Time Capsule, ‘Eyes Of Texas,’ Pebble Mine: News From Around Our 50 States

Montgomery: The state said it will allow a death row inmate’s pastor to hold his hand during a lethal injection next month, a decision that was made to end litigation over the issue. Lawyers for Alabama wrote in a June court document that inmates can now have a personal spiritual adviser present with them in the execution chamber, and the adviser will be allowed to touch them. The agreement settled litigation over Willie Smith’s request to have his personal pastor with him as he is put to death. Smith was convicted of the 1991 kidnapping and murder of 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson in Birmingham. Alabama has rescheduled Smith’s execution for next month. According to court documents, his spiritual adviser can anoint the inmate’s head with oil; pray with the inmate and hold his hand as the execution begins, as long as the adviser steps away before the consciousness assessment is performed; and remain in the execution chamber until the curtains to the witness rooms are drawn. The description was included in a footnote in a joint filing in June by the state and Smith’s attorneys in which the two sides announced they had reached an agreement over the spiritual adviser issue.

Alaska

Juneau: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it would seek to restart a process that could restrict mining in the Bristol Bay region, renowned for its salmon runs. The announcement is the latest in a long-running dispute over a proposed copper-and-gold mine in the southwest Alaska region. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in November 2020, under the Trump administration, denied key authorization for the proposed Pebble Mine following an environmental review from the agency months earlier that the developer had viewed as a favorable to the project. In the rejection decision, a Corps official concluded the project would “result in significant degradation of the aquatic ecosystem” and was “contrary to the public interest.” The Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine developer owned by Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., is appealing that determination. “As the Biden Administration seeks lower carbon emissions for energy production, they should recognize that such change will require significantly more mineral production – notably copper,” Mike Heatwole, a Pebble partnership spokesperson, said in an email. “The Pebble Project remains an important domestic source for the minerals necessary for the administration to reach its green energy goals.”

Arizona

Phoenix: A program announced by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey last month to give private school vouchers to parents who object to campus mask requirements has seen applications surge, with twice as many either started or completed as can be funded with the $10 million in federal coronavirus relief earmarked for the plan. And GOP lawmakers who back expansion of the state’s existing voucher program doubt any students who receive the grants will be forced back into public schools when the federal cash is exhausted. Opponents of the school voucher program suspect that is highly likely. The program Ducey created will give $7,000 per school year to each student who enrolled in a public school that either has mask requirements or requires unvaccinated children exposed to the coronavirus to quarantine or isolate differently from vaccinated children. Applicants can earn up to 350% of the federal poverty level, which equals $92,750 for a family of four. They can use the money for private school tuition, tutoring or other costs. The governor’s education policy adviser said last week that applications for 454 children had been completed and another 2,255 started in the first 13 days the application window was open, with 69 approved.

Arkansas

Little Rock: The state is easing rules for its rental relief program to prioritize the funds for tenants at immediate risk of being evicted. Little of the state’s share of the federal money has been spent so far. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the changes to the Arkansas Rent Relief Program on Wednesday after asking the state Department of Human Services to review its processes surrounding the program. Arkansas set aside $173 million in federal funds for the program for people who have lost jobs or are struggling financially because of the pandemic. So far, though, only $9.8 million in assistance has been paid out. DHS said nearly 2,800 applicants are at immediate risk of eviction, and 51% of those will be prioritized under the changes. The remainder have been paid or are expected to be paid by next week. The other changes will also allow funds to be paid to eligible tenant applicants if a landlord does not submit the required information within 10 days. DHS said the contractor handling the program is also adding 70 staffers to handle calls and process cases, and a new case management team has been added to focus on previously submitted applications in which the landlord did not submit the required information.

California

Sacramento: Lawmakers on Wednesday sent Gov. Gavin Newsom legislation to end the careers of bad law enforcement officers, a year after an earlier effort died without a final vote. The measure aims to keep troubled officers from jumping from one job to another by creating a mandatory new state license, or certification, that could be permanently revoked. “This bill allows them to rid the bad apples that we know exist, bad apples that we know exist in every profession,” Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford said. “Just because you put on a uniform and a badge doesn’t absolve you or make you immune to being a bad person.” California licenses more than 200 professions, he noted – “we’re just adding law enforcement to that category.” The final, softened version of the legislation also allows for suspending the license as a lesser punishment and includes other safeguards like requiring a two-thirds vote for decertification. Senators gave final approval on a 28-9 vote, with Republicans opposed. California is one of just four states without a way of decertifying officers, alongside Hawaii, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Bradford named his bill the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act, after a 25-year-old Black man killed in Los Angeles County in 2018 by an officer who had previously been involved in three other shootings.

Colorado

Loveland: The city announced Wednesday that it has agreed to pay $3 million to a woman with dementia who was roughly arrested by police last year after being suspected of shoplifting. Her family said the money will pay for the around-the-clock care she has needed after her condition deteriorated following her arrest. Then-Officer Austin Hopp arrested Karen Garner, 73, after she left a store without paying for $13.88 worth of items in Loveland, about 50 miles north of Denver, in June 2020. Police body camera video shows that after she turned away from him, he grabbed her arm and pushed her to the ground, with her still holding the wildflowers she had been picking as she walked through a field. A federal lawsuit that Garner filed claimed he dislocated her shoulder by shoving her handcuffed left arm forward onto the hood of a patrol car. Police station surveillance video also showed Hopp and others officers talking about the arrest and the “pop” sound her arm made, laughing and joking at times as Garner sat in a holding cell. Officials in Loveland apologized to Garner and her family in the announcement of the proposed settlement and listed the steps they have taken in response to her arrest, including a pending independent investigation and changes to how cases are reviewed when police use force.

