Florence: Archaeologists are analyzing pieces of pottery, nails and glass found at Pope’s Tavern, an inn and stagecoach stop for travelers dating back to the early 1800s before Alabama achieved statehood. A state team funded by a grant recently conducted a dig at the northwest Alabama site, which has a museum that focuses on the history of the city of Florence. Museum curator Brian Murphy told the TimesDaily pottery was the most common item discovered during the work. “They pulled out a bunch of artifacts that are being cleaned and processed right now,” Murphy said. “They will give us a really good image of the types of materials and type of utensils used, and really a glimpse into the daily life of the people who lived there and used that space.” The crew also found the brick remains of an old structure that could have been a hearth or outbuilding, he said. “They are seeing what type of materials are associated with that, using flotation, which brings up microscopic material to a level that can be processed. After they do that, they’re going to get back to us with the larger picture of what it all means and what might be under there still that could be the source of a future excavation,” he said. Pope’s Tavern was built in the the 1830s, he said, and artifacts found on the grounds dated to the 1820s and ’30s.
Juneau: Officials are aiming to make the first wave of dividend payments to state residents the week of Oct. 11, a Department of Revenue spokesperson said. Genevieve Wojtusik, the department’s legislative liaison, said in an email Wednesday that the first wave would include those who filed for dividends electronically. She said the second mass payments, which would include those who filed paper applications, would go out about two weeks later. The Legislature last week approved $730.5 million for dividends this year of about $1,100 and for administrative and other related costs. Wojtusik said the final check amount is being calculated and is expected to be announced by Oct. 1. Dividends typically are paid in the early fall, but this year’s payout wasn’t finalized until the third special session of the year, which ended last week. Lawmakers earlier this year proposed a roughly $1,100 dividend, using money from various sources, but failed to win sufficient support for use of some of the funds. What was left at that time was a dividend estimated to be $525, which Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed.
Phoenix: This year’s wet monsoon is contributing to a record-high season for the West Nile virus, which is spread through mosquito bites, health officials said. Arizona had 123 cases and four deaths through late last week, the state Department of Health Services said Tuesday. Nearly all of the cases were reported in Maricopa County, where the virus has been detected in record numbers of mosquitos studied, the department said. While most people infected with West Nile don’t get symptoms, older people and those with weakened immune systems are more prone to diseases that be fatal. Health officials recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to help prevent mosquito bites on arms and legs and eliminating standing water where mosquitos lay their eggs.
Little Rock: Two men have been convicted of conspiring to kill a federal witness in 2016. A federal jury deliberated for about 61/2 hours before delivering the verdicts Tuesday against Donald Smith, 37, of Malvern, and Samuel Sherman, 38, of Batesville, in the shooting death of 44-year-old Suzen Cooper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. Prosecutors alleged Smith, Sherman and Suzen Cooper’s former sister-in-law, Racheal Cooper, conspired to sell methamphetamine and cocaine, and Cooper was a confidential informant who had purchased meth from Sherman. Racheal Cooper was originally charged with capital murder in Hot Spring County but later pleaded guilty to a charge of hindering apprehension, for which she served five years of a 25-year sentence. Smith and Sherman face up to life in prison after being convicted of federal charges of witness tampering resulting in death, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, and aiding and abetting the use, carry and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. A sentencing hearing has not yet been set. Porter led the police to the grave site, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gardner said. “Suzen Cooper’s body was exactly where Jimmy Porter said it would be,” Gardner said.
Sacramento: Residents failed to significantly cut back their water consumption in July, state officials announced Tuesday, foreshadowing some difficult decisions for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration as a historic drought lingers into the fall. Newsom had asked people in July to voluntarily cut back their water consumption by 15% to help address a severe drought that has left some of the state’s reservoirs at dangerously low levels. But in the three weeks after Newsom’s announcement, residents reduced their water consumption just 1.8%, according to new data released Tuesday and reported by the Sacramento Bee. “On conservation, we’re going to be needing to do more,” board chair Joaquin Esquivel said. Still, Esquivel was hopeful the state’s conservation numbers will improve. Newsom declared a drought emergency in the Russian River watershed along the state’s north coast in April. Data from that region shows people reduced their water consumption by 17% in July compared to 2020. “We see that it takes time for conservation to boot up,” Esquivel said, adding that the 17% figure “shows the responsiveness of communities” to appeals for conservation. Dave Eggerton, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, said the numbers “represent a promising start in reducing water use.”
Denver: Criminal charges have been dropped in connection with the death of a spiritual leader whose mummified body was found in what appeared to be a shrine in a southern Colorado home, according to court officials. The body of Amy Carlson, 45, leader of the Love Has Won group, was found decorated with Christmas lights and glitter in the tiny, rural town of Moffat in April, according to previously released arrest affidavits. Seven people were charged with tampering with or abusing her corpse as well as child abuse, presumably because there were two children living in the home. Charges against six people were dropped during court proceedings, the Saguache County court clerk’s office said in an email Tuesday. It said no case existed for a seventh person who was among those charged with the others in May, though the office did not explain what happened in that case. It’s not known why the charges were dropped. Assistant District Attorney Alex Raines asked a judge to dismiss all the charges during a Sept. 14 hearing, the Valley Courier reports. Defense lawyers also requested that records be sealed, which was approved, it said. A telephone message left for Raines was not returned.
Hartford: Hundreds of unionized group home workers are threatening to walk off the job next month if settlements aren’t reached on new labor contracts. The New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU, delivered strike notices Tuesday to two private agencies – Whole Life Inc. and Network Inc. – that have about 70 locations across the state that could be affected. The union’s deadline for an agreement is Oct. 5. The threat of a strike, which would involve over 500 workers at group homes and day programs for people with developmental disabilities, comes more than three months after state officials authorized $184 million to increase wages and benefits for group home workers. The union said these remaining two operators have failed to settle on new agreements, despite the added funding. In July, a threatened strike by over 2,100 group home workers at 200 homes was called off after a late-night agreement for higher wages and improved benefits was reached with the Lamont administration’s help. “The State of Connecticut stepped up and provided funding that was adequate,” Rob Baril, the union president, said in a statement. “Now it’s time for these agencies to do the same: to provide people with pensions, affordable health insurance and enough wages that people can take care of their families.”
