Tuskegee: A lawsuit has been filed that could decide the fate of a Confederate monument that has stood in a square at the center of a nearly all-Black city for 115 years. WSFA-TV reports the Macon County Commission has filed suit against both the local and state chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, arguing that the county owns the property where the statue is located and wants title to the plot. While records show the county gave the land to the Confederate heritage group for use as a park for white people in 1906, the suit contends the property belongs to the county because the county’s action was illegal. Macon County, which was joined in the suit by three Black residents, said it is willing to negotiate with the Daughters of the Confederacy. If someone comes forward, they could settle and give the statue to the group. The statue has been the subject of periodic demonstrations for decades in Tuskegee, which is almost all Black and the home of Tuskegee University. The nation’s first Black military pilots trained in the city during World War II. Protesters tried and failed to pull down the monument in the 1960s. In July, City Council member Johnny Ford and another man used an electric saw to cut into the statue, but the damage was later repaired by a crew hired by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Juneau: A lawmaker requested and has received an excusal from the state Senate until mid-January, citing the challenges of traveling to Juneau from Anchorage after she was suspended from flying on Alaska Airlines earlier this year. Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold on Thursday requested the excusal from Saturday through Jan. 15. She said she was unaware of any other airline flying to the state capital during that period. Juneau is accessible by air or water, including via the state-run ferry system. Lawmakers are in their third special session of the year, due to end Tuesday. The Legislature has yet to finalize a dividend amount to pay residents this year. Alaska Airlines said in an April statement that Reinbold was not allowed to fly with the carrier “for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy.” Reinbold – has been critical of masking rules, including at the Capitol – said she had been in compliance and called the ban political. She said the ferry schedule is limited, and she doesn’t want to hold up legislative proceedings if she cannot reach Juneau “in a timely fashion.” After her suspension, Reinbold drove through part of Canada and took a ferry to reach the capital, a two-day trip. If there is another special session, she said it should be held in a community connected to Alaska’s main road system.
Phoenix: State auditors say public safety may be put at risk by reporting gaps and a backlog in the database that Arizona uses for conducting background checks of people seeking certain jobs or occupational licenses and for helping prosecutors and judges decide whether defendants should get plea bargains or lenient sentences. The problems exist in the state’s central depository of criminal history records, a database maintained by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and updated with case reports from law enforcement agencies and courts, the Auditor General’s Office said in a report released Friday. The auditors said the database didn’t include 17% of a sampling of 103 felony offense records from four Arizona law enforcement agencies, and 40% of a sampling of 30 felony offense records in the database were missing dispositions, such as whether a case was dropped or the defendant was convicted. The database is important because criminal justice agencies use it “when making decisions that could help deter further offenses, such as decisions regarding plea bargains, and sentencing repeat offenders,” and the records also are checked to see whether people seeking jobs in fields such as teaching and child care have criminal histories, the auditors’ report said.
Little Rock: A former state senator said Monday that he would run for the Republican nomination for secretary of state, becoming the second to challenge the incumbent in next year’s GOP primary. Former Arkansas Sen. Eddie Joe Williams announced his bid for the seat currently held by Republican Secretary of State John Thurston, who was first elected in 2018. Thurston already faced a primary challenge from state Rep. Mark Lowery. Joshua Price, a former Pulaski County election commissioner, is the only Democrat running for the seat. Williams said he was running to “make sure our elections are fair, honest, and always transparent.” The former Cabot mayor was elected to the state Senate in 2010 and was the chamber’s first Republican majority leader after the GOP won a Senate majority in 2012. Williams left the Legislature after former President Donald Trump appointed him in 2017 to be the federal representative to the Southern States Energy Board. The nonprofit organization focuses on energy issues in 16 Southern states.
San Francisco: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America installed its first openly transgender bishop in a service held in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on Saturday. The Rev. Megan Rohrer will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada. “My call is … to be up to the same messy, loving things I was up to before,” Rohrer told worshippers. “But mostly, if you’ll let me, and I think you will, my hope is to love you and, beyond that, to love what you love.” Rohrer was elected in May to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod. “I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing,” Rohrer said in a statement. “My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward.” Rohrer, who uses the pronoun “they,” previously served as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and a chaplain coordinator for the city’s police department and also helped minister to the city’s homeless and LGTBQ community. Rohrer, married with two children, became one of seven LGBTQ pastors accepted by the progressive Evangelical Lutheran church in 2010. The church is one of the largest Christian denominations in the U.S.
Brighton: A man convicted of vehicular homicide for hitting a car during a Facebook livestream that showed him speeding on a highway has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. The Adams County District Attorney’s Office said 44-year-old Bryan Kirby was sentenced Friday. A jury convicted Kirby of the vehicular homicide charge in July, as well as of reckless manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident causing death. Kirby was accused of driving as fast as 167 mph at night on a highway near Denver in October 2018 while making comments to viewers about his speed. At the end, he rapidly crossed from the left lane to the right and crashed into a sedan from behind at 120 mph, prosecutors said. Kirby fled the crash. The driver of the sedan died at the scene. “Mr. Kirby’s unconscionable and reckless actions took a life and destroyed a family,” District Attorney Brian Mason said in a statement.
