No Mow May, haunted house shooting, monk seal birth: News from around our 50 states
Montgomery: Civil rights pioneer Jo Ann Robinson, who played an instrumental role in the historic 13-month Montgomery Bus Boycott in the mid-1950s, had a residence hall named after her on Alabama State University’s campus Tuesday. The hall was previously named for Bibb Graves, former Alabama governor and member of the Ku Klux Klan. The Board of Trustees voted to change the name in September. Dr. Sheree Finley, a relative of Robinson, called the renaming exciting. “She’s finally being brought to the forefront,” Finley said. Local artist Kevin King painted a portrait of Robinson during the event. The featured speaker of the event was Fred Gray, famed civil rights attorney, who recalled planning the bus boycott in Robinson’s living room. “Little did many know that (many of the) activities that (had an) impact on the civil rights movement in Alabama occurred at Jo Ann Robinson’s house,” Gray said. “She was the person who was interested in having mass participation. We could have desegregated the buses without a protest, but she was interested in getting something done with the community.”
Anchorage: A legal challenge has been filed claiming proposed state Senate districts for the capital city area unconstitutionally favor the Eagle River suburb. The motion to reject the amended redistricting plan and to modify it was filed Monday as Anchorage Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews considers the legality of the map approved last week by the state’s redistricting board, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The new map was drawn after portions of the board’s first proposal were ruled unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court. Each state Senate district is composed of two House districts. The board’s first proposal sought to link Eagle River to the south Muldoon area of Anchorage, which the Alaska Supreme Court called an “unconstitutional political gerrymander.” The court ruled in a lawsuit brought by east Anchorage residents Felisa Wilson, George Martinez and Yarrow Silvers, who also filed Monday’s challenge. The new proposal seeks to link south Eagle River to south Anchorage and north Eagle River to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The new challenge claims the redistricting board incorrectly interpreted the court’s instructions by keeping Muldoon districts together but again splitting the Eagle River districts. The filing seeks an order requiring the board to keep both House districts in Eagle River together.
Flagstaff: A wildfire nearly tripled in size as relentless winds pushed the flames through neighborhoods on the outskirts of a college and tourist town, keeping hundreds of residents away from their homes and destroying more than two dozen structures. The blaze continued its run Wednesday through dry grass and scattered Ponderosa pines around homes into volcanic cinder fields, where roots underground can combust and send small rocks flying into the air, fire officials said. Persistent spring winds and 50 mph gusts hindered firefighters. “This is a heads-up for everywhere else in the state,” said fire information officer Dick Fleishman. “If you have dry grass up next to your house, it’s time to get that cleaned up.” Fire managers are contending with tight resources as wildfires burn around the Southwest. The U.S. has 16 top-level national fire management teams, and four of those are dedicated to blazes in Arizona and New Mexico – something Fleishman said is rare this early in the wildfire season. Hundreds of people have been evacuated because of the wildfires north of Flagstaff and south of Prescott in Arizona. On the outskirts of Flagstaff – where tourists and locals revel in hiking and horseback riding trails, camping spots, and the vast expanse of cinder fields for off-road vehicle use – flames soared as high as 100 feet. Popular national monuments including Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki were closed because of the wildfire.
Jasper: The Cherokee Nation has signed an agreement with the National Park Service to allow citizens to gather plants within the Buffalo National River to use for purposes including food, crafts and medicine. The river, located in the Ozark Mountains, was established as the country’s first national river in 1972. “This area has a vibrant history of helping sustain our Cherokee people with food, the cane and bushes for our Cherokee crafts, and leaves and roots for traditional medicine,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. The agreement, announced Wednesday, will establish a process for Cherokee citizens to gather plants in parts of the national park including the Lost Valley, Tyler Bend, Buffalo Point and Rush areas. “This i7/8s an important step in the continuing efforts to embrace our tribal partners in the management of public lands at Buffalo National River,” said Mark Foust, National Park Service superintendent at Buffalo National River. “The Cherokee Nation offers invaluable information, ecological knowledge, and a unique perspective that will lead to a better understanding of the benefits of public land.”
San Francisco: City supervisors have approved legislation prohibiting police from storing DNA obtained from rape kits and other crime scene evidence in city-run databases for more than 60 days. Tuesday’s unanimous vote came two months after San Francisco’s district attorney disclosed that police used a sexual assault victim’s DNA against her in 2016 in an unrelated 2021 property crime case. The revelation by DA Chesa Boudin prompted a national outcry among law enforcement, legal experts, lawmakers and advocates of sexual assault victims. Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who introduced the legislation, said there were no local laws regulating the storage or use of DNA profiles in local police databases, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Victim samples cannot be uploaded to state and federal DNA databases, which are more tightly regulated, and the legislation does not apply to those databases. “The fact that the police department’s crime lab has been storing and using victims’ physical evidence against victims came as a shock to most of us in the city,” Ronen said. The department stores DNA information in what it calls a quality control database in order to ensure samples are not contaminated. The department has said it stopped the practice. Police chief Bill Scott told police commissioners in March that he’d discovered 17 crime victim profiles, 11 of them from rape kits, that were matched using a crime victims database during unrelated investigations.
Fort Collins: A “game changing” app will soon be in the hands of local first responders, and officials say it will improve their interactions with those in the community who have mental health issues or intellectual or developmental disabilities. Fort Collins Police Services announced Thursday that its officers will begin using the Vitals app in a first-of-its-kind partnership with UCHealth through the co-responder program and Mental Health Response Team. People and caregivers can download the Vitals app and create a profile that includes an individual’s name, photo, other identifying information and medical information along with their behavioral triggers and de-escalation techniques, which can help officers respond better in a crisis situation, UCHealth Co-Responder Supervisor Stephanie Booco said during a news conference. Fort Collins police officers and UCHealth co-responders who have the app will receive notifications when they are near someone with a profile and can use the information in the profile to better assist or resolve a situation. The technology is a “game changer” for the community, Fort Collins Police Services Chief Jeff Swoboda said. Fort Collins is the first community in Colorado to start using the Vitals app and the first community in the country to use it with a co-responder program, Booco said.
