Selma: A project to light the Edmund Pettus Bridge – an iconic structure for its role in the struggle for civil rights – could be completed by next summer, organizers say. The Rev. Mike Lewis of the Selma Bridge Lights Project gave an update on the timeline last week. Lewis had proposed the idea in 2017 as a way of attracting more people to visit the city, The Selma Times-Journal reports. About 600 protesters marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on a day in 1965 that became known as Bloody Sunday. The late civil rights leader John Lewis, leading the demonstrators across the bridge in a protest for voting rights, was knocked to the ground and beaten by law enforcement officers. The violence on the bridge focused the nation’s attention on racial oppression in the South. “When people think of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, they think of Selma. The lighting of the Edmund Pettus Bridge will honor the foot soldiers and civil rights,” the Rev. Mike Lewis said. There are plans to have different lights for various occasions, he said.
Anchorage: Rental rates across the state have risen during the pandemic, and it’s more difficult to find an apartment, a new study indicates. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development survey shows a median adjusted rent for all unit types in Alaska at $1,179 a month in 2021, a 2% increase from spring 2020, Alaska Public Media reports. Sitka had the highest median rental rate at $1,323, the survey shows, while Wrangell and Petersburg were the lowest at $950. In Anchorage, the state’s largest city, the rent was $1,172, up 2.8% over 2020. The largest increase came in Ketchikan, where the average rent rose nearly 10% to $1,230 this year. However, the survey notes that electricity and water rates had just been approved at the time of the survey, and that anticipated increase might have been a factor. Vacancy rates dropped almost everywhere across the state. State economist Rob Krieger said that amid the pandemic, fewer people moved to a new rental, and there were fewer people shifting from renting to buying their first home. Rising home purchase prices and low interest rates are also making it difficult for first-time buyers in a competitive housing market, “especially when you consider that an average mortgage payment is now significantly higher than the average rent,” Krieger said.
Phoenix: Political wonks and interested citizens can help draw the state’s new congressional and legislative districts. Mapping software made available by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will allow computer users to examine new rough drafts of the districts combined with the latest census data. More tech-savvy folks can tinker with the software, at tiny.cc/arizmap, to create new district boundaries based on population and demographics, then submit their handiwork to the commission, which may use some of the ideas in the commission’s final maps. The five-member commission conducted 15 “listening tour” events around the state in July and August and is scheduled to discuss and adopt grid maps at its Tuesday meeting. Those maps look nothing like the final redistricting maps, displaying contiguous boxes that contain roughly equal portions of Arizona’s more than 7 million inhabitants, as based on the 2020 census. The maps split the population evenly among the nine congressional and 30 legislative districts. With this raw clay, plus the ideas heard and yet to be heard from the public in the coming weeks, the commissioners will redraw the boundaries for the next 10 years. Hearings on the draft maps will continue through November, with the final product coming out the next month.
Little Rock: The state reported 31 more COVID-19 deaths and 646 new cases Monday. The Department of Health said the state’s death toll from the coronavirus since the pandemic began rose to 7,298. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said 12 of the newly reported deaths Monday were delayed reports from before the previous 24 hours. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations dipped slightly, by five, to 1,113. Arkansas ranks 15th in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. There are 443 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units around the state and 246 on ventilators. The department said 40 ICU beds are available in the state, though it’s unclear how many of those are equipped for COVID-19 patients.
Livermore: About 3,100 acres of open space in the San Francisco Bay Area could soon be preserved as a state park under a $31 million deal struck by Bay Area lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom. The deal would keep the area from becoming part of a neighboring off-road vehicle park. The agreement has been cast as a way to safeguard the ecological and cultural significance of the land east of Livermore, Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, who has advocated for the land’s preservation since 2018, said in a statement. The land known as the Tesla parcel borders the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area, which had planned to expand into the land, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Scientists say the land is a “biologically unique habitat,” and Native Americans consider it a “sensitive historical site,” Glazer’s office said in a statement. Under the agreement, the state would reimburse the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund for the land and other costs and pay for development of a new off-roading park elsewhere. The land, home to several threatened and endangered wildlife species, is designated a California Native Plant Society Botanical Priority Protection Area and has been deemed an Audubon Important Bird Area. It is named after the historic town and Tesla coal mine established on the site in the 19th century.
Denver: The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers violated a man’s constitutional rights when they installed a video camera on a utility pole near his home and spied on him for months without getting a search warrant. The justices said the 24-hour-a-day, 3-month-long surveillance of the Colorado Springs man’s front yard, house, driveway and part of his backyard violated his Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, The Denver Post reports. His conviction and 15-year-prison sentence for drug trafficking were overturned. The unanimous decision differentiates between police officers personally watching suspects and officers using technology to record a person’s every move for extended periods of time. The man had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his yard, even though parts of the area were visible to the public, the court found. And the Colorado Springs Police Department should have received a search warrant before setting up the camera, which could pan and zoom to see over the man’s 6-foot-tall fence. The justices also rejected the state’s argument that the surveillance wasn’t as intrusive as GPS tracking or the use of cellphone data, noting that constant surveillance “shares many of the troubling attributes of GPS tracking.”
Hartford: For years, many Native American tribes have felt their history has not been given its due by schools in Connecticut, a state that takes its name from an Algonquian word meaning “land on the long tidal river.” Soon, however, schools will be required to teach Native American studies, with an emphasis on local tribes, under a law passed this year at the urging of tribes including the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, best known today for its Foxwoods Resort Casino. “When you’re in Connecticut, to not learn about the Eastern woodland tribes, the tribes that Connecticut was founded on, (that) was the issue that we were pressing,” said Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequots. The legislation makes it mandatory for schools to teach Native American studies starting with the 2023-2024 school year. It passed despite concerns raised by teachers unions and state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona. Now the U.S. education secretary, Cardona had said it is important to teach about Native Americans, but he was wary of unfunded mandates for school districts that are still working to implement other courses that lawmakers and the governor have required them to teach.
