Montgomery: The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission will ask lawmakers to revise the state’s medical marijuana law in order to get plants in the ground next year and make the products available to patients sooner, Al.com reports. The commission also voted to offer State Treasurer John McMillan the job of executive director of the new agency that will run the medical cannabis program. McMillan – who served two terms as state agriculture commissioner and is a former commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – told the news outlet he expects to accept the job, which would require him to resign as state treasurer. Al.com reports Commission Vice Chair Rex Vaughn said he has been in discussions with lawmakers about moving up the start date for licensing cultivators from Sept. 1, 2022 to early 2022. The time required to grow the plants, which will be raised in greenhouses, is 90 to 110 days. The 14-member commission oversees a new agency that will license and regulate cultivators, processors, secure transporters, testing laboratories and dispensaries of medical marijuana products. It will be a seed-to-sale intrastate program, with products made from plants grown in Alabama. A special legislative session is expected this fall on redistricting. Another might be held on prison construction.
Juneau: Gov. Mike Dunleavy said President Joe Biden’s push to require millions of U.S. workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is “ill conceived, divisive and un-American.” “At a time in which we are called to work together, forced medical procedures run counter to our collective sense of fairness and liberty,” the Republican governor said Friday. Biden on Thursday outlined plans to mandate that employers with more than 100 workers require their employees to be vaccinated or tested for the coronavirus weekly. When asked Friday about critics who might sue over the plan, Biden said: “Have at it.” Dunleavy has faced some criticism for not issuing a statewide mask mandate and for not implementing a new disaster declaration to deal with a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. He has instead asked lawmakers to act on legislation intended to address staffing concerns raised by health care facilities. In a letter to legislative leaders this month, he said the virus is now “endemic,” and his administration is “adapting and proposing changes that make the response to the challenge more durable, and not subject to the whims of 30-day proclamations or health orders.” Still, in his statement, Dunleavy said it is “clear from the data and empirical evidence over the last year that the vaccine is the most effective way to fight COVID-19.”
Phoenix: The state has sold off $93 million in Unilever bonds and plans to sell the remaining $50 million it has invested in the global consumer products company over subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories, the latest in a series of actions by states with anti-Israel boycott laws. The investment moves state Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced last week were mandated by a 2019 state law that bars Arizona government agencies from holding investments or doing more than $100,000 in business with any firm that boycotts Israel or its territories. Arizona appears to be the first of 35 states with anti-boycott laws or regulation to have fully divested itself from Unilever following Ben & Jerry’s actions. While Ben & Jerry’s, based in Vermont, is owned by London-based Unilever, it maintains its own independent board, which Unilever said makes its own decision on its social mission. Ben & Jerry’s announced July 19 that maintaining its presence in the occupied territories was “inconsistent with our values.” The Arizona law enacted in 2016 and revised in 2019 had broad, bipartisan support and was signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. He tweeted that the Ben & Jerry’s decision “is discrimination.”
Little Rock: An appeals court has reversed a lower court judge’s order that the city must reinstate a police officer who was fired for fatally shooting a Black motorist. The Arkansas Court of Appeals panel on Wednesday reversed Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s decision last year regarding the firing of former Officer Charles Starks over the fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire. Starks fired his gun at least 15 times through the windshield of a car Blackshire was driving in February 2019. Fox reversed the Little Rock Civil Service Commission’s decision to uphold Starks’ firing and instead imposed a 30-day suspension and reduction in salary. Starks resigned in September and accused the police chief of making his working conditions “intolerable” after his reinstatement. Starks pulled over Blackshire because the car he was driving had been reported stolen, though Blackshire’s family has said he borrowed it from a friend. Surveillance and dashcam footage showed that Starks instructed Blackshire to exit the parked car. Instead, Blackshire began to slowly drive away and bumped Starks, who fired into the windshield four times. The car briefly stopped, and Starks got onto its hood and fired at least 11 more times into the car as it continued to move.
Sacramento: State lawmakers have approved what advocacy groups say are the nation’s strongest protections against falsely labeling items as recyclable when they in fact are destined for landfills. The measure sent late Thursday to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for his consideration would reserve the “chasing arrows” recycling symbol for items that actually can be recycled. The bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Ben Allen, said in a statement that it will force truth in advertising and “will reduce contamination in the recycling stream and improve the sorting process, thereby saving cities and ratepayers money while empowering consumers to make more informed decisions.” It’s among efforts in several states to ease confusion about recycling and increase recycling efforts. A Consumer Brands Association report recently asserted that confusion has led to “a broken recycling system in America.” A coalition of 14 opposition groups countered that the bill would have “resounding impacts” on the state’s goal to divert 75% of trash from landfills and hinder efforts to recycle packaging. The bill would likely require regulators to create a list of eligible items that “is extremely limiting,” potentially including just 15, the groups said – eight types of paper materials, two forms of glass, two types of metals, two types of plastics and one type of colored plastic.
Golden: Security workers will accompany nurses and staff members of Jefferson County Public Health’s three mobile vaccine units for the foreseeable future after months of harassment and abuse. One weekend this month, the agency was forced to pull vans off the street after a driver in Gilpin County, which contracts Jefferson County’s health agency, drove toward and destroyed signage around the van. Others “verbally abused” staff members Sept. 4, said Dr. Dawn Comstock, the agency’s executive director. These types of attacks have been going on for months, she said, but they’ve escalated to a higher degree. For instance, last month someone threw live fireworks into a tent of nurses and staff members, the Gazette reports. Despite the ongoing barrage of attacks and harassment, the county was still set to hold its COVID-19 vaccine events. “JCPH will not be intimidated out of its public health mission,” Comstock said. “We’ve arranged additional security measures to keep staff safe and will be working with our law enforcement partners to assure these handful of extremists are not allowed to infringe on the rights of those who want to be vaccinated.” Each incident has been reported to law enforcement, but each time the perpetrator has left the scene before officers arrived.
