Montgomery: The U.S. Department of Justice won’t help defend Republican U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama against a civil lawsuit that claims he helped to incite the Jan. 6 violence at the Capitol. In a court filing Tuesday, the Justice Department urged a judge to deny the congressman’s request for immunity as a federal employee over his remarks at a pro-Donald Trump rally that occurred before the rioting at the .Capitol. Brooks had argued that he was acting within the scope of his office when he spoke at a rally Jan. 6 and thus was due the legal protections afforded federal employees and members of Congress who are facing civil lawsuits over their jobs. The Justice Department said the event was campaign-related and it would not certify that Brooks was acting in his official capacity. Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, who served as a House manager in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, filed a lawsuit in March against the former president and others, including Brooks, whose actions he charges led to the events.
Perryville: A powerful earthquake that struck just off Alaska’s southern coast caused prolonged shaking and prompted tsunami warnings that sent people scrambling for shelters. Residents reported only minor damage, but officials said that could change after sunrise and people get a better look. The National Tsunami Warning Center canceled the warnings early Thursday when the biggest wave, of just over a half-foot, was recorded in Old Harbor. A tsunami warning that had also been issued for Hawaii was also canceled, and officials said there was no threat to Guam, American Samoa or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. The warning for Alaska covered nearly a 1,000-mile stretch from Prince William Sound to Samalga Island, near the end of the Aleutian Islands. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was magnitude 8.2 and hit 56 miles east southeast of Perryville at about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday. The quake was about 29 below the surface of the ocean according to USGS. Several other earthquakes, some with with preliminary magnitudes of 6.2 and 5.6, occurred in the same area within hours of the first one, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
Tucson: Drought conditions still exist across Arizona but recent monsoon rain has had a significant impact for the better. The latest drought monitor “shows substantial improvement” in the two most severe drought categories, now reporting 52% of Arizona in either extreme or exceptional drought, down from 84% last week, the National Weather Service office in Phoenix said Thursday. The month isn’t even over yet and Tucson has recorded its wettest July in the city’s history. The southern Arizona city received 7.08 inches of rain as of Wednesday, according to the National weather service. That breaks the previous July record of 6.8 inches set in 2017. Because of an active monsoon season, Tucson has been hit with more than 5 inches of rain since last July 23. Meteorologists said the normal rainfall amount for Tucson in July is about 2 inches. Meanwhile, Phoenix has received 1.67 inches of rain this month, its wettest July since 2013.
Little Rock: The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees approved a plan to keep a statue of the late Democratic Sen. J. William Fulbright on its flagship campus, despite calls to remove it because of his support of segregation. The board approved a resolution that called for keeping the statue at its location on the Fayetteville campus, but with “contextualization” about Fulbright’s legacy. The resolution cited a new Arkansas law that prohibits removing or relocating monuments without state approval. The resolution approved also called for keeping Fulbright’s name on the Fayetteville campus’s college of arts and sciences. Fulbright was a University of Arkansas graduate and served as the university’s president for three years starting in 1939. He is known for creating an international education scholarship in his name. But the university has faced calls to remove his statue and his name from the school over his opposition to integration and civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s.
San Diego: Jose Sanchez Villalobos, the architect of a subterranean tunnel that shuttled tons of marijuana from Mexico to the U.S. for drug cartel Sinaola under Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was sentenced in San Diego federal court to 10 years and one month in custody for a drug-distribution conspiracy – just over the 10-year minimum mandatory sentence. Villalobos’ tunnel linked a Tijuana warehouse to another in Otay Mesa and was equipped with a hydraulic elevator, electric rail cars, lighting, wooden floors and a storeroom. It was a feat of engineering that U.S. authorities would later marvel at as the “most elaborate smuggling tunnel” to be uncovered along the U.S.-Mexico border at the time. In a plea agreement in December, Sanchez admitted to planning, financing and supervising the construction of “multiple” cross-border tunnels from 2010 to 2012, as well as overseeing their operation as smuggling conduits. Sanchez, 58, has already served most of his prison term. Since his arrest in Mexico in 2012, he has spent about eight years in custody there and another year and a half in San Diego after being extradited to face charges in the U.S. With good behavior credits, he is likely due to be released within a few months.
Boulder: Boulder County has suspended consideration of a permit needed for a long-sought reservoir expansion by Denver Water until a federal court hears a lawsuit filed by the utility that alleged the county is stalling on the permit and jeopardizing the project. The county on Tuesday said it had agreed to a Denver Water request to put the process on hold pending the outcome of the suit, which Denver Water filed in U.S. District Court on July 14. It canceled public hearings on the project set for August and September. Denver Water contended it has made good-faith efforts over several years on a local-use land review needed to begin work on Gross Reservoir. It alleged the county has used the process to delay the review, jeopardizing federal and other deadlines for the project. In June, county planning and permitting staff determined that Denver Water hadn’t provided satisfactory answers to requests for information on the project. The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project would be the largest construction project in the history of Boulder County. It would raise the 340-foot Gross Dam by an additional 131 feet, increasing reservoir capacity by 77,000 acre-feet. Environmentalists and many local residents argued it will cause serious impacts to the environment.
