north side of Holualoa Bay. Property owner Kilohana Makai LLC met in a second mediation session last week with people involved in a case challenging plans for the condominium. A spokesman says Kilohana Makai will work over the next year to 15 months to convert the 14,450-square-foot lot on the Big Island into a community space. Officials say Hawaii County could buy the property via a commission that maintains a list of properties considered “worthy of preservation.”
Pocatello: Beekeepers and maintenance workers have removed roughly 30,000 bees that built a massive hive inside an Idaho State University campus landmark. The Idaho State Journal reports the bees were safely transported from the stone-and-wood Swanson Arch to a hive box at a nearby farm last Friday. Beekeeper Sarah Hofeldt says the bees were surprisingly docile, and no one was stung during the extraction. Hofeldt was safely able to remove the queen bee from the hive by hand without the use of smoke. She says the smokers can calm the bees but also can make it more difficult to move the bees into a transport container, which can increase bee fatalities. ISU students traditionally walk through the arch upon entering and graduating from the university.
Springfield: A woman who recently got a 1993 postcard in her mailbox has tracked down the man who sent it to his children more than two decades ago. Kim Draper’s story about the mysterious Hong Kong postcard was first published in The State Journal-Register in Springfield. Masrour Kizilbash sent the postcard to his family while working overseas in 1993. He told the newspaper that he was “fascinated with the area” and wanted to share his experiences. Kizilbash’s family was living in Springfield at the time. He always figured they had received the postcard. With the help of social media, Draper learned that a son now lives in suburban Chicago. A reunion with the postcard is planned. Officials say it likely got tied up in Hong Kong or might have been stuck in old equipment.
Indianapolis: The state’s attorney general has reversed himself and decided against appealing a federal judge’s decision to block a state law that would ban a second-trimester abortion procedure. A judge granted a preliminary injunction last month sought by doctors who perform dilation-and-evacuation abortions. Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill said after that ruling that he would try to have the injunction lifted, but he announced Wednesday that his office would concentrate on arguing that the law is constitutional. That decision means the law can’t be enforced while court proceedings continue. The law passed this spring by the Republican-dominated Legislature calls the abortion procedure “dismemberment abortion.”
Iowa City: The director of the state’s social services agency was a huge fan of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, and he frequently let his subordinates know it. Emails obtained by the Associated Press show that Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven routinely sent messages to employees lauding Shakur’s music and lyrics even after at least one complained to lawmakers. Then last month, he sent another such email to all 4,300 agency employees. He was abruptly ousted from his job the next work day. Foxhoven, 66, told employees he had been a huge fan of the hip-hop artist for years. He hosted weekly “Tupac Fridays” to play his music in the office. He traded lyrics with employees and marked his own 65th birthday with Shakur-themed cookies, including ones decorated with the words “Thug life.”
Wichita: Authorities say a lab technician “fudged” the test results of sewage treatment plant wastewater that is dumped into the Arkansas River. The Wichita Eagle reports Director of Public Works Alan King said Tuesday that the city caught the error during a spot check and immediately reported it to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The employee has since resigned. The problematic test results falsely reported how much organic and inorganic substance is floating in the water. It’s generally used as an indicator of sediment or silt in the water. King says Wichita’s permits shouldn’t be affected, and there was no danger to the public. Results from around the same time as the false one show that the city likely stayed within an acceptable range.
Frankfort: A new list of rankings from a high-profile polling organization is giving a big red thumbs-down to Gov. Matt Bevin. Kentucky’s chief executive is the least popular in the nation among voters in their own state, according to Morning Consult’s Q2 rankings, with a 56% disapproval rating vs. just 32% who approve. Bevin notably has ground to make up among voters in his own party, with an election looming in November. The governor faces a 40% disapproval rating among fellow Republicans in Kentucky, after a May primary election in which GOP challenger Robert Goforth, a state representative, scored 39% of the in-party vote to Bevin’s 52%. His net approval among Kentucky voters, according to the Morning Consult poll, sits at -24 overall, which breaks down to +11 among Republicans, -63 among Democrats and -26 among independents.