Connecticut

Montville: Gov. Ned Lamont announced Wednesday that his administration plans to close the Radgowski Correctional Center at the end of this year. The prison, part of the two-building Corrigan-Radgowski complex, is the second of three closures that were planned as part of budget cuts for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The move is expected to save the state $7.3 million, the governor’s office said. The state shuttered the maximum-security Northern Correctional Institution in June, a move expected to save about $11.75 million annually. The governor’s office has not announced the name of the third facility it plans to close or when that will happen. “Spending millions of dollars in annual operating costs on buildings that have historically low numbers of incarcerated individuals inside is just not a good use of resources,” Lamont, a Democrat, said in a statement. “By relocating them to other facilities that have available capacity, we can deliver on our administration’s goal of reducing the cost structure of state government.” The closures come during a steady decline in the inmate population, which has decreased by more than 3,200 over the past 17 months. The state currently houses about 9,200 prisoners, down from the all-time high of 19,894 in February 2008.

Delaware

Millsboro: About 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel were spilled at NRG Energy’s power plant on the Indian River near Millsboro overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday. The spill, discovered Wednesday morning, occurred after a pressurized hose detached and was contained to NRG property, according to a statement from the company. Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control spokeswoman Nikki Lavoie said the hose detached from an above-ground storage tank, and the fuel was released into “a contained outside area.” Lavoie said Tri-State Bird Rescue was contacted “to assist with the wildlife impacts from the spill,” including “affected geese on the property and seagulls that had flown into the area.” No waterways or public lands were affected by the spill, according to NRG spokesman Dave Schrader. He said the spill was contained to “the coal pile.” “NRG takes protection of the environment and compliance with all environmental regulations seriously,” Schrader said. DNREC, the Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continue to monitor cleanup. NRG announced earlier this year that the coal-fired Millsboro plant will close in June 2022.

District of Columbia

Washington: Georgetown could soon be getting a Metro station, WUSA-TV reports. A two-year study commissioned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to address overcrowding on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines presented six options for extended rail service on the lines, which have exceeded capacity limits during peak hours for years, according to Metro. The study, launched in 2019, identified a preferred Blue line route that would extend the line to National Harbor by way of a second Rosslyn station, a new Potomac River tunnel and a new station at Georgetown. The study predicts cities and counties along Metro rail lines will add 37% more people and 30% more jobs by 2040, noting that large rail projects can take up to 20 years to complete. Metro said in its report that the expansion would cost between $20 billion and $25 billion to build and between $175 million and $200 million annually to operate, but of the six options, the National Harbor expansion would create the biggest ridership growth – one of the main goals of the study. Metro board members planned to meet Thursday to discuss the results of the study.

Florida

St. Petersburg: A chance encounter with a former Marine beset by delusions of child sex trafficking ultimately led to the massacre of four members of a family, including a mother holding her baby boy, a sheriff said Thursday. Bryan Riley, who faces murder and other charges in Sunday’s killings, stopped by the slain family’s Lakeland home briefly the day before after going to a nearby friend’s house to pick up a first aid kit, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference. Riley had told acquaintances he was headed for Hurricane Ida relief work. A short distance from the friend’s home, Riley saw Justice Gleason mowing his lawn with his 11-year-old daughter in the yard, Judd said. That provided the trigger that led to the slayings, Judd said: Riley believed she was an imaginary child named Amber who was suicidal and being held by a supposed sex trafficking ring that God had told him to confront. No one named Amber lived at the home, as Gleason repeatedly told Riley before asking him to leave their initial encounter. “This was all fiction, all made up by him,” Judd said. Riley, wearing body armor, had three weapons with him and fired at least 100 shots in the main home and a smaller one in back. An 11-year-old girl who played dead survived the attack despite being shot multiple times and has undergone four surgeries so far, Judd said.

Georgia

Atlanta: The city’s public safety net hospital became the latest to temporarily cancel elective surgeries Wednesday, saying it’s being overrun with COVID-19 patients. Grady Memorial Hospital CEO John Haupert made the announcement, saying the hospital was “inundated” with patients over the Labor Day weekend even though it was officially diverting ambulances. “Because of the strain this is putting on the health system, our patients, and our staff, we must make some changes to the way we operate,” Haupert wrote. “As of today, we are canceling non-essential outpatient surgery and procedures. We will regularly review patient volumes to determine when we can resume those services.” More than 5,900 people sickened by the respiratory illness were in Georgia hospitals Wednesday. COVID-19 patient numbers have been hovering around 6,000, a record high, for more than a week. Across the state, 97% of intensive care beds were in use Wednesday, an all-time high. Some other Georgia hospitals were already postponing elective surgeries, as more than 50 hospitals statewide Wednesday reported they were turning away ambulances bringing emergency or ICU patients.

Hawaii

Honolulu: The state is launching a program that will allow people to use their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The Hawaii Smart Health Card comes shortly before Honolulu and Maui begin instituting vaccine requirements for patrons of restaurants and other businesses. State officials say that starting Friday, people who have been vaccinated in Hawaii will be able to upload a photo of their vaccination card to the Safe Travels Hawaii website to create a digital vaccination record. The website will cross-check this information with data stored in the state’s vaccination database. Gov. David Ige said this should help prevent the use of fake vaccination cards. The verification process should only take a few seconds. Customers may show restaurants, museums and other establishments their verified Hawaii Smart Health Card in lieu of their paper vaccination card to gain admittance. Businesses will have the option to use a validator app to scan a QR code on the digital vaccination records to verify their legitimacy. “Participation in the Hawaii Smart Health Card is voluntary. It is strictly a convenience for those residents who have been vaccinated here in the state of Hawaii,” Ige said at a news conference.