Hartford: Tourism officials plan to spend more money than usual promoting the state’s fall foliage in an attempt help the industry rebound from the pandemic. Gov. Ned Lamont helped launch the $1.4 million “Full Color Connecticut” marketing campaign Friday, which he said will link leaf peeping to other attractions across the state. Tourism officials said the play on the fall colors is meant to highlight other colorful destinations in the state, “from the golds of corn mazes and the pinks of cotton candy to the blues of coastline sails and the ambers of craft beer.” The campaign’s budget is nearly triple the amount typically invested in a fall marketing program, officials said. It is designed to reach about 33% of the market in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – compared to 10% in recent years – and expand into other markets, such as Philadelphia. The campaign also will take advantage of the state’s high COVID-19 vaccination rates, which tourism officials have said helped bring visitors to Connecticut this summer. The campaign will run through Nov. 20 and feature hundreds of tourism-related businesses, from the state’s parks and orchards to its casinos and shops.
Wilmington: Decades of structural defects and water damage have put a 30-year-old condominium complex at risk of collapse, but disagreements among condo owners over annual fees have prevented repairs from moving forward. “The buildings are deteriorating. We’ve been paying through the nose,” Michael “Mick” Donnelly said, comparing the situation at Le Parc, where he’s lived since 2009, to that of a condo that collapsed in June near Miami. “It’s been a nightmare situation similar to Surfside because the buildings are nearing condemnation and the people here don’t deserve it.” The fatal collapse of the 12-story condominium complex in Surfside, Florida, put many Le Parc residents on edge. Most of the issues found to have contributed to the collapse of the over 130-unit Champlain Towers South on June 24 mirror long-standing problems Le Parc owners have endured. Le Parc Condominiums – consisting of three four-story buildings housing 76 units – has faced similar issues to those at Champlain Tower South, including shoddy construction practices, design flaws, the developer going bankrupt, and decades of deterioration and water infiltration. While some emergency work was done, a permanent fix – estimated to cost $4.5 million – has been on hold nearly five years due to a lack of funds and financing.
District of Columbia
Washington: President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, who has a doctorate in education, joined D.C. middle school students and families Friday, welcoming them back to classrooms and honoring the educators who made it all possible, WUSA-TV reports. The first lady spoke at Brookland Middle School and delivered words of encouragement while acknowledging the challenges of the past year and a half during the coronavirus pandemic and highlighting goals to come. “We are going to partner with you because we don’t always know what the future holds, but we do know what we owe our children,” she said, while affirming that the administration will ensure schools like Brookland have the resources and support to continue in-person learning. “We owe them a promise to keep their schools open as safe as possible. We owe them a commitment to follow the science. We owe them unity so that we can fight the virus, not each other.” Meanwhile, the president emphasized the necessity of COVID-19 shots. “Parents, get your teens vaccinated – you’ve gotten them vaccinated for all types of other things,” he said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, easy and convenient.” Biden also celebrated D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s vaccination efforts and her success in setting up 20 inoculation sites at local schools
Miami Gardens: The most notable catch in Saturday’s NCAA football game between Miami and Appalachian State didn’t happen on the field. It wasn’t even a football. It was a cat. The animal somehow got into Hard Rock Stadium, then got caught by one of its paws off the facade of the upper deck in the first quarter. It eventually fell to the lower level of the stadium, where fans using an American flag as a makeshift net were able to safely break its fall and catch it before it was carried off to safety. “They were trying to grab it from above, and they couldn’t reach it, but they were scaring it downward,” said Craig Cromer, a facilities manager at the University of Miami and season ticket holder who with his wife, Kimberly, brings the flag to each home game. “It hung there for a little while with its two front paws, then one paw, then I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s coming soon.’ ” That’s when the Cromers unhooked the flag from the railing and hoped for the best. The petrified cat fell, bounced a bit off the flag, and eventually was secured by some in the student section before being brought away by stadium security. “I’ll tell you, if the cat will help us in our red-zone offense, I’m going to see if we can give it a scholarship,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said. Some videos of the incident were posted on Twitter, tagged #HardRockCat.
Atlanta: The city’s transit authority is soliciting public input for the exterior graphic design of new railcars. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority is encouraging current and potential future riders to vote for one of four design options through its website or on its social media pages. All four designs include MARTA’s traditional color scheme and are inspired by “the dynamism and movement of trains,” according to a news release. The transit authority says more than 1,300 people participated in a similar crowdsourcing effort in the spring that sought input on the interior design of the railcars. Those votes and comments revealed that the most popular interior features are digital maps, next station and destination displays, and Americans with Disabilities Act accessible seating and signage, the release says. “We were thrilled with the response we received on the interior features and are eager to see what riders think of the exterior design options,” MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker said in the release. The new railcars are slated to arrive in stations in 2023.
Honolulu: Gov. David Ige is requiring government contractors and visitors to state facilities to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative coronavirus test. Ige’s executive order issued Thursday takes effect Monday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. State contractors must attest to their employees’ vaccination status or provide weekly tests for unvaccinated staff. Contractors also must wear masks and maintain physical distance while on state property. The order also applies to visitors to state facilities. It does not apply to beaches or outdoor state properties. Inmates at correctional facilities, patients at state hospitals, and children under 12 or students attending state public or charter schools are exempt. Travelers arriving at airports are also exempt. The order says it is intended for the “safety of the government workforce during this ongoing escalation in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths resulting from the delta variant.” Last month, Ige issued an executive order requiring state and county employees to be either vaccinated or tested weekly.
