Montgomery: The Alabama Shakespeare Festival, which began in a high school auditorium in 1972, is undergoing a $1.6 million renovation in advance of its 50th season. Located in east Montgomery, the theater is upgrading an entrance lobby and enclosing an outdoor area. It also is adding restrooms, constructing a new gift shop and making other additions. While the theater received $1.18 million in federal pandemic aid as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, spokeswoman Layne Holley said the renovations will not use that money, and officials have yet to decide how to use the funding. Indoor shows are scheduled to resume Nov. 27 with a production of “Cinderella.” Executive director Todd Schmidt said the theater has survived the pandemic and made plans for a return in part because of strong community backing. “We had to reduce our staff and our overhead,” Schmidt said. “It’s been a tough time, but luckily we’ve had great support.” Initially staged at Anniston High School, the company relocated to Montgomery and is housed in a theater constructed in 1985.
Anchorage: The Alaska Federation of Natives has postponed its annual convention because of a rise in COVID-19 cases in the state, officials said in a statement. The convention has traditionally been the largest gathering of Alaska Natives in the state. It had been scheduled for Oct. 21-23 but is now delayed until mid-December in Anchorage, the organization said in a statement. Organizers said they will continue planning for an in-person convention at the Dena’ina Convention Center in downtown Anchorage with a virtual option. However, the statement said the board will make a decision by mid-October on whether to maintain the in-person part. Organizers encouraged Alaskans to get vaccinated and wear masks so the convention can be held. One notable celebration this year will be the observation of the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The act was the largest land settlement in the nation’s history when President Richard Nixon signed it into law Dec. 18, 1971, and settled Indigenous land claims in Alaska. “Postponing until December provides us an opportunity to gather in person on the 50th anniversary of ANCSA, but it all hinges on everyone’s willingness and ability to get vaccinated,” said Sealaska chairman and Alaska Federation of Natives co-chair Joe Nelson.
Phoenix: A tribe that didn’t sign a revised gambling compact with the state earlier this year has filed a lawsuit alleging that a new law is unconstitutional and left some rural tribes in the cold by excluding them from negotiations hamming out the legislation. The suit filed by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe on Thursday asks the court to prevent the Department of Gaming from issuing sportsbook licenses and allowing sports betting. The lawsuit said the state presented the tribe with an amended compact “as a non-negotiable, ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ proposition.” The lawmaker who sponsored the gambling legislation defended it as fair and equitable. The legislation signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey last spring expands the types of gambling allowed at tribal casinos, lets tribes and pro sports teams take bets on sport evenings, and licenses six operators to sign up players for betting on fantasy virtual games. A judge scheduled an emergency hearing for next Friday on the suit.
Little Rock: A federal judge has scheduled the retrial of a former state senator on bribery and fraud charges for the first week of October. Court records, first reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, show U.S. District Judge Judge Price Marshall on Friday scheduled the trial for Gilbert Baker, a Republican former senator and one-time state GOP chairman, to begin Oct. 4. A federal jury earlier this month acquitted Baker of conspiracy in the case in which he allegedly conspired to bribe an ex-judge who admitted to lowering a jury’s award in a negligence lawsuit in exchange for campaign contributions. The jury, however, deadlocked on charges of bribery and wire fraud against Baker, and prosecutors on Thursday filed notice of their intent to retry those counts. Baker was accused of conspiring with former state Judge Michael Maggio, who admitted to accepting campaign donations from a nursing home operator, then reducing a judgment against that company by $4.2 million. Michael Morton, the nursing home operator, has not been charged with any crimes and has denied wrongdoing. Maggio was sentenced in 2015 to 10 years in prison.
Blythe: California farmers near the Arizona border with the oldest rights to Colorado River water will reap $38 million over three years to not plant some of their fields and leave extra water in the rapidly declining Lake Mead reservoir. Located roughly halfway between Los Angeles and Phoenix, growers near the city of Blythe in Riverside County have first priority to the river water. They hold rights that stretch back to 1877, superseding 40 million customers in eight states who also depend on it. But with continued drought and overuse, a first-ever shortage in the river system was declared in recent weeks by federal authorities, triggering cuts to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico’s supplies next year. In response, farmers who control the Palo Verde Irrigation District voted unanimously this month to agree to cancel planting some of their crops for three years. They will be paid about $925 per acre this year via federal drought response funds and water ratepayers in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, with 2% increases each year after that. Bart Fisher, a PVID trustee whose family owns the 11,500-acre Fisher Ranch, said he and others were acting not because they want the money but because they want to help others and try to guarantee continued water supply for all.
Denver: Colorado’s secretary of state filed a lawsuit Monday to remove a rural county’s election clerk who is accused of allowing a security breach of the county’s voting equipment that is currently being investigated by the FBI. The lawsuit filed in Mesa County district court by Secretary of State Jena Griswold seeks to formally remove Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters as the designated election official. The suit also calls for the appointment of former Secretary of State Wayne Williams to replace Peters and Sheila Reiner, former Mesa county clerk and recorder, to serve as the elections supervisor for the county’s upcoming November elections. The Board of County Commissioners praised the changes in a statement Monday, saying Mesa County will have “arguably the most secure and transparent election system in the United States.” Peters has claimed that the investigation led by Griswold – who is a Democrat – is an attempt to take over one of the few remaining conservative counties in Colorado. Griswold said initial investigation findings show images of election management software used by the county’s elections equipment were obtained by conspiracy theorists and posted on far-right blogs. Griswold’s office also said it believes one of the images was taken from a secure room.