Wilmington: Beebe Healthcare and Tidal Health will temporarily pause elective surgeries due to spikes in COVID-19 hospitalizations, officials said Monday. Beebe’s announcement, which went into effect Tuesday, is “out of an abundance of caution,” officials said. In the early weeks of the pandemic, nearly all Delaware hospitals paused elective procedures, but they resumed them months later. TidalHealth also announced Monday that its hospitals would temporarily stop “elective, non-emergency surgeries that require an overnight stay for at least a two-week period,” according to a news release. “Several factors have combined recently to put stress on hospital staffing levels and hospital bed capacity at both TidalHealth hospitals,” officials said. Since August, Delaware has seen an explosion of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. As of Monday, 266 people were hospitalized in the state – heights Delaware has not seen since the winter. Nearly all of the people being hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, health officials say.
District of Columbia
Washington: The U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. police have taken several steps to prepare their departments and the city as a whole in advance of a rally planned at the Capitol on Saturday in support of Jan. 6 defendants, WUSA-TV reports. USCP officers were seen installing surveillance cameras around the area of the U.S. Capitol on Monday morning. Some areas near the home of the legislative branch have already been boarded up, and several robotic cameras were placed at different locations. The rally, known as “Justice for J6,” is planned for the Union Square area of the Capitol grounds, the section of the west front encompassing the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and Capitol reflecting pool. “We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” USCP Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.” Manger said a fence will go up around the Capitol again a few days before the rally and come down soon after if everything is peaceful. The Metropolitan Police Department has also activated its entire force and postponed vacation days for its officers. The full activation alert assigned specific notice to MPD civil disturbance units trained for First Amendment demonstrations.
Jacksonville: Attorney Mike Freed has left his mark locally cultivating an annual series of marathons raising money for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. Now he’s asking lawyers around the country to donate their time to help to prevent a deluge of evictions rooted in the pandemic’s effect on jobs and incomes. “Sometimes you have to give up your time without compensation for the greater good,” said Freed, who is president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, an organization involving Bar associations in 53 states and U.S. territories. Freed, an attorney at the Gunster law firm who organizes a yearly six-day series of six marathons called Freed to Run, used online messages to highlight a letter signed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking lawyers to prevent an eviction tsunami, writing that “no matter where you live, lawyers and law students like you can apply your legal training and skills to help your community.” Coming days after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a federal moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, the pleas reacted to a situation that is growing more dire for many tenants. In Duval County, judges hearing eviction lawsuits last month issued 530 orders for police to serve writs of possession and take homes back from renters. Landlords filed another 737 eviction lawsuits last month.
Calhoun: A northwest Georgia county is negotiating an agreement for its employees to work extra at the local hospital, which is over capacity due to COVID-19 patients. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports Gordon County commissioners are near a deal to let county employees assist at AdventHealth Gordon when not working for the county. The hospital would pay the employees. County Administrator Jim Ledbetter said a number of firefighters and law enforcement personnel are interested. People who volunteer to work extra hours must be vaccinated against COVID-19 before their first shifts. “With the hospital being licensed for 69 patients and having more than 100, the labor force is stretched pretty thin, and staff are pretty tired,” Ledbetter said. “The hospital came to us for help, and we decided to do what we can.” Ledbetter said the county will require employees have at least 12 hours’ rest between their county shifts and hospital work. He said hospital doctors and nurses will supervise county employees. He said duties might include stocking supplies and making sure people are wearing masks before coming in. “They would help with security. People’s nerves have been frayed with the pandemic, and they don’t always want to mask. Some people have been getting testy about that,” Ledbetter said.
Honolulu: The median sale price for a single-family home on the island of Oahu has surpassed $1 million. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the median price in August reached $1,050,000, according to Honolulu Board of Realtors data. “Market conditions have been pointing to a $1M median single-family home price this year for some time,” Jason Lazzerini, president and CEO of the brokerage firm Locations, wrote in a report last month. The Honolulu Board of Realtors said the record was up 25% from $839,000 in the same month last year. The August peak for single-family homes was the seventh monthly record set this year. The islands of Kauai and Maui hit the million-dollar mark in January and May, respectively. Hawaii economist Paul Brewbaker said that “this is not a bubble” and that he expects the demand will eventually ease. “This is transitory,” Brewbaker said. “We need to put that in perspective.” He said demand has been driven in part by stay-at-home workers during the pandemic. Honolulu Board of Realtors President Shannon Heaven said the August spike was driven by a tripling of homes sold for more than $2 million. “Those really begin to push that median price up,” she said.
Boise: An arrest warrant has been issued for a former state lawmaker who resigned in disgrace after a 19-year-old intern reported that he brought her to his apartment on false pretenses and raped her. The Ada County arrest warrant on charges of rape and sexual penetration with a foreign object came nearly five months after Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, resigned from the Idaho House of Representatives after an ethics committee found he should be formally censured for his behavior. The investigation into von Ehlinger began in March after the young staffer reported he raped her after the two had dinner at a Boise restaurant. Von Ehlinger has denied all wrongdoing and maintains he had consensual sexual contact with the young woman. A legislative ethics committee unanimously found that he engaged in “behavior unbecoming” and said it would support a vote to remove him from the Statehouse. The woman informed legislative leadership and the police about the rape allegations on her first day at work after the incident. She also testified before the legislative ethics committee, despite facing harassment from von Ehlinger’s supporters and some fellow lawmakers. Earlier this month attorney Erika Birch reportedly filed a tort claim with the state on the woman’s behalf, which is the first step in filing a lawsuit.
