Mobile: A south Alabama hospital that vaccinated thousands of people against COVID-19 plans to send a team to do immunizations in Peru, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. USA Health said more than 20 volunteers will travel to the country’s Cusco region. CerviCusco, a nongovernmental agency in Peru, sought the assistance, the health system said in a statement. “Our plan is to travel to Peru in mid-August, establish processes and protocols for safe and efficient vaccine distribution in the region with a goal of providing 5,000 doses to the people of Peru,” said Natalie Fox, assistant administrator and chief nursing officer for USA Health Physicians Group. USA Health has provided more than 75,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines on the Gulf Coast, including at mass clinics where more than 2,200 people received injections daily. To raise money for expenses, Mobile-based Synergy Laboratories is matching up to $10,000 in donations to the USA Health outreach campaign.
Sitka: Masks are now required in city buildings in Sitka after a spike of 60 new COVID-19 cases in the past week. “Mask up, whether you are vaccinated or not,” said Craig Warren, the emergency operations center incident commander. City officials said 18 of the 60 new cases were reported in people who were fully vaccinated. City Administrator John Leach said masks will be required in city buildings “if social distancing of at least 6 feet or more between individuals cannot be maintained,” the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported. The action comes after he said most citizens have done their part to help stop the virus’ spread. City officials said in a statement that the spike is not the failure of the vaccine. They said the vaccine does not provide 100% protection, but does decrease the severity of the illness, reduce hospitalizations and decrease the risk of death. City officials are asking people to wear masks, regardless of whether they are vaccinated; to maintain distance in public places; and to stay home if feeling ill.
Phoenix: A judge threw out a 6-year-old legal settlement requiring Arizona to improve health care for thousands of prisoners, saying corrections officials have shown little interest in complying with their obligations under the deal and that it would be absurd to expect the state to act differently in the future. In a ruling Friday, Judge Roslyn Silver opted against imposing additional contempt-of-court fines against the state for its longstanding noncompliance and instead said she will take the case to trial. The judge said the state’s failure to provide adequate medical care for prisoners has led to suffering and preventable deaths. Not only has the state failed to fulfill its obligations, Silver said it offered “erroneous and unreliable excuses for non-performance, asserted baseless legal arguments, and in essence resisted complying with the obligations they contractually knowingly and voluntarily assumed.” The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry declined to comment on the ruling. C.J. Karamargin, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, said the ruling was being reviewed.
Little Rock: The University of Arkansas said it has asked a former Razorback challenging Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman to change his ads over their unauthorized use of the school’s trademarks. The school made the request after Jake Bequette launched his bid for the Republican Senate nomination with an online video touting his background playing for the Razorbacks and for the New England Patriots in the NFL. Boozman, a Republican, has held the seat since 2011. The video features footage and images of Bequette playing in his Razorbacks uniform, with a logo that reads: “Jake Bequette. Patriot. Veteran. Razorback.” Bequette’s campaign did not say whether it planned to change or withdraw the ad. UA made a similar request when Boozman, also a former Razorback, ran for the Senate in 2010. Boozman pulled a TV ad highlighting his time playing for the Razorbacks after the school asked that it be withdrawn.
Los Angeles: Police arrested several dozen people and fired nonlethal projectiles to disperse an unruly crowd on Saturday after a dueling protest over transgender rights at a Los Angeles spa turned violent. The protests stemmed from a video that circulated online earlier this month, in which an irate customer complained to the staff at Wi Spa that a transgender woman was in the women’s section of the spa. The video sparked controversy after the spa defended its policy of allowing transgender customers in its facilities, the Los Angeles Times reported. Police declared an unlawful assembly in front of the spa in Koreatown about 11 a.m. when demonstrators against transgender access to the spa’s facilities clashed with counterprotesters and some in the crowd threw smoke bombs and other objects at officers, Det. Meghan Aguilar, a spokeswoman for the LAPD, said. Video posted on Twitter showed officers in riot gear hitting protesters with batons and firing bean bag rounds and other projectiles. At one point, a woman was hit in the abdomen, causing her to fall to the ground. Several dozen people were arrested for ignoring orders to disperse, and police found stun guns, knives and pepper spray discarded on the street, police later said.
Fort Collins: Hundreds of people of all ages dressed in rainbow clothing and face paint, some wearing the flags that represented their identities on their backs, and marched through Old Town Fort Collins to celebrate Pride in Northern Colorado on Friday night. NoCo SafeSpace, the organization that hosted the march, estimated that the the third annual Northern Colorado Pride March attracted more than three times the participants it did last year, with roughly 700 showing support. Kimberly Chambers, executive director of NoCo SafeSpace who helped run the march, said although many Fort Collins Pride events won’t be celebrated until September this year, she kept the march in July because of warm weather and increased attendance, as well as to show support for the community outside of Pride month. COVID-19 vaccines were available at the end of the march. The Larimer County Health Department partnered with the march and Old Firehouse Books to distribute the vaccines, and provide chosen name vaccine cards to those who wanted them.
