Montgomery: A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore’s $95 million lawsuit targeting comedian Sacha Baron Cohen filed after Moore complained he was tricked into an interview that lampooned sexual misconduct accusations against him. Judge John Cronan wrote that Moore signed a clear disclosure agreement that prohibited any legal claims over the appearance. He added that the absurd segment – in which the comic demonstrated a so-called pedophile detector that beeped when it got near Moore – was “clearly a joke” and that no viewer would think the comedian was making factual allegations against Moore. “The court agrees that Judge Moore’s claims are barred by the unambiguous contractual language, which precludes the very causes of action he now brings,” Cronan wrote. The lawsuit centered on Moore’s unwitting appearance on the comic’s “Who is America?” show. The segment ran after Moore faced misconduct accusations that he had pursued sexual and romantic relationships with teens when he was a man in his 30s. He has denied the allegations. Moore, a Republican sometimes known as the Ten Commandments judge known for hard-line stances opposing same-sex marriage and supporting the public display of Ten Commandments, faced the accusations during his 2017 Senate race.
Juneau: More than 13 Indigenous communities, including seven in Alaska, will split $12 million for energy cost reduction efforts, officials announced. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced the grants during a teleconference Tuesday. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Keolani Booth, a Metlakatla Indian Community Tribal Council member, also participated in the event. They said the grant funds would help American Indian and Alaska Native communities reduce costs and move toward more sustainable energy production, the Juneau Empire reports. “We want to thank the federal government for its investment into our community,” Booth said. “This opens up many new options.” Metlakatla will use its grant of more than $1 million to complete an electrical intertie project to Ketchikan that is expected to lower prices. Booth, in a statement, said the project has been in the works for about 20 years and is becoming a reality because of the assistance of state and federal politicians. Other Alaska communities receiving grants are the Akiachak Native Community; the Native Village of Kipnuk; the Native Village of Diomede; the Native Village of Noatak and the Northwest Arctic Borough; the Village of Aniak; and the Village of Chefornak.
Phoenix: A new energy facility scheduled to open in December southwest of the city will capture methane from cow manure and reuse the biogas as renewable natural fuel. Facility stakeholders said the process will capture harmful gases that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and exacerbate climate change. The project is a partnership between West Virginia-based renewable energy company Avolta and the Butterfield Dairy Farm in Buckeye. Southwest Gas Holdings Inc. will help transport the gas for sale to other outlets. A handful of renewable natural gas facilities have sprouted up in the Southwest, including in Arizona and California in recent months. The Avolta facility is one of at least five renewable natural gas plants in or coming to Arizona. Others are expected to open in Tucson, Gila Bend and Maricopa. Unlike electric utilities in Arizona, which must generate 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025, Southwest Gas has no such required standard, according to the newspaper. Still, the gas utility is partnering with five facilities in Arizona and California. Spokespeople said the utility company is committed to partnering with more renewable natural gas developers.
Little Rock: The state reported its biggest one-day jump in COVID-19 cases in five months Tuesday as Arkansas held its dubious distinction of having the most new cases per capita in the country. The Department of Health said the state’s cases rose by 1,476 to 358,949 since the pandemic began. It was the biggest one-day jump reported since Feb. 5’s 1,824 cases. Arkansas’ cases have continued to surge, fueled by the delta variant of the coronavirus and the state’s low vaccination rates. The state ranks No. 1 in the nation for new daily cases by population, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. Only 35% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by 41 to 606. Twenty-two percent of the state’s hospital beds and about 6% of its intensive care unit beds are currently available, according to the Department of Health. There are 240 COVID-19 patients in the state’s ICUs. Ninety-eight COVID-19 patients are on ventilators. The state’s COVID-19 deaths rose by 15 to 5,970. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is touring the state holding town halls aimed at encouraging COVID-19 shots, tweeted that 98.3% of those hospitalized in the state since January were unvaccinated.
Sacramento: When the state told school districts they must still require masks for students and teachers indoors, it left no room for doubt about enforcement: If students refused, schools were to send them home. But hours after that announcement Monday, public health officials in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration abruptly changed course and said school districts would decide for themselves how to enforce the mask mandate. The reversal marked a bumpy rollout of the state’s new coronavirus rules for California’s schools, which are required to resume in-person instruction for the upcoming school year. Speaking after an event in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Newsom downplayed the reversal, saying enforcement of mask-wearing has “always been a local responsibility.” “All (the Department of Public Health) did was clarify that local responsibility, which is consistent with all the prior rule-making that has been in effect on mask-wearing going back to last year,” Newsom said. But Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association, said the updated rule “is a huge difference in terms of how districts would operate and how the public is going to receive this guidance.”
Denver: The state has launched a four-year study of American bald eagles to determine how the protected raptors have adapted to population growth along the metropolitan Front Range and identify planning measures that could ensure the bird’s future. Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the study, involving biologists and volunteers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies among others, will monitor nesting sites, food sources such as prairie dog colonies, reproduction, and migration from the Denver area north to the Wyoming border. Between 25 and 30 eagles are being fitted with transmitters using cellular communications networks to provide real-time data on eagle movements. CPW estimated there are more than 90 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the corridor. There were none at the end of the 1970s and only three in all of Colorado. That recovery – mirroring a nationwide trend – came after federal and state protections including banning the pesticide DDT. The eagle’s growth has coincided with rapid urban development. Denver’s metropolitan area has nearly 3 million people, and CPW said nearly 750,000 additional people are projected to make the Front Range their home by 2029.