Hartford: Schools around the state looking to upgrade aging ventilation systems to improve air quality and help fight the airborne spread of the coronavirus may find themselves short on funds, even with federal pandemic aid. The Connecticut Mirror reports a state policy restricts aid for heating, air conditioning and air quality control projects. The policy could be reviewed again by legislators, but likely not before the 2022 General Assembly session in February. “There are some districts that haven’t touched their schools in 40 years,” said Kostantinos Diamantis, the state’s budget director who also has overseen the state’s school construction program for the past six years. “The local level needs to belly up to the bar. The cities have an obligation to maintain those buildings.” Connecticut reimburses communities for between 10% and 71% of new construction and large renovation projects designed to last 20 years or longer, the Mirror reports. But the cost of smaller projects such as replacing or upgrading a heating and ventilation system must be absorbed by the town. For the town of Coventry, which wants to replace ventilators in its middle and high schools and make roof repairs, that would mean a bill of more than $2 million even after unused federal pandemic aid is applied.
Lewes: Preliminary necropsy results show that a young fin whale that beached itself and died at Cape Henlopen State Park last week was riddled with parasites. “There was a lot going on,” said Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute Executive Director Suzanne Thurman. Measured by MERR to be 57 feet long, the whale first showed up in Lewes on Thursday, stuck on a sandbar in the Harbor of Refuge. It was able to free itself when the tide came in, but a short time later it beached itself again on the oceanside of The Point. Around noon Aug. 27, after many onlookers had come to catch a glimpse of its tail flapping in the surf, and just moments after Virginia Aquarium representatives had arrived to provide palliative care and possible euthanasia, the whale stopped breathing, according to a MERR Facebook post. The whale had to be cut into several pieces to move it out of the water for necropsy.
District of Columbia
Washington: Dozens of people marched to the White House on Sunday calling for support of Afghan women. Organized by the nonprofit Vital Voices Global Partnership, the group is calling on President Joe Biden and other U.S. leaders to prioritize the evacuation of women out of Afghanistan and to help permanently protect women’s rights inside the country following the crisis inside the country and the Taliban takeover, WUSA-TV reports. Protesters wore shirts and held signs emblazoned with “I stand with Afghan women” as they marched from the Vital Voices headquarters on 16th Street through Black Lives Matter Plaza and to Lafayette Square, eventually gathering in front of the White House. The deadline to evacuate U.S. citizens from Afghanistan is Tuesday. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Sunday that for those U.S. citizens seeking immediately to leave Afghanistan by the looming deadline, “we have the capacity to have 300 Americans, which is roughly the number we think are remaining, come to the airport and get on planes in the time that is remaining.”
West Palm Beach: Sugar growers are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over proposed reservoir water levels they say will be far too low. The federal lawsuits filed last week by Florida Crystals’ Okeelanta Corp., U.S. Sugar and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative say the current Corps plan won’t supply enough water for their fields. “Farmers need a secure supply of water, and all farmers need certainty as we plan and manage our planting schedules and crop rotation,” said Jaime Vega, vice president of agriculture at Florida Crystals. Jacksonville Commander Col. Andrew Kelly defended the Corps’ work, saying the agency will balance water supply for both the environment and farmers. The project in question is the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir intended to cleanse tainted water so more can flow south as crucially needed toward Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. In the lawsuits, Sugar Growers say the still-under-construction reservoir should be kept at higher water levels than what is currently envisioned in a Corps of Engineers plan. Everglades restoration advocates say the growers are simply putting their priorities ahead of others.
Atlanta: Atlanta Black Pride organizers say the annual celebration will happen Labor Day weekend as planned with some precautions to protect against the spread of COVID-19. The larger Atlanta Pride festival and parade planned for October were canceled Wednesday because of concerns about the pandemic. But leaders of Atlanta Black Pride, which celebrates the African American LGBTQ community, say they plan to go forward, with fewer indoor gatherings, while encouraging people to wear masks and maintain social distance. Amber Moore, COO and vice president of Atlanta Black Pride, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that COVID-19 vaccines and coronavirus testing will be offered. The celebration, marking its 25th anniversary this year, is to feature events around the city. In addition to parties, that includes a fashion show, a session on empowering women, an awards ceremony for the transgender community, a virtual film festival and a health expo. Vaughn Alvarez, who is helping to promote some of the events at Piedmont Park, told the newspaper that Atlanta rapper and radio host Da Brat and fiancee Jesseca “Judy” Dupart, CEO of Kaleidoscope Hair Products, will be honored for “bravery and courage with their love story.” The two star in “Brat loves Judy” on WE-TV.
Wailuku: A county affordable housing committee has voted to recommend approval of a rental project on Lanai, where no new affordable homes have been built in 30 years. The Hokuao 201H Housing Project, proposed by billionaire Larry Ellison’s company Pulama Lanai, includes the development of 150 two-bedroom rental homes on former pineapple fields. About half of the units will be market-rate priced. The project will be developed under the state’s fast-track approval process for affordable housing. The Maui County Council’s Affordable Housing Committee voted 8-0 to recommend giving the project the green light after multiple meetings packed with public testimony and hours of discussion over concern about the project’s number of market-rate homes, The Maui News reports. Council Chairwoman Alice Lee said the project is “desperately needed.” Pulama Lanai had sought an exemption for sidewalks in the future subdivision, saying including them would cost about $2 million. Sharon Thom, senior vice president of development and construction for Pulama Lanai, said the sidewalks would change the “look and feel” of Lanai City. But Committee Chairman Gabe Johnson argued to include sidewalks, saying the county needs to advocate for pedestrian safety and accessibility.