Hartford: About 300 refugees from Afghanistan are expected to arrive in the state in the coming weeks and months as immigrant advocacy groups work to find permanent homes for them, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and advocates said Monday. Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, and resettlement workers anticipate that refugees will begin arriving in large numbers in communities across the U.S., perhaps as early as next week, after clearing security checks and other vetting. Some 50,000 Afghans are expected to be admitted to the United States under a program called “Operation Allies Welcome,” including translators, drivers and others who helped the U.S. military during the 20-year war and who fear reprisals by the Taliban, who seized power last month. “We owe these Afghan allies the safety and escape they need from murder and torture they face and their families face in Afghanistan,” Blumenthal said at a news conference with advocates in New Haven. “They sided with us. They went into combat with our troops. They protected them and our diplomats. They now have targets on their backs.” Blumenthal said he is pushing Congress to approve financial aid for resettlement services, including housing, job placement, clothing and other needs. He said the cost could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Rehoboth Beach: Three teenagers were hospitalized with injuries incurred at Funland on the the city’s boardwalk Sunday night, according to Sussex County Emergency Medical Services. Two patients were stable and sent to Beebe Healthcare, and one was taken to Christiana Hospital with a head injury, said Glenn Marshall, public information officer for Sussex County EMS. Rehoboth Beach Police Department later reported that the injured were two girls, 14 and 15 years old, and one 16-year-old boy. The two girls were released from Beebe, but Rehoboth Beach police said the boy was still in serious condition at Christiana as of 3 p.m. Monday. The incident happened in the area of the Superflip 360 about 7:45 p.m., according to a statement from Funland Personnel Manager Chris Darr. The injured guest was not riding the attraction, he said. “Initial efforts have determined that the injuries result from the individuals be struck by debris caused by an air storage tank failure,” a Rehoboth Beach police press release said.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Foo Fighters’ performance at the 9:30 Club last week came with breaking news: Frontman Dave Grohl told the crowd that an exact replica of the original version of the venue is in the works, WUSA-TV reports. The special surprise show, part of a reopening week celebration at the 9:30 Club, was one of its first in-person shows since the coronavirus pandemic began. Grohl, who grew up in northern Virginia, played some of his earliest shows as a teenager in punk bands at the 9:30 Club. But that was the old 9:30 Club, he said Thursday, reminiscing about the old days and describing its 199-person capacity as intimate. “That was our church,” Grohl said in a video provided by I.M.P., which owns the venue. “That’s where we all played first. That’s where R.E.M. played first; that’s where the Chili Peppers played first; that’s where Nirvana played first ... magic happened in that room.” Grohl said an exact replica of the old club will be coming to 2047 9th Street NW, where The Satellite Room used to be. “For all you people who never got to see the old 9:30 Club, you’ll get to see that ... next door someday,” Grohl said on stage. “And let me tell you, if it’s the same vibe as the old 9:30 Club, you’ll see some real magic.”
Miami: A Miami Beach apartment building owned by the mayor of the adjacent town where a condominium collapsed in June has given his tenants 45 days to vacate the building so extensive repairs can be completed. The lease termination letter from Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said workers have been waiting for the city of Miami Beach to issue permits to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017. He said he hopes the final permit will be issued imminently so work can be completed to the front of the building as well as the elevator. “We regret that this work will create potentially dangerous conditions for residents,” Burkett’s letter said. In addition, he said the Lois Apartments will also undergo the required 40-year inspection early, due to the Champlain Towers South collapse. That building was in the midst of repairs found during a 40-year inspection when it suddenly collapsed in the middle of the night, drawing new scrutiny of the structural integrity of buildings throughout the region. Burkett informed tenants they will need to leave by Oct. 24 but can return once renovations are completed in several months. Meanwhile, in court Friday, a judge was told that many personal belongings such as jewelry and photos cannot be recovered from the Champlain Towers collapse. “A vast majority of the personal property is completely destroyed,” said Michael Goldberg, an attorney appointed as receiver to handle the Champlain Towers’ finances. Many of the 17 safes found at the site, he said, “are cracked open like an egg.”
Dunwoody: An explosion rocked an apartment building in suburban Atlanta on Sunday, causing the three-story structure to partially collapse and leaving four people with minor injuries, authorities said. The cause of the explosion was unknown, but a local utility had received a call from a resident about a strong odor of gas shortly before the midday blast, according to DeKalb County Fire and Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Melvin Carter. He said 90% of the building had been searched, and officials were in the process of shoring up the rest of the complex so rescuers could continue searching for anyone who might be trapped. Fire Capt. Jaeson Daniels had said two people were unaccounted for and may have been in one of three apartments that had completely collapsed. Rescuers hadn’t been able to enter those apartments due to instability of the overall structure. But WSB-TV reports, citing DeKalb fire officials, that the two people were eventually found safe. A helicopter and drones circled above the structure as the local Red Cross began canvassing residents to see who might need help finding accommodations. The partially collapsed building and several others nearby were evacuated. Residents were told that Monday was the earliest they could return to their homes.
Honolulu: A judge has given preliminary approval to a settlement in a lawsuit by inmates who allege state officials mishandled the pandemic and failed to protect them from COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons and jails. In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Jill Otake said the settlement between the state and the inmates is “fair, adequate, and reasonable.” Both sides agreed to the settlement, which establishes a five-person panel to oversee public health in correctional facilities and other measures to improve sanitation, hygiene and medical monitoring. The settlement also directs officials to make vaccines available and to “promote and educate inmates and staff regarding COVID-19 vaccination.” The class-action lawsuit was meant to provide resources to improve safety during the pandemic, said Eric Seitz, an attorney for the inmates. He said Friday that he’ll pursue damages in separate, future legal action. Situations described in court documents included ailing detainees kept near a bathroom flooded with urine and feces. Their requests to use the bathroom were frequently denied, forcing them to urinate in their drinking cups, according to the documents. Other descriptions the judge noted include an inmate with lupus who contracted the coronavirus but received little to no medical care and ended up with serious kidney damage.
Boise: More than 1,000 protesters gathered in the city Monday morning during a visit by President Joe Biden to express their displeasure about his coronavirus plan, the election and other issues. Biden came to Boise as part of a swing through three Western states to promote his administration’s use of a wartime law to aid in wildfire preparedness, survey wildfire damage and push his economic agenda. He arrived at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise late Monday morning to meet with fire officials and Gov. Brad Little, a Republican. Lisa Mitchell, 65, of Middleton, Idaho, said she was protesting because she doesn’t believe the 2020 election was valid. “I’m here to support Trump and stand for freedom,” said Mitchell, who was wearing a “Trump won 2020” sticker. “He is in there illegally.” Though some of former President Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters believe his continued claims that the presidential election was stolen, there is no evidence of widespread fraud, and Republican and Democratic election officials certified the election as valid. Courts have also repeatedly rejected lawsuits claiming the election was tainted. About a half-dozen Boise police officers were stationed at the entrance to the National Interagency Fire Center, with other law enforcement officers patrolling the area on motorcycle.