Hartford: State lawmakers voted Wednesday to again extend Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency declarations first issued in March 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite pushback from Republicans and some Democrats who argued it’s time to get back to normal. The House of Representatives and Senate, both controlled by Democrats, passed separate resolutions during Wednesday’s special session. “I know that people have COVID fatigue. People want to continue to move back with returning to normalcy, and we are doing that,” said House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford. “This resolution will allow that to happen while still allowing us to act in the best interest of public health.” The resolution in the House passed on a 73-56 vote, with nine Democrats joining all the Republicans in opposition. In the Senate, the resolution passed on a 19-15 vote, with four Democrats joining the GOP in voting “no.” The Democratic governor had asked the General Assembly to renew his declarations of public health and civil preparedness emergencies through Sept. 30, noting he is only seeking to extend 11 executive orders. That’s compared to a high of more than 300 at one point during the crisis.
Wilmington: DuPont Co. and two spinoffs will pay at least $50 million to the state to help clean up toxic chemicals, the Delaware Department of Justice announced Tuesday. It’s the first time the state’s Department of Justice has resolved environmental damage claims on behalf of the state. The settlement will pay for environmental restoration, improvement, sampling and analysis, community environmental justice and equity grants, and other natural resource needs, the department said. DuPont and Corteva, previously the agriculture division of DowDuPont, will each contribute $12.5 million. Chemours, DuPont’s former performance chemicals unit, will contribute $25 million. The three companies reached a cost-sharing agreement earlier this year. They will fund up to an additional $25 million if they settle similar claims with other states for more than $50 million. The settlement resolves their responsibility for damage caused by releases of historical compounds including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They include perfluorooctanoic acid, which was used in the production of Teflon, and have also been used in firefighting foam, water-repellent clothing and many other household and personal items. They are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their longevity in the environment.
District of Columbia
Washington: Nellie’s Sports Bar reopened nearly a month after it closed due to ongoing protests outside after a video showed a security guard dragging a woman out of the establishment by her hair, WUSA-TV reports. But people were outside the establishment Tuesday forming a human chain at the door to dissuade customers from going inside. Nellie’s let go of the security company whose officer was recorded dragging Keisha Young out of the bar June 13, in the wake of the video being released on social media. Protests are planned for Friday evening by a group that is still frustrated about what happened in June, during Pride Month, at the well-known LGBTQ bar. ABRA, the district agency tasked to issue and renew licenses, assigned an investigator to the case. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board held a closed meeting to review the report and referred the case to the District’s Office of Attorney General. Young claimed the issue started when security misidentified her for another woman whom they wanted to leave for allegedly bringing in a bottle from outside. The investigator determined Nellie’s had a difficult time removing patrons through a crowd as they pushed and shoved into other people and got involved in the altercations.
Miami: Norwegian Cruise Line is challenging a new state law that prevents cruise companies from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Miami federal court, contends that the law jeopardizes safe operation of cruise ships by increasing risk of contracting the coronavirus. Norwegian intends to restart cruises from Florida ports Aug. 15 with vaccinations required for all passengers. Norwegian wants a judge to lift the ban by Aug. 6. The law imposes a fine of $5,000 each time a cruise line mandates that a passenger provide vaccination proof. Norwegian claims it violates federal law and several constitutional rights. The company, officially known as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, says it won’t be able to sail from Florida unless a judge acts to block the law. “The result would be a devastating, unrecoverable loss for everyone – not only for NCLH’s business but also for tens of thousands of passengers, employees, and stakeholders who all benefit from NCLH resuming safe operations as planned,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuit names as a defendant Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees. He is an appointee of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose spokeswoman said the cruise line’s policy discriminates against children under 12 and others who are not vaccinated.
Augusta: In a nightmarish scenario, a couple found 18 snakes under their bed. Instead of killing the creatures, the husband carefully plucked them off the ground, dropped them in a bag and relocated them to a nearby creek. Augusta resident Trish Wilcher told WJBF-TV that as she and her husband, Max, were about to go to bed Sunday, she saw what she thought was some fuzz on the floor. She said it moved when she reached down. “And then a second later another piece moved,” Wilcher said. “And I went to my husband: ‘We have snakes!’ ” The couple found a mother snake with 17 recently hatched babies under their bed. Max Wilcher used a grabber tool to place each one in a linen bag. The ordeal took until around midnight. “He brought them out there to the creek area and released them there,” Trish Wilcher said. Outside of finding a place to lay their eggs, there’s another reason snakes may want to share human spaces. Camilla Sherman, an environmental educator for the Phinizy Center for Water Sciences, said snakes sometimes move into homes to hunt rodents. “If you have a mouse problem, the snakes are going to come and try to help you with that,” Sherman said.
Honolulu: A City Council member has proposed banning unpermitted parking in an Oahu neighborhood while the state closes a popular trail nearby for two years to conduct repairs. The state plans to close Maunawili Falls Trails in Kailua starting Thursday so that it and a private landowner can preserve historic and cultural sites. It also plans to build parking and comfort stations. The trail takes hikers through a lush forest to a waterfall. As the trail has grown in popularity, neighbors have struggled with hikers parking illegally and trespassing, as well as urinating in their yards and leaving behind dirty diapers. Chris Nakamatu of the Maunawili Estates Community Association said about 1,000 people use the trail on the weekends. City Council member Esther Kia’aina, who represents the area, told Hawaii News Now she doesn’t expect people to stop coming when the trail closes, so she’s calling for a ban on unpermitted parking in the neighborhood during the closure. The city already restricts parking for those without permits in a Kalihi neighborhood, she said. “I think that this is the best way to balance the community’s needs with those that are trespassing,” Kia’aina said. Neighbors say they support measures to control the crowds and revive the trail.
Boise: Residents and visitors need to help prevent wildfires in what could be a challenging season with continued high temperatures and most of the state in drought, Gov. Brad Little said. The Republican governor said Tuesday that there’s a potential for multiple giant wildfires in Idaho that use up firefighting resources and leave some areas unprotected. He spoke at an outdoor news conference hazy with smoke from wildfires from nearby states. “My fear is that we will have some of these great big mega-fires that start creating their own weather, like the one that is over in Oregon, where I think a lot of this smoke is coming from, that basically endanger communities; they endanger firefighters; they endanger precious wildlife and watershed capacity,” he said. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years, and scientists have long warned that the weather will get wilder as the world warms. Special calculations are needed to determine how much global warming is to blame, if at all, for a single extreme weather event. Little has already tapped the Idaho National Guard in what could be the worst wildfire season in the state in years. That includes the use of helicopters that can fight fires, transport firefighters or deliver supplies.
