Mobile: The state historical commission apparently will retain control of the last U.S. slave ship, the Clotilda. The deadline has passed for any potential owners to claim the wreckage of the wooden schooner, which was burned near Mobile after illegally bringing about 110 captives to Alabama from Africa in 1860. Because no one claimed the ship’s remains, the state can now move forward in federal court to take permanent possession. Researchers identified the wreckage of the ship earlier this year north of Mobile. Officials say they’re unsure how much of the Clotilda remains, but they believe at least some of the hull could be intact in the muddy bottom of the Mobile River near an island. It’s unclear what might be done with the wreckage or whether it can be raised.
Homer: A pastor wearing a colander on his head offered the opening prayer on behalf of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to open a local government meeting, the latest blessing from a nontraditional church since a court ruling. Barrett Fletcher, the Pastafarian pastor, noted the duties performed by the members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in his Tuesday message, adding a few of them “seem to feel they can’t do the work without being overseen by a higher authority, “ Kenai radio station KSRM reports. “So I’m called to invoke the power of the true inebriated creator of the universe, the drunken tolerator of the all lesser and more recent gods, and maintainer of gravity here on earth. May the great Flying Spaghetti Monster rouse himself from his stupor and let his noodly appendages ground each assembly member in their seats,” Fletcher said.
Phoenix: Progressive Democrats want their party to censure Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, saying she’s not standing up to President Donald Trump. Dan O’Neal of the Arizona Democratic Party Progressive Caucus told ABC15 that the party’s liberal wing wants Sinema “to vote like a Democrat rather than supporting Trump half the time.” A proposed censure resolution cites Sinema’s vote to confirm Trump’s Cabinet appointees, including Attorney General William Barr and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. It also cites her failure to support “net neutrality” legislation that requires internet companies to treat content equally. Sinema was a liberal member of the Arizona Legislature but has moved closer to the political center as a member of Congress. Democratic state committee members may consider the resolution at a meeting Saturday.
Little Rock: The City Board is extending a program that pays minimum wage to homeless people who pick up litter. KATV reports that the board’s unanimous vote Tuesday approved an ordinance for $160,000 to fund the Bridge to Work program for one more year to determine its effectiveness. The money will pay for wages, transportation and supplies. The initiative that began six months ago aims to help homeless people in Little Rock. More than 450 participants have so far cleaned up 130 sites, gathering over 2,000 bags of trash. The Canvas Community Church, which runs the program, says 13 people have landed full-time jobs since the program began. City board member Kathy Webb says the program is exciting because it gives people the opportunity to work and move into homes.
Los Angeles: The University of California is dumping fossil fuel investments from its nearly $84 billion pension and endowment funds, calling them a financial risk. An opinion article in the Los Angeles Times says UC will make its endowment fund “fossil free” by month’s end, and its pension fund – which covers 320,000 people – will soon follow. The article was written by the university’s treasurer and the chair of its Board of Regents Investment Committee. A global campaign for universities and other organizations to disinvest has been waged by climate activists for nearly a decade, but the article says the decision was made for financial rather than political reasons. The article says UC is placing bets “that clean energy will fuel the world’s future.”
Denver: The mayor is proposing to set a $15-an-hour minimum wage in the city by 2021. The Denver Post reports Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilwoman Robin Kneich were formally announcing the proposal Thursday. The full City Council would have to approve before it becomes official. The statewide minimum is $11.10, rising to $12 next year. A new state law allows cities to set their own rates. The federal minimum is $7.25, but the U.S. Department of Labor says 29 states and the District of Columbia have higher rates, up to $14. The Denver proposal would reach the $15 amount in two steps, at the beginning of 2020 and 2021. Hancock already has raised the minimum wage for city employees and contractors to $15 an hour.
New Haven: A police officer says in a lawsuit that he was discriminated against by his department because of his facial tattoos. The New Haven Register reports Officer Jason Bandy sued city police this week. His attorney says the department has “no rules, regulations or policies” regarding tattoos or body art, and no women in the department have been disciplined because of piercings, makeup, jewelry or other items. Chief Otoniel Reyes said the department cannot comment on personnel matters or on pending litigation. The former chief recommended firing Bandy because the tattoos violated a general order requiring officers to “present a neat and clean appearance.” Bandy agreed to cover the tattoos while on duty. According to a previous Register story, the tattoos include a Latin phrase, date and the letter “D.”