Kent: A children’s weight loss camp that closed last week amid a state investigation into the safety of campers has had a history of regulatory violations, state records showed. Camp Shane shut down its Connecticut location at the South Kent School on Tuesday after its operator said it could not adequately staff the facility. The group has operated similar camps across the country. The state Office of Early Childhood and the state Department of Children and Families put out a joint statement confirming the state had launched an investigation “due to concerns about health, safety and well-being of children enrolled at the summer youth camp.” Camp Shane is among 417 camps in the state licensed by the Office of Early Childhood. State records showed that inspections conducted in 2019, when the camp was located in Pomfret, found 62 violations, including a failure to file plans for operating a youth camp, the improper medical training of staff and the improper distribution of medicine. Owner David Ettenberg told Hearst Connecticut Media on Thursday that any violations were minor. Messages seeking comment from Ettenberg on Friday were not immediately returned.
Wilmington: Overdose deaths in Delaware increased in 2020 from the year before, new data showed. The state reported 447 overdose deaths statewide last year – up from 431 in 2019, the News Journal reported Friday. Fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid, was found as a contributor in 372 of those deaths, according to a report from the state Division of Forensic Science. Heroin was found in 94 of those deaths, and cocaine was present in 152. The U.S. government reported earlier this week that nationally, overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That estimate far eclipsed the high of about 72,000 drug overdose deaths reached the previous year and amounted to a 29% increase.
District of Columbia
Washington: DC police are looking for a vehicle that the department believes was involved in the fatal shooting of 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney and are offering a $60,000 reward for anyone who can provide tips or information which leads to the arrest of the person or persons responsible, WUSA-TV reported. Those with information can call the police’s Command Information Center at (202) 727-9099 or text anonymously to 50411. A video of the vehicle was released on Twitter after a news conference that was attended by D.C. Police, Mayor Muriel Bowser, ATF and FBI officials. Police describe it as a gray or silver four-door sedan. Officers heard shots of gunfire at the corner of Malcolm X and MLK Boulevard in the 2900 block in Southeast D.C. about 11 p.m. Friday, according to D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III. When people started to scatter and disperse in the area, officers arrived on the scene, they found six gunshot victims. Five adults were transported to area hospitals with nonlife-threatening injuries, and Courtney was the only one pronounced dead, police said.
St. Petersburg: Amid the stench of dead fish, protesters marched Saturday along Tampa Bay to call for state assistance in dealing with a growing outbreak of harmful red tide. More than 100 people took part in the event along the St. Petersburg waterfront carrying signs and shouting, “Save our bay, make polluters pay.” Among other things, the protesters want Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency that would free up more resources for the bay. The St. Petersburg City Council last week adopted a resolution calling for an emergency declaration. The governor’s office has said such a declaration is not necessary and that sufficient money is available for the outbreak from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Hundreds of tons of dead marine life has been removed from Tampa Bay in recent weeks because of red tide, a toxic algae bloom that occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico but is worsened by the presence of nutrients such as nitrogen in the water.
Augusta: Property owners in the old city limits might get a break and some suburban homeowners a new fee under streetlight fee changes headed for Augusta Commission approval. The city streetlight subcommittee, chaired by Commissioner Sammie Sias, approved a new fee schedule for all the nearly 80,000 Augusta land parcels, regardless of size. The new annual fees, included on an owner’s property tax bill, are $100 per residential property and $150 per commercial parcel. Residents within Hephzibah and Blythe are exempt. Most residents in the old city limits are paying for streetlights as a portion of their property tax bill, from which $85 is transferred to the streetlight fund. Most homeowners outside the old city limits pay an $85 fee, which was raised from $30 in 2018. The new fee is a 40% increase for business property owners, most of whom have paid $107.36 since 2018 when the commission adopted new fees.
Honolulu: A cargo airline whose plane ditched into the ocean off Hawaii has been grounded after investigators looked into the company’s safety practices before the accident. The Federal Aviation Administration said it will bar Rhoades Aviation of Honolulu from flying or doing maintenance inspections until it meets FAA regulations. The agency did not detail Rhoades’ alleged shortcomings. The company did not immediately respond to phone and email messages for comment. The decision to ground the carrier, which operates as Transair, is separate from the investigation into the July 2 ditching of a Boeing 737, the FAA said. Two pilots were rescued by the Coast Guard after the nighttime crash. The company had one plane still in operation this week, a Boeing 737-200 like the one that crashed. The FAA said it began investigating Rhoades Aviation’s maintenance and safety practices last fall and told the company about two weeks before the crash that it planned to revoke its authority to do maintenance inspections. The company did not appeal the FAA’s decision within the 30 days as required if it wanted the case reconsidered, the FAA said.