Chicago: Five people were rushed to area hospitals after being shot Wednesday afternoon on Chicago’s South Side, about 12 hours after another shooting elsewhere in the city wounded five other people, police said. Tom Ahern, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said he did not know the conditions of the victims who were shot just after noon. He also did not yet know the ages of the victims, but he said he did not believe that any of them were children. No arrests have been made, he said. Just after midnight Wednesday, five other people – four women and a man – were shot as they stood outside in the Garfield Park neighborhood on the West Side. “A group was standing outside when they were approached by an unidentified male … who produced a handgun and began shooting. The victims attempted to flee the scene once the shooting began,” police said in a statement. Four of the victims, who range in age from 18 to 29, were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. A fifth victim, a 34-year-old woman, was shot in the leg but refused to be taken to a hospital, police said. And about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood, a 2-year-old boy and 32-year-old man were critically wounded when someone pulled up in front of a home near which they were standing and opened fire.
Indianapolis: The leaders of two now-closed online charter schools are accused in a new lawsuit of defrauding the state of more than $150 million by padding their student enrollments and inappropriately paying money to a web of related businesses. The lawsuit announced Monday by the state attorney general’s office comes nearly two years after Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy shut down amid a state investigation that found the two online schools improperly claimed about 14,000 students as enrolled between 2011 and 2019, even though they had no online course activity. The lawsuit seeks repayment of about $69 million it claims the schools wrongly received in state student enrollment payments. It also seeks $86 million that officials say the schools improperly paid to more than a dozen companies linked to them by common business officers or relatives and did so with little or no documentation. “This massive attempt to defraud Hoosier taxpayers through complex schemes truly boggles the mind,” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, said in a statement. A state audit linked much of the misspending to Thomas Stoughton, who headed the online schools from 2011 to 2017 and owned or had business associates who operated about a dozen companies that received school payments.
Altoona: Workers used a crane Tuesday to remove a boat from an amusement park ride as part of the investigation into an accident that killed one boy and critically injured his brother. The boat, which weighs over 1,700 pounds, was removed from the human-made channel on the Raging River ride so that inspectors and engineers could have a closer examination, Adventureland Park attorney Guy Cook said. The boat was placed on a trailer and taken to a secure location, as the investigation into the “tragic and extremely unusual accident continues,” he said. The boat was carrying six members of a Marion, Iowa, family at the park in Altoona when it unexpectedly overturned on the evening of July 3, trapping two brothers under the water for minutes. Michael Jaramillo, 11, died of his injuries the next day, while 16-year-old David Jaramillo remains hospitalized in critical condition. David Jaramillo is still heavily sedated and hooked up to oxygen, unable to talk or see for the moment, said family attorney Ryan Best. His father, also David Jaramillo, was undergoing surgery Tuesday on bones he broke in his shoulder when the boat overturned, before he was able to free himself, Best said. Michael Jaramillo’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday at a Des Moines church.
Topeka: A Republican lawmaker questioned Tuesday whether Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration made unemployment fraud worse by not conducting adequate background checks on hundreds of people hired to help with a surge of claims during the pandemic. Sen. Caryn Tyson, of Parker, raised the issue as the state prepared to launch a new investigation of unemployment fraud. Tyson serves on a new council created by the GOP-controlled Legislature to oversee a modernization of the Kansas Department of Labor’s aged computer system and to audit fraud and its effects. The state Department of Labor has estimated fraudulent claims last year totaled $290 million, but a report by the Legislature’s auditing arm estimated $600 million. The council on Tuesday discussed the scope of its audit so the state can take bids from private firms for the work, with a preliminary report due May 1, 2022. The final report is expected by September next year. The council expects to set the audit’s scope next week, but Tyson said auditors should examine possible “holes or flaws in the human side” of computer security, particularly given the big expansion of the department’s workforce.
Louisville: Bourbon tourism is getting another boost from a distillery in the city. Angel’s Envy says it will be able to accommodate twice as many guests once an $8.2 million expansion is completed next spring at its downtown Louisville site. The craft distiller says the project includes a new event space and bar, a larger retail space, and several new tasting rooms. The distillery will remain open to the public throughout the construction. “Angel’s Envy is a prime example of how Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry immensely benefits our commonwealth by attracting visitors to the state while creating quality opportunities for Kentuckians,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday. Kentucky is home to 66 spirits operations employing more than 5,100 people full time statewide, Beshear’s office said. In 2020, the industry announced 20 projects in Kentucky, totaling more than $300 million in new investment. Kentucky crafts 95% of the world’s bourbon supply, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.
New Orleans: Efforts to mitigate COVID-19 at large events – including mask mandates or requirements that attendees be vaccinated or have a negative coronavirus test – will likely continue into the fall because of low state vaccination rates and the spread of dangerous virus variants, the city’s health director said Tuesday. Dr. Jennifer Avegno’s remarks came at a news conference focusing on the city’s efforts to encourage vaccinations in a state that has one of the nation’s lowest inoculation rates. Louisiana health officials on Tuesday said COVID-19 cases are surging, largely among unvaccinated people, as the more easily transmissible delta variant spreads in the state. Avegno’s remarks come as the city looks to a new NFL and college football season and the return of major entertainment events such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which was postponed from its usual spring dates. The city currently allows major events to have full capacity if there is a mask requirement or if attendees are required to have either a vaccination or a negative virus test. “I think folks should expect that that might the case in the fall,” Avegno said. “We would all love to have large events that did not require some degree of mitigation. And before delta I was maybe a little more confident that we would get there.”
