Robot hostesses, veggie booze, ‘civil death’: News from around our 50 states
Prattville: A sheriff says jail inmates were caught making some truly “disgusting” alcohol out of fermenting vegetables. News outlets report it turned up when dozens of officers conducted a shakedown for contraband Monday at the Autauga Metro Jail. Autauga County Sheriff Joe Sedinger says it was the first time he’d seen vegetables being used to make alcohol. He says the jail stopped serving inmates fruit years ago because they made wine with it. Sedinger says searchers also found an electronic cigarette altered to be used as a tattoo gun, as well as dice fashioned from the plastic ball that’s in bottles of roll on deodorant. The sheriff says inmates won’t be punished for the contraband. He just wants to remind them that he’s watching the jail closely.
Anchorage: Wildlife officials and residents of a remote island are cheering the death of a wild rat. A Norway rat that likely was carried by ship was spotted last year on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. The Anchorage Daily News reports the island is an internationally known breeding habitat for millions of birds that lay eggs on rocks and tundra. Wildlife officials say an infestation of rats could devastate the bird population. A local wildlife conservation agency and federal officials assembled a team that set up baited rat traps. The rat avoided capture for 10 months but was found dead Sunday by a visiting bird watcher. Monitoring for other rats will continue.
Phoenix: Six itsy-bitsy black-footed ferrets have been born through the Phoenix Zoo’s recovery program. The litter from first-time mom Mandolin arrived two weeks ago. Mandolin will care for them for the next few months at the zoo, which has one of only six breeding facilities in the world for this particular endangered species. In the fall, specialists will determine which of the ferret babies – known as kits – will go to breeding facilities to become future parents and which will be released into the wild. Kits from this litter that are ultimately released will first go to the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado to prepare them for survival in the wild. Over 400 black-footed ferrets have been born at the Phoenix Zoo under the recovery program.
Little Rock: Finance officials say the state has ended the fiscal year with a $295 million budget surplus, nearly $74 million of which will go toward highway needs. The Department of Finance and Administration said Tuesday that the state’s net available revenue collection for the fiscal year totaled $5.9 billion, $426.5 million higher than the previous year and $231.2 million above forecast. Arkansas already had a $64 million surplus that was included in the state’s budget. The fiscal year ended Sunday. Twenty-five percent of the surplus will be transferred to the state Department of Transportation, while the rest will go toward reserve funds for other needs. The department says the state ended the year above forecast because of high growth in individual and corporate income tax collections.
Los Angeles: A gigantic mansion built in 1991 for the late producer Aaron Spelling and his widow has been sold for $119.75 million. The Los Angeles Times says the sale that closed Tuesday is the highest home price ever in Los Angeles County. Set on 4.7 acres in Holmby Hills, the 56,600-square-foot chateau is the largest home in the city. The unidentified buyer was represented by a Beverly Hills real estate firm. Spelling produced such TV series as “Charlie’s Angels,” “Dynasty,” “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place.” After his death in 2006, his widow, Candy, sold the mansion for $85 million to Petra Ecclestone, daughter of Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone. She made modifications, and the home now has 123 rooms, including 14 bedrooms and 27 bathrooms.
Steamboat Springs: Wildlife researchers say an elk traveled more than 250 miles across the state to give birth. The Steamboat Pilot and Today reports Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials placed a collar on the elk cow known as R190 near the town of Maybell in late March. Officials tracked the elk as she zigzagged east and crossed the Continental Divide. She gave birth last month in North Park, a large mountain valley in north-central Colorado. State wildlife researcher Nathaniel Rayl says the distance the elk traveled was significant, but elk don’t really have average migration distance. They may travel great distances one year but stay put the next. The elk was equipped with a GPS collar as part of a study tracking the survival of elk calves.
