Daphne: A coastal city is warning residents to be careful of alligators, which have been showing up in populated areas following recent heavy rains. Baby alligators have been reported in parking lots on the causeway that crosses Mobile Bay and along heavily traveled U.S. 98 in Daphne, WKRG-TV reports, so the city posted notes on social media asking residents to be careful, particularly with pets. Charles Epler of Wildlife Solutions, an animal removal services, said the sightings likely were linked to the weather. “They get pushed out. That heavy, torrential rain washes them out of where they’re at, and then they’re going to try and find somewhere else to set up shop,” Epler said. Daphne, a city of about 26,000, is located on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. “About 83% of their diet in the wild is turtles. I think that’s why there’s so many over here in Daphne,” Epler said.
Fairbanks: A bus that people sometimes embarked on deadly pilgrimages to visit can now safely be viewed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks while it undergoes preservation work. The bus was moved to the school’s engineering facility last week while it’s being prepared for outdoor display at the Museum of the North, television station KTVF reports. The abandoned Fairbanks city bus became a shelter for hunters and others using the backcountry near Denali National Park and Preserve, but it was a beacon for those wishing to retrace the steps of Christopher McCandless, who hiked to the bus in 1992. The 24-year-old Virginia man died from starvation when he couldn’t hike back out because of the swollen Teklanika River. During his last days he kept a journal that was discovered when his body was found. McCandless’ ordeal was chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book “Into the Wild,” followed later by director Sean Penn’s movie of the same name. People from all over the world made the bus a focal point and tried to retrace his steps. The state removed the bus located about 25 miles from the town of Healy after two women from Europe drowned on homages to the bus. There were 15 other search-and-rescue missions since 2009, the state Department of Natural Resources said in August 2020 when the bus was flown out of the wilderness.
Phoenix: Documents and training materials from the Arizona Department of Corrections’ servers contain images of a skull with a sword through it that experts liken to gang and white supremacist symbols. Corrections experts say the designs may offer a window into the mindset of the department’s Special Operations teams, reflecting an us-against-them mentality and members acting out militaristic fantasies, rather than rehabilitating prisoners. PowerPoint presentations featuring the skull and sword emblem also define the imagery. “Skull = Death before dishonor,” a slide says, while the shotguns are “tools of the trade,” and the eyes of the skull, embellished with gun sights, indicate: “We are always watching you.” Set to Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle,” a training video depicts special operations teams responding to riots at the Yuma and Kingman prisons. The video contains graphic images of the aftermath, including zip-tied prisoners, officers using dogs to intimidate prisoners, blood-stained walls and floors, and nonlethal weapons used on inmates. Prisoners alleged special operations officers committed civil rights abuses in the aftermath of the deadly riot at the Yuma prison in March 2018. Thirty-seven people were injured, one prisoner died, and six officers were fired and criminally charged for destroying prisoner property.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday effectively approved a new law that will allow employees to opt out of COVID-19 vaccine requirements, a move by fellow Republicans to challenge federal vaccine mandates. Hutchinson allowed the measure to become law without his signature despite his concerns about the impact it will have on businesses in the state. The new law won’t take effect until early next year. In Arkansas, a bill becomes law after it sits on the governor’s desk for five days without any action. Governors have traditionally used that approach to express opposition to legislation without prompting a veto fight with the Legislature. Hutchinson said the amount of time before the opt-out law takes effect gives the state more time to weigh its impact on businesses and for any court challenges to be filed. But he also called the proposal unnecessary and counterproductive. “The debate on these bills has been harmful to our goal of increasing vaccination rates in Arkansas,” he told reporters. The measure requires employers to allow workers to opt out of COVID-19 vaccine requirements if they’re tested weekly for the coronavirus or can prove they have antibodies. Health officials have said antibody tests should not be used to assess immunity, those who’ve recovered should still get vaccinated.
Santa Barbara: A wildfire raging through Southern California coastal mountains threatened ranches and rural homes and kept a major highway shut down Wednesday as the fire-scarred state faced a new round of dry winds that raise risk of flames. The Alisal Fire covered more than 22 square miles in the Santa Ynez Mountains west of Santa Barbara, and the number of firefighters was nearly doubled to 1,300, with more on the way. Containment remained at 5%. While the scenic region along the Pacific shoreline is lightly populated, the blaze was a threat to more than 100 homes, ranches and other buildings, fire officials said. Fire crews were protecting Rancho del Cielo, which was once owned by Ronald and Nancy Reagan and was known as the Western White House during his presidency. The 688-acre ranch where Reagan hosted world leaders sits atop the mountain range, above the flames feeding on dense chaparral and grasses. The area hadn’t burned since 1955, according to the conservative youth organization Young America’s Foundation, which now operates the ranch. Crews also protected an Exxon/Mobil gas processing facility in a canyon surrounded by flames. The fire erupted Monday near the Alisal Reservoir and swept down through the mountains, forcing the closure of U.S. 101. At one point, the fire jumped the highway and reached a beach.
Denver: Colorado will include gender confirmation care in its individual and small-group health insurance plans, state and federal officials announced Tuesday. The state’s plan under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will include jaw, cheek and eye modifications, face tightening, facial bone remodeling for facial feminization, breast or chest construction and reductions, and laser hair removal. Additional health benefits for Colorado’s plan include an annual mental health exam and expanded coverage of opioid alternatives for pain management, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said. The new plan adds 15 drugs as alternatives and will cover up to six acupuncture visits per year, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance. The changes will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved Colorado’s request to provide gender-confirming care as part of the state’s “essential health benefits,” which are requirements for individual and small-employer plans set forth under former the Affordable Care Act. Christy Mallory, legal director at the Williams Institute, a research institute based in the University of California Los Angeles’ School of Law, said without insurance, much of gender-confirming care is “prohibitively expensive,” so Colorado’s move increases access to medically necessary care for trans people.