Hartford: A federal appeals court overturned a lower court order issued last year that required Connecticut to resume fingerprinting for gun permit applicants despite the state’s suspension of those services because of the coronavirus pandemic. A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York vacated the preliminary injunction on technical grounds. The judges also noted local police resumed fingerprinting shortly before the June 2020 preliminary injunction was issued, and state police resumed the services shortly after it was issued. The Connecticut Citizens Defense League and six people seeking gun permits sued Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, the state’s public safety commissioner and local police chiefs in federal court in New Haven, saying the suspension of fingerprinting services violated their Second Amendment gun rights. Judge Jeffrey Meyer agreed and issued the injunction requiring fingerprinting to resume. The appeals court judges said the six plaintiffs’ claims were moot because fingerprinting resumed, and the defense league did not have legal standing to be a part of the case.
Wilmington: The city is granting some parking violators amnesty as it returns to normal operations. The city issued about 1,800 tickets on Monday and Tuesday to residents for failing to update their parking permits or move their cars for street cleaning, Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a news release. The city announced last week that enforcement suspended because of the pandemic would resume, but because so many people were ticketed, the mayor said the city will offer limited ticket amnesty this week only. Tickets issued for these violations between Monday and Friday will be converted to warnings and anyone who has paid will get a refund, Purzycki said, but “ticketing will resume as normal” starting Monday. The amnesty does not apply to metered parking tickets or any other parking enforcement violation. City officials are reminding residents that other city services that have resumed include ticketing, booting and towing of vehicles for traffic and parking violations and for delinquent fines and fees, water utility service disconnections for delinquencies and sheriff sales.
District of Columbia
Washington: The White House Historical Association unveiled three new historical markers at the northern end of Lafayette Park – less than a block from the White House. The three large horizontal tablets have illustrations and text that address different issues. One focuses on the construction of the White House, with an emphasis on the fact that enslaved people and paid laborers took part. The second focuses on former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who founded the association in 1961. The third addresses Lafayette Park’s history as a center for public protests, dating to 1917 and continuing through last summer’s protests over police brutality and racial injustice. The intersection of 16th and H streets in front of the markers was officially named Black Lives Matter Plaza by the city government last year. Stewart McLaurin, the president of the association, credited former first lady Michelle. Obama with unintentionally jump-starting the project. As first lady, she publicly spoke multiple times of her intense awareness that she woke up every morning in a house built by enslaved people. The White House Historical Association is a nonprofit donor-supported group that helps maintain many of the White House’s interior furnishings. It also funds the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
Miami: A Florida man was discovered inside a giant floating contraption shaped like a hamster wheel on a beach, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. The agency said the “driver” Reza Baluchi was not injured. The 49-year-old told authorities he was attempting to raise money for charity by “running” on water from St. Augustine to New York City by way of Bermuda, but ran into some problems. Baluchi and his hydropod, as he calls it, washed ashore near Hammock, in Flagler County, about 30 miles from where he first started the endeavor in St. Johns County. Flagler County deputies said they arrived at the beach after several alarmed callers reported seeing the UFO, unidentified floating object. The hydropod is basically a metal cylinder with paddle wheels. The long-distance runner told authorities he “came across some complications that brought him back to shore.” The money Baluchi was trying to raise was to go to first responders, the kind that just got him out of his latest situation. The vessel is reportedly outfitted with GPS and enough food and water for days. This is hardly the adventurer’s first brush with disaster: Baluchi made his first failed attempt in 2014, trying to get to travel north, before having to be rescued in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at a cost of $144,000 to taxpayers. His second attempt two years later also failed when he was stopped by the Coast Guard for safety reasons.
Atlanta: Georgia is asking a judge to toss out a Department of Justice lawsuit challenging the state’s sweeping new election law. In a motion to dismiss filed Wednesday in federal court in Atlanta, attorneys for the state called the lawsuit “a politicized intrusion” into the state’s constitutional authority to regulate its elections. The state’s election laws “are reasonable, nondiscriminatory, and well within the mainstream of election laws across the country,” they wrote. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the lawsuit last month, saying that Republican state lawmakers in Georgia had rushed the election overhaul through with an intent to deny Black voters equal access to the ballot. The move by the Biden administration came two weeks after Garland said his department would look closely at Republican-led efforts to tighten state voting rules. He said the federal government would act if prosecutors found unlawful activity. The U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta declined to comment on the motion to dismiss.
Honolulu: The Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the nomination of Daniel Gluck, the executive director of the Hawaii Ethics Commission, to serve on the Intermediate Court of Appeals. Critics have questioned Gov. David Ige’s choice of Gluck, a white man, for the job, noting it has been 30 years since a Native Hawaiian was appointed to the appeals court and 20 since a Native Hawaiian was appointed to the Supreme Court. Others have questioned his legal experience given he hasn’t brought as many cases to trial as other potential nominees put forward by the state Judicial Selection Commission. The committee didn’t vote on the nomination. Judiciary Committee Chairman Karl Rhoads said the committee would vote on Wednesday. Gluck’s supporters noted his keen legal mind, his dedication to social justice and his fairness.
