Cat burglar, prison bats, USS Arizona Memorial: News from around our 50 states

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports, USA TODAY


Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

Montgomery: Two new books have been published to coincide with the state’s bicentennial celebration. The Montgomery-based NewSouth Books has joined with Alabama Heritage magazine to produce “Alabama from Territory to Statehood.” The book covers the state’s early period, before its admission into the United States on Dec. 14, 1819. Secretary of State John Merrill co-authored another book called “Alabama: The Bicentennial” that’s being sold by the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It recognizes the contributions of more than 400 notable Alabamians. The state is highlighting nearly three years’ worth of events as its marks the 200th anniversary of its admission into the United States. Hundreds of teachers have gotten new materials and training for state history lessons.


Anchorage: Officials have extended the state’s wildfire season through Sept. 30. KTUU-TV reports the Department of Natural Resources announced the season will be extended due to continued warm, dry conditions. Alaska’s statutory wildfire season normally begins April 1 and ends Aug. 31. The season’s official extension under state law means small- and large-scale burn permits will be required for open debris burning or the use of burn barrels through Sept. 30. The announcement marks the first extension since legislation in 2006 shifted the five-month season to begin and end one month earlier. Officials say 682 fires have burned more than 3,906 square miles this season.


Flagstaff: In the two years since the Grand Canyon approved a plan to reduce the number of bison roaming in the national park, the herd has only grown in size. No one is sure exactly how many of the massive animals call far northern Arizona home because they’re hard to count amid the Ponderosa pine trees, but it’s in the hundreds. Left unchecked, the herd could reach 1,500 in several years, severely damaging the landscape and water resources, the park says. The reduction plan has been hampered by weather and disagreements over how to kill some of the bison if shipping them off isn’t enough. The Grand Canyon tried to round up some animals last year, but wintry weather set in. The park is taking a second run this month. The Grand Canyon bison are descendants of those introduced to the area in the early 1900s as part of a ranching operation to crossbreed them with cattle.


Little Rock: The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has announced that Chancellor Andrew Rogerson is resigning his post after three years at the helm. According to a university statement, Rogerson’s resignation took effect Sunday, and he is assuming a faculty position before retiring next year. University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt credited Rogerson with improving fundraising efforts and campus grounds while strengthening ties to the Little Rock community. UALR has faced challenges that include a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall. System leaders earlier this year chose not to increase tuition at UALR but did vote to boost fees by about 3%. Last fall there were 10,525 students enrolled at UALR, down from more than 13,000 students several years ago.


Sacramento: Gov. Gavin Newsom has reached a deal with apartment owners and developers on legislation that would cap how rapidly rents can rise as the state grapples with a housing crisis. The deal would cap annual rent increases at 5% plus inflation, with a 10% maximum increase. That’s lower than the 7% threshold lawmakers had previously negotiated amid strong resistance from the real estate and development industries. It marks a victory for renters who say they are being priced out as rents rise, though many renters and social justice groups likely want an even stricter proposal. Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco, the bill’s author, had made numerous concessions to the real estate and development industries to even get the bill to the state Senate. The new deal changes the exemption for newer properties from those built within the past 10 years to within the past 15.


Broomfield: City officials are suspending their search for investors to help build a toll road after a soil test found elevated levels of plutonium in the highway’s planned path. The road would cross a buffer zone on the east side of a former nuclear weapons plant northwest of Denver. KUSA-TV reports the Broomfield City Council says it’s halting efforts to find a private partner for the project. The Rocky Flats plant made plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads from 1952 to 1989. Later, the manufacturing site underwent a $7 billion cleanup. State officials announced in August that a soil test found plutonium levels five times higher than the cleanup standard, but a second test found much lower levels. Officials were seeking more information on the results.


Old New-Gate Prison in East Granby, Conn., was once home to a copper mine and, later, inmates. Now endangered bats live in its underground tunnels part of the year.
Old New-Gate Prison in East Granby, Conn., was once home to a copper mine and, later, inmates. Now endangered bats live in its underground tunnels part of the year.