Hartford: State lawmakers advanced legislation Tuesday evening that abortion rights advocates say is needed to protect in-state medical providers from legal action, as well as patients who travel to Connecticut to terminate a pregnancy and those who help them. It comes amid new abortion restrictions being enacted in a growing number of conservative states. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 87-60. It now awaits action in the Senate. Although Connecticut codified the right to abortion in 1990, proponents said steps need to be taken now to prepare for the U.S. Supreme Court possibly overturning or weakening Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. However, the socially conservative Family Institute of Connecticut has criticized the legislation, arguing it will create a “safe harbor” for “abortion providers who violate abortion laws in other states.” The bill is considered by some advocates to be one of the most consequential abortion-related proposals to come up for a vote in the Connecticut General Assembly since 1990. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that he will sign the legislation in the law if clears the full Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
Wilmington: State Sen. Darius Brown has regained his high-profile General Assembly committee assignments, following his acquittal of misdemeanor charges earlier this year. A jury in January found the Wilmington Democrat not guilty of misdemeanor offensive touching and disorderly conduct. A woman accused Brown at the time of hitting her in the head and throwing a drink glass that shattered near her while dining at a Talleyville restaurant in May 2021. Following his arrest, Brown was removed from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chaired. In November, months after his arrest, Brown reportedly got into a verbal altercation with Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle, during a bill-signing press event. That led to Senate leadership stripping Brown of his role on the Bond Committee, a high-profile position that helps write the annual infrastructure spending bill. Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola said in a statement Tuesday he has reinstated Brown to these positions due to his “acquittal in court and my belief that the terms of these sanctions have been appropriate.”
District of Columbia
Washington: President Joe Biden plans to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner – the first time a sitting president will be at the event since Barack Obama in 2016. The organization said in a tweet that it was pleased to host Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the dinner April 30 that will honor the First Amendment. Donald Trump opted to skip the event when he was president, and it was canceled in 2020 and last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” is serving as the event’s entertainer. In 2018, Michelle Wolf’s biting, after-dinner comedy routine grabbed headlines, even in Trump’s absence. After the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington earlier this month, some of those who attended, including Cabinet members, other administration officials and members of Congress tested positive for COVID-19 amid a surge of cases around the nation’s capital. Capacity for the upcoming dinner is more than 2,600, and the event is fully booked. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, suggested last weekend that the correspondents’ dinner should move forward. He told “Fox News Sunday” that “we are at the point in this pandemic” where “I think we can gather safely.” The association is requiring full vaccination and negative same-day coronavirus tests.
Tallahassee: As critics decried a congressional redistricting map submitted by Republican Ron DeSantis as racially motivated and drawn to benefit the GOP, the staff member who crafted the maps told lawmakers Tuesday that he didn’t take race or party politics into consideration in preparing it. Lawmakers were called back to the Capitol for a special session to approve new congressional districts after DeSantis vetoed the maps they approved last month. The GOP House and Senate leadership opted not to try drawing maps again but rather to take up one submitted by DeSantis. His plan would likely add more Republican seats than the maps the Legislature approved and could mean the four districts where Black voters have the best chance of selecting a candidate would be reduced to two. Five of the current 27 U.S. House members from Florida are Black – one a Republican from an overwhelmingly white district. J. Alex Kelly, DeSantis’ deputy chief of staff, said the map is “race neutral.” Democrats reject that argument. Several Black lawmakers have called DeSantis racist for submitting the map. Rep. Angie Nixon said other lawmakers chastised her for previously using that language, but at a rally before session began, she repeated her opinion and said she won’t be silenced. “That’s what he is,” Nixon said in an interview afterward. “It’s all racially and politically driven. And this is the type of systemic racism that they don’t want us to talk about. It’s because it makes them uncomfortable because it shows people who they truly are.”
Atlanta: U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is appealing a federal judge’s ruling allowing a challenge to her eligibility to run for reelection to proceed. A group of voters last month filed the challenge with the secretary of state’s office alleging that Greene helped facilitate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that disrupted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. They say that violates a part of the 14th Amendment and makes her ineligible to run for reelection. Greene said the law the voters are using to challenge her eligibility is unconstitutional, and she filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to prohibit state officials from enforcing it. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Monday ruled that the challenge can proceed. Greene filed an appeal with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday. The provision of the 14th Amendment cited in the challenge says no one can serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.” Ratified shortly after the Civil War, it was meant in part to keep representatives who had fought for the Confederacy from returning to Congress. Greene has denied aiding or engaging in an insurrection. The challenge, filed on behalf of the voters by a group called Free Speech for People, is set for a hearing before an administrative law judge Friday.
Honolulu: Images of a Hawaiian monk seal being born on an Oahu beach have been captured on camera. An employee of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources shot video and photos of the pup emerging from the mother onto white sands last week. “As soon as its (amniotic) sac burst, the little one starting wiggling around,” Lesley Macpherson, who works for the department’s Division of State Parks, said in a news release Tuesday. The mother monk seal checked on her pup by barking as the newborn flapped its flippers. Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species. There are only about 1,400 seals in the world. About three-quarters of this total live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a remote string of small atolls northwest of Hawaii’s populated islands. The rest, about 300 seals, live in the Main Hawaiian Islands including Oahu and Maui. The pup, named PO5, was one of two baby seals born on Oahu last week. Officials and volunteers will actively monitor the moms and their pups until weaning in about five to six weeks. After weaning, officials will aim to tag the pups and may apply temporary satellite transmitters to the seals to help keep track of them. Three other pups born on Oahu this year died from complications related to birth, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Boise: The state Supreme Court has allowed lawmakers to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law they passed earlier this year that would ban abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The court on Monday approved a request by Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke, Republican Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder and the Legislature to take part in the case. The law is modeled after a Texas law that is enforced through civil lawsuits to avoid constitutional court challenges. The Idaho law had been scheduled to take effect Friday but was temporarily blocked by the court following a lawsuit by a regional Planned Parenthood organization. Lawmakers said Planned Parenthood’s arguments challenging the constitutionality of the abortion law “directly implicate the Legislature’s authority.” The law allows the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of a “preborn child” to each sue an abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000 in damages within four years after the abortion. Rapists can’t file a lawsuit under the law, but a rapist’s relatives could. The bill passed the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities. Republican Gov. Brad Little signed the bill into law but said he feared it would “in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise.”