Boise: Republicans in the state Senate are declining to reconvene the Legislature amid calls for legislation to prevent employers from requiring workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations, lawmakers said. Republican Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Winder and other leaders in a statement said they want meetings with Republican Gov. Brad Little, House leaders and businesses to find solutions. The statement followed an unusual online meeting of Senate Republicans on Friday to determine their wishes about a special session. Primary Health Group, Saint Alphonsus Health System and St. Luke’s Health System announced the vaccine requirement last week ahead of the busy cold and flu season and as coronavirus variants spread in parts of the U.S. Health officials in Idaho said vaccine requirements are intended to keep health care facilities open and employees and patients safe. The delta variant first detected in India has recently been discovered in Idaho. It spreads more easily because of mutations, which make it better at latching onto cells. Also, Idaho’s vaccination rate is among the worst in the nation, with only about 40% of the population having received at least one dose of vaccine. About 38% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Chicago: Cook County’s courts are moving to expand their capacity to hold trials as COVID-19 restrictions ease amid a looming backlog of felony cases. Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans said 86 county courtrooms will become available for trials starting Friday. Evans’ office said 76 of those courtrooms can be used for juries because of reduced social-distancing guidelines. The Leighton Criminal Court Building in downtown Chicago has been facing a serious backlog of felony cases because of pandemic-related court slowdowns. And prosecutors are bracing themselves for what might be a flood of demands for trials, once the speedy-trial clock begins ticking again Oct. 1, the Chicago Tribune reported. But in a news release, Evans said there are 159 cases which are ready for trial, and with the expanded capacity those trials can be “comfortably” accommodated by the end of September.
Princeton: Indiana prosecutors have charged four juveniles from southeastern Illinois with torturing and poaching more than 20 wild deer in the two states. After an investigation by Indiana conservation officers, the Gibson County Prosecutor’s Office recently charged four juveniles from Mount Carmel, Illinois, with committing a combined 119 wildlife violations in Indiana and Illinois over a two-year span. Illinois conservation officers also investigated the alleged poaching in Mount Carmel, Illinois, and Gibson County, Indiana, starting in January. The investigations in the two states found that the juveniles illegally killed more than 20 deer in both states during the 2019, 2020, and 2021 deer seasons, officials said in a news release. Prosecutors alleged that multiple deer were shot from trucks, shot with the aid of spotlights at night, and intentionally run over with vehicles, and then stabbed or kicked to death. The juveniles face misdemeanor charges and violations that include: torture or mutilation of a vertebrate animal, use of artificial light to take deer, hunting without landowner consent and criminal trespassing.
Des Moines: The site where the Yonkers department store burned seven years ago might soon become a park in downtown Des Moines. EMC Insurance, owner of the lot, said it plans to develop a neighborhood park that will include sports courts, public artwork, flower beds and sitting areas. The company said it hopes the park will open next summer. Mayor Frank Cownie said in a news release that the park will fill a void for the downtown area. The park must still receive approval from the city. The project also will include fixing and replacing sections of the skywalk near the site, and the addition of a new stair access from the skywalk to the park. EMC acquired the property in 2018, four years after it was destroyed by fire.
Topeka: The federal government will shut down Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential library and museum again Monday as the faster-spreading delta variant fuels a growing number of new COVID-19 cases in Kansas. The decision to close sites in Abilene honoring the nation’s 34th president and the supreme Allied commander during World War II was a response to case numbers in their home of Dickinson County. “I am taking this action out of concern for the health of the staff and the visiting public,” David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, said in a statement from Washington. The sites were closed throughout the pandemic but reopened May 20. Dickinson County was 10th among the state’s 105 counties for new confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases per 1,000 residents during the 14 days ending Friday, according to Kansas health department data. The state reported 66 new cases there during those two weeks or 3.57 per 1,000 residents – more than double the statewide figure of 1.67 per 1,000 residents.
Frankfort: Kentucky’s county jails routinely awarded communications contracts without competitive bidding, the state auditor said in urging legislative action to better govern the contracting. Many Kentucky jails provide more than a traditional phone line for inmates to use. Vendors awarded the communication services contracts reviewed by Auditor Mike Harmon’s office can provide video, email or text options for inmates to stay in contact with their families. Harmon said his office surveyed county jails and examined communication services and equipment contracts in effect between July 1, 2019, and November 15, 2020. Some county jails reported having one contract in place during that period, while others reported having as many as three. The auditor delved into how the contracts were awarded and the financial benefits that jails reaped. Based on survey responses, 32 contracts were awarded by competitive bidding, while 81 contracts either were not bid or the respondents did not know whether the contract had been bid, Harmon said.