Stafford Springs: A recently reopened mill in the state is helping the military bring back old-school Army uniforms by providing the high-quality woolen fabric used in their manufacture. American Woolen Company Inc. in Stafford Springs is gearing up to provide high-end wool to make the Army green uniforms that will be worn by soldiers and officers and that echo similar outfits worn by the military more than a half-century ago. Jacob Harrison Long, chief executive officer of the company, says the idea of the new uniform is to boost morale by harkening back to a time when military men and women were “very well-dressed.” Long said he bought the 19th-century mill in 2014 after the previous owner closed down and has hired back many of the previous owner’s workers.
Newark: At the Robot Captain Crabs Cajun Seafood & Bar, new hostess Charlotte seems eager to show customers to their seats. “Please follow me to the table,” she says in a polite, girlish voice. Dressed in a purple uniform with a hat that looks like one worn by an old-fashioned bellhop, Charlotte waits until patrons are seated to say their server will be with them shortly, and she hopes they enjoy their meal. If someone bumps into her, Charlotte says “excuse me” and rolls out of their way. Charlotte, who seems like the perfect employee, is a robot, one of five now “working” at the new restaurant near Newark, where futuristic sci-fi meets rustic seafood. Owner Guang Chen says he believes the establishment could be one of the first in the nation to use robot servers and hosts. Though humans also greet customers and take orders, there are two “hostesses” and three “food runners” that can spin in circles and “talk” to customers.
District of Columbia
Washington: City officials are pushing back against an unsubstantiated claim by President Donald Trump that he orchestrated a purge of homeless people there to shield visiting foreign dignitaries from having to see them. The claim was among a series of falsehoods leveled by Trump in recent days as he has seized on the homeless epidemic. He has also claimed, wrongly, that homelessness is a novel issue and suggested that local officials have deliberately exacerbated the problem for political gain. “It’s a phenomena that started two years ago. It’s disgraceful,” Trump told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He then suggested he had done something to end homelessness in Washington, even though thousands still sleep on the streets of the nation’s capital and in its shelters, a claim that left D.C. officials baffled.
Miami Shores: A Miami-area couple whose front-yard vegetable garden prompted a six-year legal battle with their village has held a ceremonial replanting of veggies under a new law legalizing such gardens statewide. Hermine Ricketts and husband Tom Carroll planted jalapenos, green bell peppers and other vegetables this week when the bill went into effect. Miami Shores previously made such front-yard gardens punishable by a daily fine of $50 on grounds they were unsightly and violated zoning codes. Miami Shores told Ricketts to remove her garden in 2013, prompting their lengthy lawsuit. An appeals court backed the village, but then the Legislature stepped in to legalize the gardens. Republican state Sen. Rob Bradley sponsored the bill.
Atlanta: The case of whether hackers may have tampered with elections in Georgia has taken another strange turn. Nearly two years ago, state lawyers in a closely watched election integrity lawsuit told the judge they intended to subpoena the FBI for the forensic image, or digital snapshot, the agency made of a crucial server before state election officials quietly wiped it clean. Election watchdogs want to examine the data to see if there might have been tampering, given that the server was left exposed by a gaping security hole for more than half a year. A new email obtained by the Associated Press says state officials never did issue the subpoena, even though the judge had ordered that evidence be preserved, including from the FBI. The FBI data is central to activists’ challenge to Georgia’s highly questioned, centrally administered elections system, which lacks an auditable paper trail and was run at the time by Gov. Brian Kemp, then Georgia’s secretary of state.
Lihue: Officials say the state’s last remaining native lowland bog is thriving again following a more than decadelong restoration effort. The Garden Island reports conservation groups have worked to restore native plants to the Kanaele Bog on Kauai after it became overrun with nonnative weeds and feral pigs. The Nature Conservancy signed a management agreement in 2003 and built a fence around 58 acres to keep out the pigs. They then pulled tens of thousands of weeds. The conservancy’s director of the Kauai forest program, Melissa Fisher, says the bog now has 95% plant coverage with 97% native plants. The bog is home to unique flowering plants, native grasses and sedges, as well as Hawaii’s only carnivorous plant – the mikinalo.