Augusta: A bill that aimed to eliminate the state’s privately owned electric utilities by buying them out and replacing them with a consumer-owned utility was vetoed Tuesday by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, likely spelling the end of the proposal this legislative session. Mills acknowledged that the performance of Central Maine Power and Versant Power has been “abysmal” but said the proposal to send them packing – with voters getting the final say – was “deeply flawed” and “hastily drafted and hastily amended.” “I certainly agree that change is necessary. No question about that. And I remain open to considering alternative proposals,” she said. The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, disputed the governor’s characterization of the proposal, arguing that it was thoroughly vetted over the past three years. And it isn’t going away. A coalition will be launching a referendum drive to put the proposal before voters anyway next year, instead of this fall. Supporters said it’s time to replace Central Maine Power and Versant Power, which are owned by corporations in Spain and Canada, with an entity that works in the interest of Mainers instead of shareholders. The new entity, Pine Tree Power, would keep rates low, respond faster to outages and support clean energy projects, they said.
Annapolis: Grow & Fortify is looking to make it easier for craft alcohol fans in the state to track their endeavors. The Maryland-based agricultural cooperative launched the Maryland Craft Beverages app Wednesday. It allows users to plan future stops, track locations they have visited and participate in industry-tailored passports, according to a press release. The app will include trails dedicated to beer, wine, spirits, cider and mead. A directory in the app will feature active members of the Brewers Association of Maryland, the Maryland Distillers Guild and the Maryland Wineries Association. Through the app, Grow & Fortify hopes to connect users with local tasting rooms and boost revenue for beverage producers in Maryland, according to the release. The app will replace the annually printed Maryland Craft Beverage map that Grow & Fortify previously distributed at tourist destinations around the state. Daruma Tech developed the app, which will be available for free in the Apple and Google Play stores.
Boston: The rise of hybrid and remote work during the past year and a half is just one of the ways the future of business in Massachusetts could change in the post-pandemic years, shifting the state’s economic “center of gravity” away from the greater Boston core, according to a report released Tuesday by the Baker administration. Even as COVID-19 concerns ease, public transit ridership likely won’t return to pre-pandemic levels, with the steepest decline likely in commuter rail, according to the report, which found business travel may also fall compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. The report anticipates that changes in the economic landscape will require sweeping workforce training programs to connect workers with key skills for the future economy, with as many as 400,000 people needing to transition to different occupations or occupational categories over the next decade. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said the state needs to “turbo-charge” those training programs. The governor also said the state needs to increase the production of new housing and support downtown economies, as well as adapt to new transportation demands and promote flexibility in child care options, including increased child care subsidies for lower-income families.
Flint: A federal judge listened Tuesday to residents who were victims of the city’s lead-contaminated water, a step in determining whether she should sign off on a $641 million deal that would settle claims against the state. More than a dozen people without lawyers signed up to speak, all in opposition. Thousands more are represented by attorneys who negotiated the settlement with Michigan and other parties and urged approval a day earlier. “This is a little unusual,” said U.S. District Judge Judith Levy, who left her courthouse in Ann Arbor for a courtroom 55 miles away in Genesee County. The settlement fund includes $600 million from Michigan and $20 million from Flint. But attorneys are seeking $200 million in fees. “The lawyers are making out like fat rats,” Audrey Young-Muhammed complained to the judge. Money would be available to every Flint child who was exposed to the water, adults who can show an injury, landlords, business owners, and anyone who paid water bills. More than 50,000 people have filed claims in a city with a population of roughly 95,000. Kids are supposed to get 80% of the money. Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement that the deal provides relief and prevents a “drawn out legal back-and-forth.” But the Rev. Freelon Threlkeld, addressing the judge, described the settlement as “some crumbs.”
St. Paul: The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it won’t consider holding a wolf hunting or trapping season until 2022 at the earliest. The agency said in a statement last week that it’s taking longer than expected to update its 20-year-old wolf management plan, and it’s now expected to be done by March. “We will use our updated plan as we determine whether and how to use various management tools to ensure continuation of a healthy and sustainable wolf population in Minnesota,” the statement said. “Consideration of whether to hold hunting or trapping seasons will be guided by the updated plan.” Then-President Donald Trump’s administration in November ended Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in most of the United States, leaving states and tribes in charge of overseeing the animals. Minnesota held wolf seasons from 2012 to 2014 until courts blocked them. Some states moved quickly to liberalize hunting and trapping rules. The Center for Biological Diversity praised Minnesota for moving deliberately. Collette Adkins, the Arizona-based group’s carnivore conservation director, said Minnesota had “wisely prioritized first updating the management plan to reflect new science and the values of all Minnesotans.”
Jackson: Some residents with overdue water bills could be eligible for support through a new program the city announced this week. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba on Monday said the city wants to help residents catch up on past-due bills and offer potential debt forgiveness. It will apply to low-income residents, those with water issues related to faulty equipment and individuals affected by weather events. Lumumba said money recouped through the program could be used to fix widespread infrastructure issues with the water system. City water customers owe more than $100 million in unpaid bills. “The city’s water woes have been well-chronicled,” Lumumba said at a briefing outside City Hall. “I’m asking all residents become a part of the program. If you qualify under the low-income program, you can look forward to turning the page.” The payment plans providing customers with additional time to make payments on their water bills will go into effect July 19. For those with large debt, the plan will allow residents to pay a monthly amount with an additional $10 tacked on over several months to cover past-due bills. Provided the resident pays on a timely basis, some debt can be forgiven, Lumumba said.