Idaho

Idaho Falls: Scientists studying pack rat middens at the City of Rocks National Reserve have determined that the area’s iconic pinyon pine trees first arrived about 2,800 years ago and became prevalent about 700 years ago. That’s just one example of what scientists have learned by studying the middens – piles of seeds, bones, leaves and waste – in the area that date back 45,000 years. Julio Betancourt of the U.S. Geological Survey has studied pack rat middens in the U.S. West and South America. “They’re hard as a rock, kind of black, big chunks, sometimes huge chunks of pack rat deposits that have been consolidated, cemented by the crystalized urine of pack rats,” Betancourt told the Post Register. “The pack rats are just collecting tons of stuff and don’t go very far to collect it – mostly within 50 meters . The spatial resolution is really high. We’ve studied all kinds of things in these deposits. The principal thing is plant remains.” The middens can be dated, giving a snapshot of the local ecology over time. The U.S. Geological Survey keeps a database of pack rat middens for western North America. One midden from the area dated to about 10,000 years ago is on display at the City of Rocks visitor center in Almo. Betancourt said the middens have allowed scientists to track climate and vegetation changes at the City of Rocks.

Illinois

Chicago: A federal judge has granted class-action status in a lawsuit filed six years ago that alleged the Chicago Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy targeted Black and Hispanic people who hadn’t committed any crime. Attorneys involved in the lawsuit announced Tuesday that the case’s six original plaintiffs are now part of a class of more than 1 million people. The plaintiffs’ lawyers say some 2 million unconstitutional stops occurred in Chicago between 2010 and 2017 in which officers allegedly had no “reasonable suspicion” that a crime had been or was about to be committed. The decision was handed down by U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood on Aug. 31. The ruling, which could lead to a trial, comes at a difficult time for a police department that has long been plagued by a legacy of excessive force and racism and has scrambled to restore public trust. “This practice has to stop – and elevating this issue to a class action provides a way to make significant change and make our community better,” Antonio Romanucci, an attorney who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement. In fact, the judge limited her ruling only to the possibility of a change in policy, according to Jennifer McGuffin, a spokeswoman for Romanucci’s firm.

Indiana

Indianapolis: The state’s ban on telemedicine consultations between doctors and women seeking abortions and several other abortion restrictions are back in force after a federal appeals court set aside a judge’s ruling that they were unconstitutional. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel issued a 2-1 ruling Wednesday that allows Indiana to continue enforcing those laws while the court considers a full appeal of the case. It said District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker’s ruling last month was inconsistent with previous Supreme Court decisions and reinstated Indiana’s telemedicine ban, along with state laws requiring in-person examinations by a doctor before medication-induced abortions can be performed and a prohibition on second-trimester abortions outside hospitals or surgery centers. “Plaintiffs contend, and the district court found, that developments in videoconferencing make it possible to dispense with in-person meetings, that improvements in medicine make the use of hospitals or surgical centers unnecessary, and that nurses are competent to approve and monitor medication-induced abortions,” the ruling said. “The district court concluded that these findings permit it to depart from the holdings of earlier cases. Yet the Supreme Court insists that it alone has the authority to modify its precedents.”

Iowa

Winterset: More than 100 students walked out of Winterset Junior High and Winterset High School this week in protest over the school district placing seventh grade literacy teacher Lucas Kaufmann on leave after a presentation about himself to his class featured the LGBT pride flag, according to a change.org petition. When asked by students, Kaufmann said he was bisexual. More than 2,500 people had signed the online petition as of Thursday afternoon. Winterset Community School District Superintendent Justin Gross confirmed Kaufmann was placed on leave after concerns were raised following the presentation but declined further comment. State law prohibits employers from firing employees based on sexual orientation and gender identification, which Gross acknowledged. Kaufmann did not respond to a request for comment. His presentation and personnel status were the subject of a report by the Iowa Standard, a conservative website. Students standing outside the school building during the protest said having teachers who share similar experiences can help them navigate their own identities. And they worried what the district’s decision would mean for LGBTQ students, especially those who are not publically out.

Kansas

Topeka: A plan to allocate up to $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to retention incentives for nurses and front-line workers has stalled because of top Republican legislators’ concerns about which hospitals would receive the money and how the funds would be spent. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s bipartisan pandemic response advisory task force delayed approving the proposal after a top Republican legislator argued that it should allow hospitals to use the funds to address other pandemic-related issues including mental health. And another Republican leader on the task force on Wednesday proposed excluding hospitals that require all of their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The task force expects to meet again by early next week to consider a revised version of the plan. It would have to sign off on the details before the funds could be spent. The retention incentives would be capped at $13 an hour and $25,000 a year to comply with federal requirements. Workers would need to have been hired at a hospital as of September to qualify for the retention pay. Senate President Ty Masterson’s proposal to make hospitals with vaccine mandates ineligible for retention incentives failed on a 5-2 vote.

Kentucky

Richmond: Officials say they’ve reached a milestone at a chemical weapons depot with the destruction of all projectiles containing mustard agent. The last projectiles containing mustard agent were destroyed Saturday at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Madison County, the facility said in a statement this week. The U.S. is destroying its chemical weapons stockpile under an international treaty. Mustard and nerve agent are being destroyed at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky, while mustard agent is being destroyed at a Colorado facility. The chemical weapons stockpile at the Kentucky site originally contained 523 tons of chemical agent configured in 155 mm projectiles containing mustard and VX nerve agent, 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent, and M55 rockets containing GB and VX nerve agent. The last of Kentucky’s projectiles containing VX nerve agent were destroyed in May. Now that the mustard agent projectiles are gone, only rockets are left to destroy.

Louisiana

Baton Rouge: A young giraffe named for a Louisiana football star has died at the Baton Rouge Zoo, officials said Thursday. In a news release, the zoo said the 20-month-old giraffe named Burreaux – after Cincinnati Bengals quarterback and former LSU star Joe Burrow – died early Wednesday. The zoo said Burreaux fell ill Tuesday with a sudden onset of symptoms including a severe cough and overall agitation. “The Zoo’s veterinary staff took immediate measures to help, including swiftly administering medications to stabilize,” the statement said. “As well, he underwent constant staff evaluation to optimize his chances of recovery. The Zoo’s team reached out to numerous zoological veterinarians throughout the nation – none of which had experienced a giraffe with comparable symptoms.” The zoo said an LSU veterinary team has performed a necropsy to determine the possible cause of death. The official results are expected in about 30 days.

