Nativity on the run, ‘Bag O’Slag,’ kapu aloha: News from around our 50 states

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports, USA TODAY


Sandhill cranes fly into the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Ala., in 2015.
Sandhill cranes fly into the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Ala., in 2015.

Decatur: Whooping cranes are back at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. The International Crane Foundation says that, for the second year in a row, wild-hatched chick W7-17 was the first to arrive at the refuge in Decatur. The 2-year-old arrived Nov. 9. She’s among about 100 whoopers in a flock taught to migrate from Wisconsin to Florida by following ultralight aircraft. Crane foundation outreach assistant A.J. Binney says about one-third of them winter in Alabama. So do about 20,000 sandhill cranes. A tracking map shows about 14 whooping cranes at the refuge. The refuge website says whoopers have been seen around the visitor center and wildlife observation building in recent years. The refuge’s annual Festival of the Cranes will be held Jan. 11-12.


Anchorage: Alaskans have experienced both a record-high temperature and a record amount of snowfall in the same day. The Anchorage Daily News reports the Municipality of Anchorage saw snowfall of more than a foot Saturday after tying a temperature record set in 1967. The National Weather Service says the city tied the high-temperature record by reaching 45 degrees Fahrenheit about 3 a.m. The weather service says southeast winds blew warm air into the city before the winds subsided, temperatures dropped, and snow fell. Snow levels at the weather service’s office broke the 1958 record of 8.3 inches by a tenth of an inch. Officials say the snow varied from 5 inches in the city to more than 12 inches in nearby Eagle River.


Aditi Narayana, left, discusses ideas for economic solutions to address climate change with Ryan Harrop, center, and Brian Mecinas, right, during the youth forum at the conference “Climate 2020: Seven Generations for Arizona” at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff on Saturday.
Aditi Narayana, left, discusses ideas for economic solutions to address climate change with Ryan Harrop, center, and Brian Mecinas, right, during the youth forum at the conference “Climate 2020: Seven Generations for Arizona” at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff on Saturday.

Flagstaff: With climate change cranking up the heat and intensifying droughts, more than 400 people from across the state gathered Friday and Saturday to brainstorm solutions for reducing planet-warming pollution and preparing for a hotter, drier future. Among them were young activists who see climate change as the defining issue for their generation. The time to act is now, they said. “This is rapid change, and we should do something about it before it’s too late,” said Alicia Rose Clouser, a 13-year-old eighth grader from Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff and a member of the Navajo Nation. “My people will be suffering for generations on if we don’t do something.” The two-day conference at Northern Arizona University brought the students and teen activists together with academics, health officials, tribal representatives, environmentalists, representatives of farming businesses, urban planners and city officials, and people from the community who said they wanted to be part of the discussion.


Fort Smith: State highway officials have designated a stretch of Arkansas 22 as “True Grit Trail” in honor of the classic novel by Arkansas native Charles Portis. The state Department of Transportation unveiled the commemorative signs Thursday along the highway in Fort Smith and Dardanelle. The signs came about after state lawmakers unanimously approved legislation earlier this year. The bills, sponsored by Rep. Mary Bentley of Perryville and Sen. Gary Stubblefield of Branch, said that part of the highway should be designated as True Grit Trail to honor Portis’ 1968 novel, which has served as the basis of two feature films.


Los Angeles: A month after two men were arrested at an illicit marijuana farm on public land in the state’s wilderness, authorities are assessing the environmental impact and cleanup costs at the site. A group including Forest Service rangers, scientists and conservationists hiked into the so-called trespass grow where 9,000 cannabis plants were illegally cultivated in the Shasta Trinity National Forest. Officials say trees were clear-cut, waterways diverted, and the ground littered with containers of fertilizer and rodenticide. The cleanup efforts are spearheaded by the group Cannabis Removal on Public Lands Project. CROP is a coalition of conservation organizations, tribes, elected officials, police and federal land managers. Also lending its support is the legal cannabis industry, which says it’s being undercut by the criminal market.