New Orleans: A favorite local confection is making a comeback seven years after a devastating fire. Louisiana’s economic development office announced Thursday that Hubig’s Pies will be produced again next year in suburban Jefferson Parish. Hubig’s made hand-sized turnovers with a glazed crust and fillings of chocolate, coconut or any of a variety of fruits. Wrapped in white paper labeled with a caricature of a chef known as Savory Simon, the pies were prominent for decades at retail checkout counters, including grocery and hardware stores. A 2012 fire gutted Hubig’s longtime bakery in New Orleans’ Marigny neighborhood. Production will resume in Jefferson Parish after a $1.37 million investment in a manufacturing facility. The state says Hubig’s will distribute pies from the Louisiana-Texas line to the Mobile, Alabama, area.
Kennebunkport: A curious visitor to a train museum that resembled a white throw pillow or perhaps a lost toupee turned out to be a rare albino porcupine. The young rodent turned up Tuesday at Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, perplexing the staff, who sought help identifying it via social media. The consensus was that it’s an albino porcupine. The Portland Press Herald reports the animal appeared to be a baby because its quills had not yet hardened. A spokeswoman for the museum said midday Wednesday that it hadn’t yet been seen again, but it was assumed to be lurking in the area. Porcupines are common in Maine, though albino ones certainly aren’t. About 1 in every 10,000 of the species is an albino porcupine.
Baltimore: An audit says a possible infusion of $3.2 million in state funds and savings from a shortened season may not be enough to save the cash-strapped Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The Baltimore Sun reports the SC&H Group audit released Tuesday says both methods would only temporarily help BSO unless additional revenue streams are established. It says it’s unclear if the orchestra will survive the year. The audit considered the possible state emergency funding, which Gov. Larry Hogan refused to partially release this year, citing concerns that the state could soon face a $961 million deficit. Hogan signaled in May that he might not release the first installment of the funds, leading the orchestra to abruptly cancel its summer series and lock out musicians amid ongoing contract negotiations.
Cape Cod: A citizens group is calling for eliminating federal protections for seals as officials seek ways to protect beachgoers from great white sharks. Peter Howell, a founder of the Seal Action Committee, says the Nantucket-based group wants Congress to amend the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act so that species can be removed from the law’s list of protected animals if their populations have sufficiently rebounded. “We’re not anti-seal. We’re not trying to eliminate them. We’re just trying to manage them in the interest of the larger ecosystem,” he said Wednesday as the group spoke before the Barnstable County Commissioners, which oversees Cape Cod’s regional government. The region’s seal population – estimated in the hundreds of thousands – has been blamed for drawing droves of great white sharks in recent years. Seals are the favored meal for the powerful predators.
Traverse City: Three historic Great Lakes lighthouses owned by the federal government are going on the auction block. They include Lake Huron’s Poe Reef Lighthouse, 6 miles east of Cheboygan, Michigan, which guides ships through a hazardous channel. The Ontonagon Breakwater Lighthouse is the westernmost lighthouse in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, perched at the entrance of the channel leading to the Ontonagon River from Lake Superior. The Superior Entry Lighthouse sits on a sandbar between Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota. The U.S. General Services Administration is offering the lighthouses through an online auction. Their lighting mechanisms will continue aiding navigation and will remain the U.S. Coast Guard’s property. Proceeds from public lighthouse sales help pay to preserve and maintain those that remain active.
St. Paul: The developers of a proposed copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters plan to use a potentially safer dry method of storing mine waste instead of the kind of wet tailings pond more common in the industry. Twin Metals Minnesota said Thursday that its underground mine near Ely would use “dry stack” storage for waste rock, calling it the most environmentally friendly approach for the site. The method contrasts with the conventional tailings basin at the planned PolyMet mine, which will be contained by an earthen dam. While environmentalists pushed for dry stack storage at PolyMet, they’re criticizing Twin Metals because the waste would sit just a couple of miles upstream from the Boundary Waters. Twin Metals plans to release its formal mine plan in the coming months, triggering a lengthy environmental review.
