Montgomery: A foundation named for a Black man who was lynched is being awarded more than $235,000 to preserve a school that was important to the Black community in Lowndes County. The Elmore Bolling Initiative is receiving money to preserve the Lowndesboro School west of Montgomery through a National Park Service civil rights grant program. Killed in 1947 by a white neighbor who wasn’t prosecuted, Bolling defied the odds against Black men and built several successful businesses during the Jim Crow era. He had more money than a lot of white community members, which his descendants believe was all it took to get him killed. Bolling’s daughter, Josephine Bolling McCall, still lives in Montgomery and is the driving force behind the foundation named for her father. McCall said she and her siblings attended the wood-frame Lowndesboro School, which was founded by Mansfield Tyler, a former slave who pushed for better education for Black people after the Civil War. McCall said in a statement that the grant “will allow us to tell the long history of African Americans striving for education in Lowndes County and throughout the South.” Multiple other sites in Alabama received grants through the program, including historic Black churches and sites linked to the civil rights movement.
Anchorage: The Foo Fighters are requiring that people who attend their upcoming shows in Alaska be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive a negative coronavirus test result 48 hours beforehand, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The 12-time Grammy-winning rock band plans to perform in Anchorage on Tuesday and Thursday at the Dena’ina Center and in Fairbanks on Saturday at the Carlson Center. Negative test results or proof of vaccination must be provided before entering – either the original card or a copy with an ID to match, according to a statement Saturday from Ticketmaster. “Fully vaccinated” means at least two weeks after the final dose. Fans under 12 years old will have to take a coronavirus diagnostic test within 48 hours of the event to provide a negative test result. Unvaccinated fans over 12 who have a valid medical reason and note must also take the test, Ticketmaster said. Mask-wearing is not required. The Foo Fighters performed before a vaccinated audience June 20 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was the venue’s first show in more than 460 days.
Casa Grande: The last of the city’s “zombie” subdivisions is finally being developed after lying fallow for 12 years. The subdivision, Tuscany, and others were launched in the runup to the Great Recession and then left unfinished when the housing market collapsed. That left them as desert eyesores in Casa Grande, located along Interstate 10 roughly halfway between Tucson and metro Phoenix. But Century Communities recently purchased Tuscany, and city planner Jim Gagliardi said cleanup is planned, and actual construction could be just six months away, the Casa Grande Dispatch reports. “A year or two ago at this time, we had many getting snapped up by homebuilders,” Gagliardi said of the subdivisions and planned housing developments that were frozen in time for about a decade. “This is the last one.” The immediate plan for Tuscany is cleanup of the landscaping. The project already has roads and sewer lines. Richard Wilkie, the city’s economic development director, said housing is booming nearly everywhere in the Pinal County city except for the industrial corridor on Casa Grande’s west side. He also noted that major retail and commercial companies closely follow rooftops, so many of the most popular requests, such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, are now more likely to show interest in having a location within the city or area around it.
Fort Smith: A new emergency hospital is coming to the city. Little Rock-based CBM Construction Co Inc. filed for a Fort Smith building permit Aug.3. The city’s building permit details list the value of the project at more than $8 million. The new facility will be like the one in Cabot, which was the first of its kind in the state, according to the hospital’s website. The Cabot Emergency Hospital offers both inpatient and outpatient services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The facility features cutting-edge technology including bedside ultrasound, digital radiology, CT scan, MRI and a comprehensive clinical lab, according to its website. The hospital is a part of Nutex Health, a Houston-based service provider, operator and management firm in the Specialty Hospital and Hospital Outpatient Department industry.
Quincy: Firefighters battling flames in Northern California forests girded Monday for new bouts of windy weather, and a utility warned thousands of customers it might cut their electricity to prevent new fires from igniting if gusts damage power lines. Conditions that suppressed the huge Dixie Fire overnight were expected to give way late in the day to winds that could push flames toward mountain communities in a region where drought and summer heat have turned vegetation to tinder. “In this environment any type of wind, no matter what direction – especially the way the fire’s been going – is a concern for everyone,” said information officer Jim Evans. Growing explosively at times, the Dixie Fire has scorched 890 square miles in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades since it ignited July 13 and eventually merged with a smaller blaze called the Fly Fire. Ongoing damage surveys have counted more than 1,100 buildings destroyed, including 625 homes, and more than 14,000 structures remained threatened. Numerous evacuation orders were in effect. Investigations are continuing, but Pacific Gas & Electric has notified utility regulators that the Dixie and Fly fires may have been caused by trees falling into its power lines.
Fort Collins: The Poudre School District says it has found “creative” solutions to a shortage of bus drivers. At the start of the 2021-22 school year, all eligible students who requested busing services from the district by the first busing deadline will receive district transportation, despite PSD being 42 bus drivers short from its operating standards in 2019. PSD Director of Operations Matt Bryant and Director of Transportation Jake Bell said their team worked around the clock for the past two weeks to find a way to get all 7,500 who requested transportation back in May and June on a bus. Bryant, who has been with the district since 2012, said he doesn’t remember a time during that span when there hasn’t been a bus driver shortage. He said that while it’s a “tough job” that doesn’t provide an eight-hour workday, there are benefits, and the district has worked to make it a more appealing job over the past year. Wages for a bus driver in the district have increased 27% since 2016, and drivers are now eligible for health and retirement benefits, district spokesperson Madeline Noblett said. But during the pandemic, Bryant said there have been added challenges because of a hiring freeze, low applicant pool and competition with the trucking industry, which is also facing a shortage and can provide more regular hours and pay.