East Granby: The nation’s oldest prison will be the backdrop for a day devoted to the importance of conserving bats. The underground tunnels at the former Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine in East Granby are the winter home of several state-endangered bat species. On Saturday, the public can catch a glimpse of endangered bats in the “bat cave.” Other family-friendly activities are planned as well. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Department of Economic and Community Development are planning Bat Appreciation Day to highlight the site’s importance to conserving the bat population. Bats at the historic site are considered “cave bats,” in part because they hibernate underground in caves and mines. Connecticut purchased the copper mine in 1773 and operated it as a prison for more than 50 years.


People of all ages participate in a walk of the undead at the Milton Zombie Fest 2018 in downtown Milton, Del.
People of all ages participate in a walk of the undead at the Milton Zombie Fest 2018 in downtown Milton, Del.

Milton: The streets of this small town are usually flooded each October by an undead horde, but it seems there won’t be any dead men walking this year. Milton Zombie Fest organizer and theater director Fred Munzert says the town approved new guidelines that essentially take the street festival off the street and raise the event’s financial burden. The theater’s board decided this month to cancel the event. Munzert says the town council and mayor barred the event’s stage and vendors from the street and halved its number of approved food trucks. He says it costs about $20,000 to throw the family-friendly festival, which organizers said was going to be free to attendees this year. Mayor Ted Kanakos didn’t respond to requests for comment.

District of Columbia

Washington: The D.C. Council has lost its second voting representative on the regional transit authority board. News outlets report Corbett Price announced Friday that he was resigning effective immediately. Price told Mayor Muriel E. Bowser that he was resigning as a district representative for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board over a family matter and upcoming surgery. He was appointed in 2015 and approved for a second term this year. Several council members unsuccessfully tried to oust Price in July after he lied about an independent ethics probe that found councilman Jack Evans guilty of not disclosing a conflict of interest.


Collier County Sheriff's deputies caught Bones inside a residence on 60th Avenue Northeast in Naples, Fla.
Collier County Sheriff's deputies caught Bones inside a residence on 60th Avenue Northeast in Naples, Fla.

Naples: Deputies have a cat burglar in custody. Literally, a cat. Collier County sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call Saturday about a suspected burglary in progress. A homeowner heard knocking on a sliding door along with meowing. The caller thought the cat sounds were a ruse to try to get him or her to open the door. When deputies arrived, they found the culprit was a small cat named Bones. They posted a photo on Facebook of the cat in back of a patrol car poking its head through a barred window. The department said Bones was taking to a county animal shelter for “fur-ther questioning.” Collier County Domestic Animal Services, which has the cat in custody, said in a social media post that it was in the process of contacting Bones’ owner.


Atlanta: Residents near Fort McPherson say they’re frustrated about what they view as a lack of progress in redeveloping the massive military base. The Atlanta City Council last month approved spending an additional $1.3 million to help keep the Fort Mac Local Redevelopment Authority going. WABE Radio reports that one part of the base – the former forces command building – will be the new home for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Atlanta offices. Board members say they’re still negotiating with developer Stephen Macauley. He had a plan to develop the remaining 144 acres of the site, but the project has stalled.


Honolulu: The USS Arizona Memorial has welcomed large crowds to its reopening after 15 months of repairs. Hawaii News Now reports the memorial received thousands of sightseers Sunday for the first time since its closure by the National Park Service in May 2018. Pearl Harbor National Memorial Acting Superintendent Steve Mietz says workers “had to rebuild the system from scratch” to allow safe access. Exceptionally high tides in 2017 are believed to have dislodged concrete blocks sunk into Pearl Harbor’s sediment and connected by chains to the dock. The repair project cost more than $2.1 million. U.S. Rep. Ed Case says he worked with Hawaii’s congressional leaders to speed the project. Officials say visitor traffic to the national park decreased by about 30% after the memorial’s closure.