Coeur d’Alene: Northern Idaho’s long, deep streak of anti-government activism has confounded attempts to battle a COVID-19 outbreak overwhelming hospitals in the deeply conservative region. A deadly 1992 standoff with federal agents near the Canadian border helped spark an expansion of radical right-wing groups across the country, and the area was for a long time the home of the Aryan Nations, whose leader envisioned a “White Homeland” in the county that is now among the hardest-hit of the pandemic. Hospitals in northern Idaho are so packed with COVID-19 patients that authorities announced last week that facilities would be allowed to ration health care. “This is extremism beyond anything I ever witnessed,” Tony Stewart said of people who refused to get vaccinated and wear masks. Stewart is a founding member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, which battled the Aryan Nations for decades and helped bankrupt the neo-Nazi group. “I’m almost speechless in seeing so many people have lost concern for their fellow humans.” Anti-government sentiments are strong in northern Idaho. State Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, refused an interview request, saying reporters were liars. She has promoted mask-burning protests and is among lawmakers who have frequently pushed COVID-19 misinformation on Facebook.
Springfield: Lawmakers are considering whether to put a statue on state Capitol grounds of Ronald Reagan, the Illinois native who served as the country’s 40th president. Members of the House Statue and Monument Review Task Force met Wednesday to discuss Reagan’s legacy and whether to memorialize him at the statehouse in Springfield, where there are statues of two of the four U.S. presidents who were either born in or launched their political careers from the state, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant are represented on the Capitol grounds, but not Reagan or Barack Obama, who started his political career in the Illinois Legislature. Reagan was born in Tampico and raised in Dixon. He later had an acting career in Hollywood before becoming governor of California. Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, the chairwoman of the task force, said that “whether we agree with his policies or not … (Reagan) had a profound impact on the direction of this country.” She noted Reagan’s “made-for-TV” presidency produced images and ideas that remain with the U.S. today – for better or worse. His “It’s Morning Again in America” campaign ad created an idealistic vision of the country, she said, but he also is credited with the offensive phrase “welfare queen.” The task force will continue to take public comment.
Logansport: The body of a Marine who was among 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing during the U.S.-run evacuation at Afghanistan’s Kabul airport was returned Sunday to his northern Indiana hometown. A military procession marked the beginning of memorial services for Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport. Sanchez’s body arrived Sunday morning at Grissom Air Reserve Base. The procession then headed about 20 miles to Logansport. People lined the route to show their respects, many with American flags, and jets flew overhead as the procession approached downtown Logansport. It stopped briefly downtown, where the hearse carrying Sanchez’s body paused under a garrison flag. The procession included Indiana State Police and vehicles carrying Sanchez’s family, followed by thousands of motorcycles. Sanchez was among 17 members of his Logansport High School class who joined the military after their 2017 graduation. He died in the Aug. 26 attack in Kabul, where he had been transferred after serving as a U.S. embassy guard in Jordan, according to his obituary. A public visitation is scheduled for Monday at LifeGate Church in Logansport. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the church. Burial will follow at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Des Moines: A state court judge declined Friday to halt enforcement of a law that prohibits school boards from enacting mask requirements, saying there is no evidence that any school board would immediately impose a mask mandate if the law weren’t in effect. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Frances Parr, a mother of twin boys from Council Bluffs. She sued the state, Gov. Kim Reynolds and several state officials last month in Polk County District Court, seeking an order halting enforcement of the law. Judge Celene Gogerty, who was appointed to the bench by Reynolds in November 2018, said Parr has presented no evidence that a temporary injunction would alleviate Parr’s alleged harm caused by the law. Parr has asserted the law violates her constitutional rights. Her sons were set to start first grade in the Council Bluffs Community School District this fall, but she is teaching them at home over fears for their safety because the school cannot require other students to wear masks. Parr also has asked Gogerty to issue an order for a universal mask mandate for all students and school personnel until a voluntary plan can be implemented that separates mask-wearing students and staff from those who refuse. That request has not yet been argued before the judge but is another available remedy, Gogerty said.
Topeka: Hospitals across the state will receive $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for extra pay for nurses to keep them on the job but will be required to report monthly on how many nurses they’ve lost and why, under a plan a state task force approved Friday. Kansas law required a bipartisan pandemic response task force to spell out how the $50 million would be spent, and the task force added the reporting requirement. The task force’s meeting came a day after President Joe Biden imposed new vaccine requirements for as many as 100 million Americans. Republican officials in Kansas and across the nation strongly criticized Biden’s mandate. Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, proposed the reporting on nurses who’ve been terminated. He called Biden’s new federal vaccine requirements “dictatorial edicts.” “We’ve had front-line workers – I mean, you can call them heroes – on the front lines for the last year and a half,” Masterson said. He also said he worries that “we’re gonna get some of them premium pay, and we are going to give some others a pink slip.” Earlier in the week, Masterson proposed to make hospitals with vaccine mandates ineligible for retention incentives – a proposal that failed on a 5-2 vote.
Frankfort: Lawmakers grabbed the quarterback role to direct the response to COVID-19, but when it came time to lead, the GOP-led Legislature “punted” the decision on mask-wearing in schools to local boards, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday. A day after a special legislative session ended, Beshear gave a blistering response to the Legislature’s decision to halt statewide mask mandates to combat Kentucky’s worst surge of the coronavirus pandemic. He declared that the Legislature “owns this pandemic moving forward.” Legislators passed bills Thursday that scrapped a statewide mask mandate for public schools and imposed a ban on any statewide mask rules until June 2023. Beshear vetoed the mask-related language, but Republican lawmakers overrode him before ending their three-day session. “The masking decision the General Assembly made was wrong. And it was also a punt,” Beshear told reporters. “I’ve been willing to make the calls, to take the hits, to make the plays. And the Legislature asked to go in … at QB. And what did they do? They punted on first down. When you’re in charge, it means you’ve got to make the decision. This one was to push the decision to others.”