Lafayette: Spectators cheered Saturday as a stone statue of a Confederate general was hoisted by a crane and removed from a pedestal where it stood for 99 years in front of a city hall in south Louisiana. The Advertiser posted video of the work that happened a day after United Daughters of the Confederacy signed a settlement agreeing to move the statue of Gen. Alfred Mouton or let the city do so. A trial had been scheduled for July 26. “The Confederacy has surrendered,” attorney Jerome Moroux told The Advocate. Moroux represented the city and 16 city residents who wanted the statue gone. Mouton, whose full name was Jean-Jacques-Alfred-Alexandre Mouton, was a slave owner and son of a former Louisiana governor. He died leading a cavalry charge in the Civil War Battle of Mansfield. In 1980, outgoing Mayor Kenny Bowen wanted to move the statue to what was then the new Lafayette city hall. Although United Daughters of the Confederacy gave the statue to the city in 1922, the group fought the move, partly because Mouton’s father once had owned the statue’s site.
Portland: Maine health officials are hopeful a new COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the largest airport in the state will help drive up immunization rates. The Department of Health and Human Services is working with Portland International Jetport on the new clinic, which will be open to travelers and residents. The clinic, which does not require appointments, began Tuesday and is operating seven days a week. Maine has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country. More than two-thirds of the state’s eligible population are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The addition of the airport clinic is “another way to ensure that Maine is one of the safest places to be this summer,” said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. The clinic will use the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for coronavirus, state officials said. It will be open to anyone age 18 or older and it will be free, officials said.
Annapolis: State House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced her support for a referendum to legalize marijuana on next year’s ballot. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, also announced a panel to study how to implement a recreational marijuana program in Maryland, if voters approve. Jones also announced a group of lawmakers that will craft the implementation of a legalized cannabis program in Maryland, if the voters approve the ballot question in November of 2022. Eighteen states, including neighboring Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use and 37 allow for some sort of medical marijuana, including Maryland. Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, will lead the panel. He said it will establish the legal frameworks needed to fully implement legalized marijuana and learn from mistakes other states have made.
Gloucester: Shellfishing has been banned along large portions of the Massachusetts coast because of toxic red tide, state officials said. The state Division of Marine Fisheries banned harvesting of all softshell and razor clams, the Gloucester Daily Times reported Friday. That ban came the day after the harvest of blue mussels, carnivorous snails and whole sea scallops was prohibited because of elevated levels of paralytic shellfish poison, also known as red tide. The red tide affecting Massachusetts is different from the type killing fish in Florida, and swimming remains safe, Gloucester shellfish warden Peter Seminara said. Red tide is a neurotoxin produced by naturally occurring marine algae. “Filter-feeding shellfish ingest it and it gets concentrated in the meat,” he said. Eating contaminated shellfish, even when cooked, is potentially fatal to humans. The ban extends from Salisbury at the New Hampshire border, south to Cape Ann, the North Shore, Boston and to areas of the South Shore.
Port Austin: Residents at the tip of Michigan’s Thumb have been passing the hat and helping each other recover from a June tornado that destroyed dozens of properties with its 120 mph winds. A recent fundraiser that included a silent raffle and cornhole tournament raised approximately $10,000, the Huron Daily Tribune reported. “We had one person who wrote a $1,000 check as a donation and other people donated $100 checks,” said Patrick Foogazi, who helped organize the event. “There were people just walking in and giving money. Even the guy who won the cornhole tournament donated the money he won back to the fund,” Foogazi said. The money was given to the Lions Club in Port Austin, which will distribute it to people in need. Dozens of properties were destroyed on June 26 by the tornado. “We don’t even know the full extent of the need,” Lions Club member Casey Bruce said. “I know the insurance companies are still working diligently to get claims processed and maybe we’ll never know the total of the damage caused.”
Minneapolis: Minnesota has now reached the threshold to trigger the “warning phase” under the statewide drought plan, the Department of Natural Resources said. And the department said it expects another threshold for public water systems that draw from the Mississippi River will be tripped in the coming days as stream flows drop. “Under current conditions, it will take at least 3 to 5 inches of precipitation spread over a period of about two weeks to significantly alleviate the drought,” the DNR said in statement. But the National Weather Service is forecasting below-normal rain and above-normal temperatures for Minnesota and the upper Midwest for the next two weeks, and at least a couple more days of hazy skies from northern wildfires. The updated U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday showed that 98% of Minnesota is now in a drought, with 52% of the state in a severe or extreme drought, and conditions are expected to grow drier. The “warning phase” triggers a series of steps, including the convening of a state drought task force made up of state, federal, regional and local experts, which last convened in 2012. Water conservation measures are being recommended, and in some cases mandated. The DNR advised residents and landowners to watch for notifications of restrictions from their local water utilities.