Maine

Augusta: Opponents of a proposal to replace the state’s private utility companies with a consumer-owned utility have crafted a referendum that could create a hurdle to issuing bonds to fund the effort. The referendum proposal submitted to the secretary of state’s office Tuesday would require voter approval for any quasi-government entity, including a consumer-owned utility, to take on $1 billion or more in debt. It also requires voters to be presented with the full accounting of the cost. “The principle is straightforward: You should know how much something is going to cost before you commit to borrowing billions of dollars to buy it,” said Willy Ritch from Maine Affordable Energy. Groups that want to buy out Central Maine Power and Versant power and create a consumer utility called Pine Tree Power also are pressing for a referendum after Gov. Janet Mills vetoed their bill. The effort came at a time of frustration with CMP, the state’s largest electric utility, over a botched rollout of a billing system, slow response to storm damage and power outages, and a controversial utility corridor that would serve as a conduit for Canadian hydropower. It’s possible both the proposals could appear on the ballot at the same time next year. Both petitions are pending with the secretary of state’s office.

Maryland

Annapolis: The state is authorizing COVID-19 booster shots for all residents 65 and older who live in congregate care settings, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday. Residents in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, residential drug treatment centers and developmentally disabled group homes are eligible for boosters, the governor said. “To be clear, these facilities in Maryland will not have to wait to begin offering boosters,” Hogan, a Republican, said at a news conference. “Boosters can now be immediately administered.” While the federal government has yet to say when most people should get booster shots, Hogan said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved them for people who are immunocompromised, and a Maryland study indicates many in those facilities are immunocompromised. “So we’re following CDC guidance but broadening the definition,” Hogan said. The governor also announced that the state’s health department is issuing new guidance for pharmacies and other vaccine providers across the state to administer boosters without any need of a prescription or doctor’s order to anyone who considers themselves to be immunocompromised.

Massachusetts

Worcester: A strike by nurses at St. Vincent Hospital hit the six-month mark Wednesday, an anniversary the nurses called “sad” and hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson called “unbelievable,” as the sides traded blame. “The fact that we are still outside this hospital, the hospital we love and have served, some of us for 10, 20, even 40 years is a travesty and serves as an indictment of (hospital owners) Tenet Healthcare and their unyielding desire for profit and power at the expense of the suffering of our patients and our community,” Marlena Pellegrino, a longtime nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said in a statement Tuesday. Jackson blamed the nurses union. “It’s truly unbelievable that the MNA has prolonged a strike that was based on false pretenses for six months,” she said in an interview Wednesday. While the strike initially focused primarily on staffing – with nurses alleging unsafe levels and the hospital saying such charges are false – the hospital and nurses are now stymied by a return-to-work agreement. Nurses want a provision that would enable them to return to their old jobs and proposed a $2,000 bonus for striking and nonstriking nurses in recognition of their work during the pandemic.

Michigan

Detroit: Ten sexual assault victims sued the University of Michigan on Thursday over a policy that limits the number of people who can offer public comment at meetings of the school’s governing board. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine men and a woman who said they were molested by Dr. Robert Anderson during his decades as a campus physician. They said they were denied an opportunity to address the Board of Regents in July, in violation of Michigan’s open meetings law. The university caps the number of speakers and limits the number of people who can talk about a specific topic at five. Regents have been meeting by video conference during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, The number of speakers was increased to as many as 17, under certain conditions, from 10. Five people who said they were assaulted by Anderson spoke in July, spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said. Regents have the “authority to establish rules by which members of the public may address a meeting of the board, and the process in place at U-M is consistent with those at other Michigan public universities,” Fitzgerald said. Hundreds of men say they were molested by Anderson, who died in 2008, while he served for decades as a university doctor. The university has acknowledged assaults occurred and is in mediation to settle lawsuits.

Minnesota

St. Paul: Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Wednesday that he will no longer prosecute felony charges stemming from most low-level traffic stops, saying it’s time to change a practice that has disproportionately affected generations of minority communities. “Recognizing the role we play as prosecutors in perpetuating racial inequities that often result from these types of stops is an important first step in charting a new, less harmful course,” Choi said in a statement. Choi said his office will not prosecute crimes that are discovered solely because of a low-level traffic stop, such as broken taillight or expired license tabs. He said the new policy does not apply to situations that create a public safety hazard or when a vehicle is stopped because of a dangerous condition. Choi said during a news conference that he used to believe that pretextual stops – in which police use a minor violation as a reason to pull someone over and search for a more serious crime – amounted to good policing. “I no longer believe that,” he said, adding that such stops seldom result in seized contraband. And sometimes the consequences can be fatal, as seen in a series of encounters in recent years in Ramsey County and elsewhere.

Mississippi

Jackson: The state is closing its only remaining parking garage field hospital set up to treat coronavirus patients during the delta variant surge, but it is still relying on out-of-state workers to help increase intensive care unit capacity in state hospitals, officials said Wednesday. Health officials also reported the state’s seventh child death from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and raised alarms about a string of deaths in unvaccinated pregnant women. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said eight pregnant women with the coronavirus have died over the past four weeks. “We do know that COVID is especially problematic and dangerous for pregnant women,” he said. Dobbs said COVID-19 can be deadly for babies in the womb, too. Very preliminary data collected by the Department of Health indicates babies are twice as likely to die in the womb after 20 weeks in coronavirus-infected pregnant women than in women without the virus, he said. “It’s been a real tragedy,” he said. Jim Craig, senior deputy for the Mississippi Department of Health and Director of Health Protection, said the state is seeing a small improvement in hospital bed availability, but ICU capacity continues to be “very scarce ... effectively zero.”