Glenwood Springs: The leader of this western Colorado community that relies on tourism is vowing to do everything he can to stop the proposed expansion of a nearby limestone quarry. The Glenwood Springs Post Independent reports Mayor Jonathan Godes called the proposal by RMR Industrial a “regional threat” in announcing the city’s campaign against it Friday. He said the city is committing $1.25 million to fight the expansion but promised to provide any other needed resources. The Bureau of Land Management is starting an environmental review of the proposal to expand the quarry from 23 to 321 acres and remove millions of tons of rock a year. RMR didn’t respond to requests for comment on the campaign but previously said the quarry is a “healthy commercial alternative” that will employ 100 people.


Waterbury: A new report says the state has had the most metal theft insurance claims in the country. The National Insurance Crime Bureau issued a report recently that found that Connecticut had the most metal theft insurance claims per capita in 2017 and 2018. The state had almost 32 theft claims for every 100,000 residents. According to the report, thieves mostly steal copper and metal piping. The bureau says any place where copper is present is at risk of being stolen. Bureau spokesman Frank Scafidi says this kind of theft is typically driven by “an urgent need for quick cash” and drugs. According to a Council of State Governments report, the national number of metal thefts is probably higher because no states comprehensively track that crime.


Smyrna: Police are trying to identify the remains of a young girl who was found dead and released facial reconstruction images Monday of what the girl may have looked like when she was alive. The girl, who was between the ages of 2 and 5, was found in September near the Little Lass softball fields in Smyrna. Police said she was dead for several weeks, if not longer, when she was found. The girl had slightly wavy brown hair and was Caucasian or Hispanic. She also may have suffered from a chronic disease. Smyrna police are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Delaware Division of Forensic Science. Anyone with information should contact detective Bill Davis at 302-653-3490.

District of Columbia

Washington: A bill that would decriminalize sex work in the nation’s capital won’t move forward this year. The Washington Post reports the bill’s death comes after an emotional hearing that lasted 14 hours. Thousands of emails about the bill revealed a deep divide between district residents. Councilman Charles Allen, who chairs the committee that heard the testimony, says the bill lacked the support to pass a committee vote. Councilman David Grosso wrote the bill in collaboration with a coalition of district sex workers and says it should be brought to the ballot box. He says the bill was undermined by Chairman Phil Mendelson, who has opposed the bill since its initial iteration was proposed in 2017. Mendelson disagreed, saying his office primarily heard negative feedback about the bill.


Orlando: A dozen municipal utilities in the Sunshine State are breaking ground on one of the largest municipal solar projects in the nation. The utilities broke ground Monday in the Orlando area for the project that will have 900,000 solar panels installed at two sites. Jacob Williams, the CEO of Florida Municipal Power Agency, a wholesaler, says the utilities can make solar power more affordable by working together. When it is finished, the project is expected to be able to power the equivalent of 45,000 Florida homes. The municipalities involved are in Alachua County, Bartow, Fort Pierce, Homestead, Jacksonville Beach, Key West, Kissimmee, Lake Worth Beach, Ocala, Orlando, Wauchula and Winter Park.


Savannah: Two historic black churches founded in the 1880s have been listed among the state’s most threatened historic buildings. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its annual list of “places in peril,” including Antioch Baptist Church in tiny Taliaferro County, which was founded by freed slaves in 1886 and features striking Gothic-revival towers. The Georgia Trust says water damage is taking a toll inside and outside the church, which could face more neglect because regular services are no longer held there. Asbury United Methodist Church is the only African American United Methodist church in Savannah’s Victorian District. The 1887 building still has an active congregation, but water damage has left portions of the building unusable. The Georgia Trust says the congregation is struggling to raise money for repairs.


Kahuku: The ability of protesters to block construction of a giant telescope on Hawaii’s tallest mountain is inspiring efforts to stop other contentious projects across the state. Since July, protesters have stalled construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. Leaders of fights against a wind farm and the redevelopment of a beach park say they are employing similar methods to those used at Mauna Kea. Organizers of the movements say they are rooted in a philosophy of peace and nonviolence known in Hawaiian as kapu aloha. The movements share several traits. Like on the Big Island mountain, there are protest camps on Oahu featuring a large tent with food and supplies. They even have so-called universities offering lessons and workshops on subjects ranging from civil disobedience to pounding taro, a popular root vegetable in Hawaii.