Stonington: A school board has reversed the district’s decision to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day on the 2021-22 school calendar after hearing criticism about the move made back in June. The Stonington Board of Education voted 3-2 last week to restore the name Columbus Day, at least for the time being, with some members arguing that a public hearing should be held before such a change is made, The Day of New London reports. “We need more community input before we make that call,” Gordon Lord, a board member, said at Thursday’s meeting. Changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day was among a list of planned revisions to the new school calendar, included in a June 10 report to the board from Superintendent of Schools Van Riley. He said the move was made at the request of the school system’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. But in the weeks that followed, the board has heard criticism from those who opposed the change and claimed the school system teaches critical race theory. The Day previously reported that the Stonington school system recently issued a formal statement saying it does not teach critical race theory.
Wilmington: Twenty-six New Castle County employees made more than $150,000 in 2020, according to salary data, and more than half are police officers. The data shows a noticeable increase of high earners compared with 2019, when eight New Castle County government employees made more than $150,000. Four of them were police officers that year. The upward trend is in part due to employees getting an extra biweekly payment in 2020, which happens every seven to 11 years because payment schedules don’t fit perfectly into a 365-day calendar year, according to the county. The New Castle County earnings include the workers’ base salaries and any overtime or other additional pay they made last year. County Executive Matt Meyer, the highest-ranking county official in New Castle, was the 16th highest-paid employee last year, making $159,326. The median annual income in New Castle County is $36,458, according to the U.S. census.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Washington Monument was closed Monday after it was struck by lightning amid severe storms Sunday, WUSA-TV reports. National Mall officials said crews would be repairing damage to the monument’s electronic access system. It was unknown how long the repairs would take and when the monument would reopen. The monument is usually open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Masks are required for all visitors inside the monument, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. In accordance with health guidelines, guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is enforced to ensure public areas and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners and volunteers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the monument closed in March 2020. It reopened in October and closed again at the beginning of 2021. Tickets must be acquired online in advance to visit.
Fort Lauderdale: Many of the state’s largest school districts are finding it difficult because of the pandemic to hire enough bus drivers, with some using managers and other stopgap measures to get students to class as the new school year begins. The Associated Press contacted most of the state’s 20 largest districts Monday, and many said they have not been able to fully fill their openings, forcing some drivers to handle extra routes. Other districts are asking parents to drive their children to and from school when possible to reduce the numbers requiring busing or putting transportation department managers back behind the wheel. Florida has been hard-hit by the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, and that has likely scared off candidates for a job that can be stressful under normal circumstances. Many districts are not requiring masks on buses, but even districts that do are short drivers. “Recruiting and retaining bus drivers was a struggle pre-pandemic, but the labor shortage in general has exacerbated the issue not only for us but for districts everywhere,” said Erin Maloney, a spokesperson for Hillsborough County Public Schools in the Tampa Bay area. The district requires students to wear masks unless their parents opt them out, but it still needs to add 100 drivers to the 750 now working.
Albany: Officials are considering placing a limit on dollar stores that are rapidly multiplying in the area. Some Dougherty County commissioners pushed back during a recent meeting when presented with a zoning request to approve a Dollar General store at an intersection where there’s already a Family Dollar store across the street, WALB-TV reports. “I just think there’s one on every corner,” said Commissioner Anthony Jones, who suggested a moratorium on such discount retailers. Jones said he’s concerned those stores are taking up space that could go to higher-quality stores such as supermarkets that sell fresh food. He and Commissioner Russell Gray both said they also worry that dollar stores have a business model that preys on poor neighborhoods. Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said there are valid concerns about dollar stores but questioned whether higher-end retailers would take their place. “It’s not like there is a Whole Foods Market or a Publix Market that’s moving into those neighborhoods,” Cohilas said. Jones said commissioners plan to look at moratoriums on dollar stores imposed by other communities as they seek options to consider.
Waimea: The state’s largest-ever wildfire has burned more than 70 square miles on the Big Island in the two weeks it has been going. But it wasn’t the first time this area has burned and won’t be the last. As on many islands in the Pacific, Hawaii’s dry seasons are getting more extreme with climate change. “Everyone knows Waimea to be the pasturelands and to be all the green rolling hills,” said Kumu Micah Kamohoalii, whose family has for generations lived on the lands reserved for Native Hawaiians. “And so when I was young, all of this was always green. In the last 10 to 15 years, it has been really, really dry.” Huge wildfires highlight the dangers of climate change-related heat and drought for many communities. But experts say relatively small fires on typically wet, tropical islands in the Pacific are also on the rise, creating a cycle of ecological damage that affects vital and limited resources for millions of residents. “On tropical islands, fires have a unique set of impacts,” said Clay Trauernicht, an ecosystems and wildfire researcher at the University of Hawaii. “First and foremost, fires were very rare prior to human arrival on any Pacific island. The vegetation, the native ecosystems, really evolved in the absence of frequent fires. And so when you do get these fires, they tend to kind of wreak havoc.”
Idaho Falls: Authorities say a man was electrocuted after jumping on a power transformer. The Idaho Falls Fire Department said in a statement that the man died from the electrocution. Police and firefighters were sent to Idaho Falls Power shortly before midnight for a report of someone climbing on a water tower on the municipal utility’s property. The fire department said the first responders found a man on the water tower and tried to convince him to come down, but the man was uncooperative and threatened to fight anyone who came up after him. The man later climbed down from the tower and onto a fence that surrounds the power plant. The man was running along a concrete wall and then jumped onto a transformer, where he came into contact with a high-voltage power line and died instantly, the fire department said. The man’s name was not released.