Springfield: Two nuclear plants would be saved from closure and carbon-emitting coal plants closed during the next quarter-century as part of a clean-energy package the state Senate approved Monday, sending it to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has pushed for a carbon-free Illinois by 2045. With just one vote over the minimum necessary, the 37-17 tally in the chamber controlled by Democrats came on the same day energy company Exelon had threatened to begin shutting down its nuclear-power generating station in Byron as unprofitable, with the Dresden generating site in Morris to follow this fall. But the Clean Energy Jobs Act provides a $700 million subsidy to Exelon with the idea of saving jobs and the large amount of carbon-free energy the plants already produce. “The state of Illinois is making history by setting aggressive standards for a 100% clean energy future,” Pritzker said in a post-vote statement. In addition to the nuclear-power subsidy, the legislation includes provisions for closing coal-burning plants in central and southwest Illinois, investing in renewable energy such as wind and solar, and offering $4,000 rebates on electric-vehicle purchases. Pritzker wants 1 million electric cars on Illinois roads by 2030. Plants producing greenhouse gases by burning coal must cut those emissions by 45% by 2035 and close permanently by 2045.
Indianapolis: A Republican redistricting plan shores up a suburban Indianapolis district for the GOP while leaving a potentially targeted Democratic district in northwestern Indiana intact. The proposal for new congressional districts released Tuesday shifts the northern tier of Democratic-leaning Marion County from the district now held by Republican Rep. Victora Spartz to that of Indianapolis Democratic Rep. Andre Carson. That move will boost Spartz, who lost badly in Marion County in last year’s election even as she won by an overall 50%-46% margin over Democratic candidate Christina Hale. Other changes among Indiana’s nine congressional districts to account for population shifts don’t appear likely to shift the 7-2 control that Republicans now hold on those seats. The Republican plan leaves intact the northwestern Indiana district that includes industry-heavy Lake County and has long been a Democratic stronghold. The proposed district along Lake Michigan wouldn’t change much from the one Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan won last year. Republicans have full control Indiana’s redistricting process through their dominance of the state Legislature.
Mount Ayr: A woman whose husband died from a breakthrough COVID-19 infection is blaming Americans who refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated. “It’s that kind of attitude that killed my husband,” said Ardith Keplinger, whose husband, Gary Keplinger, of Mount Ayr, was buried this month. In his obituary, the family wrote that his life was “unnecessarily cut short.” They described the retired school superintendent as “one of several victims recently infected from an unmasked, unvaccinated person.” His widow said he had a chronic autoimmune, neuromuscular condition called myasthenia gravis, which may have made him particularly susceptible when he attended a gathering of 50 to 75 extended family members in a rented hall in July. The couple had been avoiding crowds, but they mingled unmasked at the event, along with relatives, several of whom were unvaccinated, Ardith Keplinger said. “Within a week, 11 members of our family had COVID,” she said, adding that she was among them but recovered. But her husband and a cousin who also attended the party both died of the disease Aug. 11. The Iowa Department of Public Health reports vaccinated people make up just 10% of those being treated for the disease in the state’s intensive care units, even though 64% of Iowa adults have received the shots.
Lawrence: Hundreds of people chanted and held signs outside a University of Kansas fraternity house where a member is accused of sexually assaulting another student. The Kansas City Star reports the Monday night protest outside the Phi Kappa Psi house came after the fraternity officials reported the allegations over the weekend. “The university takes seriously all allegations of sexual violence and has robust processes to investigate such allegations,” university spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said in an email Tuesday. “We encourage anyone who has experienced sexual violence to contact law enforcement or the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Title IX to initiate an investigation.” The university has multiple resources to assist individuals who have experienced sexual violence, she said. A spokesman for the fraternity said the organization has been made aware of the allegations involving one of its new undergraduate members, and the university was immediately notified. “Phi Kappa Psi takes these allegations very seriously and will fully cooperate with law enforcement,” the statement said. “Due to the recent nature of these allegations and the need for a full and complete investigation, Phi Kappa Psi cannot provide further comments at this time.”
Bardstown: Union workers, upset over the prospect of expanded weekend shifts, have manned picket lines at bottling and warehouse operations of Heaven Hill Distillery, one of the world’s largest bourbon producers. The walkout involves about 420 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23D. They voted overwhelmingly last week to reject a new five-year contract offer and formed picket lines Saturday at Heaven Hill’s operations in Bardstown. Family-owned and operated Heaven Hill produces Evan Williams, one of the world’s top-selling bourbons, and others including Elijah Craig, Henry McKenna, Old Fitzgerald, Larceny and Parker’s Heritage Collection. As the bourbon industry tries to keep up with increasing global demand, Heaven Hill signaled it wanted to assign new hires to nontraditional schedules that would include weekend work, Local 23D President Matt Aubrey said. The company was vague about how widespread weekend shifts would be and how it would affect existing workers, he said, raising a “red flag” with union workers. “They tell these workers, ‘You’re family, just like us. You’re our family,’ ” Aubrey said, adding that most workers have their own families. “If they get pushed on this nontraditional schedule, then that’s going to take them away from their loved ones.”
Slidell: A 12-foot-long alligator believed to have attacked a man in Hurricane Ida floodwaters two weeks ago was captured and killed Monday, and authorities found human remains in its stomach. The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office said the parish coroner’s office was working with investigators to determine if the remains were those of Timothy Satterlee, 71, who has been missing since the Aug. 30 attack. Ida had caused widespread flooding and knocked out electricity and phone service in parts of south Louisiana when it came ashore Aug. 29. Satterlee was attacked outside his home, which was surrounded by floodwaters, in the New Orleans suburb of Slidell on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Authorities said Satterlee’s wife heard a splash and walked outside their home to see the alligator attacking her husband. She managed to pull him, severely injured in the attack, to the steps of their home and used a small boat to reach higher ground to get help. But when she and deputies returned to the house, Satterlee was gone. Sheriff’s deputies were joined by federal and state wildlife agents in the search for the alligator. A trap set by alligator hunters captured the 500-pound animal Monday morning.