Boise: Federal officials are revising a 1999 plan as part of a strategy to recover endangered white sturgeon in the Kootenai River in northern Idaho and western Montana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comments through July 29 on the draft recovery plan revisions released last week. The document reflects advancements in understanding of white sturgeon and changes that have taken place over the past two decades to help the fish rebound. Sturgeon have been around since the dinosaurs. They have armorlike scales and in the Kootenai River system have been recorded up to 10 feet long. But the population has struggled since the completion of Libby Dam in Montana in 1974, which altered the natural cycle of the river.
Springfield: The state saw an eighth straight year of record tourism growth in 2018, attracting more than 117 million visitors in 2018. U.S. Travel Association numbers released by the state this week show visitors to Illinois spent $41.7 billion over the previous year. That’s a more than 5% increase in visitor spending over 2017. Tourism generated $3.3 billion in state and local tax revenue, a more than 7% jump. Tourism was a boon jobs-wise too. The state says travel and tourism support more than 342,000 jobs last year. That’s up 5,200 jobs from 2017. The Illinois Office of Tourism credits the record numbers to successful marketing efforts. Gov. J.B. Pritzker called tourism “an integral part of our state’s economy.”
Indianapolis: State wildlife officials say an Asian carp species that poses a serious threat to mussel populations is advancing closer to the state’s waterways. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says two black carp were captured last month in the Ohio River about 10 miles downstream of Indiana’s state line. Black carp feed on mollusks. They pose a serious threat to Indiana’s native mussel species, many of which are listed as endangered or of special concern. Black carp are native to Asia. They’ve been moving throughout the Mississippi River basin since escaping from captivity decades ago. The DNR asks anyone who catches a suspected black carp to keep it, note its location, cool it on ice once it’s dead and report it to the DNR by calling 1-866-663-9684.
Newton: Biofuel plants in the state are adding milkweed and other native plants to their properties so monarch butterflies can fuel up during the annual migration. WHO-TV reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the monarch butterfly could warrant protection if something isn’t done to boost its population. That’s why the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association started its project called the “Monarch Fueling Station” in December 2018. The Renewable Energy Group plant situated on the northeast side of Newton is one of the latest ethanol and biodiesel plants to join the cause. “It’s a little bit of work to begin with, and it’s a small amount of maintenance,” plant manager Phil Abels says. But “the value that will be received goes way beyond any effort.”
Wichita: Drivers can no longer be charged with a crime for refusing a field sobriety test under a new state law. The Wichita Eagle reports that a change in state law that took effect Monday means police can’t ticket suspected drivers for not taking one. But refusal to comply comes with a yearlong license suspension, as long as the longest suspension for failing a breathalyzer or blood test. Drivers who refuse to be tested can still be prosecuted for a DUI based on other evidence. The decision to strike the law making it a separate violation comes amid court rulings on whether motorists driving on streets and highways give implied consent to sobriety tests.
Frankfort: A fire destroyed a massive Jim Beam warehouse filled with about 45,000 barrels of aging bourbon, sparking worries that runoff whiskey seeping into nearby waterways could kill fish. Firefighters from four counties responded to the blaze that erupted late Tuesday. It sent flames shooting into the night sky and generated so much heat that firetruck lights melted. The warehouse was a total loss. Looking to reassure consumers of Jim Beam bourbon, Beam Suntory indicated it amounted to a drop of the iconic brand’s total aging inventory. No injuries were reported, Woodford County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler said. The fire was contained but was allowed to burn until midday Wednesday, he said. State officials warned recreational users on the Kentucky River that runoff would result in water discoloration, foaming and an odor.
New Orleans: State wildlife officials are upping the price they’ll pay hunters who catch a large aquatic rodent known for harming marsh ecosystems. Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has increased the bounty from $5 to $6 after fewer nutrias have been caught than in the past. Nutrias are webbed-toed, buck-toothed rodents that are in between the size of muskrats and beavers. They’re known for nibbling on tree roots and causing erosion and damage to marshes. The Times Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reports this damage has been increasing in recent years and affecting southeastern Louisiana most. Officials hope the greater sum will encourage more hunters to kill nutrias during the 2019-20 season. All they have to do to cash in is bring in the tails as proof.