Pocatello: The hot, dry, smoky growing season has left some potato farmers bracing for a poor crop. Randy Hardy, of Oakley, told the Idaho State Journal that his harvest will likely be the worst of his career. Statewide, spud farmers conducting test digs or early harvests are uprooting plants supporting no tubers. Where there are potatoes, there are fewer than normal, and most of the tubers are undersized and misshapen. “I’ve never had this happen before, and I’ve got an agronomist who works with me on potatoes, and he’s been doing it for over 20 years, and he said he’s never seen a worse crop than this,” said Hardy, who raises spuds for the fresh market and is chairman of the board of Sun Valley Potatoes. Hardy isn’t scheduled to harvest until Sept. 20, and he’s hoping the extra time will allow his tubers to add a bit more bulk. United Potato Growers of Idaho asked growers to submit results from Aug. 1 test digs and will gather follow-up data in person during harvest. Hardy said the average number of tubers in the test digs was down 30% from last year. Weight was also down substantially, he said. Many fields lacked deep soil moisture when the potatoes were planted. Then the state was hit with record-high heat in June, contributing to fewer potatoes growing beneath each plant, and smoke-filled air from Western wildfires.
Chicago: From a waterpark resort to a public school, seven finalists have been named in a design competition to repurpose a much-maligned state government building downtown. State officials are trying to sell the James R. Thompson Center, which was designed by famed architect Helmet Jahn. They say the 17-story curved-glass structure that opened in 1985 is inefficient and requires hundreds of millions of dollars worth of repairs and updates to keep it running. The building houses offices for the governor and employees of state agencies, who are scheduled to move next year to another building on the city’s Near West Side. Illinois officials are seeking bids for a developer and have not committed to any preservation ideas. Officials have said they want to sell the building by February 2022. Architecture buffs have pushed for preservation, an effort that’s been renewed in the wake of Jahn’s death in May. The finalists were named last week. A group of design and preservation experts picked the finalists from 59 entries. A winner will be chosen Sept. 14.
Indianapolis: A coalition of voting rights groups is sponsoring a contest for Hoosiers to draw new maps for congressional and legislative election districts. The group All IN for Democracy said the contest is aimed at finding “fair” proposed election maps to present to legislators before they vote in late September on the once-a-decade redistricting based on population shifts from the U.S. census. Voting rights activists have complained that the GOP-dominated Legislature isn’t involving the public enough in the redistricting work and that partisan gerrymandering has helped Indiana Republicans gain outsized power in state government. The organization is providing an online site where residents can compile maps based on the 2020 census data. Proposals submitted by Sept. 13 will be judged, with the winning map for Indiana’s nine congressional districts getting $1,000, with $2,000 for the best districts for the 50 Indiana Senate seats and $3,000 for the fairest map of the 100 Indiana House districts. The group said its judging will be based on how well the maps keep communities of interest together, maintain whole cities and counties in the same district, and maximize the number of politically competitive districts.
Des Moines: Black applicants are 2.6 times more likely to be denied a conventional home loan than similarly qualified white applicants in the Des Moines/West Des Moines metro, according to an analysis of 2019 data by The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom. Des Moines has the fifth-greatest likelihood of denial for Black applicants out of 71 U.S. metro areas that The Markup found had statistically significant disparities in home loan approvals. The newsroom found that nationally, mortgage lenders are 80% more likely to reject Black applicants; 70% more likely to deny Native American applicants; 50% more likely to turn down Asian/Pacific Islander applicants; and 40% more likely to reject Latino applicants. For its analysis, The Markup examined more than 2 million conventional mortgage applications, accounting for 17 independent variables, including debt-to-income ratio and combined loan-to-value ratio. It did not take into account credit scores, which are not publicly available through Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. John Sorensen, president and CEO of the Iowa Bankers Association, said in a statement that while the organization “firmly believes that discrimination has no place in the mortgage market,” the data used by The Markup doesn’t give a full picture as to why these disparities exist.
Wichita: One of the biggest gun dealers in south-central Kansas is the city of Wichita, but it actually received less than half the proceeds from the sales because it works with several online companies to auction off the firearms. Since a new state law allowing the gun sales was passed in 2015, Wichita has sold 2,082 guns that were seized during crimes for which the criminal cases were complete. The city generated $196,000 on the gun sales that went into a fund that pays for miscellaneous police equipment. But The Wichita Eagle learned the city received less than half of the $425,000 in total sales generated because the companies that handle the sales take a significant chunk of the proceeds. The city contracts with Propertyroom.com, which sells the guns through a partnership with a major gun retailer that operates an online auction site. The city finance director said officials last took proposals for the gun contract two years ago and got no better offer. Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell, who wrote the law, said it’s no different from police departments selling off other seized property, and any gun purchases require background checks. Former Rep. Jim Ward, who also used to work as a city prosecutor, said he knows it’s impossible to keep all the guns off the street, but he never wanted the government in the gun business.
Frankfort: An instructional assistant at an eastern Kentucky elementary school died from COVID-19 as the fast-spreading delta variant has sparked coronavirus outbreaks in several school districts. Heather Antle, an aide at Lee County Elementary, died Sunday. Antle was an involved member of the school community who “brought great joy to the students and staff that she worked with,” Lee County Superintendent Sarah Wasson said in a statement posted to social media. The Lee County district canceled in-person classes until Sept. 7 in response to coronavirus cases among students and teachers. Virus outbreaks have caused disruptions since the school year began. Several other districts have shut down classes for multiple days due to outbreaks. Gov. Andy Beshear, while expressing condolences to Antle’s family, urged Kentuckians to get vaccinated and wear masks to prevent the virus’s spread in schools. “There was a time when some argued COVID did not spread in schools,” the governor said on social media. “That time should be over. ... We must do everything in our power to prevent the spread of this virus in our schools, and vaccinations and masks are our greatest tools. Let’s do what’s right for our teachers.”
New Orleans: A couple who met in a gross anatomy class as Tulane University undergraduates have given Tulane Medical School $5 million for an endowed professorship. Drs. Philip and Cheryl Leone, of Naples, Florida, are now retired pathologists and current members of the School of Medicine Board of Governors, a university news release said Wednesday. Their endowment will support a medical school professor who will also hold a joint appointment in another school or unit and will focus on areas such as public health, immunology, parasitology or anthropology, the university said. The Leones have worked in both academia and private practice. “Tulane University has played a major role in our lives and the lives of our family members,” Phil Leone said. “Our son graduated from Tulane, and Cheryl’s siblings earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the university.” “Endowing a Presidential Chair with an emphasis on interdisciplinary academic study allows us to contribute to the university in these challenging times,” Cheryl Leone said. “We hope our gift will strengthen the medical school and help train future physicians who can significantly advance the field of medicine.”