Missouri

Neosho: A teacher said he resigned from Neosho Junior High School after he was told to remove a gay pride flag from his classroom and to sign a letter saying he would not discuss human sexuality or gender with his students. John Wallis, 22, said he hung the flag and a sign that said “everyone is welcome” in his classroom so his students would know they could come to him for help, The Kansas City Star reports. Superintendent Jim Cummins said in a statement that he could not discuss personnel matters. He said Wallis, a theater, world mythology and speech and debate teacher, was hired Aug. 13 and resigned Sept. 1. Wallis said he took down the flag and sign after being told a parent complained. He said he was told more parents complained after he told students they should consider finding another classroom if they were uncomfortable with him or LGBTQ students. He said he was then asked to sign a letter saying he would be fired if he could not teach his curriculum without keeping his “personal agenda on sexuality” out of the classroom. Wallis said he’s filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Montana

Billings: An area of the city contaminated with dry cleaning chemicals that emit toxic vapors has been added to the federal government’s Superfund list of cleanup sites. The move makes the Billings PCE site eligible for federal money for permanent cleanup. Solvents from old dry cleanings businesses in Billings created an underground plume that stretches for miles, the Billings Gazette reports. Employees of businesses near one of the dry cleaners have complained of feeling sick because of exposure to PCE, a solvent used to remove stains that’s been linked to liver and some other cancers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The area was declared a state Superfund site in 1992. Over the next year, workers from the EPA and Montana Department of Environmental Quality will investigate which buildings have been contaminated and outline cleanup options.

Nebraska

Omaha: Police have announced the procession route through the city for a Marine who died in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. The body of 23-year-old Cpl. Daegan Page will be transported starting at 1:30 p.m. Friday from Eppley Airfield in Omaha to Braman Mortuary in southwest Omaha, police said. The procession will begin at Abbott Drive, then head south on 10th Street before traveling over I-480 west and I-80 west. The procession will exit I-80 at L Street and head south on 132nd Street and Millard Avenue South before continuing to Millard Avenue and 144th Street south to the funeral home. Officials have encouraged the public to line the streets of the route to pay their respects to the fallen Marine. Page was one of 13 U.S. service members killed Aug. 26 in the bombing at the Kabul airport, which also killed at least 169 Afghans. A memorial service will be held the morning of Sept. 17 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Millard. Page will be buried in Omaha National Cemetery.

Nevada

Carson City: All 17 counties in the state were expected to be subject to an indoor mask mandate by Friday, health officials said. An emergency directive from Gov. Steve Sisolak requires counties to adopt mask requirements for indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces in line with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if they surpass thresholds for COVID-19 transmission. Rural Eureka County is the state’s only jurisdiction currently not subject to a mask requirement but reported high transmission for the second week in a row, triggering the mandate. The reintroduction of masks and the debut of vaccine requirements in venues like sporting events, conventions and some schools have been met with resistance throughout the state. In the Las Vegas area, the president of the school board said she has received death threats since the district approved a requirement for employees to get COVID-19 shots. Clark County School District Board of Trustees President Linda Cavazos said on Twitter that the threats had “very disturbing images” but that she and her colleagues were continuing to do their jobs, KVVU-TV reports. “We have no time for hate,” she said. The board’s plan includes a process for requesting accommodations for medical conditions or for sincerely held religious beliefs.

New Hampshire

Concord: St. Paul’s School now has an advocate who provides confidential support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and a new software system to keep track of campus misconduct reports, according to a compliance monitor hired to oversee the handling of sexual abuse claims at the school. The report from Donald Sullivan was released Thursday through the New Hampshire attorney general’s office, which mandated the position as part of an agreement that subjected the Concord boarding school to as much as five years of government oversight in lieu of criminal charges. The 2018 agreement followed an investigation that found credible evidence of abuse involving 20 former faculty members over several decades. Sullivan started his job Jan. 18. His report was completed in July. Just like other schools, St. Paul’s was affected by COVID-19 protocols that resulted in a smaller campus population and additional quarantine time, Sullivan wrote. “There is no way to tell how much the diminished on-campus time or other COVID-19 protocols affected the number of reportable incidents, but it is reasonable to assume that there was some reduction,” he said.

New Jersey

Lower Alloways Creek: State and federal officials broke ground Thursday on a facility designed to help the state take a leadership position in the burgeoning offshore wind energy industry on the East Coast. Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh were among those who spoke at the ceremony for the New Jersey Wind Port in Lower Alloways Creek Township, in Salem County. The facility is designed to provide a place to manufacture giant blades and other components for offshore wind energy projects, which are increasingly being proposed – and approved – off the New Jersey coastline. Its cost is estimated at $300 million to $400 million. “What we are doing is not only going to create good jobs, but it is going to be our greatest stand against climate change,” said Murphy, a Democrat. Walsh, the former Boston mayor, noted that President Joe Biden in March set a goal of having 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy operating by 2030, enough to power about 10 million homes. Walsh said he hopes similar projects will be approved elsewhere along the nation’s shorelines. “Other states can follow suit, right here, with what is happening in New Jersey,” he said. Major construction is due to begin in December and should be completed by the end of 2023.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: A police officer who adopted a child from a pregnant woman he found using heroin in what has been held up as an alternative to abortion is pictured in uniform on an anti-abortion billboard without his permission, his superiors say. Albuquerque Police Officer Ryan Holets appears on a billboard along an interstate that runs through the city, along with the words “My favorite right is life.” The images include two of him holding his daughters, including one daughter he adopted from a couple he found shooting heroin while on patrol in 2017. Holets also helped raise money to find housing for girl’s biological parents while they completed a drug rehabilitation program in 2018. The heroin-using woman was pregnant at the time Holets found her, and she agreed to give up the girl for adoption after the birth. Anti-abortion activists who have held up Holets’ adoption of the girl as an alternative to abortion include the grandmother of his other daughter, Ethel Maharg, who is the executive director of Right to Life New Mexico, the anti-abortion group that used his image on the billboard. The Albuquerque Police Department said Holets declined the group permission to use the image of him in uniform because it would violate policy. “That’s not true,” Maharg told local TV station KRQE in an edited interview.