Storrs: President Joe Biden plans to visit the University of Connecticut on Friday for the dedication of a human rights center named after former U.S. Sens. Thomas and Christopher Dodd. The Dodd Center for Human Rights serves as an umbrella home for the school’s human rights programs and archives. Those include the Human Rights Institute, which houses the largest undergraduate and graduate human rights program at a public university in the U.S., and Dodd Impact, which focuses on community-based human rights initiatives. It had been known as the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center since its opening in 1995, named for the late senator who also was a lead prosecutor for the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, after World War II. UConn’s Board of Trustees voted in August to change the name to the Dodd Center for Human Rights to recognize the work of both Democratic senators and their family. “I’m deeply grateful to UConn for recognizing me and my family by dedicating the Dodd Center for Human Rights, and I’m honored that my good friend President Biden is joining us to mark this occasion,” said former Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, who is Thomas Dodd’s son. He served as a senator from 1981 to 2011, gaining a reputation as a human rights advocate for his work to end abuses in Central America.
Wilmington: State Auditor Kathy McGuiness turned herself in to authorities and pleaded not guilty to corruption charges Tuesday morning. Accompanied by her attorney, McGuiness entered the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center just before 10 a.m. to turn herself in to Delaware Capitol Police. Steve Wood, her attorney, told the court in a brief hearing that she pleaded not guilty to the charges, including felony theft and intimidation, as well as public service misdemeanors like official misconduct. The basis of the charges is that she violated conflict-of-interest laws by arranging a job for her daughter and her daughter’s friend in the auditor’s office, that she rigged public payments to a campaign consultant to avoid regulatory scrutiny, and that she sought to spy on and intimidate those who questioned her conduct. McGuiness and Wood opposed prosecutors’ request that she be barred from speaking about the case to her daughter. Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney argued that Elizabeth McGuiness is an “unindicted co-conspirator” and a witness. But “to say to a mother that you may not talk to your young daughter about probably the most traumatic event that has occurred for either of them in their lives is unnecessary and inhumane,” Wood argued to the court. The judge sided with McGuiness’ attorney and denied the request.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Washington National Cathedral formally dedicated a new stone carving of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel in a ceremony Wednesday, WUSA-TV reports. The carving, completed in April, shows Wiesel’s likeness inside the cathedral’s Human Rights Porch, which features carvings of leading human rights defenders throughout history, including Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Jonathan Daniels and Eleanor Roosevelt. The dedication was a collaboration among the cathedral, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. “From surviving the Holocaust to becoming one of the world’s leading lights in preserving the memory of that unspeakable tragedy forevermore, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Elie Wiesel,” Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith said. “It is an honor to have his memory and his legacy included in our Human Rights Porch so he can serve as a reminder of the consequences of hate, as well as the resiliency and indomitability of the human spirit.” Wednesday’s ceremony featured remarks from former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and author John Meacham, who is canon historian of the cathedral. A survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald camps, Wiesel told his story to millions through his autobiographical novel “Night.”
Daytona Beach: A statue of Black educator Mary McLeod Bethune will be on display for two months in the city before heading to its permanent home in the U.S. Capitol, where it’s replacing a sculpture of a Confederate soldier as one of two statues from the Sunshine State in the building’s National Statuary Hall. The 11-foot marble statue of Bethune, a civil rights leader and adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt, was unveiled Monday at the News-Journal Center in Daytona Beach. The statue depicts Bethune, a founder of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, wearing a graduation cap and gown and holding a black rose. Early next year, Bethune will become the first Black woman represented in the National Statuary Hall, where each state has two likenesses of prominent native sons and daughters. “The sculpture is a gleaming representation of what is possible with unyielding tenacity and dogged determination,” Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry said. The statue of Bethune replaces one of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Confederate monuments across the country have fallen in recent years amid contentious debate over whether they are proud monuments to Southern heritage or hated symbols of racism and past slavery.
Atlanta: A judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit alleging fraud in the state’s most populous county during the 2020 election. The suit sought a review of some 147,000 absentee ballots to see if any were illegitimate. Originally filed in December, the lawsuit that alleged evidence of fraudulent ballots and improper ballot counting in Fulton County was filed by nine Georgia voters and spearheaded by Garland Favorito, a longtime critic of the state’s election systems. Henry County Superior Court Chief Judge Brian Amero’s order dismissing the case said the voters who brought the suit “failed to allege a particularized injury” and therefore lacked the standing to claim their state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process had been violated. Amero also noted that Georgia’s Secretary of State’s Office had provided a “substantive and detailed response” to his request for an update on any investigations into allegations of fraudulent or counterfeit ballots in Fulton County. Favorito expressed frustration after the ruling, saying his team had “prepared diligently to show the evidence of our allegations” at a hearing the judge had previously scheduled for Nov. 15. Angered by his narrow loss in a traditionally red state, former President Donald Trump had focused his fury on Georgia and particularly on Fulton County.
Honolulu: The state has not experienced a large spike in evictions despite the expiration of state and federal moratoriums meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect renters during the pandemic’s economic downturn. Tracey Wiltgen, executive director of the Mediation Center of the Pacific, said her organization has handled more cases in recent months but not as many as she anticipated, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Between Aug. 7 and Oct. 2, the center opened 565 eviction cases for mediation – fewer than the 1,000-1,500 cases it had expected. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Wiltgen said, the center mediated about 200 eviction cases per month. A state-level moratorium ended Aug. 6. A few weeks later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal moratorium that was announced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. David Chee, an attorney who mostly represents landlords, said some cases are being kept out of court because tenants are choosing to leave their units without fighting the eviction. “A lot of tenants have just run away,” Chee said. “So once the moratoriums were done, a lot of tenants, as soon as they figured out their landlords were going to evict them, just simply left.”