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed into law a state budget that aims to soften the blow of inflation with $1.8 billion in tax breaks and direct payments to Illinois consumers – an outline Republicans derided as an election-year ploy. The $46 billion budget plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 also makes substantial investments in debt and savings backed by tax revenues virtually no one predicted a year ago amid a worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Pritzker, who faces reelection this fall, said in a news release from Chicago that the fiscal outline “brings real improvements to the lives of working families and sets us up for a stronger fiscal future.” He said the funding for schools, updated highways and transportation systems, and paying down obligations in the state pension programs “are the kind of priorities we can invest in when our state is governed responsibly.” Pritzker rolled out his plan in February, when national inflation was at about 7% – the highest in 45 years. The package includes tactical strikes at rising prices: suspending the 1% grocery sales tax, freezing the motor fuel tax increase and offering a one-time $350 property tax refund, totaling $970 million in money consumers could keep or get back.
Indianapolis: There won’t be a balloon release at this year’s Indianapolis 500 in May. For the past two years, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held off on the pre-race balloon release largely due to COVID-19 protocols limiting the amount of staff on site. But this year, according to vice president of communications Alex Damron, the decision has taken into account the environmental and wildlife impacts – issues critics have raised for years. Speedway officials said they want the pre-race events to bring about unity as a way to honor military heroes, celebrate sporting excellence and build excitement. “We do recognize the release has become more divisive in recent years,” Damron said. “We’ve received significant feedback from groups and individuals opposed to it as well as an increasing number of our fans.” The balloon release has been a yearly staple at the event for more than 70 years. Environmentalists have been calling for the release – one of the few regular large balloon releases that have still been happening across the country – to end for years. Though the balloons are released in Indianapolis, they can travel quite far. In 2018, one woman even found what she believed to be an Indy 500 balloon in Ohio, 100 miles away. When the balloons land, they make their way into the ecosystem and the food chain.
Des Moines: Two years after fourth grade teachers at Andrew Jackson Elementary asked their students to consider whether the school should change its name, five members of the school’s student leadership team presented their arguments for renaming the school to the Des Moines School Board on Tuesday. The renaming project was waylaid when schools closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, teachers began discussing moving forward with the name change. Bettina Bradley, a reading and math interventionist, advocated letting students lead the project. At this week’s Des Moines School Board meeting, the students highlighted Jackson’s ownership of enslaved people and his signing of the Indian Removal Act, the 1830 law that authorized the president to negotiate the removal of Native Americans from their homelands to federal land – a move that led to thousands of deaths on the Trail of Tears. “The name Jackson is important to our school and community, as we are the stars,” student Keren Moran said, referring to the school’s mascot. “So we’re asking the board to rename Andrew Jackson to Mary Jackson Elementary.” Mary Jackson was NASA’s first Black female engineer. Her story was made famous in the 2016 book and film “Hidden Figures.”
Wichita: One of two former Sedgwick County sheriff’s employees accused of stealing cash, drugs and weapons from the department’s evidence unit has been sentenced to a suspended jail term and one year of probation. Marc Gordon, 47, was sentenced after pleading guilty earlier this month to one count of official misconduct and three counts of theft, all misdemeanors, the Wichita Eagle reported. He was sentenced to a year in jail, which was immediately suspended, and placed on probation for a year. Gordon would be subject to having the jail term reinstated if he fails to abide by the terms of his probation. Prosecutors say Gordon was a property and evidence technician with the agency when he and a property and evidence supervisor, 55-year-old Robert White, stole more than $7,700 in cash, several pounds of cocaine, meth and other drugs and several samurai-style swords. The missing evidence led the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office to dismiss or review dozens of drug cases. White pleaded guilty in January to 12 counts, including felony official misconduct, drug distribution and thefts. He is set to be sentenced on April 29.
Louisville: The last stockpiles of a deadly chemical agent in the U.S. have been safely eliminated, according to Kentucky officials in charge of destroying the Cold War-era weapons. The final M55 rocket containing VX nerve agent was destroyed Tuesday at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent plant. Officials began disassembling about 18,000 of the rockets and draining the VX agent in July, according to a news release from plant officials. Candace Coyle, the plant’s project manager, said Wednesday that the nation’s entire stockpile of VX nerve agent “is now completely destroyed.” VX is considered the deadliest of the chemical agents that were produced by the U.S., much in the 1960s. It has a consistency similar to motor oil, and even a tiny amount causes victims’ bodies to flood with fluids, producing a feeling of drowning before death. Officials in 2017 declared that assassins used VX agent to kill the brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a Malaysian airport. The central Kentucky Army depot still has 277 tons of other chemical agents left to be destroyed, after beginning with more than 520 tons of VX, GB and mustard agent that was in storage for decades. Officials said it all should be gone by next year after it began eliminating its mustard agent stockpiles in 2019.