New York

New York: A former nurse who co-founded and once ran the cultlike NXIVM group – in which prosecutors say some women were brainwashed, branded like animals and coerced into sex – was sentenced Wednesday to 42 months in prison but won’t be locked up until January. Nancy Salzman, the former president and co-founder of NXIVM, must also pay a $150,000 fine, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said. She has agreed to forfeit more than $500,000 in cash, several properties and a Steinway grand piano. Salzman must report to prison by Jan. 19, Garaufis said. Her lawyers said she has been caring for her ailing mother. Speaking in Brooklyn federal court, Salzman, 67, said that she fell under NXIVM leader Keith Raniere’s spell when they started working together 20 years ago and that she started rationalizing and overlooking the wrongdoing she saw around her. She offered an apology to everyone she’s hurt. “I don’t know that I can ever forgive myself,” she said. Salzman, known within the Albany-based group as “Prefect,” pleaded guilty in March 2019 to charges of racketeering conspiracy that involved conspiracy to commit identity theft and conspiracy to obstruct justice. She was one of the first in the group’s leadership to plead guilty to criminal charges.

North Carolina

Asheville: Unvaccinated Buncombe County workers might lose paid COVID-19 quarantine leave under a proposal put forward by local government leaders, with one elected official calling those who have not gotten the shot “irresponsible” and questioning whether they should face deeper benefit cuts. “I think we’ve had a very generous policy around these kinds of issues throughout the pandemics, as well we should. But for staff who make the irresponsible decision to not get vaccinated, I question whether we can continue to provide these kind of policies,” Buncombe Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman said. The board will hold a Sept. 21 public hearing on the potential change to emergency sick leave policy that would affect some members of the approximately 1,800-person county workforce, including sheriff’s staff. The county started the paid quarantine leave before “vaccines came into play,” Buncombe Human Resources Director Sharon Burke told commissioners at a Tuesday meeting. It was given to select employees who could not work from home, such as detention facility officers, patrol deputies, emergency medical technicians and staff administering vaccines.

North Dakota

Keene: State regulators are investigating a spill that released nearly 48,000 gallons of produced water and more than 1,000 gallons of oil. The state Oil and Gas Division said the incident happened Wednesday at a Slawson Exploration well about 14 miles northwest of Keene. The spill was due an equipment failure or malfunction, officials said. Authorities said Thursday that the water and oil was contained to the site and was recovered and hauled away. Produced water is a byproduct of oil extraction and is typically taken from the well to a disposal site. A state inspector has been to the location and will monitor any additional cleanup that’s required.

Ohio

Cleveland: Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Legislature violated the state constitution when they added and approved a last-minute provision that eliminated gun owners’ duty to retreat when facing threats, according to two Democratic lawmakers, the Ohio branch of the NAACP and a grassroots organizing group that filed a lawsuit Thursday. The lawsuit filed in state court in Columbus seeks to repeal the law signed by GOP Gov. Mike DeWine in January. The amendment was improperly added during the final hours of the Legislature’s two-year session in December to what had been a largely bipartisan bill giving nonprofits and other organizations civil immunity when someone with a concealed carry license causes injury or death on their property or at events, the lawsuit said. The “stand-your-ground” provision is unconstitutional, the lawsuit said, because lawmakers voted on it without three days of hearings and violated a law that says legislation should be limited to similar subjects. The NAACP said eliminating the duty to retreat makes it “easier to kill human beings without the perpetrators facing any legal consequences,” a problem that would especially imperil “human beings” who are Black Ohioans.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of the race in order to participate in the annual event this year. “This marathon stands for the same resilience of our community we saw (following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing) and we can see now,” Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Director Kari Watkins said Wednesday. “We believe we can honor those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever by running this race and honoring so many who have bravely battled this worldwide pandemic.” The race will also be capped at 12,000 runners, half the number for the last live race in 2019, and will start in waves to allow for social distancing. Like last year’s race, which was run virtually because of the pandemic, the 2021 race has been rescheduled for October from the traditional date in April to coincide with the anniversary of the bombing. Also Wednesday, Oklahoma County District Judge Natalie Mai formalized her temporary injunction blocking a state law that bans schools from implementing mask mandates. Mai’s order said exemptions must be granted for medical reasons or personal objections.

Oregon

Roseburg: An infant has died from COVID-19 complications, officials said. The News-Review in Roseburg reports the baby less than a year old was diagnosed with COVID-19-related symptoms Aug. 20 and died Monday, according to the Douglas County COVID-19 Recovery Team. The baby was one of 13 deaths listed in the county’s Wednesday report. Children under age 12 are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. All but one of the others who died and were mentioned in the Wednesday report were not fully vaccinated, officials said. “The significant number of deaths over the past month have been so incredibly tragic and heartbreaking,” Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer said. He said officials have chosen not to provide detailed case information out of respect for patient privacy and because of ethical responsibility to medical records laws. “We can say that some of those who died were perfectly well before they contracted COVID and died,” Dannenhoffer said. The health team thoroughly investigates all deaths and reviews all medical records to make sure everyone meets the requirements for a COVID-19-related death per the Oregon Investigative Guidelines, he said.