Harpswell: Some parts of the state are finding relief from a rash-causing species of moth because of the cool and rainy spring. The browntail moth’s caterpillar is an invasive nuisance that causes itchy rashes and respiratory problems. But the Portland Press Herald reports damp weather in the late spring helped spur the spread of a fungus that kills the caterpillars. Scientists predicted earlier in spring that browntail moths would be especially bad this year. But the Maine Forest Service said Tuesday that field surveys have shown collapses of the pest due to the fungus. Such collapses have happened in communities including Arrowsic, Camden, Harpswell and Turner. The caterpillar’s high season is usually mid-May through June.
Salisbury: A local minister is a top finalist in a nationally recognized singing competition. Joshua Copeland, 37, a praise and worship leader and minister at United Faith Churches of Deliverance, joins 19 other talents from across the nation and world on BET’s gospel-themed show, “Sunday Best.” Joshua is also the son of Bishop George Copeland. The premier of the show’s ninth season Sunday marked its return to television following a four-year hiatus. In a recorded interview, Copeland opened up about his experience growing up as a pastor’s son and being bullied in school because of his weight. “Being a PK has its challenges. Everybody feels like a pastor’s kid can do no wrong. He’s supposed to be the perfect kid. I talked to my parents a lot about it, and they always tell us, ‘We’re not perfect, so we’re not expecting you to be perfect, but we’re going to strive to do what God calls us to do,’ ” he said.
Aquinnah: The Martha’s Vineyard estate of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is on the market for $65 million. Red Gate Farm in Aquinnah was a sheep farm and hunting cabin when Kennedy Onassis bought it in 1979. She added a more than 6,000-square-foot, five-bedroom main residence and a two-story, four-bedroom guest house. The estate, which includes more than a mile of private beachfront, also has several other buildings. The property is listed by Christie’s International Real Estate. It has been maintained by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of Kennedy Onassis and President John F. Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy said in a statement that the estate was a perfect expression of her mother’s “romantic and adventurous spirit,” and she hopes that “a new family will treasure this place as we have for three generations.”
Detroit: Contemporary Motown artist Ne-Yo will join the Temptations, Martha Reeves and others from the label’s classic era during a concert marking the 60th anniversary of the recording company. The Motown Museum has set Sept. 22 for Hitsville Honors: Celebrating Berry Gordy & 60 Years of Motown, at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall. Others performing as part of the tribute to the company and its founder include the Four Tops, Mary Wilson, Big Sean and Kem. The concert is part of a three-day celebration dubbed Motown 60 Weekend. Other events include the Motown Gospel Concert on Sept. 21. The label paved a way for the Motown Museum to be built in Detroit. It was the first headquarters where Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Miracles and others recorded before Motown decamped to California in 1972.
St. Paul: Norie, a 2-year-old golden retriever, is the newest staffer at the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. She’s the latest in more than 200 so-called courthouse dogs around the country that are being used to help take some of the stress out of the place and help people work through the legal system. Tami McConkey, director of the victim witness and community services division for the prosecutor’s office, tells Minnesota Public Radio News that dogs help calm people down and help give them confidence to report what happened. Norie is believed to be the first courthouse dog in the state. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi says prosecutors and others understand the justice system can add to the trauma of crime. He says Norie may help ease that burden.
Jackson: A federal lawsuit says the state is violating free-speech rights by banning makers of plant-based foods from using terms such as “meatless meatballs” and “vegan bacon.” The lawsuit was filed this week by the Plant Based Foods Association and the Illinois-based Upton’s Naturals Co., which makes vegan products and sells them in many states, including Mississippi. It was filed the same day the Magnolia State enacted a new law that bans plant-based products from being labeled as meat. A similar lawsuit was filed in Missouri last year by the Oregon-based Tofurky Co., which makes vegetarian food products, and The Good Food Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for alternatives to meat. A Missouri law made it a misdemeanor to label plant-based products as meat. Meat producers have been pushing to protect meat terminology.