Boise: Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said a Boeing 737 from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia arrived at the center last weekend to help fight wildfires. The jet is being made available through an agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Australia. The airtanker has two internal tanks with a capacity of 4,000 gallons. The aircraft is named Marie Bashir after Dame Marie Bashir, a former governor of New South Wales. “We greatly appreciate having this airtanker from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service assisting us,” said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the U.S. Forest Service. “We’re proud of the long history of cooperation we have with Australia and other countries.” The center moved to national preparedness level 5 earlier this month. That’s the highest level and means firefighting resources are stretched thin because of multiple large wildfires burning in the West. The center said that on Thursday there are 82 large, active fires in 13 states that have burned 2,600 square miles. More than 21,500 firefighters and support personnel are mobilized to fight the wildfires. So far this year, wildfires have burned more than 5,300 square miles.
Chicago: Severe thunderstorms swept through the Chicago area and northern Illinois early Thursday with high winds that left thousands of homes and businesses without power. The National Weather Service said several areas recorded wind gusts in excess of 60 mph that knocked down tree limbs or toppled whole trees, damaging some power lines. Weather observers recorded a 64 mph wind gust at the DuPage Airport in DuPage County about 3 a.m., and the Chicago Executive Airport in Cook County had a 55 mph wind gust. ComEd reported that more than 24,000 of its customers remained without power at about 7:20 a.m. The Illinois Department of Transportation said some trees were toppled in Waukegan just before 4 a.m., as the storms pushed across the area. The National Weather Service said “life-threatening” swim conditions were expected Thursday on Lake Michigan as a cold front moved its way through the area, bringing cooler, less humid air. According to a beach hazard statement, waves of 4 to 7 feet and rip currents are expected along the lake in Cook County and in northwestern Indiana’s Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties until Friday night.
Bloomington: Indiana University and the city of Bloomington plan to rename Jordan Avenue after local residents who rose to prominence after escaping slavery. A task force is recommending the city-owned section from East Davis Street to 17th Street be named Eagleson Avenue, and the university-owned section, from East 17th Street to Fee Lane, be named Fuller Lane or Mattie Fuller Lane. The city said in a news release its portion of the street would be named after the Eagleson family, whose members for four generations made significant contributions to the city, university, state and nation, starting with Halson Vashon Eagleson, who was born into slavery in 1851 and came to Bloomington in the 1880s. The university’s portion would be named after Mattie Jacobs Fuller, who was born into slavery in 1856 but lived in Bloomington from age 4 until her death in 1940. The news release said she was a successful businesswoman and suffragist and made the donation that founded Bethel AME Church.
Iowa City: An influential hog dealer sanctioned twice for defrauding pork producers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars said it has fired employees responsible for its latest violations and paid restitution to affected sellers. Lynch Livestock, based in Waucoma, also announced that pork industry veteran Dan Sutherland would lead the company going forward “as a further safeguard against future violations,” citing Sutherland’s experience in compliance matters. Lynch announced those moves in a press release posted online Wednesday, after the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had taken enforcement action against the company for illegal buying practices for the second time since 2017. The company’s longtime owner, Gary Lynch, a top booster of Iowa State athletics and political donor to Iowa Republican elected officials, hasn’t returned messages seeking comment. In the press release, his company said the USDA received a complaint in January that employees at its Waucoma buying station were manipulating the scale and issuing false tickets to artificially lower payments to producers. Lynch said it investigated the allegations and terminated an unspecified number of employees who engaged in those practices. The USDA has not revoked Lynch’s dealer license and praised the company in a press release last week for its cooperation and voluntary corrective actions. The company operates 39 buying stations across eight Midwestern states, and markets hogs to major packing plants across the country.
Leawood: A Leawood physician has surrendered his medical license after admitting that he told a drug company he would not sell one of their products unless he was hired for more speaking engagements. Dr. Steven M. Simon gave up his medical license this month after being sentenced in April to three years of probation for soliciting health care kickbacks, KCUR reported. Simon was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. Simon, a pain doctor, admitted in January that he told a representative for AstraZeneca that he would not continue to prescribe Movantik, which is used to treat constipation caused by opioid medications, unless he was paid for more speaking engagements. The company then determined it would no longer hire Simon as a speaker, according to his plea. Doctors can legally accept meals, speaking fees and other compensation from drug and medical device companies but cannot receive kickbacks for prescribing drugs or medical devices. Simon has also been sued by patients who claimed he prescribed them fentanyl spray because its manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics, was paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees.
Paducah: A ferry that carries vehicles across the Mississippi River between Kentucky and Missouri is reopening after a one-day closure for engine maintenance, officials said. The work was completed earlier than expected, allowing the Dorena-Hickman Ferry to reopen Thursday morning, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said. Capt. Jeremy Newsom had anticipated the closure to last for a few days. The ferry connects Kentucky 1354 at Hickman, Kentucky, with Missouri Route A and Route 77 near Dorena, Missouri. It is the only direct route between the states.
New Orleans: A judge is allowing some of those being sentenced to probation in his court to get a COVID-19 vaccination to reduce their community service requirement. Judge Fred Crifasi in Baton Rouge said vaccination is not mandated but offered as an option. “Getting vaccinated is a service to the community,” Crifasi said Thursday in an emailed statement to the Associated Press. “We are currently in a serious predicament in Louisiana. So, if a probation candidate is inclined to get vaccinated, I will grant credit for that effort towards any requirement of community service. The amount of hours varies and depends on the person’s circumstances. It is not a mandate. If a person is not inclined, they do not have to do it.” Crifasi’s probation option is being offered as coronavirus infections across the state are skyrocketing. The state health department reported 4,413 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and the daily hospitalization number was 1,620, nearly 100 more than a day earlier. It had been below 300 for much of May and all of June. Louisiana has been among the states with the lowest overall vaccination rate.