Boise: Gov. Brad Little said Tuesday that he wants to use federal coronavirus relief money to increase day care capacity to help alleviate the state’s worker shortage. The Republican governor, in a speech about the future of work that was followed by several questions, said expanding day care could help get more workers back in the workforce. Idaho’s current unemployment rate of 2.9% puts the state back at pre-pandemic levels last seen in early 2020, a span that includes a period of double-digit unemployment as COVID-19 spread and jobs evaporated. But now, many employers can’t find enough workers. “We know part of that is parents who are staying home,” Little said. “We think we can take some one-time money and build some (day care) capacity.” The U.S. Department of Labor has said the national unemployment rate last month dropped from 5.2% to 4.8%. Officials said 194,000 people found work, a tepid number and evidence that the pandemic remained a problem, with many companies struggling to fill millions of open jobs. Idaho has had problems with the coronavirus’ highly contagious delta variant, with the state currently on crisis standards of care due to so many unvaccinated patients filling hospitals. Crisis care standards mean scarce resources such as intensive care beds will be allotted to the patients most likely to survive.
Chicago: The head of a police union has called on its members to defy the city’s requirement to report their COVID-19 vaccination status by Friday or be placed on unpaid leave. In the video posted online Tuesday and first reported on by the Chicago Sun-Times, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara vowed to take Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to court if it tries to enforce the mandate, which requires city workers to report their vaccine status by the end of the workweek. After Friday, unvaccinated workers who won’t submit to semiweekly coronavirus testing will be placed on unpaid leave. Catanzara suggested that if the city does enforce its requirement, and many union members refuse to comply with it, “it’s safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up.” In the video, Catanzara instructs officers to file for exemptions to receiving the vaccine but not to enter that information into the city’s vaccine portal. He said that although he has made clear his vaccine status, “I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history.” During a news conference Wednesday, Lightfoot accused Cantazara of spreading false information and dismissed most of his statements as “untrue or patently false.”
Bloomington: Monroe County officials are buying part of a site dotted with old limestone quarries for a possible tourist destination despite chemical contamination found in the area. The Monroe County Council this past week approve the $370,000 purchase of nearly 30 acres near Bloomington just northwest of the Interstate 69 and Indiana 46 interchange. County leaders have discussed over the past couple years buying about 100 acres of wooded former quarry property with the idea of building trails, exhibits about the limestone industry and an outdoor concert venue. Tests by an Indiana University researcher have found low contamination levels of polychlorinated biphenyls in sections of the quarry site not yet purchased by the county. Several sites around Bloomington contaminated with the toxic industrial chemicals have faced multimillion-dollar cleanups since the 1980s. County Council member Kate Wiltz said the proposed park project could acknowledge the negative impact of industrial pollution on the community while being a tribute to the area’s limestone heritage. “I think that’s a side of parks and public lands that we don’t often promote, but that’s every bit as important reason to purchase and steward the property,” Wiltz said.
Des Moines: With the threat of a United Auto Workers strike looming, Deere & Co. managers told employees at factories across the state not to come in Wednesday. Workers said managers ordered third-shift employees in Waterloo not to report to work at their usual 11 p.m. start time. Employees at the company’s Ankeny and Ottumwa plants said Deere also canceled their second shifts. Employees are working under a contract that expires Friday, but the UAW told Deere that its 10,100 members will go on strike Thursday morning if the two sides cannot reach a tentative agreement. Workers have not gone on strike against Deere since 1986. UAW International spokesperson Brian Rothenberg said Wednesday that his team was looking into reports of temporary layoffs. “We’ve gotten no formal notification about anything,” he said. In addition to plants in Ankeny, Ottumwa and Waterloo, the UAW represents Deere workers in Davenport and Dubuque, as well as in Illinois and Kansas. The Waterloo plant, with about 3,000 members, is Deere’s largest. On Sunday, UAW members overwhelmingly rejected a proposed six-year contract with Deere that would have raised wages and bolstered current employees’ retirement payments while ending traditional pensions for new hires, who would participate in an enhanced 401(k) plan.
Wichita: The City Council has passed an ordinance aimed at banning discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. After four months of delays, the council voted 6-1 to approve the measure Tuesday, the Wichita Eagle reports. Council member Jeff Blubaugh cast the lone dissenting vote. Council members rejected a proposed exemption that would have allowed religious groups to fire or refuse to hire LGBTQ individuals, an amendment proposed by council member Jared Cerullo, the first openly gay man to serve on the council. Cerullo said the proposed amendment would help bridge the divide between religious groups who opposed it and those who wanted it. But council members Becky Tuttle and Cindy Claycomb said it would “dilute” the ordinance. The measure seeks to prohibit discrimination based on age, color, disability, familial status, gender identity, genetic information, national origin or ancestry, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, citizenship, veteran status or any other factor protected by law. The city will begin accepting complaints under the ordinance Jan. 1.
Louisville: Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, the influential chairman of the House Budget Committee who has played a key role in pushing for President Joe Biden’s agenda to expand the nation’s social safety net, announced Tuesday that he will not seek another term in next year’s election. At age 74, Yarmuth – first elected to Congress in 2006, when he unseated a Republican incumbent in his Louisville-area district – said he wanted to spend more time with his family. The congressman is the 10th Democrat to announce plans to retire ahead of the 2022 election. Although the district he represents has become increasingly blue, the retirement of a Democrat in a senior leadership position sends yet another ominous sign about the party’s chances heading into next year’s midterms, when its thin majority in both U.S. chambers will be at stake. The party that wins control of the White House typically loses congressional seats in subsequent elections. Yarmuth is the only Democrat in Kentucky’s six-member U.S. House delegation. State Sen. Morgan McGarvey, the top-ranking Democrat in the GOP-controlled state Senate, quickly announced he’d run for the seat. State Rep. Attica Scott was already waging a primary challenge against Yarmuth, and his son, Aaron Yarmuth, said he is weighing throwing his hat in the ring.