Pennsylvania

Harrisburg: An apparent loophole in the state’s mask mandate for schools is making it easier for some students to go to class without having to cover their faces, even as education regulators sought to make an example of one openly defiant school board. The state health secretary’s order requiring masks to be worn inside K-12 school and child care facilities, which took effect Tuesday, includes an exemption for students who claim it would cause or worsen a medical condition. But there’s no obligation in the masking order for a student to produce a doctor’s note or other supporting medical documentation. Now some school boards that oppose the statewide mandate or have gotten an earful from parents are allowing students to go unmasked with just a parent’s signature. Spot checks by the Associated Press of about 50 school districts Thursday revealed at least a dozen around the state – from huge suburban school systems outside Philadelphia to rural districts in the west – are using exemption forms that don’t require a medical professional’s signature, making it easy for parents to opt out on behalf of their children. And while most districts are complying with the letter of the mask mandate, the Tamaqua Area School Board in Schuylkill County is openly flouting it by keeping face coverings optional.

Rhode Island

Central Falls: The state’s smallest city has a new slogan. Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera announced Thursday that her city will now carry the tagline “Diversity that Inspires.” Rivera said the new slogan honors the city’s distinction as the most ethnically diverse in Rhode Island. It’s intended to replace Central Falls’ unofficial nickname as the “Comeback City,” which it earned after filing for bankruptcy in 2011. It emerged from bankruptcy the following year. The new slogan was selected by an all-volunteer branding committee. Located north of Providence, Central Falls is a city of 20,000 that occupies a little more than 1 square mile.

South Carolina

Summerton: Three new historical markers unveiled in the community commemorate its role in two legal battles that helped end racial segregation in U.S. schools. One of the markers stands outside the home where the Rev. J.A. De Laine asked Levi Pearson to file an NAACP-backed lawsuit demanding equal access to busing for Black schoolchildren. The 1948 case Levi Pearson v. County Board of Education was dismissed because of a technicality. But it set the stage for a second challenge from the Summerton community, WIS-TV reports. In 1950, the NAACP again sued over unequal busing by the Clarendon County school board. Though initially unsuccessful, the case Briggs vs. Elliott became one of five lawsuits appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court that formed the basis of its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. A marker was placed outside the St. Mark AME Church in Summerton where the NAACP held fundraisers and public meetings to recruit parents willing to demand equal school transportation. Another marks the home where Harry Briggs Sr. signed a petition against Clarendon County School Board President R.W. Elliott, who refused to supply Black schools with buses. The Summerton Community Action Group said it hopes the markers inspire others to keep pursuing equality.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Sanford Health said Wednesday that it is giving $350 million to a clinical initiative that aims to create a virtual care center to treat people in rural and underserved areas of the Midwest. The center will serve people from across Sanford Health’s network of hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities. It will also house innovation, education and research initiatives to work on digital healthcare solutions for the future. Sanford bills itself as one of the largest rural health care systems in the country. It has 46 hospitals, 1,500 physicians and more than 200 Good Samaritan Society senior care locations in 26 states and 10 countries. It is based in Sioux Falls and also has major medical centers in Fargo and Bismarck, North Dakota, and Bemidji, Minnesota. The gift comes on the heels of a $300 million donation announced in March that included a significant expansion of graduate medical education and the addition of 18 new sports fields at the Sanford Sports Complex in Sioux Falls.

Tennessee

Nashville: The state’s forestry office is now taking orders for tree seedlings for planting throughout the state. The Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry said it is offering tree and shrub seedlings for reforestation and conservation projects through the East Tennessee Nursery in Delano. It is accepting orders until April 15, while supplies last. Officials said landowners may apply for free seedlings under three different programs. “Trees for Tennessee” seeks to increase pine regeneration on recently harvested land or fallow fields. “Play, Plant, Preserve” works to make sure wood used for making drumsticks and mallets in Tennessee is sustainable. For both programs, the landowner must have a reforestation prescription plan prepared by a professional forester, officials said. The Duck and Elk River Watershed Buffer Initiative seeks to enhance riparian zone or wetland buffers for wildlife with primarily nut-producing hardwoods. The land must be in one of the following counties: Bedford, Coffee, Dickson, Franklin, Giles, Hickman, Humphreys, Lewis, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Moore or Williamson.

Texas

Austin: The Texas chapter of the NAACP and a group of students have filed a federal civil rights complaint against the University of Texas for its continued use of school song “The Eyes of Texas,” which has racist elements in its past. The complaint filed Sept. 3 with the U.S. Department of Education alleges that Black students, athletes, band members, faculty and alumni are being subjected to violations of the Civil Rights Act and a hostile campus environment over the “offensive,” “disrespectful” and “aggressive” use of the song. The NAACP and the students want the federal government to withhold funding from the university. Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP and a Texas law school graduate, sharply criticized the state Wednesday for requiring the Longhorn Band to play the song at athletic events and expecting athletes to stand and sing it after games. “It’s like slave owners making slaves buck dance for their entertainment,” Bledsoe said. The complaint, which includes statements from several anonymous students, alleges that those who oppose the song on campus are being harassed and that Black students feel “humiliated” whenever it is played or sung. “The Eyes of Texas” was written in 1903 and has a history of performances in minstrel shows with musicians often in blackface.

Utah

St. George: A nearly 5-month-old California condor has made its maiden flight, becoming Zion National Park’s second wild-hatched nestling to successfully fledge. The California condor is an ancient but critically endangered species, meaning this young bird is now a crucial part of Utah and Arizona’s 103-bird strong population, the park said in a press release. “We are elated to see the continued success of this condor pair in Zion National Park. It is certainly an occasion for celebration in the recovery effort, yet again demonstrating the resiliency of the California condor. What a spectacular site, to see wild-hatched condors soaring amongst the towering rock formations of Zion National Park.” Tim Hauck, condor program manager for the Peregrine Fund, said in the release. Condor #1111 made the flight early, as most condors take their first leap into the air at about 6 months old, though it will continue to be dependent on its parents for the next 12-24 months. Young #1111’s parents, both bred in captivity and released into Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in the late aughts, have been together for four years, and this is their fourth nestling. “Because the adults spend so much time caring for their young, wild condor pairs normally produce one egg every other year,” the release said.