Jefferson City: College and university officials in the state will be able to raise tuition as much as they want under legislation Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed Tuesday. Currently, public colleges and universities can only raise tuition a limited amount to keep up with inflation, compensate for cuts in state aid, or keep up with the average tuition rates across the state. The new law will allow college officials to raise tuition as much as they want beginning in July 2022. Schools will be allowed to charge different tuition rates for different degrees, a change aimed at letting colleges set higher tuition in fields with higher education costs. The wide-ranging legislation also will let college athletes profit off their fame and celebrity, although the NCAA preemptively scrapped its rules against that earlier this month. Missouri joins a growing list of states that have enacted laws allowing student-athletes to earn money for autographs, sponsorships, or other uses of their names, images, likenesses or athletic reputations.
Great Falls: Two Native American women are leading cultural hikes throughout the state, sharing Indigenous stories connected to the land and animals who live there. As Lailani Upham and Carrie Bear Chief hiked through Upper Two Medicine in Glacier National Park on July 8, Lailani and Carrie told the story of a young warrior. The man was injured, and his two comrades left him in the park, but the man was later helped by a bear, who communicated with him in the Blackfoot language. They also told the story of a non-Native man who lived among the Blackfeet people. A sharpshooter, this man shot a bighorn sheep in the very spot they stood in the park. Lailani and Carrie collect stories from elders, and they record oral histories and study books that chronicle Indigenous people in Montana. Lailani, a Blackfeet woman who loves the outdoors, in March launched Iron Shield Creative, a platform that aims to “bring Indigenous stories to the world.” The business also offers multimedia storytelling projects and workshops. “I wanted to see people within our tribal communities get to document their own stories,” she said. Lailani said storytelling is crucial because it “brings people together.” Carrie, who works as a storyteller guide for Iron Shield Creative, said storytelling keeps Indigenous culture and tradition alive.
Lincoln: Former state Rep. Ernie Chambers, known for seeking the censure of judges he believes have acted outside the bounds of fairness, is targeting a judge in the state’s northeastern corner who saw the Nebraska Supreme Court overturn his denial of an adoption petition to a same-sex couple. In a complaint filed last week with the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission, Chambers accused Dixon County Judge Douglas Luebe of violating state law requiring judges perform their duties fairly and impartially and without bias, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Luebe described himself as “old-fashioned” in denying an adoption petition for a same-sex married couple last year. His denial was based not on state law but on a legal definition of “wife” that he pulled from a law dictionary. Luebe said the married women who sought to adopt had listed themselves in their petition as “wife and wife.” He balked, saying the dictionary defined “wife” as “ ‘a woman who has a lawful living husband.’ ” Nebraska’s highest court overturned that denial in March, ruling that the plain language of state adoption law does not preclude same-sex married couples from adopting. In his complaint, Chambers called Luebe a “scalawag in judicial robes.”
Las Vegas: A Republican pageant winner and business owner is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. Sharelle Mendenhall filed as a candidate with the Federal Election Commission earlier this month and is scheduled to officially kick off her campaign Thursday evening with a rally in Las Vegas. Mendenhall was Mrs. Nevada United States in 2020 and Ms. California United States in 2019. She is also the owner of Elite Expo Talent Agency, which hires models and talent for conventions and other events. Her campaign describes her as “a strong Christian, lifelong conservative” and supporter of former President Donald Trump. She joins Reno businessman and Army veteran Sam Brown in the GOP primary. Brown is expected to hold a rally kicking off his campaign July 24. Republican Adam Laxalt, the former Nevada attorney general, has said he’s considering another run for public office and is expected to join the race as well. Cortez Masto, who is seeking reelection, is the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate. She was elected in 2016, winning the seat held by longtime Sen. Harry Reid after he retired.
Chesterfield: Since the 1960s, visitors along a forest trail could see stone stairs and archways, remnants of a country house that was referred to as a “castle.” That’s now giving way to gravity. The top section of stairs collapsed over the weekend in Madame Sherri Forest in West Chesterfield, named after a Ziegfeld Follies costume designer who lived in the house and threw parties for New York’s theatrical elite in the 1930s, the Brattleboro Reformer reports. The house was lost in a fire in 1962. The land is owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Jack Savage, society president, said with all the rain the area has seen recently, it wouldn’t surprise him to hear the ground under the steps was saturated, and something just gave way. The society recently hosted a work party at the castle, cleaning up graffiti and weeding. “I know it’s a very popular place,” Savage said. “People will likely want to go see what’s there no more, but we ask that they stay away from the rubble so they don’t get hurt.” Madame Sherri, who was born Antoinette Bramare in 1878 in Paris, built her castle in 1929. She eventually abandoned the home and died in 1965 in Brattleboro, Vermont, at age 87.
Trenton: Nearly 88,000 low-level marijuana offenses have been dismissed over the past two weeks, the state Supreme Court said, as the Garden State transitions to legalizing and decriminalizing the drug. The dismissed cases announced late Monday afternoon are the first in a wave of about 360,000 that are eligible to be automatically vacated, dismissed and expunged under the decriminalization law Gov. Phil Murphy signed earlier this year. Although the first batch of cases have been dismissed, they still have to go through the expungement process, which is automatic under the law. Earlier this month, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner directed that pending cases and warrants for fourth-degree and disorderly persons offenses related to marijuana or hashish – including possession and distribution of small amounts, being under the influence and operating a motor vehicle while in possession of the drugs – be dismissed. The court’s July 1 order also said that related violations of probation or pretrial monitoring will be vacated and that driver’s license suspensions or revocations for failure to appear will be rescinded. Cases of eligible defendants who are pending sentencing or have completed sentencing will also be vacated and dismissed, the court said.
Albuquerque: Some of the state’s top climate and water experts warned lawmakers Tuesday that the effects of the drought on water supplies have been worsened by climate change, specifically an ongoing, long-term warming trend. They told members of a legislative committee that the drought is a harbinger of still more arid conditions to come as temperatures continue to climb and as rainfall becomes more variable. Human-caused climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years. Increasing temperatures also can lead to the snowpack that feeds rivers and streams melting several weeks earlier and more rapidly, resulting in more evaporation. That means less runoff into the Rio Grande, Pecos and other rivers, and that’s not going to change, since the experts said there are no indications that the long-term temperature trend will go away. New Mexico uses all its water and is pretty well tapped out when it comes to new supplies, said retired professor David Gutzler. He said long-term climate change should lead policymakers to expect and plan for diminished surface water supplies in the decades going forward. Groundwater supplies also are being depleted as more people are forced to pump water to make up for dwindling flows.