Wilmington: A new law is expected to make it simpler for residents to use solar energy to power their homes through a community-centered program scheduled to start next year. To participate, customers can get credit on their electric bills by subscribing to a centrally located local community solar project, which can be cheaper than paying to install solar panels on their own roofs. Community-owned solar generation facilities have been legal in Delaware since 2010 but included some legal barriers such as requiring the facility to identify all its customers before being built. The bill by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, removed some of those barriers to make it easier for people to take advantage of the fast-growing industry. Delaware hasn’t had the facilities in the past because the laws weren’t set up to accommodate them, Hansen said. The bill specifically changes regulations for solar facilities that will connect through Delmarva Power, the most prominent energy company in the state. Once facility owners get the green light, Delaware can expect to see the solar panel facilities popping up in open lands like Brownfield sites, undeveloped fields, or on top of parking lots or landfills, according to Hansen.
District of Columbia
Washington: Artifacts from the racial injustice protests that erupted last year in the wake of George Floyd’s death are being preserved, and their protectors are hoping to find new homes for some of the mementos, WUSA-TV reports. As pro-Trump demonstrators repeatedly targeted a makeshift memorial at the barrier that separated Black Lives Matter Plaza from the White House, “fence guardians” sought to protect artifacts of the movement that shone a spotlight on police brutality against Black people. The Biden administration dismantled the fence earlier this year, but not before Nadine Seiler saved more than 700 mementos. “We were lucky that the Library of Congress took some pieces, and Howard University took some pieces,” Seiler said. “But the vast majority of the collection remained with us.” Hundreds of signs, photographs and pieces of artwork remain in her D.C. storage space. Seiler and fellow “fence guardian Karen Irwin are now finding homes for each item, asking interested businesses, nonprofits and organizations to contact them via Facebook. “Ideally, the Black Lives Matter community would like the pieces to stay in the hands of Black organizations,” Seiler said. “But personally, any organization that would give these treasures a safe home and recognize their value, they should reach out as well.”
Tallahassee: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis named a UCLA doctor and health policy researcher who shares his approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic to serve as the state’s surgeon general Tuesday. Like DeSantis, Dr. Joseph Ladapo said he doesn’t believe in school closures, lockdowns or vaccine mandates. “Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health,” Ladapo said. DeSantis said there’s been misinformation spread about COVID-19 to control personal behavior and mentioned monoclonal antibody treatment, claiming that while he’s been advocating it for months, others haven’t been pushing it as vocally. Doctors agree with DeSantis that the treatment, when delivered soon after infection, is effective. Lapado said vaccines aren’t the only way to combat COVID-19. “There’s nothing special about them compared to any other preventive measure,” he said, adding that people should be encouraged to lose weight, exercise more and eat healthier. And Lapado spoke out against lockdowns, saying that “after lockdowns, overall mortality increased ... lots of reasons why they’re bad.” On Wednesday, Ladapo signed new protocols allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone with COVID-19. His new guidelines also tweaked the state’s prohibition against school mask mandates, prompting an administrative law judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the old rule that had been filed by various school boards.
Athens: Some of the people living in a homeless camp known as Cooterville say they’re skeptical of a new, government-sanctioned homeless camp planned for the community. The Cooterville encampment under CSX railroad tracks is set to be cleared by Nov. 12, with city leaders trying to time the ejections with the opening of the new camp where homeless will be allowed to stay legally. City officials are looking for an organization to head the government-sanctioned encampment, which will determine what it eventually looks like. The Athens-Clarke County Commission this summer selected a site for it at the North Athens School. Opponents have said they’re concerned it will attract more homeless people to Athens. But supporters say the new camp will come with services aimed at helping homeless people make the transition to permanent housing. In the Cooterville camp, some have expressed feeling left in the dark about the process are are unsure whether they will be secured a spot in the new camp. Oscar Sutton, who’s lived in Cooterville a couple of months, said he has no plans to move to the government-sanctioned encampment and worries about placing so many random people from the homeless community together. “It’s going to be chaos,” he said. “If I have to stay out here, I’ll just find somewhere to stay.”
Honolulu: A man who helped organize a group that opposes COVID-19 vaccines and mandates says he contracted the disease and now has regrets. Chris Wikoff told Hawaii News Now he helped start the Aloha Freedom Coalition last October, believing government shutdowns and mandates were threatening liberties and harming businesses. “They were talking about vaccine passports and vaccine mandates, and it seemed like it was over-the top totalitarianism and control,” Wikoff said. But then he and his wife contracted COVID-19. “We were told the COVID virus was not that deadly. It was nothing more than a little flu. I can tell you it’s more than a little flu,” he said. Wikoff was sent to a hospital on the west side of Oahu but transferred to a facility in Honolulu because hospitals were at or near capacity. “I was in a bed. I can’t move; I can’t breathe,” he recalled. “I was afraid I was going to die.” Wikoff is now considering getting vaccinated because his family and doctors recommend it. “Probably getting COVID again would be more dangerous than getting the reaction from the vaccines,” he said. Wikoff said he asked the Aloha Freedom Coalition to remove his name as a member on state business registration and is warning people not to attend large protests like the ones the group staged in front of Lt. Gov. Josh Green’s home. “Before I thought Josh Green was exaggerating the situation, and after my experience he sounds very rational to me,” he said.