Baton Rouge: Legislation to keep transgender athletes from competing on college and K-12 women’s and girls’ sports teams has been approved by the state Senate with little debate. The Advocate reports that the bill by Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, passed Tuesday evening on a 29-6 vote. It goes next to the state House. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed similar legislation last year, saying it was mean-spirited, unnecessary and could result in loss of NCAA events in the state. He has not said what he would do were the bill to pass this year. The measure would apply to K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, if they receive state funding. “Athletic teams or sporting events designated for females, girls, or women shall not be open to students who are not biologically female,” the bill says. Opponents say there are no known transgender athletes currently competing in the state, and the legislation adds to discrimination against an already marginalized group. Mizell said the NCAA hasn’t gone through with threats to pull events from states with similar laws.
Augusta: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday signed into law a bill to create a public-private partnership to help grow the state’s aerospace industry. Supporters envision the corporation as a central hub for innovation and economic development in the state’s air and space industry. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, said the effort has been years in the making. “The Maine Space Consortium will bring together business, research and state leaders, to help ensure Maine continues to be at the forefront of this industry,” Daughtry said in a statement. Members of the air and space industry have taken an interest in Maine in recent years, in part because it is home to the former Loring Air Force Base and Brunswick Landing, formerly a naval air station. The state’s geography and existing infrastructure make it a candidate to serve as a site for small launches, industry members have said.
Salisbury: The addition of about 80 acres to the Pocomoke State Forest through legislation makes an elevated walkway connecting Snow Hill directly to the park possible. HB882, signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan this month, was co-sponsored by state Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, R-Worcester. According to a statement by Carozza, the project would create a trail network from Snow Hill to Pocomoke City “and has significant social, recreational and economic benefits.” This Maryland Department of Natural Resources project would add the acreage to Pocomoke State Forest as new type of wildlands and would exempt approximately 2 acres for the trail’s construction. She also confirmed in a statement that “the trail will be developed through a collaborative planning process between the Maryland Forest Service, Maryland Park Service and the Town of Snow Hill.” The public hearing on this project was held Oct. 28, 2020, and 98% of the 122 comments were in strong support of the project, including multiple organizations and local government agencies.
Worcester: A gate separating affordable housing from the new playground at Coes Park was unlocked Friday. Community activists celebrated, having seen the locked gate as a symbol of environmental injustice and racism. “It felt like modern-day segregation,” said Nelly Medina, an organizer with the Tenant and Housing Alliance of Worcester and a Lakeside Apartments resident who spearheaded the fight to unlock the gate. “They got $1.2 million from saying it was in an environmental justice community, and they locked the gate. It put white people on one side and (Black, Indigenous and people of color) people on the other.” But Alex Corrales, director of the WHA, said unlocking the gate was simply a seasonal task. “It’s springtime – that’s all it is,” Corrales said in an interview. “We had been opening it for years, during the summer program for children, and they would do swimming classes, have canoes, but we would not leave it open permanently because we were concerned with safety.” Corrales bristled at the idea of any injustice and said the plan was to open the gate “indefinitely.” “We will obviously monitor the situation in terms of communicating with residents and the community,” he said. “If there are incidents that really put the safety risk of residents involved, we do want to review that very closely.”
Pontiac: A judge denied a motion Tuesday to reduce bonds for the jailed parents of a teenager who is charged in a shooting at his high school that left four students dead. Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews said that James and Jennifer Crumbley’s actions before their Dec. 4 arrests in a commercial building in Detroit were meant to conceal their whereabouts. “The defendants indicate they were devastated when they heard about the alleged actions of their son, felt unsafe in their home, felt hounded by the press and found it necessary to leave,” Matthews said. “The chronology of events that occurred subsequent to the defendants leaving their home is not consistent with cooperation with law enforcement.” The Crumbleys had disappeared the day before after they were charged with involuntary manslaughter. The parents are accused of failing to keep a gun secure at home and failing to reasonably care for their son when he showed signs of mental distress. They have pleaded not guilty. “Upon a warrant being issued, law enforcement is not required to make an appointment with a defendant,” Matthews said. “It is the job of the police to ensure a swift, safe and secure arrest. The defendants’ actions were premeditated to conceal their whereabouts.”
St. Paul: The state Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear a challenge by environmentalists over portions of a lower court ruling involving a key permit for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine. The Minnesota Court of Appeals in January reversed a 2018 decision by state regulators to issue PolyMet Mining Corp. a water quality permit for the project. It sent the case back to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for further proceedings. That was a win for environmentalists, but they’re challenging other parts of the ruling. One prong involves the agency’s decision to issue the permit without setting specific effluent limits on mercury and other pollutants. They also faulted the appeals court for not imposing consequences for the agency’s alleged effort to dissuade the federal Environmental Protection Agency from submitting critical written comments during the water permit review process. “It is so important that Minnesota agencies be held accountable when they circumvent laws that were meant to protect the integrity of the regulatory process,” said Paula Maccabee, counsel for WaterLegacy, one of the three parties that asked the Supreme Court to step in. The other petitioners are the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Jackson: A state prison violated inmates’ constitutional rights by failing to protect them from violence, failing to meet their mental health needs, failing to take adequate steps for suicide prevention and relying too much on prolonged solitary confinement, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday. The department released findings of its two-year investigation of the state’s oldest prison, Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The probe started after an outburst of violence in late 2019 and early 2020. “The problems at Parchman are severe, systemic, and exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision,” the department said in its report. It said the Mississippi Department of Corrections “has been on notice of these deficiencies for years and failed to take reasonable measures to address the violations, due in part to non-functional accountability or quality assurance measures.” “Years of MDOC’s deliberate indifference has resulted in serious harm and a substantial risk of serious harm to persons confined at Parchman,” the Justice Department said. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, head of Justice’s civil rights division, said 10 homicides and 12 suicides have occurred among inmates at Parchman since 2019.