Bar Harbor: More than 125 boats participated in a weekend protest against plans for an aquaculture operation in waters near Acadia National Park. Commercial and recreational vessels comprised the “Save the Bay” flotilla that motored around Frenchman Bay on Sunday. Some people on land also participated by holding signs stating their opposition. American Aquafarms has proposed raising 66 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually at a pair of 15-pen sites off the coast of Gouldsboro in Frenchman Bay. The company didn’t immediately return a telephone message. Ted O’Meara of Frenchman’s Bay United likened the scope of the project to ”some huge hog farm from the Midwest and plucking it right in the middle of one of the most beautiful parts of Maine.” He said that “our first goal is to stop this project, and our second goal is to look at changing some of the rules that allow people like this to think they can just come here and plug something like this down in our waters.”
Baltimore: The first new Catholic school built in the city in roughly 60 years opened its doors Monday to hundreds of youngsters, who entered the gleaming new building with a mix of enthusiasm and first-day-back jitters. The state-of-the-art Mother Mary Lange Catholic School was built on the site where a notoriously rough public housing high-rise once stood. In a U.S. city steeped in Catholicism like few others, the new 65,000-square-foot building near downtown Baltimore is somewhat of an anomaly in the national education landscape as the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the shuttering of many Catholic schools. It’s named after Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, a Haitian American who started a Catholic school for Black children in 1828 – the first U.S. Catholic school for African American youth. She co-founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore in 1829. The Vatican is reviewing Lange for possible canonization. Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori said the new school, which goes from preschool to eighth grade, is not only a benefit to the students and their families but also an asset to the surrounding neighborhood. The school’s playing fields and gym will be accessible, as appropriate, to the city community. “They say a rising tide lifts all boats. And I think the opening of this school has put a spring in the step of all of our Catholic educators,” Lori said in a phone interview.
Boston: A public marker to remember the enslaved Africans forced to journey across the ocean to toil in the Americas was formally dedicated Sunday on the downtown waterfront. The Middle Passage Port Marker was installed last October at the end of Long Wharf looking out onto Boston Harbor. It is meant to acknowledge Boston’s history of slavery and honor the Africans who were forced into the the trans-Atlantic voyage known as the Middle Passage. The Sunday ceremony included remarks from Michael Creasey, superintendent of the National Parks of Boston, and officials from the downtown Museum of African American History. Names of enslaved members of Boston’s oldest churches were read aloud, and there was a traditional balafon performance by Balla Kouyate as well as a land acknowledgement statement delivered by Elizabeth Solomon, a member of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag. Millions of Africans were sold in the Caribbean and in American cities such as Boston and Newport, Rhode Island, from 1619 to 1865, according to event organizers. Native Americans from local tribes, including the Massachusett, Wampanoag and Nipmuc, were also enslaved after being taken as prisoners of war, the organizations said.
Port Huron: A monument dedicated to Tuskegee Airmen who died in Michigan during World War II training was unveiled Saturday near the international Blue Water Bridge. Michigan served as an advanced training ground for many graduates of the Tuskegee University pilot training program in Alabama. Surviving Tuskegee airmen and their descendants attended the event in Port Huron, part of a three-day celebration that recognized the accomplishments of America’s first Black military pilots. Fifteen Tuskegee airmen were killed while training in Michigan, including five pilots lost in Lake Huron and one in the St. Clair River, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Wreckages from two planes have been found in the river and the lake. In 2014, the remains of a P-39 aircraft were found in Lake Huron, 70 years after it crashed. The body of 2nd Lt. Frank Moody washed ashore a few months after the April 1944 crash. A dive team spent a week in Lake Huron in 2015 surveying the wreckage. The plane’s wing, landing gear, engine block, tail, propeller, cockpit door, instrument panel, .50-caliber machine guns and ammunition are being restored and will become an exhibit sponsored by the National Tuskegee Airmen Museum in Detroit.
St. Paul: A write-in campaign for a prehistoric giant beaver that weighed more than 200 pounds has secured it a spot on a list of possible candidates for state fossil. The write-in campaign has been so successful that the beaver, or Castoroides ohioensis, is now in the lead among possible state-fossil candidates proposed by the Science Museum of Minnesota. The fossil, found in St. Paul, dates back to the Pleistocene epoch and is estimated to be anywhere from 2.58 million years to 10,150 years old, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Minnesota is one of just seven states without a state fossil, said Alex Hastings, the Phillip W. Fitzpatrick Chair of Paleontology at the Science Museum of Minnesota, who is leading an effort to designate one. Hastings put together a list of eight candidates – representing different creatures, different parts of the state and different geologic times – for consideration. As of last Tuesday, more than 2,100 people had voted, he said. The entry for Castoroides ohioensis notes that it had “buck teeth and aquatic lifestyle” and “was the size of a small bear,” according to officials with the St. Paul museum. It almost became Minnesota’s state fossil back in 1988, but the measure failed in the Legislature. Voting ends Oct. 1, after which legislators will get involved.