Kansas City: The Kansas City Public Library has forgiven $250,000 in overdue fines and will no longer charge late fees on any materials. The Kansas City Star reports that the changes were announced last Friday at the library’s southeast branch. Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas said the decision was made to give more people access to the city’s libraries. About 9,000 patrons with suspended library cards will regain access to library resources. Library director Crosby Kemper III says the fee change will increase children’s use of the library system. More than 450 libraries in the U.S. have done away with fines, but Kemper says the Kansas City Public Library is the first major library in the region to do so.
Bozeman: A nonprofit foundation that raises money for projects in Yellowstone National Park has about $4.35 million in debt. John Walda, interim CEO of Yellowstone Forever, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle the organization made faulty revenue projections when it was formed by combining the Yellowstone Association and the Yellowstone Park Foundation in 2016. Yellowstone Forever invested in staff, buildings and technology based on the inaccurate projections. Yellowstone Forever has provided $18 million to the park for projects but will reduce its cash support and hold some jobs open as it works to get back on better financial footing. There have been layoffs, and several employees have resigned, including CEO Heather White last month.
Beatrice: A biodiesel plant is ceasing production in this southeast Nebraska city. Flint Hills Resources announced this week that the Duonix Beatrice plant is being idled indefinitely. The Beatrice Daily Sun reports the plant processes corn oil and greases into biodiesel. The prices of soybeans used by most other biodiesel producers are so low that the Duonix plant was put at a competitive disadvantage. Flint Hills does not expect those conditions to change. Duonix Beatrice began operation in 2016 and is a joint venture of Flint Hills Resources and Benefuel Inc. The plant was built in 2008 but wasn’t finished and never operated until purchased and refitted for biodiesel production. Officials say severance packages will be offered to the fewer than 40 plant employees.
Las Vegas: Nevada Highway Patrol says passengers must be alive in order to be counted as occupants in cars using the high-occupancy vehicle lane. The reminder was prompted by a traffic stop Monday involving a hearse traveling on the carpool lane on Interstate 15 in Las Vegas. A trooper pulled over the hearse that was transporting a dead body. The agency says the hearse driver assumed the body in the back counted toward the requirement of two or more occupants for the lane. The trooper let the driver off with a warning and advised him to move out of the lane. The agency says only living, breathing people can be counted for the HOV lane.
New Durham: Partnership efforts have resulted in the preservation of 2,000 acres overlooking Merrymeeting Lake as a community forest. The Birch Ridge Community Forest in New Durham rises over the lake with views of Mount Molly and Mount Bet. It filters clean water to the lake and Coldrain Pond. The forest offers 13 miles of trails for hikers, cross-country skiers, hunters and birders. And it offers critical habitat for wide-ranging species such as moose, bear, deer and bobcat. The forest’s protection was helped by donations from community members and the town; grants from the U.S. Forest Service and New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program; and the state Department of Environmental Services. A community event celebrating the conservation is planned for July 13.
East Rutherford: Officials have finally set an opening date for a massive retail and entertainment center in the Meadowlands. The long-delayed American Dream project will open Oct. 25. The announcement was made Wednesday by its developer, Triple Five. American Dream will feature 3 million square feet of retail, dining and entertainment, including more than 450 stores and restaurants. The project includes an amusement park, an indoor ski slope, an indoor ice skating rink, an indoor water park and more. The project has been plagued by financial problems since the first contract was awarded in 2003. The immense structure, once called “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey” by former Gov. Chris Christie, has sat unfinished between MetLife Stadium and the New Jersey Turnpike for years.