Jackson: The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has named the first African American chief of its law enforcement bureau. The state agency was founded in 1932. Col. Jerry Carter, a U.S. Army veteran, will oversee the work of 160 officers statewide. Carter began his career with the department in 1988 as a conservation officer assigned to his home area of Leflore County. Carter has served in many roles in the department, moving through the ranks as a boater and hunter education administrator, coordinator of communications, commander of the honor guard, emergency management coordinator and commander of the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Region. He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2018 from Mississippi Valley State University and is on track to complete all requirements for a master’s degree this year.
Springfield: Gov. Mike Parson said the state will “probably” provide funding for a site to help handle the overflow of COVID-19 patients in Springfield, where hospitals are struggling to keep up with a surge driven by the delta variant and vaccination hesitation. The Republican governor suggested that federal stimulus money also could help pay for the alternative care site health leaders in the city requested. Parson told the Springfield News-Leader that the state will “for the most part probably” fulfill the request. “We’re in the process of kind of going through that right now to see what we can deliver and what we can’t,” he said. “Those are things we’ve done before, so I think we’ll be able to do (the funding).” The fast-spreading delta variant has led to a surge in hospitalizations throughout southwestern Missouri. Springfield’s hospitals are seeing patient counts topping the previous peak in mid-winter. As of Friday, 228 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized there. Three weeks ago, the daily average patient count was fewer than 120.
Helena: Two transgender people sued over a new Montana law that makes it difficult for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates. Amelia Marquez and John Doe said in a lawsuit filed in Yellowstone County that the law signed this year by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte violates their right to privacy and equal protection under the law guaranteed by the state Constitution. The law requires transgender people to change their sex by surgical procedure and receive a court order indicating that in order for them to change the sex on their birth certificate. Many transgender people choose not to undergo surgical procedures to affirm their identity. Such procedures are sometimes deemed unnecessary or too expensive. Before the new law passed, transgender residents seeking to change their birth certificate needed only to provide an affidavit to the state health department.
Omaha: Four endangered indigo snakes are the newest babies at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, marking a first-time birth of the species at the zoo. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the snakes made their appearance Wednesday and Thursday. Their births are the result of an Eastern Indigo Species Survival Plan recommendation. The zoo said in a news release that such plans manage threatened and endangered species to ensure that they are healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied across institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Eastern indigos are native to the southeastern U.S. and are considered the largest nonvenomous snake in the country. Some reach up to 8½ feet in length. Once they are able to feed on their own, the snakes will be moved to a habitat visible to the public.
Carson City: Farmers, environmentalists and small-town business owners gathered at the Hoover Dam on Thursday to call for a moratorium on pipelines and dams along the Colorado River that they said jeopardizes the 40 million people who rely on it as a water source. They’re pushing for the moratoriums as parts of the U.S. West are gripped by historic drought and hotter temperatures and dry vegetation provide fuel for wildfires sweeping the region. Federal officials expect to make the first water shortage declaration in the Colorado River basin next month, prompting cuts in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. “We’re here to say, ‘Damn the status quo,’” said Kyle Roerink, the executive director of the Great Basin Water Network. Hot temperatures and less snowpack have decreased the amount of water that flows from the Rocky Mountains down through the arid deserts of the Southwest into the Gulf of California. Scientists attributed the extreme conditions to a combination of natural weather patterns and human-caused climate change, which has made the West warmer and drier in the past 30 years.
Portsmouth: The U.S. Coast Guard rescued three people who were found clinging to the hull of their overturned sailboat about 20 miles off the coast of Portsmouth. A Coast Guard helicopter found the three waving from the water on Friday night. A distress call had come in at about 4:20 p.m. The three were safely hoisted into the helicopter and were taken to Pease Air National Guard Base, where they were evaluated by emergency personnel. No injuries were reported. It wasn’t immediately known what caused the 42-foot boat, Triad, to overturn. The vessel, which was covered by a tarp, was left for commercial salvage.
Fair Lawn: Friday was the last day for residents in Fair Lawn to smell the sweet aroma of freshly baked Oreo cookies as the community’s Nabisco plant shut down after 63 years in operation. Parent company Mondeléz International confirmed it was the last day of production at the plant, which has produced Oreos, Ritz crackers, Lorna Doone and Teddy Grahams since 1958. The plant’s approximate 600 workers have either retired, transferred or were looking for other jobs, the company said. Production began slowing when the company announced in February that it would close the plant in New Jersey and one in Atlanta. The Atlanta plant closed in June. A plant in Richmond, Virginia, remains open.