Yazoo City: A white father and son have each been sentenced to four years in prison for convictions related to chasing and shooting at two Black teenagers who were riding all-terrain vehicles on a country road. Some of the charges were prosecuted as hate crimes, which strengthened the punishment. Wade Oscar Twiner, 49, of Yazoo City, and his son, Lane Irvine Twiner, 23, of Jackson, were sentenced Friday in Yazoo County. Jurors on Wednesday convicted each man of two counts of simple assault and one count of malicious mischief. The district attorney’s office said the penalty for each simple assault conviction was increased because the men’s actions were deemed hate crimes under Mississippi law, which allows stronger penalties for crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, national origin or gender. The men were arrested after the Sept. 27 chase in rural Yazoo County. The two teenagers were not injured, but they told investigators they were frightened for their lives. The teenagers were riding ATVs on a country road close to Wade Twiner’s home, said Chief Deputy Joseph Head of the Yazoo County Sheriff’s Office. The father and son got in a pickup and chased the teens, firing several shots and bumping into one of the ATVs with the truck.
St. Louis: Officials face a tall order to get all the state’s nursing home workers vaccinated because fewer than half of them have received the shots. By that metric, Missouri’s 48% ranks third-lowest in the nation, trailed only by Florida and Louisiana, both at 47%. Yet some 82% of Missouri’s nursing home residents have been vaccinated, which is just behind the national average of 83%. That worries residents like Michael Williams, who has diabetes and is on kidney dialysis at the Crestwood Health Care Center in St. Louis. “It’s fine if they (staff) don’t want to take it, but then don’t work around us. We all have underlying conditions here,” Williams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They are out in the casino, and they are rolling the dice, but the sad thing about it is it’s other people’s lives they are playing with.” Some workers have already quit rather than face a mandate. Earlier this month, the Biden administration said it would require nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments – revenue on which nearly all skilled nursing facilities depend. But details of that plan still haven’t been released. Data analyzed by the Post-Dispatch shows 20 facilities statewide had staff vaccination rates of 20% or less as of Aug. 15.
Bozeman: Montana State University has announced a $101 million donation to its College of Nursing, believed to be the largest donation ever given to a college of nursing in the United States, school officials said. The donation, announced Monday, comes from Mark and Robyn Jones, founders of Goosehead Insurance, based in Westlake, Texas. “It is hard to put into words how moved and excited all of us are at Montana State University by the generosity of the Joneses, who are helping to address some of the most critical health care disparity issues in Montana, particularly in the state’s rural areas,” MSU President Waded Cruzado said in a statement. The money will be used to fund new facilities and state-of-the-art simulation labs at MSU College of Nursing campuses in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula. The donation will also create five faculty professorships, helping MSU attract top faculty talent as the nation faces a nursing faculty shortage. MSU’s College of Nursing will also create an endowed scholarship fund and a nurse midwifery program for doctoral-level nurses to provide maternal health in rural and remote communities.
Omaha: The bones of the city’s next outdoor performance space have risen in the Gene Leahy Mall downtown. Metal arches that will one day form a performance pavilion have gone up in the mall in recent weeks, part of a $400 million public-private renovation of the mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis & Clark Landing. When the pavilion is finished – likely sometime next spring – three white arches cascading in size will cover a stage. The Omaha World-Herald reports the space will be used for all manner of performances, from concerts, symphony performances and music festivals to movie nights and dance competitions. “It’s exciting seeing it start to come out of the ground,” said Katie Bassett, vice president of parks for the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority, which is managing the park renovations for the city. Stretching out from the pavilion to the west will be a 42,000-square-foot green lawn that will be able to host thousands of people for shows and offer a recreation space the rest of the time. Officials say the venue will be reminiscent of the iconic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, which has a similar arch-shaped covering over the stage. At night, the pavilion will be lit from underneath to create a glow effect, which Bassett said will offer “an iconic” addition to Omaha’s downtown.
Las Vegas: The nation’s fifth-largest school system has begun using ultraviolet light as a classroom germ-killer in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19. “This doesn’t have any chemicals. It’s just light,” said Grant Morgan, chief executive and co-founder of Utah biosafety startup R-Zero, during a demonstration of the disinfection system at an elementary school in suburban Henderson. The blue-light-emitting tower can disinfect a 1,000-square-foot indoor space in seven minutes, destroying more than 99.99% of surface and airborne pathogens, Morgan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It is designed to be used while a space is unoccupied but has no lingering effects when people enter a room after treatment, he said. The Clark County School District bought one Arc unit for each of its 372 campuses using $7.4 million in federal coronavirus relief money to cover the $20,000 per-unit cost, the Review-Journal said. The district has more than 310,000 students. Classes began Aug. 9.
Hanover: Dartmouth College is asking employees who have not yet returned to campus to keep working remotely until Oct. 4. The previous plan was for workers to return at the start of September, but the college is adjusting its plans as COVID-19 cases increase regionally and nationally, said Scott Bemis, chief human resources officer. Many of those who have already returned “can continue to work on-site,” Bemis said in an email to the community Friday. He said the date is being pushed back a month “to help slow the increase in the density of people on campus, with the goal of interrupting COVID-19 transmission wherever possible.” Bemis also said that weekly coronavirus surveillance testing will be conducted for vaccinated employees, instead of every 30 days. Unvaccinated employees who are coming to campus are still required to test twice a week.
Trenton: About half a million residents stand to lose a $300 federal unemployment benefit when it expires Saturday. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday during a COVID-19 news conference that it would cost the state more than $1 billion a month to pick up the unemployment insurance tab from the federal government. “The proper way to extend federal UI benefits is through federal action, not a patchwork of state ones,” he said. “The reality is that continuing the $300-per-week benefit through state resources would be cost-prohibitive.” The expiration will affect about 500,000 people, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor. Federal jobless aid was first approved in 2020 when COVID-19 outbreak hit, sending jobless to record highs amid pandemic-related shutdowns. The state has administered $33.7 billion directly to 1.6 million residents since the start of the pandemic, the governor said. The lion’s share – $25 billion – has come from the federal government. To those unemployed residents affected by the expiration of the federal benefit, Murphy pointed to the state’s minimum wage, which will rise to $13 an hour in the new year from $12. He also pointed to the state’s paid sick and family leave programs, along with other social safety net aids.