Albuquerque: State health officials are predicting one of the worst mosquito seasons in decades thanks to wetter weather earlier this year. KOB-TV reports health officials believe the mosquito population and the threat of West Nile virus are on the rise as monsoon season approaches. Mark DiMenna of the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department says the city is preparing for a bad mosquito season, the likes of which they haven’t seen in 15 years. Standing water along arroyos, ditches, wetlands and even the side of the road is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. New Mexico’s largest city uses larval control through water management and source reduction and with the use of environmentally friendly, EPA-approved chemicals.
Vernon: A key local official says hosting the Woodstock 50 anniversary festival on short notice “could pose a significant challenge.” A mass gathering permit application for the Vernon Downs harness track and casino in central New York was recently filed after operators of the original festival site pulled out last month. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente released a statement Tuesday noting the challenge of preparing for the health and safety of residents and concertgoers with the event just over a month away. The Woodstock festival has faced a series of setbacks, including the losses of a financial partner, a production company and its original site. Vernon Downs has said it can host up to 65,000 people, far fewer than the 150,000 planned for Watkins Glen International.
Raleigh: Vehicle owners now have another option from which to choose when it comes to the state’s regularly priced license plate. The Division of Motor Vehicles began offering a third standard plate this week. Previously motorists could choose between the “First in Flight” background or the “First in Freedom” theme, which refers to pre-Revolutionary War events. Now they can pick a plate with the national motto “In God We Trust” at the top and the state motto “To Be Rather Than to Seem” near the bottom. A 2018 law directed that the DMV create the new option. The agency says current vehicle owners can request the new plate at no additional charge when they renew their car registration. They’ll pay a standard charge if it’s requested at another time.
Jamestown: The National Buffalo Museum says the herd’s white bull bison has died from injuries suffered in an accidental fall into a ravine. Dakota Miracle was 13 years old. The museum says the bison’s health was compromised due to a genetic condition resulting in lack of pigmentation. That caused Dakota Miracle to have poor eyesight, a factor believed to have led to his fall. NewsDakota reports museum board president Don Williams and executive director Ilana Xinos found Dakota Miracle deceased during a routine herd and pasture inspection. Dakota Miracle was the son of White Cloud, an albino bison that lived with the museum’s herd for almost two decades. The National Buffalo Museum’s mission is to educate the public on the cultural and historical significance of the American bison.
Columbus: If your summer plans involve traveling through the Buckeye State, and you’re still a fan of paper maps, it’s time you met Bruce Hull. He’s been injecting visual flair, handy information and a hidden bit of his own family history into Ohio’s road maps for almost two decades. Hull’s artistry has appeared on millions of maps helping drivers navigate the state, which has the nation’s fourth-busiest highway system. As a layout design artist with the Ohio Department of Transportation since 1989, Hull has creative control over the map’s look and feel. One year, his design resembled the front of a refrigerator packed with photos of Ohio attractions. He always works to make featured venues reflect the diversity of the state’s racial and ethnic groups; its rural, urban and natural landscapes; and its cultural and recreational offerings.
Oklahoma City: The state’s Medicaid agency is warning its SoonerCare members to keep current their address on file with the agency or risk losing their health care benefits. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority sent out a public reminder Wednesday of the new rule that was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt last week. The agency says it intends to launch outreach efforts through social media and through outbound phone calls to SoonerCare recipients after hours and on weekends. Agency officials say the new rule is needed to comply with federal guidelines. But advocates for the poor have criticized the policy, saying low-income people move more frequently, and many members will be wrongfully cut from the programs. About 20% of Oklahoma’s population, more than two-thirds of them children, is enrolled in Medicaid.
Salem: Despite broad support, a measure that would put the state’s controversial jury system before voters died in the Oregon Senate during the final days of the 2019 legislative session. Oregon is the only state in the country that allows for convictions via non-unanimous juries in criminal felony cases. House Joint Resolution 10 would have put before voters on the November 2020 ballot a proposed change to the Oregon Constitution. If passed, it would have mandated that criminal jury verdicts be unanimous, as is the case with the federal government and all other 49 states. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that with the measure dead, the state’s legal community turns to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will take up non-unanimous juries during its next term.
Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf has signed legislation that his office says clarifies the options for whom school districts and private schools can hire as armed security guards, although Wolf’s administration says it bars districts from allowing teachers to be armed. The bill also expands training requirements for armed school officers. It says schools can hire armed security guards on contract, as long as they meet certain certification standards. It also expands the definition of a school officer to include a county sheriff or deputy sheriff. Wolf’s office says schools were already employing both. In a statement, Wolf says teachers cannot be considered security personnel and aren’t authorized to be armed in schools under any law in Pennsylvania. Most Democratic lawmakers opposed the bill, saying allowing more guns into school won’t solve school shootings.
Providence: The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the constitutionality of a state statute that punishes inmates serving life in prison with “civil death.” The ACLU’s Rhode Island chapter filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of two inmates. A spokeswoman for the Rhode Island attorney general says the office is reviewing it and can’t comment on pending litigation. Rhode Island is one of the few places where inmates serving life in prison are deemed dead, by state statute, with respect to property rights, marriage and other civil rights, as if their natural death took place when they were convicted. Most civil death laws in the United States have been repealed or successfully challenged in court. Most countries never adopted the practice. Rhode Island’s statute from 1909 is still enforced.
Greenville: The Greenville Zoo’s newest giraffe has arrived. Autumn, a female Masai giraffe, went into labor Sunday night and gave birth just before 10:30 p.m., according to a release from the city. The giraffe was up and walking within an hour and nursing soon after, according to the release. The calf is a 6-foot-1-inch male weighing 165 pounds, the release says. The calf is expected to access the giraffe exhibit Wednesday with his mom. Kiden, the baby’s sister, will be allowed to join Autumn and the calf Thursday. Miles, the giraffe’s father, is separated from the family so the baby can bond with Autumn without interruption, according to the release.
Pierre: A new state law effective this week eliminates the need for a permit to carry a concealed pistol. South Dakota is the 14th state to enact such a law for both residents and visitors. Pennington County Capt. Marty Graves tells KOTA-TV he thinks it’s a good thing for gun owners. Graves says it will lighten the work load for his office because it will no longer issue the permits and collect the fees. Before the new law took effect this week, people could be charged with a misdemeanor if they carried a concealed pistol or had one concealed in a vehicle without a permit.
Nashville: The Tennessee State Library & Archives has launched a digital project that uses pension records to map out where soldiers lived before and after the Revolutionary War. State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill announced the Patriot Paths online initiative at the National Genealogical Society’s recent annual convention. It helps researchers study migration patterns of soldiers born in the colonies and Europe who ultimately traveled to Tennessee. About 2,000 pension files exist for the thousands of veterans who came to Tennessee after the war. Most soldiers weren’t eligible for pensions until they were in their 80s, so it’s a smaller subset of those who served. Library workers used the records to find dates and places where soldiers were born, married, enlisted and died. The information was coordinated with GIS mapping.
Houston: A new law legalizing hemp in the state is creating problems for authorities that will likely cost millions of dollars to fix and has temporarily stopped the prosecution of some misdemeanor cases involving marijuana, hemp’s plant cousin. After the 2018 federal Farm Bill made hemp legal in the U.S., states like Texas passed legislation allowing farmers to grow it. Texas’ new law provides a specific definition of marijuana, based on its percentage of THC, the compound that gets users high. But before the new law, Texas authorities only needed to show the presence of THC in suspected marijuana. Officials say most Texas crime labs can’t test for exact amounts of THC. District attorneys in at least four Texas counties say they’ll stop accepting misdemeanor marijuana cases until the problem is fixed.