New Orleans: Billionaire Richard Branson said it was an honor and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to don a drum major’s uniform and march ahead of a New Orleans high school band. But some of the Catholic school’s fans apparently were less enthusiastic about Branson’s appearance last week with the St. Augustine High School Marching 100 – the band that integrated an exclusive Mardi Gras parade. The band and Branson paraded to a new Virgin Hotel in New Orleans as part of opening ceremonies Thursday. “I’ve had quite a few exciting experiences in my time, but I’ve never got (a) chance to lead a marching band before – let alone the best marching band in the world,” Branson wrote on his blog Friday. “What an honour to join the legendary St. Augustine High School band for a performance through the streets of New Orleans.” Aulston G. Taylor, president and CEO of the school, tweeted a letter late Sunday acknowledging that many people had told him only students who have earned it should be allowed to wear the purple and gold uniform. Others felt that “Sir Branson adorning our drum major uniform with honor across his millions of followers was great for the school and sets us apart as a global brand,” he wrote. He said both viewpoints are valid.
Augusta: Republicans in the state Senate want to return to taxpayers a portion of the surplus that accumulated during the pandemic, thanks in part to historic federal assistance. The “Give It Back” plan is seen as a major piece of the GOP’s messaging push ahead of the 2022 legislative session and comes as former Republican Gov. Paul LePage seeks to unseat current Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, the Bangor Daily News reports. The plan calls for splitting unused monthly revenue, sending half to the state’s rainy day fund and half to taxpaying residents. The proposal is in line with LePage’s campaign promise of eliminating Maine’s income tax if he wins in 2022. Mills has overseen a healthy state budget during her time as governor despite higher spending. A spokesperson for her administration called the GOP proposal a tacit acknowledgement of the state’s good fiscal situation under Mills’ leadership, according to the newspaper. Maine Republican legislators have fought with Mills over the $1 billion in federal relief that was used to bail state government out during the pandemic. Party leaders have called the aid excessive.
Baltimore: The city’s public schools are using software that alerts officials when a student using one of the system’s laptops might be considering suicide. Since March, GoGuardian’s Beacon software has identified nine students as having a severe mental health crisis. All were taken to an emergency room, Stacey Davis, the city schools’ coordinator of media and instructional technology, told The Baltimore Sun. But the practice, which came about as the system loaned out laptops for students’ home use during the pandemic, is raising questions about privacy and equity. Two recent reports warn that such technology could be used for disciplinary purposes, unintentionally out LGBTQ students or squash student expression. They also note that economically disadvantaged students may be tracked more frequently because school-owned laptops may be their only devices. “Privacy and equity was not being considered as much as it needs to be,” said Elizabeth Laird, director of equity in civic technology at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington and co-author of one of the reports. “Student activity monitoring is quite widespread.” Baltimore schools have gotten 786 alerts from Beacon since March. Of those, clinicians responded 401 times, and school police went to homes 12 times.
Barnstable: A rare two-headed diamondback terrapin turtle is alive and kicking – with all six of its legs – at the Birdsey Cape Wildlife Center after hatching a little over two weeks ago. A threatened species in the state, this turtle is feeding well on bloodworms and food pellets, staff at the center said. The two heads operate independently, coming up for air at different times, and inside its shell are two gastrointestinal systems to feed both sides of its body. The turtle originally came from a nest in West Barnstable that researchers determined was in a hazardous location and needed to be moved. After hatching, turtles in these so-called head start nests are sent to different care centers to be monitored before their release in the spring. Center veterinarian Pria Patel and other staff members will continue to monitor the turtle, which they nicknamed Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen after the twins who rose to prominence as child actors, beginning with “Full House” in 1987 when they were babies, and now are the famously elusive designers behind fashion label The Row. The staff is hoping to perform a CT scan to learn more about the turtle’s circulatory system.
Lansing: Backers of former President Donald Trump will launch a ballot drive to require a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election, rallygoers were told Tuesday. Jon Rocha, of Portage, a Republican who is running against U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said he expects paperwork for the legislative initiative to be filed with the Board of State Canvassers next week. “This is how a revolution begins,” Rocha told several hundred people gathered on the state Capitol lawn. If about 340,000 valid signatures are collected, and the measure is approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature, “it is absolutely veto-proof,” Rocha said. “That’s the best part about it.” Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “cannot stop this bill.” Should lawmakers fail to act on the measure, it would go to voters at the November 2022 election, he said. Though ill-defined, a “forensic audit” is the phrase that has been embraced by large numbers of people unhappy with the result of the 2020 presidential election, in which President Joe Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump, a Republican. Biden won 306 to 232 in the Electoral College and by more than 7 million popular votes. Biden prevailed in Michigan by more than 150,000 votes. Several private donors have agreed to help fund the effort, Rocha said. He would not name them.
Minneapolis: Moccasin maker Minnetonka is publicly apologizing for making money off Native American culture and promised to do more to support Indigenous communities in the future after 75 years in business. In a statement posted Monday on Minnetonka’s website, CEO David Miller said the company is not a Native-owned business. He noted the Minneapolis-based firm acknowledged its appropriation in summer 2020 but said this public apology was long overdue. “We deeply and meaningfully apologize for having benefited from selling Native-inspired designs without directly honoring Native culture or communities,” Miller said. The company timed the apology to coincide with Indigenous Peoples Day. To better address the needs of the Native American community, Minnetonka said it has hired Adrienne Benjamin – a Minnesotan, Anishinaabe, and a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe – as a reconciliation advisor. The company said it’s also making a concerted effort to improve diversity, equity and inclusion of underrepresented groups and will seek out more partnerships with Native-owned businesses as vendors and suppliers. In the past year, it has done business with two different Native-owned companies, the company said.