Albuquerque: U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland married her longtime partner, Skip Sayre, on Saturday night in her home state. Haaland wore a dress designed and sewn by her sister, said Interior Department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz. The ceremony incorporated elements honoring her Native American ancestry. The former New Mexico congresswoman is a member of the Laguna Pueblo. According to Schwartz, guests had to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend and wear masks per U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New Mexico guidelines. But pictures on social media that show some people, including Haaland, not wearing masks indoors the whole time have drawn criticism. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
New York: A “sequence of failures” in the city’s subway system following a brief power outage disrupted half of the system for several hours and stranded hundreds of passengers, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday. Hochul said in a statement that a Metropolitan Transportation Authority review of Sunday night’s subway breakdown “uncovered a sequence of failures that resulted in some backup systems not providing power as designed last night, including an additional failure to quickly diagnose the underlying cause.” The unprecedented breakdown affected more than 80 trains on the subway system’s numbered lines plus the L train from shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday to about 1:30 a.m. Monday, Hochul said at an earlier news conference. The restoration of service was delayed because passengers on two of the stuck trains walked out onto the tracks by themselves rather than waiting for rescuers from agencies including the police and fire departments to help them, Hochul said. “We never, ever want riders to do that,” she said. “It is dangerous, and it caused a delay in the restoration of power.” Speaking outside a lower Manhattan subway system, Hochul promised a thorough investigation. “Let me be very clear,” she said. “Last night was unacceptable.”
Fayetteville: State environmental regulators say a plant that for years discharged so-called forever chemicals into the air and water is not currently in compliance with its air permit. In its letter to Chemours, the Department of Environmental Quality warned that it is preparing an enforcement action against the company’s Fayetteville Works plant in Bladen County, which has been exceeding its GenX air pollution limits for much of 2021. Officials said the company could be facing up to a $25,000 fine per day. In a statement, Chemours said the site experienced a temporary increase in air emissions this year from one of its carbon adsorption units. “The issue was quickly resolved when the carbon was replaced in this unit, and emissions returned to their usual low levels,” the statement said. “However, the data results from that one emissions sampling caused an exceedance of the site’s calculated 12-month rolling air emission allowance.” Chemours, a spinoff of DuPont Co., plans to take corrective action to fix the issue in the long term, according to its statement. GenX, a type of PFAS, has been found in drinking water wells near the plant and also the municipal utility serving the city of Wilmington, about 100 miles downstream.
Bismarck: A new quarterly report from North Dakota State University says the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has slowed a bit. The outlook predicts declines in the gross state product, which is the measurement of the state’s output, labor force participation, and total wages and salaries. “The overall economic outlook for the state had been improving amidst the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the most recent data shows a state economy that is at risk of declining economic growth and a shrinking labor force,” said NDSU economics professor Jeremy Jackson, director of the Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise. Total wages and salaries are expected to hold steady with a slight decline in the third quarter of this year, the Bismarck Tribune reports. The labor force is predicted to decline in the third quarter, with that trend continuing into next year. The unemployment rate is projected to have a slight increase in the third quarter and then return to its declining trend. North Dakota’s gross state product grew 1.8% in the first quarter of 2021, up from 1.3% in the previous quarter, but gross state product is forecast to decline heading into 2022. Despite the forecast decline, the model predicts relative stability in total tax collections.
Columbus: Supporters of a proposal to legalize marijuana got the green light Monday to collect signatures to place the measure before state lawmakers. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s proposed statute was approved as a single issue by the Ohio Ballot Board, a panel of legislative appointees led by Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The group will soon begin collecting the 132,887 signatures of registered Ohio voters needed to submit the proposed law to the Legislature. If the Legislature doesn’t pass or passes an amended version of the bill, supporters can collect another 132,887 signatures to put the proposal before voters, likely in November 2022. The proposal would allow adults age 21 and older to buy, grow, possess and consume marijuana. Proceeds of a 10% tax on marijuana would go to education, addiction treatment and municipalities with marijuana businesses. Municipalities could limit or ban marijuana businesses within their borders. Ohio’s medical marijuana businesses, several of which are backing the plan, could automatically get licenses for the recreational side. The bill establishes 40 new cultivation licenses and 50 additional dispensary licenses for economically and socially disadvantaged “social equity” applicants. Additional licenses could be granted two years later.
Oklahoma City: Hospitals are again overwhelmed as the spread of COVID-19 is surging through the state, but this time, they’re facing the wave with even further strain on health care workers. The state has dealt with a nursing shortage for at least two decades, Oklahoma nursing leaders said. But the pandemic has worsened it, with the stresses driving some burned-out nurses out of the industry or to other states, amid greater demands on the health care system. “The pandemic has brought on some extra stresses that we had no way of predicting, and that has impacted our retention rates enormously,” said Shelly Wells, president of the Oklahoma Nurses Association. “For example, I don’t think that humans were meant to see as much death as our nurses have seen, personally, in the last 16 months.” A nurse working in a hospital in normal times might expect to care for a dying patient once a week, Wells said. “These patients are dying much more frequently,” she said. “There’s no family support, so the nurses are having to double as family and offer that support” on top of caring for the patients themselves. And it can be especially troubling to care for someone your age or younger “that you know is probably not going to live,” said Elain Richardson, regional chief nursing officer with SSM Health St. Anthony.