Portland: A Maine church that sued over coronavirus restrictions last year is taking a preemptive legal strike against future restrictions associated with a variant of the virus that’s spreading across the country. Calvary Chapel in Orrington is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Democratic Gov. Janet Mills from enforcing or reinstating any pandemic-related restrictions because of the delta variant. The state responded by noting that the governor’s civil emergency already expired, making the lawsuit unnecessary. “For more than two months, there have been no restrictions whatsoever on the size of gatherings, and the state of emergency expired at the end of June. Given that, we are disappointed that Calvary Chapel continues to waste public and judicial resources by attempting to litigate an issue that is now moot,” said Marc Malon, spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office. But church officials are worried that restrictions could be reinstated. Describing Mills’ previous restrictions as a 14-month “reign of terror,” church officials claimed in their request for a preemptive injunction that any restrictions would violate their religious liberties protected by the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has heard similar requests on behalf of religious organizations and lifted limits in California.
Ocean City: Peter Schultz, aboard the boat the Reel One, caught a 301-pound swordfish at the Big Fish Classic Tournament on July 23, setting a state record. Schultz became the first officially recognized record-holder for swordfish, according to the Maryland Department of National Resources. The DNR maintains state records for four divisions of fish: Atlantic, Chesapeake, Nontidal and Invasive. Until Schultz, the swordfish category within the Atlantic division was vacant in the record books, with no one claiming that spot in state history. Schultz called the catch "the fish of a lifetime," according to a news release from the Department of National Resources. Schultz, an Annapolis resident, was about 50 miles offshore at Washington Canyon when he made the catch. It took Schultz and his team 8 hours to bring in the fish.
Greenfield: Magician Penn Jillette is urging people to support a fundraising effort by the agricultural fair in his Massachusetts hometown he credits with inspiring his show business career. Jillette said he saw his first fire eater and his first freak show at the Franklin County Fair in Greenfield and spent some of the “happiest times of my life” there. He made the comments in a nearly 4-minute video posted on the fair’s Facebook page Wednesday. He even participated in the demolition derby one year. “I can trace my whole career back to Greenfield, Massachusetts, and the Franklin County Fair,” the talking half of the Penn & Teller comedy/magic team, said in the video. The fair, run by the Franklin County Agricultural Society, is still trying raise about $90,000 toward its $260,000 goal so it can fix erosion damage at the fairgrounds and make other improvements. Fair President Michael Nelson told Masslive.com that he emailed Jillette’s representatives asking for help, and got a response from Jillette about an hour later. The fair was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but is scheduled for Sept. 9-12 this year. The fair is “America at its best,” Jillette, who lives in Las Vegas, said in the video.
Detroit: City Council member Andre Spivey has been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and accused of accepting $1,000 from an undercover law enforcement agent. Spivey was named late Tuesday in an indictment filed in federal court in Detroit. The bribe allegedly was accepted on Oct. 26, 2018, according to the indictment which also said that between 2016 and 2020, Spivey and “public official A” accepted more than $35,000 in payments to influence votes “concerning an industry under review by the council.” Public official A is identified in the indictment as a member of Spivey’s staff. Elliott Hall, an attorney for Spivey, said the indictment was expected. Hall said Spivey did nothing in return for the money and had been cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s office for more than a year. The Associated Press left voicemails Wednesday seeking comment from Hall and Spivey on the indictment. Spivey represents the city’s District 4 and first was elected in 2009. He did not file for reelection and is not on the ballot for the city’s Aug. 3 primary.
Red Lake: A man was charged Wednesday in the killing of a Red Lake Nation police officer who was fatally shot while responding to a call to a residence on the tribe’s reservation in northwestern Minnesota. David Donnell Jr., 28, of Redby was charged in federal court with one count of second-degree murder and four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in the death of Officer Ryan Bialke. Bialke, 37, was killed Tuesday after he went to Donnell’s home on a report of a suicidal male with children possibly in the residence, according to the Red Lake Department of Public Safety. Federal authorities said Donnell was standing on the porch when officers arrived, then went inside the house. Because Donnell refused to comply with orders from the officers and had an active warrant, police broke down the front door, Department of Justice officials said. That’s when Donnell began firing. Bialke was struck by gunfire and died at the scene, officials said. Donnell fled and was taken into custody at a nearby residence a short time later, authorities said. Court documents do not list an attorney for Donnell. The tribe said Bialke was a six-year veteran of the Red Lake Police Department. He is survived by his wife and four children.
Philadelphia: Cases of COVID-19 are surging in Mississippi, but Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said a federal recommendation for people to wear masks indoors is “foolish.” “It has nothing to do with science,” Reeves said during a speech at the Neshoba County Fair, according to WAPT-TV Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation, and Reeves on Thursday encouraged people to get vaccinated. He went on camera to get his own vaccination early this year. But during his outdoor speech at the fair, Reeves repeated what his office had said earlier this week – he will not set a mask mandate for schools. Some Mississippi school districts have started classes, and others will begin by mid-August. “I don’t think you’re going to see any school district mandate masks in schools,” Reeves said at the fair, according to WJTV-TV. “I think if you start seeing them do that, the parents will erupt, and they should, and I feel certain they will.” Some Mississippi school districts have mask mandates for the new academic year, but others said wearing a mask is optional. Last week, the state Health Department recommended masks be worn indoors in school settings by all unvaccinated people 2 and older.