Newark: Christiana Care Health System, the state’s largest private employer, will begin offering paid parental leave to its employees for the first time. Christiana officials announced Wednesday that the system will grant at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave to its 12,000 employees for parents to use during the birth, adoption or fostering of their child. Employees told the news outlet that they previously had to use paid time off, disability leave, and benefits from the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law that entitles employees to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Last year the Delaware General Assembly passed legislation granting state employees 12 weeks of paid family leave. The state government is Delaware’s largest employer.
District of Columbia
Washington: An organization advocating for low-wage immigrants has filed a legal challenge to a Trump administration rule that may deny green cards to immigrants who use public services. Georgetown Law School’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and CASA filed a legal challenge in U.S. federal court this week. Lawyers say changes to the so-called public charge rule violate due process under the U.S. Constitution. Federal law already requires those seeking to become permanent residents or gain legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the U.S. – a “public charge,” in government speak. But the new rules detail a broader range of programs that could disqualify them, including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.
Fort Lauderdale: Florida Power & Light plans to install 1,000 electric-charging stations at 100 locations across the state. The utility says the stations would be located on major roadways; at public parks, shopping malls and tourist destinations; and at major employers, such as Office Depot in Boca Raton. FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly told the South Florida SunSentinel she didn’t have a cost estimate. The charging stations would go through regulatory approval in Tallahassee as part of a future cost-recovery filing with the Florida Public Service Commission. The company’s chargers are universal, compatible with all electric cars, as well as plug-in hybrids. President and CEO Eric Silagy said it’s part of the company’s plan to move toward more sustainable energy sources.
Jekyll Island: Coastal Georgia is gearing up for its annual food festival dedicated to deciding who cooks the state’s best shrimp and grits. Organizers expect more than 45,000 visitors for the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival that kicks off Friday. The festival’s main attraction is a Saturday showdown between chefs from eight Georgia restaurants in a contest of shrimp-and-grits recipes. This year’s kitchen battle features returning champions from Eagle Creek Brewing Company of Statesboro and Atlanta’s West Egg Cafe. The weekend at Jekyll Island also includes a craft brew fest, an artists’ market and a kids’ zone. Attendees looking to burn off their extra calories will have a chance as the festival hosts its first 5K road race on a course through Jekyll Island’s historic district.
Honolulu: Officials say emergency sirens were accidentally activated on Oahu during a police training exercise. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday that the sirens went off during Honolulu Police Department training. Police issued an alert shortly after the 5 p.m. false alarm saying there was no emergency. Residents heard the siren in areas near downtown Honolulu. The episode echoed the moment last year when the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency mistakenly sent an alert about an incoming ballistic missile to cellphones and broadcast stations in Hawaii. The agency didn’t trigger emergency sirens during the false missile alert, though some military bases turned on theirs. The false missile alert was also issued during a training exercise.
Boise: State health officials say a cat has tested positive for rabies for the first time in 27 years. The Department of Health and Welfare says the cat in Owyhee County was behaving aggressively and bit its owner. It tested positive for a strain of rabies normally associated with bats. The department’s state public health veterinarian, Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, said in a prepared statement that rabies is fatal virtually 100% of the time. She said the cat was likely exposed to a rabid bat, and that’s how it became infected. Tengelsen said pet owners should vaccinate their dogs, cats, ferrets and horses against the disease. Ten bats have tested positive for rabies in Idaho this year.
Chicago: Four Wheaton College students have sued the city, claiming rules for a popular park undercut the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. Earlier this year, Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events divided Millennium Park into 11 sections and prohibited “the making of speeches and passing out of written communications” in 10 of them. Millennium Park is home to Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean, by British artist Anish Kapoor. Plaintiffs’ attorney John Mauck says because it is a major tourist attraction, “that’s where you want to get your message out.” Chicago Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey says Millennium Park rules “protect First Amendment rights while also respecting the rights of patrons to use and enjoy the park.”
Carmel: Dave Schweikert has been going around in circles for weeks – training to break a record and ride his bicycle around a roundabout for 24 hours straight. His Friday ride will be the last of a series of events hosted by the city in celebration of National Roundabout Week, set by the Federal Highway Administration. Schweikert’s long trip to nowhere is for a good cause: The 51-year-old Noblesville resident hopes to raise money for World Bicycle Relief. The international nonprofit organization focuses on large-scale, comprehensive bicycle distribution programs to aid poverty relief in developing countries around the world. Schweikert’s ride is set for 7 p.m. at Carmel’s first roundabout at Main Street and River Road. He hopes to finish by 7 p.m. Saturday.