New Orleans: Supply trucks are once again delivering beer on Bourbon Street, and the landmark Cafe Du Monde is serving beignets, fried pastries dusted with powdered sugar, even though there aren’t many tourists or locals around to partake of either. With almost all the power back on in New Orleans nearly two weeks after Hurricane Ida struck, the city is showing signs of making a comeback from the Category 4 storm, which is blamed for more than two dozen deaths in the state. More businesses are opening daily, gasoline is easier to find, and many roads are lined with huge debris piles from cleanup work. Thousands are still struggling without electricity and water outside the metro area, and officials say oppressive heat is contributing to health problems and misery. It could still be weeks before power is restored in some areas, and many residents who evacuated haven’t returned. “It is not lost on anybody here at the state level and certainly not on our local partners just how many people continue to suffer,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday. “While things are getting better, and we can be thankful for that … this is going to be a very long-term recovery.”
Phippsburg: A group wants to create an oyster reef off the town’s coast to improve water quality, protect a shoreline from storm surges and act as a habitat for other smaller shellfish. The oyster reef is part of the fight against “the immense amount of change” that’s taking place because of climate change in waters off the Maine coast, Marissa McMahan, a senior fisheries scientist at Manomet, a Brunswick-based conservation nonprofit, told the Times Record. The project is the continuation of a two-year pilot program the Nature Conservancy began in 2017. The conservatory’s goal was to see if an oyster reef could be grown on the ocean floor in the Gulf of Maine, which is warming faster than 99% of the world’s large bodies of saltwater, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Phippsburg group is growing oysters in bags that float on the surface of the water. They’ll eventually be released into the ocean with a hope that they’ll attach to one another and grow as a vertical structure. Oysters benefit the environment because they filter algae, creating clearer, cleaner water that can support underwater grasses used for habitat by crabs, scallops and fish. They also can break up waves and reduce shore erosion.
Bethesda: Activists are calling for the return of a Black cemetery to a church decades after it was erased by development. The Rev. William J. Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, spoke by Zoom to participants at a Friday rally, which organizers said included descendants of those buried at the Moses African Cemetery and members of the Macedonia Baptist Church. The church plans to restore the cemetery and build a monument and museum on the site. The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition sued Montgomery County’s Housing Opportunities Commission last month claiming that part of the cemetery is beneath the parking lot of the Westwood Tower Apartments, news outlets report. The housing agency owns the property and apartment building and uses the rental income to cover costs of the agency. An estimated 500 bodies of enslaved people or relatives of the enslaved rest at the cemetery, the lawsuit says. The plaintiffs argue that selling the parcel that was used as a burial ground without court approval violates state law. Last week, a Montgomery County judge temporarily blocked the $51 million sale of land that includes the Westwood Tower Apartments, WTOP-FM reports. The temporary restraint forbids the sale until a Sept. 27 hearing on the matter.
Lawrence: The body of a U.S. Marine killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan returned home Saturday in a solemn procession through Massachusetts on the 20th anniversary of the attacks that led to America’s longest war. Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo died in the Aug. 26 bombing near the Kabul airport where people were being evacuated amid the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. A dozen other U.S. service members and 169 Afghans were killed as people struggled to get into the airport and on flights out of the country. Dignitaries including Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Kim Janey and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey paid their respects to Rosario Pichardo’s family as her body arrived at Boston’s Logan International Airport. In her hometown, Lawrence, people lined highway overpasses and streets waving American flags as the vehicle procession made its way through the city near the New Hampshire state line. A Marine honor guard carried the flag-draped draped casket into the Farrah Funeral Home as police, firefighters and others stood and saluted. “We will never forget her name,” Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez said afterward. “We are proud to have her home.”
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday vetoed a Republican-sponsored bill that would have restricted state officials’ ability to use the Public Threat Alert System to announce new laws or executive orders. The Democratic governor, whose veto had been expected, said the system has only been activated once in the five years since it was created, for an active-shooter situation. The state used a different, federal system last year to send alerts to wireless devices about Whitmer’s stay-at-home and mask orders due to the coronavirus pandemic. That angered GOP lawmakers who said it should only be activated for “immediate” threats. That system would not have been affected by the state legislation. In a letter to legislators, the governor said the bill “would add complexity to the administration of the state’s public threat alert system, making it harder for law enforcement officers to do their jobs and making Michiganders less safe. … There is no need to further limit or complicate its use.” The measure had cleared the Republican-controlled Legislature mostly along party lines. The federal Wireless Alert System allows four types of messages: presidential alerts, imminent threat alerts, AMBER alerts and – as of 2019 – public safety messages designed to save lives or safeguard property. People can opt out of the latter three.
Isabella: Authorities said Sunday that a vast majority of the Greenwood Lake wildfire in northern Minnesota is contained, one month after lighting ignited the blaze in the Superior National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service reported that the nearly 27,000-acre fire was 67% contained as of Sunday morning. The Forest Service had said last week that the fire was nearly half under control as hundreds of firefighters were still being dispatched to the area. “I think the team is feeling really good about how things are looking out there. There’s been a lot of great work done and progress made taking advantage of this cooler weather,” Fire Service spokeswoman Stefani Spencer said. “The containment is pretty much growing every day.” Spencer added that the public is happy to have roads open, including all traffic opened along Highway 2. She said the closure was an inconvenience and frustration for folks traveling to Ely and the popular Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the Star Tribune reports. The fire started Aug. 15 about 10 miles southwest of Isabella has destroyed 14 cabins and homes along with 57 outbuildings. Some residents in the affected area who were evacuated have recently been allowed to return to homes and cabins after the fire lost intensity.
Jackson: Physicians who spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines could now have their licenses to practice medicine suspended or completely revoked, according to a new policy adopted by the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure. The policy, adopted Sept. 7, says doctors have an “ethical and professional responsibility” to practice medicine in the best interest of their patients and share factual and scientifically grounded information with them. “Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk,” the policy says. Whether physicians “recognize it or not,” they possess a high degree of public trust due to their specialized knowledge and training, giving them “a powerful platform in society,” it says. The policy specifically warns doctors against spreading misinformation on social media and strongly recommends physicians separate their personal and professional content online. “Physicians must understand that actions online and content posted can affect their reputation, have consequences for their medical careers, and undermine public trust in the medical profession,” it says.