Boise: Two years ago, an Ada County jury awarded an Idaho State Police investigator $1.5 million in a whistleblower lawsuit he filed against the agency. Brandon Eller thought the case was over, but the judge reduced the award to $1 million, and Eller and ISP appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Idaho Statesman reports the case finally resolved last week, with the state paying Eller $1.29 million in damages, lost wages and legal fees. Eller, a crash investigator, filed the whistleblower lawsuit in 2015, claiming ISP retaliated against him because he testified against another officer in a court hearing. The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the district judge erred in reducing the jury’s award and sent the case back to court, but both sides settled the case for $1.29 million.


Highland Park: Officials are pushing for approval from regulators to add thousands of cubic yards of sand along a Lake Michigan beach that is eroding north of the city thanks in part to rising water levels that continue to threaten shorelines of the Great Lakes. The Chicago Tribune reports the Park District of Highland Park hopes to get the green light from the state’s Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin the $190,000 project at Rosewood Beach. Officials say erosion threatens the stability of the boardwalk for a beach that four years ago reopened after a $12 million renovation project. They say the erosion is the result of waves carrying the sand offshore and rising lake levels that have put some of the beachfront under water.


Bunker Hill: A dilapidated air traffic control tower is moving toward demolition at Grissom Air Reserve Base nearly three decades after it was mothballed. The structure built in 1942 was the base’s first air traffic control tower prior to its retirement around 1991. State officials recently determined it has historic significance, but debris falling from the decaying structure is creating aircraft hazards at the base’s airstrip near Bunker Hill, about 60 miles north of Indianapolis. Jim Tidd, the Miami County Economic Development Authority’s executive director, tells the Kokomo Tribune crews have been forced to quickly clean up fallen debris before it’s sucked into the engines of military or civilian aircraft. Tidd says county officials will seek state grant funding to pay for the demolition.


Ames: The city has been awarded a $1.66 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to put more electric buses into the city’s public transportation fleet. The city recently announced CyRide will use the money to replace several diesel buses that have exceeded their useful life. The public transportation entity will also buy battery chargers/dispensers and complete facility modifications to support the technology. Interim Transit Director Barbara Neal says the grant is good news for Ames. She says supporting public transportation is “a great way to reduce your own carbon footprint, while moving to electric buses will help CyRide reduce its emissions.” The Transportation Department’s Federal Transit Administration Low- or No-Emission Grant program has funded over $300 million in new buses, infrastructure and training since its establishment.


McPherson: McPherson College and McPherson Hospital are partners in a new health initiative to improve rural health care. The two organizations announced last week that they will combine academic programs and community outreach. As part of the project, McPherson College will offer a new health science degree beginning in the fall of 2020. The McPherson Sentinel reports health science students will gain hands-on training with internships, field experiences and observation at McPherson Hospital. McPherson Hospital CEO Terri Gehring says one goal of the project is to persuade some of the health science students to stay and work in McPherson after graduation. She says the hospital competes with several nearby organizations to recruit and retain employees.


Attendees make their way through the food options alongside the midway at the Kentucky State Fair on Aug. 15.
Attendees make their way through the food options alongside the midway at the Kentucky State Fair on Aug. 15.

Louisville: Kentucky State Fair officials say attendance was down this year, but revenue was up. WLKY-TV reports no statistics about pricing changes were given, but attendance figures released last week show a drop of more than 25,000. This year’s fair ran from Aug. 15 to 25 and drew 589,170 people. Last year, attendance was 614,470. Temperatures well into the 90s may have played a role. Another factor could have been a change in policy for minors attending the fair. A disturbance involving fireworks led the fair to require minors attending at night to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Additionally, a teenager was arrested during the fair’s first weekend and accused of firing a shot into the air at the fair. Officials say next year’s fair will start Aug. 20.