Jackson: Students who left college at least two years ago without a degree can apply for a grant to help them return to and finish school. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning $1.3 million to fund the state’s Complete 2 Compete tuition assistance grants through 2023. The Complete 2 Compete program provides one-on-one support for adult learners who have earned college credits – but not a degree – and works with them to complete their education. Qualifying returning students can receive a $1,000 grant that can be renewed every semester. The award helps pay for any coursework needed to graduate and can help repay prior debt. Funds can be used at any Mississippi public universities or community colleges. A total of 2,400 students have graduated since the program launched in 2017. More than 200,000 prior students qualify for the Complete 2 Compete program, according to a press release from the Mississippi Community College Board. Since May, the program has reached out to former students through postcards as well as internet and social media ads. More than 2,700 former students’ applications were processed over the summer, with 620 returning to enroll in one of 15 community colleges, eight universities and a medical center.
Columbia: A federal judge has struck down the state’s requirement that a majority of the owners of companies that dispense, grow or manufacture marijuana must be Missouri residents. U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey last week issued a permanent injunction against the residency requirement, The Kansas City Star reports. She had issued a temporary injunction in June. Missouri voters approved creation of a medical marijuana industry in the state in 2018. One of the regulations required that state-licensed marijuana cultivation plants, dispensaries and manufacturing facilities must be at least 51% owned by people who had lived in Missouri for at least one year. Mark Toigo, a Pennsylvania-based investor, filed a lawsuit last December challenging the requirement, arguing that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause. Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said in a statement that the agency is “happy to have clarity on how we should handle the ownership residency requirement in the Missouri Constitution and will comply with the court’s decision.” The health department oversees the medical marijuana program.
Helena: A lawsuit filed Tuesday is challenging a new state law banning voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts in certain areas of college campuses. The lawsuit filed by the Montana Democratic Party, Montanans for Tester and University of Montana student Macee Patritti is one of several challenging the law passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature earlier this year. The plaintiffs argue the law is suppressing the vote of young people, who typically favor Democratic candidates. The law prohibits political committees including student organizations from conducting voter registration drives and other political activities inside certain high-traffic public university spaces including residence halls, dining facilities and athletic facilities. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula argues the law “imposes arbitrary, vague, and onerous restrictions on the rights of college students” to participate fully in the political process. Patritti, a 19-year-old freshman, registered students to vote at the Montana Technological University in Butte as an intern with the Montana Democratic Party ahead of the 2020 election, according to the court filing. The plaintiffs argue that her First Amendment rights to political expression would be curtailed under the new law, which would prohibit such activities.
Lincoln: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has announced a five-year ban on Phi Gamma Delta fraternity for student conduct code violations following a report of a sexual assault at the fraternity’s house in August. The report led to a protest of about 1,000 people outside the fraternity house Aug. 25 and sparked similar protests on college campuses around the country. The UNL chapter of Phi Gamma Delta – better known as Fiji – was temporarily suspended in late August while the university investigated possible violations of a previous probation. The university said Tuesday in a news release that an investigation by the University Conduct Board showed violations had occurred and that Fiji is no longer recognized by the university. The fraternity is suspended from the Lincoln campus at least through 2026, the release said. Fiji was already on probation for previous violations of university policy when the assault was reported. That report is still being actively investigated by the University Police Department, according to the university.
Carson City: The state’s top election official is challenging the status of two ballot measures that Nevada’s largest teachers union promised to withdraw after successfully using them as bargaining chips and pressuring legislators to boost education funding. In a Sept. 7 letter first published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske wrote that state law required she include measures that propose raising taxes on sales and gambling on the 2022 ballot. Neither Democrats nor Nevada’s powerful resort industry want the tax measures to appear before voters next year, both have said. Democrats worry their inclusion could allow Republicans to frame the election around taxes. And resorts and casinos do not want to risk a hike that could deter tourists from visiting Las Vegas. The initiatives originated almost a year ago, when the Clark County Education Association submitted the tens of thousands of signatures necessary to qualify the two proposals for the 2022 ballot. John Vellardita, the teachers union’s executive director, said in March that the measures were designed to “start a conversation” about education funding and said they’d remain on the ballot unless lawmakers increased education funding before adjourning in June, which they did.
Concord: The state’s Executive Council on Wednesday rejected $27 million in federal funds for vaccination outreach, thrilling outspoken activists who previously derailed a public meeting and delayed the vote. Several were arrested Wednesday after audience members repeatedly interrupted the debate. Among other things, the money would have allowed the state to hire a public health manager and a dozen workers to promote the COVID-19 vaccines and address public concerns about them. Opponents argued the grant language would have required the state to comply with any “future directives” issued by the Biden administration regarding COVID-19, such as vaccine mandates. The same language has appeared in other grants accepted by the council, a five-member body that approves state contracts. And it does not in any way impede the state’s sovereignty, said both Attorney General John Formella and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. “I appreciate that you have concerns, but they’re based on fantasy,” Sununu told Councilor Joe Kenney. All four of the Republican councilors voted against the grants. “You want the government to tell private businesses who to hire and fire?” the governor said. “That is completely un-American.”
Kearny: The state has awarded a contract to replace a century-old rail bridge that has been the source of regular delays for years, officials announced Tuesday. The $1.56 billion contract is the largest in NJ Transit’s history, CEO Kevin Corbett said in a statement. The board of directors approved a joint venture by Sweden-based Skanska and Traylor Brothers, a civil construction company based in Evansville, Indiana. Construction is expected to take about five years. The Portal North Bridge is to replace a 111-year-old swing bridge over the Hackensack River that occasionally becomes stuck after it opens to allow boats to pass and must be manually hammered back into place. The new bridge will allow marine traffic to pass underneath without interrupting rail traffic. The project completed its design phase and received environmental approvals several years ago but languished while New York and New Jersey officials squabbled with the Trump administration over dividing up the costs between the states and the federal government. “Few infrastructure projects are as critical to the nation as replacing the aging Portal Bridge,” Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement.