Boise: Federal authorities say a lawsuit seeking to ban black bear hunting using bait in national forests in Idaho and Wyoming to protect grizzly bears should be dismissed. The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in documents filed Friday say the decision to allow using bait to attract bears should continue to be made by the states in which the national forests are located. Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and Wilderness Watch filed the lawsuit in June, contending the federal agencies are violating environmental laws because black bear hunters using bait have killed at least eight threatened grizzly bears since 1995 in national forests. Idaho, Wyoming and the hunting group Safari Club International have intervened in the case on the side of the federal government.


Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker has named recipients of the 2020 Order of Lincoln, the state’s highest honor for professional achievement and public service. Pritzker announced honorees Scott Altman, originally from Pekin, a former NASA astronaut; Paul “Doug” Collins of Benton, an NBA All-Star and coach; and Robert “Robb” Fraley of Hoopeston, a former Monsanto Co. executive. Other honorees are Donald F. McHenry of East St. Louis, former United Nations ambassador and permanent representative; Dr. Joanne C. Smith, president and CEO of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for physical medicine and rehabilitation; and Chicago native Mavis Staples, a rhythm and blues and gospel singer and civil rights activist. The recipients will be honored in April 2020 at Illinois State University in Normal.


Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler enters his home Monday afternoon after being arrested by the FBI. Tyler was indicted for theft of government funds.
Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler enters his home Monday afternoon after being arrested by the FBI. Tyler was indicted for theft of government funds.

Muncie: Mayor Dennis Tyler is accused of accepting a $5,000 bribe in exchange for what federal authorities said was “steering lucrative excavation work to a local contractor.” The 76-year-old Tyler was indicted last Wednesday by a U.S. District Court jury on a count of theft of public funds. The indictment was then sealed, setting the stage for the mayor’s arrest by FBI agents Monday morning at his northside Muncie home. According to the indictment, Tyler received the cash from Tracy Barton, the Muncie Sanitary District’s superintendent of sewer maintenance and engineering, for “awarding of contracts under Tyler’s influence.” The charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. Tyler appeared at an initial hearing Monday and was then released from custody. His trial is set for Jan. 21.


Des Moines: A jury has awarded $1.4 million to a Burmese immigrant who wanted a circumcision but instead got a vasectomy. The jury leveled a $2 million judgment against Dr. Kevin Birusingh, who performed the vasectomy. But jurors decided the man who filed the lawsuit, Zaw Zaw, was 30% responsible. Zaw is a 41-year-old refugee from Myanmar. He sued in November 2017, nearly two years after the errant procedure. Birusingh’s attorney says Zaw, who is not fluent in English, signed two informed consents that were translated into Burmese and completed four consultations before undergoing the procedure. The lawsuit says there’s no word for “vasectomy” in Burmese. Zaw’s attorney, Marc Harding, says a doctor’s referral documents showed Zaw was seeking a circumcision.


Goddard: Authorities discovered a camel, a cow and a donkey roaming together along a road in a grouping reminiscent of a Midwestern Christmas Nativity scene. The Goddard Police Department asked for help Sunday in locating the owners of the “three friends traveling together (towards a Northern star).” Police said in a Facebook post that if they couldn’t find the owners, they would be “halfway toward a live Nativity this Christmas season.” Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Meyers says the animals belong to an employee of the nearby Tanganyika Wildlife Park. One person who replied to the Facebook post inquired, “Are there 3 wise looking men near?” Another speculated that they “may lead you to the Second Coming.” Goddard is about 15 miles west of Wichita.


Lexington: The University of Kentucky’s Appalachian Center is hosting a student-led series of events designed to bring awareness to water issues in eastern Kentucky and beyond. The events running through Thursday focus on ecology, infrastructure and bottled water, and they highlight organizations working on water-related issues. The Appalachian Center is based in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences. Among the events include a Tuesday screening of the film “Water Stories: Martin County,” followed by a panel discussion in the William T. Young Library UK Athletics Auditorium. The speakers will include water activists and Martin County residents Nina and Mickey McCoy. Other speakers include Ricki Draper, a community engagement coordinator and Madison Mooney, a master’s student in the UK College of Social Work.