Albuquerque: U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited her home state Saturday to celebrate what marks the largest wilderness land donation in the agency’s history. The 15-square-mile donation from the Trust for Public Land increases the size of the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in northeastern New Mexico by nearly 50%. The property includes rugged canyons, mesas covered by pinon and juniper woodlands, pockets of ponderosa pine trees and savannah-like grasslands. Haaland, who joined other officials at a remote site in San Miguel County, acknowledged that the area makes up part of the ancestral homelands of the Jicarilla Apache and northern pueblos of New Mexico. She said that, for generations, families have relied on the land for sustenance and that it means a lot to many people who visit the area in search of peace and quiet. The area supports an array of wildlife, from elk and deer to mountain lions, turkey and bears.
Saratoga Springs: State environmental officers and local police are investigating fox attacks and urging people in the area to be cautious outdoors. Melissa Thompson-Flynn told the Times Union of Albany that she was attacked by a fox Wednesday while jogging. She said the animal came up behind her and bit her leg. She said she pried the fox off her leg, but it then bit her right arm. Thompson-Flynn, 51, a retired U.S. Army officer who served in Iraq, grabbed the fox by the throat with her left arm. Police arrived as she was still fighting the fox and an officer killed the animal. Thompson-Flynn remained hospitalized Saturday and has begun a series of anti-rabies shots. On July 12 at a day camp for children hosted by Skidmore College, a fox bit a camp counselor and scratched a camper. They were treated for minor injuries and began receiving anti-rabies shots, a college spokesperson said. Officers with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and wildlife experts have been patrolling the area with local police and college officials and setting traps on the campus.
Statesville: More than 40 birds have been removed from a park following reports of what was termed “extreme cruelty,” including one duck whose feet were cut off, officials said. The city approved a plan by Carolina Waterfowl Rescue to remove the birds to prevent further incidents from happening, the Statesville Record & Landmark reported. According to the agency, ducks had been used for target practice and another duck was beaten over the head in addition to the duck with its feet cut off. Jennifer Gordon, Carolina Waterfowl Rescue director, said it’s estimated that approximately 75 waterfowl were in the park, but 43 were recovered by the group. Gordon said it was likely the wild birds flew off while the domesticated ones stayed. The ducks were removed last week. Carolina Waterfowl Rescue said the birds will be available for adoption after a health screening.
Bismarck: A change to the state constitution that would place term limits on the governor and members of the Legislature is a step closer to bringing the matter to a public vote. Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Friday announced he approved for circulation a petition for the proposed measure. Supporters have one year to gather 31,164 signatures to put the measure to voters next year. The initiative would add a new article to the state constitution, effective Jan. 1, 2023, imposing term limits of eight cumulative years each in the House and Senate. The governor could not be elected more than twice. Term limits would not be retroactive, which means the service of current officeholders would not count against them. Citizen initiatives allow residents to bypass lawmakers and get proposed state laws and constitutional amendments on ballots if they gather enough signatures from voters.
New Concord: John Glenn was honored over the weekend with a three-day festival marking what would have been the history-making astronaut and U.S. senator’s 100th birthday. Glenn, who died in 2016, was the first American to orbit Earth, making him a national hero in 1962. Before that, he served as a military fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War and set a transcontinental air speed record. In 1998, he became the oldest person to go into space at 77. He spent 24 years as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate. The John Glenn Centennial Celebration Friday to Sunday was a collaboration between Cambridge, where Glenn was born on July 18, 1921, and nearby New Concord, where he grew up and met his late wife, Annie, who died last year at 100 of complications from COVID-19. Lyn Glenn, the late senator’s daughter, watched parade floats go by Saturday from the front porch of her father’s childhood home.
Oklahoma City: Board members of a southwest Oklahoma City school district have defied the state Board of Education and hired an interim superintendent. The Western Heights school board voted 3-1 on Thursday to name assistant Superintendent Kim Race interim superintendent, replacing Mannix Barnes. Barnes’ superintendent certification was suspended by the state board last month after the district was placed on probation by the state board in April for concerns including financial management, heavy staff losses and poor academic performance. The state board took over the district July 12 and on Tuesday, deputy state Superintendent Monty Guthrie was named to head the district for the next year. “I am definitely worried that what just happened is illegal,” said Briana Flatley, who cast the lone vote against naming Race interim superintendent. The three board members who voted for the move did not speak as they left the meeting.
Salem: Authorities are asking for the public’s help in investigating five fires that ignited in the same vicinity in northeast Salem early Friday. The fires were reported to police starting about 2 a.m., and all occurred in the area bordered by Market Street, Fisher Road, Silverton Road and Lancaster Drive NE, police officials said. Detectives are investigating the fires because of to their “suspicious nature,” though it’s unknown if the fires were set by the same individual, according to Lt. Treven Upkes, a spokesperson with the police department. There were no injuries reported, Upkes said. Officials did not immediately have cost estimates on damages from the fires. Police are asking anyone who might have witnessed suspicious activity in the areas of the fires to call the Salem Police Tips Line at (503) 588-8477. Authorities are also asking anyone in the area with video surveillance systems to check recordings around the time of the fires and report any findings to police.
Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Zoo is gearing up to vaccinate its highest-risk animals with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Zoetis, a former subsidiary of Pfizer that develops drugs for animals. Although animals are not a major concern for spreading the virus to humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they night still get infected. Cases have been reported in some big cats and gorillas at zoos, household pets, and farmed minks, motivating zoos nationwide to help their animals build up immune defenses. Gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park not only got infected with the coronavirus, but also developed unpleasant symptoms like coughing and congestion.
Providence: Nature trails and hiking paths across Rhode Island are getting $1.4 million worth of improvements through Federal Highway Administration grants, state officials said. The money administered by the state departments of Environmental Management and Transportation is being distributed to 22 communities and nonprofits to support erosion repair and control, resurfacing, accessibility improvements, signage and other improvement projects that will benefit hikers and other users. The grants provide up to 80% of the cost for eligible project components.
Columbia: Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia is closing its aquarium and reptile building starting next month for about a yearlong renovation project. The zoo plans to change the building into a center for reptiles and animals who live in water, in a way that emphasizes conservation efforts the zoo does behind the scenes every day, officials said in a statement. The new center will include a number of habitats. One is called the Florida Reef Tract Rescue Project, where zoo workers have spent three years trying to care for 40 reef colonies being destroyed by an unknown disease. Zoo visitors can watch as researchers also try to save the animals who lived among the coral, officials said. Riverbanks Zoo is shifting several exhibits and sending some animals to other zoos, including two false gharial crocodiles that had been at the facility more than 30 years. Their old tropical habitat will become a desert biome in the new building.
Sioux Falls: The remains of six Rosebud Sioux children who died at the government-run Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania between 1880 and 1910 were buried Saturday night in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Veterans Cemetery. Three other children were buried in familial cemetery plots. Saturday was the final stop for the children after an emotional previous two days that included prayer ceremonies and remembrances. The nine children were brought to the former boarding school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1880. Some died from illness within months of arriving, others died years later after failed attempts of escaping the horrors of the school meant to “kill the Indian, save the man.” The effort to return the remains took nearly six years. A caravan of young adults tasked with bringing the remains home to the reservation set out Tuesday from the site of the former school, which is about 20 miles west of the Pennsylvania capital Harrisburg.
Memphis: A death row inmate made a rare public appearance Friday during a court hearing about claims that he is intellectually disabled and should not be executed for the slayings of a mother and daughter more than 30 years ago. Wearing a checkered blue sports jacket, white shirt and paisley tie, Pervis Payne listened as attorneys argued over a request by prosecutors to obtain prison records as part of Payne’s planned mental evaluation by a state expert. Payne, 54, was brought to Memphis from Nashville, where has been held in a high-security prison since his conviction and death sentence for the 1987 stabbing deaths of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie Jo. Christopher’s son, Nicholas, who was 3 at the time, also was stabbed but survived. The stabbings took place in Millington, located north of Memphis. The last time Payne was seen outside prison was in 2007, when he attended a court hearing in Memphis.
Spring: A chemical leak at a Houston-area water park left dozens suffering from minor skin irritation and respiratory issues Saturday, authorities said. Twenty-nine people were taken to local hospitals following the incident at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Splashtown, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office tweeted. Thirty-nine others declined to be taken to a hospital after undergoing decontamination procedures. KPRC-TV reported that some of those who became sick were children, including a 3-year-old who was hospitalized in stable condition. The chemicals involved included hypochlorite solution and 35% sulfuric acid, officials said. Authorities are investigating the cause of the incident, which they said was contained to one attraction at the park.
Lund: Three workers on a freight train were injured when it derailed while crossing tracks covered with water in a remote part of southern Utah on Thursday night, authorities said. The train, which had nearly 100 cars, tipped on its side after derailing near Lund, about 85 miles from the Nevada border. The three workers were able to get out of the train, climbing out on top of the tilted locomotive but were trapped there because of flooding, the Iron County Sheriff’s Office said. Emergency crews had a difficult time getting to the train due to the weather and floodwaters but were able to reach the workers at around 1 a.m. Friday. After some time, they were taken off the train and taken to the hospital, the sheriff’s office said. Two of the workers were in good condition and the other was in stable condition.