Columbia: A bill passed by the state House on Tuesday would put restrictions on how race is talked about in public K-12 schools. The GOP-led House on Tuesday voted 85-59 in favor of the bill, with some Republicans opposing the measure. It now goes to the GOP-led Senate. The legislation would ban schools from teaching “that individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, ethnicity, color, or national origin.” The measure also bans schools from compelling students and teachers to affirm that “individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior.” Students, parents or teachers could file complaints alleging violations of those bans with the state education department or Missouri attorney general. Supporters argued that the bill is needed to prevent classrooms from being used to indoctrinate children. But critics said the measure could have a chilling effect and might scare educators away from having difficult discussions about race and American history. “America’s history is not squeaky clean,” Democratic Rep. LaKeySha Bosley said. “We need to be open-minded about that and have the hard conversations and not be scared to talk it through.”
Great Falls: The city commission has voted 4-1 to deny an appeal from local marijuana dispensary owners over a Safety Inspection Certificate and to bring forward a proposed referendum package regarding adult-use marijuana sales on the ballot this November. City staff will work with city commissioners to get a referendum on the ballot. Janelle and Dale Yatsko, owners of Green Creek Dispensary in Cascade County, applied for a Safety Inspection Certificate, handled by Great Falls Fire Rescue as an annual inspection for businesses within city limits, for the operation of an adult-use marijuana dispensary within city limits in February. GFFR and the City Attorney’s Office advised that their application likely not be processed, according to the agenda background. Legal counsel for the Yatksos, Attorney Raph Graybill, reached out to the City Attorney Jeff Hindoien to argue that “state law entitles the Yatskos to operate their adult-use marijuana business within City limits; any contrary policy is preempted by state law.” The city responded denying the SIC on the basis of a local ordinance that has been in place for medical marijuana and federal law regarding marijuana but said the Yatskos could appeal the decision, which they did.
Lincoln: Gov. Pete Ricketts touted the tax cuts lawmakers approved this year as they wrapped up their session Wednesday. Ricketts said the $900 million package of income and property tax cuts that the Legislature approved this year delivered “the most significant tax relief bill we have ever had in the state of Nebraska.” He signed the bill last week. Lawmakers took care of their business quickly Wednesday because Ricketts didn’t veto any of the bills they sent to him this week. Ricketts also praised bills the Legislature passed that will lay the groundwork for a canal project to divert water out of Colorado and study the creation of a major new lake along the Platte River between Lincoln and Omaha. Lawmakers also made plans to spend more than $1 billion in federal pandemic relief money, including a package of $335 million to help economic recovery in parts of Omaha and other high-poverty areas in the state. And Ricketts said the Legislature made important investments in public safety including improvements at the state law enforcement training center and setting aside money for a potential new state prison.
Sparks: The Generator, lauded as a headquarters for Burning Man artists, has a new space and a new mission. The arts and maker space reopened this month after signing a 10-year lease with Foothill Partners, developer of the much anticipated Oddie District – a 187,000-square-foot mixed-use space just east of U.S. 395 in Sparks, next to Goodwill. The Generator currently takes up about 70,000 square feet, about twice the size of its former home on Icehouse Avenue in industrial Sparks. Eventually, about half the space will be given to another tenant. “Any time there’s a lot of people in a space making art, it makes us all feel better, right?” said Jessi “Sprocket” Janusee, communications director for the Generator, also lovingly known as The Genny. Since 2013, local and international artists alike have used the space to assemble colossal sculptures, from temples to whales to ships, before sending the installations into the desert to burn. While it continues to be a magnet for Burning Man creations, staff at the Generator say the goals of the space are now more community-driven. Still run by a cast of established Burners, the team is placing a much heavier emphasis on community outreach year-round.
Concord: Theo Martey, a teacher of West African drumming and dance and a songwriter, is the state’s next artist laureate. Martey, nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu, was confirmed by the Executive Council on Wednesday for the two-year, honorary position. He had received the Governor’s Arts Award for Arts Education in 2019. Born in Accra, Ghana, he has more than 33 years’ experience as a performer and arts educator across three continents. He has lived and worked in New Hampshire for 20 years. Martey has taught more than 5,000 workshops to students from first grade through high school, college and university students, and in communities. “For over two decades, I have been invited into dozens of schools across New Hampshire as an artist in residence, working with students so that they may experience West African drumming and dance hands-on,” Martey said in a statement. “To be named artist laureate is an honor, and I look forward to continuing to use music to empower others to discover their best selves and promote the importance of arts across the state and the region.” Martey is the state’s ninth artist laureate since 1997.
Trenton: A Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims involving clergy sex abuse with some 300 alleged victims in one of the largest cash settlements involving the Catholic Church in the United States. The agreement between the Diocese of Camden, which encompasses six counties in southern New Jersey on the outskirts of Philadelphia, and plaintiffs was filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden on Tuesday. The settlement must still go before a U.S. bankruptcy judge. If approved, the settlement would exceed the nearly $85 million settlement in 2003 in the clergy abuse scandal in Boston, although it’s less than other settlements in California and Oregon. “I want to express my sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese,” Bishop Dennis Sullivan said in a statement. “My prayers go out to all survivors of abuse and I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again.” Details about what allegedly happened to the roughly 300 victims were not included in the proposed settlement, according to Jeff Anderson, an attorney for some 70 of the victims, who called it “a powerful advance in accountability.”
Albuquerque: Officials with a U.S. agency undergoing a multibillion-dollar modernization effort that includes the production of plutonium cores for the nation’s nuclear arsenal celebrated the opening of a massive office complex Tuesday. Jill Hruby, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, joined other officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Years in the making, the new complex on the edge of Albuquerque will replace a collection of two dozen military barracks and other buildings, some of which date back to the government’s top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II. Officials said some of the old buildings were compromised by asbestos and lead paint and were well past their lifespans. The new building boasts enough space to cover more than five football fields and will end up saving the agency an estimated $40 million in deferred maintenance, officials said. It includes a data center for rows of servers, conference rooms and secure spaces. Construction was supposed to wrap up last year, but officials said pandemic-related labor and material shortages resulted in delays.
