Silk library, Obama jersey, ‘Marvelous’ traffic jam: News from around our 50 states

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

Alabama

Huntsville: NASA has picked Alabama’s “Rocket City” to lead development of the next moon lander for astronauts. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville beat out Johnson Space Center in Houston, which managed the Apollo lunar lander a half-century ago. The new lunar lander – not yet built or even designed – is meant to carry an American woman and a man to the moon’s south pole by 2024. Under the plan, the astronauts will depart for the surface from a small space station around the moon and return there. Marshall is the longtime expert in rocket propulsion. That’s where NASA’s Saturn V moon rockets were developed back in the 1960s. It’s also the base for NASA’s new megarocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, which is supposed to carry up the orbiting lunar station, called Gateway, as well as the lunar lander and other components of the Artemis moon program.

Alaska

Anchorage: The state has been America’s canary in the coal mine for climate warming, and the yellow bird is swooning. July was Alaska’s warmest month ever, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sea ice melted. Bering Sea fish swam in above-normal temperatures. So did children in the coastal town of Nome. Wildfire season started early and stayed late. Thousands of walruses thronged to shore. Unusual weather events like this could become more common with climate warming, said Brian Brettschneider, an associate climate researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center. Alaska has seen “multiple decades­long increases” in temperature, he said. Alaska’s average temperature in July was 58.1 degrees, 5.4 degrees above average and 0.8 degrees higher than the previous warmest month, July 2004, NOAA said.

Arizona

Tucson: A judge will allow the city’s voters to decide whether their town should become the state’s first “sanctuary city.” Pima County Superior Court Judge Douglas Metcalf on Friday threw out a lawsuit seeking to block the initiative from a November election. The Arizona Daily Star reports three Tucson residents challenged signatures used to get the initiative on the ballot. The Tucson City Council voted in 2012 to designate the city officially as an “immigrant-welcoming city,” but officials say they never declared Tucson a sanctuary city. Tucson has no policies restricting police from enforcing federal immigration laws. Supporters say the initiative would add protections from President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Critics say it defies U.S. immigration law.

Arkansas

Little Rock: The company that manages four youth detention centers in the state has slashed the salaries of teachers who work with young offenders, leaving one center without any instructors. Gary Sallee, a spokesman for Youth Opportunity Investments LLC, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that teachers made an average of $56,054 last year, when the centers were operated by the state Youth Services Division. The division handed over operations to Youth Opportunity Investments on July 1, and Sallee says teachers now earn on average $42,900 a year. Indiana-based Youth Opportunity operates lockups in Dermott, Harrisburg, Lewisville and Mansfield. The Lewisville center currently has no teachers. Sallee says the intention is to hire 15 educators for all four facilities.

California

Los Angeles: A citywide promotion for a popular Amazon television series caused chaos when drivers lined up for hours to cash in on 1950s gas prices. Amazon partnered with nearly 30 businesses to roll back prices Thursday in honor of the show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” set in the ’50s, as part of an Emmy Awards campaign. Police had to shut down a 30-cents-per-gallon promotion at a Chevron gas station in Santa Monica after eager customers lining up caused traffic delays at the nearby westbound Santa Monica Freeway for hours. One motorist took to Twitter to complain, saying it would have been a better idea “if we had the same number of cars on the road as in the ’50s.” The show is nominated for 20 Emmy Awards. The Emmys will air Sept. 14.

Colorado

Denver: The state tightened its air quality regulations Friday, requiring that at least 5% of the vehicles sold in the state by 2023 emit zero pollution. The state Air Quality Control Commission, which passed the rule on an 8-1 vote, said the requirement applies to auto manufacturers, not buyers. It’s intended to boost the number of electric vehicles in a state struggling to control ozone pollution in its most heavily populated area. The minimum rises to 6.23% in 2025. Colorado is the 11th state to adopt zero-emission standards, according to Green Car Reports, which tracks developments in low-pollution vehicles. Two auto industry groups, Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, applauded the rule and said they had been working with state officials on how to structure the requirement.