Portland: Record-low numbers of steelhead are returning to the Columbia River this year, prompting conservationists and anglers alike to call for a halt to recreational fishing for the sea-run fish. As of last week, just 29,000 steelhead passed the Bonneville Dam since July 1 – the fewest ever recorded, less than half the average of the past five years, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. A coalition of conservation and fishing groups sent a letter to the Oregon, Washington and Idaho agencies that manage fish and wildlife requesting an immediate closure of recreational steelhead fisheries on the Columbia River, the Lower Snake River and their tributaries. “This is a really, really dire year for steelhead – especially wild steelhead – in the Columbia River Basin,” said Rob Kirschner, legal and policy director for The Conservation Angler, which advocates for protection and restoration of wild fish in the Pacific Northwest and Kamchatka, Russia. “We are trying to protect every eligible spawner,” he said. “Every one of these fish counts.” Steelhead on the Columbia and Snake rivers are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Their population has been devastated by habitat destruction, including construction of hydroelectric dams, as well as overfishing and climate change. High water temperatures have also been detrimental.
Harrisburg: Hundreds of thousands of residents will lose federal pandemic unemployment benefits after this week, including an extra $300 per week, an extra 13 weeks of benefits and coverage for the self-employed. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said Monday that there are sources of help for people who need it once their jobless aid runs out, including federal rental assistance through counties, Medicaid, food stamps and temporary cash-assistance for low-income families. In the first week of August, roughly 640,000 people were receiving the extra $300, according to figures from the state Department of Labor and Industry. About 388,000 of them were in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for freelancers or the self-employed, and almost 175,000 were receiving an extra 13 weeks of assistance through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. About 78,000 people were receiving benefits through the state’s regular 26-week unemployment compensation program, which will continue running, but without the extra $300 federal benefit on top. The American Rescue Plan Act, signed by President Joe Biden in March, extended those federal benefits and set them to expire after this week.
Providence: Gov. Dan McKee’s chief of staff, who is under scrutiny for whether he used his political clout to push through a development approval on some wetlands owned by his family, has stepped down, the governor’s office announced Monday. Anthony Silva maintains he did nothing wrong in the approval process, but the issue had become a distraction, the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Tony and I reached a mutual agreement that it is in the best interest of the administration for him to retire from state government effective immediately,” the statement said. “Right now, his situation is a distraction from the critical work we have ahead. I appreciate that Tony understands the need to remove the distraction to ensure we can continue serving Rhode Islanders effectively.” Silva once had an agreement to purchase the property in Cumberland – where McKee was once mayor and Silva was police chief. After the state Department of Environmental Management issued the necessary approvals, the property was purchased by Silva’s son, Ross. Town officials as well as neighbors oppose building on the land, saying developing it would exacerbate flooding problems in the area, and were concerned that Silva and his family got preferential treatment from the state environmental agency.
Columbia: The rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the state has the Department of Motor Vehicles changing how it gives road tests for driver’s licenses. The agency started requiring masks for both new drivers and examiners Wednesday. As of Monday, it is again requiring appointments for driving tests, and on Sept. 7 the department will go back to how it handled testing at the start of the pandemic, with the examiner outside the car, the DMV said in a statement. The modified skills test evaluates the same abilities as the regular test, with the examiner scoring the test from outside, the DMV said. The agency is encouraging but not requiring masks inside its branches. Officials also said many basic services, like driver’s license renewal, can be done online.
Sioux Falls: Lawmakers tasked with redrawing the state’s political boundaries set a framework Monday that will allow them to speed through the once-in-a-decade process on a tight schedule this year. The two committees responsible for drawing the new legislative districts began their work in earnest Monday after the U.S. Census Bureau released detailed data earlier this month. Lawmakers only have about 10 weeks to propose districts before a special session of the Legislature convenes Nov. 8. The Census Bureau’s data was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re in for a very compact and a very intense schedule over the next two months to get all this accomplished,” Republican Sen. Jim Bolin told the committees, which met jointly Monday. Republican lawmakers cited the shortened process in setting two parameters that will guide their work: keeping new legislative districts between a lower threshold of 24,066 residents and an upper threshold of 26,600 people, and restricting access to the Legislature’s map-drawing software to committee members only. Legislative research staff said they were worried their work would get bogged down if the general public were allowed to propose maps through its software and said people could create their own proposals with other open-source applications.
Nashville: Cummins Falls State Park has been named state park of the year. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation honored the Cookeville park for effectively managing an increase in visitors and overcrowding while enhancing safety measures, the department said in a news release Thursday. The 306-acre park in middle Tennessee used social media to inform people of river conditions, scheduled programs and activities. It also conducted more than 250 interpretation programs, held day camps for children and school programs, and hosted a weekly home-school group, officials said. Cummins Falls also has removed invasive plants, planted native species, built two greenhouses, and grown and processed sorghum, officials said. Cummins Falls is one of 56 state parks in Tennessee. It is one of several state parks honored with a 2021 Award of Excellence at a recent park management conference at Pickwick Landing State Park.
Austin: The Black arts community is pushing to create a cultural center at the music venue Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, amid broader work for equity in the city’s cultural arts programs and historic preservation in East Austin. “Everybody says the words equity, sustainability. But it turns out, if there’s no intention, no action behind it, it means nothing,” City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison told a diverse crowd of arts supporters in July as they gathered to celebrate the return of Black contemporary dance company Ballet Afrique to East Austin. “We have so much work to do to make this a truly equitable and truly inclusive city that lives up to our progressive reputation.” In 2019, the city contracted with an outside consultant, MJR Partners, to conduct a review of city-allocated cultural arts and heritage funding. An interim report released in June outlines strategies to achieve greater equity, as well as some of the challenges the city will face. The report notes that “traditional and white-led institutions struggle to accept that historic inequities exist in the city.” “I think the city is really trying,” said Carl Settles, director of the nonprofit E4 Youth, which aims to build bridges between underprivileged area youths and Austin’s creative and tech industries.