Baton Rouge: The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will close the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge this week to hold its annual controlled alligator harvest. State officials say the refuge will close Wednesday through Sept. 11 until noon each day to harvest the reptiles. After noon each day, the public will be allowed to enter the refuge and use its recreational areas until official sunset. The delayed openings will be in effect each day or until alligator trappers have used their tags for this controlled harvest. The refuge spans 26 miles of coastal Louisiana in Cameron and Vermilion parishes, provides recreational fishing opportunities for crabs, shrimp, redfish, speckled trout, black drum, largemouth bass and other species. Rockefeller attracts over 100,000 visitors annually.


South Portland: Rapper DMX has helped a local family with its back-to-school purchases. The rapper was in Maine to perform at Rock Row when he crossed paths with Nikki Cutchens and daughter Grace at the Maine Mall. Cutchens told WABI-TV she was in line Saturday when DMX offered to pay. It was unclear how much the purchase was. DMX said he was blessed to have 15 children and wanted her family to be blessed, as well. She said she’s grateful for the act of kindness. Grace Firley and her sister both got a pair of shoes. In her words, “I have DMX’s shoes.”


Annapolis: A ban on plastic foam containers aimed at businesses that sell food has taken effect in the capital. The Capital Gazette reports the ban on the material commonly referred to as Styrofoam began Sunday in Annapolis. The Maryland General Assembly and Anne Arundel County Council have passed similar rules that will go into effect next year. Lawmakers say the polystyrene in the containers is difficult to recycle and breaks down into small pieces that can invade the water supply. Annapolis city spokeswoman Mitchelle Stephenson says restaurants and vendors have been alerted twice this year to switch to paper, cardboard or another biodegradable material. Businesses found in violation of the law are fined $100 for the first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses.


Boston: Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin says he’s kicking off voter registration drives, now that there are just six months to go until the presidential primaries. The Democrat said Tuesday was the six-month mark, so he was holding a voter registration drive at Boston’s South Station during peak commuting hours. With most leases beginning Sept. 1, Galvin said he hopes to catch people who moved recently and need to register at their new address so they can vote March 3. The last day for Massachusetts residents to register to vote, update their address or change their party for the primaries is Feb. 12. Galvin’s office will be holding registration drives throughout the state. Voters can also register online.


A mail rejection letter sent to the Lansing State Journal by MDOC workers at the Ionia Correctional Facility.
A mail rejection letter sent to the Lansing State Journal by MDOC workers at the Ionia Correctional Facility.

Lansing: The state Department of Corrections is examining how its mail policy is applied after officers at one prison prevented inmates from reading some stories published by the Lansing State Journal. Workers at the Ionia Correctional Facility blocked inmate access to five stories this year concerning criminal proceedings against a probation officer, prisoners’ parole and re-sentencing hearings, and a lawsuit filed by state prisoners. The Journal reports the Michigan Press Association has questioned why most of the blocked stories were considered unfit for prisoners’ eyes. Department spokesman Chris Gautz says the mail policy is designed to keep prisons safe and MDOC workers’ lives private. The policy also bars mail that promotes violence or racism or that contains nude images. Gautz says Corrections will review inconsistencies brought to its attention.


Minneapolis: A 10-year-old girl is using the profits from selling lemonade to help buy protective vests for police dogs. Josie Larson, of Monticello, set up the lemonade stand when she found out that the K-9s needed the bulletproof equipment. She set a goal of raising $1,000 and wound up taking in more than $1,600. On Friday, Josie presented the Wright County Sheriff’s Office with a check for $1,500. She used the rest of the money to buy treats and toys for the dogs. Josie tells WCCO-TV that it’s important to keep the sK-9s and the officers safe.


Derrick Saucier, left, and Jarrod Davis managed to catch a 13-foot, 6-inch alligator that had eluded hunters for years.
Derrick Saucier, left, and Jarrod Davis managed to catch a 13-foot, 6-inch alligator that had eluded hunters for years.