Connecticut

Hartford: Animal rights advocates lost another legal battle Friday in their efforts to free three elephants from a petting zoo in the state. A three-judge panel of the Connecticut Appellate Court upheld a lower court and rejected an appeal by the Nonhuman Rights Project, which had filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf of the elephants. The group, based in Coral Springs, Florida, alleges elephants Beulah, Minnie and Karen are being detained illegally in poor conditions at the Goshen-based Commerford Zoo and wants them moved to a natural habitat sanctuary. It also argues the elephants have “personhood” rights that entitle them to the same liberty rights as humans. The judges determined the group does not have legal standing to file legal actions on behalf of the elephants, who themselves would not have standing to sue because they’re not human.

Delaware

A motorcyclist pays a parking meter as traffic streams by on Main Street in Newark, Del.

Newark: The city is getting rid of parking meters and upgrading to more modern ways of collecting money for parking. Newark has decided on a plan that will involve a phone parking app, kiosks that take credit cards and license plate numbers. The city’s mayor and town council recently agreed to remove parking meters from Main Street as well as the attendant and gates at the entrance of municipal parking lots. They will be replaced with a system that allows a driver to pay by cash or credit card at a kiosk or through the Passport parking app. Newark Chief Communications Officer Kevin Liedel says the first 25 kiosks will be installed and operational the week of Sept. 3. Patrons will be able to pay by coin, credit card or parking validations or by phone if they do not wish to download the app, Liedel says.

District of Columbia

Washington: From the Navy Memorial to the White House and Gallery Place, the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America set up all around downtown D.C. on Saturday to discuss gun control, WUSA-TV reports. “It’s been enough, and it’s been decades and decades of blood on our streets and pain that can be brought to somewhat of an end,” gun violence survivor Ryane Nickens said. Activists and survivors of gun violence are encouraging others to call their lawmakers to demand they pass tougher gun laws. The group’s main focus right now is a bill on background checks that recently passed the House but has yet to be brought before the Senate.

Florida

West Palm Beach: A couple’s luxurious vacation home has been taken over by dozens of black vultures that are vomiting and defecating everywhere. The Palm Beach Post reports the Casimano family can’t even visit the $702,000 home they purchased earlier this year in the Ibis Golf and Country Club. Siobhan Casimano describes the smell as “like a thousand rotting corpses” and says vultures have destroyed their screened enclosures, overtaken the pool and dented their cars with their beaks. Neighbor Cheryl Katz has also complained about the issue. She says another neighbor excessively feeds vultures, causing them to keep returning. Neighborhood president Gordon Holness says the association is somewhat limited in what it can do because the vultures are migratory birds protected by federal law.

Georgia

Folkson: County officials are supporting a mining proposal near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge that a U.S. agency has said could cause environmental damage. Radio station WSVH reports the Charlton County Commission voted unanimously Thursday evening to approve a proclamation backing the mining plan by Twin Pines Minerals of Alabama. Commissioners cited the company’s promise of 150 jobs as well as additional tax revenue. Twin Pines Minerals is seeking federal and state permits to mine for titanium dioxide less than 4 miles from the edge of the Okefenokee, the largest federal refuge east of the Mississippi River. Company officials said they could provide scientific modeling to show any harm would be minimal. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff wrote in February that mining could pose “substantial risks” to the environment.

Hawaii

Honolulu: A basketball jersey believed to have been worn by former President Barack Obama while he was at a Honolulu prep school has sold at auction for $120,000. Heritage Auctions said the jersey sold Saturday night in Dallas to a collector of American and sports artifacts who didn’t wish to be identified. The jersey was offered by Peter Noble, who was three years behind Obama at Punahou School. Noble, now 55 and living in Seattle, said the jersey was destined for the trash when he picked it up. Years later he saw an old photo of Obama wearing a No. 23 jersey while at school. The auction house says details on the shirt match the one Obama is photographed wearing. Noble says a portion of the sale will go to the school.