Liberty: Thieves in the Kansas City area have in the past month have taken two churches’ fruit harvests. Hosanna! Lutheran Church in Liberty had planned to harvest grapes it grows after a Sunday worship service earlier this month, WDAF-TV reports. But members discovered that all 1,500 pounds of grapes had been stolen, apparently cut off their vines. The church has for about 15 years had the grapes bottled for communion wine. The harvest is a big annual event, especially for children in the congregation. The grapes were valued at $1,500. “This wasn’t really about theft of grapes,” said Pastor Mike Kern. “We don’t care about the value. It was more of a theft of joy.” Kern’s church was not alone. St. Peter and All Saints Episcopal Church in Kansas City reported that four of its apple and pear trees were recently picked clean, too. The anticipated harvest was three or four years in the making. The Rev. Jonathan Frazier said the Episcopal church donates its fruit to a nearby food pantry and a downtown homeless shelter. “So it’s just really sad because for somebody to take that quantity of fruit, they’re probably going to sell it,” he said.
Kalispell: Glacier National Park’s reservation system for Going-to-the-Sun Road, which ended last week after a three-month trial run, caused countless headaches for locals and outsiders who struggled to secure $2 tickets, but park officials say it worked as intended, alleviating traffic congestion inside the park and preventing long lines of cars from spilling onto U.S. 2. “Generally we do feel it was a success because it met our major goals,” Glacier spokesperson Gina Kerzman told the Daily Inter Lake. Kerzman noted the park never had to close the west entrance, as it has been forced to do in past seasons, and there were never more than about 15 cars backed up on the highway. In recent years, she said, traffic jams have stretched for miles from West Glacier to Coram. Additionally, the reservation system helped ensure that many visitors could find parking and access their desired trailheads and campsites. “We feel that we were able to manage the number of visitors and be able to ensure a good experience for everybody,” Kerzman said. Of course, not everyone was enamored by the new approach to crowd control. One recent review on tripadvisor.com called the reservation system “a disgrace” that made it “impossible” to access the park and prompted the author to cancel their visit, losing money on a hotel booking.
Norfolk: Starting in early 2022, public transit will be more widely available in the city and surrounding communities. To address the increasing demand for public transit in Northeast Nebraska, the newly renamed North Fork Area Transit announced new services that will provide “safe, efficient and affordable” public transportation. A new flexroute bus service called “Forklift” will provide rides along three routes and the addition of almost 100 bus stops across the community, said Steve Rames, Norfolk’s public works director. The Norfolk Daily News reports that Forklift, which will operate seven days a week, will also allow anyone who lives within three-quarters of a mile from any marked bus stop to schedule curbside service. The flexroutes will run from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The system will likely rotate on 30-minute cycles during peak times and one-hour cycles during non-peak times, Rames said. The North Fork Area Transit’s existing call-ahead ride service will continue but under a new name, “Telelift.” With Telelift, riders are able to schedule a ride 24 hours in advance. Service is available up to 30 miles around Norfolk, seven days a week, Rames said.
Las Vegas: A change in newly issued Nevada driver’s licenses means airport security screeners may have to manually check the credentials because their scanners can’t read the bar codes, officials said. The Transportation Security Administration hasn’t yet updated its scanning system to account for a minor change to the bar code on the state’s new license design, said Kevin Malone, a state Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman. TSA agents at U.S. airports can manually inspect a license if the scanning system won’t read the bar code, TSA Lorie Danker spokeswoman said. The state began issuing licenses with the new design in July. A note on the DMV’s website recommends that travelers allow extra time to complete airport security screening.
Brentwood: Dozens of families have challenged mask-wearing policies in New Hampshire school districts during the coronavirus pandemic, with two cases in court Friday calling for injunctions to stop enforcing them. A lawyer representing families in the Epping, Londonderry and Timberlane districts argued at a Rockingham County Superior Court hearing that mask mandates violate the parents’ rights to make health care and medical decisions for their children, and they are illegal restraints under a state law that limits the use of child restraint practices in school. “Their children have difficulty breathing with these masks on,” attorney Robert Fojo said. “It’s causing them to be afraid; they suffer anxiety and stress as a result of wearing these masks, experiencing lightheadedness and trouble concentrating. Masks irritate their skin, cause acne. It exacerbates already inherent problems that they have, such as asthma, difficulty with speech, learning-related disabilities, and obviously a distraction. They inhibit social interaction, which is what these children should be doing in school.” Attorneys for the school districts have argued for the case to be dismissed, saying the districts have been following a “tool kit” for schools from the state Department of Health and Human Services that recommends mask-wearing.
Trenton: Four more counties have received a major disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, paving the way for residents of Essex, Hudson, Mercer and Union counties to access federal assistance in the wake of the remnants of Hurricane Ida, Gov. Phil Murphy confirmed. The declaration comes after Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic and Somerset counties received declarations from the White House last Monday. The declaration allows for assistance with needs like grants for temporary housing and home repairs, among other things that will help residents and business owners in the aftermath of Ida. There also will be federal funding available to all levels of government as well as some nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work to repair or replace facilities damaged by the storm in the designated counties. Many in Essex County had been pushing for a disaster declaration after the area got crushed by Ida. Montclair officials had hoped for FEMA to include the county after the storm brought “devastating” flooding. In Montclair, which received 7.5 inches of rain, at least 50 drivers were rescued from cars and countless more ruined, more than 150 basements needed to be pumped out, officials said.