Boise: Health care workers are exhausted and angry. COVID-19 vaccines are expiring because they have sat unused for so long. And coronavirus case numbers and deaths continue to climb, putting the state among the worst in the nation for the rate of new diagnoses. Idaho’s public health leaders painted a grim picture – again – during a weekly briefing Tuesday. The state continues to set records with 686 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Saturday, 180 of them in intensive care beds and 112 on ventilators, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Dave Jeppesen said. At the moment, there is no end in sight to the surge. The entire state entered “crisis standards of care” last week, officially allowing hospitals to ration health care as needed so that scarce resources can be directed to the patients most in need and most likely to survive. Urgent surgeries have been placed on hold, some patients are being treated in lobbies or field hospitals, and hospital administrators and doctors are desperately trying to shuffle the sickest patients to any facility that has enough open beds or ventilators to treat them. Over the weekend, physicians at one hospital nearly had to face “de-allocation,” in which one patient is taken out of an ICU bed to give it to someone with a greater chance of survival, said Dr. Jim Souza with St. Luke’s Health System.
Beecher: A fire destroyed a historic church in Chicago’s far southern suburbs that had appeared in the 2002 film “Road to Perdition.” Officials said nearly a dozen fire departments responded, but by the time the flames were doused, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was in ruins. No one was injured, and the cause of the fire is under investigation. Flames swept the church Sunday afternoon as members of the congregation were enjoying an Oktoberfest celebration in the parking lot. The building dates to 1865. “Yeah, it is devastating: The 150 years of the weddings and the funerals and the baptisms and all of that are gone. But the church still stands, the people; we still have our folk and our faith,” said the Rev. Michael Stein. The closest fire hydrant was approximately a mile away, prompting an effort to shuttle roughly 91,000 gallons of water to the rural location to extinguish the flames, officials said. The church appeared in Tom Hanks’s 2002 film “Road to Perdition,” WGN-TV reports. “My grandparents are buried there. It’s really sad seeing the church like this,” Beecher resident Zachery Wehling told the station. Stein said it’s an opportunity to rebuild. “It is a dark chapter, and a sad one, and we mourn it, and we grieve it … but we still look to Christ, and we find that hope to go on,” he said.
West Lafayette: Purdue University said it has nearly 50,000 students this fall, a record fueled by a freshman class of about 10,200. Purdue said it was surprised by an increase in out-of-state students accepted for admission. Families and students told Purdue they were impressed by the school’s response to COVID-19. “Our focuses have been encouraging everyone to be vaccinated,” said Jay Akridge, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity. “We’re up over 83% of the campus (vaccinated). And then if you’re not, get tested,” he said. “And then students have been great about masking inside. … Just as they did last year, students have been very good about following that protocol.” Purdue was expecting 8,450 freshmen but greatly exceeded that number. Total enrollment is pegged at 49,639.
Fort Dodge: Experts say a cyberattack on a northwest Iowa grain cooperative could signal Russian-linked groups are beginning to target smaller farm businesses in rural America as bigger companies tighten their security. The cyberattack on New Cooperative, a farm services business with headquarters in Fort Dodge, comes on the heels of a ransomware attack on the giant meatpacking company JBS in late May. JBS closed at least one Iowa pork processing plant as well as all nine of its U.S. beef plants before paying hackers $11 million in ransom. Cybersecurity experts say Russian-backed ransomware group BlackMatter is demanding a $5.9 million ransom from New Cooperative. New Cooperative acknowledged Monday that it had experienced “a cybersecurity incident” affecting some of the company’s “devices and systems.” The member-owned business said it’s using “every available tool and resource to quickly restore our systems.” The cooperative said it had notified law enforcement and was working with data security experts to “investigate and remediate the situation.” New Cooperative declined to say more about the attack Tuesday. Chad Hart, an Iowa State University agriculture economist, said “size really doesn’t matter” to hackers, who “are looking for any target that they think could be valuable.”
Kansas City: An organization run by rapper Jay-Z has filed a petition seeking records from the city’s police department related to what it calls a history of officer misconduct within the agency. The request was filed Monday in Wyandotte County District Court by Team Roc, the criminal justice division of Jay-Z’s entertainment organization, Roc Nation. The filing said the department has failed for decades to hold officers accountable for misconduct, including planting evidence, fabricating witnesses, and soliciting sex from victims and witnesses, The Kansas City Star reports. “And, thanks to the blue veil of silence and apparent failure to investigate serious allegations, little of it has come to light,” according to the petition. It alleges department officials refused to provide Team Roc with complaints filed against the department’s investigative division, reports or internal investigations against an officer who has a history of abuse allegations and policies relating to supervising detectives. The department responded in a statement that it has given hundreds of pages of documents to Team Roc but that the Kansas Open Records Act does not require the release of personnel records and criminal investigation files.
Louisville: A drive-by shooting at a school bus stop Wednesday morning left a 16-year-old student dead and another hospitalized, police said. A third child was injured by unknown means as the youths waited at the bus stop just west of downtown Louisville, authorities said. A person in a car drove by and shot at the waiting students, some of whom were not injured, Louisville Metro Police Maj. Shannon Lauder said during a news conference. No suspects were in custody Wednesday afternoon. Police put a photo of a dark gray Jeep SUV on social media and asked for the public’s help in finding it. The vehicle had Illinois license tags, with the plate number BD91644. Mayor Greg Fischer said the shooting – the city’s 145th homicide this year – violated a “sacred space.” Police were working with the FBI and other agencies in investigating the shooting, Chief Erika Shields said Wednesday morning. The chief suggested the shooting could be gang-related, but she said she did not believe the victim was involved with gangs. The bus stop near the city’s downtown was for students of Eastern High School. Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio called the incident “one of the most difficult mornings of my career.” He said support is being provided to students and teachers at the school.
New Orleans: Smoke and flames shot up the side of the Superdome’s roof Tuesday after a pressure washer being used to clean the roof of the sports and entertainment arena caught fire. The New Orleans Fire Department confirmed firefighters responded to flames on the building’s roof shortly after 12:30 p.m. The fire appeared under control a short time later. New Orleans Emergency Management Services said on Twitter that it was transporting one person to the hospital for “minor burns.” Emergency officials called on people to stay away from the area. Crews were power-washing the roof to prepare it to be painted, officials said. “The fire was contained to the exterior gutter system surrounding (the) Superdome, and only a small area of the roof suffered minimal damage,” said a statement from the Louisiana Stadium and Expedition District, a state board that governs the dome, and ASM Global, which manages the Superdome. “Initial assessments suggest that damage is superficial and there appears to be no structural damage or impact to the integrity of the roof’s exterior skin. The building’s outer skin and roof remain watertight.” A photo posted on the city’s emergency management Twitter feed showed firefighters in the trench that separates the Superdome roof from an outer wall as they sprayed down the fire-blackened walls.