St. Louis: St. Louis County Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan said he was called racial slurs and physically assaulted after defending a new mask mandate to fight COVID-19. Khan said in response, he raised his middle finger at a crowd gathered at a St. Louis County Council meeting, according to a Wednesday letter obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “After being physically assaulted, called racial slurs and surrounded by an angry mob, I expressed my displeasure by using my middle finger toward an individual who had physically threatened me and called me racist slurs,” Khan wrote to the councilwoman who led the meeting. The St. Louis County Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to end the county’s mask mandate, saying the county executive did not consult with them before issuing it. County Executive Sam Page has insisted the mask mandate is still in effect, despite the vote. Orders took effect Monday there and in the city of St. Louis, requiring everyone age 5 or older to wear masks inside public spaces and on public transportation even if they are vaccinated.
Billings: A prosecutor for the Crow Tribe accused a federal law enforcement officer of assault, criminal endangerment and negligent endangerment after the officer’s police dog allegedly caused extensive injuries to a suspect during a traffic stop. A civil complaint from prosecutor David Sibley seeks to ban Bureau of Indian Affairs officer Steve Stallings from the Crow reservation in southeastern Montana over the July 20 incident. Sibley said Thursday he filed the complaint a day earlier in Crow Nation Tribal Court, but did not know when Stallings would be officially served with the suit. Stallings was the handler for a dog that latched onto the leg of tribal member Harris Redstar following a traffic stop in Lodge Grass, according to the complaint. The dog continued to hold Redstar’s leg in its jaws even after he was on the ground and in handcuffs, causing extensive injuries that required Redstar to be hospitalized, the prosecutor said. Redstar had been in a confrontation with a second officer before Stallings’ arrival. He faces charges of resisting, obstructing and assaulting an officer and is due to make an initial court appearance next month, Sibley said. Stallings could not be reached for comment. A bureau spokesperson did not have an immediate response to the allegations.
Lincoln: Police arrested a 31-year-old man who jumped the fence surrounding the Governor’s Mansion in Lincoln and sat down in the backyard, according to the Nebraska State Patrol. The incident happened Wednesday afternoon, when Gov. Pete Ricketts was not in the mansion, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The patrol said State Capitol security spotted the man as he scaled the fence and entered the back yard. He was quickly arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance, trespassing and criminal impersonation because police said he gave officers a fake name.
Las Vegas: Nevada casinos rode a robust economic rebound from coronavirus restrictions in June, taking in more than $1 billion in winnings for the fourth straight month and nearly reaching a record set a month earlier, state regulators reported Thursday. But a spike in COVID-19 cases since mid-May – and the restoration of indoor mask mandates for vaccinated and unvaccinated people beginning Friday – could cloud the July outlook for an economy heavily reliant on tourism and gambling. The Nevada Gaming Control Board said casinos reported house winnings of $1.19 billion statewide during the month. That was more than double the $567 million reported in June 2020, the first partial month of reopening after coronavirus pandemic casino closures, and topped the monthly casino win figure of $1.04 billion in June 2019. Board analyst Michael Lawton noted the last time casinos totaled billion-dollar winnings for four straight months was January to April 2008.
Salem: Gov. Chris Sununu signed three bills aimed at protecting not just canines but cats and wild critters, as well. Animal equity was the theme for two of the new laws: One will require drivers who injure or kill cats to notify police or the pets’ owners or else face a $1,000 fine, a mandate that has long existed for dogs. Another would expand the state’s animal cruelty laws and make it illegal to beat, whip, torture or mutilate any wild animal, fish or bird. The third bill, however, focuses squarely on dogs, making it a misdemeanor to maliciously remove a tracking collar or microchip from someone else’s dog. The bill, which also makes stealing a dog a felony for a second offense, was prompted by what supporters described as a growing problem of “dog flipping” in which people steal dogs to sell for profit. All three laws take effect Jan. 1.
Camden: A former teacher and child protective services worker who admitted to producing child pornography images of a young boy who was in his care has been sentenced to nearly 21 years in federal prison. Kayan Frazier, 29, of Somers Point will also have to pay his victim restitution under the 250-month sentence imposed Tuesday, although the amount has not yet been determined. He will also be on permanent supervised release once he’s freed from prison. Frazier had pleaded guilty in February to sexual exploitation of a child. Frazier was a substitute teacher for the Atlantic City School District between 2015 and 2017 before taking a job with the state Department of Child Protection and Permanency. The exploitation of the child occurred between March 2017 and April 2019, according to federal prosecutors. Authorities executed a search warrant at Frazier’s home in April 2019 after law enforcement officials learned that child porn images were being shared online by Frazier, prosecutors have said. He was at the home that day with the boy, and authorities have not said how long Frazier had been caring for the child. Authorities recovered thousands of images of child sexual abuse on Frazier’s cellphone and other electronic media, including images of the boy, which had been taken in Frazier’s apartment.