Albuquerque: After seven years of mining, federal officials say work to carve out the eighth disposal area at the U.S. government’s underground nuclear waste repository is complete. Managers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are planning to use the space beginning next year. Workers still need to run power to the excavated area known as Panel 8 and install air monitors and chain link to protect the walls. Constructed in a deep layer of salt in southern New Mexico, the repository entombs the radioactive remnants of decades of nuclear research and bomb-making. That includes special boxes and barrels packed with lab coats, rubber gloves, tools and debris contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive elements. Having enough space for the waste became more of an issue in 2014, when a radiation release contaminated parts of the underground facility and forced an expensive, nearly three-year closure. Some parts of the repository became off-limits. State regulators currently are weighing a permit change that some critics say could open the door to expanded operations at the repository. A decision is expected this year. In operation for more than two decades, the repository has received nearly 13,000 shipments. The idea is that the shifting salt will eventually encapsulate the waste after the underground vaults are filled and sealed.
New York: A $2 billion project to build a rail link to LaGuardia Airport was officially put on hold Tuesday, after weeks of criticism from public officials and a lawsuit from neighborhood and environmental groups. In a news release, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it is pausing the project to consider alternatives. In recent weeks, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul had criticized the project, championed by her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo. Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who represents part of the area through which the link would pass, also has spoken out against it, as has outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Federal Aviation Administration issued environmental approval in July but recently had asked the Port Authority to reconsider in light of a lawsuit filed by neighborhood and environmental groups. Preliminary construction on the roughly $2 billion, 1.5-mile elevated link was to begin this year. Public transit officials have sought for years to build a rail link to LaGuardia, one of the few major U.S. airports without rail service. Critics had opposed the plan, saying it would negatively impact Queens neighborhoods and wouldn’t be appreciably faster than driving, as it would involve taking a train or subway from points east or west to a stop serving CitiField, home of the New York Mets, then switching to the rail link.
Charlotte: A jail violated regulations requiring guards to observe inmates at least twice an hour, according to a state agency probing the deaths of two inmates last spring. On May 22, John Devin Haley, 41, of Charlotte, was found hanging below his cell window at the Mecklenburg County jail with a strip of blanket tied around his neck, The Charlotte Observer reports. Haley had a history of addiction and mental health problems when he entered the jail April 3 and was temporarily placed on suicide watch, according to jail records. Karon Golightly of Gastonia died at the jail May 14. Five months later, the cause of his death has not been made public, the newspaper reports. In North Carolina, jailers are required to observe each inmate “at least twice an hour on an irregular basis, with no more than 40 minutes between rounds,” according to state regulations. That standard was repeatedly violated in the hours leading up to the two deaths, according to investigators with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. A DHHS report obtained by the newspaper says 52 minutes elapsed between the time Golightly was seen healthy and being discovered in distress in another inmate’s cell. The state also pointed to a camera near where Golightly collapsed that apparently was malfunctioning.
Bismarck: Budget writers in the Legislature began mulling proposals Tuesday on how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid the state received this year. House and Senate appropriations committees met separately in all-day meetings at the Capitol, listening to pitches from fellow lawmakers and others on a wish list that totaled $9.2 billion – significantly more than the $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds transferred to the state-owned Bank of North Dakota in June. The meetings, attended heavily by lobbyists, were the first in a series being held this month to prioritize projects ahead of a Nov. 8 special session, when the full GOP-led Legislature will debate the proposals. The $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus funds represents the single-largest deposit into state coffers in history. The money currently is parked in short-term CDs, earning less than 1% interest. Senate Appropriations Chairman Ray Holmberg and his counterpart in the House, Jeff Delzer, said priority for the funding will be given to water, sewer and infrastructure projects, for which there is an immediate need, and those that won’t require a commitment of funds from taxpayers in the future.
Columbus: Recreational marijuana would be legalized for adults 21 and older under Republican legislation coming in the state House that would levy a 10% sales tax on the product, a lawmaker announced Tuesday. Ohio facilities currently producing and processing medical marijuana would be grandfathered into the program, with new producers to be added to meet the expected demand, said Rep. Jamie Callender, R-Lake County. He said he’s currently looking for co-sponsors for the legislation, which has been in the works for months. The bill “is the responsible approach for adult use,” Callender said. A quarter of the sales tax revenue would go to police departments to purchase equipment used in detecting impaired drivers and another quarter toward addiction and recovery programs. The remaining 50% would not be earmarked, which could help the state during a precarious economic time, Callender said. In addition to the legislation being announced Tuesday, a separate ballot issue to legalize marijuana use and sales in Ohio is underway. A spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which proposed that statute, said Tuesday that the group applauded Callender’s plan and said it continues to welcome the chance to work with the Legislature on passing a recreational marijuana bill.
Oklahoma City: A retired New York attorney is suing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, saying its claim to have no records pertaining to the drugs it plans to use in upcoming executions “defies belief.” Fred Hodara, who filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court, is asking the court to compel the corrections department to comply with his open records requests for documentation of its execution plans. He said in his lawsuit that in response to his requests for the records, including some the department is legally required to keep, the department told him none exist, the Tulsa World reports. “In light of the scope and nature of the requests, the assertation defies belief,” the lawsuit said, arguing that the agency has a history of refusing to search for and produce records that are subject to the state’s Open Records Act. A department spokesman told the newspaper that the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Oklahoma is preparing to execute John Marion Grant on Oct. 28. It would be the state’s first execution since 2015, when then-Gov. Mary Fallin put a moratorium on capital punishment following the execution of Charles Warner with a drug that wasn’t authorized to be used that way.