Lebanon: Residents will vote on whether to recall several town leaders in a flap that grew out of the select board chairman’s decision to take a farmer’s pot plants. Farmer Eric Kelley accused Select Board Chairman Charles Russell Jr. and board member Ernest “Butch” Lizotte Jr. of swiping $100,000 worth of plants, knowing that the farmer was in jail. In addition, local animal control officers took his livestock. District Attorney Kathryn Slattery confirmed there was an investigation that focused on possible theft. But there was not enough evidence to prove the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said. Anger over the marijuana episode apparently served as a tipping point for a recall effort targeting Russell, Lizotte and another person who went to the farm that night. The recall also targets a third selectman who’s accused of missing half of this year’s meetings. Russell, who grows medicinal marijuana for household use, consulted for a local pot business and helped draft town marijuana ordinances, acknowledged to the Boston Globe that he pilfered Kelley’s marijuana plants. But he said he did it because he didn’t want the plants getting “into the hands of the wrong people” while Kelley was in jail. He called it a “public safety” matter.
College Park: National Public Radio can air audio recordings from the trial of the gunman who killed five Capital Gazette newspaper employees in 2018, a federal judge has ruled in a case challenging the state’s ban on broadcasting court proceedings. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett on Tuesday permanently barred the state of Maryland from enforcing its “broadcast ban” against NPR, which intends to use audio from the trial of Capital Gazette newsroom shooter Jarrod Ramos in an upcoming episode of its “Embedded” podcast. Bennett ruled it would be unconstitutional for Maryland to ban NPR from broadcasting recordings of the jury trial for Ramos’ criminal case. NPR’s challenge to the broadcast ban was limited to its use of recordings of Ramos’ court proceedings. In July, a jury rejected defense attorneys’ mental illness arguments and found Ramos criminally responsible for killing five people at the newspaper’s office in Annapolis. Prosecutors are seeking five life sentences without the possibility of parole when Ramos is sentenced. The judge already had ruled in NPR’s favor after a hearing Sept. 13, issuing a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocked the law’s enforcement against the radio network. Tuesday’s ruling granted NPR’s request for a permanent injunction.
Boston: A group of high school students had to ride on a party bus complete with a stripper pole and neon lights during a recent field trip – an experience their teacher said highlights problems with the education system. Jim Mayers, an 11th grade Advanced Placement language and composition teacher at the Brooke Charter School in Boston, said in a since-deleted tweet that the original charter bus had fallen through, Masslive.com reports. “It is a funny story, but there actually is a real bus shortage, and it speaks to major flaws in our education system,” he said, adding that the field trip was a success. He is now using the attention he’s getting because of the original tweet to urge people to better understand educational inequities and other problems facing the nation’s schools. “I’m worried that there is too much attention being paid to the tweet itself, or simply the fact that it went viral, instead of attending to the many systemic issues that are facing not just my students, but students all across the country,” he wrote in a follow-up tweet. For example, districts across the nation are struggling to hire enough drivers to shuttle kids to school, and some states have become creative, including Massachusetts, which is enlisting National Guard members to drive school transport vans.
Pontiac: Plans are underway for the state to construct a first-in-the-nation segment of road that will charge electric vehicles while they’re driving, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday at the Motor Bella auto show in Pontiac. Michigan’s Department of Transportation and the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification are partnering to make a 1-mile stretch of state roadway in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties to allow public transportation and private vehicles to charge while traveling as a part of the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot, according to a news release. “Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we’re paving the way for the roads of tomorrow with innovative infrastructure that will support the economy and the environment, helping us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050,” Whitmer said in the release. As electric vehicles advance, charging infrastructure has become a priority for Michigan cities that want to draw residents. The city of Saginaw got its first charging stations in September in the hope that those traveling in the east side of the state toward tourist areas in northern Michigan will stop because there is little electric vehicle infrastructure available at most destinations.
St. Joseph: A small crowd of local business owners and community members gathered around a gray house near downtown Tuesday morning to kick off a project that would give a house used by the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict a new life. Armed with sledgehammers, Sisters Dorothy Manuel and Karen Streveler posed for photographs outside the house as Habitat for Humanity volunteers in blue hard hats walked around the inside, ready to begin renovating the home that the sisters donated to the organization in December. Next summer a local family will move into the house, addressing a need for affordable housing in the area. “As volunteers and family members begin the kicking out the old to make room for the new and improved, we pray for the safety of all who participate in the renovation project and that everything gets accomplished in a timely manner,” Manuel said as she led a prayer in front of the home. “May this house truly become a home for the family and a blessing for their lives.” The Genesis House was built in 1926 and purchased by the sisters in 1950. It was used to accommodate lay staff from the College of St. Benedict in the past and later to house chaplains, Streveler said. Most recently, some of the sisters lived there for the past seven years.
Jackson: The authors of the state’s 1890 constitution had racist intent when they stripped voting rights from people convicted of some felonies because they chose crimes they thought were more likely to be committed by Black people, an attorney argued Wednesday in a federal appeals court. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should overturn most of Mississippi’s felon disenfranchisement plan, attorney Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued on behalf of people with felony convictions. The case could affect thousands who have lost voting rights. “Because the 1890 provisions were unconstitutional, they were invalid from the moment that they’re enacted,” Verrilli said. Attorneys representing the state said Mississippi dropped burglary from the list of disenfranchising crimes in 1950 and added murder and rape to the list in 1968. They said in written arguments that those changes “cured any discriminatory taint on the original provision.” The Mississippi Constitution strips voting rights from people convicted of 10 felonies, including forgery, arson and bigamy. The state attorney general issued an opinion in 2009 that expanded the list to 22 crimes, including timber larceny, carjacking, felony-level shoplifting and felony-level bad check writing.