Gautier: Soon after alligator season opened at noon Friday with favorable conditions, two hunters caught a giant that could break a state record. Derrick Saucier of Pascagoula and Jarrod Davis of Hurley were making passes of Mary Walker Bayou in Gautier when they spotted the large gator. Saucier said it was minutes before noon, and he felt like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for the season to start. A few minutes later, the pair had hooked the 13-foot, 6-inch alligator and then spent 90 minutes battling it. They struggled to get the animal into their boat and had to tow it to the shallow water of a nearby boat launch. The alligator’s measurements indicate it could near the state record for heaviest male alligator taken in public waters.


Kansas City: The Kansas City Zoo is planning a $10 million renovation of its elephant exhibit. The project announced last week will include easier access to the pool for the elephants, as well as adding shade and softer ground for the animals to walk on. Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff says the renovations will also improve visitors’ views of the elephants, with additional seating and handicapped-accessible renovations. The zoo is still waiting to announce final plans for a $75 million saltwater aquarium. KCUR reports the delay is caused mostly by a $7 million contribution from Kansas City. The city council directed City Manager Troy Schulte to try to find the money, but a city spokesman said that no funds have been identified to fulfill the request.


Missoula: The state health department is proposing new rules for licensing private residential treatment programs for troubled teens now that the agency has oversight of such programs. The Missoulian reports the proposed rules include licensing requirements, unannounced inspections, and protocols for reporting abuse and neglect. The rules say programs may not punish residents through seclusion, physical discipline, withholding food or water, or denying family visits. The state Department of Public Health and Human Services removed 27 children from a private treatment program in July following reports of abuse. Public comment on the proposed rules will be taken at a hearing Sept. 12 at the DPHHS auditorium in Helena. Written comment is also being accepted.


Lincoln: The state’s public utilities agency says it has been awarded nearly $2 million in federal grant money to revamp the state’s 50-year-old 911 system. The $1.99 million grant from the U.S. Transportation Department and U.S. Commerce Department will go toward implementing a new system called Next Generation 911. The new system will use GPS data to help locate those who call 911 from a cellphone. It will also give Nebraska 911 centers the ability to receive digital information to include, text, pictures and video. Earlier this year, state officials said 4 in 5 calls placed to 911 are made on cellphones. The Nebraska Public Service Commission applied for and will administer the grant. The state will have until March 31, 2022, to apply the federal funds.


Las Vegas: Rapper Fetty Wap was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of assaulting three employees at a Vegas Strip hotel-casino, police said. The 28-year-old artist, whose real name is Willie Maxwell, was arrested early Sunday on three counts of battery after an incident at the Mirage, according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. Charging documents have not yet been filed. An email seeking comment from Daniel Kim, who has previously represented Maxwell, was not immediately returned. TMZ first reported that Maxwell punched three people during a fight with a parking valet. A message seeking additional details from police was not immediately returned. MGM Resorts, which owns the Mirage, declined to comment Tuesday.

New Hampshire

Concord: The odds don’t look good for Democratic lawmakers hoping to override more than 50 vetoes issued by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. It takes a two-thirds majority to override a veto, and only three of the 53 vetoed bills originally passed the House by that margin. One of them – abolishing the death penalty – already has become law after lawmakers overrode the veto in May. Another of the three bills would allow towns and cities to double the maximum surcharge on motor vehicle registration fees to $10. The last would allow medical marijuana patients to get prescriptions even if they haven’t had the same doctor or provider for three months. The House meets Sept. 18-19. The Senate meets Sept. 19.

New Jersey

South Plainfield: Authorities canceled a Labor Day parade that the governor was supposed to attend Monday because “destructive devices” were found near the parade route. Thomas Kaiser, 55, of South Plainfield, was charged with two counts of possession of a destructive device for an unlawful purpose, with additional charges expected, Middlesex County prosecutors and local police said. Authorities said a suspicious package containing a destructive device was left at Donovan’s Reef bar in Sea Bright. That prompted an investigation Sunday that led to Kaiser’s home, and other devices were found near the residence, authorities said. The home is located near the start of the South Plainfield Labor Day parade. Gov. Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy had planned to march in the 62nd annual event.