Albany: It will be weeks before the state issues any payments from its $2.4 billion COVID-19 rent relief fund, state officials said Tuesday, adding to delays in a program that has been beset by technical glitches with its online application portal. At least 1.1 million New York households that rent have at least one family member who was economically affected by the pandemic, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. But New York is one of four states that did not distribute any of the tens of billions of dollars in rent relief that Congress has paid out to states this year, according to a U.S. Treasury report of spending through May. On June 1, New York launched an online application portal allowing tenants and landlords to apply for rent – nearly two months after lawmakers first created the $2.4 billion fund. The State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has said it would take four to six weeks to process applications to release payments to landlords. Six weeks later, agency spokesperson Anthony Farmer said Tuesday that first payments are “expected to go out in the coming weeks.” Tenants and landlords alike say New York’s application portal is too difficult, time-consuming and glitch-prone to ensure eligible New Yorkers are getting the help they need applying.
Raleigh: Republicans advanced legislation Wednesday that defines how teachers can discuss certain concepts about race and racism inside the classroom. GOP Senate leader Phil Berger said his chamber is taking action as conservatives across the country seek to counter their understanding of “critical race theory,” a framework legal scholars developed in the 1970s and 1980s that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions, maintaining the dominance of white people in society. The latest version of the North Carolina bill would prevent teachers from compelling students to personally adopt any ideas from a list of 13 beliefs, even though though they cannot identify a single case of this happening inside the state’s classrooms, which serve about 1.5 million K-12 public school students. “We don’t want to indoctrinate folks in what I think is the core of critical race theory, which is that race is determinative of whether or not someone is going to be successful, that race is determinative of all matter of things that happen in society and that past discrimination justifies current discrimination,” Berger said in an interview before unveiling the updated education measure.
Fargo: City commissioners have directed the police department to present them with hate crime findings. “I’m going to be reporting on the hate crimes in terms of whether or not the city ordinance was issued or reports where the city ordinance was applied or federal law was applied,” said Dave Zibolski, chief of the Fargo Police Department. “Our current hate crimes are reviewed if they meet the elements of the federal law by the U.S. attorney’s office.” Zibolski said the reports will help determine whether the city’s ordinance on hate crimes is effective. “With the new hate crimes ordinance, we’ll have some additional and potential ordinance violations. So we’ll track those as well in terms of how many of those come in, and we’ll add in the prosecution piece. So what was prosecuted so they have reported in terms of is the ordinance is effective in a sense or how often is it used,” Zibolski told KVRR-TV. Eleven cases were investigated as potential hate crimes this year, “but through the course of the investigation, none of those could be shown to be hate crime-related in terms of the ability to prosecute them,” he said. Zibolski said reports of hate crimes are posted on the department’s website monthly.
Columbus: Vaccination trends have led to the development of “two Ohios” when it comes to combating COVID-19, increasing vulnerability to the coronavirus’ highly contagious delta variant, the state’s top medical official warned Wednesday. The delta variant is rapidly becoming the disease’s dominant strain and is a real threat to those who are unvaccinated, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health. The delta variant was first identified in India and is now spreading in more than 90 other countries. Meanwhile, about 5.3 million people in Ohio, or 45% of the population, have completed the inoculation process. “The reality is, we now have two Ohios,” Vanderhoff said. “An Ohio that is vaccinated and protected on the one hand, and an Ohio that is unvaccinated and vulnerable to delta on the other.” About 9 of every 10 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in central Ohio since April have been vaccinated only partially or not at all, said Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at the Ohio State University medical center. The doctors’ remarks came a day after Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio will soon announce a second vaccine incentive program following the Vax-a-Million initiative that offered five $1 million prizes and five full-ride college scholarships.
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt was forced to end a forum early after he and a panel of district attorneys were berated as they sought to explain the position prosecutors are taking on the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. Stitt ended the “McGirt v Oklahoma Community Forum” roughly an hour earlier than planned Tuesday amid jeering from the audience as he tried to explain how the high court’s decision had unintended consequences for victims of crime regardless of tribal citizenship. The McGirt decision determined that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation and that state prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal charges in cases in which the defendants or victims are tribal citizens. It has led to dozens of criminal convictions in Oklahoma being overturned, including some death row cases. Most of those cases are having to be retried in federal court. “Nobody on this panel created the McGirt situation,” Stitt said shortly before ending the program. “This is a complicated issue, and we have 400,000 Natives who live in the state of Oklahoma. We’ve got 3.6 million non-Natives living in the state of Oklahoma. We need to keep all Oklahomans safe.” But the main source of frustration for Native Americans who attended the forum was the lack of tribal representation on the panel, the Tulsa World reports.
Portland: Residents struggled to get rides to cooling centers during the recent heat wave that is believed to have killed hundreds across the Pacific Northwest, officials said Monday, and staffing shortages prevented callers from reaching operators at an information line. State authorities are examining their response to scorching temperatures that broke all-time records across the region late last month as the West struggles with a historic drought and as climate change makes extreme weather more common and intense. Oregon blamed 116 deaths on the heat. “One of the heartbreaking things about this heat wave is that there were resources that were available to communities, whether it was cooling centers or transportation, and folks couldn’t access those resources to protect themselves,” Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, said at a news conference. In the week leading up to the late June heat wave, Oregon officials contacted providers, set up cooling centers and connected with vulnerable populations, including the thousands of homeless people who live on the streets of Portland and in low-income communities. One major complaint from community members was not knowing where to go to cool down and a struggle to find that information.