Idaho

Idaho Falls: The U.S. Department of Energy has launched a program to develop advanced nuclear energy technologies that will be based at the Idaho National Laboratory. The Post Register reports that the federal agency announced the National Reactor Innovation Center on Wednesday. The Energy Department says the program is intended to offer private businesses the support they need to test and demonstrate reactor concepts using the Energy Department’s national laboratory system. The federal agency said the program will increase the pace for licensing new nuclear energy systems. U.S. Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho says the program will help the INL remain the leading place for the development of the nuclear industry in the U.S. and the world.

Illinois

Chicago: A transportation expert says the political and economic stars have aligned for the creation of an airport in the city’s suburbs. For years, officials have debated an airport in rural Peotone, about 45 miles south of Chicago. This year’s state budget revived the proposal and allocated $162 million for road improvements that would connect Interstate 57 to the proposed airport site. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the budget in June. DePaul University transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman tells The Chicago Tribune the proposal has a shot this time because e-commerce companies could use it to transport goods from distribution centers, and the state is putting money into the project. Opponents, including environmentalists and Will County farmers, say the airport would be a waste of rich agricultural land and public money.

Indiana

Portage: The mayor accused state environmental officials Friday of waiting several days before notifying his city about a steel mill’s spill of cyanide and another chemical that led to a fish kill and prompted the closure of beaches along Lake Michigan. Portage Mayor John Cannon said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and others learned last Monday about an ArcelorMittal mill’s cyanide and ammonia-nitrogen spill but didn’t inform his city until Thursday, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports. “The Mayor is calling for action to be taken,” Cannon said in a statement. The National Park Service said Thursday that in response to the chemical spill, it closed the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk beach areas at Indiana Dunes National Park, as well as waters out to 300 feet.

Iowa

Gracie Greiner, the reigning Iowa Pork Queen, reaches into a struggling sow to assist her in the birthing of a piglet at the Animal Learning Center at the Iowa State Fair.

Des Moines: A piglet born at the Iowa State Fair has been touched by royalty. The 2019 pork queen for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Gracie Greiner, kept her tiara atop her head as she reached inside a laboring sow Tuesday and removed the piglet at the fair’s Animal Learning Center. The 18-year-old lives a few miles outside Washington, a small eastern Iowa town, where her family breeds pigs to show at the county and state levels. She says that “helping pull pigs has come to be one of my favorite parts of the process.” This piglet was big and one of the last ones the sow delivered, which Greiner says meant the sow already was pretty tired. Her dad, Shaun Greiner, says his daughter is about to start classes at Iowa State University in Ames and intends to major in animal science, with an eye toward going to veterinary school someday.

Kansas

Hutchinson: A series of earthquakes shook parts of the state Friday morning, knocking down ceiling tiles and breaking some windows. The largest earthquake measured 4.2 and struck about 8 a.m., with an epicenter about 3 miles from Hutchinson. The U.S. Geological Survey received reports that it was felt in Topeka; Ponca City, Oklahoma; and even Kansas City, Missouri, some 200 miles from Hutchinson. The threshold for damage usually starts at 4.0. In Hutchinson, which has a population of about 40,700 people, alcohol tumbled to the floor at a liquor store, some light fixtures fell from the ceiling at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, and ceiling tiles dropped to the ground at a grocery store. In neighboring Harvey County, Burrton school officials relocated high school classes after cracks were discovered in the 100-year-old building, The Hutchinson News reports.

Kentucky

Olive Hill: A mountain music festival is planned at Carter Caves State Resort Park next month. A statement from the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet says that the Fraley Mountain Music Gatherin’ will be held Sept. 4-7 and feature traditional music from the hills of eastern Kentucky. The festival is named for J.P. Fraley, who was known for collecting fiddle titles at festivals in Appalachia. Regional musicians will jam in parking lots and around campfires, while concerts will be held in the park’s amphitheater on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The statement says guests will hear a variety of folk, old-time, western, early country and other musical genres.

Louisiana

Livingston: Buying anything stronger than beer in this town has been next to impossible for quite some time, but that could soon be changing. WAFB-TV reports voters started a petition to loosen some of the town’s alcohol laws, and the town’s board of aldermen recently agreed to let voters decide the issue. Mayor David McCreary says voters will decide in November on five proposals that relate to liquor sales in supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants and anything more than 6% alcohol by volume. Aniqa Zaheer, who owns a Shell station in the town, believes having liquor will boost her sales and bring more revenue to the town. Now, she says, the store is missing out because those who want alcohol can just drive to the next exit and find what they’re looking for.

Maine

Union: The state’s celebration of its signature tiny fruit is taking over this Knox County town for a week. The Union Fair began Saturday and runs through Aug. 24, and as usual it will serve as the home base of the Maine Wild Blueberry Festival. The festival has been around for almost 60 years and includes the coronation of the Maine Wild Blueberry Queen. The blueberry festival also includes a pie-eating contest and baking contests, including a special category for young bakers ages 6 to 15. It’s all happening in the state that America’s sole commercial producer of the wild berries. The rest of the Union Fair also includes harness racing, fireworks, demolition derbies and 4-H presentations.

Maryland

Annapolis: The state’s Motor Vehicle Administration has recalled driver’s licenses of 8,000 residents who it says missed multiple deadlines to get their identification in compliance with federal requirements. News outlets report the affected licenses were found not to meet amended requirements of the Real ID Act, a law that tightened security for state-issued IDs. To avoid having licenses confiscated, drivers must bring documentation such as proof of identity, residency and Social Security to a DMV to get their license up to standards. MVA says another 780,000 drivers are also out of compliance. The agency staggered deadlines to provide Motor Vehicle Departments relief, but the 8,000 recalled this week are part of the first group that was told to file documents then missed the deadline.

Massachusetts

Sturbridge: A man learned the hard way that fireworks are probably not the best way to deal with a hornets’ nest. Dave Schmida, of Sturbridge, says he was trying to remove hornets high up on his family’s home Monday when a corner of the roof caught on fire. The Telegram and Gazette reports the 21-year-old first used a more traditional method, spraying the nest with Raid, a pesticide spray. When that didn’t work, Schmida went the unconventional method of using a Roman candle to handle the wasps. A video of the incident shows the nest immediately go up in flames, along with the eaves. Schmida used a fire extinguisher from the upstairs floor to put out the flames. He says the damage was minimal, with only a few boards left slightly burned.

Michigan

Gay: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is spending $3.7 million to remove copper mining waste rock from a Lake Superior harbor where it threatens an important fish spawning area. Waste known as stamp sands was dumped along the lakefront during the early 20th century. It covers 1,400 acres of shoreline and lake bottom and is drifting toward Buffalo Reef, where trout and whitefish reproduce. A dredging operation is expected to continue through this year. About 157,000 cubic yards of rock will be removed from Grand Traverse Harbor, and a trough will be dug to create a sediment trap near the reef. The EPA funding was awarded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program that focuses on long-standing environmental problems in the region. The state of Michigan is contributing $3 million.

Minnesota

Minneapolis: A security change at the main terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport could mean longer lines for passengers. Starting Monday, travelers who haven’t qualified for TSA PreCheck or CLEAR PreCheck will be limited to using the north security checkpoint. The south checkpoint will be reserved for passengers who have PreCheck and airport employees. Those are the main terminal’s only checkpoints. The change is due to remodeling around the south checkpoint, which is expected to be completed by December. The work is part of a multiyear project to upgrade Terminal 1 to handle growing passenger numbers. Screening at the smaller Terminal 2 won’t be affected. The Star Tribune reports the restrictions will be in place during the busy travel weekends for teacher conferences in October and the Thanksgiving holiday.

Mississippi

Tupelo: An NAACP chapter has asked a sheriff to apologize for recently discovered racist remarks, and the group wants an official reprimand from the county board that appropriates the sheriff’s office’s funds. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports the Lee County NAACP requested an apology from Sheriff Jim Johnson, who said in a text message to another white elected official that a Hispanic state lawmaker is “worse than a black person.” The newspaper used a public records request to obtain Johnson’s 2017 messages exchanged with Lee County Supervisor Phil Morgan about building a new jail. Both men complained about state Rep. Shane Aguirre of Tupelo. All three officials are Republican. Lee County NAACP President Chris Traylor says he’s optimistic the sheriff will abide by the request and apologize.