New Mexico

Carlsbad: Officials say a major part of a multimillion-dollar effort to rebuild a ventilation system at the U.S. government’s only underground nuclear waste repository is expected to be done by next year. The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded a contract for the construction of a utility shaft essential to the project. The shaft was designed with a 26-foot diameter, extending 2,275 feet underground. The rebuilt system at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad is intended to add air to the underground and allow the placement of mining and other waste material to occur simultaneously. The ventilation overhaul was prompted by a radiation release in 2014 that contaminated parts of the repository and forced its closure for nearly three years.

New York

Tupper Lake: Turns out residents of this village are hog wild for calling their future semi-pro baseball team the “River Pigs,” after all. The team had been rooting around for a new nickname after some objections from people in the Adirondacks community of Tupper Lake. But the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports that “River Pigs” got about 70% of the vote in public balloting Saturday. Other options included River Drivers, Axemen, Tupper Timbers and Rowdy Bucks. Village Trustee Ron LaScala says what’s important now is for Tupper Lake to rejoice in its new Empire League team. It’s due to arrive next summer. The name reflects the region’s logging history. River pigs were skilled loggers who broke up logjams on rivers.

North Carolina

Raleigh: A portion of the state’s Medicaid population won’t shift to managed care coverage this fall due to the extended state budget stalemate, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday. Managed care was supposed to go online for Medicaid enrollees in 27 northern counties Nov. 1, with the rest of the state phased in Feb. 1. But without funds to cover the transition and final changes needed to set rates for health care entities providing coverage, the first batch of counties can’t move forward that quickly, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said. Managed care services are now scheduled to begin in all 100 counties Feb. 1. Cohen suggested the updated rollout schedule could be revisited again if a budget isn’t worked out by mid-November.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Hiring managers across the state are looking for ways to solve a workforce shortage. The Bismarck Tribune reports that Job Service North Dakota, which tracks employment data, estimates the state currently has 14,000 job openings. A decade ago, North Dakota had 8,000. State officials say the real number is closer to 30,000, given that some employers only advertise with one job posting when looking to hire multiple people for that role. A survey of employers last year found that 28% of openings go unfilled longer than three months. Arik Spencer, president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, says the shortage is bad for the state’s economy, and it’s going to take a “long-term, more surgical approach” to fix.


Toledo: The Toledo Zoo plans to change its giraffe herd after a series of deaths. Four of the zoo’s Masai giraffes have died since 2016, including two in the past two months. Its curator of mammals, Michael Frushour, tells The Blade newspaper the zoo is talking about switching to reticulated giraffes. He says it’s believed that subspecies isn’t as prone to some of the health issues seen with Masai giraffes. An 8-year-old male giraffe, Trevor, collapsed Aug. 24 while on exhibit and died within minutes. His female offspring, Binti, had to be euthanized in June. Lab results showed both had severe anemia, adding to the suspicion of a genetic issue. The zoo says Trevor died of a condition called peracute giraffe mortality syndrome. Binti’s cause of death remains unknown.


Oklahoma City: Two of the top leaders at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety who were named last month as defendants in a civil rights lawsuit have stepped down from their positions at the agency. A spokeswoman for Gov. Kevin Stitt says DPS Commissioner Rusty Rhoades and Oklahoma Highway Patrol Chief Michael Harrell announced their resignations Monday. Stitt has appointed John Scully, the director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, as the new DPS commissioner, effective immediately. The move comes just a few weeks after Rhoades and Harrell were named in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a former patrol captain who alleged the two were involved in a cheating and corruption scandal at the agency.


A diver shows a sea star during a show at the Undersea Gardens at the Historic Bayfront in Newport.
A diver shows a sea star during a show at the Undersea Gardens at the Historic Bayfront in Newport.

Portland: A floating tourist attraction is set to close after more than 50 years in business. The Oregonian/Oregon Live reports that Undersea Gardens in Newport is scheduled to end operations Sunday. Owner Mariner Square announced the closure of the attraction in Newport’s Historic Bayfront on social media Sunday. Undersea Gardens will be open for free public tours through next Sunday, while its dive shows ended Monday. The gift shop will remain open until Oct. 11. Mariner Square says it is renovating its other two attractions, The Wax Works and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Undersea Gardens opened in 1966 as a floating “people-quarium” allowing visitors inside the attraction to look out and view sea life in Yaquina Bay, 115 miles southwest of Portland.