Chicago: Five years after Barack Obama chose the Windy City as the site for his legacy project, construction officially began Monday on the Obama Presidential Center. Roadway closures were set up and a bulldozer pulled up to start digging up part of the 19-acre lakefront site in Jackson Park, which is near the Obama family home and the University of Chicago, where the former president once taught law. The Obama Foundation, which announced preliminary work in April, said a formal groundbreaking ceremony would take place in the fall. Progress on the $500 million center has been delayed by lawsuits and a federal review required because of the location of the park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Also, concerns about displacing Black residents stretched into a yearslong battle, resulting in neighborhood protections – including for affordable housing. “We are incredibly proud to build the Obama Presidential Center here, just a couple of miles away from where President and Mrs. Obama started their journey,” Valerie Jarrett, president of the Obama Foundation, said in a statement. The multi-building complex will include a museum, a public library branch, an athletic center, a children’s play area and a test kitchen. Obama’s documents will be available in digital form.
Indianapolis: An increase in ambulance calls across the state and fewer emergency medical workers have officials raising concerns about longer response times and growing delays in moving seriously ill patients to larger hospitals. The number of ambulance calls grew 44% since 2018 to more than 1 million last year, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. That comes along with a slight decline in the number of emergency medical technicians and paramedics and an 11% drop in available ambulances for emergency calls during that time. Patients at small hospitals in rural communities face waiting hours or more for an ambulance ride for more advanced treatment at hospitals in Indianapolis, Cincinnati or Chicago. “It’s going to lead to worse outcomes,” said Dr. Michael Kaufmann, Indiana’s EMS medical director. “So higher morbidity and mortality for Hoosiers.” Rush Memorial Hospital in the small eastern Indiana city of Rushville has tried to hire EMTs to exclusively handle transfers but struggled to fill the open positions, WFYI-FM reports. “When a patient comes in and needs a higher level of care, it has never up until recently been so scary,” said Carrie Tressler, the hospital’s vice president of nursing.
Ankeny: Iowans had a chance to get a “bottle full of bub” from 50 Cent himself Sunday. Rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson III, known for hit songs “In Da Club” and “Candy Shop,” is in Iowa for a collaboration with Hy-Vee. His first public stop was a Sunday bottle signing at Ankeny’s Prairie Trail Hy-Vee, where fans started lining up about 11 a.m. for the 4 p.m. event. The artist came in through a side entrance, walking past the aisles of cereal and fresh produce to the area set up for his appearance, as fans screamed. Hy-Vee decorated the area with balloons, flowers and custom ice sculptures for his appearance. 50 Cent met with fans in a curtained space, where they could talk, ask questions and take pictures with the famous musician. The Hy-Vee appearances are sponsored by Sire Spirits, which makes Branson Cognac and Le Chemin Du Roi Champagne. The cognac costs about $70 online and the champagne nearly $300 – both have the sign-off from 50 Cent, an investor in the company. Customers who bought Sire Spirits products Sunday had the chance to meet the rapper, take pictures and have him sign their bottles. Christina Gayman, vice president of communications at Hy-Vee, said the collaboration has been in the works since spring. Hy-Vee is the exclusive seller of 50 Cent’s alcohol in the Midwest, she said.
Olathe: The state’s most populous county is requiring its employees to submit to weekly coronavirus testing if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19. “With the sharp increase of the delta variant, we want employees to be safe,” Johnson County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson said in a statement. Postoak Ferguson said only 46% of county employees had reported being fully inoculated, even as the fast-spreading delta strain sends cases soaring, leading to outbreaks in day cares, businesses and elsewhere. Countywide, nearly 58% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. Beginning Aug. 23, government employees who are not fully vaccinated must get tested once a week. Employees who work in departments providing direct care to residents are subject to tests up to twice weekly, The Kansas City Star reports. Similar requirements already have taken effect in school districts, businesses and cities elsewhere. Meanwhile, the University of Kansas announced incentives Friday for students to get vaccinated. They include gift cards and a chance to win prizes, including free tuition. “We know that vaccination is the best way each of us can protect ourselves and our community against the effects of COVID-19 and the delta variant,” Andrew Foster, KU’s emergency management coordinator, said in a news release.
Lexington: The University of Kentucky is trying to stop the Commonwealth of Kentucky from trademarking the phrase “Team Kentucky” due to its preexisting “Kentucky” trademark. The state’s flagship university filed a notice of opposition Friday with a board in the United States Patent and Trademark Office to stop the state from trademarking the phrase, arguing that it would “likely … cause confusion” with the university’s “Kentucky” athletic clothing trademark, registered in 1997. Thus, the University of Kentucky is arguing that consumers looking at any sort of clothing with the “Team Kentucky” trademark – for which the commonwealth applied March 26, 2020 – will mistakenly think it is sold by the university instead of state government, thereby hurting the former’s sales. The commonwealth’s “TEAM KENTUCKY & Design mark is highly similar to (the university’s) KENTUCKY mark such that it is likely to cause deception in violation of Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act and materially alter purchasers’ decisions to acquire (the commonwealth’s) goods,” the notice of opposition says. “Team Kentucky” has been a common refrain for Gov. Andy Beshear since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, as he set up a “Team Kentucky” fund to help residents hit hard during the pandemic.