Chicago: The Chicago Park District said it plans to put life rings along the Lake Michigan waterfront – but only in areas that are considered safe to swim, upsetting the mother of a college student who drowned off a pier. “I’m infuriated,“ said Maria Diaz, whose son, Miguel Cisneros, drowned last month in the Rogers Park neighborhood. “Don’t they have kids; aren’t they mothers, fathers? And how would they feel if (it were) their son?” Diaz said. “Because, believe me, you never think about this until it hits home. And it can happen to anyone.” Cisneros, 19, drowned Aug. 22, a few weeks before his planned departure for Columbia University in New York. A vigil for him was held Tuesday night. Rogers Park residents have put life rings on the pier near where Cisneros died, but they have been removed by the park district, the Chicago Tribune reports. Instead, the district is discussing ways to restrict access to the piers while installing life rings elsewhere where it’s “safe to swim,” general counsel Timothy King said. At a Wednesday meeting, a law professor said the park district could be exposing itself to liability if life rings are placed in other locations. Water safety specialist Gerry Dworkin said the rings can be hard to throw accurately from a beach, though they can be effective if dropped to a struggling swimmer near a pier.
West Lafayette: About 300 Purdue University students and employees face disciplinary action for failing to comply with the school’s mandatory coronavirus testing for those who haven’t provided proof of COVID-19 vaccination. That includes 84 students on the West Lafayette campus who have been notified a second time that they haven’t completed required surveillance testing three weeks into the fall semester, Purdue officials said. A third violation could result in suspension from the university as soon as this week. About 210 employees have received an initial written warning for not being tested. Those employees face disciplinary action up to and including termination. Purdue is requiring surveillance testing, which could be as frequently as each week, for any students or employees who’ve not submitted documentation of their COVID-19 shots. About 82% of the some 55,000 students and employees on the West Lafayette campus have submitted vaccination proof, according to the university’s tracking. Indiana University has mandated that all students and employees receive COVID-19 vaccinations unless they are granted exemptions or face dismissal from classes or their jobs. The latest figures released by IU show 88% compliance, but school officials haven’t yet released any information about disciplinary actions.
Des Moines: Polk County will purchase Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, county officials and the park’s longtime owners announced in a news release over the weekend. The 76-acre facility opened in 1994 on Des Moines’ east side. Sleepy Hollow is a central Iowa favorite for tubing and sledding in the winter and for Renaissance fairs, festivals, comedy shows and concerts in the summer. Each fall, Sleepy Hollow’s Renaissance Faire Park turns into a Halloween attraction, and the surrounding forest becomes a haunted trail. Taylor Swift once even performed there early in her career. Rick and Mary Flatt will continue to run all operations through the end of 2022. In 2023, Polk County Conservation will operate the winter sports facility. The Flatts will run camping operations and special events, including the Kosmic Kingdom music festival, the Renaissance Faires and the Scream Park. Polk County will run all operations beginning in 2024. With the announcement, the county pledged to raise millions of dollars to fund improvements at the park, including a full-service campground, ski lodge improvements, new cross-country and snowshoe trails, enhanced fishery options, and a conversion of an existing pond to an ice skating rink in the winter.
Hutchinson: Kansas State Fair officials judging the 4-H entomology entries last week discovered an invasive insect that prompted quarantines elsewhere. Fair Board member Gregg Hadley the student who caught the spotted lanternfly didn’t know it had prompted quarantines in at least 45 counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to try to stop its spread. Hadley, who is director for extension at Kansas State’s Research and Extension, said it’s not clear how the invasive bug made it to Kansas, but it may have hitched a ride on a camper. The insect that was first found in Pennsylvania about 10 years ago feeds on some 70 different plant species and can cause plants to die by depositing excretions on them that can grow mold and block photosynthesis. One of the fair’s entomology judges was familiar with the insect and a requirement that it be reported to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Federal officials are expected to try to learn how the insect reached Kansas.
Fort Wright: The city plans to return artifacts on loan after closing the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum forever. The City Council unanimously passed a municipal order Sept. 1 to dissolve the museum’s volunteer board, close the museum and confirm Mayor Dave Hatter’s prior order of closure. The Behringer-Crawford Museum, which focuses on Northern Kentucky history, has been called in by the city to help with what to do with all the artifacts, including Sons of the Union Veterans medals. The closed museum, in a house at Battery Hooper, was named for a retired Northern Kentucky University history professor who led efforts to preserve the key Civil War defensive position. The museum helped tell the story of one of the first Black brigades in the Civil War and the defense of Cincinnati. “We just want to make sure everyone gets the artifacts back if they want them,” said Laurie Risch, executive director of the Behringer-Crawford. Jeannine Kreinbrink, an archaeologist for the Behringer-Crawford and a former James A. Ramage Civil War Museum board member, will be assisting with the review of artifacts, Risch said. “We’re just happy to be able to help,” Risch said. “Nobody is happy to see a museum closed.”
Baton Rouge: The head of the Louisiana State Police says he wants to know why 67% of his agency’s uses of force in recent years have been directed at Black people and would welcome a U.S. Justice Department “pattern and practice” probe into potential racial profiling if that is deemed necessary. “If the community is concerned about that, obviously I am concerned about that,” Col. Lamar Davis said in an interview Friday. “I’m a Black male. I don’t want to feel like I’m going to be stopped and thrown across a car just because of that, and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way.” Davis’ comments came a day after an Associated Press investigation identified at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which state police troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct. It included several newly obtained body camera videos of violent arrests that had been locked away for years. “It challenged me emotionally, not just from a law enforcement perspective but as a citizen,” Davis said of viewing the footage. “But I have to put my emotions in check and understand what my duties are. I don’t want the community thinking we’re going to ‘get them.’ Those are the types of things I’m trying to get to the root of.”