Missouri

New students and their families unpack their cars Friday during move-in day at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.

Springfield: Missouri State University has been on a roll, growing overall enrollment nearly every fall for more than two decades. That roll appears to be coming to an end. MSU President Clif Smart says enrollment for the 2019-20 year is expected to be down “between 2.5% and 3%” when classes start Monday. Fewer students means less revenue and fewer staff needed. The university expects a loss of up to $5 million and made budget adjustments to offset the loss. Across the state, the number of high school graduates has decreased, and there is more competition, with fewer nontraditional students. Political upheaval and the economic downturn in other parts of the world have also led to a drop in the number of international students. Low unemployment rates have decreased enrollment at two-year colleges, reducing prospective transfers.

Montana

Billings: Wildlife officials say a hail storm packing 70 mile-per-hour winds killed or maimed more than 11,000 pelicans, cormorants and other birds when it rolled over a lake and nesting area. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said Friday that the storm with 2-inch hailstones killed about 20% to 30% of the waterfowl at Big Lake Wildlife Management. Some birds with broken wings and other injuries are not expected to survive. Agency spokesman Bob Gibson says the lake northwest of Billings had attracted more birds than usual this summer after a wet spring. Gibson says it’s not unheard of for hail storms to kill birds. Wildlife officials will monitor the lake for possible disease caused by rotting carcasses.

Nebraska

Fort Calhoun: A living history event scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at Fort Atkinson State Park will feature military vehicles and a presentation on the Holocaust. A speaker from the Institute for Holocaust Education will make presentations from 1 to 2 p.m. on both days. Visitors can view an encampment showcasing military history from the Revolutionary War to the present day, with special representations of World War II and the Vietnam War. Military vehicles and equipment dating back to World War II also will be on display. The park sits on the east side of Fort Calhoun, which is situated 15 miles north of Omaha. A park entry permit is required for all vehicles and can be purchased at the park.

Nevada

Reno: Federal officials long have raised concerns about the air quality at the annual Burning Man celebration in the desert, where festivalgoers have become accustomed to getting covered with playa dust. But experts don’t believe it poses any significant health risk to those who inhale it during the weeklong gathering 100 miles north of Reno. Air quality studies have found that air quality at Burning Man often far exceeds national standards. But a pulmonary medical specialist at the Northern Nevada Medical Group says short-term exposure to playa dust is unlikely to cause any long-term health effects, even if repeated. Dr. Aleem Surani says based on what he can extrapolate, there’s no significant concern for the average person going to Burning Man, which begins next Sunday.

New Hampshire

Portsmouth: The New Hampshire Executive Council has approved $5 million in federal funds to go toward the Seacoast Rail Trail’s planned project to purchase nearly 10 miles of abandoned railroad to connect eight communities in the state. New Hampshire Public Radio reports the Department of Transportation is overseeing the project, which would connect residents from Portsmouth to Seabrook. Juliet Walker, the Portsmouth planning director, says the project will help lift the city’s tourism while increasing the quality of life for residents. Walker says the trail will also serve as a safe option for pedestrians and bicyclists. The agency is set to buy the portion of land from the Boston & Maine Corporation by early September.

New Jersey

Cars are turned around or otherwise diverted on Patten Avenue in Monmouth Beach, N.J., because of road flooding.

Seaside Heights: Legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives could send flood insurance rates soaring at the Jersey Shore and force longtime residents to flee, say a group of Ocean County mayors who want U.S. Rep. Andy Kim to take that message back to Congress when the House reconvenes next month. “They wanted to stay. They wanted to rebuild,” Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Stephen Reid said of residents who rebuilt following devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. Kim, a Democrat whose district straddles Ocean and Burlington counties, met with the mayors Thursday to discuss flood insurance reform a day after a Washington Post analysis of the warming climate revealed the average temperature in New Jersey has risen nearly 2 degrees Celsius since 1895. That’s the third-highest rate of warming in the U.S., trailing only Alaska and Rhode Island.