New Orleans: Planned Parenthood is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider the question of whether the state must grant a long-sought license for an abortion clinic in New Orleans. Planned Parenthood began the process to get a license to perform abortions at the New Orleans facility during Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. The efforts continued after Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards succeeded Jindal in 2016. Both men oppose abortion rights. Two Planned Parenthood organizations and three women filed a federal lawsuit in 2018 accusing the state of illegally delaying action on the application for a license. The state went to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal district judge refused to dismiss the suit. A 5th Circuit panel also refused to dismiss. But, while keeping the lawsuit alive and sending it back to the district court, the three 5th Circuit judges also ruled that federal courts can’t order the state to license the facility. The right to the license is a matter of state law, and “there is no free-standing federal right to receive an abortion-clinic license,” Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote on behalf of the panel.
Portland: Lobster fishing businesses could be subjected to electronic tracking requirements to try to protect vulnerable right whales and get a better idea of the population of the valuable crustaceans. An arm of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, an interstate regulatory authority, said this month it is considering implementing the tracking requirements for lobster boats that have federal permits. The rules would also apply to boats that harvest Jonah crabs, which are the subject of another important New England fishery. The tracking devices would record the location of the vessel while it is fishing, said Caitlin Starks, a fishery management plan coordinator with the commission. That would provide regulators with better data to get an idea of where in the ocean lobsters are located, she said. The new rules could also help protect North Atlantic right whales, which number only about 360, Starks said. The whales are vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear, which can cause them to drown. They’ve been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act for more than 50 years and have suffered poor reproduction and high mortality in recent years. New federal rules are coming to the lobster fishery soon to help protect the whales. Federal officials have said they will focus on reducing the number of vertical ropes in the water.
Annapolis: Remembering his 100th birthday, the city gave honors over the weekend to the late author Alex Haley and his extended family, citing his research that led to a greater understanding by all Americans about slavery’s legacy. Haley’s family received keys to the city of Annapolis in a gathering Saturday, the Capital Gazette reports. As the writer of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” an award-winning book and television series in the 1970s, Haley completed genealogical research that led him to discover he was a descendant of Kunta Kinte, a man kidnapped in Africa, enslaved and sold at City Dock in Annapolis. Haley died in 1992 and would have turned 100 on Aug. 11. Mayor Gavin Buckley proclaimed Aug. 11 as Alex Haley Day in the city. “Alex Haley’s ties to Annapolis are rooted in the most barbaric chapter of the American story. It was a story that needed to be told, and he was the one to tell it,” Buckley said. A memorial built at City Dock after Haley’s death includes a sculpture of the author and three children listening to him. A marker to indicate the dock’s history as a port in the slave trade will be erected in a couple of months, local historian Janice Hayes-Williams said.
Peabody: There are no plans to change the state’s mask-wearing guidance even as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues its spread and as schools prepare to reopen at the end of the month, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday. The state’s vaccination rate is high, and COVID-19 hospitalizations are relatively low, the Republican said during a visit to Peabody to announce additional support for vocational and technical education programming, The Boston Globe reports. “I hope and pray that many other states move as aggressively as the people in Massachusetts have moved to get a vaccine,” Baker said. “Vaccinations are the pathway out of this pandemic, period. … We’re going to run hundreds of vaccination clinics in conjunction with our colleagues in the K-12 world between now and the start of school. We expect that will continue to boost our numbers among the kids between the ages of 12 and 19, where again we are a national leader.” Despite some pressures from teachers’ unions, coronavirus safety protocols are being left up to school districts, although the state recommends that unvaccinated students, faculty and staff wear face coverings indoors, while vaccinated students and workers do not need them. People with certain medical conditions should also wear face coverings, Baker said.
Royal Oak: A Detroit-area cardiologist and his partners are donating free coronary calcium scans for first responders. The Hearts for Heroes program is designed to help prevent heart attack deaths among police, firefighters and other first responders, according to Royal Oak-based Beaumont Health. “They go from zero to 100 on their job, and if they have a problem, they can have a heart attack and die,” said Beaumont Health interventional cardiologist Dr. Justin Trivax, who created the program. The test itself takes about three minutes and involves a couple of deep breaths while under a CT scanner. The screening typically costs about $100 and is usually not covered by insurance. The resulting scan shows the amount of buildup in the vessels that carry blood to the heart. That buildup can restrict or block flow in the vessels, or break off and cause a heart attack. In April, 57 members of the Farmington Hills Fire Department were given the free screening. Other members of the fire department were expected to be screened Saturday.
Minneapolis: Fire crews in northeastern Minnesota were battling a “rapidly growing” wildfire Sunday, adding to a list of wildfires in the region that have prompted Gov. Tim Walz to authorize the National Guard to assist in firefighting efforts. Superior National Forest officials estimated the wildfire at “several hundred acres” in size Sunday and warned that it could spread quickly due to high winds and dry conditions, Minnesota Public Radio reports. The Forest Service said it asked residents near McDougal Lake to prepare for an evacuation and cleared visitors from the area, but authorities had not yet ordered an evacuation. The wildfire was spotted about 3 p.m. Sunday about 15 miles southwest of Isabella. The governor several hours later moved to send National Guard members to the region, as fire dangers are expected to remain high over the next several days. “This summer, Minnesota has experienced abnormally high temperatures and a historic drought resulting in dry conditions conducive to wildfires,” Walz said in a statement. His order cited another wildfire in the Beltrami Island State Forest “that is threatening life and property near Warroad.” Meanwhile, Superior Forest Service is monitoring several other smaller fires in the area that were sparked in recent days.