Des Moines: More than 200 scientists from 38 colleges and universities in the state have signed on to a climate change statement that warns of “sobering extreme heat projections” for the Midwest that will put people, livestock and pets at risk. The statement released Wednesday says the World Meteorological Association identified July as the hottest month in more than 140 years of record-keeping. The scientists say the atmosphere and earth’s surface are warming at an unprecedented rate, and by mid-century temperatures in Iowa will exceed 90 degrees for 67 days per year, compared to the average of 23 days in recent decades. Peter Thorne, director of the University of Iowa Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, says adaptations will include expanded disaster preparedness, increased energy use, and curtailment of outdoor work and recreation during times of extreme heat.
Overland Park: A Johnson County school district has voted to add LGBTQ protections to its nondiscrimination policy. The Shawnee Mission school board voted unanimously Monday night to adopt the LGBTQ language. It joins nearby districts in Olathe, Blue Valley and De Soto, who have added similar language. The Kansas City Star reports the vote came after 10 residents spoke against changing the policy, while a handful of others supported the proposal. Board member Deb Zila said she believed the change reflected the district’s practice of welcoming all children and trying to accommodate them as best it can. Opponents said they feared that schools are teaching students about sexuality at too young of an age or that transgender students might be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.
Elizabethtown: Officials say this central Kentucky city is set to become the state’s first urban trail town. The News-Enterprise reports the title will go to Elizabethtown for its Greenbelt Trails system, and officials plan to recognize the accomplishment with a ceremony Oct. 1. Elizabethtown Trail Town Advisory Board member Matt Deneen says the state Department of Tourism developed the new classification as a blueprint for expanding its Trail Town program into urban centers around Kentucky. Most communities now in the Trail Town program are in the state’s coal fields. The program was originally designed to help promote adventure tourism in rural communities, but now it is moving into urban areas. Elizabethtown’s Greenbelt Trails network features 16 trails, including the Freeman Lake Trail.
Baton Rouge: The federal government has declared agricultural disasters in two of the state’s parishes because of floods during the past year. A news release Wednesday says farmers in another 11 adjacent parishes can also apply for low-interest emergency loans. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says flooding between Sept. 1, 2018, and July 17 made Catahoula Parish a primary disaster area. Farmers and ranchers in Avoyelles, Caldwell, Concordia, Franklin, LaSalle and Tensas can also apply for Farm Service Agency loans to recover from those floods. Vermilion Parish received the designation for rain and floods June 5-15. Adjacent parishes under that declaration are Acadia, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson Davis and Lafayette.
Dover-Foxcroft: The director of the Baxter State Park Authority is floating the idea dropping the “Mount” from “Mount Katahdin.” Eben Sypitkowski told Piscataquis County Commissioners in an email that Katahdin gets its name from an Abenaki or Penobscot term that means “greatest mountain.” Therefore, he said, there’s no need for the word “Mount.” He said that’s redundant, like calling it “Mount Greatest Mountain.” He wrote that he applied to the USGS Board of Geographic Names for a name change of the summit. He said he wanted feedback on a township that also bears the Mount Katahdin name. The proposal was met with skepticism. Chairman James White said Thursday the commissioners aren’t convinced the change is necessary – especially considering the cost of changing maps and signs.
Annapolis: Motorists are being told to expect major delays on the Bay Bridge starting next week as a deck rehabilitation project gets underway. The Maryland Department of Transportation says in a news release that two-way operations on the westbound span will cease Tuesday in preparation for the Maryland Transportation Authority’s $27 million deck rehabilitation project. The authority had scheduled the work to begin earlier this month, but Gov. Larry Hogan worked with the contractor to maintain three westbound lanes for commuters and beachgoers through the last weekend of the month. That will help travelers attending events including this weekend’s Sunfest celebration in Ocean City. It’s expected to reopen in time for the 2020 summer travel season.