Gouldsboro: A family says the thief that stole a delivery package of dog food from their porch turned out to be a hungry young bear. Eighteen-year-old Aidan Newman tells WNEP-TV he was just arriving home to pack up for college when he saw the black bear in his family’s yard. He went inside to tell his family, and that’s when they looked out the window and saw the bear come onto the porch and drag the box into the woods. Newman thinks the bear, which seemed about 2 years old, may have been casing place since the boxes from pet retailer Chewy were dropped off earlier that day. The ordeal was caught on the family’s surveillance video. Chewy saw the footage and is replacing the order. Newman says from now on, his family plans to take in the deliveries from Chewy more quickly so the bear doesn’t make it a habit.

Rhode Island

Providence: The city has reactivated its school zone speed camera program just in time for the new academic year. Fifteen cameras were activated Tuesday within a quarter-mile of several schools in an effort to keep drivers from speeding. Police say the cameras are operational on school days from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Drivers caught going 11 mph or more over the speed limit face a $50 ticket. Police say the cameras are meant to protect children. The cameras can be relocated to address problem areas. The cameras were the source of controversy in 2018 when more than 12,000 speeding tickets were handed out in a little over a month, prompting a legal challenge brought by people who said the program was in violation of state law that required warning signs.

South Carolina

Spartanburg: A man who founded one of the nation’s biggest conversion therapy ministries has something to say: He’s gay. The Post and Courier reports Hope for Wholeness founder McKrae Game came out of the closet this summer, nearly two years after he was fired from the faith-based conversion therapy program. He’s now trying to come to terms with the harm he inflicted when he was advocating for religious efforts to change a person’s sexuality. The 51-year-old also is trying to find his place in a community he’s assailed for at least 20 years. Game is one of several former movement leaders who have left the pulpits of heterosexuality, come out as LGBTQ, and condemned conversion therapy as a dangerous and misleading practice.

South Dakota

Custer: The U.S. Forest Service has purchased an additional 350 acres for the Black Hills National Forest for preservation of wildlife habitat and protection of at-risk watersheds and impaired streams. The Rapid City Journal reports the Forest Service announced the purchase Wednesday from the Trust for Public Land. The land was owned by the Myrle G. Case Trust, care of Wells Fargo Bank. It was bought with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Black Hills National Forest has about 1.2 million acres. In addition to preserving wildlife habitat and protecting watersheds and streams, officials say the land will also be used to provide more recreational opportunities for the public.


The original jacket of
The original jacket of

Nashville: A Catholic school removed the Harry Potter books from its library after the school’s priest decided they could cause a reader to conjure evil spirits. In an email, the Rev. Dan Reehil of Nashville’s St. Edward Catholic School said he consulted exorcists in the U.S. and Rome who recommended removing the books. Reehil wrote, “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.” Catholic Diocese of Nashville superintendent Rebecca Hammel said Reehil has the final say at his school. Hammel said she thinks the books by J.K. Rowling are still on the shelves of other libraries in the diocese.


Austin: The state is teaming with Bumble to crack down on people who send unsolicited nude images on dating apps and elsewhere in cyberspace. The state’s new law banning so-called cyber flashing comes after the Austin-based dating app company lobbied for action. The law is set to take effect Saturday. It makes electronic transmission of sexually explicit material a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 if the person who received it hasn’t given consent. State Rep. Morgan Meyer says app users complained to Bumble about people sending unwanted images, and Bumble “realized there was no recourse.” Bumble Chief of Staff Caroline Ellis Roche says the company plans to take the legislation to the federal level and other states.