St. Louis: The city’s police used force against Black people more than three times as often as on white people, according to a newly released study. The California-based, nonprofit research group Center for Policing Equity examined police report data from 2012 to 2019 and also found that in 9 out of 10 instances in which police pulled out a gun, it was at a Black civilian, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Even as the overall use of force dropped by 18%, police still used it more often against Black people, the report said. “What we typically hear from police officers is that use of force happens predominantly in areas with high crime,” said Hans Menos, vice president of law enforcement initiatives at the center. “So we try to control using neighborhood-level demographics, and even after controlling for that, the number (of Black people who have force used against them) is still higher.” Mayor Tishaura Jones said eliminating racial disparities in policing is key to making St. Louis safer for all of its residents. Outgoing Police Chief John Hayden said this kind of research can bring about scrutiny and questions about policing practices. “However, we embrace the challenge to do better and consider all suggestions from professionals, community stakeholders, and citizens,” Hayden said.
Helena: National Guard soldiers will assist hospitals with their COVID-19 response as the state struggles with a surge in infections, Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday. A total of 70 soldiers will assist six different hospitals in Helena, Billings, Butte, Missoula and Bozeman. They will begin helping the hospitals either this weekend or next weekend, according to an announcement from the governor’s office. The Guardsmen will support staffing with nonmedical intensive care assistance, environmental services, patient data entry and coronavirus testing. Gianforte has stopped short of issuing any statewide mask or vaccine requirements even as some communities face record-high COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. “While we will not mandate them, vaccines are safe, they work, and they can save your life,” Gianforte said in a statement. The decision to mobilize the National Guard comes after Gianforte announced last week that 10 Guardsmen would begin assisting Billings Clinic, and seven additional Guardsmen would assist in the state lab. The state anticipates additional requests for Guard resources from several other hospitals, according to the governor’s office.
Lincoln: Lawmakers remained at a stalemate Wednesday over how to draw new congressional and legislative maps despite a looming deadline that could force them to postpone the decision until next year and delay the May primary election. Lawmakers have until Saturday to advance both measures, or else Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers has promised to end their special session, forcing them to resume the debate during their next regular session in January. Delaying the new maps until next year would force state officials to reschedule the primary and create major hassles for county election officials and candidates. At issue with the maps are accusations that Republicans and Democrats are trying to draw political boundaries in ways that benefit their party. Republicans enjoy a majority in the officially nonpartisan, one-house Legislature, but they don’t have enough votes to overcome a filibuster led by Democrats and some moderate Republicans, preventing them from forcing through their preferred map. Hilgers said lawmakers have made good progress toward an agreement, and he hoped to pin down specific concerns about the maps to try to reach a compromise so that lawmakers aren’t “just talking past each other.”
Carson City: In their first public opportunity to voice concerns on a proposal to let tech companies that meet certain requirements create semi-autonomous jurisdictions called Innovation Zones, officials from Storey County dressed down the idea in a line-by-line fashion. They called into question the motives of the company that wants to break away from its control. “While I’m sure many would prefer to have no independent government oversight, we don’t make laws based on what is convenient for just one party,” Storey County Commissioner Clay Mitchell told lawmakers Tuesday. Mitchell and other county representatives oppose a proposal backed by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak that would allow companies that promise a $1.25 billion investment and possess at least 78 square miles of land to apply to form the Innovation Zones. The zones would be governed by three county commission-like board members – two of whom would at first be nominated by the company. They would operate outside the jurisdiction of preexisting local government and eventually could create court systems, impose taxes and make zoning decisions. The company’s proposal has been met with opposition from skeptics of overly powerful tech companies, environmentalists and local officials.
Concord: Fall visitors to the Granite State are being asked to keep their tempers in check and their trash off the ground during their leaf peeping trips this year. With interest in outdoor recreation on the rise amid the coronavirus pandemic, state tourism officials last year launched a “Leave No Trace” campaign to remind visitors not to sully the state’s natural resources. This year, they added a new message – “Don’t Take New Hampshire for Granite” – to encourage visitors to be understanding about rules and respectful of other people and property. With foliage season just beginning, officials are again reminding visitors to show courtesy to workers and the environment alike. Fall is New Hampshire’s second-busiest tourism season, and state officials expect 3.2 million visitors to spend $1.4 billion this year, nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Businesses still are struggling with workforce shortages and supply chain delays, said Mike Somers, president of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association. That, in turn, has led to an increase in rude and abusive customer behavior. “We’re really asking folks to plan ahead and have a little bit of patience and understanding,” he said. “Just call ahead, find out what the hours of operation are, and please don’t get upset if we’re not open until 11 o’clock at night.”
Trenton: Liquor stores, bars and restaurants are all having trouble stocking their shelves with enough wines, beers and spirits, thanks to COVID-19’s impact on supplies, along with heat waves and frosts that damaged crops. “It’s not just one thing that’s causing the liquor shortage,” said Joe Ringwood, manager of Super Cellars, a fine wine and spirits shop in Ridgewood. It’s a shortage of truck drivers, a scarcity of aluminum, a shutdown of factories, a dearth of containers, extreme weather, tariffs or a lack thereof, and even the greater demand by consumers for premium liquor. “Some of it is directly related to the pandemic,” Ringwood said. “But not all of it.” And it’s not just one category of liquor that’s gone missing. What is in short supply seems to change from month to month, if not week to week. Last year, liquor store owners said, they had trouble getting canned beers, amid a shortage of aluminum. Today, bottled beers and top-shelf tequilas are in particularly short supply. “Every week it’s something else,” said Kathy Mahon, bar manager for Park West Tavern in Ridgewood. Paul Santelle, executive director of the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance and owner of Garden State Discount Liquors in Perth Amboy, said he has begun to ration over a hundred items so more people will be able to enjoy them.