Baton Rouge: Extensive Army training will close two wildlife management areas near Fort Polk to hunters over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said in a news release that the Fort Polk-Vernon and Peason Ridge Wildlife Management Areas will be closed to hunting from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1. The Fort Polk-Vernon WMA is in central Vernon Parish near Leesville. Peason Ridge is in northern Vernon Parish, southeastern Sabine Parish and southwestern Natchitoches Parish near Simpson. The department notes that deer hunts will remain open in the Kisatchie National Forest and three other wildlife management areas in the region: Clear Creek near Leesville, West Bay in Allen Parish near Oakdale, and Sabine, in Sabine Parish, near Many.


Farmington: There’s support for changing the University of Southern Maine’s name to the University of Maine at Portland. The vote Monday by the University of Maine System trustees in Farmington authorizes the system’s leadership to seek approval from the Legislature for the name change. Chairman James Erwin said the change would clarify the university’s identity and improve its marketability. The name change initiative was launched a year ago as a means to attract out-of-state students. Market research showed that out-of-staters don’t know where USM is located and that placing “Portland” in the name would increase interest.


Baltimore: The Baltimore Museum of Art will only add artwork created by women to its permanent collection in 2020. Museum director Christopher Bedford announced the policy Thursday, saying something radical must be done to rectify centuries of imbalance. The museum acquired its first work by a female artist in 1916, just two years after it was founded and several years before women gained the right to vote. Today, only 4% of the 95,000 pieces in its permanent collection were created by women. News outlets report each of the museum’s exhibits will be strongly tied to women. Nineteen will showcase art solely by women, including at least one of whom is transgender. Bedford says the museum is working to “correct our own canon” and address historical blind spots.


Boston: The state Senate is preparing to debate a bill to create a ban on all carry-out plastic bags at checkout from retail stores. The bill would require retailers to charge at least 10 cents for a recycled paper bag. Five cents would go to the city or town for enforcement of the ban. The remainder would go to the retailer to cover the cost of the paper bags. More than 100 Massachusetts communities have already passed plastic bag bans. Democratic Sen. President Karen Spilka said she took a personal interest in the ban after a family trip this summer to Vancouver and Alaska, where she learned sea animals can starve to death because of the amount of plastic in their stomachs. The Senate will debate the bill Wednesday.


Detroit: The city’s Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity office is partnering with the owners of a downtown tavern and a Detroit resident on a discussion about racial issues. The city says “Let’s Talk About Race” will be held Thursday at the Checker Bar. It follows the firing of a white Checker Bar employee because of mistreatment of a black patron over his race. Organizers say the discussion will fuel a needed dialogue aimed at the history and roots of racial discrimination in the city, with a goal of building bridges between communities and “champions against racial discrimination.” Checker Bar owner Tim Tharpe says the incident has provided “an outstanding opportunity to have a deeper, more meaningful conversation to make Detroit’s business community even more inclusive.”


Minneapolis: County officials say they will pay for additional help to examine about 1,700 rape kits that have never been tested, some of which date back 30 years. The city announced Friday that it discovered the untested kits in July when the department was doing an inventory. Deputy Police Chief Erick Fors estimates it will likely take two years to get them tested. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says the county will fund an additional DNA analyst position at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to help speed up the process. Freeman says victims who have questions should contact Vernona Boswell, the county’s sexual assault victim advocate. The number revealed Friday is nearly nine times more than the 194 untested kits the city disclosed it had in 2015.


Oxford: Enrollment is down at the University of Mississippi for the third straight year. The Oxford Eagle reports 2019 enrollment numbers for all six Ole Miss campuses show a 3.5% decrease from 2018. That’s the highest percentage drop over the past three years. Numbers released by the Institute of Higher Learning show the system now has 22,273 students, which is a decline of 817 people from last year. Chancellor Glenn Boyce says recruiting students is tough nationally, and the university is working to improve through investments in technology, marketing and recruiting. Statistics show enrollment at rival Mississippi State University rose slightly, increasing by 1.1% to 22,226 students. Enrollment is down overall at Mississippi universities, declining 1.6% from last year to a total of 29,193 students.