Portland: Two companies that manufacture coronavirus testing supplies in the state say they’re ready to step up to meet demand following President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates for companies with more than 100 workers. Puritan Medical Products makes swabs used for testing, and Abbott Laboratories makes test kits in Maine. Both furloughed or laid off workers before the surge in virus cases tied to the delta variant. “We are monitoring the situation, and are ready to ramp up based on government orders as we did before,” Puritan said in a statement. Abbott spokeswoman Kim Modory told the Portland Press Herald that the company’s Maine workforce “continues to deliver millions of rapid tests at a time when our country needs testing, particularly rapid testing, to manage this next phase of the pandemic.”
Baltimore: Cruise ship passengers left the city’s port for the first time in 18 months Sunday, a celebratory moment after putting in place plenty of COVID-19 safety precautions for guests. As a steel drummer played in the port terminal, the Carnival Pride welcomed 1,500 passengers for a weeklong voyage to the Bahamas, The Baltimore Sun reports. All passengers had to be fully vaccinated, with some exceptions for children under 12 and people with documented medical conditions. Those unvaccinated equal less than 5% of the passenger total, Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said. All passengers also had to get a negative coronavirus test within three days of boarding, and guests 2 and up must wear face masks in elevators and certain indoor areas. While passenger Donna Ford, 60, of Pittsburgh, wasn’t thrilled with the mask mandate, she was still happy to sail: “I don’t like it, but if that’s what it takes for me to cruise, then I’m OK with it.” The Pride, operating at 70% capacity, is Carnival’s ninth ship to welcome passengers back since the pandemic halted cruise operations in March 2020, Duffy said. Port preparations were extensive, port Executive Director William P. Doyle said. Port officials also contracted with a transportation firm in case sick passengers must be removed from the ship during the trip.
Danvers: A tourist farm called police on a Black couple it accused of stealing six apples and is now apologizing after the family went public in a blog post. Manikka Bowman and Jeff Myers said in the post that they visited Connors Farm in Danvers on Labor Day, spending more than $100 on admission, apple picking, food and drinks. But the couple from Cambridge said they were confronted by farm staff over six apples that did not fit into the prepaid apple-picking bag. They said the overflow fruits were in their child’s stroller, and they intended to pay for them at the farm store, where they also planned to buy cider donuts. Bowman, who is a vice chair of her city’s school committee, said a security guard instead searched her purse, and the manager called police when the couple demanded the farm owner’s contact information. The responding officer, the couple said, accused them of “playing the race card.” “By jumping straight to an assumption of theft, Connors Farm created a scene, harassing us and causing our 7-year-old to burst into tears, anguish that lasted well into the evening,” the couple wrote. “We are left wondering, was it ever about the apples?” The farm, in a Facebook post Thursday, said it apologized to the family and will ensure staffers “undergo diversity, equity and inclusion training.”
Benton Harbor: Advocacy groups are urging the Biden administration to help provide safe drinking water in a low-income, predominantly Black city in southwestern Michigan where tests repeatedly have shown excessive lead levels in the water supply. In a petition filed Thursday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 20 organizations said local and state officials have not responded adequately or quickly enough since the contamination was discovered three years ago in Benton Harbor. “It’s urgent that the EPA intervene to give this community access to water that won’t harm our health, especially our children’s health,” said the Rev. Edward Pinkney, president of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council. EPA spokesman Tim Carroll said Friday that the agency was “carefully considering the issues and concerns” raised in the petition. “We are closely monitoring lead-related health issues in Benton Harbor,” Carroll said, adding that the city was among 10 communities that participated in discussions with the EPA as it reviews changes to federal lead and copper regulations made by the Trump administration. The petition was filed one day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for spending $20 million in Benton Harbor to replace nearly 6,000 service lines – most suspected of containing lead – within five years.
St. Paul: Black bear sightings are on the rise, as this summer’s drought has made it harder for the animals to find the food they need to prepare for hibernation. This time of year, Minnesota’s black bears are trying to eat as many as 10,000 to 15,000 calories a day. They start to feed nocturnally and for longer periods of time on nutrition-rich acorns, hazelnuts and berries – food sources that are harder to find because of the drought. Bears are now increasingly seeking out backyard bird feeders and other food sources. “There have been a lot of anecdotal reports of bears all over the place this year,” Andy Tri, acting bear project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told Minnesota Public Radio News. The state’s bear population has remained stable for nearly a decade at between 12,000 and 15,000 statewide, Tri said. However, their range is expanding, especially into the northern Twin Cities suburbs, he said. “So people who grew up there and didn’t grow up seeing bears are now seeing bears regularly,” Tri said. He said while it’s important to be respectful of bears, there’s no need to be afraid. He advises making sure the bear has a clear path to leave the yard, then watching it from inside the house: “Just take a moment to appreciate it. And then just make sure to give bears their space because they’re wild animals.”
Jackson: Six Black farmworkers say in a lawsuit that their former employer brought white laborers from South Africa to do the same jobs they were doing and that the farm has been violating federal law by paying the white immigrants more for the same type of work. Mississippi Center for Justice and Southern Migrant Legal Services filed the federal lawsuit last week on behalf of the six workers against Pitts Farm Partnership, which grows cotton, soybeans and corn in the Mississippi Delta’s Sunflower County. The lawsuit said the farm violated regulations of a foreign worker visa program, which requires equal treatment of U.S. workers and their immigrant counterparts. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages, including money the U.S. workers say they were shorted because of the uneven pay scale. Four of the plaintiffs – Andrew Johnson, Wesley Reed, Gregory Strong and Richard Strong – said they did agricultural work from February through November, and Pitts Farm Partnership usually paid them the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, with $8.25 an hour for weekend work. Two had been paid $9 an hour since 2018. The farm paid the white workers from South Africa $9.87 an hour in 2014, and that rate increased most years until it reached $11.83 an hour in 2020, the lawsuit said.