New Mexico

Carlsbad: The National Park Service is creating a digital map of Carlsbad Caverns National Park to help with repairs and maintenance projects. The agency is using light detection and ranging equipment to digitally map out the entire cave system in southern New Mexico down to the millimeter. The Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas is helping with the $186,000 project, which began in 2015. Staff members are shooting images, collecting data using laser lights and measuring the reflected light with hundreds of sensors. The result is supposed to yield a highly-detailed, digital, three-dimensional map of the cave system. A final draft of the map is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

New York

New York: A scientist at the American Museum of Natural History is creating a sort of “silk library” that could be the key to designing newer and better materials. Cheryl Hayashi has collected spider silk glands of about 50 species, just a small dent in the more than 48,000 spider species known worldwide. Her library could become an important storehouse of information for designing better materials for bulletproof vests, space gear, biodegradable fishing lines and fashion. Some silk types can be stretchy, others stiff. Some dissolve in water; others repel it. The secret to those differences likely lies in genes. Hayashi has been at this for 20 years, but improved technology only recently let scientists analyze the DNA of silk faster and produce artificial spider silk in bulk.

North Carolina

Wilmington: A street in the hometown of a Greensboro sit-in leader may be designated in his honor. The StarNews of Wilmington reports the City Council next month will consider a resolution to designate North Third Street in honor of retired Maj. Gen. Joseph McNeil, a Wilmington native and graduate of Williston High School. He was one of the four North Carolina A&T State University students who sat at the segregated lunch counter in a Woolworth department store Feb. 1, 1960, and refused to leave. On Sept. 3, the council will consider a resolution calling for signs to be placed along a city-maintained portion of Third Street. The road’s name would stay the same. A request for the portion of the street that the state maintains could be made later.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The Native American tribe leading the fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline wants a judge to resolve all legal challenges to federal permits issued for the project. The Standing Rock Sioux filed a motion for summary judgment in federal court Friday. The tribe argues the $3.8 billion project needs to be shut down until the government has conducted a thorough environmental analysis and studied alternative pipeline routes. The pipeline sparked massive protests in North Dakota before it began moving oil from the state in 2017. The pipeline runs through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. Texas-based Energy Transfer announced in June that it plans to expand the pipeline’s capacity from more than 500,000 barrels per day to as much as 1.1 million barrels.

Ohio

Kings Island’s newest roller coaster, Orion, will be one of only seven so-called Giga coasters in the world.

Mason: A new steel roller coaster is set to debut at one of the state’s largest amusement parks next year. Orion will open at Kings Island in Mason next spring. Kings Island officials say it will be the tallest and fastest coaster at the Cincinnati-area amusement park. Mike Koontz, vice president and general manager of the park, says the ride is categorized as a Giga coaster. Park officials say coasters in that category have a height or drop between 300 to 399 feet. The Orion will move at 91 mph and feature a 300-foot drop. Park officials say there are currently six other Giga coasters in the world. The new coaster is being built in the area formerly occupied by Firehawk, a coaster that was dismantled last year.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: The newly elected chief of the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation plans to appoint the tribe’s first-ever delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, as outlined in a nearly 200-year-old treaty with the federal government. In a letter Thursday to the speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. requested a special meeting of the council this month to consider confirming Kimberly Teehee, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, to the position. The 370,000-citizen tribe is the country’s largest. In a statement released by the tribe, Hoskin said the Cherokee Nation’s right to a congressional delegate was reaffirmed by two separate treaties with the federal government and reflected in the tribe’s constitution. He also said it’s important now because native issues “continue to rise to the forefront of the national dialogue.”