Presque Isle: Potato growers anticipate a solid crop and stronger demand thanks to reopening restaurants, providing a sense of optimism heading into the harvest in northern Maine. Another positive indicator: A decline in acreage was reversed with an extra 8,000 acres planted this summer. “Growing conditions have been really good. We have a quality crop, and we expect good yields. Market demand is good,” said Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. Growers are looking for something to cheer after a dismal 2020 in which some farmers gave away potatoes to avoid having them go to waste, and crops withered from heat and drought in northern Maine. This summer, rainfall was nearly 3 inches below average, but that’s better than last summer, which ranked as the warmest and second-driest since records were kept in Caribou, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures hitting 90 and above can stunt the growth of potatoes, but the highest temperature this summer was 84 degrees, Flannery said. Potatoes are big business in Maine, with direct sales in the neighborhood of $300 million supporting about 2,400 jobs. About 65% of Maine’s potatoes are processed into french fries, chips or some other product, and demand for processed potatoes is rebounding.
Annapolis: A panel of state lawmakers approved an emergency measure Tuesday to require masks in K-12 schools to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The 10-7 vote by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review puts the emergency regulation into effect for up to 180 days. The Maryland State Board of Education approved the regulation last month on an 11-1 vote. Only two of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, Carroll and Somerset counties, had not already required students to wear masks while attending school. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended universal mask-wearing for teachers and students inside school buildings this fall, citing the rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said the mask requirement will increase safety and help reduce the need for quarantining sick students. “Seventeen other states, including most of Maryland’s neighbors, have required that all individuals wear masks in school buildings,” Choudhury said. He said data will be reviewed each month, and the board of education will consider whether the requirement could be lifted, if conditions improve enough, in consultation with the state health department.
Boston: Harvard University will divest itself from holdings in fossil fuels, President Lawrence Bacow said Thursday. Harvard Management Company, which oversees the university’s nearly $42 billion endowment, has already been reducing its exposure to fossil fuels and has no direct investments in companies that explore for or develop further reserves of fossil fuels, Bacow said in a message posted on the university’s website. The university has legacy investments in a number of private equity funds with holdings in the fossil fuel industry. Those indirect investments constitute less than 2% of the endowment, according to Bacow. The school has not made any new commitments to these limited partnerships since 2019 and has no intention to do so going forward, he said. Bacow said the legacy investments are in “runoff mode” and will end as these partnerships are liquidated. Harvard has already committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the entire investment portfolio by 2050, he said. The decision follows years of protests from students who have pressed Harvard to divest from fossil fuel companies. Harvard is building a portfolio of investments in funds that support the transition to a green economy, Bacow wrote.
Detroit: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig formally announced his campaign for governor Tuesday – but not before protesters derailed his kickoff event on Belle Isle and forced him to move. Craig effectively has been running for months. He is among 10 Republicans, all of them political newcomers, looking to unseat Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2022. Craig was to speak to the media at the state park in the middle of the Detroit River in his hometown, but he abandoned that plan when he was shouted down by a couple dozen people critical of his role as chief. He turned around and walked back toward a waiting vehicle, which took him to a nearby office complex, where he made the announcement a short time later. “My name is James Craig. And I’m running to be your governor,” he said, flashing a thumbs-up. “The governor for the state of Michigan.” He nodded as supporters chanted: “Chief Craig.” As for the disruption on Belle Isle, Craig said a “small group of paid protesters did nothing. What they did is reinforce why we need change.” Asked about his statement that the protesters were paid, Craig said he did not have evidence of that but believed it.
Minneapolis: Four former police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a federal hearing that included arguments on several pretrial motions, including requests to hold separate trials. A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao in May for allegedly depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority May 25, 2020, as Floyd, 46, was held face-down, handcuffed and not resisting in a restraint that was captured on bystander video. His death led to worldwide protests and calls for change in policing. All four of the men appeared at the hearing remotely via videoconference. Chauvin, wearing a plain T-shirt, appeared from a small room in the state’s maximum-security prison, where he is serving a 22 1/2-year sentence for murder in Floyd’s death. The other three men appeared remotely alongside their attorneys. U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung asked each man separately how he would plea, and each clearly responded: “Not guilty.” The hearing also addressed roughly 40 pretrial motions. Most of the motions were routine, such as agreeing when names of witnesses would be disclosed. But Leung heard oral arguments on two issues and ordered attorneys to file additional written arguments on those motions.
Hattiesburg: A third person has died as a result of a highway collapse two weeks ago. Amanda Williams of Wiggins died Saturday after being hospitalized since the Aug. 30 collapse, WLOX-TV reports. The collapse on Highway 26 outside Lucedale in George County, which occurred during torrential rain brought by Hurricane Ida, caused seven vehicles to crash into the washed-out roadway. Two people died at the time of the crash, and 10 others were injured, including 39-year-old Wiggins and her 16-year-old daughter, Emily. Emily Williams is currently recovering from a torn colon, a broken leg and other injuries. Amanda Williams was being treated for her injuries at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg when she died, according to WLOX. During a Sept. 5 video interview with WLOX-TV, Emily Williams said she could hear the terrifying sounds of other vehicles crashing around – and on top of – the pickup truck where she and her mother were trapped after the truck plunged into a dark, muddy pit when the highway collapsed. “I saw a black hole, then I blacked out, and I woke up, and my mom was leaned over toward me. She was choking on her blood, and she couldn’t breathe or anything,” she told the television station.