Santa Fe: A coalition of Native American communities has unveiled its proposal for redrawing the state’s political map to boost Indigenous voters’ influence in elections. The proposed changes from New Mexico’s 19 Native American pueblos and the Jicarilla Apache Nation, outlined Monday, would reshape a congressional swing district where Republicans regained control in 2020. They would also bolster Native American majorities among eligible voters in six state House and three Senate districts in northwestern New Mexico. The proposals were submitted to a committee that will provide recommendations to the Legislature at the end of October. The Democrat-led Legislature can draw its own lines. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham must approve the redistricting, and court challenges are possible. New Mexico is home to 23 federally recognized tribes, and the share of New Mexicans who identify themselves as Indigenous by race or by combined ancestry is 12.4%. Four Indigenous tribes have joined together for the first time to form a stronger voting bloc within one Senate district that might unite Acoma, Laguna, Isleta and Zuni pueblos. Other proposed changes would split the Mescalero Apache reservation between two congressional districts, in hopes of expanding that tribe’s voice in Congress.
New York: Four members of Congress from New York demanded the release of inmates and closure of New York City’s troubled Rikers Island jail complex after another inmate was reported dead at the facility. Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerry Nadler, Jamaal Bowman and Nydia Velazquez called conditions at the jail “deplorable and nothing short of a humanitarian crisis,” in a letter Tuesday to Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The demand followed the 11th death reported at Rikers Island this year. The city’s Department of Correction said an inmate died Sunday at the jail after reporting he did not feel well and was taken to the infirmary. His death came on the heels of both Hochul and de Blasio announcing plans to try to improve conditions at Rikers Island, where long-standing troubles were exacerbated amid the pandemic. The House members said the jail has failed to provide inmates with basic services and protection against the spread of COVID-19, and lawmakers on a recent visit to the facility found conditions that were “life-threatening and horrific.” They reported overflowing toilets and floors covered in dead cockroaches, feces and rotting food. State Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas said inmates told her they felt like they were being treated like slaves and animals.
Raleigh: People attending the 2021 N.C. State Fair won’t be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but it’s strongly encouraged, officials said. Also, those going to the fair, which begins Oct. 14, will be required to use clear plastic bags upon entering, and officials say there will be no indoor concerts at this year’s event – a decision they said has nothing to do with the pandemic. A statement from fair officials said any size or type of clear bag is acceptable. Wristlets, diaper bags and medical equipment bags will be accepted at the fair even if they are not clear, but they will require additional inspection. In addition, officials said there will be no concerts inside Dorton Arena. That room will be reserved for vendors. “Moving the vendors, displays and cheesemakers into Dorton Arena will offer a larger space to include more vendors and provide more space for consumers to sample featured products and shop for their favorites,” state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement.
Bismarck: The head of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is asking a federal agency overseeing the environmental review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline to cut ties with a contractor conducting the analysis, citing a conflict of interest. Chairman Mike Faith and other tribal leaders fighting the pipeline sent a letter Wednesday to a top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official, taking issue with Environmental Resources Management, the company doing the review, and its ties to the oil industry, the Bismarck Tribune reports. One of the tribes’ concerns is that the London-based company is a member of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group that lobbies for the oil industry and has submitted court briefs supporting Dakota Access. Meanwhile, the company that operates the Dakota Access pipeline has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appellate ruling ordering additional environmental review, saying it puts the line at risk of being shut down. Texas-based Energy Transfer operates the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline. Faith said in a statement that the request by the pipeline operator “is part of an ongoing attempt to “evade accountability.” The pipeline began operating in 2017, after being the subject of months of protests during its construction.
Dayton: The city plans to demolish the 129-year-old historic building that once was the site of the Wright brothers’ first bike shop because the building has deteriorated to a point where it can no longer be maintained and redeveloped. The shop was first built in 1892 to serve as the Wrights’ first bike shop. Soon thereafter, Gem City Ice Cream Co. bought the property and was housed there until it closed in 1975, when the building was sold to another company, the Dayton Daily News reports. Years after a wide array of owners, the city attempted to sell the rundown property to developers, but it failed inspection tests. The building was deemed structurally damaged and in danger of collapse. City officials also attempted to receive approval to bulldoze the property but did not move forward after hearing community concerns, Daytons Landmark Commission staff report said. But multiple inspections in 2019 concluded the building can’t be saved. City staff and nuisance abatement specialists said the building needs to be removed, the report said. This isn’t the first of the Wright brothers’ bike shops to be torn down in Ohio. Their second and third bike shops were torn down, but the fourth is a national historic site in the Wright Dunbar District, according to the newspaper.
Oklahoma City: Efforts to control feral swine eating their way across fields might seem as futile as trying to catch a greased pig – the hogs are known to destroy crops and land for farmers, who say the animals aren’t picky eaters and will consume just about anything they find growing. But an influx in federal dollars creating pilot eradication projects across broad areas of the state and a new pesticide introduced this month are making the fight just a little more fair for farmers, ranchers and regulators. The two feral swine control pilot projects, paid for by about $3.6 million in federal dollars allocated through the 2018 Farm Act, have combined tracking efforts with hunting and trapping activities across multiple counties in northern and southwestern Oklahoma to blunt swine activity in those areas. The manufacturer of the new pesticide, called HogStop, claims it can decrease the fertility of male swine and help cut rapid reproduction rates for the animal. It was approved for use by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry this month. Any and all tools to fight the infestation are welcome, as feral swine damage across the state has cost landowners hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Salem: A broken power-sharing deal, the lingering possibility of a Republican walkout and a COVID-19 case are adding greater uncertainty to whether legislators will successfully redraw the state’s political districts ahead of a tight deadline. Stakes are high as Oregon gained a new, sixth U.S. House seat following the latest census. Lawmakers were told the House would reconvene Wednesday following news Tuesday that someone in the building had tested positive for the coronavirus. But House Speaker Tina Kotek now says the chamber won’t convene until Saturday to give time for those potentially exposed to the virus to be tested and receive results. Democrats say their entire caucus in the House has been vaccinated. The number of vaccinated Republican lawmakers was not immediately available. When the House reconvenes Saturday, lawmakers will have just two days to vote on and pass new political boundaries. If congressional maps are not passed by Sept. 27, the task will fall to a panel of five retired judges appointed by the Oregon Supreme Court. House Republicans showed signs of a possible walkout this week after Kotek, a Democrat, rescinded a power-sharing deal to redraw political maps that she made with the House GOP as Republicans used delaying tactics to block bills during the 2021 legislative session.