Keizer: Republican state lawmaker Bill Post has announced his resignation from the Legislature after saying he misunderstood the residency requirements for being in office when he moved out of Oregon. His resignation announced Tuesday will be effective Nov. 30. Post previously said he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2022 but said Tuesday that he would resign after “discussions with an elections attorney.” Post, a former talk radio host, has served in the Oregon House of Representatives since 2015. He and his wife moved to Fallon, Nevada, which is east of Reno. In a Sept. 27 Facebook message, Post said his wife accepted a job, and they had sold their Keizer house and bought one in Fallon. He said he’d be in the district “at least once per month.” “My intent was to be open with my constituents about my move out of state and the steps I’d be taking to continue to fulfill my duties for the rest of my term to the best of my knowledge and ability,” Post said in a statement. Republican precinct committee members from House District 25 will select three to five candidates to replace Post. County commissioners from Marion and Yamhill counties will then choose a candidate to serve out the remainder of Post’s term. A Republican has held the seat since 2003.
York: Love was unexpectedly on the court docket when a man accused of murder made an unusual request of the judge who will preside over his trial. Kashawn Flowers’ lawyer on Tuesday asked York County Judge Harry Ness whether he’d consider marrying Flowers and his girlfriend. Attorney Brian Perry acknowledged it was the first time he had ever made such a request. Flowers is accused of gunning down a man in York in August 2014. His girlfriend would not be a witness at the trial, his attorney said. Prosecutors did not object, and neither did the judge. But the marriage is on hold until after the trial. “We’ll take care of it next week,” the judge said. Flowers remains held in the county jail without bail.
Providence: A series of controversial murals at a school have been painted over following criticism that they depicted children of color in a disparaging light. Among the four painted panels at Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School, only one shows children with different skin tones together, while the others show varying races separated. Two white children are shown playing on a beach in one scene, while two Black children build a snowman in another. Meanwhile, in a separate image, other children of color tidy up the school and collect trash. City Councilman David Salvatore said he received complaints about the murals, focusing in part on their apparent themes of inequality and segregation, and held community meetings on the issue. Initially, Salvatore explored the idea of removing the murals, preserving them and putting them on display, though he said it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Eventually, the murals were painted over just before the school year began. Considerations for a new mural will be made. The city’s decision generated backlash from state Rep. Anastasia Williams, who said the paintings represented desegregation and anti-racism to her. Officials have been unable to find any mention of the murals in city archives; it’s only known that they were painted decades ago.
Columbia: Two civil rights groups are suing the state, saying lawmakers are taking too long to draw new maps for U.S. and state House districts. Candidates are required to file to run for the 2022 races by the end of March, but time is running out for potential candidates to research the new districts and settle any lawsuits asking judges to decide if the new maps are fair, according to the suit. It was filed Tuesday by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union. The groups are asking a panel of three federal judges to set a specific timeline for maps to be drawn and approved and not allow any elections until the new districts get judicial approval. The suit said lawmakers should have kept to suggestions when they adjourned in June that there would be a special session in September or October to approve maps. Those plans became less firm as lawmakers dealt with the aftermath of a budget provision that prevented districts from passing mask requirements this school year. South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler called for an Oct. 12 special session last month but canceled it about a week later, saying a committee working on the school district issues wouldn’t be finished in time.
Sioux Falls: Zoo officials say COVID-19 may have killed a snow leopard. The animal, named Baya, died at the Great Plains Zoo on Thursday of a respiratory illness that might have been COVID-19. Coronavirus test results are pending. The snow leopard began coughing Oct. 3. By Oct. 4 she was acting lethargic and wouldn’t eat. Zoo veterinarians gave Baya antibiotics Thursday, but she was in critical condition later in the day. Baya was 21/2 years old and had been at the zoo since early 2021. Officials had hoped she would mate with another snow leopard named Strut. Zoo officials said Monday that an Amur tiger at the zoo tested positive for the virus Oct. 6, the day before Baya died. Five other big cats at the zoo have shown COVID-19 symptoms, including Strut. Most of the animals have been on antibiotics and are improving, said Matt Eschenbrenner, the zoo’s director of animal care and conservation. He said the zoo hopes to bring in another snow leopard to replace Baya, but it’s unclear when that animal might arrive. “We can’t even think about bringing in another animal until we know everything has passed and our animals are healthy, 100%,” Eschenbrenner said.
Memphis: Three U.S. Postal Service workers died in a shooting spree at a sorting facility Tuesday, including a supervisor, a manager and a letter carrier temporarily assigned to the postal annex, relatives and co-workers said. Two workers were fatally shot by a third who died from a self-inflicted gunshot, authorities said. The FBI and U.S. Postal Service didn’t immediately name those involved. The postal facility reopened Wednesday. Laquita Benjamin, president of the local branch of the National Association of Postal Supervisors, said those killed were a carrier, a supervisor and a manager. “You can’t just relate it to the Postal Service because you have school shootings, store shootings – you have shootings all over,” Benjamin said. A family member identified one of the dead as James Wilson, a manager at the East Lamar Carrier Annex in Orange Mound, a historic Memphis neighborhood. “He was a humble soul, one of the nicest supervising managers you could ever wish there was,” Roxanne Rogers said of Wilson, her cousin. Rogers, herself a postal worker, said Wilson had just returned to the annex after filling in at a different location. Melvin Richardson, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 96, said the annex is only used by employees.
Austin: The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday launched an investigation into allegations of widespread mistreatment at the state’s embattled youth lockups, where at least 11 staffers have been arrested on sexual abuse charges in recent years. The move by the Biden administration is the latest sign of trouble for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, which for more than a decade has been beset by scandal, staff shake-ups and investigations into allegations of abuse. Just last week, a former coach at a West Texas facility was arrested on charges alleging that he touched the breast of an 18-year-old in custody. The announcement comes a year after advocates in Texas filed a complaint with federal investigators that outlined “grave problems” at the state’s five youth lockups. Texas put more than 800 youths in state juvenile detention in 2019 – more than any other state – according to an agency report published in September. “Being subjected to harmful conditions does not rehabilitate children; it only leads to worse life outcomes,” said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Spokespeople for the state agency and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In July, Abbott ordered a new investigation into the agency.