O’Fallon: A cave containing Native American artwork from more than 1,000 years ago was sold at auction Tuesday, disappointing leaders of the Osage Nation who hoped to buy the land to “protect and preserve our most sacred site.” A bidder agreed to pay $2.2 million to private owners for what’s known as “Picture Cave,” along with the 43 hilly acres that surround it near the town of Warrenton, about 60 miles west of St. Louis. Bryan Laughlin, director of Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers, the St. Louis-based firm handling the auction, said the winning bidder declined to be named. A St. Louis family that’s owned the land since 1953 has mainly used it for hunting. The cave was the site of sacred rituals and burying of the dead. It also has more than 290 prehistoric glyphs, “making it the largest collection of indigenous people’s polychrome paintings in Missouri,” according to the auction website. The Osage Nation, in a statement, called the sale “truly heartbreaking.” “Our ancestors lived in this area for 1300 years,” the statement said. “This was our land. We have hundreds of thousands of our ancestors buried throughout Missouri and Illinois, including Picture Cave.” The cave features drawings of people, animals, birds and mythical creatures.
Kalispell: The U.S. Forest Service has given preliminary approval to a plan for road building, logging and other forest management measures in the Swan Valley with the goal of reducing fire danger and enhancing habitat for several federally protected species, the agency said. The project area is located on U.S. Forest Service lands on both sides of Montana Highway 83 between the communities of Condon and Swan Lake. “Species such as Canada lynx, bull trout and whitebark pine face unprecedented risk from climate change, exotic pathogens and all the associated ecological impacts, and failure to act will most likely result in their continued decline,” Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele wrote in a draft record of a decision published Friday. “A warming and drier climate, combined with the legacy effects of fire suppression, requires active vegetation management, and the scientific knowledge applied to this decision has been shown to be an effective prescription to mitigate these risks.” The agency plans to approve about half of its initially proposed 15-year project. Doing so will reduce plans for logging, road building and improvement, and the number of acres where trees are to be thinned or burned with fires called prescribed burns set in certain areas to reduce wildfire risks, the Daily Inter Lake reports.
Lincoln: Lawmakers launched a special session Monday to redraw the state’s political boundaries, with one proposal that would add a 50th state senator to the Legislature to try to keep rural Nebraska from losing a seat. Sen. Mark Kolterman, of Seward, proposed the measure along with two other rural senators. The bill would expand the Legislature from its current 49 members to 50, as allowed under the Nebraska Constitution. Adding a senator would reduce the ideal number of residents per legislative district, making it easier for lawmakers to preserve rural districts that lost population over the past decade while still adding a district to fast-growing suburban Omaha. The bill’s prospects are unclear, and some lawmakers questioned whether they could legally consider it in a special session that’s strictly limited to redistricting issues. Lawmakers have asked the state’s attorney general to offer a legal opinion. Even so, rural senators said they planned to press the issue as a way to ease pressure on senators by reducing the average number of residents per district. The measure was co-sponsored by Sens. Matt Williams, of Gothenburg, and John Stinner, of Gering. “I want to help protect the rural senators of the state,” said Kolterman, whose district could be merged with another rural area under one of the proposed plans.
Las Vegas: A national advocacy group has filed a sweeping federal lawsuit aimed at convincing a judge the nation’s only legal brothels are dens of illegal sex trafficking and unconstitutional slavery. The case filed Friday in Las Vegas by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation names the governor, state attorney general, and city and county officials as defendants, along with a brothel in Nye County and hip-hop music figure Jamal “Mally Mall” Rashid. Rashid, 46, is serving a 33-month federal prison term after pleading guilty to operating a prostitution business disguised as a Las Vegas escort enterprise. Attorneys who represented him in that case did not immediately respond to a message about the lawsuit. Representatives of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, state Attorney General Aaron Ford, Las Vegas and Clark County declined to comment. Officials in Nye County and the Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump did not immediately respond to messages. The lawsuit seeks to abolish Nevada’s legal prostitution statutes as unconstitutional and a violation of federal anti-trafficking laws. It asks the court to order reimbursement to victims of “all profits and unjust enrichment obtained as a result.”
Manchester: A man has been accused of putting his baby daughter into a clothes dryer and turning on the machine before the mother quickly stopped it, police said. Police arrested the man in Manchester on Sunday on charges of reckless conduct, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal threatening. The child did not appear to be injured. The man waived arraignment Monday, and a judge ordered him held without bail. His case has been assigned to a public defender’s office, but no attorney was listed for him in court documents.
Asbury Park: The Sea Hear Now music festival returns to town this upcoming weekend after the 2020 event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. And this year’s fest will have some musicians showing off their other artistic talents, too. Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder and other members of Pearl Jam, Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers, and more will show their artwork inside the Transparent Gallery pop-up Saturday and Sunday in Bradley Park. In past festivals, musicians have popped into the gallery for an impromptu performance. Musically, the fest – held on the beach and in Bradley Park – will also feature acts including Billy Idol, Lord Huron, Dr. Dog, Grouplove, Orville Peck, Ani DiFranco, and Tank and the Bangas. More than 35,000 people attended the second Sea Hear Now in 2019 to see groups such as the Dave Matthews Band and the Lumineers. Organizers expect about 35,000 this year, but there will be more room on the beach, as the two stages will be farther apart by about a city block. Construction on the festival grounds started over the weekend. Attendees will need to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test.
Santa Fe: Election officials are deploying ballot drop boxes across the state for people who choose to cast absentee ballots without walking indoors during the upcoming Nov. 2 local elections for public offices including the mayors of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told a legislative panel Monday that county clerks are required to provide one drop box for every 25,000 voters and at least two per county. Exceptions can be made at the request of local county officials. The quick-drop boxes for voting are among a long list measures backed by Toulouse Oliver, a second-term Democrat, that are aimed at making voting more accessible. Lawmakers appropriated funding for the initiative amid concerns about COVID-19 and indoor crowding at polling places. Ballots must be collected at least once a day from the boxes, video surveillance of drop boxes is required, and recordings must be retained by county clerks. It remains illegal for any person to deliver a ballot for another person with the exception of immediate family, and signs at each drop box are required to explain that prohibition against so-called ballot harvesting.