St. Louis: A member of Washington University’s student government placed nearly 3,000 U.S. flags meant to commemorate victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in trash bags, prompting an investigation by the school. The university’s chapter of College Republicans had placed the 2,977 flags on Mudd Field at the school’s campus in St. Louis to honor Saturday’s 20th anniversary of the attacks. Fadel Alkilani, a vice president of finance for the Student Union, acknowledged he removed the flags Saturday and put them in plastic bags as part of a protest but was interrupted when another student began recording video of him. After a video was posted on social media, Alkilani said in a statement that he intended to leave the bags on Mudd Field along with statistics detailing the human cost of Sept. 11 since the attacks. He said the flag display did not mention Islamophobia in the U.S. or civilian casualties in the Middle East caused by the U.S. military, The Kansas City Star reports. Washington University Chancellor Andrew Martin said in a statement that removing the flags was “reprehensible” and was seen as “a personal affront by many, at WashU and beyond, and as an affront to the ideals of our institution.”
Billings: Montana Youth Action, Forward Montana Foundation and Montana Public Interest Research Group are suing Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen over state laws they say reduce youth voter turnout. Plaintiffs are challenging Senate Bill 169, which changes voter identification requirements and limits the use of a student ID; House Bill 506, which prohibits ballot distribution to people who will but do not yet meet age and residency requirements; and House Bill 176, which eliminates Election Day voter registration. The complaint was filed in Yellowstone County’s 13th Judicial District Court. “Each of these laws unconstitutionally burdens Montanans’ fundamental right to vote, both subverting the will of Montana voters and upending norms that Montana covers have come to rely on – for no reason, let alone a compelling one,” plaintiffs allege in their complaint. “None of these laws accomplish a compelling state interest and each violates the Montana Constitution.” The Montana Secretary of State’s office released the following response: “The voters of Montana spoke when they elected a Secretary of State that promised improved election integrity with voter ID and voter-registration deadlines, and we will work hard to defend those measures.”
Omaha: Four students are suing Creighton University over its requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to remain enrolled, arguing that some of them “feel coerced” to violate their religious beliefs against abortion. The lawsuit filed in Douglas County District Court also alleges that some of the four students have medical conditions that make vaccines not recommended for them. The university in Omaha is affiliated with the Jesuit order of the Catholic Church. It mandated that all students get vaccinated in August, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to a vaccine mandated by Pfizer, according to local news reports. The university had previously allowed medical exemptions to its vaccine requirements but not religious ones. The lawsuit says all four students have “religious objections” to COVID-19 vaccines because “the vaccines were developed and/or tested using abortion derived fetal cell lines.” Attorney Robert Sullivan said in a statement that a Catholic university should not place students in the position of having to violate the church’s teachings. The Vatican declared in December that it is “morally acceptable” for Roman Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses.
Carson City: An analysis of K-12 proficiency exams and state financial reports found Nevada’s students are doing worse on most tests than they did in 2000, when the state spent 79% less on each pupil. Meanwhile, the state continues to land on the wrong end of several nationwide school system rankings, including state-by-state comparisons of per-pupil spending and student-teacher ratios. As recently as 2019, Nevada ranked dead last in at least one test-based survey of K-12 academic achievement. Critics have raised plenty of pointed questions about exactly what such exams measure and how much they really say about the Silver State’s pupils. Yet most politicians and education advocates agree test scores are going to continue to play a key role in shaping, among other things, classroom curriculums, teacher performance evaluations and federal funding opportunities. Annual results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, show Nevada’s elementary and middle students have made modest gains in writing and math proficiency over the past two decades. But student performance on three other, better known tests – the SAT, ACT and state-administered SBAC – has trended, sometimes dramatically, in the opposite direction.
Durham: The University of New Hampshire has been awarded a $1.8 million grant to study how and why coastal hazards like excessive flooding are causing roads to crack and crumble. “We’re trying to better understand the causal links of not only the extreme events but also the gradual changes in sea level rise that can increase the rate of damage to pavement and trigger failures that require major road reconstruction,” Jo Sias, professor of civil and environmental engineering, said in a news release. “We’re looking at storm surges and wave action but also factors like the amount of time the pavement is under water.” UNH researchers and their partners at the University of South Alabama and the Rockingham Planning Commission will develop a number of hydrodynamic models that can analyze fluids in motion. The information will be valuable to state and town officials to assess the impact of sea level rise on the longevity of coastal roadways and help implement practical alternatives for communities to protect the infrastructure. The study will focus on the northeast coast of New Hampshire and the southeast coast of Alabama.
Herald: Farmers say they’re fed up with nuisance wildlife and the crop circle-esque damage bears are dealing to their fields. Phil Brodhecker said bears are literally eating his profits, as they tend to roll around and flatten plants when they partake of his corn. The damage in some of his fields adds up to 80% to 90%, Brodhecker said. In others, it’s only about 2% to 5%, but there is damage “in every field.” The situation will only get worse for him and other farmers due to New Jersey’s policy not to have an authorized bear hunting season this year, Brodhecker said. The hunt will be skipped because there is no Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy in effect, which is required for one to proceed. But the bears aren’t the only ones causing damage, Brodhecker said. The deer are also in on it. The bears leave behind their signature “crop circles,” while the deer “graze” through most fields, munching on blossoms and buds beginning in the spring. Shoulder-high weeds have taken over where sunflowers were stunted by deer biting off buds. The Brodhecker family was one of the first commercial sunflower seed operations in New Jersey, producing birdseed packages for the state Audubon Society. “We have too many bears and deer,” he said following a tour of his Hampton farmland, showing the damage caused.