St. George: School officials say more than 1,000 homeless students enrolled in Washington County schools last year, and the district is struggling to support the growing population. KUER-FM reported that the state Board of Education says the county has the seventh-highest homeless student population of any state district. Officials say wages have not kept up with inflation from a 139,000-person population increase, and the county is expected to triple in size by 2065. District officials say they are provided $60,000 of state and district funding for fee waivers, food and transportation for homeless students. Officials say that doesn’t include thousands of dollars in donated supplies or new community resources, but it’s still not enough. Officials say a majority of them are temporarily living in unstable situations with people they know.


Putney: A general store that dates to the 1790s is getting a new owner. The Brattleboro Reformer reports the Putney Historical Society is set to close the sale of Putney General Store on Wednesday, and the incoming owners, Mike and Kim Cosco, are slated to take over the business the next day. The building will continue to be owned by the historical society. The store has been managed for more than two years by the historical society’s Betsy McIsaac and Lyssa Papazian since shortly after the death of the previous owner, but they’ve been looking for someone to buy the store. McIsaac says the Coscos learned the store was for sale from an online ad. The store was first built in 1796.


Fairfax: A $50 million gift made earlier this year to the state’s largest public university was given specifically to “promote the conservative principles of governance,” newly released documents show, raising concerns from critics that it compromises academic freedom at the school. Documents obtained by the group UnKoch My Campus under the Freedom of Information Act and made public last week show that the estate of Allison and Dorothy Rouse specified its bequest to George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School be used “as an endowment to fund a chair or chairs that will promote the conservative principles of governance, statesmanship, high morals, civil and religious freedom and the study of the United States Constitution.” University officials say there was nothing improper about specifying conservative governance as a principle to be promoted.


Seattle: A cannabis company has offered to collect and properly dispose of any waste from other marijuana stores. KING-TV reports Canna Culture Shop began the pot waste program last week to help reduce the impact marijuana waste has on the environment. Owner Maryam Mirnateghi says the program is meant to keep cannabis packaging from ending up on the street or in waterways. Mirnateghi says the industry is expected to produce more than 1 billion pieces of cannabis packaging annually starting in 2020. She says the program incentivizes customers by giving points to use on new purchases for each item of trash brought into the Seattle store. Mirnateghi says anyone can bring in any cannabis trash from anywhere.

West Virginia

Charleston: A large solar project that will help power a parking building at Yeager Airport is nearing completion. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports construction should be concluded on the 1,800-module project by Wednesday. Then it will take a couple of weeks to wire up. An opening ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 18. The $4 million project is 90% funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and 10% by the state. Yeager Airport Director Terry Sayre says a second array is being planned for the other parking building and the rental car and maintenance structures. Sayre says they eventually want to power the whole airport with off-grid sources. Yeager Airport receives royalties from two gas wells on airport property. It is entitled to a volume of free gas from them once a pipe can be connected.


Black River Falls: Rains that inundated the state this spring after a wet fall and winter forced farmers to plant their crops historically late, leading to uneven growth stages. Plant pathologist Damon Smith from the University of Wisconsin-Madison says that has made it difficult for farmers to decide when to apply fungicide to crops because it’s based on specific plant growth stages. But an app is helping farmers make better decisions about when to do so, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. Smith says farmers are looking for closely tailored recommendations about what to do. So Smith says one of his programs has developed smartphone apps to help. One, called Sporecaster, lets farmers input data like location and plant growth to help predict the best time to treat for white mold in soybeans.


Cheyenne: Some lawmakers are getting behind a proposal to try to boost the state’s struggling coal industry with a marketing program. The Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee voted Friday to support a bill that would put $1 million toward the effort. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports the bill could be considered during the 2020 legislative session. Gov. Mark Gordon policy adviser Renny MacKay says that besides promoting low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal, the program would help Wyoming officials make sure their positions are heard in decisions affecting the coal industry. MacKay says one example could be discussions about possibly closing an Indiana power plant that uses Wyoming coal. MacKay says the plant’s closure could cost Wyoming $10 million in revenue a year.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: News from around our 50 states