Boston: The number of prison inmates in the state placed in solitary confinement remains “staggeringly high,” according to a prisoners’ rights advocate, despite an overall drop in the number of people behind bars. The Boston Globe reports at least 2,100 prisoners were placed in isolation one or more times last year, according to biannual reports from the Massachusetts Department of Correction. Inmates in isolation, which the department calls “restrictive housing,” are allowed outside their cell one hour a day, five days a week. James Pingeon, a staff attorney with Prisoners’ Legal Services, called the number “staggeringly high” and said many people are placed in solitary for minor infractions. Prisons officials said last year’s figures do not reflect the changes they’ve made to isolation policies since criminal justice overhaul was signed into law in April 2018.
Mackinac Island: Could it be a fear of horses? Buzz is rampant on the island that Vice President Mike Pence plans to break with a century-old tradition barring motorized vehicles and ride to the Grand Hotel aboard a Chevrolet Suburban SUV on Saturday. Pence is a scheduled speaker at this weekend’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, held every other year on the island. He is the first sitting vice president to speak at the conference, first held in 1953. Gerald Ford, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have all gone to Mackinac, mostly before or after their time in the White House, and they all got around by horse-drawn carriage. Pence’s purported break with precedent for island visitors comes just days after he reportedly told House Republicans that last year Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh bit him so hard on the arm that he “almost collapsed.”
St. Paul: The Minnesota Court of Appeals has handed environmental groups a victory by suspending two key permits for a planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine ahead of a hearing next month. The appeals court put PolyMet’s dam safety permit and its permit to mine on hold, ruling Wednesday that the Department of Natural Resources failed to adequately consider two important developments that happened after the agency issued the permits in November 2018. One was the massive failure of a tailings basin dam at an iron mine in Brazil in January that was somewhat similar to the dam PolyMet plans to build near Hoyt Lakes, in the Iron Range about 190 miles northeast of Minneapolis. The other is the acquisition of a majority stake in PolyMet by the Swiss commodities giant Glencore in June, Minnesota Public Radio reports.
Jackson: The state’s alligator program coordinator says great weather, high water and increasing expertise made for a good alligator season in public waters. Ricky Flynt of the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks says hunters took 918 alligators from public waters this year. That’s 153 more than last year. The state record of 982 was set in 2015, when 997 hunters and guests went out, and nearly 70% of the groups harvested at least one alligator. With 816 permit holders and their guests participating this year, about 75% of the groups brought in at least one alligator. Paul Edwards of Okolona and five guests tied a state record by catching a 10-foot-long female. The 10-day public harvest ended Sept. 9. The private lands season runs until 6 a.m. Monday.
Columbia: Longtime University of Missouri professor Michael Budds has donated $4 million for a music studies center at the university. The university announced Wednesday that his donation will be used to create the Budds Center for American Music Studies. Budds taught music at the university for nearly four decades until retiring as a full-time faculty member this year. He teaches one class per semester. Budds was inducted into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame in 2014. The Columbia Missourian reports Budds is the last surviving member of his immediate family and said the center is a way to memorialize his parents and siblings. The center in the Fine Arts Building in the music school will promote American music through research and performance and will collect music memorabilia and academic material for research.
Helena: National Park Service officials say motorized electric bicycles are now allowed in Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier national parks, along with Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge. The joint announcement Thursday follows an order signed late last month by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt allowing the pedal bicycles with electric motors wherever traditional bikes can go in national parks. The guidelines posted on the Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton websites say e-bikes and traditional bicycles are barred from boardwalks, snow routes and nearly all backcountry trails. E-bikes can reach speeds of 28 mph or higher. Outdoor and conservation groups have objected to allowing them in parks without additional study or public notice.
Atkinson: A boy with brain cancer who scored a touchdown at a Nebraska practice game is playing football for real. Thirteen-year-old Jack Hoffman took the field Monday to play center for his junior high team in Atkinson, located 179 miles northwest of Omaha. Hoffman underwent chemotherapy after being diagnosed with cancer in 2011. In 2013, he drew national attention when he ran for a player-assisted, 69-yard touchdown in the Huskers’ spring game. Andy Hoffman says his son relapsed in 2014 and participated in a clinical trial that helped. The tumor worsened in 2018, so now Jack is back in a clinical trial. Jack wanted to play football, so his parents checked with doctors, who said it was their decision. The Hoffmans finally left it up to the eighth grader.
Reno: Mayor Hillary Schieve has announced an ambitious plan to jump-start the construction of 1,000 homes in 120 days. Schieve said Wednesday that the pilot program would help combat the city’s housing crisis by deferring fees the city charges for such things as sewer hookups and road infrastructure until the back end of the project. The deferrals would be provided as loans worth $8,400 per unit to be repaid under a predetermined agreement with the city. Eligible developers must have already completed construction of at least one multifamily housing project worth at least $10 million. They also must plan to build a minimum of 30 townhouses, apartments or condominiums in designated “opportunity zones” and begin construction within 18 months of execution of the city agreement.