Jackson: The state’s only Level 1 trauma center is setting up a second emergency field hospital in a parking garage that will handle some of the sickest COVID-19 patients as the coronavirus continues to ravage Mississippi. Samaritan’s Purse will set up the mobile intensive care unit with a team of medical staff in a garage nearby Children’s of Mississippi, the state’s only pediatric hospital. Since the start of the pandemic, the Christian relief charity has set up five other emergency hospitals in areas of the world hard hit by the virus, like New York City and Los Angeles County. “The COVID-19 situation is worsening in our state,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said in a statement. Woodward is also dean of the School of Medicine. Mississippi, one of least vaccinated states in the country, has seen numbers of new coronavirus double in the past two weeks, surpassing records for hospitalizations set in all previous surges of the virus since the start of the pandemic. The state had an average of 1,475 new coronavirus cases per day July 31 and about 3,285 new cases per day Aug. 14, according to data from Johns Hopkins University analyzed by the Associated Press.
Clayton: Democratic St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and several Jewish leaders on Monday criticized comments at recent County Council meetings that compared mask mandates to the Holocaust. With the delta variant of the coronavirus surging in St. Louis County, Page sought to require masks in indoor public places. A judge earlier this month issued a temporary restraining order against the mandate after the County Council voted to overturn it. The last two council meetings have drawn large crowds of people opposed to the mask requirement, including some who compared it to the Holocaust. Rabbi Susan Talve, speaking at a news conference, called the comparison “overt antisemitism.” Talve and other Jewish leaders were critical of County Council Chairwoman Rita Heard Days, a Democrat, for failing to intervene and “gavel out” those making the Holocaust comparison. Days, in a statement, said racial and religious epithets and “cheap comparisons to the Holocaust” are unacceptable. She did not respond to the concerns that she failed to stop such comparisons at recent meetings but said she will “swiftly use my gavel and admonish” antisemitic comments.
Helena: Planned Parenthood of Montana filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block four new laws restricting access to abortion in the state. The laws, set to take effect Oct. 1, would ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation; restrict access to abortion pills; require abortion providers to ask patients if they would like to view an ultrasound; and prohibit insurance plans that cover abortion procedures from being offered on the federal exchange. The lawsuit filed in Yellowstone District Court claims the laws violate the state constitution, which protects access to abortion before the fetus is viable, generally at 24 weeks gestation. It says the laws will reduce the number of locations where abortion services are offered and will threaten abortion providers with civil and criminal penalties. The laws were passed earlier this year by the Republican-dominated Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte, who last November became Montana’s first Republican governor in 16 years. His Democratic predecessors blocked previous attempts to limit abortion access. Montana joins several other GOP-led states in passing additional restrictions on abortion access this year.
Omaha: Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the state as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread, but those reported totals may be undercounting the actual number of cases because the number of tests being performed each day is down significantly compared to last fall. “We’re definitely not testing enough … that part is clear,” said Dr. James Lawler, co-executive director of University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Global Center for Health Security. Data published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that Nebraska reported more than 16,000 test results one day last November during the fall surge of cases, according to the Omaha World-Herald. This summer, the state hasn’t reported more than 2,000 tests a day since July 27, and the highest number of tests reported this month was when 1,400 results came in Aug. 10. But coronavirus tests are available in many more locations today than they were last fall. The fact that testing is available in so many locations – including many pharmacies, hospitals, health centers, doctor’s offices and local health departments – is the main reason the state has no plans to resurrect the free, statewide TestNebraska operation that ended last month, said state Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Khalilah LeGrand.
Las Vegas: Toy company Mattel chose a local physician, wellness advocate and lifestyle blogger as a role model for one of six new Barbies honoring women the company identified as heroes of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz, the 31-year-old mother of a young son, recalled playing with Barbie dolls as a child. She told the Las Vegas Sun she was in shock when Mattel contacted her. “I was like, ‘What?’ I’m just this person,” she said. “I don’t think that I’m special. I don’t feel like my story is that unique.” During the pandemic, Cruz worked as a front-line worker in hospital and clinic settings for Intermountain Healthcare in Las Vegas. Her doll has long, brown hair and wears a white doctor’s coat, blue scrubs, a stethoscope and a tiny mask. Cruz also blogged about her life as a doctor, posted wellness content, and collaborated with other Asian-American physicians during a rise in anti-Asian-related crime to create a video accompanied by the hashtag #IAmNotAVirus. “We wanted to use our voices to speak up for this population that may not necessarily be able to speak up for themselves or don’t have the platform that we do,” said Cruz, a Filipina American. Mattel credits her with fighting racial bias and discrimination.
Concord: State parks are offering both vaccinations and free day passes over the next six weeks. The state Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that it is partnering with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to offer COVID-19 shots at state parks via New Hampshire’s mobile vaccine van. Those who get inoculated at the parks will receive complimentary passes that can be used until the end of 2022. The first stop will be Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown on Wednesday. Sixteen other stops at 10 different parks are planned between then and Sept. 30. “We welcome thousands of New Hampshire residents and visitors to our many state parks each day,” said Sarah Stewart, commissioner of the agency that oversees parks. “We are thrilled to partner with DHHS in order to make the vaccine as easy and accessible as possible.”
Trenton: The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Bergen County man wasn’t denied a fair trial because of jury selection changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, though the justices took the additional step of ordering courts to begin collecting demographic data from prospective jurors. Wildemar Dangcil’s trial last fall was the first jury trial in the state to use the hybrid jury selection process, a mostly virtual undertaking aimed at limiting in-person contact as the number of coronavirus cases surged. Dangcil was convicted of attempted assault, attempted arson, making terroristic threats and other charges, and he appealed on the grounds that the jury selection process failed to ensure a jury representing a cross-section of the community. A similar challenge in a separate case, alleging a lack of access to technology would unconstitutionally exclude minority, poor and elderly jurors, was rejected by the Supreme Court in April. Dangcil’s attorneys also argued the jury selection process denied him the right to be present during the excusal and disqualification of jurors. In Monday’s unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court rejected both arguments but wrote that the appeal raised important issues.