Las Cruces: As the United States battles COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, a new study co-authored by a New Mexico State University researcher examines how COVID-19 infections in social circles may influence vaccine willingness. In the study, Jagdish Khubchandani, public health sciences professor at NMSU, and a team of researchers conducted a national assessment of COVID-19 vaccine willingness among American adults based on coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths within their friend and family groups. “Education, race and political ideology are the major factors, and we need more efforts to reach sections of our society that remain hesitant about the vaccines,” said Khubchandani, who has conducted multiple studies on the topic since late 2020. The study, published last week in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, included 1,602 participants,about 79% of whom reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The remaining participants indicated they planned to get the vaccine (10%) or would not (11%). Overall, participants who did not have a friend or family member infected, hospitalized or die with COVID-19 were at least two times more likely to refuse vaccines, compared to those who had someone in their social networks affected by the virus.
New York: All of the city’s 472 subway stations are now equipped with security cameras. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Monday that it had installed the last of thousands of cameras at the G line’s Broadway stop. The installation of the cameras has been accelerated over the past year after crime spiked in the subway system during the pandemic, when ridership dropped. Two hundred stations have been outfitted with cameras in the past year, according to the MTA. Subway ridership fell more than 90% during the height of the pandemic and continues to lag far below pre-pandemic levels. An MTA survey in the spring found that crime and harassment were as big a concern as COVID-19 for riders weighing whether to return to the subways, despite the presence of hundreds of additional city police officers deployed to stations. While crime has continued to be an issue, the MTA said the increased number of cameras has helped increase arrests recently by more than 28%. Some of the cameras broadcast in real time to the subway’s security center, while others record locally and can provide footage that can be used in criminal investigations, according to the MTA.
Raleigh: Certain felons who’ve been released from prison or were never incarcerated and who registered to vote recently in North Carolina will remain eligible as litigation over their right to vote continues, the state’s highest court has ruled. The state Supreme Court, in a lawsuit challenging when North Carolina residents convicted of felonies have their voting rights restored, essentially declined to reinstate a order last month that declared any offender no longer behind bars could register. That order would have affected about 56,000 people who were still serving probation, parole or other supervision, according to court records. On Sept. 3, the state Court of Appeals blocked last month’s trial order amid pending litigation filed by civil rights groups and ex-offenders challenging state law on the restoration of voting rights. Those plaintiffs immediately appealed to the Supreme Court, which late Friday declined to block the Court of Appeals order but also declared it would be implemented only going forward. That means felony offenders who registered between Aug. 23 and Sept. 3 – when the trial judges’ order was in place and based solely on that order – can’t be removed from voting rolls and “are legally registered voters” until told otherwise, the Supreme Court wrote.
Bismarck: Authorities said one person was injured in an explosion during a fireworks display in southeast Bismarck at midday Saturday. It created a dense cloud of black smoke that could be seen throughout the city. Bismarck Rural Fire Chief Dustin Theurer said fireworks or an explosive ordnance was the “likely” cause of the explosion. Authorities didn’t immediately offer other details on what happened or where exactly the incident occurred, saying the investigation was ongoing. Firefighters, police and medical professionals responded to the scene shortly before 11:30 a.m., The Bismarck Tribune reports. Roads in the area were closed, and the public was asked to stay away. One person was taken to a hospital with undisclosed injuries, according to the Bismarck Rural Fire Department. The explosion could be heard around the city, and some people reported that it rattled doors. Joshua Watts, who happened to be in the area, said he witnessed more than one blast. “There was an explosion and then another explosion,” he said. “The first one went off … and I actually saw the fireworks blow up.” The explosions touched off grass fires in the area. No buildings were damaged, Theurer said.
Cincinnati: A second federal lawsuit filed against six local hospital groups, alleging they conspired against their employees by requiring COVID-19 vaccines, has been voluntarily dismissed. It’s the second time the antitrust lawsuit has been filed and then voluntarily dismissed. Among the allegations was that the hospital groups – Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Christ Hospital Health Network, Bon Secours Mercy Health, TriHealth, UC Health and St. Elizabeth Healthcare – are requiring employees to be vaccinated even though, according to the lawsuit, there is no increasing spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. “The plan was simple,” the lawsuit said. “If the six large systems stuck together, all the employees would be trapped.” The pandemic and the vaccines created to battle it, the lawsuit alleged, are part of a fraud perpetrated by “government, pharmaceutical (companies), social media, mainstream media, corporate America, healthcare and political parties.” According to data from the Health Collaborative, which tracks daily bed counts at more than 40 hospitals, the number of COVID-19 patients in the region’s hospital and intensive care beds remains on an upward trajectory. The number of COVID-19 patients is at its highest point since January and February.
Oklahoma City: The state’s Pardon and Parole Board on Monday recommended the governor commute the death sentence of Julius Jones, who has maintained his innocence in a 1999 killing that has garnered national attention. The five-member board voted 3-1 to recommend Jones’ sentence be commuted to life in prison after board member Scott Williams recused himself because of a professional relationship he had with one of the attorneys who spoke on Jones’ behalf. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt ultimately will decide the fate of Jones, who claims he was framed for the 1999 shooting death of Edmond businessman Paul Howell. “Personally, I believe in death penalty cases there should be no doubts. And put simply, I have doubts about this case,” said Chairman Adam Luck, one of Stitt’s appointees on the board who voted to commute Jones’ sentence. Monday’s vote came after several hours of testimony from members of Howell’s family, prosecutors who tried the case, and attorneys and supporters of Jones. Kelly Doyle, another Stitt appointee who voted in favor of commuting the sentence, said she agreed with Luck and noted there were mitigating factors she considered, including the fact that Jones, now 41, was 19 when Howell was killed during a carjacking. A spokeswoman said Stitt plans to review the recommendation carefully.