Las Cruces: The New Mexico Freedoms Alliance will be holding statewide protests against mask-wearing requirements in schools on Saturday. The group has been rallying to push the state to remove all requirements for mask-wearing and allow parents and students to decide whether they want to wear a mask. Last year, the New Mexico Public Education Department required all to mask up on school grounds to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This year, the requirements are a bit complicated and largely in flux. On Monday, the Public Education Department issued a more relaxed mask-wearing policy, stating individuals in secondary schools do not need to wear masks if fully vaccinated. All students and staff in primary schools are still required to wear masks. Masks will not be required outside for anyone. The New Mexico Freedoms Alliance said masks have negatively impacted students by impeding their learning and causing headaches and other physical ailments. The protests will take place in about 15 cities across New Mexico. In Las Cruces, a protest will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Albert Johnson Park on the corner of Main Street and Picacho Avenue.
New York City: Eight years after a judge ruled police violated the constitution by stopping, questioning and frisking mostly Black and Hispanic people on the street en masse, people in communities most affected by such tactics say they have been shut out of the legal process to end them. Attorneys for plaintiffs in two landmark stop-and-frisk lawsuits said in court papers Thursday that community stakeholders have had “very little contact” in the last three years with the court-appointed monitor overseeing reforms and that reports he has issued don’t reflect their experiences. They’re demanding greater input, including an advisory board comprised mostly of reform advocates and public housing residents, annual community surveys and biannual audits of NYPD stop-and-frisk and trespass enforcement activity – the results of which would then be summarized in public reports every six months.
Fayetteville: State officials are for the second time in slightly more than a year trying to determine the source of potentially harmful compounds found in foam floating on a creek. In both instances, the man-made chemicals found in the Gray’s Creek area don’t appear to be connected to the Chemours plant, which is in the same area and makes a similar compound, The Fayetteville Observer reported. The state Department of Environmental Quality said in a memo dated June 22 that tests were conducted in March on foam from an unnamed tributary of Rockfish Creek. The tests showed that the foam contained perfluorooctane sulfonate, also known as PFOS, and three other compounds. In July 2020, department officials said tests on foam found floating in a creek revealed high levels of PFOS. This year’s memo noted that there are no federal or state health advisory levels for polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS compounds, in surface water or in foam. This year’s results showed PFOS levels at 614 parts per trillion, well above the 70 parts per trillion set for drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency The agency has found that PFOS can have harmful impacts on people’s health at certain levels. including cancer.
Bismarck: A Minnesota electric company that wants to sell its financially troubled coal-fueled power plant in North Dakota expects to know Friday if its member utility cooperatives will endorse the deal that includes purchasing electricity over the next decade from the factory’s prospective buyer. North Dakota officials have hailed the potential sale announced last month of Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station to Rainbow Energy Center as a savior for hundreds of jobs at the plant and an associated lignite coal mine that are about 50 miles north of Bismarck. North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum called the announcement a “huge sigh of relief” for the plant and mine, nearby communities and workers. But opponents believe the sale is delaying an inevitable closure, as coal continues to be eliminated from energy portfolios and regulations mount to curb the climate change effects of burning the fuel. The companies have not publicly disclosed terms of the deal, which includes an associated transmission line that runs more than 400 miles from central North Dakota to Minnesota.
Sandusky: Amusement park operator Cedar Fair Entertainment said it plans to add esports to its lineup of roller coasters and water parks. It wants to build a 1,500-seat esports arena in Ohio for gaming tournaments near Cedar Point, its flagship amusement park in Sandusky, the company announced Thursday. The Ohio-based amusement park chain hopes to begin construction on the $28 million arena by the end of the year. The company said it believes it will be a draw for gamers across the Midwest. Plans call for the arena to have 200 gaming stations and host tournaments year-round beginning in the first half of 2023. It also could be used for concerts and other events, the company said. The building will have locker rooms, a food court and dormitory rooms for esports participants.The booming esports industry is especially popular among teens and youngers adults, which also is a target audience for the company’s 11 amusement parks and four separate water parks across the U.S.
Oklahoma City: The number of initial unemployment claims and the less volatile moving four-week average of initial claims are down in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Thursday. The number of initial weekly claims fell by about 50%, from 7,787 to 4,394, and the moving average dropped from 8,237 to 7,046, the agency reported. “The decline is a promising indicator of the direction we’re heading,” said OESC director Shelly Zumwalt. “We are continuing to review applications for the Back-to-Work Initiative,” a $1,200 stipend offered to anyone returning to work for 32 or more hours per week for six consecutive weeks.The state’s latest unemployment rate of 3.7% in June was down from a high of 14.7% in April 2020 during a shutdown amid the coronavirus outbreak. The state health department reported 1,806 new virus cases and a seven-day average of 1,268 daily cases, compared to a seven-day average of 196 on June 25, as infections have increased with the highly contagious delta variant sweeping across the state.
Portland: The city has banned homeless people from camping in forested parks both to protect them from potential wildfires and prevent them from accidentally starting blazes during a summer of drought and record-breaking heat. The City Council adopted the rule Wednesday for “high-risk hazard zones,” including in and around Portland’s famous Forest Park and in heavily forested wetlands and natural areas across the city. The ban will apply during wildfire season or whenever a county burn ban is in effect. The 8-square-mile Forest Park in the heart of Portland is one of the largest urban forests in the U.S. There have been frequent reports of fires at unsanctioned campsites and at clusters of RVs across the city from illegal burning, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The city stressed that the rule was to prevent fires from starting in the city but also to protect homeless people from blazes started near encampments by others. Nonprofit groups working with the city will visit the camps, provide information about fire risk and help residents relocate voluntarily before any aggressive sweeps take place, the newspaper said.