Syracuse: A widely seen video of an 8-year-old Black child sobbing as he’s being led into a police car over a bag of chips was called “heart-wrenching” Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul, who said more needs to be done to build trust with communities of color. The video taken Sunday shows a white officer holding the clearly distraught youth from behind by his elbows, leading him from a sidewalk to the back seat of a police vehicle. Another officer says the situation is about “stealing stuff.” The man recording the video argues with police to let the child go. The video has been widely shared on social media, with many people condemning the officers for treating the child roughly. Hochul, at a COVID-19 briefing in Syracuse, said the video was difficult to watch. “We have more work to do, and I know that the mayor is working closely with the police department to get to the bottom of everything,” said Hochul, a Democrat. “But also make sure that we do protect our children – that they’re handled in a different way when it comes to encounters with law enforcement.” Syracuse police said Tuesday the officers’ actions were being reviewed, along with body-worn camera footage. Police said the incident involved an accusation of youths stealing from a store.
Raleigh: The state Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to give a judge another week to work through the latest step in a long-running legal fight over public education spending. The court’s justices granted Special Superior Court Judge Michael Robinson a seven-day extension, which he had requested Tuesday while citing differences between the legal parties over details and numerous documents to review. Robinson was tasked last month with scrutinizing the November order of another judge who had directed that $1.75 billion be moved from state coffers to carry out two years of a remedial plan to address education inequities. In particular, the Supreme Court told Robinson to review Judge David Lee’s order in light of the General Assembly’s passage of a state budget that funds some of the plan’s provisions. Robinson originally had until Wednesday to report his findings to the justices, who afterward will hear appeals that likely would rule on whether the judicial branch has constitutional powers to order taxpayer-funded spending for education on its own. Republican legislative leaders say only the General Assembly can appropriate state money.
Bismarck: Republican state Sen. Ray Holmberg resigned Wednesday as head of a powerful panel that oversees the Legislature’s business between sessions, just days after a published report that he had exchanged scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges. Holmberg, 79, the state’s longest-serving senator, stepped down from the legislative management committee, saying in a statement “recent events and discussions have made it clear to me that the interim governing body of the legislature, Legislative Management, does not need to be any part of that discussion.” Holmberg will remain on the panel, but not as its chairman. “No further comments on this announcement will be forthcoming,” his statement said. He had announced in March he would not seek reelection. The Forum of Fargo reports Holmberg exchanged 72 text messages in August with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier as Morgan-Derosier was held in the Grand Forks County Jail. The newspaper cited a jail log it obtained through a records request showing the time and date of the text messages. Morgan-Derosier was held at the time on state child pornography charges. Holmberg first told the Forum that he had read a newspaper story about the charges but in a later interview said he had not, the Forum reports. He also said he no longer has the texts.
Columbus: A doctor accused of ordering excessive amounts of painkillers that led to multiple patient deaths at a Columbus-area hospital was acquitted of 14 counts of murder Wednesday following a weekslong trial. Dr. William Husel, 46, was accused of ordering the drugs for patients in the Mount Carmel Health System. He was indicted in cases that involved at least 500 micrograms of the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Prosecutors said ordering such dosages for a nonsurgical situation indicated an intent to end lives. Husel’s attorneys argued he was providing comfort care for dying patients, not trying to kill them. Franklin County Judge Michael Holbrook told jurors before the start of deliberations that they could also consider lesser charges of attempted murder. They deliberated for six days. Husel would have faced a sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility in 15 years had he been found guilty of just one count of murder. Prosecutors presented their case beginning Feb. 22 and put on 53 prosecution witnesses before resting on March 29. Those witnesses included medical experts who testified that Husel ordered up to 20 times as much fentanyl as was necessary to control pain.
Oklahoma City: Emergency responders, National Guardsmen, children, parents, grandparents, members of Congress, City Council members, students and college professors united Tuesday in their desire to remember the 168 lives lost in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building 27 years ago. In spite of the somber reason for the gathering, laughter and joyful conversation were heard among the crowd of nearly 1,000 people filling the pews of Oklahoma City’s First Church ahead of the annual Day of Remembrance Ceremony. The ceremony was moved inside the church east of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum out of concern for chilly temperatures and wind gusts Tuesday morning, but by the time the crowd followed the bagpipers to the Field of Empty Chairs to place flowers on them, the sun was shining brightly. Speakers partaking in the program included Gov. Kevin Stitt, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice and Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. “When you see your fellow human beings as Republicans or Democrats – not as fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters – then you have begun the process of dehumanization. You are paving the path to horror,” Holt said. “That memorial is a symbol of that path’s inevitable conclusion.”
Salem: The Oregon State Treasury has at least $5.3 billion invested in fossil fuel companies, a coalition of environmental groups said in a report Wednesday that blamed the state for adding to global warming and urged divestment. Oregon is considered a “green” state, through its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by state agencies and being the first state to commit to stop using coal-fired power. Yet the state treasury is working at cross-purposes with over $1 billion invested in the coal industry alone, Divest Oregon said in its report. “The state exposes Oregonians to climate and health risks, economic costs, and financial losses” through the investments, the group said. The amount that Oregon has invested in oil, gas and coal companies – whose products are a leading cause of global warming – is probably far higher than $5.3 billion because the numbers that Divest Oregon obtained from the state treasury through a public records request do not include private equity investments, which are not subject to public disclosure. The state treasury did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The agency’s spokesperson was tied up in a meeting Wednesday of the Oregon Investment Council, which makes investment decisions.