Carlsbad: Environmentalists have sued again over an endangered mouse found only in parts of New Mexico and Arizona. In the latest legal filing, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society allege that the U.S. Forest Service has failed to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and its habitat in the Sacramento Mountains from cattle grazing. The tiny rodent was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014. The agency then designated nearly 22 square miles along about 170 miles of streams, ditches and canals as critical habitat in parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. Robin Silver with the Center for Biological Diversity said grazing is to blame for stream-side meadows being trampled and the mouse disappearing. “It’s absurd that the Forest Service spends millions in taxpayer money failing to protect the area and stop this slow-motion extinction instead of just removing the cows,” he said. The group last year had called for an independent investigation into Forest Service practices in southern New Mexico, saying hundreds of grazing violations on the Lincoln National Forest have pushed the mouse closer to extinction.
New York: Vaccine mandates expanded Monday as the state ordered hospital and nursing home workers to get COVID-19 inoculations, and New York City was poised to start requiring them for anyone in restaurant dining rooms, gyms, museums and many other leisure venues. The new policies aim to goad people into getting vaccinated amid a coronavirus wave powered by the highly infectious delta variant. “Just buy into this because it’s going to work for all of us, is going to make us all safer,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. In a nationwide first for a city government, the Democrat announced earlier this month that proof of vaccination would be required to partake in much of public life, from indoor dining to gym workouts to theater. Other cities, including San Francisco, later followed New York’s move. It applies to patrons, employees, New Yorkers, commuters and visitors alike in settings ranging from arenas to coffee shops to yoga studios. Even strip clubs are included.
Raleigh: A state trial began Monday in a lawsuit challenging when voting rights are restored for convicted felons. Three Superior Court judges heard opening statements and the initial testimony in Wake County court. Several civil rights groups and ex-offenders sued legislative leaders and state officials in 2019, challenging a 1970s-era law laying out restoration requirements. They allege the rules violate the state constitution, unduly hurt Black residents and discourage voting by those who have fulfilled their sentences. Tens of thousands of North Carolina residents could be affected. State law says felons can register to vote again once they complete all aspects of their sentence, including probation and parole. The lawsuit seeks to have those post-incarceration restrictions struck down and to ensure felons not sentenced to active prison time retain their voting rights. In a 2-1 decision in August 2020, the same judges ruled that a portion of the law requiring felons to pay all monetary obligations before voting again was unenforceable because it made voting dependent on one’s financial means. That allowed more people to vote in last November’s election. Monday’s trial, which is expected to last about a week, focuses on the remaining requirements.
Bismarck: The state recorded the most deaths from drug use in a decade last year as the pandemic caused isolation and as fentanyl became more widely available. The Bismarck Tribune reports the state recorded 118 drug-related deaths in 2020 – a 49% jump from the previous year, according to the Division of Vital Records. Police and drug treatment counselors say social isolation due to the pandemic increased substance abuse problems, while fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, has made overdoses more common. State lawmakers have attempted to address overdose deaths in recent years by increasing access to Narcan, a medicine that can treat drug overdoses, as well as boosting public awareness of addiction treatments. But drug treatment counselors said they saw a setback last year as the pandemic upended life. “There just wasn’t the access for family members and friends to potentially save a life administering Narcan when they did have an overdose,” said Pamela Sagness, the head of the Behavioral Health Division at the Department of Human Services.
Columbus: The state’s prison system plans to scan virtually all incoming inmate mail and provide digital copies to inmates to thwart a new form of contraband also being seen nationwide: drugs smuggled into prison by soaking them in paper. Thwarting drug smuggling is a necessary measure to help people struggling with addiction, on top of services like medication-assisted treatment already offered by the prison system, said Annette Chambers-Smith, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. She noted that 6 in 10 Ohio inmates have a history of serious substance abuse. “Having the ability to digitally scan mail will cut down on contraband entering our prisons without interfering with the important connections the incarcerated men and women have with their loved ones,” Chambers-Smith said in a statement. Beginning in January, each Ohio corrections facility will have equipment that staff can use to digitally copy . Legal mail to and from inmates and their attorneys will be exempted from being digitized. Inmates already have access to portable tablets and wall-mounted kiosks that they use to do everything from read electronic messages to conduct video calls. The digitized mail will be delivered to those same devices.
Oklahoma City: The city’s police department saw a significant increase in voluntary exits from the force from July 2019 to June 2021, data shows. Staffing and recruiting lags, driven partially by concerns about legal repercussions and negative public opinions, are also leading to decreased investment in community policing, said Chief Wade Gourley of the Oklahoma City Police Department. “It does become struggle when you don’t have your full staffing of officers,” he said. Voluntary terminations, including retirement and non-retirement exits, increased by 183% from 2016-17 to 2020-21. Those departures and a City Council vote to lift a hiring freeze mean the department has 160 vacant positions. The newest recruit class that began July 9 has 25 members. Gourley said much of the increase in departures is due to normal aging of the department’s employees. While officers can retire after 20 years, it’s common to see them do so between 25 and 35 years of service. Starting in 1989, the city ran a large number of academies due to hiring pushes to boost staffing levels. Those officers and others who entered the force shortly after are all reaching that prime retirement age, he said.