Jackson: The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi is asking 16 cities to eliminate local laws that penalize panhandling. The organization says in a news release that the request is part of a national effort that includes work by the National Law Center of Homelessness & Poverty. A federal appeals court in 2015 ruled that an ordinance in Springfield, Illinois, that penalized people for begging for money in public places is unconstitutional. ACLU of Mississippi says that since last year, four cities in the state have repealed panhandling ordinances – Ridgeland, Meridian, Starkville and Southaven. It’s asking other cities to do the same – Brandon, Clarksdale, Cleveland, Clinton, Corinth, Greenville, Greenwood, Grenada, Gulfport, Horn Lake, Jackson, Long Beach, Natchez, Olive Branch, Pascagoula and Vicksburg.
Kansas City: The U.S. Department of Agriculture now says less than 40% of the researchers whose jobs are being transferred from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City will make the move to the Midwest. The Kansas City Star reports U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced in June that the USDA would move more than 550 jobs to Kansas City. A USDA spokesperson told The Star on Tuesday that 145 workers will follow their jobs to Kansas City, while 250 will leave the agency. Members of the Kansas and Missouri congressional delegations and the states’ governors praised the USDA’s move, saying the research agencies are a good fit for their region. But critics argued that moving them will make it harder for federal policymakers to get objective research.
Billings: Wildlife officials say evidence of an invasive clam that can out-compete native species has been found for the first time in a state water body. Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say Asian clam shells were recently found near the boat ramp at Lake Elmo State Park in Billings. The discovery was made by participants in a training session on the detection of aquatic invasive species. No live clams were found. The quarter-sized mollusks are smaller than native clams that live in Montana. In large enough numbers, officials say they can clog screens on irrigation pumps or other water intakes. Since being discovered in Washington state’s Columbia River in 1938, Asian clams have spread to almost every state.
Lincoln: Plant science students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are still taught to phenotype by hand, wading into muddy fields to record the differences in physical characteristics between varying corn hybrids with a small set of tools and a pen and notebook. But technology is on track to render that human work obsolete. A team of UNL plant scientists and biological systems engineers have built an automated system capable of detecting an individual corn leaf and grasping it with robotic precision to screen its temperature, chlorophyll and water content in less than a minute, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Building a robot to automate the processes took years, as the team had to build a system that could identify the leaf from a corn or soybean plant, then direct a robotic arm where to reach and how to grab it for a battery of measurements, says Abbas Atefi, a Ph.D. candidate in biological systems engineering.
Reno: Lake Tahoe is almost entirely full. For weeks, the roughly 1,644-foot-deep alpine lake – the second deepest in the U.S. – has been within an inch of its maximum allowed surface elevation of 6,229.1 feet above sea level. As of late last week, its surface elevation was 6,229.03 feet above sea level. For Chad Blanchard, the federal water master in Reno responsible for managing Tahoe’s waters, it’s the longest he’s ever seen the lake stay this high. “This is a rare year,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for 26 years, and we’ve had big (snow) years, but this one is unique as far as being up within an inch of being full, and it’s just hanging there ... it’s a product of still having so much snow up there.” Despite a good amount of snow still coating the peaks around Tahoe, Blanchard doesn’t expect the lake level to rise much more, with summertime surface evaporation starting to pick up.
Milan: The Nansen Ski Jump has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1938, the 65-meter ski jump was the largest in the U.S. at the time, and it retains most of its original design. Officials said Wednesday that it was placed on the register because of its architecture and its place in U.S. sports history. Over the decades, Nansen was site of National Ski Jumping Championships, Olympic Ski Jumping qualifying events and U.S. Nordic combined championships. The ski jump was part of a planned bid by New Hampshire to host the 1944 Winter Olympics with cross-country skiing in Berlin, alpine events at Cannon, figure skating in Conway and bobsledding on Mount Madison. The games were canceled due to World War II.
East Newark: Famed restaurant Tops Diner will soon be demolished and rebuilt in the same spot, with new space three times the current size. Tops, which opened in 1942, has been approved for expansion by the Hudson County Planning Board. Owners Jimmy and John Golemis, whose father, George, bought the diner in 1972, could not be reached for comment on the expansion. Tops Diner has been named the “most iconic” restaurant in New Jersey by Thrillist; was ranked the best diner in the country by Time Out magazine; and was listed as the most famous restaurant in the state by Insider. According to reports from NJ.com and The Jersey Journal, the new space will feature 296 seats (up from 180), 160 parking spaces and outdoor seating. Tops Diner says construction will take at minimum four to six weeks, during which Tops will be closed.
Santa Fe: Thousands of small campaign contributions have helped propel former CIA operative and author Valerie Plame to the financial lead in a crowded primary for an open congressional seat in 2020. The Democrat raised $236,000 in May and June, according to disclosure forms and a statement from the campaign. Among notable donors were actor Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” and Naomi Watts, who portrayed Plame in the 2010 film about her involvement in political jousting at the start of the Iraq War under President George W. Bush. In a field of eight primary contenders, Plame is the only national figure. Her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by an official in President George W. Bush’s administration in an effort to discredit her then-husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, a critic of the war in Iraq.
Vernon: Woodstock 50 organizers have applied again for a permit to hold their festival at an upstate horse track, a day after losing an appeal for a previous denial. Town of Vernon officials say the application was submitted Wednesday. Woodstock 50 was previously denied a permit twice last week by the town. An appeal of the denial was upheld Tuesday night by the central New York town’s planning board. The Vernon Downs racetrack and casino became a possible alternative site for Woodstock 50 after the original venue, Watkins Glen International, pulled out. Woodstock 50 did not respond to a request for comment. Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol warned Thursday that “there is no practical or logistical possibility that this event could occur without significant risk to public safety.”
Hatteras: Sea turtles have again set a record for nesting at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. A news release from the National Park Service says that with more than a month to go before the nesting season typically winds down, rangers discovered the 326th nest Monday. The previous record of 325 was set in 2016. As of Tuesday, there are 317 loggerhead nests, 11 green sea turtle nests and one Kemp’s Ridley nest. Tracy Ziegler, chief of resource management and science for National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, says it’s estimated that almost 11,000 sea turtle eggs have been deposited in beaches on Bodie, Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
Bismarck: The state has sued the federal government to recover the $38 million the state spent policing protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says he filed the lawsuit Thursday against the Army Corps of Engineers. He says the agency didn’t respond to an administrative claim he filed one year ago. The agency did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Stenehjem says the Corps allowed protesters to illegally camp without a permit on federal land along the Missouri River in southern North Dakota and failed to maintain law and order. The Corps has said protesters weren’t evicted due to free speech reasons. The pipeline carries oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.
Columbus: The Republican-led Legislature has passed a measure that would allow farmers and university researchers to grow industrial hemp and would legalize sales of hemp-derived cannabidiol oil, or CBD. Federal legislation last year removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and now treats the low-THC version of the cannabis plant like other agricultural crops. But existing Ohio law doesn’t differentiate between marijuana and hemp. The newly passed Ohio legislation would allow for cultivation of hemp as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC, the cannabis compound that gives marijuana its high. It would be regulated by the state. The measure was sent to GOP Gov. Mike DeWine for consideration. It would take effect immediately if he signs it.
Oklahoma City: Oklahoma County has joined over 50 other cities and counties in the state to prosecute drug companies for damages caused by the opioid epidemic. The Oklahoman reports that all three county commissioners voted Wednesday to approve a contract with the Fulmer Sill law firm to sue opioid manufacturers. The decision comes at the end of the state’s trial against consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson, which alleges the company and its subsidiaries created a public nuisance by aggressively promoting the highly addictive drugs. Oklahoma could receive up to $17.5 billion in abatement costs. Commissioner Kevin Calvey says the opioid crisis has increased the county’s costs in policing, jailing and providing treatment services to residents. Fulmer Sill lawyers say they expect to pursue “tens of millions of dollars” for the county.