Bradford: The pilot of a hot-air balloon that had been carrying a total of five people is dead after becoming entangled in gear underneath the basket and then falling to the ground, state police said. The balloon took off from the Post Mills airport Thursday afternoon. Some time later, the balloon touched down in a field and one passenger fell out, but was not injured. At that point, the pilot became entangled in gear affixed to the balloon as it reascended. He eventually fell to the ground in a field where he was pronounced dead. After the pilot’s death, three other passengers remained in the balloon until it got caught in a grove of trees about 1.5 miles farther north in Piermont, New Hampshire, where they escaped without injury. The name of the pilot was not immediately released until his family could be notified. The incident is being investigated by officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and state transportation officials from Vermont and New Hampshire.
Alexandria: A former senior NASA employee who cheated the government out of nearly $275,000 in pandemic-related financial assistance has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. The sentence imposed Thursday on Andrew Tezna, 36, of Leesburg was roughly in line with the 21-month sentence sought by federal prosecutors in Alexandria. Tezna’s attorney had asked for a sentence of home detention. Tezna pleaded guilty to fraud after submitting bogus applications under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. He concocted businesses in his own name and that of his mother-in-law, and grossly inflated the scope of a side business owned by his wife. He also falsely filed for unemployment benefits on behalf of his mother-in-law, who was retired. During the fraud, Tezna was making more than $180,000 annually working in NASA’s financial offices. He used the money to pay off a swimming pool, credit cards, and a Disney timeshare. He also paid more than $6,000 to a dog breeder for a French bulldog. In all, Tezna admitted to applying for more than $350,000 in benefits and receiving more than $270,000.
Spokane: A record-shattering heat wave in the Pacific Northwest prompted fishing and conservation groups to ask a federal court Friday to order more spill from dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers next spring, which could aid the migration of endangered salmon and steelhead runs. Earthjustice, on behalf of a coalition of fishing and conservation groups, asked a federal court in Portland, Oregon, for more water to be released to help the fish navigate a series of dams in the river basins. Increasing the amount of water helps flush young fish along their river migration to reach the ocean where they mature. Four dams in eastern Washington – Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Lower Granite – slow passage along the lower Snake River, a major migration corridor linking pristine cold-water streams in central Idaho to the Columbia River and out to the Pacific Ocean. The dams plus rising water temperatures in the reservoirs make the passage increasingly deadly, conservation groups contended. Many are calling for the four dams to be breached.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice said he does not have plans to bring back restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 as the more contagious delta variant begins spreading in the state. He took a shot at Los Angeles County, where officials have reinstated an indoor mask requirement in the nation’s largest county. “We’re not Los Angeles. Thank God. And boy, do I ever mean that,” Justice said. There are 19 confirmed cases of the delta variant in West Virginia, according to state data. West Virginia lags behind all five bordering states in total vaccine doses administered per 100,000 people, according to federal data. The more transmissible delta variant is leading to a nationwide rise in cases again after months of decline. State data showd that 58.2% of all residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Justice set a new goal this week of vaccinating 85% of residents 50 and older, a group that has 81.5% coverage. He also wants 90% of those age 65 and older to receive a shot, while 88.7% currently have one.
Madison: Walmart Inc. lost a federal lawsuit when a jury sided with a sales associate who has Down syndrome and alleged that schedule changes exacerbated attendance problems that led to her firing. The jury in federal court in Green Bay awarded Marlo Spaeth more than $125 million in punitive damages on Thursday, but a Walmart spokesman said Friday that under federal law, that will be reduced to the maximum allowed, which is $300,000. The jury also awarded Spaeth $150,000 in compensatory damages, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Friday in announcing the ruling. The EEOC brought the case against Walmart. Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the retail giant was reviewing its legal options. He said Walmart does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and routinely accommodates thousands of employees every year. Spaeth worked for Walmart for about 16 years before she was fired from its Manitowoc store in 2015 because of excessive absenteeism. Changes to her work schedule following implementation of a new computerized system in 2014 created significant difficulty for her, the lawsuit alleged. The jury found that Walmart failed to accommodate Spaeth’s disability and fired her because of it, which is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC said.
Casper: A new U.S. report said coal production in Wyoming, the nation's top coal-mining state, fell by 21% in 2020 from the previous year, caused in part by reduced demand during the coronavirus pandemic, low natural gas prices and a longstanding move away from fossil fuels to cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas to generate electricity. A U.S. Energy Information Industry Administration report this week also said the nation's coal production in 2020 was at its lowest level since 1965, The Casper Star-Tribune reported. Wyoming produced 41% of the nation’s coal in 2020, the EIA said. Total U.S. coal production fell 24% in 2020 from 2019 and coal-fired power generation dropped by 20%. Coal exports were down 26%, the EIA said. Production has increased to meet rising electricity demand as the economy reopens this year. The EIA estimates that U.S. coal production this year will be 15% higher than in 2020. Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, said coal still provides 20% to 23% of U.S. electricity supply. Many of some 572 coal industry jobs lost last year in Wyoming are returning, Deti said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States