Yachats: A man who attempted to jump across a wide cove of frothing water at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is presumed dead, according to state police. Steve Allen, 67, of Walnut Creek, California, apparently tried to hurdle Devil’s Churn, a narrow boiling inlet just off Highway 101 south of Yachats on the central Oregon coast. Devil’s Churn, a popular stopping point at Cape Perpetua, is a somewhat narrow slice in the coastal basalt rock known for boiling water that kicks up large sprays of waves. “Troopers and emergency personnel responded for a subject who had fallen into the ocean at Devils Churn,” Oregon State Police said in a news release. “Fellow visitors attempted to rescue Allen but were unable to retrieve him from the water.” Allen was last observed by rescue agencies unresponsive prior to losing sight of him, officials said. The U.S. Coast Guard and other responding agencies suspended their search at approximately 6:40 p.m. Allen is presumed to be dead, officials said. OSP was assisted by Lincoln county Sheriff’s Office, Newport Fire Department, Yachats Fire and Rescue and the Coast Guard.
Harrisburg: The union that represents corrections officers in Pennsylvania prisons wants a state court to intervene over the governor’s recent mandate that they all get COVID-19 vaccines or submit to weekly coronavirus testing. The six-page Commonwealth Court complaint over a rule Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced last month requests that the court issue a preliminary injunction to end mandatory testing unless inmates, visitors and outside vendors are also subject to the requirement. “The entry of a preliminary injunction is necessary in order to maintain the equity” between members of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association “and all other participants in the commonwealth controlled congregate settings, and to further ensure the intent of the order itself,” which is to protect the public from COVID-19, according to the lawsuit filed Friday. “The commonwealth’s failure to apply the ‘vaccinate or weekly test’ rule to all individuals in the congregate setting unnecessarily increases the risk to the health and safety” of union members, the lawsuit claims. Wolf announced a month ago that about 25,000 employees of Pennsylvania’s prisons and state health care and congregate care facilities would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 7 or take weekly tests for the virus.
Newport: An estate once famously owned by Claus and Martha von Bulow has sold for $30 million. Clarendon Court on Newport’s famed Bellevue Avenue mansion row was sold late Thursday. The buyer’s name wasn’t disclosed. The grand estate on more than 7 acres with sweeping ocean views was built in 1904 by the architect Horace Trumbauer. The sale easily tops the $17.75 million paid by singer Taylor Swift in 2013 for her home in Westerly, which is considered the highest price fetched by a home in the state. Clarendon Court was where heiress Martha “Sunny” von Bulow slipped into a coma in 1980 from which she never woke up. Claus Von Bulow, a Danish-born socialite, was convicted but later acquitted of trying to kill her to gain her fortune so he could live with his soap opera actress mistress. His two trials in Rhode Island in the 1980s drew intense international attention with its high society overtones. The story was the subject of the 1990 movie “Reversal of Fortune” starring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close. Sunny died in 2008 in New York City; Claus died in 2019 in London.
Greenville: A large granite monument honoring 9/11 victims was defaced by vandals who spray-painted “Taliban” on it in two places, authorities said. The granite statue is made of two towers, each weighing 4,000 pounds, with a light beam outside a Greenville County business, WYFF-TV reports. Deputies were called to investigate the vandalism Sunday morning, and the damage was cleaned up later that day, said Paul Nichols, founder and CEO of Upstate Granite Solutions. His granite company constructed the memorial, which is surrounded by 1,000 American flags, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the U.S. “This monument is meant to show the community how much we care and to offer our support to our military and our first responders and let people know there’s still something to believe in in America,” said Kelly Nichols of Upstate Granite Solutions. Nichols said hundreds of people visited the memorial Saturday night.
Sioux Falls: Badlands National Park will build a new visitor center in the southeast section of the park, the National Park Foundation said Monday. The new facility will be located in the Cedar Pass section of the park, where wind and water have carved towering geological rock formations from the prairie. The center is planned to educate park visitors about the region’s paleontological and geological resources, as well as the culture of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Lakota people. Nearly 917,000 people visited the park last year, according to the National Park Service. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust donated $3.3 million for the project. Badlands Natural History Association has also pledged $1.8 million, and the Badlands National Park Conservancy has contributed $100,000. “Badlands National Park’s layered rocks formations and stunning buttes offer visitors a breathtaking glimpse into a scenic landscape that began forming millions of years ago,” Helmsley Charitable Trust Trustee Walter Panzirer said in a statement. “We’re excited to lead the funding effort to construct a new, modern visitor center to highlight the park’s splendor and significance.”
Nashville: Some residents affected by last month’s flooding can apply for emergency food benefits. The Department of Human Services announced that the state will begin accepting applications for “disaster SNAP” benefits for people who live or work in Dickson, Hickman, Houston or Humphreys counties. SNAP refers to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. To qualify, individuals must meet income requirements and can’t already be a current SNAP recipient. Individuals also must have experienced a loss of income due to the storm, damage to a residence or place of employment, or some other unreimbursed disaster-related expense. Applications from Humphreys County will be accepted through Friday. Those in Dickson, Hickman and Houston counties can apply from Sept. 20 to Sept. 24. Applications can be filled out on the department’s website or in person by appointment. The Aug. 21 flooding killed 20 people as it took out houses, roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines.
Austin: Several Austin-area funeral home embalmers say it’s common practice to pour human blood from corpses down the drain, a procedure that Austin Water officials admit they were unaware was occurring and one that could compromise the treatment of wastewater entering the Colorado River. Death-related issues are often considered taboo, which might be why Texas Funeral Service Commission Executive Director Glenn Bower said it’s been about 20 years since he was asked how funeral homes in the state dispose of human fluids. He said if a family chooses to embalm a loved one, all the blood and body fluids mixed with embalming liquid that come out of the remains – referred to by embalmers as drainage – go down the common sink. “I can honestly say we measure the volume going in, but we don’t measure the volume coming out,” Bower said. “But that does go down the drain.” Of the solution put into the remains, “about half of that solution, give or take, will come out in the drainage,” he said. Disposing of the medical waste and embalming fluid is not dangerous to the public or to the environment, Bower said, as workers dilute the medical waste with water. Austin Water disagreed, saying in a statement that permits must be acquired to drain blood or embalming fluid into local wastewater systems.