Philadelphia: The federal fraud trial of a City Council member and his wife in what prosecutors alleged was a “widespread corruption conspiracy” has ended in a mistrial following a jury deadlock. Jurors deliberated for about 25 hours over four days but were unable to reach a verdict in the case of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, Dawn Chavous, who were charged with honest services wire fraud in a 22-count indictment. Outside the courtroom, Johnson thanked family, friends and supporters “for just praying for us and showing your support during this very stressful time.” The jury told the judge Monday afternoon that they were at an impasse but deliberated all day Tuesday after being instructed by the judge to do so. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office later said “the government is committed to retrying the case.” Johnson, 46, a Democrat who has served on the council since 2012, was accused of engaging in official actions in exchange for payments. Chavous, 40, was accused of having entered into a “sham” consulting agreement with a nonprofit that was used to funnel payments to her husband. Defense attorneys said prosecutors lacked evidence to support their case, defending the work of Chavous as legitimate and saying it had nothing to do with Johnson’s actions on the council.
Providence: The downtown arena known as “The Dunk” will keep its name at least through June. Dunkin’ Donuts’ two-decade-old naming rights deal for the building expired Wednesday, but the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority has agreed to a short-term extension through June 30 while it vets new proposals, Executive Director Daniel McConaghy said Tuesday. At the start of this month, the Convention Center Authority went out to bid for new naming rights proposals from companies looking to display their brand to hockey and basketball fans or drivers speeding past on Route 95. Unlike the previous naming rights deal, which included only the arena, this time the authority plans to include the rights for the next door Rhode Island Convention Center, according to the Request For Proposals. While Dunkin’ Donuts – now known as Dunkin’ – may put in a bid to keep the name, it is likely to face competition. And the fact that the doughnut chain didn’t come to an agreement to extend the deal before it went to a formal bidding process may be a sign it has moved on. The arena was built by the City of Providence in 1972 and was originally known as the Providence Civic Center. Dunkin’ first bought the naming rights to the center in a 2001 deal valued at $8.65 million over 10 years.
Myrtle Beach: A performer who scared a group at a haunted house was shot by a man who said he thought he was grabbing a prop gun as part of the experience, police said. The employee at the Zombie Experience at the Hollywood Wax Museum Haunted House in Myrtle Beach was hit in the shoulder and survived, authorities said. The man told investigators the group fell to the ground after the performer scared them Saturday, and he felt a gun hit his foot, Myrtle Beach Police said in a statement on Facebook. The man thought the gun was not real and was part of the experience and fired twice, police said. The performer spoke at the suspect’s bond hearing and said the man looked at him before firing. He said since the shooting, he is struggling to work and can’t sleep. So far, the man has been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor because he gave the gun to a 15-year-old after firing it even through he was told it was real, authorities said. Police said they are still trying to determine where the gun came from, and additional charges are likely.
Sioux Falls: Avera Health has plans to build the state’s largest pickleball facility. The health care provider will construct 12 outdoor courts at its Avera on Louise Health Campus in Sioux Falls at a cost of about $1.5 million. Pickleball is a sport that’s recently grown in popularity, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Combining elements of tennis, badminton and pingpong, it’s played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. Two or four players can play with simple equipment that involves paddles and a plastic ball with holes. Jason Askew is executive director of Sports Medicine for Avera and said the organization wants to appeal to people of all ages. “Being able to offer something for adults that is growing by leaps and bounds in popularity, both here in Sioux Falls and around the country, is a lot of fun to be able to announce,” Askew said, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reports. Askew said construction will take a few months, and Avera anticipates the free courts will open to the public by early August.
Nashville: Republican officials have removed three congressional hopefuls from the GOP primary ballot, including one candidate backed by ex-President Donald Trump. The late Tuesday night decision by the Tennessee Republican Party was a long-awaited result of months of debate over Morgan Ortagus, Trump’s former State Department spokesperson, entering Nashville’s open 5th Congressional District race. Even with Trump’s endorsement, some Republicans criticized the selection after pointing out that she had just recently moved to the state and did not know the region or its voters. Tennessee’s GOP-controlled Legislature had sought to nudge Ortagus and others off the ballot by imposing residency requirements on most U.S. House and Senate candidates. However, that attempt fizzled after the state’s election office told the Associated Press the legislation – which Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowed to go into effect without his signature earlier this month – would not apply retroactively to candidates who had already met the qualifications. That left the decision up to the state Republican Party, who had received challenges over the voting records of Ortagus, as well as video producer Robby Starbuck and small-business owner Baxter Lee.
Austin: Former state lawmaker Wendy Davis sued Tuesday over the most restrictive abortion law in effect in the U.S., nearly a decade after her 13-hour filibuster of another anti-abortion measure made her an overnight Democratic star. The lawsuit is the latest attempt to halt the Texas law known as Senate Bill 8, which bans abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. Courts have repeatedly turned back multiple other challenges and kept the law in place since September. That includes both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court, defeats that left attorneys for Texas abortion clinics acknowledging that their path to stopping the law had effectively shut. Like past challenges, Davis calls the law unconstitutional but a takes a different legal approach, suing a Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain, who earlier this year accused Citigroup of circumventing the law by offering to pay travel expenses for employees who go out of state to seek an abortion. Cain did not immediately respond to an email sent Tuesday evening. The suit also names three private citizens who Davis accuses of using or threatening to use the law’s unique mechanism that enforces the law only through private lawsuits. Davis’ filibuster propelled a failed run for governor. She also lost a bid for Congress in 2020 and now works with abortion funds.