Santa Fe: Native American communities across the state are putting the finishing touches on proposed redistricting maps aimed at greater self-determination in future public elections, as competing plans wind their way toward the Legislature for consideration. Participants in a redistricting commission for New Mexico’s Indigenous pueblo communities said Friday that map proposals may be finalized as soon as this week. The maps will be submitted to a seven-member Citizen Redistricting Commission that is reviewing and vetting redistricting maps for the Legislature, which can adopt recommendations or start from scratch. The seven-seat commission has no Native American representation. New Mexico is home to 23 federally recognized tribes, whose growing political clout is reflected in the election of Laguna Pueblo tribal member Deb Haaland to Congress in 2016 and her promotion this year to secretary of the interior. Attorney Joseph Little is working with a broad alliance of Native American communities to turn redistricting principles into action using results of the 2020 census to track population changes. Major redistricting changes are most likely in the heavily Native American northwest region of the state and an oil-producing region in the southeast.
New York: For the first time in 550 days, an audience was inside the auditorium at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night, attending a Metropolitan Opera performance of Verdi’s “Requiem.” The night of multiple extended standing ovations was in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but in fact marked much more. The company was performing in its home for the first time since hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic, including Met violist Vincent Lionti, assistant conductor Joel Revzen and chorister Antoine Hodge. It also marked the first performance in the house since the death of conductor James Levine, the Met’s towering figure of the last half-century. He died in March at 77, a little over three years after was he was fired for sexual improprieties. Levine’s successor as music director on the podium is 46-year-old Yannick Nezet-Seguin. The pandemic caused the Met to cancel more than 275 performances, including its entire 2020-21 season, plus an international tour. The gap was the longest since the company began in 1883. A series of Broadway shows will start opening this week. The New York Philharmonic begins Friday at Alice Tully Hall, while David Geffen Hall undergoes reconstruction expected to last another year.
Raleigh: A judge has set a mid-October deadline for state lawmakers to follow a court-ordered plan to provide full funding for improving public education, or he will take action himself. State Superior Court Judge David Lee said he was “very disheartened” that the General Assembly is funding a small part of a plan calling for at least $5.6 billion in new education funding by 2028, news outlets report. Lee has scheduled a court hearing Oct. 18 and said if the plan isn’t fully funded by then, he will consider options on how the court can resolve the matter. Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, also accused Lee of overstepping his authority, The News & Observer of Raleigh reports. Lee’s warning marks the next stage in the Leandro school funding case first filed in 1994 by low-wealth school districts to get more state funding. The case is named after a Hoke County student who has since graduated from college. The North Carolina Supreme Court assigned Lee to oversee the case after Judge Howard Manning retired. Over the years, the state’s highest court has ruled that the North Carolina Constitution guarantees every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education” and that the state wasn’t meeting that standard.
Bismarck: State agriculture officials have confirmed a second case of cattle anthrax in Kidder County. The case was confirmed by the North Dakota State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory on Friday, according to the state Agriculture Department. The first case was reported in August. Officials say producers in the county and surrounding areas should check with their veterinarians to see if they should start vaccinating their cattle for anthrax. The disease is caused by bacterial spores that can lie dormant in the ground for decades and become active under ideal conditions, such as drought. Anthrax vaccines are readily available, but it takes about a week to establish immunity, and the vaccine must be administered annually. Two cases of anthrax were reported in North Dakota in 2020. In 2005, more than 500 confirmed animal deaths from anthrax were reported, with total livestock losses estimated at more than 1,000.
Cincinnati: The Cincinnati Police Department is pledging to increase recruitment of female officers to reach the goal of a force composed of 30% women by the year 2030. The department announced it is joining the New York University School of Law’s “30x30 Pledge.” In addition to recruitment, Cincinnati police also want to improve the retention and promotion of women in policing. According to a memo from the Cincinnati City Manager’s Office, the force is currently 22.7% female, compared to the national average of 13%. Officials say about 100 departments throughout the country have signed the pledge. “The goal of the pledge is not only to inform agency progress but also to identify and understand barriers to progress such as resources, capacity or authority,” the manager’s office reported. Officials said the police force should also be representative of the population it serves, which is 51% female.
Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has rejected a request to remove two members of the state’s Pardon and Parole Board from a high-profile death penalty case. The court’s brief ruling Friday denied a prosecutor’s request to remove Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle from considering the commutation request of Julius Jones, who was sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of Edmond businessman Paul Howell. The ruling came after a lawyer for District Attorney David Prater argued before a court referee that unless members Luck and Doyle were barred from taking part in the decision, the five-member board would likely recommend that Jones’ sentence be commuted following a hearing Monday. Prater, who argued that Luck and Doyle have a conflict of interest because of their work with released inmates, said in a statement that he respects the high court’s decision. “This is the system I operate in every day and I believe in it, though decisions don’t always go as I desire,” Prater wrote. He said his office is prepared to present “the truth of the circumstances” surrounding the fatal shooting of Howell during a carjacking. “If the Board objectively considers the truth, they will quickly vote to deny the killer’s commutation request,” Prater wrote.
Portland: The Oregon Transportation Commission has granted conditional approval to a plan to expand Interstate 5 through Portland’s Rose Quarter as well as build a cap over the freeway to allow for the redevelopment of a Black community destroyed when the interstate was first built. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the commission’s unanimous decision Thursday follows the recommendation of Gov. Kate Brown that the Oregon Department of Transportation pursue “hybrid option 3.” That plan would essentially tunnel the freeway and provide economic opportunity for the region’s Black community in an effort to reclaim the Albina district. Supporters say the idea is to remediate historic harm caused by the freeway’s original construction and displacement of community members. Approval of the hybrid 3 model is contingent upon ODOT providing a thorough analysis of the project’s cost structure and funding sources by December. It also requires ODOT and its contractors to update its diversity and subcontracting plans and to reevaluate the project’s initial environmental impact study. The project’s cost has risen significantly from its initial price tag of between $715 million and 795 million to upward of $1.18 billion.
Harrisburg: Some physicians are offering stock doctor’s notes for use by parents wishing to have their children exempted from wearing masks in school, according to state health officials who say they have referred the matter for possible disciplinary action. A statewide, universal mask mandate for Pennsylvania schools went into effect Tuesday as the Wolf administration seeks to keep school buildings open for in-person learning amid the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The acting health secretary’s face covering order contains an exemption for students for whom wearing a mask would cause or worsen a medical condition. But parents in districts that require a doctor’s note or other medical documentation have complained it’s been difficult to find a physician who will sign off. The Health Department said some doctors are pushing stock exemptions available to anyone. “The administration is aware that some physicians have indicated that they intend to offer blanket ‘exemptions’ to individuals with whom they have no treatment relationship, and regardless of whether the individual’s physical condition required an exemption,” the department said in a statement. Those doctors “have been and will be referred to the appropriate licensing boards for possible disciplinary action.”
South Kingstown: A pond has been closed to shellfish harvesting after seven people reported becoming ill after consuming raw shellfish harvested in the area last month. The state departments of health and environmental management said Saturday that Potter Pond in South Kingstown will be closed until further notice. The agencies said two of the sickened individuals tested positive for Campylobacter Jejuni. People with Campylobacter infection usually have diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps as well as nausea and vomiting, the agencies said. The symptoms usually start after two to five days and last about one week. The agencies advise anyone who consumed shellfish from the area and is feeling ill to seek medical attention, as more serious complications can develop. Health officials say they’ve contacted all commercial harvesters in the area to ensure that any product harvested during the time frame under investigation is not sold at restaurants and markets. They’re also urging recreational harvesters who collected shellfish between Thursday and Saturday in the pond to either discard them or avoid consuming them raw or undercooked. Officials say quick steaming isn’t sufficient to prevent illness, but cooking the shellfish until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit can reduce risk.
Columbia: A lawsuit filed in federal court is asking a judge to overturn a requirement in state ethics laws that makes it illegal for anyone who files a complaint against a public official from talking about it unless the complaint is found valid. The lawsuit is filed by a whistleblower who says a state lawmaker broke ethics laws by voting in favor of a special interest that paid the legislator $108,000 over three years through contracts with firms with ties to the lawmaker. The State Ethics Commission rejected the complaint after discussing it behind closed doors, saying the lawmaker taking money from a subsidiary of the special interest didn’t affiliate him with the interest, the whistleblower’s lawyer said in a lawsuit obtained by The Post and Courier. In the lawsuit, attorney Chris Kenney called the finding a “legal absurdity.” Kenney, who works in state Sen. Dick Harpootlian’s law firm, told the newspaper he can’t further identify the lawmaker or the special interest without a ruling in his favor from the court. Ethics laws prevent people who file a complaint from talking about it publicly before the complaint is heard and also if the commission rules against it, even on a technical issue. Critics of that provision have said it violates free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Deadwood: The first sporting bets have been wagered in the city, bringing to fruition an effort that began several years ago after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that banned commercial sports gambling. Four casinos in Deadwood opened sports betting Thursday: Tin Lizzie, Cadillac Jack’s, Gold Dust and Mustang Sally’s. Betting is only allowed at licensed facilities in Deadwood. People can place their bets with tellers at a window, at a digital kiosk or, soon, through an app on their phone. The app will only work within the facilities. The South Dakota Commission on Gaming issued a final ruling Wednesday on a list of sporting events on which gamblers will be able to place bets, including Olympic events and professional and college-level sports, the Rapid City Journal reports. Deadwood Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Rodman said Thursday’s opening was a success. “We’re very pleased that we got to this point,” he said. “And it’s been a long haul getting there. We’re happy to be there today.” In 2019, the Deadwood Gaming Commission attempted to get the Legislature to legalize it but came up three votes short. In 2020, South Dakota voters legalized sports gambling with about 58% approval, and the Legislature passed the gaming laws in 2021.
Memphis: The federal Environmental Protection Agency is proposing the addition of a former munitions factory just outside the city to a list of prioritized Superfund toxic cleanup sites, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen said. The EPA has proposed adding the National Fireworks site in the Memphis suburb of Cordova to its Superfund National Priorities List for removal of toxic chemicals detected in groundwater, Cohen, D-Memphis, said in a statement Thursday. National Fireworks made flares, grenades, incendiary bombs and large caliber rounds for the U.S. Army and Navy from 1942 to 1945, the EPA said. Metals and chlorinated solvent contamination have been identified in the soil and groundwater on the Superfund site, the EPA said. The 260-acre site was redeveloped in 1986 as an industrial park. The listing would make the site eligible for cleanup funding as one of the nation’s highest priority contamination sites. The site is “dangerously close to Memphis’ Shaw Wellfield that provides drinking water to 79,000 people,” Cohen said.
Dallas: The CEO of Salesforce said the company will help employees leave the state, and he did so while retweeting a story linking the offer to concern about Texas’ new anti-abortion law. Salesforce, which sells customer-management software, joins a small number of companies that have reacted against the law. CNBC reported that the San Francisco-based company told employees in a Slack message that it will help them move “if you have concerns about access to reproductive healthcare in your state.” On Friday night, CEO Marc Benioff retweeted a post about the story, adding: “Ohana if you want to move we’ll help you exit TX. Your choice.” Ohana is a Hawaiian term for family. The company did not return messages for comment. The Texas law passed the Republican-controlled Legislature and was signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May but didn’t go into effect until this month. It bans most abortions after six weeks, before many women know whether they are pregnant, and lets private residents sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion. By a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the law. Last week the U.S. Justice Department sued Texas to block the law.
Salt Lake City: Thirteen Utah hospitals will postpone many nonemergency surgeries starting this week as health care workers are overwhelmed by another surge in coronavirus cases from the faster-spreading delta variant, a major health care company said Friday. Intermountain Healthcare announced that the hospitals will postpone non-urgent procedures for several weeks starting Wednesday. The announcement comes a week after state hospital leaders made emotional pleas for vaccinations and universal masking to curb the state’s ongoing COVID-19 surge. Hospital utilization in Utah is nearing its previous peak in December, when intensive care units were 104% full, and 606 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. There were 516 people hospitalized for COVID-19, and ICUs were 93% full as of Thursday, state data shows. About 62% of Utah residents ages 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of Thursday. Utah reported 10 new deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 2,703. Several Utah hospitals postponed nonemergency surgeries at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to alleviate some of the strain on health care networks.
Burlington: The city’s annual marathon has been shortened so that fewer health care professionals will be needed at the race next month amid a surge in COVID-19 infections, organizers said. The People’s United Bank Vermont City Marathon & Relay will be a half marathon and modified relay event Oct. 24, RunVermont said. “After extensive review and discussions with professionals associated with the health care field, RunVermont believes it would be insensitive to ask those professionals to step aside from their duties to attend to the needs of the race at a time when the medical community is under some significant strain,” the organization said in a statement. Marathon runners can switch to a half marathon, select a virtual marathon option or defer the race until May 2022, organizers said. They can also chose to enter one of three races on a complimentary basis if space is available: the Mad Marathon in Vermont on Sept. 12; the Adirondack Marathon in upstate New York on Oct. 3; or the Eversource Hartford Marathon in Connecticut on Oct. 9.
Richmond: Arrests on marijuana-related charges have fallen dramatically this summer in and around the capital city since a new law legalized possession of small amounts of pot and residents keeping a few cannabis plants, according to a newspaper report. Twenty-five marijuana-related arrests occurred in Richmond and in Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties in the first seven weeks after the law took effect July 1, compared to 257 arrrests during the same period last year, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, citing local law enforcement data. “A 90% reduction in marijuana arrests indicates that the public policy is performing as intended and in a manner that is consistent with post-legalization observations from other states,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The law legalized possession by adults age 21 and over of up to 1 ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of four pot plants per household, among other decriminalization provisions. Selling marijuana remains illegal until the state launches a regulated market in 2024 and issues licenses. A regulatory board will help carry out the details.
La Conner: The Swinomish Tribe is threatening to sue the federal government to speed up estuary restoration and salmon preservation on the Skagit River delta. Much of the estuary has been drained and closed off with tide gates to facilitate agriculture, but such habitat is crucial for juvenile salmon. The tribe says that under an agreement reached in 2010 – following a prior lawsuit – the Army Corps of Engineers isn’t supposed to grant construction permits to dike districts for work on the tide gates unless they first restore estuary habitat. But for the past five years, the Corps has been doing just that, the tribe says. During that time, at least 660 acres should have been restored. The restoration efforts are now behind the agreement’s schedule, which calls for restoring 2,700 acres by 2035. At the current pace, it will take a century to complete that, tribal scientists say. The tribe notified the Army Corps last week that it intends to sue within 60 days, saying the agency has allowed the dike districts to violate the Endangered Species Act. Skagit River Chinook salmon are protected under the law. The Army Corps and NOAA Fisheries said they are reviewing the tribe’s claims.
Morgantown: West Virginia University is expanding its mask mandate to include all indoor campus spaces, officials said Friday. Masks will be required beginning Monday in all buildings and facilities regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status through Oct. 6, when public health conditions will be reevaluated, the school said in a statement. Last month, the university began requiring masks to be worn in classrooms and labs, citing several factors, including that not enough students and employees have submitted proof that they have been inoculated against COVID-19. The numbers of cases and quarantines involving university employees and students remain manageable, but officials said they decided to take the precautionary step due to the recent, significant increase of COVID-19 cases in the state. The mask requirement won’t apply in personal office spaces, small gatherings in residence halls, or while eating or exercising, officials said. Meanwhile, Gov. Jim Justice said Friday that cases in West Virginia are still rising, and there are a record number of patients in intensive care units and on ventilators. He continued to urge residents to get vaccinated. “This thing is running rampant right now,” he said. “These vaccines are incredibly safe, and they’ll stop this.”
Madison: A woman who admitted to helping stab a classmate to please online horror character Slender Man will be freed Monday from a mental health institution under strict conditions, a judge ruled Friday. Anissa Weier, 19, will be released after spending almost four years at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh. A conditional release plan calls for her to live with her father, submit to around-the-clock GPS monitoring and receive psychiatric treatment, among other things. She won’t be allowed to use the internet except at home, and the state Department of Corrections will monitor her online activity. Weier and a friend, Morgan Geyser, both were committed to Winnebago after pleading guilty to attacking Payton Leutner when they were all 12 years old. Geyser stabbed Leutner multiple times as Weier urged her on. Leutner suffered 19 stab stab wounds – including one that narrowly missed her heart – and barely survived. Waukesha County Judge Michael Bohren said the conditions of Weier’s release were fair, and the plan “provides for the protection of the community” as well as for Leutner and for Weier herself. Weier, dressed in a dark suit and smiling occasionally, said nothing during the 20-minute proceeding. “She looks forward to moving on into a productive life,” her attorney, Maura McMahon, told the judge.
Sheridan: Artifacts found this summer at Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site are slated for radiocarbon dating, which could tell researchers more about when the Crow, or Apsaalooke, people came to the area, according to the state archaeologist. “This summer, we found Crow ceramics, as well a range of things, from thousands and thousands of flakes and 10 arrow points (or arrowheads) and preforms to make arrowheads to animal bone from bison as well as bighorn sheep, as well as obsidian,” Wyoming State Archaeologist Spencer Pelton said. “We really hoped to find Crow ceramics to radiocarbon date, to have a better idea of how old those ceramics are.” Sharon Peregoy, a member of the Montana House of Representatives who represents the Crow Agency, said this type of work may help date early people of the area, preserving – or recovering – history that can otherwise be lost. “It helps dispel the concept that the Crow, Apsaalooke, people were new transplants to the area,” she said, adding that in this context, “new” means an arrival of 500 years ago. “The findings of these types of excavations and research correlates with our Crow oral history, which dates from time immemorial … prehistoric,” Peregoy said. “History is important to preserve a homeland for future generations.”
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Met Opera, cat catch: News from around our 50 states