Gettysburg: Authorities have announced the arrest of a new suspect in a rape and murder more than three decades ago for which another man served 16 years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence. State police and Adams County prosecutors said Chris Speelman, 58, of New Oxford is charged with criminal homicide, rape, robbery and burglary in the August 1987 slaying of 85-year-old Edna Laughman. Lt. Mark Magyar said the arrest was made possible by advances in genetic genealogy and the hard work of investigators. District Attorney Brian Sinnett said a company analyzing the DNA profile provided by investigators came up with a list of surnames, including Speelman’s, and other information including hair and eye color. Sinnett said Speelman had lived next-door to the victim “within the same structure” about a decade before her murder. A DNA sample provided by him a few months ago was “an absolute match” to the suspect’s DNA, he said. Another man, Barry Laughman, a distant relative of the victim, was convicted in 1988 and served 16 years before he was cleared.
Providence: Mayor Jorge Elorza had to be held back from Gov. Dan McKee during a disagreement over a proposed contract for the city’s public school teachers. During a ceremonial lighting of the WaterFire basins along the Providence River to mark the return of the city arts festival on Wednesday, Elorza was seen on video pointing his finger at McKee and yelling, “You’ve got to face the community on this.” Elorza was held back by a member of McKee’s state police security detail. Both men are Democrats. Elorza confirmed after the event he was trying to discuss the teachers contract. He wants the contract made public before the teachers’ union votes on it Friday so the community can have input. The state has taken control of the city’s underperforming schools. “If you believe it’s a transformational contract, stand before the community and tell them why you believe it’s transformational,” Elorza said. “But simply hiding and doing it in secret and wanting to wrap this up before facing the community, that’s not the way that this is supposed to be done.” McKee declined to comment.
Laurens: Malouf Companies, which warehouses and distributes home furnishings and other consumer products, is investing $47.2 million in a project in Laurens County and will create 240 new jobs, Gov. Henry McMaster’s office said in a news release. “We couldn’t be more excited to congratulate Malouf for its decision to establish its first South Carolina facility in Laurens County. This $47.2 million investment, along with the 240 new jobs it will create, are huge wins for the community, and we look forward to seeing this great company continue to grow,” McMaster said. Malouf’s new facility will increase the company’s warehousing capabilities and improve distribution capacity to meet demand, officials said. The new facility is expected to be operational by Nov. 30. The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved a $200,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund grant to Laurens County to assist with site preparation and building improvements.
Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem barred the state’s Department of Education from applying for federal grants in history or civics over concerns about how certain teachings on systemic racism would be tied to the grants. The U.S. Department of Education this month backed away from proposed grant guidelines that suggested using curricula that teach racism is embedded into the country’s institutions. After releasing proposed rules for the $3 million American History and Civics Education grant program in April that included references to the New York Times’ “1619 Project” and “anti-racism” teaching, the U.S. Department of Education had faced backlash from conservatives, who argued it was an example of critical race theory making its way into elementary and high school classrooms. “Our students should learn America’s true history by studying both our triumphs and our mistakes,” Noem said in a statement. “Only then will students learn that America remains the shining example of exceptionalism throughout the history of the world.”
Nashville: Seven unemployed Tennessee residents have filed a lawsuit over Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to opt out of the federal unemployment benefits programs earlier this year. They said in a federal complaint filed this week against Lee and Department of Labor Commissioner Jeff McCord that they struggle to survive on state unemployment funds as they look for work, news outlets reported. They are asking a federal judge to instruct Lee to reenter the federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs run by U.S. Department of Labor. “This program has served as a lifeline for thousands of Tennesseans who remain affected by the pandemic,” Nashville attorneys W. Gary Blackburn and Bryant Kroll wrote. State officials declined to comment on pending litigation. Lee announced in May that Tennessee would withdraw from federal unemployment programs that would pay an additional $300 a week in benefit payments. The state reverted Sunday to benefits through Tennessee’s Unemployment Compensation program, which pays up to $275 a week.
Austin: The city announced that Lou Neff Road and all associated parking along the loop around the Zilker Park Great Lawn will remain closed through Aug. 7 and will reopen Aug. 8. The work to realign the road, accommodate ADA improvements, perform asphalt maintenance and make electrical service modifications was scheduled to be finished by Friday, but the asphalt work has been delayed to minimize the impact on park programming. During this road closure, the Austin Parks Foundation is asking Zilker Park visitors to take alternate forms of transportation, including bicycles, ride sharing and public transportation. As parking will be limited during this time, using CapMetro is highly encouraged. The CapMetro 30 Local route goes to Zilker Park via Barton Springs Road.
Hurricane: A missing 4-year-old boy who was found dead in his toy chest died accidently of positional asphyxiation, police said. The search for Kache Wallis of Hurricane began Sunday after his family woke up in the morning and discovered he wasn’t in his bed. Police, family and friends conducted searches inside and outside the house before someone opened the small toy chest and found the boy inside. The Utah Medical Examiner’s Office investigated the cause of death. Police said it was caused by positional asphyxiation, or a lack of air because of the position of a person’s body. The Hurricane Police offered their condolences to the boy’s family.