Jefferson City: State officials are stepping up enforcement of laws that ban selling vaping products to minors. The move is part of a state campaign launched Monday to deter young people from vaping. Missouri’s health department so far has reported two vaping-related deaths. Alcohol and Tobacco Control agents are prioritizing inspections at stores that sell vaping products. The division’s state supervisor, Dottie Taylor, says about 83% of stores are currently checking identification cards and refusing sales to minors. State officials are also using YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat to warn teenagers about the risks of vaping. Gov. Mike Parson says it’s up to lawmakers to consider whether to restrict flavored electronic cigarettes when they return to the Capitol in January. Parson didn’t say whether he’d support such a ban when asked Monday.


Helena: Environmental regulators have put a halt to a business association’s sale of sandwich bags of mining waste advertised as a “Bag O’Slag.” Environmental Protection Agency officials overseeing the Superfund cleanup of pollution from decades of smelter operations in Anaconda came across the potentially toxic tchotchkes for sale by the city’s chamber of commerce. The slag contains small amounts of arsenic and lead. Mary Johnston, the chamber’s executive director, said Monday that the EPA asked the group to stop selling the black slag in a resealable bag and gave it some alternatives. Anaconda’s golf course, which has slag in its sand traps, offers slag and a golf ball in a sealed container as a souvenir. Johnston says the chamber sold up to 40 bags a summer for $2 apiece.


Omaha: Trees around the perimeter of Zorinsky Lake Park will be cut down over the next few years as a result of a directive from Washington. The 30-foot corridor is expected to total about 40 acres of trees, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. The plan by the Army Corps of Engineers has angered some property owners, while others welcome it. The federal government owns the land where the lake, built for flood control, is situated. The City of Omaha operates and maintains the park. The trees are being removed to better delineate the park’s boundaries. A number of homeowners around the lake say they are stunned by the decision. The loss of trees around the park will irreparably harm their views, they say, as well as lower their property values, damage habitat and alter the natural qualities of a park that the public has come to love.


Las Vegas: The federal government wants a judge to reject the state’s request for a court order to remove weapons-grade plutonium from a site north of Las Vegas, arguing that officials have promised no more material will be shipped to the state. In documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Reno, the federal government brands as “conjectural” or “hypothetical” state claims that residents are harmed by radiation from the one-half metric ton of plutonium secretly trucked a year ago from South Carolina to Nevada. The decision cannot be undone, the material is already in the state, and the federal government has sovereign immunity, meaning the state can’t force the federal government to act, the motion contends. The Department of Energy “routinely and safely transports nuclear materials into and out of Nevada and stores classified amounts of plutonium in Nevada,” it says.

New Hampshire

Concord: The quadrennial chaos has quieted down over at the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office with the closing of the filing period for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Between Oct. 30 and Friday, a total of 50 candidates signed paperwork and paid $1,000 each to get their names on the 2020 ballot – 33 Democrats and 17 Republicans. That’s compared to the 42 names voters saw 100 years ago, the first time New Hampshire held the nation’s earliest primary. Back then, voters selected delegates to the nominating conventions, rather than voting for the candidates themselves. For the 2016 election, 58 candidates got on New Hampshire’s ballot. The all-time high for candidates came in 1992, when 61 signed up.

New Jersey

Trenton: After nearly two years of back-and-forth over legalizing marijuana, legislative leaders announced Monday that legal weed is heading to the polls, setting up a pivotal ballot question in the 2020 election. If voters approve the bill, New Jersey would become the 12th state to legalize marijuana for adult use. All but two other states – Vermont and Illinois – have legalized weed via ballot measures. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, introduced a constitutional amendment that he expects to appear on the ballot in the 2020 election. Sweeney and Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who sponsored the original New Jersey legal weed bill, said they simply couldn’t find enough support in the Senate to get a marijuana legalization law passed.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: A ceremonial Native American shield has been welcomed back by tribal leaders, in the culmination of a years­long international campaign to reclaim the sacred object that held a place in a cycle of ceremonies until it vanished from a mesa-top indigenous village in the 1970s. Nearly four years ago, the shield surfaced as an auction item in Paris, prompting tribal leaders to begin making public appeals for it to be pulled from bidding and returned to them. U.S. and Acoma Pueblo officials announced Monday that an FBI agent delivered the shield from Paris last week following a multiagency effort that involved U.S. senators, diplomats and prosecutors. It will be formally returned to Acoma Pueblo after a judge dismisses a civil forfeiture case that prosecutors filed to secure the shield’s return, U.S. Attorney John Anderson said. “It will be a day of high emotion and thanksgiving,” Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo said ahead of the expected return.