Oregon

Portland: The state will spend $9 million on a revived effort to replace the Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River, a decision officials say is intended to show the state’s growing commitment to the project. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports top transportation decisionmakers approved a plan Friday to direct a large share of unanticipated federal money toward the bridge project. The funding plan comes days after Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney appointed a new joint state committee to oversee the effort. Thanks to congressional budget deals funneling more money toward infrastructure in the past two years, Oregon expects to receive anywhere from $25 million to $30 million in federal dollars not accounted for during the state’s four-year transportation capital spending plan.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia: A longtime teaching hospital has officially closed its emergency department, the latest in a series of moves as it heads toward fully shutting down. Admissions to Hahnemann University Hospital’s emergency department ended at 7 a.m. Friday. Last month, the hospital stopped admitting patients from the emergency department into the hospital itself. Philadelphia Academic Health System, the parent company of Hahnemann, filed for bankruptcy protection in July due to “unsustainable financial losses.” Spokesman Kevin Feeley says the hospital plans to shutter its lab, radiology, blood bank and pharmacy services by Aug. 23. The 495-bed hospital will fully close for good around Sept. 6. Politicians, union leaders and employees have decried the shutdown of the hospital, which treats many poor Philadelphians.

Rhode Island

Ivy is attached to a railing at The Breakers mansion in Newport, R.I., in 2014.

Newport: The grounds and gardens at The Breakers mansion are getting a makeover. Officials say the first phase of a multimillion-dollar landscape restoration project has been completed. Preservation Society Board Chairman Monty Burnham calls it one of the organization’s most ambitious projects. The new landscaping is expected to take at least another four years to finish. It’s the first major landscape rehabilitation of its kind since the grounds of The Breakers were devastated in a 1938 hurricane. The work brings back the imposing sightlines and vistas and original layered look and feel of the grounds as they were created to adorn the property in 1895. The next phase is scheduled for spring.

South Carolina

Columbia: The state attorney general’s office has filed a lawsuit against major opioid distribution companies, claiming the businesses are partially responsible for the opioid crisis. News outlets report Attorney General Alan Wilson filed the lawsuit Thursday against Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, three major pharmaceutical shipping companies, in response to the severe increase in overdoses and deaths in South Carolina. Wilson claims the companies violated the Unfair Trade Practices Act and were public nuisances. The lawsuit claims the companies failed to report massive and suspicious orders and failed to review new customers. Wilson says the companies should’ve known the pills they were distributing weren’t being used for legitimate purposes.

South Dakota

Sturgis: A woman who recently gave birth to triplets says she didn’t find out about her pregnancy until she went to the hospital with what she thought were kidney stones. KOTA-TV reports Dannette Giltz, of Sturgis, gave birth to the healthy triplets Aug. 10. Giltz says that despite having two other children, she did not know she was 34 weeks pregnant. She says that when she started having pains, she thought it was from kidney stones, which she has had before. Doctors told her she was actually in labor – with multiple babies. The triplets were born within four minutes. Each weighed about 4 pounds. The babies’ names are Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki.

Tennessee

Coker Creek: Damage to a section of the Trail of Tears done five years ago by the U.S. Forest Service has never been repaired, but the agency says it will be. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the Forest Service says it has been consulting with several American Indian tribes as well as state officials. An email to the paper from spokeswoman Stephanie Johnson says the agency is working to finalize a memorandum of agreement on the work to be done. The funding is available. The Forest Service previously admitted building as many as 35 earthen berms and pits in the trail to discourage off-road vehicles. On Wednesday, a reporter visiting the site found portions of the trail overgrown and impassable.

Texas

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, speaks to the media on Aug. 4 before a march at Houston Park in El Paso.

El Paso: Latino Victory Project Executive Director Mayra Macias and former Arizona lawmaker Gabby Giffords will kick off a Texas tour with an Aug. 22 town hall in El Paso to condemn white supremacy and gun violence against Latinos. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, will be among the speakers at the meeting in El Paso, which she represents. The Latino Victory Project is an advocacy organization working to empower Latinos across the country. Giffords was severely wounded in a 2011 shooting and now runs a gun advocacy group. The tour will include events in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio in late August. Authorities say a white man accused of killing 22 people, including eight Mexican nationals, this month in El Paso confessed he had been targeting Mexicans.