Cedar City: The Utah Shakespeare Festival is partnering with the Iron County Care and Share on a local food drive, offering discounted tickets for participants, starting this week. The food drive runs Sept. 14 to Oct. 9, and by donating at least six items of non-perishable food, playgoers can get half-price tickets to any show Mondays through Thursdays, according to a release from organizers. The deal is good on the day of the performance only and not for advance sales. The offer is limited to four discounted tickets per person. Food donation barrels will be located outside the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, near the ticket office. “It’s important every year to support this shelter, but considering the times we’re in and all of the damage caused by the pandemic, food insecurity has only gotten worse. So the festival is very happy to help where we can,” said Donn Jersey, the director of development and communication. Flooding this year in the Cedar City area has made the food drive’s mission that much more important, organizers said, adding to an increase in need brought on by the financial instability the COVID-19 pandemic has caused.
Thetford: Public meetings will be held this month as a plan to commit the state to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years is drafted. The Global Warming Solutions Act was passed last year despite Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s veto. The legislation set up a council on climate to analyze ways Vermont can reduce emissions. A virtual meeting to gather feedback from farmers will take place Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The climate council is then holding in-person public meetings in Elmore on Sept. 21; East Dorset on Sept. 22; Island Pond on Sept. 23; and Colchester on Sept. 26, the Agency of Natural Resources said. The council is in the early stages of drafting the plan that will be presented to the Legislature on Dec. 1, the Valley News reports. There will be extensive feedback and revisions through January 2022, said Administration Secretary Susanne Young, who is chairwoman of the council. Some of the strategies the panel is considering are recommendations for carbon capture and sequestration on farms; programs to encourage Vermonters to buy electric or low-emission vehicles; promoting compact communities to reduce commute distances; and building on Efficiency Vermont’s work to weatherize more homes, the newspaper reports.
Newport News: This year’s menhaden catch so far in the Chesapeake Bay is worrying the state’s top fisheries regulator, but the company harvesting most of the oily fish says it won’t exceed a set quota. Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner Steven Bowman wrote that Omega Protein has already caught 75% of the bay’s quota, the Daily Press of Newport News reports. “This is a troubling development, as recent harvest rates mirror those from 2019 when Omega did exceed the Bay harvest cap by 15,000 metric tons,” Bowman wrote to the Virginia-based company, which operates a fish oil and fishmeal plant in Reedville. Omega spokesman Ben Landry said the company has no intention of breaking the law. In 2019, Virginia had a different quota for the Chesapeake Bay than the one set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, an interstate body that manages several fish species. Omega’s catch was within the state cap, Landry said. The differing quotas led to a federal order closing the menhaden fishery unless Virginia adopted the Atlantic States commission cap and cut the allowable catch for 2020 to make up for what was caught in 2019, the newspaper reports. Virginia complied, and Omega did not exceed the 2020 cap.
Blaine: Officials say they’ve destroyed a second nest of Asian giant hornets found in northwestern Washington state this year and are preparing to take down a third. The Washington State Department of Agriculture said in a Facebook post that a team eradicated the nest Saturday in northern Whatcom County, near the town of Blaine along the Canadian border. It said a third nest this season has been located, and planning is underway to eradicate it. The nests have been within a few miles of each other. The first nest this year was destroyed in August. The hornets were first detected in the U.S. in 2019 in Whatcom County. Asian giant hornets are an invasive pest not native to the U.S. They are the world’s largest hornet at 2 inches long and a predator of other insects, including honeybees that pollinate many of the crops in Washington’s agriculture industry. While not particularly aggressive toward humans, their sting is extremely painful, and repeated stings, though rare, can kill. They’re sometimes called murder hornets because they prey on other bees.
Charleston: This year’s West Virginia Book Festival is going virtual due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, officials said. The free event will still be held Oct. 22-23 at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center, but events will be hosted online, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. “The health and safety of our guests, volunteers, presenters and sponsors is our top priority, and due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Kanawha County, we felt it was prudent to cancel in-person activities this year,” festival co-chair Sarah Mitchell said in a statement. “Instead, book festival presentations will be streamed live online, so book lovers can still engage with our renowned literary guests.” Some of the authors scheduled to appear include Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead, best-selling author and West Virginia native Homer Hickam, and children’s author Jon Scieszka.
Madison: Democratic Gov. Tony Evers sought Monday to join the court fight over Wisconsin’s redistricting process, just as Republicans who control the Legislature have. The first-term governor asked a federal court to let him join a lawsuit over the shape of congressional and legislative districts for the next decade. Where the lines go will help determine which political party has the upper hand in elections. Ten years ago, Republicans controlled all of state government and drew maps that helped them. This time, Republicans won’t have as easy of a time because Evers can veto whatever they draw. If Evers and lawmakers can’t reach a deal, it will likely be left to the courts to decide where the lines go. Anticipating that could happen, voters and groups started filing lawsuits last month asking judges to set a timetable for legislators and Evers to act. Three lawsuits have been filed over the map-drawing process, two in federal court and one in state court. Evers, who is represented by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, on Monday asked to join one of the federal cases. A panel of three judges is hearing both federal cases and is considering combining the two cases it is overseeing. The panel gave GOP lawmakers permission to join one of the cases last month and is considering letting them intervene in the other one.
Cheyenne: A man accused of choking his girlfriend has pleaded guilty in Laramie County District Court. Joshua Gene Nunn pleaded guilty to felony strangulation of a household member as part of a plea agreement. He originally pleaded not guilty to the charge, along with one count of misdemeanor domestic battery, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. If a judge follows the agreement at sentencing, Nunn could receive three years of probation, with a suspended sentence of three to five years in prison. Early last Sept. 29, a Cheyenne Police officer responded to a report of a domestic incident. The woman said that, during an argument, she had tried to lock Nunn out of their bedroom, but he broke the door and came in, according to court documents. Nunn got on top of her and choked her by pushing his forearm under her throat. The woman said she couldn’t breathe, and “her head got fuzzy,” and then Nunn punched the left side of her face, according to court documents.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bear crop circles, corpse blood: News from around our 50 states
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