Carlisle: The disinterred remains of nine Native American children who died more than a century ago while attending a government-run school in Pennsylvania were headed home to Rosebud Sioux tribal lands in South Dakota on Wednesday after a ceremony returning them to relatives. The handoff at a graveyard on the grounds of the U.S. Army’s Carlisle Barracks was part of the fourth set of transfers to take place since 2017. The remains of an Alaskan Aleut child were returned to her tribe earlier this summer. “We want our children home no matter how long it takes,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who in June announced a nationwide investigation into the boarding schools that attempted to assimilate Indigenous children into white society. Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary, said at the event that “forced assimilation practices” stripped away the children’s clothing, their language and their culture. She said the government aims to locate the schools and burial sites and identify the names and tribal affiliations of children from the boarding schools around the country. In Pennsylvania, the nine sets of remains inside small wooden coffins were carried past a phalanx of tribal members and well-wishers before being loaded into a trailer to be driven to Sioux City, Iowa. The children died between 1880 and 1910.
Providence: State environmental regulators have denied a permit for a medical waste-to-energy facility in West Warwick. In denying the application Tuesday for MedRecycler-RI Inc., the Department of Environmental Management cited several factors, including a recently passed law prohibiting new high-heat medical waste processing facilities in the state. The agency also cited environmental concerns; a lack of adequate details about testing protocols; the facility’s lack of emergency response plans; a lack of clarity about how much and where medical waste would be stored; the facility’s proximity to residential neighborhoods; and questions about the facility’s technology, which has not previously been used on medical waste. The company planned to use a process known as pyrolysis to break down used gloves, tubing and syringes to generate power. MedRecycler has said the facility will be safe, provide jobs and tax revenue. The site would not accept hazardous waste. The company said it was not subject to the new law because it does not apply retroactively. Nicholas Campanella, chairman and CEO of MedRecycler’s parent company, Sun Pacific Holding Corp., told The Boston Globe that the company is considering its legal options.
Mount Pleasant: An abandoned liposuction machine was the suspicious package that closed one of the state’s busiest bridges for three hours over the weekend, according to authorities. Someone called police Saturday after finding a metal box near a pillar of the Ravenel Bridge in Mount Pleasant, just across the Cooper River from Charleston, investigators said. The caller showed officers pictures of a metal box with a lock, green and red buttons, and a fan. Officers then confirmed the box’s location, and a supervisor shut down the bridge and called the bomb squad, according to a Mount Pleasant Police report. The bridge was opened after about three hours, and officials confirmed Monday that the item was a liposuction machine. The Ravenel Bridge carries about 77,000 vehicles a day on U.S. Highway 17 between Charleston and Mount Pleasant, according to South Carolina Department of Transportation data.
Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem suspended her Cabinet secretary overseeing state prisons and the warden of the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls, following an anonymous complaint that alleged supervising corrections officers regularly sexually harassed their fellow employees, that employee morale is low and that promotions are plagued by nepotism. The governor said she was briefed about 7 p.m. Tuesday on an internal review from the Bureau of Human Resources that was prompted by the anonymous complaint. Less than three hours later, Noem said she was putting Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young on administrative leave and commissioning an investigation into the allegations. The complaints had been known to state officials for months, according to the organization that represents state employees. The two pages of the complaint released by Noem’s office do not name either Leidholt or Young but allege that supervising corrections officers at the prison were allowed to sexually harass employees and that attempts to report the harassment were ignored. The complaint says schedules at the prison were adjusted so the officers could “work in the same vicinities as their interest/victims.”
Nashville: The federal government will not alert the state when unaccompanied migrant children are brought to Tennessee to be placed with sponsors, officials with Gov. Bill Lee’s administration told lawmakers Tuesday. Brandon Gibson, Lee’s chief operating officer, said that the federal Department of Health and Human Services has largely directed her questions to information posted on government websites and policy statutes. Gibson said it’s her interpretation that the federal government could disclose information to local law enforcement about when immigrant children pass through the state, but federal officials have told her they won’t due to privacy concerns. “The response I got from HHS was that because of confidentiality they would not be notifying local law enforcement,” Gibson said. HHS officials did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Gibson gave her remarks Tuesday before a legislative panel made up of entirely of GOP members. The group is tasked with investigating refugee and immigration settlement in Tennessee after a local television station aired footage of children arriving at a Chattanooga airport and boarding buses in the middle of the night.
Austin: State officials on Tuesday added 59 deaths to the toll wrought by the Feb. 14 cold wave and the ensuing collapse of the state’s electric power grid. The deaths newly tallied by the Texas Department of State Health Services boosted the toll from 151 to 210 deaths, most from exposure to the sometimes-subzero temperatures. Still, some were blamed on carbon monoxide poisoning as freezing Texans sought warmth from cars and outdoor grills. The count remained preliminary and may change as more deaths are confirmed, the department said. The county with the highest death toll was Harris, where Houston is located, with 43 deaths. Travis County, where Austin holds most of its population, had 28 deaths. Dallas County reported 20 deaths. The toll is a far cry from the initial March 15 report of 57 deaths. The toll was raised to 111 on March 25, 125 on April 6 and 151 on April 28. The collapse of the power grid managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas has made electric reliability in Texas an ongoing political question. In early June, Gov. Gregg Abbott declared that state lawmakers had fixed the problem. Since then, two conservation alerts issued by ERCOT during temperate spring weather prompted renewed questions.