Newberg: The local school board has voted to ban pride flags, flags reading “Black Lives Matter,” and any broadly “political” signs, clothing or other items. Newberg’s school board voted 4-3 last week to enact the ban, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. The board’s three-member policy committee is set to outline what constitutes “political.” The action goes against recent state efforts to highlight support for students, including the Oregon Department of Education’s Black Lives Matter resolution in October 2020 and recent efforts to help LGBTQ+ students. Supporters of the flags said they make students feel seen and help students who are being bullied, while supporters of the ban said the signs were “divisive,” and they don’t make people feel safe. Discussion and votes on drafting “replacement language” on the district’s new anti-racism policy and rescinding the district’s “Every Student Belongs” policy was moved to the district’s next board meeting. If the board votes to roll back “Every Student Belongs,” the district would be in violation of state standards. According to board secretary Jenn Nelson, there were more than 90 public comments, of which 31 were heard, and board chair Dave Brown said the board received more than 500 emails ahead of the meeting.
Enola: The state will offer voluntary coronavirus testing in all K-12 schools, health and education officials announced Monday. School districts will have to opt in, and parents must give consent. For participating school districts, the weekly tests will be conducted in classrooms. Students’ nasal swabs will be pooled and run as a single test to identify the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19 in a school. Boston-based Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks, which operates statewide programs in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Arizona, North Carolina and other states, was awarded an $87 million contract to run Pennsylvania’s program for the upcoming school year. “Early detection like this is exactly what we need to keep students in classrooms and COVID out,” Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said at a news conference. Separately, Beam also ordered vaccine providers to coordinate vaccine clinics at schools and universities that request them.
Newport: The city’s recently approved ban on all houseboats in Newport Harbor has been amended to allow the three such vessels currently on the water to remain there. The City Council last week unanimously passed an amendment to the ordinance. “I feel better about it now,” said Councilwoman Lynn Underwood Ceglie, who proposed the amendment. “I think everybody realized what the council had done was unfair,” Ceglie said. “We wanted to get something on the books quickly in order to limit the number of houseboats and to control short-term rentals on the water, but exceptions had to be made for the people already there.” Danielle Bolender has two houseboats on the harbor – one that has been there since 2006 – and uses both of them for short-term seasonal rentals. She had originally pleaded with councilors to exempt her business. The third houseboat docked at a private marina is also used for seasonal short-term rentals. The city has total jurisdiction over the more than 900 moorings in the harbor. About two-thirds of them are for private boat owners, and 300 of them are leased to commercial businesses.
Columbia: A state law requiring drivers to use the left lane of a freeway only for passing went into effect Sunday. State troopers will only issue warning tickets until mid-November, but after that they can write a ticket of $25 that won’t include points on driver’s licenses. The General Assembly passed the new law this spring. Supporters have long complained about slower traffic staying in the left lane of interstates and other freeways, preventing traffic from flowing. The new law does have several exceptions to the left-lane-only-for-passing rule, including traffic and congestion and if no one is directly behind the driver in the left lane. The Department of Transportation is following the law and putting up signs that say: “State law: Slower traffic move right” at least every 35 miles on South Carolina’s interstate highways.
Sturgis: Authorities have recorded four fatalities during this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The rally began Aug. 6 and concluded Sunday. The state Department of Safety said two deaths occurred Saturday, the Rapid City Journal reports. A 66-year-old man was killed Saturday morning when he lost control of his motorcycle in Sturgis, hit a curb and fell off the motorcyle. He was not wearing a helmet and was pronounced dead at the scene. Hours later a 51-year-old motorcycle driver failed to negotiate a curve on U.S. Highway 14A just east of Sturgis. He and his 46-year-old female passenger were both thrown from the motorcycle. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver sustained non-life-threatening injuries. Neither was wearing a helmet. Saturday also saw five crashes involving serious injuries, bringing the total number of injury crashes during the rally to 60.
Nashville: The state’s top health official said Monday that just halfway through August, Tennessee has already shattered its single-month record for new COVID-19 hospitalizations. Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey told reporters the surge in COVID-19 patients “really tips the scales” in hospitals even if there aren’t as many people currently hospitalized with the coronavirus as there were during the January peak. She said hospitals were already pretty full before the latest resurgence through the delta variant, and the facilities are struggling with staffing shortages and workers sick with COVID-19. “An interesting and startling statistic is that in the first 15 days of August, we’ve had 1,023 hospitalizations,” Piercey said during a video news conference. “That is higher than any other full month combined in the pandemic, which was November and it was in the 900s.” Currently, about 2,200 people are hospitalized in Tennessee with COVID-19, with 43 of them children, according to the state, compared to about 3,300 in January. Notably, the influx of patients led Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville to say late last week that its adult hospital and emergency department are “completely full.”
Houston: A state agency has ruled that the genital mutilation of a child for purposes of gender confirmation – a surgery almost never performed on minors – should be considered child abuse. The state Department of Family and Protective Services made the determination Wednesday per Gov. Greg Abbott’s request, according to the Houston Chronicle. In its declaration, the agency agreed with Abbott’s redefinition of gender-confirming surgery as a form of genital mutilation, a technical term used by human rights activists to refer to a procedure performed on girls at a young age to prevent them from experiencing sexual pleasure. “As you have described, this surgical procedure physically alters a child’s genitalia for non-medical purposes potentially inflicting irreversible harm to children’s bodies,” the DFPS stated in its Wednesday letter. The agency made exception for surgeries it deems “medically necessary,” including procedures to correct what it calls “medically verifiable genetic disorders of sex development.” Abbott said the agency’s ruling was effective immediately, meaning doctors, nurses, teachers, day care employees and other professionals who work with children are now required to inform DFPS within 48 hours if they have reason to believe a child has had or may undergo gender-confirming surgery.