Concord: Medical marijuana patients in the state soon will be able to get prescriptions even if they haven’t had the same doctor for three months. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill to eliminate the waiting period last month, but both the House and Senate voted Thursday to override his veto. In his veto message, Sununu said current law allows patients to obtain appropriate treatment while preserving responsible prescribing. But lawmakers who support the bill argued that it was unfair to make patients wait three months when no such rules apply to far more dangerous drugs, including opioids.
Jersey City: The city is announcing a partnership with ride-hailing service Via to offer on-demand bus service. Mayor Steven Fulop says it’s a response to unreliable service by New Jersey Transit, adding that it’s the first partnership of its kind in New Jersey. Riders will be able to request a bus from their smartphone and be picked up at a nearby “virtual” bus stop. Service will run Monday through Friday and cost $2 per ride, with discounts for senior citizens and low-income residents. NJ Transit currently operates 20 bus routes in Jersey City as well as light rail service. A spokeswoman said Thursday that the agency has expanded bus service in Jersey City in recent years to meet increasing demand.
Santa Fe: The state would eliminate tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate and community college students of all ages under a proposal from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that requires legislative approval. The “opportunity scholarship” would tap the state general fund to cover costs not already paid for by federal scholarships and local lottery proceeds, a so-called last-dollar approach used by a handful of states that offer more limited free tuition. “By making college significantly more accessible to New Mexicans of every income, of every background, of every age, we are putting students first,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “We are creating meaningful opportunity for all.” Free tuition would be available at continuing education programs for older students who return to school but not for graduate studies such as medical or law school.
Albany: There’s a new push to ban those tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel from hotel rooms across the state. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky announced his legislative proposal Wednesday, calling single-use toiletry bottles a big source of plastic waste. The Long Island Democrat cited estimates that hotels in New York City alone dispose of an estimated 27 million plastic toiletry bottles annually. If the ban were enacted, hotels could instead use wall-mounted dispensers or packaging made from non-plastic materials. The idea is gaining support in the industry, with the Hotel Association of New York City and the state Hospitality and Tourism Association both backing Kaminsky’s idea. Last month Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, announced plans to eliminate small plastic toiletry bottles worldwide by December 2020.
Chapel Hill: The Trump administration is threatening to cut a grant for a Middle East studies program run by the University of North Carolina and Duke University. The administration says the program misuses federal funds to advance “ideological priorities” and unfairly promotes “the positive aspects of Islam” but not Christianity or Judaism. A recent letter from the Education Department orders the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies to revise its offerings by Sunday or risk losing funding from the National Resource Center program. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ordered an investigation following complaints that the consortium hosted a taxpayer-funded conference with an anti-Israeli bias. The department objects to some of the consortium’s offerings and says it has a “lack of balance” in its teachings on religion.
Bismarck: The North Dakota Department of Health says more people in the state are using child car seats correctly. Data compiled by health officials shows 72% of those with car seats were using them improperly in 2018. That figure is actually an improvement and compares with 86% in 2009. In the past five years in North Dakota, 8 children have died and 1,037 youngsters 12 and younger were injured in motor vehicle crashes. The health department recommends keeping children in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing seats, a forward-facing car seat with a harness should be used. And, after outgrowing the forward-facing seat, children should be placed in a booster seat until they are the right size to use just a seat belt.
Cincinnati: On the eve of the city’s boisterous annual Oktoberfest celebration, hundreds of people, some covered in fake blood, and first responders rehearsed for the worst – a terror attack in the riverside entertainment area. The morning-long exercise Thursday at The Banks area and at Great American Ball Park, where the Cincinnati Reds play, used a scenario of a large truck carrying chemicals and crashing into a crowd. Regional emergency management agencies, first responders and hospitals took part in the large-scale exercise. West Clermont High School students applied moulage to casualty actors from area colleges. The Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is expected to draw about half a million people this weekend. A kick-off event, the “running of the wieners” dachshund race), was set for a couple of hours after the mass casualty training.
Oklahoma City: State Department of Corrections officials said Wednesday that numerous weapons, cellphones and drugs have been found by investigators following a series of apparently coordinated fights at six state prisons that left one inmate dead, dozens injured and prisons statewide locked down. “A lot of shanks … broken broom handles, broken faucets, faucet heads that have a cord attached to them,” according to department spokesman Matt Elliott. “The types of weapons inmates typically use and fight with.” Bobby Cleveland, director of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, an association for prison employees, said the fights had “to be a coordinated effort,” noting they included minimum security lock-ups. Cleveland said inmates can use contraband cellphones to coordinate attacks among prisoners at other facilities.
Portland: Newly released scores from this spring show the state’s schools have recorded their poorest performance in the five-year history of Oregon’s current reading, writing and math tests. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the scores released Thursday indicate only 40% of students across grades three through eight have mastered math, and just over half can read and write proficiently. So many high school students sat out the nationally benchmarked tests, known as Smarter Balanced exams, that their results, which were down sharply in reading and writing, are not reliable. State schools chief Colt Gill cautioned against reading too much into the test results, noting that an in-depth end-of-year test on reading, writing and math doesn’t capture the breadth of subjects that students should learn in a well-rounded curriculum.
Harrisburg: The shutdown of Three Mile Island, site of the United States’ worst commercial nuclear power accident, is imminent. Exelon Corp. officials said the plant will stop producing electricity around noon Friday, following through on a decision the Chicago-based energy giant made in May after it became clear that it would not get a financial rescue from Pennsylvania. Three Mile Island’s Unit 1 opened in 1974 and is licensed to operate through 2034. But Exelon has complained that the plant is losing money in competitive electricity markets. Three Mile Island also faces particularly difficult economics because the 1979 accident left it with just one reactor. Decommissioning it could take decades. No nuclear plant that was proposed after the accident has been successfully completed and put into operation in the United States.
North Kingstown: A study from Bryant University shows businesses at the massive Quonset Business Park have pumped $4.3 billion into Rhode Island’s economy. The economic assessment also showed the more than 200 companies located inside the former Navy base are responsible for 17% of the manufacturing jobs in the state. About 12,000 people are employed at the business park, with 6,800 directly involved in manufacturing. The Bryant study, which was commissioned and funded by the Quonset Development Corporation, showed the average wage of an employee at Quonset is $59,235, well above the state’s average of $49,795. The study found those wages created nearly $1.3 billion in income for Rhode Island households in 2018.
Columbia: State officials say a growing drought is threatening to devastate farmers, and they worry dry conditions will spread. A special committee that reviews drought voted Wednesday to place 31 of South Carolina’s 46 counties into a moderate drought – the second in four worsening stages. The vote came after the Drought Response Committee had a long discussion on whether to advance some counties to severe drought based on crop damage. Chris Toole says it has barely rained in two months at his farm in Orangeburg County, and he expects to lose half his corn, cotton and peanuts. Officials say water levels in streams and reservoirs are still OK.
Chamberlain: Fees to enter and use the state’s parks may be increasing. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission is seeking comments from the public about proposed increases to state park and camping fees as the park system faces $8 million in flood damage, which includes tree damage, shorted electrical pedestals, and washed-out roads and campsites, according to GFP. The increase in fees would provide about $3 million in additional revenue. GFP is proposing to increase the daily park entrance fee from $6 to $8 and the annual park entrance pass from $30 to $36. The commission is expected to vote on the increase during its meeting Oct. 3-4 in Chamberlain. Comments can be submitted at least 72 hours prior to the meeting online.
Knoxville: The University of Tennessee will set up a livestream at a rock that’s often painted by students to promote events but was recently marred by an anti-Semitic message. Knoxville campus Chancellor Donde Plowman wrote Wednesday that the livestream feed will be made available for anyone to see, showing that the university community is taking collective responsibility for the Rock. Plowman wrote that university police have increased patrols at the campus landmark, adding that they believe the people responsible for the hate speech written there are not students or members of the campus community. Plowman wrote that the university has revised its campus space rental policy to restrict rentals to unaffiliated third parties. Additionally, a new group, programs and special lectures are in the works to further awareness.
El Paso: The FBI is offering a reward to help identify suspects in arson fires at three Catholic churches in the area. Authorities say St. Matthew Catholic Church, St. Patrick Cathedral and St. Jude Catholic Church were targeted with incendiary devices in an attempt to start fires at the churches in May and June. The churches were damaged, but no one was injured. The FBI said Thursday that it’s offering a $5,000 reward in the case. The churches serve a primarily Hispanic community still reeling from a mass shooting targeting Latinos in which 22 people were killed at an El Paso Walmart last month.
Orem: Police used their vehicle sirens to drive a 2-year-old bear up a tree after its presence in a northern Utah town caused traffic delays Wednesday morning. State Division of Wildlife Resources spokeswoman Faith Heaton Jolley said division personnel then were able to tranquilize the bear and catch it in a large net when it fell out of the tree. Jolley said the brown-colored black bear was placed in a trap in the bed of a pickup truck and driven to the Wasatch Mountains, where it was released. Pictures show him jumping out of the truck and running away. Jolley says it is unusual for a bear to be roaming city streets that are several miles away from mountains east of the city where wildlife biologists think it came from.
South Burlington: The first two of what will become 20 F-35 fighter aircrafts arrived Thursday at the Vermont Air National Guard, the first guard unit to receive the next-generation fighter. The aircraft will be based at the Burlington International Airport. The delivery follows years of hard work and planning. “The F-35 coming into Burlington really secures our mission and our future,” says Col. David Smith, the commander of the 158th Fighter Wing that is the new home to the F-35s. But for some members of the community, the arrival of noisier aircraft marks the failure of years long efforts to keep the Air Force from delivering the planes to an airport located among residential neighborhoods in the middle of Vermont’s most populous county.
Richmond: Dominion Energy announced plans Thursday to seek approval to build what it says would be the largest offshore wind project in the United States off the Virginia coast. The company says the project would include about 220 wind turbines in federal waters it has already leased 27 miles off Virginia Beach. If approved as proposed, Dominion says the approximately $7.8 billion project could produce more than 2,600 megawatts of energy during peak wind by 2026, enough to power 650,000 homes. “This is, to us, big news. It’s a big step for us to accomplish our carbon reduction goals,” says Mark Mitchell, vice president of generation construction for Richmond-based Dominion. The project has been years in the making. Dominion already has an offshore wind pilot project underway, which state regulators approved last year despite their concerns about its cost.
Seattle: U.S. protections for the waters that a group of endangered orcas call home could soon expand beyond the Seattle area to encompass much of the West Coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a proposal Wednesday to increase the critical habitat designation for southern resident killer whales by more than sevenfold under the Endangered Species Act. Just 73 orcas remain in the Pacific Northwest population, the lowest number in more than three decades. The latest proposal calls for an additional 15,626 square miles of federally protected habitat that would run from the border with Canada down south to Point Sur, California.
Buckhannon: A federal biologist says federally protected vultures are invading the state, having migrated from Central and South America about 45 years ago and now settling up the East Coast. Thomas Elliott is a wildlife biologist and district supervisor with the wildlife services program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The Inter-Mountain quotes him as saying the birds first appeared in eastern West Virginia about 15 years ago and have spread across the state. Black vultures are predatory creatures with some scavenging tendencies. Elliott says the birds kill livestock and pets and destroy people’s property, even ripping rubber off tires. He says the vultures have no true predator.
Madison: The state’s schools chief says a nearly $600 million boost in education funding is a “down payment” on equity and closing the state’s persistent achievement gap. State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor calls that gap a “crisis.” She delivered the message Thursday during her first state of education address at the Capitol. Taylor took over as state superintendent after her predecessor, Tony Evers, was elected governor. The speech comes a week after standardized test scores showed that less than half of Wisconsin students are proficient in math and English. The scores also showed a continuing achievement gap. Stanford Taylor says progress is being made to address “deep, persistent gaps in achievement, access and opportunity.” Democrats say the poor test results showed the need to increase funding for K-12 schools, while Republicans say they showed that the status quo was not working.
Pinedale: Lawmakers have voted to advance a bill raising the state minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years. The Casper Star-Tribune reports that lawmakers aim to limit minors’ access to tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewable tobacco and nicotine-infused vapor products. Officials say the bill was one of several being considered by lawmakers Wednesday, but it also requires approval of the full Legislature. State lawmakers say currently people age 18 and older are allowed to purchase tobacco products. Officials say 18 states have risen their minimum smoking age to 21 with some exemptions for military members. Officials say enforcing existing laws and a higher purchase age could be effective at discouraging young people from purchasing products illegally. Officials say 95% of smokers start before the age of 21.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: News from around our 50 states