St. George: As warmer weather draws more people to get out and enjoy the sunshine, officials are urging anyone heading out into the state’s great outdoors with their pets to keep their dogs on leashes. Dogs can have a serious impact on wildlife and on landscapes, and any left off-leash while in nature could act on their instincts to chase deer and other animals, wildlife officials said Tuesday as they issued a statewide request for dog owners to take the issue more seriously. Utah wildlife often struggles to find food during the winter and can be vulnerable and weak come springtime, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “If they get chased, it uses up energy they may need to survive,” said Covy Jones, the Big Game coordinator at UDWR. “These animals are already depleted, and they often can’t afford to waste energy. If you or a pet force them to move away from where they are trying to feed, it could be harmful.” Deer and other big game animals typically move to lower elevations in search of feed during the snowy winter months, which typically brings them closer to roads and to people and pets. Dogs that are off leash can also disturb nesting ground birds and can chase, injure or kill small mammals, deer, elk or moose, according to the DWR. Utah law states that a person may kill or injure a dog that is “attacking, chasing or worrying any species of hoofed protected wildlife.”
Burlington: The second of four men accused in a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant in Vermont using tens of millions of dollars in foreign investors’ money raised through a special visa program was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to 18 months in prison. William Kelly, 73, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, also was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $8.3 million in restitution. He pleaded guilty last June to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of concealment of material information. As part of the plea deal, eight other charges were dropped and he agreed to cooperative with the government. Kelly was indicted in 2019 on multiple fraud charges along with Miami businessman Ariel Quiros, the former owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain ski resorts in northern Vermont, and former Jay Peak president William Stenger. Kelly was an adviser to Quiros. The indictment accused the men of conspiring to devise a scheme between 2011 and 2016 to defraud foreign investors in the AnC-Bio project in Newport. The EB-5 visa program encourages foreigners to invest in U.S. projects that create jobs in exchange for a chance to earn permanent U.S. residency.
Chincoteague: After two years of pandemic-enforced absence, Tom’s Cove Park campground will again welcome hungry seafood lovers as the Chincoteague Seafood Festival – appropriately themed “Long Time ... No Sea!” – returns for its 52nd year May 7. The Chincoteague Chamber-sponsored event is held the first Saturday in May to promote the seafood industry on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The festival offers fresh, local seafood and signature dishes from local restaurants as well as old and new Eastern Shore favorites prepared by festival cooks, volunteers and professionals, according to the chamber. Non-alcoholic beverages are included in the ticket price, with beer available for purchase. Front Page News will provide live entertainment, and festivalgoers can shop an arts and crafts tent featuring handmade creations from area artisans. Ticket sales have been brisk due to the two-year hiatus, according to the chamber.
Seattle: A citywide “day of service” in May will offer thousands of volunteer opportunities in an event Mayor Bruce Harrell hopes will be a symbol of how his administration plans to beautify the city. Rather than a budget boost or a new devotion of city resources, Harrell is appealing to civic goodwill to help clear litter, weeds, debris and graffiti, The Seattle Times reports. More than 80 city-organized cleanup and volunteer events will take place May 21. Some of the options include picking up litter in Ballard, clearing trails in Jackson Park, working on community gardens in the Chinatown International District, sorting donations at downtown shelters and building tiny homes near the Duwamish River. “This is going to be symbolic of how we’re going to get things done in our city,” Harrell said Monday. “People want to help. Employers want to help; employees want to help.” Everyone who volunteers for the day of service, Harrell said, will a sense of self-fulfillment that they did something about a problem rather than just complaining, along with a T-shirt. The city annually spends about $3.7 million on graffiti removal and has the equivalent of about 15 full-time employees devoted to the problem. Harrell said he’s not yet sure if the city needs to devote more money to it. Volunteers can register at seattle.gov/dayofservice.
Charleston: A former director at a hospital has filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired after he raised concerns about the safety of patients who were on ventilators and receiving other respiratory care services during a surge of COVID-19 cases. Mark Mustard was fired as director of cardiopulmonary and therapy services at Princeton Community Hospital in September 2021. His departure from the West Virginia University Medicine affiliate came amid the surging delta variant of the coronavirus “at a time when respiratory care was crucial to the community,” according to a lawsuit filed last week in Mercer County Circuit Court. Mustard, then 63, alleges he was terminated after he reported concerns about the quality of medical care being provided as the number of patients requiring respiratory care increased during the pandemic. Mustard was “highly outspoken” about the need for more staff in the respiratory services department “in order to provide an adequate level of care to its patients and the community,” the lawsuit said. He was not warned that his job was in jeopardy or given a reason for the termination, which came less than one month after he received an “exceptional” performance review that included an incentive bonus of more than $6,000, according to the lawsuit.
Madison: Communities are encouraging residents to keep their lawnmowers in the garage next month to boost the population of bees and other pollinators. Appleton became the first city to adopt the “No Mow May” initiative a couple of years ago, and others have followed, including Wausau, Oshkosh, Fort Atkinson and Stevens Point. The idea is to give homeowners the option of letting their lawns become a bit overgrown for a few weeks to ensure that bees coming out of hibernation have plenty of options for the nectar and pollen they need, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. Cities temporarily waive enforcement of ordinances that require homeowners to maintain their lawns. This year, the initiative has spread even farther, to La Crosse, Wisconsin Rapids, De Pere and other communities. “Bees, and insects in general, are in a bit of a slump right now,” said Israel Del Toro, a biology professor at Appleton’s Lawrence University. Studies have shown steep declines in wild bee populations in the 21st century. The United Nations characterizes it as a threat to the global food supply. Del Toro said many factors are hurting bee populations, including climate change and irresponsible uses of pesticides and herbicides. But in his view, the biggest stressor is habitat loss. Del Toro said there is plenty of room for compromise. People can plant native flowers or allow growth only in parts of their yards.
Cheyenne: A utility company estimates a new law requiring carbon-capture systems be added to coal-fired plants could cost the average customer an extra $500 a month, WyoFile reports. Black Hills Corp. said in a filing with the Wyoming Public Service Commission that the measure passed by the Legislature in 2020 could cost it as much as $1 billion per coal unit, according to the news outlet.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: No Mow May, haunted house shooting: News from around our 50 states