Albany: Parents of adults with severe autism and other disabilities say state officials are threatening to revoke funding for their children’s long-term care at out-of-state care centers unless they agree to send their children to a secure, in-state facility. Some parents believe they have no alternative but to send their adult children to the Sunmount Developmental Center in Franklin County in the Adirondacks, the Times Union of Albany reports. They describe the facility as remote and prison-like. A group of state lawmakers recently asked Gov. Kathy Hochul to end the policy, which they say was put in place by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an apparent cost-saving move. The lawmakers, including Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi of New York City, say the policy may violate disabled people’s right to receive care in the least restrictive setting, which was guaranteed under a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. A 2014 state law also guaranteed due-process rights for disabled children and their families in long-term care decisions, when the child turns 21 or graduates from school. In a response Friday, the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities said a legal process prevents the agency from providing funding for out-of-state care at a certain point.
Fayetteville: A fund set up to honor George Floyd and raise awareness about racial injustice said Monday that it has awarded more than $50,000 in scholarships since it was created. The Fayetteville-based George Floyd Memorial Foundation said it has recently given scholarships valued at $1,000 to 15 law school students, scholarships valued at $10,000 to interns, and $2,500 scholarships to undergraduate students. The foundation said it has also awarded $25,000 to Fayetteville State University, a historically Black college. Foundation executive director Jacari Harris said the scholarships keep Floyd’s memory alive and support students. “Our hope at the George Floyd Memorial Foundation is that these high-achieving students will become attorneys, activists and scholars who will work to ensure people are treated fairly around the world,” Harris said in a statement. Bridgett Floyd, George Floyd’s sister and the foundation’s founder, said that “as the days, months and years go by, one thing is true: My brother George’s death truly changed the world, and by offering support to these students, it will allow us to continue to bring hope to those in need.” The foundation, created in August 2020, focuses on raising awareness of racial injustices, police brutality and ensuring everyone’s civil rights are protected.
Bismarck: A three-day symposium to discuss the history and revitalization of the American bison has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, event organizers said Monday. The Dakota Bison Symposium had been scheduled for Thursday through Saturday. Many of the national speakers have recently decided against traveling to North Dakota, where 1 in every 253 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. It is also one of the worst states in the country for rate of COVID-19 vaccinations. Bismarck State College and its partners decided against a virtual format and rescheduled the event for next spring, BSC President Doug Jensen told The Bismarck Tribune. “One of the exciting things about symposia is getting to rub elbows with these national speakers,” Jensen said. “Within the last few weeks, we’ve lost that aspect of the conference.” The symposium also was canceled last year due to the pandemic. The North Dakota Department of Health on Monday confirmed 180 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 2,815 active cases throughout the state. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by nearly 48%.
Columbus: Republicans and Democrats appeared closer to agreement Monday on a map of state legislative districts that could stand for the next 10 years, as a powerful new redistricting panel faced a looming Wednesday deadline. But a group that monitors redistricting and works to reduce the drawing of political district lines that maximize partisan advantage, a process called gerrymandering, flunked the Ohio GOP’s proposed state House map in an analysis released earlier Monday. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, working with the anti-corruption group RepresentUS, said its boundaries fell short of being fair when compared to a million simulated alternatives, delivering it a score of “F.” The analysis gave a better score of “B” to the Ohio Senate map that Republicans have proposed, which Democratic consultant Chris Glassburn also reworked and presented Monday. Analysts said the second map fared better because each Senate district contains three House districts, diluting the partisan advantage. During a regional hearing in suburban Cleveland, members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission’s GOP majority – including state Auditor Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Senate President Matt Huffman praised Glassburn, for his work on a revised map aimed at garnering the support of both parties.
Oklahoma City: State health officials said Tuesday that coronavirus hospitalizations appear to be leveling off, but hospital stays are longer due to the delta variant of the virus. The three-day average of new COVID-19 hospitalizations fell from 1,518 a week ago to 1,352 on Tuesday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which reported a seven-day average of 2,114 new cases daily, down from 2,709 one week ago. However, the average hospitalization increased from five to six days in January to 10-11 days currently, and intensive acre unit stays rose from 10-11 days to 15-20, said Dr. David Kendrick, chair of Medical Informatics at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said it is too soon to call the decline a trend. “Given … Labor Day activities, all health care providers probably have their fingers crossed and are hoping for the best, but not assuming (the decline) will hold once we get at the requisite date past Labor Day,” which could result in another surge in cases, Davis said. Kendrick said most new virus cases are among younger patients; 21.6% are 36-49 years old, and those ages 18-35 account for about 18% of new cases.
Troutdale: An explosion in a pickup truck killed a man early Monday, authorities said. Police and firefighters responded to calls at 2:19 a.m. reporting a loud explosion and vehicle fire at a home , the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said. The Gresham Fire Department extinguished the fire, and the sheriff’s office said a person was located inside the burned vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The body was taken to the county Medical Examiner’s Office. The case and manner of death are yet to be determined. Investigators are not yet releasing the identity of the man, the sheriff’s office said. Special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives Seattle branch are assisting the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies in the investigation. Investigators are trying to determine what caused the explosion, which is believed to have originated inside the vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office. No other injuries were reported, and the sheriff’s office said there was no threat of additional explosions. “We woke up with a big explosion, and things were falling in the house, so I thought the house was falling down,” neighbor JoAnn Robinson told KGW-TV. The siding on Robinson’s home is covered in holes from debris.