Keizer: Four scorpions were brought to the Keizer Fire District after a woman found the abandoned arachnids inside a Red Vines licorice container near a playground at an area park Wednesday. A mother picked them up around noon and brought them to the fire district. Keizer Fire District Chief Jeff Cowan says the arachnids were confirmed to be Pacific Northwest forest scorpions, a species native to the Willamette Valley. The species is not aggressive. Though they can sting, they prefer to play dead when disturbed. The scorpions were then given to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which maintains a staff of professional entomologists. Cowan says under the entomologists’ care, the scorpions will travel for outreach events such as the Oregon State Fair.
Wilkes-Barre: City officials have removed a public monument that included a recently added brick sponsored by a Ku Klux Klan affiliate. The Citizens’ Voice reports the column monument in Public Square was taken down three weeks after a brick was placed on it bearing the name of the East Coast Knights, a KKK chapter that has recruited in Wilkes-Barre. Harrisburg citizen activist Gene Stilp tried to chisel it off last week, resulting in a disorderly conduct charge, which he says he plans to fight. The monument was installed in 2008. Supporters could purchase engraved bricks for $35. Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George tells the paper it was time to tear down the monument, which he says wouldn’t have survived ongoing renovations to Public Square.
Cranston: The state’s prison population is continuing to shrink as the percentage of older inmates rises. WPRI reports a 2018 Department of Corrections Population Report indicates 1 in 4 adults in the state’s correctional institutions in 2018 was over the age of 50, with more than 7% over 60. The 2009 population report disclosed that 17% of inmates were over 50, and 5% were over 60. The department says it categorizes inmates 50 and older as geriatric. The American Civil Liberties Union is also watching the aging prison population closely. Steve Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, says everyone “should be concerned as taxpayers.” Data compiled by the nonprofit projects the number of elderly inmates to triple in the next 15 years.
Greenville: The Greenville County Council has moved forward on a roughly $40 million plan to relocate state offices from some expensive real estate downtown to a pair of office buildings near Haywood Mall. The decision at Tuesday night’s council meeting means the county is moving forward with the $1 billion commercial and residential redevelopment of County Square that council members first approved more than a year ago. The purchase price for the buildings, formerly part of the Fluor Corp. campus, will be $33.1 million, according to council members. The county will spend an additional $5 million to $8 million up-fitting the buildings for county and state services, according to a memo circulated to council members last March.
Sioux Falls: Dozens of children up to age 5 in the Sioux Falls School District and five rural districts now have access to mental health support in a way they never did before thanks to a $2 million grant given to Southeastern Behavioral Healthcare. The five-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration establishes the South Dakota Early Childhood Mental Health Collaborative to help Southeast Behavioral Health therapists reach an under-served population, what some call a “mental health desert,” through a partnership with South Dakota State University and federal school readiness programs like Head Start. And it will also develop some of the state’s first fully certified specialists in play therapy to help children discover healthy social and emotional coping skills, Southeastern officials said.
Memphis: If famed local dive bar Earnestine & Hazel’s didn’t have enough haunted lore swirling around it already, bones of an unknown origin tumbling out of the walls and landing at the feet of construction crews serve as one more paranormal episode the historic bar can now tout. Diversified Builders crews have resumed restoration work after a Wednesday night scare when bones fell out of a wall they were repairing. The contracting company’s vice president, Chris Tigner, says word got out quickly, and someone alerted police and inaccurately told them a body was in the bar. Police and fire crews swarmed the site about 11 p.m., Tigner says. There was no body, and no one can say with certainty what organism the bones originated from. Caitlin Chittom, owner of Earnestine & Hazel’s, says they’ve been sent away for identification.
Austin: A former judge who served on the state’s highest criminal court has denounced President Donald Trump in announcing her decision to leave the Republican Party. The Austin American-Statesman reports retired Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala announced her decision on Facebook. Alcala said in the Facebook post that even accepting that Trump has had some successes, “at his core, his ideology is racism.” Alcala said she can no longer support the GOP and will be voting in the 2020 Democratic primary. She was appointed to the court by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 and spent 20 years as a GOP judge. Alcala’s announcement follows Trump’s tweets that four Democratic freshmen should “go back” to their home countries – though all are citizens, and three were born in the United States.