Moab: Two recently married Utah women were found dead from gunshot wounds after reports of a “weirdo camping near them” and a four-day search in Moab, about an hour away from Arches National Park. On Wednesday, 38-year-old Crystal Turner and 24-year-old Kylen Schulte were found by a family friend in the South Mesa area of La Sal Loop Road, where they had been camping. Schulte and Turner went missing Aug. 14, four days before they were found dead from gunshot wounds, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. Schulte’s father had posted on Facebook that they hadn’t been to work, hadn’t called, were not in the hospital and were not in jail. “Kylen and Crystal told close friends that there was a weirdo camping near them that was freaking them out !!! And that they should move campsites. Now they have been missing for over 4 days and nights!” Sean-Paul Schulte posted. The couple’s bodies were transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office, which determined the cause of death to be gunshot wounds, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Vergennes: The city is planning to erect a monument to the state’s first known black sheriff and chief of police. The city of Vergennes is planning to unveil and dedicate the monument to former Sheriff Stephen Bates on Oct. 3. Bates was first elected sheriff and chief of police in Vergennes in 1879. Bates had been formerly enslaved in Virginia. He gained his freedom and served Union soldiers during the Civil War. He first came to Vergennes in 1866 with Vermont U.S. Rep. Frederick E. Woodbridge. Bates served as sheriff of Vergennes for 25 years. He raised a family in the city before his death in 1907, and some of his descendants will be attending the event. A local team of historians and others spent the past year researching Bates’ life and rediscovering his story in Vergennes.
Richmond: Democrat Terry McAuliffe has asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Virginia Republicans that seeks to remove him from the ballot in this year’s closely watched race for governor over an alleged paperwork error. In a filing Friday evening, attorneys for the former governor now running for a second term against GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin said the suit was based on a “legal lie” and would effectively invalidate hundreds of thousands of votes cast in the Democratic primary. The complaint filed last week by the Republican Party of Virginia against state election officials argued that McAuliffe should be disqualified from running in the November general election because of the omission of his signature on an official form declaring his candidacy. McAuliffe argued in his filing that nothing in Virginia code requires a candidate to sign the declaration of candidacy. Further, the filing said: “Even if there were a technical defect with the declaration of candidacy – and there is not – it would provide no basis for removing McAuliffe’s name from the general election ballot and preventing Virginia’s voters from choosing him as their next Governor. The declaration of candidacy is a prerequisite for placement on the ballot in the primary election, not the general election, and the primary election has already concluded.”
Olympia: Hundreds of people gathered at the state Capitol on Saturday to protest Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate. Announced in early August, Inslee’s order requires most state workers, health care workers and school employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or face losing their jobs. Inslee has said getting people vaccinated is essential for getting Washington past the pandemic. Organizers of the rally Saturday warned that a large segment of state workers, including many firefighters, sanitation workers and bus drivers, won’t get the vaccine – as much as 30% to 40% statewide, they said. It wasn’t clear what that estimate was based on. “If the Governor refuses to rescind his mandate, it will mean that multiple areas of the state will be severely reduced or shut down completely,” Tyler Miller, of the group Liberty, At All Hazards, said in a news release. “The Governor is unnecessarily threatening the genuine safety and well-being of the citizens of Washington if he forces his mandate to stand.” Inslee spokesman Mike Faulk defended the need for the mandate. “Employees are losing their lives to COVID. Hospitals are filling up. Communities are stressed by the pandemic’s impacts. The safest and most effective way to get beyond these tragic circumstances is vaccination,” Faulk said in a statement.
Charleston: Residents who landscape for wildlife use can have their land designated a “wild yard.” The program already has 300 members around the state and is operated through the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to create more natural habitat for wildlife around the state. “It’s such a wonderful program to get involved in,” Rebecca Linger, who owns a certified wild yard, said in a news release from the agency. “And you get the added benefit of creating an environment around your house where you can enjoy seeing wildlife coming and going. It really is delightful.” Jim Fregonara, a wildlife biologist with the division, said landowners who apply, provide a habitat plan and demonstrate that their property meets the needs of native wildlife will be added to a register of wild yards. They also receive a certificate for participating in the program and a sign post to display in the yard. “We want to encourage private citizens, whether they have a little bit of property or own a lot of land, to help wildlife thrive by providing them with food, water, shelter and space,” Fregonara said. More information is available at WVdnr.gov/plants-animals/conservation-education. For an information packet and application, call (304) 637-0245.
Madison: Republican concerns about the screening process for thousands of Afghan refugees who stood side by side with Americans and are now being processed through Fort McCoy are unfounded “dog whistle crap,” Gov. Tony Evers said Monday. Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have criticized the vetting process and warned about terrorists being allowed into the country. After a tour of the Wisconsin base last week, Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson questioned whether the refugees at Fort McCoy had been fully vetted and called White House assurances about the process “lipstick on a pig.” Evers also toured the base last week and met with refugees. He said Republicans criticizing the vetting of those refugees are “vastly uninformed.” “Or they like to raise that specter of maybe some of those little kids I saw at Fort McCoy are terrorists, or maybe those adults that I saw at Fort McCoy who were working hand in hand with our soldiers and airmen in Afghanistan, somehow they are terrorists even though they’ve been vetted four or five or six times even before they left Afghanistan,” Evers said. “To me, it’s dog whistle crap, and we don’t need any of that.”
Casper: Donations are pouring in for the widow and unborn child of a U.S. Marine killed in a bombing in Afghanistan. Rylee McCollum, 20, was among 13 service members killed by a suicide bomb attack Thursday at the Kabul airport. The troops were providing security as the airport was overwhelmed with people trying to leave the country amid the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover. McCollum was from Bondurant and expecting his first child in three weeks, according to his family. Almost $687,000 had been raised through two online fundraising campaigns, one for the child’s future education costs and one for McCollum’s widow, as of Tuesday morning. McCollum was on his first deployment and manning a checkpoint at the airport when the attack happened, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. McCollum attended Jackson Hole High School and competed as a wrestler. He graduated in 2019 from Summit Innovations School in Jackson.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/50-states/2021/08/31/tuskegee-monument-sugar-water-potato-problems-news-around-states/118486586/14152