Orem: Several environmental groups are working together to shut down unauthorized trails and formalize new ones near a wildlife area in northern Utah. The Daily Herald reports dozens of volunteers gathered June 29 at the Timpanogos Wildlife Management Area in Orem to begin rehabilitating parts that have become overrun by unauthorized bike trails in recent years. Biologists have said urban development threatens habitats in the area used by deer and elk. Volunteers closed off switchbacks, broke up the soil to help vegetation grow and placed new signs directing people to designated paths. Some volunteers said they want the area to be sustainable for wildlife and trail users. The project is expected to take at least a year and will reduce total trail mileage from approximately 40 miles to 20.
Montpelier: The Vermont State Colleges System is planning for its future as it faces reduced enrollment, underfunding and other challenges and as a number of private schools go out of business. The Rutland Herald reports that a long-range planning committee is hoping to find solutions. It’s part of a project to keep the state colleges – made up of Castleton University, Community College of Vermont, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College – thriving and relevant. The office of Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Jeb Spaulding released a report earlier this month that looked at reduction of population, the low amount of state funding, and the rise of large universities offering remote education at a lower cost, among other challenges.
Upperville: Three new historical markers aim to remember the philanthropic efforts of Paul Mellon. Paul Mellon was heir to the financial and industrial fortune of his father, Andrew W. Mellon. He supported universities, civic improvement projects, conservation efforts and fine-arts institutions. The markers issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources were set to be dedicated Thursday in Upperville. One marker highlights Paul Mellon’s life and philanthropy. Another highlights Rokeby Stables, where Mellon bred and raised champion racehorses in Fauquier County. Mellon died in 1999. A third marker highlights the work of his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Conover Mellon, whose interests led to the founding of the Bollingen Foundation and publication of the writings of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in English.
Seattle: The City Council has voted unanimously to enable the construction of more and bigger backyard cottages in all neighborhoods while removing requirements that property owners live on site and provide off-street parking. The Seattle Times reports Councilmember Mike O’Brien and other proponents touted the new rules for accessory units passed Monday as a gentle and environmentally sustainable way to add living options in response to the city’s population growth. They say it will open up pricey neighborhoods. Proponents included urbanists, labor unions, homebuilders and the AARP. Critics of the new rules, led by the Queen Anne Community Council, warned about the changes allowing developers to replace modest older houses with up to three rental units. They say the plan would make Seattle’s low-density blocks less desirable.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice says the state collected more revenue growth this fiscal year than any other year in state history. The Republican governor announced in a news release Tuesday that general revenue growth hit $511 million in the fiscal year that ended Sunday. He says the figure is due to the state taking in high amounts of consumer sales, personal income, corporate net income and severance taxes. Growth in oil and natural gas sales, as well as “enhanced construction industry activities,” contributed to the total. Justice says last fiscal year’s revenue growth is one-and-a-half times the combined growth for fiscal years 2007 to 2017.
Madison: Scientists with the state Department of Natural Resources are searching for sick snakes. Agency biologists are looking for snakes infected with snake fungal disease. SFD has the potential to devastate snake populations because it prevents snakes from effectively feeding and drinking and causes extended basking periods, leaving snakes more vulnerable to predators. The disease has been confirmed in Buffalo, Crawford, Dane, Grant, La Crosse, Outagamie, Sauk and Trempeleau counties since 2011. DNR biologists are literally turning over rocks and logs in an effort to find infected snakes and put together a more complete map of confirmed cases. DNR officials are encouraging anyone who sees a wild snake to send photos to the agency and report any snakes with unusual lumps, lesions or scabs.
Cheyenne: The state’s first-quarter economic report shows a modest recovery, but the news came out just a day after the unexpected closure of two coal mines in Campbell County put nearly 600 people out of work. Chief economist Wenlin Liu said Tuesday that the state gained 4,400 jobs from January through March, but a lot of them are related to construction of oil and gas pipelines and wind energy projects and are therefore temporary. Liu says miners who lost their jobs with the closure of the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines are entering a job market in need of workers, but the jobs don’t pay as well. The Gillette News Record reports a bankruptcy judge on Wednesday rejected a financing proposal to keep the mines open while owners restructured debt.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Robot hostesses, veggie booze, ‘civil death’: News from around our 50 states