Harrisburg: The state Supreme Court is saying yes to canines in the courtroom, under certain conditions. A trial witness may be accompanied by a “comfort dog” if the animal will help yield reliable, complete and truthful testimony, the justices ruled Wednesday in a precedent-setting opinion that established a “balancing test” for Pennsylvania judges confronted with such a request. Ruling unanimously in a murder case, the Supreme Court pointed to other states that allow witnesses to testify with the help of emotional support dogs. The justices said it’s permissible, as long as steps are taken to minimize any potential harm to a defendant. “Trial courts have the discretion to permit a witness to testify with the assistance of a comfort dog,” Chief Justice Max Baer wrote for the court. “In exercising that discretion, courts should balance the degree to which the accommodation will assist the witness in testifying in a truthful manner against any possible prejudice to the defendant’s right to a fair trial.” The defendant, Sheron Purnell, was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to up to 47 years in prison. Purnell’s lawyers argued a judge abused his discretion by allowing a comfort dog to accompany a teenage witness who testified against Purnell, with the defense saying that would “generate sympathy” among jurors for the girl.
Providence: Health officials are allowing a little leeway to a state mandate that requires health care workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 1. State Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott announced Tuesday that unvaccinated workers will be allowed to continue working beyond that date if their absence would jeopardize quality of care at a facility. “If there is a risk to quality of care and an unvaccinated worker must continue to work beyond October 1 to mitigate that risk, the employer has 30 days to ensure that role is fulfilled by a fully vaccinated health care worker,” she said in a statement. The change was made to “safeguard patients, residents, and staff by holding health professionals and facilities accountable to the October 1 vaccination requirement, while also preventing disruptions to care in Rhode Island as health care facilities work toward full compliance,” she said. According to the latest state survey, 87% of health care workers in Rhode Island are vaccinated. Many of the state’s nursing homes had expressed concern about the Oct. 1 deadline, saying it would put additional strain on facilities already struggling with staffing shortages.
Greenville: A tent has been pitched at Prisma Health’s Greer Memorial Hospital to provide additional triage and treatment space, according to a spokesperson for the health system. The 40-by-80-foot tent was erected over the weekend by the South Carolina State Guard but has not yet been activated to provide treatment, according to a statement from a representative of the health system. Prisma spokesperson Sandy Dees said the tent is part of efforts at Prisma emergency departments in the Upstate to “proactively ‘surge up’ and create additional space to treat patients as needed.” Prisma did not respond to a question about the occupancy of its hospital in Greer. “We’re here to take care of our communities and that means taking the necessary steps to ensure we’re ready when and if those additional resources are needed,” Dr. Matthew Bitner, chair of emergency medicine at Prisma Health in the Upstate, said in the statement. “From a traditional ‘all-hazards’ approach, we are preparing not only for COVID patients but also the everyday emergencies such as trauma, heart attack, strokes, illness and injuries.”
Sioux Falls: The nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization projects more children will go hungry in South Dakota this year and won’t know where their next meal is coming from. Feeding America said the state’s child food insecurity rate for 2021 will be 16.3%, up from 15.3% in 2019. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as reduced food intake, disruptive eating, and decreased quality and variety in diets. The USDA recently reported a national trend of increasing food insecurity, which rose to 14.8% in 2020. “I think it is really concerning,” said Lisa Davis, senior vice president of the No Kid Hungry campaign, a national initiative to end child hunger. “Children who face hunger generally have worse health impacts on their physical and brain development. … They don’t do well in school, they graduate at lower rates, and those consequences for kids literally last a lifetime.” Before the coronavirus pandemic, food insecurity was at its lowest rate since USDA started tracking it in the late 1990s. But the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on food access to households with young children, households of children headed by single women, and households of color, specifically Black and Hispanic, Davis said.
Nashville: State officials are asking the public to pick their favorite of four redesign options for new license plates that will be available starting in January. Gov. Bill Lee’s office said voting began Monday and runs through Sept. 27 at tn.gov/ratetheplates. The new design will replace the current plate that launched in 2006, with modifications in 2011, 2016 and 2017. State law includes a redesign every eight years if lawmakers approve funding for it. Tennessee law also requires the words “Tennessee,” “Volunteer State” and “TNvacation.com” to be on the plate, and it lets Tennesseans pick an “In God We Trust” option. The winning design of the primarily white and deep-blue options will be announced in the fall.
Austin: After serving as interim police chief for the capital city since March, Joseph Chacon was named Wednesday as the permanent choice for the top spot. City Manager Spencer Cronk announced the appointment of Chacon, whose career with Austin police has spanned more than 20 years, after a nationwide search for a new chief. Chacon has been interim police chief since the retirement of former Chief Brian Manley amid a reckoning over racial injustice and use of force in law enforcement. Chacon, who served as assistant chief in Austin for almost five years before being named interim chief, said he was “extremely excited and humbled” by the opportunity. Chacon’s appointment must still be confirmed by the City Council, which is set to place an item on the appointment on next week’s agenda. Manley, chosen to lead the department in 2018, had been at the center of ongoing criticism following a fatal police shooting in April 2020 of a man driving away from officers and controversial uses of force by officers during protests over the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis in May 2020.
Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that masks will be required inside temples to limit the spread of COVID-19. Church leaders said in a statement that masks will be required temporarily in an effort to keep temples open. The message was the latest in a series of statements from church leaders encouraging masking and vaccination efforts against COVID-19. “As cases of COVID-19 increase in many areas, we want to do everything possible to allow temples to remain open,” the church said in a statement. “Therefore, effective immediately, all temple patrons and workers are asked to wear face masks at all times while in the temple.” In Utah, where the church is based, a summer surge of the coronavirus among unvaccinated residents has continued to grow, while vaccination rates have slightly increased. Data from the Utah Health Department showed that in the past 28 days, state residents who are unvaccinated have been 5.9 times more likely to die from COVID-19 and 7.2 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are vaccinated. About 64% of Utah residents ages 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, state data shows. Utah reported 25 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 2,829.