Draper: The drought gripping the West is contributing to an increased number of mountain lion sightings in the state, police said. It appears cougars are being forced into more populated areas to get enough water to drink, Draper Police Lt. Pat Evans told Fox13 News. One recent encounter happened in Coyote Hollow, near the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper. Hiker Sherie Allen said she had just hit the trail with friend Shelli Roberts and Roberts’ small Shitsu Yorkie dog, Buster, when she heard something. “We hear this like, ‘rawrrrr’ – it wasn’t like a growl, it was like that screech,” she said. It was a cougar, about 6 feet away. “She, luckily, grabbed my arm and was like, ‘Whatever you do, do not run,’ and she stopped me in my tracks,” Roberts said of Allen. Roberts picked up Buster, and the big cat tracked them as they backed away slowly and got away safely. Other hikers should be aware of the danger and watch for big cats. In an encounter, people should try to make themselves look big, maintain eye contact and never run away from a cougar. Any small pets or kids should be kept close.
Burlington: Some performance venues across the state are preparing to reopen with help from federal money after the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close. So far, 43 Vermont locales benefited from the $13 million from the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant program, part of federal pandemic relief assistance. “From Brattleboro to St. Albans, from Derby Line down to Bennington, there’s gonna be a real shot that your community theater, your community venue will be reopened very soon,” Vermont’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch told MyNBC5. Two Burlington locations are preparing to reopen. The Vermont Comedy Club, which received more than $400,000, is set to reopen Labor Day weekend. The Flynn Center, which received more than $1.8 million, plans to open again in October. “The funding came through right at the perfect time for us to be able to hire our contractors and start booking talent,” said Natalie Miller, co-owner of Vermont Comedy Club. Miller said the club is getting ready for the reopening. “We’re gonna be able to space people out a little bit more because everyone is in there, they’re laughing, droplet city. So we’re gonna make it a lot safer,” she said.
Norfolk: An effort is underway to make the larger Chesapeake Bay area part of the National Park Service. The Virginian-Pilot reports it would be called the Chesapeake National Recreation Area. Behind the effort is a group of conservation nonprofits, community leaders and lawmakers who are working to draft legislation in Congress. It’s unclear exactly what the recreation area would look like. Proponents don’t call for the entire bay to be included. But certain land-based sites would provide public access to it. “The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and the national park system represents America’s most treasured landscapes,” said Reed Perry, external affairs manager for the Chesapeake Conservancy, which is a part of the group. The idea has been around since the 1960s. And the park service has already established itself along parts of the nation’s largest estuary. For instance, there is the 3,000-mile Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton. A federal working group has been formed to explore the possibility of designating the Chesapeake recreation area.
Yakima: An extreme heat wave damaged cherries grown in the Yakima Valley and the Northwest in late June and early July. The high temperature reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit in Yakima on June 29, an all-time record. The heat caused various issues, such as sunburn and stunted growth that made the cherries unsuitable for the fresh cherry market, The Yakima Herald-Republic reports. Many cherries were left on trees, while others were picked but processed, which provides a lower return to growers. Northwest Cherry Growers is still assessing the damage, but President B.J. Thurlby estimated about 20% of the overall crop was lost. Much of the loss happened in the Yakima Valley, where cherries were about to be picked. The Northwest cherry growing region includes five states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana. In May, the Yakima-based organization estimated a crop of 23.8 million 20-pound boxes in the five-state growing region. Thurlby said the yield this season is now likely in the 18 million to 19 million box range, which would be similar to the 2020 crop. Last year’s crop was affected by frost and wind before harvest. A few cherry varieties received a disproportionate amount of damage: Bing and Skeena, two red-fleshed cherry varieties, and the popular Rainier.
Charleston: The governor has launched a program to showcase chefs across the state. The West Virginia Chef Ambassador Program aims to promote culinary innovation and farm-to-table experiences with the goal of expanding the state’s agritourism industry, officials said. Gov. Jim Justice launched the program Monday in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Tourism. Nominations are open for this year’s inaugural class of chef ambassadors. “West Virginia’s culinary industry is one of our state’s best-kept secrets,” Justice said. “It’s time we take the flavors we all know and love – and the chefs behind our favorite local dishes – and shine a spotlight on the great things happening across the Mountain State.” The initiative will serve as a partnership between the Tourism Department and the top nine chefs to promote dining and Appalachian cuisine. Ambassadors will be selected to serve one-year terms. Each ambassador will be selected to represent a specific travel region.
Madison: The operators of a startup that allows private homeowners to rent their swimming pools by the hour said Wednesday that Wisconsin regulators are all wet and want them to back off demands that they say would kill their business. Wisconsin is the first state to push back against Swimply, which started in 2018 with just four pools in New Jersey but has taken off during the pandemic as more people looked for private spaces to swim and have fun. The business works like an Airbnb for swimming pools. Private homeowners list their pools on the website and app as available for rent. Most of the pools on Swimply are in warm-weather locations, but it recently dove into the Wisconsin market. It currently has only about a dozen pools available to rent statewide, starting at about $35 an hour, but it’s looking to expand. Wisconsin regulators told Swimply in April that pools offered for rent would have to be treated the same as large, public swimming pools. That means a pool’s owner would have to obtain a license and meet construction requirements that are more onerous. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which is representing Swimply, said it will file a lawsuit if the state doesn’t back off. Wisconsin is the only state that has challenged Swimply, institute spokeswoman Erin Collins said.
Laramie: The president of the University of Wyoming is proposing several academic changes and up to 75 layoffs as the university absorbs budget cuts due to a decline in state support over the past several years. President Ed Seidel will present the plan to the university’s Board of Trustees this week, and the panel is expected to take public comment before voting on it in November, the university said. The proposal would eliminate some programs with low enrollment and consolidate and reconfigure some of its colleges to better combine degree programs that have overlapping courses while reducing redundancies, officials said. The changes will lead to the layoff of at least 10 department heads. However, the university will look to rehire some of them for new departments that are created, university spokesperson Chad Baldwin said Tuesday. Seidel’s administration is proposing adding a School of Computing, a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Initiative. Those programs are aimed at training students for future jobs in the state. The university has absorbed $42 million in cuts.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Manure power, snakes under a bed: News from around our 50 states