South Burlington: A bridge will be closed for repairs for the next three months between South Burlington and Williston, and the closure is expected to cause traffic delays on other roads, the Vermont Agency of Transportation said. The Muddy Brook Bridge between Kimball Avenue in South Burlington and Marshall Avenue in Williston will be closed starting on Monday, the agency said. Drivers should expect increased traffic on U.S. Route 2 and Vermont Route 2A and additional traffic delays in the area, the agency said. They are encouraged to add extra time to their travel plans or take other routes. The bridge is expected to be closed until November.
Richmond: Health officials are warning people and pets to avoid swimming or wading in the James River after hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage spilled from a Goochland County sewer line into a tributary of the river. The Department of Health issued an advisory Thursday after the sewage release from the sewer line into Tuckahoe Creek on Tuesday night, news outlets reported. The Goochland County Department of Public Utilities shut off the pipe less than four hours later, but not before 300,000 gallons of “raw, undiluted sewage” spilled into nearby Tuckahoe Creek. The water advisory applies to Tuckahoe Creek beginning at River Road and the James River from Robious Landing Park in Chesterfield, Goochland, and Henrico counties to Belle Isle in Richmond. Officials warned that swallowing contaminated water from the river could cause gastrointestinal illnesses and that external contact could cause “infections of the ears, nose, throat and skin.” There is no impact on drinking water at this time, officials said. An end date for the advisory will be based on bacteria levels in the water.
Seattle: Three schoolteachers in the state who sued chemical company Monsanto over exposure to materials in fluorescent lights have been awarded $185 million. The law firm that represented the teachers, Friedman Rubin, said a jury returned the verdict Tuesday in King County Superior Court. The teachers, who worked at the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, said they suffered brain damage from exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the fluorescent lighting at the school. “This is a big step in holding Monsanto accountable,” the teachers’ attorney, Rick Friedman, said in a statement. Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, said the company disagreed with the verdict and might appeal. The company said the light ballasts that were the focus of the lawsuit were obsolete. This was the first of 22 trials involving teachers, parents and students who spent time at the Sky Valley Education Center. A 2019 Associated Press investigation found that millions of fluorescent light ballasts containing PCBs probably remain in schools and day care centers across the U.S. four decades after the chemicals were banned over concerns that they could cause cancer and other illnesses. Many older buildings also have caulk, ceiling tiles, floor adhesives and paint made with PCBs, which sometimes have been found at levels far higher than allowed by law. PCBs are mixtures of compounds manufactured by Monsanto Co. and widely used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment until they were banned in 1979.
Point Pleasant: Workers began repairs this week on West Virginia 2 in Mason County on a slip believed to have been caused by heavy rains earlier this month. Both lanes will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Wednesday and running for about four days. Emergency and mail delivery vehicles will be allowed to pass through while both lanes are closed, the Department of Transportation said in a news release. “The area presented a challenge due to the length of the slip,” said Kathy Rushworth, Division of Highways District 1 maintenance engineer. “We gathered information and considered several methods of repair and chose soil nails as the most efficient and effective for the location.” One lane of West Virginia 2 will reopen after the initial closure until repairs are finished in about four weeks. The location is near the Jackson County line.
Milwaukee: Strong thunderstorms caused widespread damage across Wisconsin, left tens of thousands without power and triggered tornado warnings. The severe weather stretched from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan and began Wednesday night in northwestern Wisconsin. By 2 a.m. Thursday, the numerous tornado warnings across the state expired. The National Weather Service surveyed hard-hit areas in southeastern Wisconsin and confirmed it was a tornado, probably rated EF1, that caused damage around the Jefferson County community of Concord, where the storm toppled farm buildings and left a path of destruction. Cows could be seen grazing among debris that landed in farm fields. Gov. Tony Evers signed a declaration imposing a state of emergency in Wisconsin. Evers’ order directs state agencies to help those impacted by the storms. It also allows the Wisconsin National Guard to be activated to support local authorities with recovery efforts. Meteorologist Denny VanCleve in Sullivan said there’s a good chance that it was a tornado, or possibly two, that caused widespread damage. Utility crews worked to restore service to thousands of power customers. Electricity was knocked out to about 90,000 customers across Wisconsin, according to the tracking website PowerOutage, US. The tornado warnings started in Wausau and were issued for Waukesha, Jefferson and Milwaukee counties around 1 a.m. Thursday. The National Weather Service placed nearly the entire state under a severe thunderstorm watch until 2 a.m. Thursday.
Cheyenne: A man was run over and killed by a pickup truck during Cheyenne Frontier Days. The accident happened Tuesday morning near a carnival area next to the rodeo grounds. The victim, whose identity wasn’t released, was riding in the bed of a full-size pickup that slowed to a stop in traffic, the Cheyenne Police Department said in a statement. The man lost his footing and fell as he was getting out of the truck bed. The driver of the other pickup truck pulled ahead with the flow of traffic and ran over the man, police said. An ambulance took the man to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Frontier Days was back this year after being canceled for the first time in 2020 because of the coronavirus. The rodeo and Western culture festival draws thousands to Wyoming’s capital city over the last two weeks in July.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States