New York

Syracuse: Reports of racism at Syracuse University have resulted in a student sit-in that was in its sixth day Monday, a suspension of fraternity events and an offer of as much as $50,000 in reward money. Administrators on Sunday suspended one fraternity, along with social events for the others, after the latest report the night before. An African American student filed a complaint saying she was verbally harassed by people identified as members and guests of the suspended fraternity. The slurs followed several unsolved discoveries of graffiti and vandalism in recent weeks that administrators say have targeted Jews, Asians and black students. State agencies have joined the investigation. Students have staged a protest at the campus wellness center since Nov. 13 to demand stronger diversity programming.

North Carolina

Raleigh: Gov. Roy Cooper has signed into law bills designed to help his cash-strapped Department of Transportation and the continued recovery from hurricanes Florence, Matthew and Dorian. Cooper on Monday signed the measures, the last pieces of legislation on his desk from the General Assembly session that ended Friday. The Legislature reconvenes in mid-January. DOT’s cash balance had fallen due to unprecedented hurricane repairs, legal settlements over rights of way and project overruns. The bill directs $100 million to the agency for past and natural disasters, forgives a $90 million loan and allows an extra $100 million in road-building bonds. A separate disaster-relief law locates $180 million in state funds, most of which would meet federal matching requirements and create a Dorian state recovery program for displaced residents.

North Dakota

Fargo: The U.S. Bureau of Prisons says an inmate walked away from a Fargo facility, and his whereabouts are unknown. Authorities say 30-year-old Juan Francisco Martinez walked away from Centre Inc. early Sunday morning. Authorities say he was serving a federal sentence for a 2015 conviction of felon in possession of a firearm. Martinez was transferred from Lee United States Prison in Virginia to Fargo in August to serve the remainder of his sentence. He was due for release in February. Center Inc.’s website says it is a “private nonprofit agency that provides rehabilitative services to individuals to achieve social re-integration.”


Columbus: Two ride-share companies are urging the state to resume requiring front license plates. Uber and Lyft submitted letters last week to Republican Senate President Larry Obhof in support of legislation that would again make it mandatory for Ohio drivers to affix license plates to both the front and back of their vehicles. The companies cite safety concerns. Both urge their riders to confirm the license plate number on a phone app before entering a ride-share vehicle. A 21-year-old University of South Carolina student was murdered earlier this year by the driver of a car she mistakenly thought was an Uber vehicle. A provision removing Ohio’s front plate requirement was included in the state transportation budget passed earlier this year. It is set to take effect in July.


Oklahoma City: State veterinary officials say a horse at Remington Park has been euthanized after testing positive for equine herpesvirus-1. Assistant state veterinarian Dr. Michael Herrin said Friday that the horse was euthanized last Tuesday, and the barn where it was housed is under quarantine for 14 days. All horses remaining in the quarantined barn will remain there and will be monitored daily for symptoms of EHV-1, which include fever, a lack of coordination, and weakness or paralysis of the legs. The disease is not transmitted to humans but is highly contagious to horses and is generally spread through coughing and sneezing.


Corvallis: Oregon State University will use a $3.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study pollution from tiny plastics and its impact on aquatic life. The university said Monday that scientists will develop tools and methods for evaluating micro- and nanoplastics in everything from the ocean to estuaries. Research will focus on the impact of tiny plastics on an estuary fish called the inland silversides and on oyster larvae off the Oregon coast. Another goal of the project is establishing a Pacific Northwest Consortium on Plastics – to include government agencies, non-governmental organizations and grassroots groups – to encourage the reduction of marine pollution. Results of OSU’s plastics research will be displayed at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland the future.


Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State University’s president says he is working to counter difficult national and state enrollment trends that could put pressure on even a financially healthy school like Penn State. President Eric Barron says almost every county in Pennsylvania has seen a decline in the number of high school graduates, and those graduates are less likely to go to college. To fight those trends, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Barron told trustees Friday that the university has created a task force to focus on recruiting international students, including from areas such as South America and Africa. Penn State also is sending admission staff to recruit in growing areas domestically, including California, Florida and Texas. However, Barron says the university will keep its commitment to a majority enrollment of Pennsylvania residents.

Rhode Island

Providence: U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., says a land trust in the state has been awarded $600,000 in federal funding to help beginning farmers. Reed says the Southside Community Land Trust won a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help beginning farmers access resources and training. Reed toured the land trust’s 50-acre Urban Edge Farm bordering Cranston and Johnston last Tuesday. It serves as a hub for small-scale, environmentally sustainable commercial agriculture. Thirteen farmers operate at Urban Edge. New farmers are invited there to learn how to raise and market crops. Reed says the grant helps “plant the seeds for future success.” The land trust says it has used federal funding to help 27 people begin farming and to train another 79 beginning farmers in the past three years.

South Carolina

Charleston: The state says more than half a million loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings have made it to the sea during a record-breaking year, despite losses during Hurricane Dorian. The Post and Courier reports that preliminary data from the state Natural Resources Department counts about 525,500 turtles that emerged from their nests. The previous record was set in 2016, when eggshell counts showed about 396,400 turtles emerged. This year’s numbers are still being verified. Though the department says all sea turtle species found in South Carolina are threatened, the newspaper says state, federal and citizen efforts dating back to the 1970s could be reversing the once gradual decline. Hundreds of volunteers help mark and monitor the nests through a recovery program, along with biologists who relocate and cage in endangered nests.

South Dakota

Rapid City: A university researcher says it might someday be necessary to pipe Missouri River water to the city. The Rapid City Journal reports Kurt Katzenstein presented his findings to the West Dakota Water Development District last week. Katzenstein is an associate professor of geology and geological engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. He says the 171-mile pipeline could cost up to $1.87 billion, making it a long-term idea that could require funding from Congress. Katzenstein says projections indicate the Rapid City area could have enough water from local sources to sustainably meet demand for the next 100 years if average precipitation levels prevail. But he says the day will come when local water supplies are insufficient.


Nashville: The state’s education commissioner says the new school vouchers for private education will be considered federally taxable income for parents. After confirming the requirement to lawmakers Monday, Commissioner Penny Schwinn told reporters the Board of Education, attorney general’s office and program rulemaking officials helped make the determination. Schwinn said officials will have to examine the taxable income of families as a result, given income limits to receive vouchers worth up to $7,300 annually. Participating families cannot exceed twice the federal income eligibility for free school lunch. The law says the vouchers “do not constitute income of a parent of a participating student” under Tennessee law. That doesn’t affect federal taxes. Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is hoping to begin the program next year. It’s limited to Shelby and Davidson counties.


College Station: More than 1,000 people have attended a memorial to honor the 12 people who died when a tower of logs collapsed at Texas A&M University 20 years ago. The Eagle reports that the ceremony Monday at the university’s Bonfire Memorial featured performances of “Spirit of Aggieland,” “Amazing Grace” and “The Aggie War Hymn.” Eleven university students and one former student died Nov. 18, 1999, when a 40-foot bonfire structure holding about 5,000 logs collapsed. Twenty-seven other students were injured. Janice Kerlee, the mother of a student who died, said those who died were “extraordinary young people” known for their smiles and love for people. Texas A&M President Michael K. Young says he hopes Monday’s ceremony brings solace to the loved ones of those who died.