Carlisle: More than $104 million in Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls went uncollected last year as the agency fully converted to all-electronic tolling, with the millions of motorists who don’t use E-ZPass having a nearly 1 in 2 chance of riding without paying under the “toll-by-plate” license plate camera system. An internal turnpike report issued in July and obtained by the Associated Press through a Right-to-Know Law request showed nearly 11 million out of the total of about 170 million turnpike rides generated no revenue for the agency in the year that ended May 31. “We take this issue very seriously. It is a big number, there’s no question,” turnpike Chief Executive Mark Compton said. “But we, as an organization, are leaving no stone unturned in the way in which we’re going after that leakage.” Toll revenue “leakage” – an industry euphemism for uncollected tolls – has become the focus of turnpike agencies across the country as the use of E-ZPass transponders and license plate cameras continues to spread. It is a particular problem for the debt-strapped Pennsylvania Turnpike, more than half of whose total revenue goes to pay borrowing costs and tolls have more than quadrupled in 12 years for the minority of motorists who don’t have E-Z Pass to pay for rides.
Providence: Brown University has paused in-person dining and instituted a limit of five people for undergraduate social gatherings in response to a recent rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus. The Ivy League school had 82 confirmed coronavirus cases, primarily among undergraduate students, in the prior seven days, according to a statement Monday. “The increase in positive asymptomatic test results is a reflection of the transmissibility of the delta variant, our significant increase in the number of tests conducted at Brown, and an increase in our student population, some of whom have been engaging with other students in multiple smaller groups outside the classroom, especially indoors without masks,” the school’s statement said. Those testing positive generally remain asymptomatic, and there are no indications of serious illness and no hospitalizations, the school said. There is no evidence of spread in classrooms, and classes will continue, the school said. The “short-term” restrictions also include increased undergraduate student testing from once to twice per week and an indoor mask requirement. Brown requires vaccinations for students and employees.
Greenwood: Residents of an Upstate neighborhood say they were ducking for cover after pellets from a nearby dove hunt started striking them. Children playing outside were also struck by the pellets, one of them as he played on a trampoline, WYFF-TV reports. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources responded to calls Saturday afternoon about the stray pellets coming from a field in Greenwood County. Neighbors said they saw 10 to 20 people in the field hunting doves. Department of Natural resources officials said they talked to several people who say they were hit, including a 6-year-old boy who had two marks on his cheek. The land is private property, and the landowner wasn’t doing anything illegal, authorities said. There is no state law or regulation mandating the minimum distance from other homes or properties from a dove hunt on private land. Officials said they talked to the landowner, who voluntarily stopped the hunt due to safety and noise concerns. Neighbors said the children struck by pellets were OK.
Sioux Falls: State lawmakers on Monday rejected a handful of proposals for rules governing medical marijuana from Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration but approved the bulk of the program. The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee, which is responsible for approving administration rules, effectively told the Department of Health to try again on a number of controversial rule proposals. Most of the Department of Health’s 124-page proposal got the sign-off from the Legislature, spelling out rules ranging from fees for cardholders to the heights of fences around cannabis growing facilities. The rules they rejected included proposals that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana that patients could possess, required medical practitioners to write a recommendation for patients who wanted to grow more than three cannabis plants, and defined a list of conditions that would qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation. The law allowing medical marijuana, passed by 70% of voters last year, has seen a halting acceptance from officials trying to balance a clear mandate from voters while placing restrictions on medical marijuana. The rules set a $75 application fee for medical marijuana cards and discount the fee to $20 for low-income applicants.
Memphis: Rhodes College is investigating after students reported racist and anti-Semitic incidents on campus a few weeks into the fall semester. In one instance, a banana was taped to the door of a dorm room of two Black students, student organization Men of Distinction has said. The group called for more swift and public response by the college. Interim President Carroll D. Stevens wrote to campus last Friday: “Whatever the intentions when actions or words make members of our community feel unsafe or unwelcome, they do not align with our values as a college community.” The president’s letter did not specify particular incidents on campus but said the incidents made Black and Jewish students in particular feel unsafe. Kofi Whitehead, student president of Men of Distinction, immediately called leaders of the organization together. He knew the students targeted by the Labor Day incident, he said, but it could have been “any of us.” In a post days after it happened, Men of Distinction decried the lack of response from the Rhodes administration. In an interview Monday, Whitehead said he acknowledged that internally, campus leadership was likely working to address the issue. But when a racist incident occurs in a public place, and students see it across social media, he expects the college to be more upfront.
Austin: Travis County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allocate $110 million in federal funds to build housing units for people experiencing homelessness in the area. The vote was met by applause from the group of homelessness service providers and community leaders gathered in the commissioners’ court chambers. The vote marks a significant investment in housing projects from the county – a change from the commissioners’ initial reluctance to spend money directly on housing units. Commissioner Margaret Gomez, who developed and sponsored the plan with Commissioner Ann Howard and a diverse coalition of local community leaders and organizations, said after years of discussion on the need to address affordable housing issues and homelessness in the Austin area, it was time for something different. “I think it’s time we take some action here,” Gomez said. The $110 million comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which was the second of two federal stimulus programs created during the coronavirus pandemic. Travis County received $247 million from the program and had wide discretion on how to spend it. The funding will go toward the construction of 10 or so projects that would total more than 2,000 new housing units.