Salt Lake City: Wildlife officials say reports of bears coming down from the mountains and rummaging through backyards and campgrounds throughout the state have more than doubled this year. Faith Jolley with the Division of Wildlife Resources said Wednesday that her agency has already received more than 25 reports of black bears getting into trash cans and campsites, mostly in central Utah. In 2018 the DWR recorded 27 total bear encounters. None resulted in serious injury. The sharp increase can be attributed to a larger bear population and a wet spring that kept the bears hibernating longer than usual. State biologists say these factors have made bears bolder in searching for food. Jolley says residents can “bearproof” their surroundings by regularly cleaning their trash cans and storing food in locked cars while camping.
Burlington: The Vermont Mozart Festival will not have a summer concert series this year. WCAX-TV reports that the organization said in a Facebook post this week that it is “currently reviewing opportunities and evaluating all options for the future, but will not have a summer season this year.” It didn’t say why. The festival, which celebrates the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, has struggled in recent years. It shut down in 2010 due to financial troubles. Then it was revived under new leadership, with partnership with communities and including food offerings and youth sports.
Richmond: A limited-edition license plate is being offered to celebrate the University of Virginia men’s basketball team’s 2019 national championship. The state Department of Motor Vehicles worked with UVA to offer a license plate featuring the national champion’s logo. The plate is now available for purchase at any DMV customer service center, mobile office or online. It costs $25 annually, plus the cost of the registration, and can be personalized for $10. UVA license plates are part of the DMV’s revenue-sharing program, with $15 of the $25 fee returned to the university to support student scholarships. UVA has received more than $1.9 million from the program since it was established in 1992. The DMV also offers license plates as ornamental souvenirs. The $10 plates cannot be used on motor vehicles.
Olympia: The state Transportation Commission is expected to vote this year on a proposal to replace the gas tax with a pay-per-mile system. The vote will take place Dec. 17, after the commission is expected to receive a report in October from a panel that has studied the new type of tax, The Olympian reports. Any recommendation voted on by the commission will then be passed on to the Legislature to consider during its next session, which starts in January. Commission chairman Jerry Litt says he expects many state residents would pay more under a pay-per-mile tax, which the state calls a “road usage charge.” Sen. Rebecca Saldana, vice chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, says the state is considering such a charge because she says more fuel-efficient vehicles have eroded the state’s ability to rely long term on the gas tax for transportation needs.
Charleston: A permanent prescription drug disposal site is being placed at the Capitol so people wanting to dispose of medication can do so all year. There has already been a collection site at the Capitol for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, but the new location is permanent. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the plan Wednesday and said it is in collaboration with the Capitol Police. Morrisey says the use of disposal sites can affect substance abuse rates by reducing the number of available pills. This disposal site is at the Division of Protective Services Office in Building 1, Room 152-A.
Madison: Gov. Tony Evers has signed a bill that creates new tiers of sign language interpreters. The bill he signed Wednesday establishes criteria for new advanced and intermediate licenses for both deaf and hearing interpreters and requires the state Department of Public Safety to determine the scope of practice for each level. One of the bill’s chief Assembly sponsors, Democrat Jonathan Brostoff, refused to cut his hair for a year and a half as a stunt to pressure Republican legislative leaders to consider the proposal. His hair had ballooned into a thick, curly mop by the time the Assembly and Senate passed the proposal in June. He cut his hair days later.
Thermopolis: The skeleton of a nearly 3-foot-tall cousin of the velociraptor is now on display at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. The Rock Springs Rocket-Miner reports the museum in Thermopolis opened a new permanent exhibit featuring the fossils and full-size reproduction of the dinosaur informally known as Lori. Paleontologists discovered Lori, whose scientific name is Hesperornithoides miessleri, in a formation dating to the late Jurassic period near Douglas in 2001. Center paleontologist Bill Wahl says Lori is the earliest troodontid that has been found in North America. It’s also the smallest dinosaur that has been found in Wyoming. Troodontids are bird-like predators that have sickle-like claws.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: News from around our 50 states