Salt Lake City: Apple CEO Tim Cook and NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade joined Utah leaders Wednesday to announce the completion of a local advocacy group’s campaign to build new homes that provide services for LGBTQ youth in the West. Encircle, a nonprofit providing mental health services for LGBTQ youth, has surpassed its goal of raising $8 million to build eight new homes with locations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah aimed at providing safe spaces and preventing teen suicide. “Encircle’s mission is very personal to me because I see myself in so many of these young people,” Cook told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday. “It’s not easy when you’re made to feel different or less than because of who you are or who you love. It’s a feeling that so many LGBTQ people know far too well.” Wade, who joined the Utah Jazz ownership group in April, shared his experience as the parent of a transgender child and voiced his support for Encircle’s mission. “I stand here as a proud parent of a beautiful daughter that’s a part of the LGBT+ community,” Wade said. “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to listen.”
Rutland: A dam built at the end of the 18th century has been fully removed after it was abandoned and contributed to flooding that threatened nearby homes in central Vermont. The removal of the Dunklee Pond dam started in 2019 and was completed in the past month, WCAX-TV reports. In the decades after it was built, the dam powered industries including a linseed oil mill, a wood planing mill, a metal mill, a slate pencil mill and a tannery, the broadcaster reports. More recently, it was used as a skating rink and swimming hole. “In the ’50s, ’60s, there were photos of the people diving, jumping off the dam, off the wall up here, swimming, fishing,” said Todd Menees of the Vermont Rivers Program. But the dam deteriorated, and Rutland City Fire Chief Bill Lovett said if it failed, it would have threatened dozens of homes downstream, and a bridge over a busy roadway could have been destroyed. The Vermont Natural Resources Council and the city of Rutland coordinated the project, using about $500,000 of state and federal funding. The project removed sediment that accumulated behind the dam, which the city of Rutland will use for road repairs.
Roanoke: The family of a slain journalist is asking the Federal Trade Commission to take action against Facebook for failing to remove online footage of her shooting death. Andy Parker said the company is violating its own terms of service in hosting videos on Facebook and its sibling service, Instagram, that glorify violence. His daughter, TV news reporter Alison Parker, and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by a former co-worker while reporting for Roanoke’s WDBJ-TV in August 2015. Video footage of the shooting – some of which was taken by the gunman – repeatedly resurfaces on Facebook and Instagram despite assurances from top executives that it will be removed, according to a complaint filed Tuesday by Parker and attorneys with the Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic. “The reality is that Facebook and Instagram put the onus on victims and their families to do the policing of graphic content – requiring them to relive their worst moments over and over to curb the proliferation of these videos,” the complaint said. It said Facebook is engaging in deceptive trade practices by violating its own terms of service and misrepresenting the safety of the platform and how hard it is for users to get harmful and traumatic content removed.
Yakima: The pace of the 20-acre Rattlesnake Ridge landslide in central Washington near Union Gap is continuing to slow, officials said. Yakima County emergency services director Tony Miller said measurements taken in August show the slab is moving less than 2 inches each week, The Yakima Herald-Republic reports. In 2020, the slab was sliding 2 to 3 inches each week. The slab is expected to continue sliding south, with debris depositing in a nearby quarry. “It’s moving a little bit, crumbling and falling right into the pit,” Miller said. State and county officials, as well as scientists, have been monitoring the slide since a crack was spotted on the ridge in 2017. Initially, officials said the slide could pose an immediate danger, and 60 people living nearby were evacuated. Some residents returned after an assessment firm hired by the state confirmed the landslide was not likely to rapidly slip. Stephen Reidel, a research faculty member at Washington State University, said the slab is sliding on a sedimentary layer between basalt flows. As the basalt slides into the quarry, it will stack up and eventually build up enough to act as a barrier, stopping the landslide. “It’ll just stabilize itself and then stop moving,” he said.
Charleston: Employers would be limited in their ability to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under a bill introduced by Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday. The proposal, which would allow certain medical and religious exemptions to company vaccine mandates, comes as the state approaches 4,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Employers would be barred under the bill from penalizing or discriminating against current or prospective employees for pursuing the exemptions. The bill, which covers businesses and state government agencies, was advanced in the state Senate on first reading Wednesday. In the House of Delegates, it was referred to a committee. Justice, a Republican, lifted an earlier indoor mask mandate in June and opposes any new mask or vaccine mandates. Businesses can mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, “but at the same time they need to allow for these exemptions,” Justice said at a news conference. Under the bill, a doctor or nurse can provide signed documentation that the employee has a physical condition preventing them from safely receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or that the worker has recovered from COVID-19 and can show they have antibodies for the coronavirus. The worker also can present a notarized certification for a religious exemption.
Madison: Republicans brought in rocker and avid hunter Ted Nugent on Wednesday to publicize a package of bills that would declare open hunting season on sandhill cranes and allow anyone 18 or older to carry concealed firearms without a permit. Nugent appeared with more than 20 Republican lawmakers, including state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, inside the Assembly chamber. The musician and conservative activist said that “hunting is essential, and any regulation that doesn’t deal with safety or science-based wildlife management is an obstacle to participation.” The package of 13 bills is making its way through the Republican-controlled Legislature. Even if they passed, to become law they would need the approval of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who would likely veto many of them. Nugent, who lives in neighboring Michigan, is the national spokesman for Hunter Nation, a group that outraged conservationists when it won a court order forcing an unprecedented late-winter wolf hunt in Wisconsin during the animal’s breeding season. The proposal to create a sandhill crane hunting season mirrors another that died in 2012 in home state of the International Crane Foundation. Nugent said in addition to population control, sandhills are tasty. “Are you familiar with the term ribeye?” he said. “They’re ribeyes in the sky.”
Laramie: Trustees at the University of Wyoming say they’ll continue a policy requiring masks in indoor campus spaces where social distance can’t be maintained, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Only about 40% of students have confirmed COVID-19 vaccinations, according to the newspaper.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Into the Wild’ bus, two-headed turtle: News from around our 50 states