Vermont

Burlington: A new museum dedicated to the state’s musical heritage is opening in the city. The Tiny Museum of Vermont Music History opens Friday evening during the first day of the annual South End Art Hop. The museum on Howard Street will become a permanent addition to the headquarters of the nonprofit group Big Heavy World, which promotes and preserves Vermont-made music. The museum will feature photographs, posters, instruments and even menus from old venues. The collection “reflects how music is an art form, a catalyst for community-building, and also a contributor to the state’s economy,” James Lockridge, executive director of Big Heavy World, wrote in a news release. “People are – and have been – making music of all kinds across the state, deserving to be heard and celebrated.”

Virginia

Richmond: Work crews searching for a time capsule they believed was buried inside the pedestal under a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that had towered over the city hit a snag Thursday. Crews were having difficulty finding the capsule’s precise location. Then late Thursday morning, a crane they were using to lift heavy pieces of a cornerstone broke down, stalling work until another crane was brought in a few hours later. State officials were scheduled to remove the 134-year-old time capsule from the cornerstone a day after the large Confederate statue was taken down. But after removing a 2,500-pound capstone and a 500-pound lid, crews were unable to pinpoint the capsule’s precise location. Workers had been using ground-penetrating radar devices to try to find the capsule in a third piece of the cornerstone. Gov. Ralph Northam’s chief of staff, Clark Mercer, said crews would keep looking for it in the cornerstone and adjoining stones. They also decided to dig into the lid of the cornerstone to insert a new time capsule, and state officials ceremonially placed it Thursday. The new capsule contains items reflective of current times, including an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, a Black Lives Matter sticker, and a photograph of a Black ballerina with her fist raised near the Lee statue amid racial justice protests last year.

Washington

Seattle: King County is working to set up a COVID-19 vaccine verification system that could go into effect next month at certain nonessential, high-risk settings. The Seattle Times reports this would make it easier for places like clubs, theaters and stadiums to check the vaccination status of their patrons. King County’s announcement came as nearly all major spectator sports in the Seattle area said they would require vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test for admission to their games. The county said it is gathering feedback from community organizations, labor unions, businesses and cities. “COVID-19 vaccines are safe, highly effective and readily available, and verifying vaccination in certain nonessential, high-risk settings can make those places safer for the public, workers and our community, including children who are not currently eligible for vaccination,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, King County’s health officer. Vaccines are free, and health insurance is not required. Other jurisdictions including Hawaii, New York, San Francisco and British Columbia have begun to implement vaccine verification systems.

West Virginia

Charleston: Some hospitals in rural parts of the state have reached their critical bed capacities as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge statewide, health officials said Wednesday. Health officials are pleading with the public to avoid unnecessary emergency room visits to allow hospitals to focus their resources on treating COVID-19 patients. There were 813 patients hospitalized for the virus statewide Wednesday, just below the record 818 on Jan. 5, when vaccination efforts were starting. There were a record 252 virus patients in hospital ICUs and a record 132 patients on ventilators, according to state data. “Our hospitals are being stressed in ways that they haven’t been stressed before,” Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus expert, said at a news conference. In southern West Virginia, Princeton Community Hospital had no ICU beds available due to an increase in COVID-19-related patients, hospital President and CEO Karen Bowling said Wednesday. In Lewisburg in the southeastern corner of the state, the 122-bed Greenbrier Valley Medical Center also was at capacity, according to a Facebook post from Dr. Bridgett Morrison, Greenbrier County’s health officer.

Wisconsin

Madison: State Sen. Steve Nass has officially asked the Legislature’s Republican leaders to sue the University of Wisconsin System after system officials refused to submit their COVID-19 protocols to his committee for approval. Nass sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu demanding they file a lawsuit forcing system leaders to submit their policies to the Legislature’s rules committee. Nass, a Republican and longtime UW critic, co-chairs the committee. UW System President Tommy Thompson has called for UW campuses to hold at least 75% of classes in person this semester. The schools have implemented a range of protocols to meet that goal, including mask and coronavirus testing mandates. Nass had been threatening to sue for weeks unless system leaders hand over the policies to the rules committee for approval. Thompson has maintained the system has the legal authority to manage itself and doesn’t need legislators’ approval to adopt policies to protect students and faculty. He has said he would win any lawsuit. The squabble has caused a rift between Republicans who vehemently oppose any mandates to mitigate COVID-19 and those who still see Thompson, who served four terms as governor, as a GOP icon.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: For a second year in a row, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch will not visit the University of Wyoming due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gorsuch had been scheduled to visit the law school and campus Sept. 16, giving a talk alongside Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Lynne Boomgaarden in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts concert hall. The virus postponed a 2020 visit planned in recognition of the law school’s 100th anniversary. Rising rates of COVID-19 generally, not cases at the university specifically, were the reason for cancellation, university spokesman Chad Baldwin said Tuesday. There were no plans to reschedule, university officials said in a statement.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/50-states/2021/09/10/time-capsule-eyes-texas-pebble-mine-news-around-states/118805644/

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Time capsule, ‘Eyes of Texas,’ Pebble Mine: News from around our 50 states

Source:USA Today

Time capsule, ‘Eyes of Texas,’ Pebble Mine: News from around our 50 states

TOM DELAY INDICTED IN CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY, STEPS DOWN FROM MAJORITY LEADER POST!

Source:The Brad Blog

TOM DELAY INDICTED IN CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY, STEPS DOWN FROM MAJORITY LEADER POST!