Utah

Salt Lake City: The father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart has come out as gay, saying his decision brings challenges but also “huge relief.” Ed Smart said in a letter shared Friday with NBC’s “Today” show that he no longer feels comfortable being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which opposes same-sex relationships. He’s has been in the limelight since he frequently went before TV cameras pleading for help finding his daughter, who was 14 when she was kidnapped from the family’s Salt Lake City home in 2002. She was found nine months later. Ed Smart and his daughter have since become advocates for other kidnapped children. The 64-year-old Ed Smart says he’s sorry for the pain caused to his longtime wife, whom he’s divorcing.

Vermont

Springfield: Officials say 18 organizations in the state will be receiving $7.9 million in federal grants through the Northern Border Regional Commission, which spurs job creation in communities along the U.S. border with Canada. This year’s grants were announced Wednesday in Springfield by Gov. Phil Scott, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch. The Northern Border Regional Commission promotes economic development near the Canadian border in upstate New York and northern New England. Officials in the four states say the program has helped create and save hundreds of jobs. Among the Vermont projects announced this week was a $235,000 grant to convert an old school in Springfield into an entrepreneurial hub and $444,000 for the city of St. Albans to build infrastructure to redevelop an old manufacturing site.

Virginia

Winchester: More than 100 animals, including water buffalo, tigers and lions, have been seized from a roadside zoo with a history of complaints. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office said Friday that it joined with state and local authorities to carry out the seizures Thursday and Friday to investigate animal cruelty allegations at Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Winchester. A search warrant shows nearly 120 animals were seized, including parrots, six camels, 36 goats and two Capuchin monkeys. Michael Kelly, spokesman for Attorney General Mark Herring, said animal-control and animal-rescue organizations are caring for the animals pending an Aug. 29 court hearing. Federal inspectors have cited the zoo multiple times for violations.

Washington

A man has his face painted to represent efforts to defeat facial recognition technology, during a protest against Amazon's Rekognition system last fall at the company's headquarters in Seattle.

Seattle: Amazon has announced its facial recognition program used by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office can now detect emotion, generating concerns from privacy advocates. KING-TV reported Thursday that Amazon announced its Rekognition tool has been enhanced to detect basic emotions, including fear. Officials say the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking a delay on police use of the product without regulation until the implications are discussed. Amazon says Rekognition could be used to monitor unsafe online content and find missing persons on social media. The ACLU says it tested the tool by comparing Congress members to a database of mug shots and found 28 false matches were returned. Amazon says the ACLU did not use the tool correctly.

West Virginia

Charleston: The head of the state’s school system says he didn’t mean to downplay the seriousness of the rising number of homeless students in the state. Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine issued a statement Friday saying he “in no way intended to convey that the data was not significant” at an education board meeting last week. The Charleston Gazette-Mail on Thursday reported Paine said it’s “not a significant increase” that the number of homeless students has risen 17% in the past two years to 10,522 kids. The newspaper first reported the figure last month. Paine’s statement contains an apology but says his comments were taken out of context. He also pointed to problems such as poverty rates among students and the number of children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Wisconsin

Madison: Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order Friday creating a new office to help his administration achieve his goal of 100% carbon-free electricity in the state by 2050 after Republicans killed the proposal in the state budget. The governor issued an executive order creating the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy within the Department of Administration. The order requires the office to work with other state agencies and utilities to achieve the goal of ensuring all electricity used within the state is generated from sources that don’t emit carbon dioxide, as coal and natural gas do. Evers, a Democrat, stressed during a news conference to tout the order that the goal is not a mandate and that utilities are already moving toward carbon-free electricity generation.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: U.S. wildlife officials have agreed to stop using a certain cyanide trap to help control predators on 10 million acres of public lands in the state. In a court-approved agreement resulting from a lawsuit brought by wildlife advocacy groups, the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Services agreed to stop using M-44 devices, which are embedded in the ground and look like lawn sprinklers but spray cyanide when triggered by animals attracted by bait. The federal agency had previously stopped using the devices in other Western states. The Wyoming agreement also requires the federal agency to analyze the environmental impacts of killing coyotes, bobcats and other predators in the state and imposes new trapping restrictions.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: News from around our 50 states