Eagle Mountain: A high school student who lost both her parents to heart attacks has been nominated for a prestigious scholarship on the strength of her idea for a CPR assistance device. The Daily Herald reports Kennedy Hall’s idea is to create a device that fits over the nose and mouth and creates artificial breaths for a person. Hall says many people have a basic idea of how to give CPR but don’t know exactly how to do it. She says a machine like she’s envisioning might have helped her parents. Hall, a senior at Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain, was chosen as the school’s nominee for the Career and Technical Education Presidential Scholarship Award. She says she hopes to attend Utah State University and become a trauma surgeon.


Brattleboro: Cross country skiers in the area will have a new warming hut available for use this winter. The Brattleboro Reformer reports the warming hut that was built at the Windham Regional Career Center was brought to the Brattleboro Country Club just in time for the 2019-20 ski season. For years skiers used a structure at the country club, but it’s no longer available. So the country club offered the Brattleboro Outing Club another location for a warming hut. The outing club bought the 14-by-36-foot unfinished tiny house built by the Construction Trades Program. Over the past several months, the foundation was built, and the club won regulatory approval for the hut.


Richmond: Health officials say the number of fatal overdoses from methamphetamine use in the state has risen over the past three years. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner says deadly meth overdoses rose from 88 people in 2017 to 127 people in 2018. The office projects 150 people will die of a meth overdose this year. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division spokeswoman Katherine Hayek says meth from Mexico brought into the U.S. is cheap and of high quality, which is a part of the problem. She also says fentanyl is sometimes mixed into meth and cocaine. Numbers from the Virginia Department of Health say almost half of meth overdose deaths in the state last year had fentanyl causing or contributing to death.


Seattle: Seattle Children’s Hospital says 10 of its operating rooms will now remain closed through January to deal with an Aspergillus mold outbreak. KOMO reports the hospital says it will immediately install what it called custom in-room HEPA filtration in those 10 operating rooms and two equipment storage rooms. The installation was scheduled to be complete by July, but the hospital says it will now be fully installed by the end of January. The latest discovery marks the second time the fungus has been detected in operating rooms at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The previous outbreak led to at least five infections and one death, hospital officials said at the time. It is still not clear what caused the mold to resurface this time, but an investigation is underway by the hospital and its regulator, the State Department of Health.

West Virginia

Elkins: Members of the Polish Territorial Defense Forces have been training with the West Virginia National Guard and Special Forces near Elkins. The Inter-Mountain reports the Polish troops were participating in the Guard’s Ridge Runner program, which focuses on irregular warfare. Olga Krawcyzk-Majeran, the public affairs officer for the exercise, tells the paper a group of more than 100 Polish troops arrived for training Nov. 1. She says it is the third trip to West Virginia for Territorial Defense Forces troops. The TDF was established in 2017 and includes more than 22,000 soldiers. Its role is similar to that of the National Guard, supporting local communities and serving as the reserve base for other Polish forces.


Emma Mertens
Emma Mertens

Hartland: A girl with an inoperable brain tumor who received tens of thousands of pictures of her favorite animal from strangers has died at age 8. Emma Mertens loved dogs. So after she was diagnosed in January, family and friends sent photos of their dogs to the Hartland girl. And after some social media posts, the photos, letters and gifts from around the world started pouring in to Emma. In March, 40 police dogs and their handlers from around Wisconsin paid a special visit to Emma at her home. Emma’s parents asked well-wishers to support her foundation at, and in September it made its first gift – a protective vest for the Racine County Sheriff’s Department K-9 officer, Stax. Her family says Emma died Sunday.


Casper: State and tribal officials are working to ensure Native Americans are accurately counted in the 2020 census. The Casper Star-Tribune reports advocates and officials are consulting with tribal leaders and planning an advertising campaign to attract attention to the U.S. Census Bureau’s canvassing efforts. Officials say they hope the outreach leads to a more accurate count of Native American residents in Wyoming, who are believed to have been under-counted in the past. Census data says 2.7% of Wyoming’s population identifies as Native American. The figures indicate about 27,000 people live on the Wind River Reservation west of Casper and off-reservation trust land, with about 7,800 identifying as Native American. The Census Bureau says American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations were undercounted by nearly 5% in 2010.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nativity on the run, ‘Bag O’Slag’: News from around our 50 states