Montpelier: The Vermont State Police has its first director of mental health programs to help coordinate and oversee the delivery of mental health services to people who come into contact with state police, officials said. Mourning Fox, who was deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Mental Health for the past four years and has more than 25 years of experience in the field, was named to the position, the Department of Public Safety and state police announced. “This is a crucial position within the Department of Public Safety and for the Vermont public safety community as we pursue short-, medium- and long-term goals with respect to mental health response and reimagining policing and safety services,” DPS Commissioner Michael Schirling said in a statement. Fox, who joined the department Aug. 30, will work with the state police’s 10 barracks and the Department of Mental Health to complete hiring. He will also ensure that each field station has at least one embedded mental health crisis specialist and that training is consistent, officials said. In the long term, he’ll help the Public Safety Department reimagine how police provide services to people who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis or have other unmet social service needs, officials said.
Richmond: A year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, the Virginia Employment Commission is still swamped with backlogged claims, its call centers are underperforming, and serious staffing problems persist, according to a scathing interim report the state’s legislative watchdog agency presented to lawmakers Monday. The agency’s staff undertook its review after the employment commission came under harsh scrutiny from lawmakers and the public for what by some measures is a worst-in-the-nation response to the surge in jobless claims. Thousands of Virginians have faced lengthy delays while waiting for benefits, and many have been unable to reach anyone for help or information about their case. “While operating in the extremely challenging public health environment created by COVID was understandably difficult … meaningful actions could have been taken sooner to respond to the public’s needs,” said Hal Greer, director of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s secretary of labor, Megan Healy, oversees the employment commission and defended its performance. Although she agreed the agency was not prepared for the pandemic, she argued to lawmakers that the root of the problem was a complicated federal funding formula that has long left the agency starved for resources.
Seattle: Three new buildings with 165 studio apartments that were supposed to be rented at market rates will instead house people leaving homelessness and people at risk of becoming homeless. The nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute will buy the buildings on Capitol Hill for about $50 million, with city and state housing programs sharing the cost equally, The Seattle Times reports. Seattle is using federal COVID-19 relief funds for its part, Mayor Jenny Durkan said. Two of the buildings will be managed by LIHI for adults. The third will be managed by YouthCare for young adults. Each will have a live-in case worker, said Sharon Lee, LIHI’s executive director. The deals will house people quickly and cheaply, relative to the time and cost required to develop low-income projects from scratch, Durkan said. The three buildings should be occupied by the end of the year, according to the city. “This is the fastest we have ever brought housing online,” Lee said. Tent encampments in parks and greenbelts have grown in Seattle during the coronavirus pandemic partly because the city has lacked shelter and housing spots, Durkan said. LIHI will move people into the buildings from tiny house villages it manages for the city, which should open more of those houses for people living on the streets, Lee said.
Lewisburg: Gov. Jim Justice has withdrawn from consideration as the coach of a boys basketball team at a high school where he already is the girls coach and where he’d already faced rejection for the job. In a letter to the Greenbrier Board of Education on Tuesday, Justice asked that a boys coach be named soon at Greenbrier East High School, with practices for the 2021-22 season starting in a month. Last month the board rejected a motion to hire Justice as boys coach. The board is looking to replace former NBA player Bimbo Coles, who resigned in July. “We need to move forward,” Justice said. “Pick a coach. The kids deserve that, and I wish them all the success.” Justice served as the boys coach from 2010 to 2017, his first year as governor. He has coached the girls team since 2000, winning a state championship in 2012. Justice’s second term as governor runs through 2024.
Madison: Workers reinstalled two statues Tuesday on the state Capitol grounds that protesters ripped down during a demonstration last year in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Workers reinstalled a 9-foot-6-inch statue of Wisconsin abolitionist Col. Hans Christian Heg as well as a 7-foot statue of a woman symbolizing the state’s “Forward” motto. The statues have no associated racist history, but protesters said they represented a false narrative that Wisconsin supports Black people and racial equity. Demonstrators toppled both statues in June 2020, breaking off Heg’s leg and head. The “Forward” statue was dented and one of its fingers broken off. The demonstration was among several that shook downtown Madison in the days after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Floyd, who was Black and handcuffed, died after white police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Heg, a Norwegian immigrant who became an outspoken abolitionist, served in the 15th Wisconsin Regiment during the Civil War. He was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863. His statue, funded by the Norwegian Society of America, had stood outside the Capitol since 1926. The “Forward” statue was a bronze replica of the one that represented Wisconsin at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Yellowstone National Park: Rescue crews recovered the body of a 67-year-old man and searched around a lake Tuesday for his half-brother after the pair failed to return from a backcountry canoe trip. A 10-person ground crew was walking the shoreline of Shoshone Lake looking for Kim Crumbo, a 74-year-old former Navy SEAL from Ogden, Utah, Yellowstone officials said. A helicopter from nearby Grand Teton National Park was helping in the effort. Rescuers found the body of Mark O’Neill of Chimacum, Washington, on Monday along the eastern shore, where a canoe, paddle, flotation device and other items were found Sunday. A vacant campsite was found on the south side of the lake. A family member reported the two experienced boaters and former National Park Service employees overdue from their four-night trip Sunday. Shoshone Lake covers 13 square miles and has an average temperature of about 48 degrees Fahrenheit, with survival time estimated to be only 20 to 30 minutes in such cold water, officials said. The lake also can be subject to high winds and sudden storms. Drowning is one of the top causes of death in Yellowstone, behind car and snowmobile accidents and illness, park historian Lee Whittlesey wrote in his book “Death in Yellowstone.”
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nuns donate home, canines in court: News from around our 50 states