Salt Lake City: A man who displayed a rifle at a youth soccer tournament, spreading panic through the crowd, wasn’t prompted by anything related to the game, police said Monday. People screamed “active shooter” as parents and players ran to take cover behind cars in the parking lot after the man retrieved the gun from his car Saturday afternoon, the Deseret News reports. Ultimately no shots were fired, but it was terrifying for many who were there. “It was pretty traumatizing,” said parent Megan Perkins. “My kid is pretty shaken.” The man had been involved in an argument at the game when he went back to his car and retrieved the weapon, Salt Lake City Police said. No one has been arrested, but those involved have been identified by investigators. Police did not release their names or say what the argument was about but said it did not appear to be related to the game or the tournament, according to a statement Monday. U.S. Youth Soccer officials said they were saddened by the traumatic experience but proud of staff and volunteers who helped defuse the situation. The team associated with the people involved was expelled from the tournament, the organization said. Additional sanctions are possible.
Burlington: The state on Tuesday became the latest to sue some of the country’s top fossil fuel companies by alleging they misled the public about the impact their products have on climate change. The state wants the companies to tell consumers that the use of fossil fuel products harms the environment, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said after the lawsuit was filed in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington. The warnings could be similar to those noting the danger of tobacco products or food products that include nutritional and calorie information, he said. Donovan, speaking outside the Chittenden County courthouse in downtown Burlington where the lawsuit was filed, said officials are not trying to prevent the companies from selling their products in the state, and residents will continue to be able to use fossil fuels. “What we are saying is that Vermonters have the right to know,” Donovan said. “Give Vermonters accurate information. Put a label on the product, and let Vermonters decide.” The suit names ExxonMobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., Sunoco LP, CITGO Petroleum Corp. and other corporations. In a Tuesday email, a spokesperson for ExxonMobil said the suit was baseless and without merit. Citgo declined to comment on pending litigation. The other two companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Richmond: Five people who recently traveled to the state from Afghanistan have been diagnosed with measles, health officials said Tuesday. The cases are being reported four days after the U.S. halted inbound flights of Afghan evacuees following the discovery of a few cases of measles among new arrivals. The Virginia Department of Health said in a news release that the people were part of the U.S. government’s emergency evacuation efforts from Afghanistan, which recently came under Taliban rule. State health officials did not offer specifics Tuesday regarding where the people who are infected are located. But they said they’re working to identify and contact people who may have been exposed in three parts of the state. Those places include Dulles International Airport, where some refugees flew into the U.S., and other parts of northern Virginia. Health officials are also working to notify people potentially exposed at an unidentified Richmond hospital and at Fort Pickett, an Army National Guard base southwest of Richmond that is providing temporary housing to recently arrived evacuees. Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be spread through coughing, sneezing, and contact with droplets from the nose, mouth or throat. Most Americans are vaccinated against it as children.
Seattle: The City Council has voted to move some of the $15 million in savings related to police officer departures to community-based programs. The police department will keep about $10 illion for technology projects and other expenses, while about $5 million will be invested elsewhere in what Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda described as a “hybrid approach.” The plan will partially address commitments the council made in 2020 to decrease the police department’s budget during 2021, The Seattle Times reports. The vote was 8-1, with Councilmember Kshama Sawant calling for the department to keep less money. The council’s midyear budget legislation somewhat jibes with a plan proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan over the summer, though a Durkan-backed request that some money be allocated for officer hiring and retention incentives was rejected. In November, Durkan and the council decreased the police department’s budget by tens of millions of dollars for 2021, reversing a growth trend. But they also cleared the department to hire new officers. The council is also no longer pursuing layoffs of officers with records of misconduct, citing legal barriers.
Charleston: The numbers of new cases and people hospitalized for the coronavirus in the state both smashed records yet again Monday as Gov. Jim Justice scolded residents who continue to balk at receiving COVID-19 vaccines. At least 40% of the state’s population above age 12 has not been fully inoculated, according to health data. Efforts by Justice and others to urge residents to do so have resulted in only minimal improvement in recent weeks. “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Justice said at a news conference. The Republican governor has himself balked at issuing either a vaccination mandate or new mask requirements. An earlier indoor masking rule was lifted in June as the number of cases dropped. At the news conference, Justice introduced Linda Lanier, who said her adult son, Joe Goodnite, refused to get vaccinated and contracted COVID-19 on a family vacation. He’s been in a Charleston hospital for more than six weeks and remains on a ventilator. Lanier’s son “listened to all the negative and false accusations about vaccination,” she said. “Being in the medical field myself, I tried to convince him. However, it didn’t work. He listened to his friends. He listened to social media. And he just listened to what I call the garbage that’s out there.”
Madison: A judge’s decision to release from a mental health facility a woman who helped stab her sixth grade classmate to please online horror character Slender Man has left the victim’s family nervous and afraid, a spokesman said Tuesday. Waukesha County Judge Michael Bohren on Friday ordered 19-year-old Anissa Weier released from the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh, ruling that she’s no longer a threat and that conditions on her release should protect both her and the community. Weier has spent nearly four years at the facility. Bohren had scheduled her release for Monday. Officials with the state Department of Health Services, which oversees Winnebago, have repeatedly refused to so much as acknowledge Weier was a patient out of privacy concerns. Steve Lyons, a spokesman for victim Payton Leutner’s family, said Tuesday that they’re disappointed with Bohren’s decision and that Weier should have served more time. “We’re just nervous that she’s going to be out,” Lyons said. “We’re nervous about the potential of what could happen.” Weier and a friend, Morgan Geyser, both were committed to Winnebago after pleading guilty to attacking Leutner when they were all 12 years old. Leutner suffered 19 wounds – including one that narrowly missed her heart – and barely survived.
Cheyenne: The leader of the state Senate expects Gov. Mark Gordon to call a special legislation session on vaccine mandates, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, said the effort to repel President Joe Biden’s controversial executive order last week – which says large companies must require workers either to get a COVID-19 vaccination or to undergo regular coronavirus testing – seemed likely to result in a special session, though the Republican governor would have to request the move. But it’s unlikely legislators could block a presidential order, according to the paper.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: $2.2M cave sale, brothel lawsuit: News from around our 50 states