Birmingham: The state’s best hope for avoiding another holiday spike of COVID-19 infections and deaths lies in large part on people who’ve not been vaccinated getting a jab this week, the state health officer said Friday. Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said it takes five or six weeks for someone to gain the maximum amount of immunity after the initial vaccine in a two-shot process. That means time is nearly up for people to start the vaccination process and have “the safest possible Thanksgiving,” he said. Harris said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays won’t be as deadly as last year because of vaccinations and the large number of people who have antibodies after contracting COVID-19, but there are no guarantees. “We just don’t know,” he said. While statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 2.6 million people in Alabama have gotten at least one vaccination, only 2.1 million residents, or 43% of the state’s population, are fully vaccinated – among the worst rates in the nation. More than 14,700 people have died of COVID-19 in Alabama, giving the state the fourth-worst death rate nationally, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
Juneau: A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck off the coast early Monday in what the Alaska Earthquake Center called an aftershock of an 8.2 quake from late July. Monday’s earthquake was felt throughout the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center. It occurred about 70 miles east of Chignik, a community of about 90 people on the Alaska Peninsula. Chignik is about 450 miles southwest of Anchorage and 260 miles southwest of Kodiak. The center had not received reports of significant damage but also relies on self-reporting, said seismologist Natalia Ruppert. Jeremy Zidek, a spokesperson for Alaska’s emergency management office, said the office was contacting communities and had no reports of damage so far. The U.S. Geological Survey on Twitter had reported a preliminary magnitude of 6.5 that was later revised to 6.9, which ties another earthquake that hit Alaska in August. The two 6.9 quakes were the largest aftershocks tallied since the United States experienced its largest earthquake in the past half-century, the magnitude 8.2 quake that struck south of the Alaska Peninsula on July 28. It was widely felt but caused no major damage in the sparsely populated region closest to it.
Phoenix: Opponents of a nearly seven-year-long process to exchange Oak Flat, a 2,200-acre site in Tonto National Forest, to a copper mining company cheered to learn that a recent survey found 74% of likely Arizona voters do not approve of the mine. And a new report has revealed the mine would use enough water to supply a city of 140,000 annually for its estimated life. Legislation to repeal the land deal has been pushed forward, and a lawsuit filed in January will be heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this month. To obtain the ore, Resolution Copper plans to use a method known as block cave mining. Eventually, the ground under Oak Flat would subside, leaving behind a crater about 1,000 feet deep and nearly 2 miles across. Opponents also fear underground water channels and major aquifers might be damaged or destroyed. Oak Flat is a sacred site to Western Apaches and holds great cultural significance for other tribes in the region. Known to the Apaches as Chi’chil Bildagoteel, Oak Flat had been withdrawn from mining claims since the Eisenhower administration. To boot, it’s one of Arizona’s rare riparian habitats, providing water and shelter for animals, birds and plants, including the Emory oak, a staple in Apache peoples’ diets for centuries. And the area is popular with recreationists.
Fort Smith: The city violated state law with its removal last year of a historical display that included a Confederate flag, a judge ruled. In an order filed last week, Sebastian County Circuit Judge Gunner DeLay found that the city is in violation of the Arkansas State Capitol and Historical Monument Protection Act, which didn’t take effect until April of this year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. DeLay found that the flags and bronze markers that were removed from Riverfront Park in April 2020 are a “historical monument” even though they are no longer displayed. The display was put up in 2001 and also included the French flag and old 15-star and 20-star American flags, among others. This June, attorney Joey McCutchen filed a lawsuit alleging the city violated the new state law by not replacing the display or obtaining a waiver from the Arkansas History Commission. An email exchange in June 2020 among City Administrator Carl Geffken and other officials indicated the flags were initially removed because they were tattered and needed to be replaced. Geffken wrote that he and others discussed changing the flags flown at the park after the May 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. He also said his decision to remove the flags would maintain “a piece of history from potential harm.”
Huntington Beach: A Southern California beach that was closed more than a week ago because of a leak of crude oil from an undersea pipeline reopened Monday, far sooner than many expected. Huntington Beach’s city and state beaches reopened after officials said water quality tests revealed no detectable levels of oil-associated toxins in the ocean water. Early Monday morning, surfers bobbed in the waves, and people walked along the shoreline, some with dogs jumping and playing in the water. Andrew Boyack, a 54-year-old commercial photographer, was eager to get back to surfing the waves he usually rides three or four times a week. “There’s lots of guys out, so I figure it’s probably all right, and I guess they tested it,” he said while rinsing off at an outdoor beach shower. Huntington Beach and nearby coastal communities reeled from last week’s spill that officials said sent at least about 25,000 gallons and no more than 132,000 gallons of oil into the ocean. It was caused by a leak about 5 miles off the coast in a pipeline owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy that shuttles crude from offshore oil platforms to the coast. The cause is under investigation, and officials said they believe the pipeline was likely damaged by a ship’s anchor several months to a year before it ruptured. It remains unknown when the slender, 13-inch crack in the pipeline began leaking oil.
Denver: Body camera footage released Friday in the case of a police officer accused of using a chokehold during an arrest shows him putting his arm around a man’s neck and holding it there for about 10 seconds shortly after handcuffing him. While holding the standing man around his neck during the June 7 arrest at a city building in Greeley, Officer Kenneth Amick accused him of trying to grab the officer’s hands. The man denied it, his voice distorted, while still in the hold. Amick released the chokehold after another officer stepped toward them and said: “Take it easy. Take it easy. Take it easy.” A judge ordered the release of the video Thursday, siding with a coalition of news media. The coalition argued that it should be released under a Colorado law enacted this year in response to nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. It generally requires that footage be made public, upon request, when a complaint is lodged against a police officer. Amick, charged with second-degree assault, is scheduled to enter a plea Oct. 22. Weld County District Court Judge Vincente Geraldo Vigil had earlier blocked the release of footage after Amick and prosecutors argued it could prejudice a potential jury. On Thursday, he ruled such concerns can be dealt with during jury selection, KDVR-TV reports.
Hartford: Online gambling is coming to the state, on a limited basis. A “soft launch” beginning Tuesday will allow several hundred people to open accounts to wager for a seven-day period. The state marked the first day of its long-awaited rollout of legalized sports and internet wagering Sept. 30, when Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods held events to mark the grand opening of temporary sports betting venues. In addition to the two tribal casinos, the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, the state’s quasi-public lottery, will offer online sports wagering and retail sports betting at 15 locations. The soft launch allows people to gamble using their phones, tablets and other online devices. Once the launch is completed, online gambling will be available statewide. “After more than a decade of advocacy and negotiation, statewide sports betting and iGaming is finally coming to Connecticut,” Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, told the Hartford Courant. ”We’ve made it to the finish line, and we’re excited to finally launch.” The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which operates Foxwood, has partnered with DraftKings Inc., and Mohegan Sun, operated by the Mohegan tribe, has partnered with FanDuel. The lottery’s partner is Rush Street Interactive.
Newark: The University of Delaware is bringing to fruition its plans to develop a science and technology-focused campus at the sprawling former Chrysler plant in the city. The university on Thursday officially opened the Ammon Pinizzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center, a six-story, 220,000-square-foot building designed to bring together UD students, researchers and industry workers focused on “life-saving medicines and transformational treatments.” It’s one of a series of buildings to open or break ground amid the COVID-19 pandemic at what’s now the UD Science, Technology and Advanced Research Campus. The new innovation center – nicknamed AP BIO by officials – is among the most advanced UD facilities. Charles Riordan, UD’s vice president of research, scholarship and innovation, called it “the most interdisciplinary building” in the school’s history. It houses the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, a federally sponsored private-public partnership that aims to accelerate biopharmaceutical innovation; the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, a support and research group formed by Delaware’s research organizations; the university’s department of biomedical engineering; and research laboratories in pharmaceutical discovery and molecular and medical sciences.
District of Columbia
Washington: A new bike path is in the works for the National Mall, WUSA-TV reports. This week, the D.C. Department of Transportation, in partnership with the National Park Service, will begin implementing safety improvements on 15th Street, including two-way protected lane for bicyclists. “This project will improve pedestrian safety for visitors to the National Mall and create a north-south bicycle connection between the White House, National Mall and the Jefferson Memorial,” Mike Litterst, chief of communications and spokesperson for the National Mall and Memorial Park, said in a release. NPS said it will install an additional projected lane on East Basin Drive Southwest next spring that will connect with the multiuse trail on the 14th Street bridge. Construction on 15th Street will last through the fall and involve temporary lane closures for drivers. When the work is complete, there will be three lanes open to drivers on 15th Street – one southbound and two northbound. Pedestrians and bicyclists can continue to use the sidewalks along 15th Street until the project is complete, but they should expect a limited number of disruptions due to construction activity.
Tallahassee: The activist who led a movement to allow most former felons in Florida to vote has gotten more of his own civil rights restored under a new state clemency program. Desmond Meade, head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, announced in a Twitter video Saturday that he can now run for office, serve on a jury and take the bar exam to become a lawyer. Meade has a law degree from Florida International University. “This is good,” Meade said on the video. “The restoration of my civil rights definitely helped remove some hurdles for me.” Meade, 54, was a leader in the successful 2018 effort to enact a voter-approved constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons whose sentences are complete. The GOP-led Legislature later passed a measure requiring all financial obligations such as fines to also be completed, which critics said primarily disenfranchises minorities and poor people. Meade, who served time for drug and firearms offenses, already had regained the right to vote. The other rights were automatically restored under a policy adopted in March by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet. Meade last month was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” of $625,000 in recognition of his work. He said it will be used to pay off law school loans and continue his work for people convicted of felonies.
Savannah: City officials say bars and restaurants are toasting a successful trial run at serving to-go orders of beer and cocktails in aluminum cups. Georgia’s oldest city recently ended a two-month pilot aimed at seeing whether businesses can reduce their use of plastic cups by switching to aluminum ones that people can reuse or recycle. Sipping from to-go cups of alcohol on the streets of the downtown historic district has long been a part of Savannah’s bustling nightlife. City Alderman Nick Palumbo pushed for the trial to let businesses test the aluminum cups. The City Council agreed to temporarily add aluminum alongside paper and plastic cups allowed for serving to-go drinks during the pilot period. Bars and restaurants ended up using about 50,000 aluminum cups. “We know that diverted 50,000 pieces of plastic out of the waste stream, out of our environment, which is just a huge hit,” Palumbo said. Carey Ferrara of the Gaslight Group, which owns several Savannah restaurants, agreed the pilot was successful. She said the biggest downside is that the aluminum cups cost at least four times more than plastic. She said businesses might be able to reduce the extra cost by combining their orders. “We can work together to purchase the cups in a quantity to make the price low enough for us,” Ferrara said.
Naalehu: Two strong earthquakes struck off the coast of the Big Island on Sunday, rattling residents and causing items to fall off shelves. The U.S. Geological Survey said the first quake had a magnitude of 6.1 and struck about 17 miles south of Naalehu. The agency said a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck about 20 minutes later in the same area. The National Weather Service in Honolulu said there was no tsunami threat. At a gas station in Naalehu, the refrigerator display doors were opened by the shaking, and items fell to the ground. No injuries were immediately reported. The Hawaii Department of Transportation said there was no damage from the earthquake at airport runways, commercial harbors or highway bridges.
Boise: The Idaho Press Club has dropped its request that a judge hold Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in contempt of court for refusing to turn over public records related to her education task force. Attorneys for the state press association and the lieutenant governor’s office filed the agreement to drop the contempt request Friday afternoon, according to court documents. McGeachin and her chief of staff, Jordan Watters, have repeatedly ignored requests for comment from the Associated Press. The Idaho Press Club sued McGeachin in July after several journalists said she wrongly denied public record requests for materials relating to her new Education Task Force. The task force was tasked with investigating alleged “indoctrination” in the state’s public school system, something McGeachin said was necessary to “protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism.” The lieutenant governor lost the lawsuit, and Fourth District Judge Steven Hippler ordered her to release the documents. But McGeachin didn’t immediately release the materials, and a few weeks after Hippler’s ruling she formally asked the judge to reconsider the matter. Her office finally released the records shortly after the Idaho Press Club asked the judge to hold McGeachin in contempt of court.
Springfield: The Old State Capitol has reopened to visitors after interior renovations were completed. Visitors will see a new feature, an education gallery and video room. Exterior work on the dome of the building continues, but indoor plaster work and painting is finished, allowing the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to open for tours Thursday. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The building served as Illinois’ Capitol from 1840 to 1876. Abraham Lincoln served in the Legislature there and in 1858, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, delivered his famous “House Divided” speech in the Hall of Representatives. When work began in March, officials indicated the building would only be closed through April. But officials said the project met with unforeseen delays, according to historic sites superintendent Justin Blandford. Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, the reopening was delayed. The $1.5 million project, under the management of the Illinois Capital Development Board, involves installing a new roof on the drum that supports the dome and restoration of the drum’s columns and windows. Work on the outside of the dome is marked by the construction scaffolding that surrounds it.
Fort Wayne: Former Vice President Mike Pence climbed on horseback during a ride by a veterans group trying to reduce suicides among military veterans. Pence joined members of the nonprofit organization BraveHearts for a Saturday ride in Fort Wayne aimed at raising awareness about the suicide issue. The national group uses the riding and care of horses in therapy for veterans suffering with depression or other emotional troubles. Pence rode for part of the route, talked and posed for photos with residents and riders, and spoke during a ceremony at the ride’s conclusion. The former Indiana governor said he was inspired by the group’s recognition that some veterans have wounds “that can’t be seen with the human eye.” “They are the burden of the heart and the mind that over generations in America that have really gone unspoken of,” Pence said. “But I’m proud to say now we’re recognizing as a nation the unseen injuries of our heroes.” About 30 horses and riders followed the full 20-mile route through Fort Wayne – a distance referring to the estimated 20 veterans a day who die from suicide.
Des Moines: Debates over COVID-19 mitigation strategies and how race should be discussed in classrooms are fueling frenetic energy around suburban school board races. A wave of conservative candidates and their supporters are urging their neighbors to take their frustrations to the polls. Although the races are nonpartisan in Iowa – party ID doesn’t appear on the ballot – they’re gaining attention from Republican leaders at both the state and national levels. In Waukee, a slate of parents backed by the local Republican Party is warning about “harmful ideology” in schools. In Southeast Polk, a candidate hosted an event for parents to get their mask mandate exemption forms notarized. And in Ankeny, a school board candidate who inspired the state’s law prohibiting mask mandates in schools has the endorsement of Gov. Kim Reynolds. Their platforms are part of a nationwide backlash from the defining events of 2020: the coronavirus pandemic and the rise of attention on racial justice issues after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota who was choked to death by a white police officer. The rancor has risen to such a level across the country that a nonprofit that represents school boards has asked federal officials to step in to protect elected officials and school leaders from physical violence.
Wichita: A major water line break that forced residents to boil their water before using it for several days highlights concerns about aging infrastructure in the state’s largest city. The water main break that forced the boil order last week happened after the city’s water plant lost part of its power supply, so the pumps sending water throughout the system automatically shut down. The boil order was lifted for Wichita on Saturday. “That was an abrupt shutdown,” Director of Public Works and Utilities Alan King said. “When we brought the pressure back up and to pressurize the system, that was a rapid decrease in pressure (followed by) a rapid increase in pressure, and both of those are not friendly to pipes, especially older pipes.” The Wichita Eagle reports that a 2017 assessment found 99% of the city’s water treatment plant was in poor condition, and the entire raw water pipe system was in very poor condition. Recent reports have said Wichita’s water supply needs hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and near-constant repair and replacement. The city is aware of the fragile state of its water supply and has budgeted $10 million a year in its most recent capital improvements plan for repairs, replacements and maintenance of distribution lines. A new water plant under construction won’t be ready until 2024 at the earliest.
Radcliff: It was no small feat, but now a local landmark is part of the Guinness Book of World Records. What started as a sharp idea in 2017 has turned into a crowning moment for Red Hill Cutlery and its owners, Lonnie, Jason and Josh Basham. The company has received confirmation that it does indeed own the world’s largest pocketknife at 34 feet, 6 inches. The business will hold a formal celebration this week. “It means a lot for us,” Jason Basham said. “It gives us an identity that sets us apart from any other knife store of its kind.” The idea started when the family began building a new location for Red Hill Cutlery and its American Pocketknife Museum in Radcliff. They gathered inspiration from a Barlow pattern pocketknife in Lonnie Basham’s personal collection. Josh Basham said the pattern has been interwoven with American history dating back to the 1600s. “The Barlow goes back to Huckleberry Finn,” he said. “You can go back in history, and the Barlow was one of the most notorious knives carried by U.S. presidents.” The world’s largest pocketknife is held open by a single pin, Lonnie Basham said. “We could pull out that one pin and it would close, but it would take a crane to do it because it’s so heavy,” he said. A community event acknowledging the Guinness recognition is set for 1 p.m. Wednesday.
New Orleans: The city hopes a temporary shift to once-weekly garbage collections will help address the piles of trash and debris that have piled up along streets across much of New Orleans. Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration announced the change to its solid waste collection Saturday as a way to bring a level of consistency to residents. “We are collectively beginning to see the progress on the ground, but it’s time to bring some predictability so that our residents can better prepare for their trash collection,” Director of Sanitation Matt Torri said in a statement. The city’s two primary solid waste contractors, Metro Service Group and Richard’s Disposal, are supposed to collect garbage twice a week, but they have fallen behind throughout the year primarily because of staffing shortages brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. After Hurricane Ida, the situation worsened. Torri said the shift to once-weekly pickup is “temporary,” but the administration is not committing to any collection schedule in the future. Cantrell announced Sept. 23 that she had hired four emergency contractors to clear out the backlog while Metro and Richard’s resumed regular collections. That effort is expected to last a month and cost and estimated $20 million to $30 million, The Times Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reports.
Portland: Prices for the state’s most beloved export are much higher than typical right now because of high demand and the possibility that those who catch lobsters are having a slower season. Maine lobsters usually become less expensive over the course of the summer because of the increase in catch off the state’s coast. But this year, wholesale prices that typically fall to the $8 or $9 per pound range never fell below $10.50. And they’ve soared even higher in early fall, eclipsing recent records and causing consumers to fork over more money at seafood counters. Members of the industry said interest in lobster from food processing companies and international buyers is driving heavy demand for the crustaceans. Meanwhile, the fishing season might be slightly off the pace of recent years, so supply is stretched thin, they said. “The season has been maybe a little bit below average, but the price has been pretty decent, so I think we’re going to be OK,” said Kristan Porter, a lobster fisherman and president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. America’s lobster industry, based mostly in Maine, goes through pricing ebbs and flows over the course of a typical year. Lobsters are typically heavily fished in summer, when they shed their shells and many reach legal size.
Annapolis: Lumped into the “Other” racial and ethnic category, American Indians and Alaska Natives are effectively invisible on the state’s COVID-19 website. More than 120,000 people who identify as Native American live in Maryland, but without public-facing numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, it is a mystery how many the disease has affected – and how many resources should be allocated to help them. “Not only is that bad public health, but it’s also very dehumanizing for American Indians and Alaska Natives on our native lands,” Kerry Hawk Lessard, executive director of the health services nonprofit Native American Lifelines of Baltimore, told Capital News Service. The Maryland Department of Health puts American Indians and Alaska Natives in the “Other” category for COVID-19 cases and death numbers “due to low statistical occurrence given the population of Native Americans in the state,” department spokesperson Andy Owen wrote in an email to Capital News Service. However, American Indians and Alaska Natives are at the highest risk for death and hospitalization from COVID-19 among all races and ethnicities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There is no regulation that requires this manner of reporting,” Owen wrote.
Boston: Kenya’s Benson Kipruto won the pandemic-delayed Boston Marathon on Monday when the race returned from a 30-month absence with a smaller, socially distanced feel and moved from the spring for the first time in its 125-year history. Although organizers put runners through COVID-19 protocols and asked spectators to keep their distance, large crowds lined the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to Boston as an early drizzle cleared and temperatures rose to the low 60s for a beautiful fall day. They watched Kipruto run away from the lead pack as it turned onto Beacon Street with about 3 miles to go, and he broke the tape in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 51 seconds. Diana Kipyogei won the women’s race to complete the eighth Kenyan sweep since 2000. Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the men’s wheelchair race earlier despite making a wrong term in the final mile, finishing the slightly detoured route just seven seconds off his course record in 1:08:11. Manuela Schar, also from Switzerland, won the women’s wheelchair race in 1:35:21. Hug, who has raced Boston eight times and has five victories here, cost himself a $50,000 course record bonus when he missed the second-to-last turn, following the lead vehicle instead of turning from Commonwealth Avenue onto Hereford Street.
Detroit: One of the city’s most iconic landmarks, a site familiar to music lovers around the world, is gearing up for a dramatic new look. The Motown Museum has unveiled renderings that depict a crisp, lush, bustling outdoor plaza at Hitsville U.S.A. Officials say they’re aiming to create a welcoming hangout for visitors, inspired by the days when artists and fans strode Motown’s front lawn in search of musical opportunity and glory. And they want to foster a Motown experience before guests even step through the doors. The space, part of the museum’s ongoing $55 million expansion, will be a mix of hardscapes and softscapes: The plaza will be tiled with granite pavers and adorned with benches, flower beds and foliage, including a new line of trees on the property’s west side. A new surround-sound system will envelop visitors in Motown songs as they step onto the grounds, while the space will be bathed in light at night. A permanent stage will host scheduled performances and pop-up music sets, helping address one of the most common questions from tourists in Detroit: “Where can I go to hear Motown music?” The front-yard transformation, now underway and scheduled for completion next summer, is the second of three construction phases in the museum’s expansion project, launched in 2016.
St. Paul: The state imposed an emergency order Monday blocking importation and movement of deer into and within the state to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease from deer farms and protect the state’s wild deer herd. “This disease poses a clear, immediate and serious threat to Minnesota’s wild deer, and these actions reflect what’s at stake,” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a news release. The decision came after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last month that a Wisconsin deer farm where the disease was detected sold nearly 400 deer to 40 farms across seven states in the past five years. The Minnesota DNR said it learned Sept. 27 that Minnesota farms received five deer from the Wisconsin farm. A farm in Stillwater received two of the deer in 2016. That farm has since closed, and the deer were shipped back to Wisconsin in 2019. The other three deer went to a farm in Clear Lake in 2017. That farm is active but under quarantine. Regulators have yet to approve a live test for CWD, which is similar to mad cow disease. It attacks deer’s brains, causing them to act strangely, lose weight and die. It’s always fatal to deer or elk. It’s caused by an abnormal proteins, prions, that can persist in the environment and spread to other deer.
Jackson: Child care providers are complaining that they are being forced to endure financial hardships, with some even being forced to close their doors, because of the challenge of accessing federal funds through the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Deloris Suel, president of the Child Care Directors Network Alliance, told WLBT-TV the state has failed to distribute half a billion dollars in federal money meant to help support child care providers from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. Bob Anderson, executive director for the Department of Human Services, told the television station the agency is not sitting on federal child care money, but officials want to distribute the funds “responsibly, prudently and carefully” and within the parameters of state and federal guidelines. Anderson said the state will be reviewed and audited for every dollar that is awarded. Anderson said that during the pandemic, the state provided thousands of dollars of cash grants to child care providers, and it’s still waiting for hundreds to provide documentation on how the funding was spent. Suel said many child care providers don’t understand the process because it is too complicated and filled with barriers. She said a lot of providers are struggling to stay afloat.
Columbia: Elected officials have voted to remove two courthouse murals that show a white man pointing a gun at a Native American man and an attempted lynching. The Boone County Commission made the decision Thursday after lawyers raised concerns. The murals, painted by Sidney Larson in 1994, will be placed in storage. The murals depict multiple scenes from Columbia’s history, including when Southern guerrillas terrorized Union loyalists in 1864. Another scene shows a white man being punished for stealing a cow. Three shirtless Black men also are shown chained by their ankles as they carry a plank. The majority of those who spoke at a public hearing late last month were in favor of the murals’ removal from the courthouse. Among them them was attorney Gary Oxenhandler, who said having the art in the courthouse is a wedge. “Boone County can either be a justice leader or an embarrassing media soundbite,” he said at the hearing. “I have never met a person of color who needed to be reminded their ancestors were lynched by mobs or beaten by police.”
Busby: Researchers are looking for the graves of nine soldiers killed in the Battle of the Rosebud, the largest battle of the Plains Wars. The fighting involved the U.S. government, committed to confining the Indigenous peoples of the continent to reservations, and the Cheyenne and Lakota who continued to resist, the Billings Gazette reports. To prevent their bodies from being discovered, men under the command of Gen. George Crook built a massive fire over the grave. Once it was snuffed out, they rode horses over the burned earth and covered any trace of who laid below. With much of the battlefield largely unchanged over the next 145 years, a team of researchers conducted a survey last week trying to find those nine men. The hunt for the soldiers’ grave – one of several projects intended to clarify the events of a day often overshadowed by the obliteration of Lt. Col. George Custer and his 263 soldiers – is the result of a partnership among Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, tribal officials, the State Historic Preservation Office and faculty with Colorado Mesa University. “What we’re trying to do is put together the physical history of the battle and see how it fits with Native American oral accounts and written records. We look at it as a crime scene, quite in the literal sense,” said Doug Scott, an expert in forensic and military archaeology with Colorado Mesa University.
Lincoln: Officials are refusing to release presentations the state has received from a nonprofit group that is analyzing criminal justice data to help Nebraska deal with severe overcrowding in its prison system. Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office refused the Omaha World-Herald’s request for those reports from the Crime and Justice Institute because the group of state officials who heard the presentations isn’t a public body, and officials said the information is still in draft form. “If there’s any legislation that comes out of it, it will go to a hearing just like any other bill, and the public will have a chance to weigh in on that,” Ricketts said. At some point, he said, data will be released in support of any prospective legislation. The director of the Nebraska ACLU, Danielle Conrad, said it doesn’t make sense to her that presentations given to a committee composed of public officials would be considered drafts. The ACLU, which has opposed Ricketts’ proposal to build a new prison, said state officials should uphold Nebraska’s “strong and proud tradition of open government” and release the reports. State Corrections Director Scott Frakes is expected to address prison overcrowding concerns when he testifies before the Legislature on Wednesday, but it doesn’t appear likely he will address the work state officials are doing with CJI.
Las Vegas: Health officials report a dramatic increase in drug overdose deaths in the state between 2019 and 2020. Accidental overdoses among Nevadans totaled 788 in 2020, a 55% increase from 510 in 2019, the Nevada Overdose Data Program reported Thursday. The number of overdose deaths among people younger than 25 nearly tripled, from 38 in 2019 to 106 in 2020. According to the state’s drug overdose reporting system, 1 of every 2 overdose deaths involved a person with a mental health problem, while 3 in 4 overdose victims had an identified substance misuse problem not related to alcohol. The opioid overdose antidote naloxone is available free statewide, and the overdose data program encourages Nevadans to learn about the life-saving resource. Naloxone can be obtained in Nevada without a prescription. In 2015, Nevada adopted the Good Samaritan Overdose Law, which protects a person from prosecution for many narcotics-related offenses when seeking medical assistance for another person for a drug-related emergency.
Concord: The New Hampshire Department of Insurance has launched the state’s new HealthCost website to help people compare prices across health care facilities. The site, launched Friday, also includes information on health insurance and an interactive tool to compare hospitals’ quality of care, cleanliness and customer satisfaction. The site can be accessed at nhhealthcost.nh.gov. NH HealthCost, created by the Insurance Department in 2007, uses paid claims data collected from New Hampshire’s health insurers to show patients – insured and uninsured – an estimated price for a procedure. Patients can access the total costs of their procedures, including physician fees, lab fees and facility fees.
Maplewood: Outrage swept social media Friday over allegations that a teacher had pulled a hijab from the head of a second grade student. For Muslims, many of whom view the hijab as an expression of faith, the alleged episode was hurtful and offensive and highlighted what community leaders say is a larger problem of bias in the classroom. “This is really a wake-up call for districts,” said Nagla Bedir, founder of Teaching While Muslim, a New Jersey-based nonprofit focused on education and anti-bias training. “A lot of schools across the country have tried to be more inclusive and anti-racist, but part of anti-racism is also (teaching about) Islamophobia.” The South Orange-Maplewood School District said it was investigating the allegations, which were detailed in an Instagram post Thursday by Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Maplewood native who said she is friends with the child’s mother. The bronze-medal winner was the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing at the Olympic Games. Muhammad said the teacher “forcibly removed” the girl’s hijab in class. The teacher “told the student that her hair was beautiful and she did not have to wear hijab to school anymore,” she wrote. “Imagine being a child and stripped of your clothing in front of your classmates. ... This is abuse.”
Santa Fe: A coalition of environmental groups is raising concerns about Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s plans to turn the state into a hydrogen fuel hub. The Democrat, who is running for reelection, has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 45% by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels. The Natural Resource Defense Council, the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and two dozen other organizations argue in a letter sent to the governor and other top elected officials last week that large-scale development of hydrogen risks incentivizing new oil and natural gas fields. Hydrogen fuel cells can power vehicles to reduce transportation emissions, but most energy used to produce hydrogen comes from natural gas. Some are hopeful that hydrogen can be produced by using electricity generated from solar or wind power to separate hydrogen and oxygen in water. However, the letter warns of excessive water use in a state where the commodity is already scarce. The groups urged the governor to focus on wind and solar energy instead. Lujan Grisham has expressed interest in speaking at a climate change conference next month. Earlier this year, she asked President Joe Biden to exempt oil and gas producers in New Mexico from a drilling moratorium.
New York: The city’s annual Columbus Day Parade returned Monday after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Marching bands and floats traveled up Fifth Avenue as spectators waved green, white and red Italian flags. Organizers said 35,000 marchers took part in the parade, and tens of thousands more watched. Billed as the nation’s largest celebration of Italian American pride, the Columbus Day Parade has faced criticism in recent years from activists who fault the 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus for his brutal treatment of Indigenous people in the West Indies. Some communities have responded to the controversy by replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, and President Joe Biden on Friday issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day, which was observed Monday along with Columbus Day. Born in the Republic of Genoa, part of modern-day Italy, Columbus sailed from Spain in August 1492 and landed on an island in the Bahamas on Oct. 12 of that year. Many of the native people were forced into servitude. Multitudes died of disease. Spain repopulated the workforce with African slaves. President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed the first national Columbus Day in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his “discovery” of the Americas.
Raleigh: The N.C. Department of Transportation has signed a $432 million contract to rebuild 8 miles of Interstate 95 through one county with an eye on eliminating a recurring flooding problem. Flooding resulting from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 closed the highway in Robeson County for several days, The News & Observer of Raleigh reports. Starting next year, contractors will begin work on widening I-95 from four lanes to eight and replace bridges at three interchanges. Contractors will use fill dirt to raise the highway above its current elevation through Lumberton, said Matt Lauffer, NCDOT’s hydraulics design engineer. Lauffer said the work aims to raise all bridges and culverts high enough to handle a 100-year flood, plus provide an 18-inch cushion so items floating underneath can pass. The project also calls for a new, higher bridge to carry I-95 over the Lumber River, where floodwaters left the interstate impassable for several days after both hurricanes. Construction on the Lumberton section of I-95 is scheduled to begin next summer and be completed by late summer 2026. NCDOT expects to award two more contracts to widen another 15 miles of I-95 between Lumberton and Fayetteville, starting next fall.
Bismarck: The abrupt closure of a photography business has left couples in a four-state area scrambling to locate wedding photos or find new photographers for upcoming nuptials. Glasser Images owner Jack Glasser said in a statement Friday that due in large part to COVID-19, the Bismarck studio “simply couldn’t keep up with our ongoing costs, debt repayment, salaries, rent and other business expenses.” He told customers in an email that he cannot offer refunds. The move has Johnny Thompson and wife Crystal Brunner-Thompson wondering if they will ever receive photos of their August wedding. They paid more than $2,000 for the Bismarck event. “I’m an only child,” Brunner-Thompson said. “My parents are never going to get to do this again. I have no photos with my parents. I’d never seen my dad get emotional. It’s just stuff you can’t get back.” Glasser Images photographed weddings throughout the Dakotas, Minnesota and Colorado without charging for travel costs, according to the company website. The North Dakota Attorney General’s Office said it had fielded more than 170 complaints about the situation by Friday afternoon and was investigating. Glasser’s attorney, Tim O’Keeffe, told The Bismarck Tribune he and Glasser will try to talk with customers in the coming days.
Columbus: Alumni of Ohio Wesleyan University are speaking out after their alma mater was used to film a U.S. Senate campaign ad that demonizes athletes who kneel during the national anthem. GOP candidate Mike Gibbons released an ad last month that paints Democrats, corporations and media as anti-faith and claims they want to “replace God with government.” The video also takes aim at former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started a movement after he refused to stand during the anthem to protest racial injustice. “I believe in an America where we kneel in devotion, not disrespect,” Gibbons says, as an image of Kaepernick flashes across the screen. The ad also shows an anti-critical race theory sign. Gibbons’ campaign filmed the ad at OWU’s Selby Stadium, which one former student who played football there quickly noticed. Alumni say the ad is divisive and contrary to the Delaware, Ohio, liberal arts school’s values of diversity and inclusion. Gibbons, who played football at Kenyon College, is running in the crowded race to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman. The ad was part of a $10 million ad buy aimed at keeping him on air until the May primary.
Oklahoma City: Architectural consultants hired by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council have shared two multimillion-dollar options for the future of the Oklahoma County Jail, but some citizens are calling for investments in social services instead. The options, one to build an entirely new facility and a second to renovate the existing facility and add an annex, both come with price tags of several hundred million dollars. A new facility valued at $300 million would allow the county to abandon the current, troubled, 30-year-old high-rise facility. Renovation, according to architectural consultants John Semtner and Jeff Bradley, is possible but would mean added time and complexities due to years of deferred maintenance and the requirement to move detainees while each floor of the 13-story building is being worked on. Still frustrated with what they view as a lack of overall progress by the jail trust, some citizens called Thursday’s meeting at which the options were unveiled a sales pitch rather than a listening session. Others argued with assessments of the size of the jail. Many residents cited concerns that building a new, possibly bigger jail would just lead to county officials trying to fill it, recreating the same conditions that exist in the current jail.
Salem: Gov. Kate Brown is requesting disaster relief from the federal government for the state’s strained commercial salmon industry. The governor submitted the formal aid request last week to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. Brown wrote that the economic return from commercial salmon fishing along most of the coast since 2018 has been less than one-third of what it was in previous years. She said the trend is having severe effects on already distressed rural communities and businesses that depend on salmon. “While economic assistance will be essential to address the impacts of closures and restrictions on our salmon fisheries, it is vitally important that federal, state, tribal, and local governments continue to work together to recover and restore salmon populations and develop management strategies to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our salmon fisheries,” she said in the letter. State Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, is the chair of the Legislature’s Oregon Coastal Caucus, which urged Brown to seek disaster aid. If the relief money comes through, Gomberg said it will help buy time while longer-term solutions are worked out. There is no timeline for when the U.S. Department of Commerce might make its decision.
Kennett Square: President Joe Biden attended his nephew’s wedding in the state where he was born Monday before returning to Washington for the week. The president and his wife, Jill Biden, attended the wedding of Cuffe Owens, the son of Biden’s sister Valerie Biden Owens, to Meghan O’Toole King. King is a former cast member on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” while Owens is an attorney. The event was held at Biden Owens’ home. King shared a photo of the two on Instagram in September, writing: “meet my man.” Joe Biden had a quiet weekend in Wilmington, Delaware, visiting church early Sunday but otherwise keeping to his home. King was previously married to retired MLB player Jim Edmonds.
Providence: Johnson & Wales University is suing its insurer over financial losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, alleging the company breached its contract because it did not allow the university to claim pandemic-related economic losses. The university, whose main campus is based in Providence, said the American Guarantee & Liability Company’s current policy does not have preventive pandemic-related coverage in its insurance policy to cover economic losses. As a result of the pandemic, the university said it lost enrollment, tuition, housing and dining revenues while expensing additional COVID-19 safety protocols. In the lawsuit, Johnson & Wales asked the court to rule that the insurer must cover its financial losses “totaling many millions of dollars.” A spokesperson for Zurich Insurance Group, American Guarantee’s parent company, did not respond to an email seeking comment. The company has also not yet responded to the lawsuit in court.
Columbia: An appellate court is set to debate a lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s abortion law about a week after the U.S. Supreme Court considers a similar measure in Mississippi. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has tentatively scheduled the South Carolina case for oral arguments the week of Dec. 6, according to an order from the court posted Friday. Planned Parenthood is suing South Carolina over the measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this year and requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a so-called fetal heartbeat. If cardiac activity – which can typically be detected about six weeks into pregnancy – is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest or if the mother’s life is in danger. Opponents have argued that many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks and that with such an early deadline, the law gives women little time to consider whether to have an abortion. Medical experts say the cardiac activity is not an actual heartbeat but rather an initial flutter of electric activity within cells in an embryo. They say the heart doesn’t begin to form until the fetus is at least 9 weeks old, and they decry efforts to promote abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.
Sioux Falls: The Boy Scouts of America are set to sell a campground to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department for $2 million. Department officials confirmed at their October meeting that the Boy Scouts are ready to finalize the sale of the 223-acre campground to the agency in late November. The state appraised the property at $3.59 million earlier this year. The campground sits between Newton Hills State Park and the Johnson Game Production Area. Boy Scout leaders have talked about selling it since 2011. A push from national Scout leaders to upgrade existing facilities led them to approach GFP officials about a sale last year. The campground was built during the 1930s and would require extensive improvements to bring it up to Boy Scouts of America standards.
Nashville: State agriculture officials are offering to share the costs with landowners who are interested in improving the forests and watersheds on their properties near two rivers. The state Department of Agriculture says the Duck and Elk Watershed Initiative is open for applications until Oct. 29. The counties in the watershed of the Duck and Elk rivers include Bedford, Coffee, Dickson, Franklin, Giles, Hickman, Humphreys, Lewis, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Moore and Williamson. Eligible activities include tree planting, forest improvement, invasive plant management and prescribed burning. The activities should be implemented from January through May of next year. The Division of Forestry is offering free site visits and consultations on action plans to improve the watershed.
Houston: Executions in the nation’s busiest capital punishment state face delays amid legal questions about Texas’ refusal to allow spiritual advisers to touch inmates and pray aloud as condemned individuals are being put to death. It’s unclear when Texas may carry out another execution after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear religious freedom claims from death row inmate John Henry Ramirez. The court blocked his execution last month, about three hours after it could have been carried out. Several other inmates have since made similar claims, and courts have put some of their executions on hold. “It would be unusual for somebody who has the same issue to not get a stay while the Supreme Court is deciding that issue. It would be very unusual,” said Michael Benza, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. A ruling from the Supreme Court could be months away. It’s set to hear oral arguments Nov. 1. Ramirez says the state is violating his religious freedom by not letting his spiritual adviser lay hands on him and pray out loud as he is executed. Texas prison officials say that direct contact poses a security risk and that prayers said aloud could be disruptive.
Farmington: An unexpected snowstorm forced the rescue of dozens of runners in a long-distance trail race in the mountains of northern Utah. None of the 87 or so runners rescued Saturday was hospitalized, though several were treated for hypothermia, and one was hurt in a fall, according to Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks. “We feel very fortunate today that there were no serious injuries,” Sparks said. The 50-mile race in the Francis Peak area between Ogden and Salt Lake City began at 5 a.m. Severe weather struck about four hours later. Some runners were wearing just shorts and a T-shirt, authorities said. Race organizers had told runners to expect rain, but the rain turned to snow, runner Kelcey McClung Stowell said. “We thought, ‘We’ll be OK once we get to Francis Peak, and then we start coming down the mountain. We’ll be out of the snow, and it’ll be fine,’ ” Stowell said. “But it just turned terrible. It was just like a blizzard up there.” Temperatures plummeted to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and as much as 18 inches of snow fell in strong wind. Rescuers using snowmobiles and other vehicles caught up with runners on the route and got them out of the mountains, KSL-TV reports. All runners were accounted for by 2:45 p.m.
Weybridge: After erosion washed away some graves at an old cemetery near a riverbank, the remains of two Revolutionary War soldiers and others buried there will be moved to a new resting place. Revolutionary War soldier Josiah Clark, who fought at the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill in Massachusetts, was buried in the Stow cemetery in Weybridge in 1835. Erosion over the years left his grave perched on the edge of the steep eroding bank, so his bones were exhumed in 2019. Revolutionary War soldier William Haven is also buried there, a bit farther back from the bank. The roughly 20 graves eventually will be moved to the Old Weybridge Hill Cemetery. An archeological team from the University of Vermont is now working to remove graves along the bank, starting with the ones most at risk, Tom Giffin, president of the Vermont Old Cemetery Association, said Monday. “I feel relieved that they’ll not be washed over the bank and go down Otter Creek. I thought that was awful wrong,” Giffin said. “My big thing is this is a history of the United States, as well as a history of Vermont, as well as a history of Weybridge.” The archeological team, including students, started its work last week, and the first reinternments are expected to take place next spring.
Alexandria: More than $33 million in U.S. Department of Justice grants has been awarded to 26 Virginia-based public and nonprofit organizations to fund programs that address violence against women, a federal prosecutor says. Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh said in a news release Friday that the grants will provide funding and essential services to vulnerable communities – especially women, people with disabilities and immigrants – who are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The department’s Office on Violence Against Women selected organizations from across the Eastern District of Virginia to receive funding through 42 separate grants. The money will allow the organizations to better address a wide variety of needs and issues facing victims of domestic and sexual violence. The recipients include state government entities that provide services throughout the commonwealth, as well as nongovernmental organizations that provide technical training and assistance nationwide. In addition, grants were awarded to universities to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on campus. Multiple nonprofit organizations that provide direct services to victims and survivors in the district also received funding.
Olympia: A mandatory payroll tax to fund the state’s new long-term care program will start coming out of most workers’ paychecks in January. The insurance benefit, dubbed the WA Cares Fund, is a first-in-nation public insurance program aimed at helping older residents age in their own homes, The Seattle Times reports. The plan, signed into law in 2019 through the Long Term Care Trust Act, will use a 0.58% payroll tax to pay up to a $36,500 benefit for individuals to pay for home health care and an array of services related to long-term health care including equipment, transportation and meal assistance. The plan is expected to save $3.9 billion in state Medicaid costs by 2052, and eligible beneficiaries will be able to begin collecting benefits starting in 2025. The program has drawn both ire and praise from advocacy groups and politicians. Advocates cite a rapidly aging population and high premiums on the current private long-term care market, while critics have lambasted the plan as expensive, unnecessary and inflexible in terms of eligibility and payout.
Davis: Two locations have been added to a new program to protect rare plant and animal species. Bald Knob and the Canaan Valley wetlands are the first sites in the West Virginia Natural Areas Program, the state Division of Natural Resources said in a news release. The program places extra protection on areas with significant conservation needs under the agency’s administration. Both areas are within the Canaan Valley Resort State Park. The areas include more than 2,200 acres of rare conifer swamps and red spruce forest with more than 40 rare plants, 12 rare invertebrates and several animals unique to the area, the agency said. “These two areas have the state’s highest concentration of federally listed species and species of greatest conservation need, and this designation is going to give us the awareness and resources we need to make sure they are properly managed,” said Scott Warner, the division’s assistant chief of wildlife diversity.
Oneida: Gov. Tony Evers issued a formal apology Monday for the state’s role in Native American boarding schools, joining with tribal leaders at an Indigenous Peoples Day event. Evers signed an executive order that also formally supported the previously announced U.S. Department of the Interior investigation into the schools and asked that anything done in Wisconsin be conducted in consultation with the state’s tribes. Wisconsin is home to 11 recognized American Indian tribes. Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the U.S. enacted laws and policies to establish and support Indian boarding schools across the nation. For more than 150 years, Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into boarding schools that focused on assimilation. Records show that Wisconsin was home to at least 10 day and boarding schools attended by thousands of American Indian children between the 1860s and 1970s, the governor’s office said. Additionally, hundreds of children were sent from Wisconsin to attend out-of-state schools, the governor’s office said. The lack of available and reliable documentation related to the schools makes it challenging to know the full scope of what happened in Wisconsin, Evers’ office said.
Laramie: A lab at the University of Wyoming is monitoring wastewater in six communities to track the coronavirus’ presence in the state, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Funded by an $800,000 state grant, the university’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is regularly testing wastewater from Cowley, Deaver, Hudson, Laramie, Pinedale and Powell as part of a 30-town tracking effort to see where COVID-19 may be going undetected, according to the newspaper.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mining fight, pocketknife record: News from around our 50 states