West Valley City: Guests at a reptile and bird center jumped into an enclosure Saturday to rescue a handler after she was bitten by an alligator. Video taken by one of the guests shows an unidentified handler at Scales and Tails Utah in West Valley City was talking to guests about the alligator when it grabbed her hand and pulled her into the water. One of the guests, later identified as Donnie Wiseman, jumped into the water and climbed on top of the alligator, while another man, Todd Christopher, helped the handler escape from the pool, the video shows. Christopher’s wife, who had a background in nursing, then began performing first aid before emergency crews arrived at the scene. The company said Sunday that the handler is “doing well and is in recovery.” “These gentleman could have stayed in the safety zone as most of us would, but instead jumped into the situation, of their own volition, and helped secure the alligator,” the company said in a statement. “Their help, combined with the training of our staff member, probably saved her life and her limbs.”
Montpelier: A parade, historical reenactments and other festivities once again marked Bennington Battle Day after a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic. The events were held over the weekend ahead of Monday, a Vermont state holiday on the anniversary of the Revolutionary War victory over the British at the Battle of Bennington. The 1777 battle was fought just over the border in New York when soldiers fighting for the British marched toward Bennington in an attempt to seize weapons stored there. Vermont state government offices were closed Monday.
Madison: The founder of a service-dog company could pay about $3 million in restitution and other penalties to settle a lawsuit that accused him of deceiving customers and providing them ill-trained animals. An agreement signed by a judge this past week ends litigation initially filed in 2018 by state Attorney General Mark Herring against Charles D. Warren Jr. and his Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers firm, originating in Madison County. Herring’s office said in a news release that Warren’s dogs purportedly could assist people who have diabetes, autism and other disorders. But customers often were delivered poorly trained puppies with behavioral issues and inadequate training, The Daily Progress of Charlottesville reports. Warren charged $18,000 to $27,000 per animal, according to the lawsuit. An amended lawsuit also alleged Warren misled customers and others in part about its affiliation with law enforcement agencies. Under the consent judgment, which includes no admission of wrongdoing, Warren must pay $514,000 in restitution to consumers, $1.1 million to Virginia in civil penalties and legal expenses, and more than $1.4 million for charities that support purposes for which the company collected funds.
Port Orchard: One resident has died of COVID-19, and 32 residents and workers at the Washington Veterans Home at Retsil have been diagnosed with the disease, state officials said last week. The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs announced the death in a letter to residents and their families. No other information about the death was made available. But it came as 24 residents and eight staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus since July 30. State data shows that 97% of the residents are vaccinated. However, just 174 members of a 334-person staff – or 52% – are vaccinated. Gov. Jay Inslee has mandated vaccinations for all state workers by Oct. 18. The outbreak comes as the more contagious delta variant of the virus continues to sweep the state and nation. Heidi Audette, a spokeswoman for the veterans affairs department, said since July 30 two vaccine clinics have taken place at Retsil, and they will continue to be offered. All residents at Retsil have been tested every three to seven days, the facility said in a letter, and are “screened and monitored for symptoms regularly.” Staff are also tested every week and screened upon arriving to work.
Clendenin: The Morris Creek Wildlife Management Area is no longer part of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources wildlife management system and is closed to the public, the agency said. The lease agreement between the division and the Bruce B. Cameron Foundation expired and won’t be renewed, said Kem Shaw, District 5 wildlife biologist in the Wildlife Resources Section. The agreement established the Morris Creek WMA. The agency said the foundation didn’t renew the lease due to a change in marketing strategies and land use. Morris Creek WMA was located in northern Kanawha and southern Clay counties south of Clendenin and totaled 9,874 acres. The agency said it would explore land acquisition opportunities in the region.
Madison: Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Catholic Church’s most outspoken conservatives and a vaccine skeptic, said he has COVID-19, and his staff said he is breathing through a ventilator. Burke tweeted Aug. 10 that he had caught the coronavirus, was resting comfortably and was receiving excellent medical care. “Please pray for me as I begin my recovery,” the 73-year-old Burke said in the tweet. “Let us trust in Divine Providence. God bless you.” On Saturday, his staff tweeted that he had been hospitalized and was on a ventilator but that doctors were encouraged with his progress. “(His Eminence) faithfully prayed the Rosary for those suffering from the virus … Let us now pray the Rosary for him,” his staff said. The Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report Burke became infected during a visit to Wisconsin and was hospitalized there. Burke was born in Richland Center in southwestern Wisconsin and served as bishop in the Diocese of La Crosse from 1995 to 2004. COVID-19 cases have been surging in Wisconsin in recent weeks due largely to the delta variant. The state’s seven-day case average stood at 1,139 as of Wednesday – the highest it’s been since February.
Jackson: It’s a seller’s market, and property owners are cashing out of Jackson Hole at unprecedented rates. For renters, that rapid turnover often means a terminated lease and uncertain future in a state where tenants have limited rights and few options for legal recourse. One legal aid group said tenant-landlord disputes that they handle have quadrupled. “In this market, if a landlord is in control, they’re going to hand you a lease and say, ‘Take it or leave it, or I’ll find somebody else,’ ” said Audrey Cohen-Davis, an attorney, who also serves on the board of Teton County Access to Justice. The turbulence has risen so quickly that people turned to social media to vent their frustration. The meme Instagram account @ikonoftheday, previously devoted to poking fun at Ikon ski pass holders, turned its attention to the housing crisis and opened up its direct messages to submissions. Within 24 hours, stories of insecurity poured in. Local teachers, mountain resort employees, and lifelong valley residents all report struggling to find alternative housing after being evicted this summer.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports