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Tuskegee: Charlotte Morris , the interim president of Tuskegee University, will assume the job on a permanent basis, the school said. Trustees of the historically Black school in east Alabama elected Morris to the position, which takes effect Sunday, officials said in a statement. Morris’ time as interim president began with the departure of Lily McNair, who began in 2018 and and left earlier this year. With more than 30 years at the school, Morris’ previous roles at Tuskegee included chief of staff and secretary to the board. Her inauguration as the school’s ninth president is planned for April to coincide with Founder’s Day. “She understands the needs of this university today – putting the students first – and is the right leader for tomorrow and beyond,” board chair Norma Clayton said.
Anchorage: A small airplane reported overdue Monday was found crashed, with the two people on board dead, according to Alaska State Troopers. Austin McDaniel, a troopers spokesperson, said there were two adults on board. He said the plane left from Anchorage, but he did not have immediate details on the purpose of the flight or when it took off. He said by email that the wreckage was found in Chugach State Park. The troopers, in an online log, said authorities were notified about 8 p.m. Monday of an overdue aircraft that had taken off from an Anchorage airport. The statement said the aircraft was believed to have gone up the Knik River Valley toward Knik Glacier and Lake George before heading toward Chugach State Park. A good Samaritan found the wreckage about 10:45 p.m. Monday and was able to land nearby. Recovery efforts were expected to start Tuesday, the troopers’ statement said.
Phoenix: A dust cloud that triggered a dust advisory in Maricopa, Casa Grande and Florence on Tuesday night moved north along Interstate 10 to hit the southern edge of Phoenix. The National Weather Service in Phoenix issued a dust advisory affecting parts of Maricopa County, including the Ahwatukee neighborhood of Phoenix, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek until 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Visibility was below 1 mile in some areas, including parts of I-10, Interstate 8, highway 347, and Highway 85 south of Gila Bend, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. Just before 7:30 p.m., the weather service said the dust cloud was blowing into the Phoenix area and would cause visibility to drop to 1 to 3 miles, “enough to notice but not low enough to cause significant concerns.” At 7:45 p.m., the weather service said isolated storms across central Arizona would wind down in the next hour or two although dust clouds, heavy rain and gusty winds were possible.
Little Rock: The leader of the University of Arkansas system proposed keeping a statue of the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright on its flagship campus but add “contextualization” about his legacy, despite calls to remove the monument because of Fulbright’s support of segregation. System President Donald Bobbitt cited a new state law preventing the removal of historical monuments without state approval in his proposal, which was scheduled to go before the university’s board of trustees on Wednesday. Bobbitt’s proposal also called for keeping Fulbright’s name on the Fayetteville campus’ college of arts and sciences. The proposal called for adding “a contextualization to the statue that affirms the university’s commitment to racial equality and acknowledges Senator Fulbright’s complex legacy, including his record on international affairs, civil rights legislation, and racial integration.” Fulbright was a University of Arkansas graduate and served as the university’s president for three years starting in 1939. He is known worldwide for creating an international education scholarship in his name. But the university has faced calls to remove his statue and his name from the school over his opposition to integration and civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s.
San Francisco: The San Francisco school board violated state law when it voted to cover up a 1930s mural that critics said is racist and degrading in its depiction of Black and Native American people, a judge ruled Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo said the board failed to conduct an environmental impact review before it voted in 2019 to cover up the sprawling mural at George Washington High School that depicts the life of George Washington, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The 1936 mural was painted by Victor Arnautoff, one of the foremost muralists in the San Francisco area during the Depression. In addition to depicting Washington as a soldier, surveyor and statesman, the 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot mural contains images of white pioneers standing over the body of a Native American and slaves working at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. New Deal scholars have argued that Arnautoff, a Russian-born communist and social critic, critically depicts unsavory aspects of American history in his work. But as early as the 1960s, some students at George Washington High School have argued that the mural’s imagery is offensive and racist. District officials told the Chronicle that they were reviewing the decision. Members can’t take any further action until at least September.
Denver: A U.S. appeals court has ruled against a web designer who didn’t want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples and sued to challenge Colorado’s anti-discrimination law. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver denied Lorie Smith’s attempt to overturn a lower court ruling throwing out her legal challenge. The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Smith, argued that the law forced her to violate her Christian beliefs. In the 2-1 ruling, the panel said Colorado had a compelling interest in protecting the “dignity interests” of members of marginalized groups through its law. The anti-discrimination law is the same one at issue in the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips that was decided in 2018 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court decided the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious bias against Phillips after he refused to bake a cake for two men who were getting married. But it did not rule on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to LGBTQ people. The Alliance Defending Freedom said it would appeal the ruling. “The government should never force creative professionals to promote a message or cause with which they disagree. That is quintessential free speech and artistic freedom,” the group’s senior counsel, John Bursch, said in a statement.
Hartford: The state is embarking on a plan to dedicate Medicaid funds to help address the problem of gun violence and other violent crimes. Under new legislation, financially challenged community-based violence prevention services will be able to receive state and federal Medicaid funds. These programs, which are growing across the U.S., typically involve intervention at the hospital after someone has been shot and intensive case management in the months following the injury to try and break the cycle of violence .Connecticut’s new law requires the state Department of Social Services commissioner by July 1, 2022, to amend the state’s Medicaid plan so it will cover the cost of community violence prevention services for beneficiaries who have received medical treatment for an injury “sustained from an act of community violence,” such as a shooting, and have been referred for services by a licensed health care or social services provider.
Millsboro:The Mountaire Farms chicken processing plant has been issued a notice of violation from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control after a contractor digging a ditch for a new pipeline damaged an existing one, causing treated wastewater to spill into Swan Creek. Ironically, the digging was taking place as part of construction of the poultry plant’s new wastewater treatment system, according to the notice. When the pipe broke, the treated effluent filled up the excavated area and ultimately made its way into the new, unfinished pipeline that discharges into Swan Creek. The incident occurred April 24 and Mountaire reported it to DNREC that day, the notice said. An estimated 15,000 gallons of effluent flowed into Swan Creek for about 10 minutes before the source was shut off. DNREC issued the notice of violation to Mountaire on June 15, charging them with unauthorized discharge to surface water. The only action required of Mountaire is that it provide DNREC with documentation of repairs. No fines were levied.
District of Columbia
Washington:Residents of the 600 block of Irving Street Northwest said D.C.’s urban foresters missed obvious signs that an aging oak tree on the street was ready to topple, WUSA-TV reported. “It was a ticking time bomb,” said Tommy Duren, whose home was badly damaged when the tree came down during storms Monday night. “I don’t know how an arborist gets this wrong.” Two other homes were damaged in the incident. Duren said pruning crews and inspectors should have known the tree was a threat. A spokesman for D.C.’s Department of Transportation, which oversees the Urban Forestry Division, said the last time the tree had been pruned by a city crew was in January. The spokesman described the situation as “force majeure”, a legal term meaning an unforeseeable circumstance. The Urban Forestry Division is responsible for more than 175,000 public trees in the district, according to the agency’s website, which reported the city removed nearly 2,700 trees in the last year.
Tallahassee:Gov. Ron DeSantis held a private meeting Monday with doctors to oppose mask mandates in public schools. DeSantis said he fears that the federal government might try to force mask mandates in schools, saying children would suffer. On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. “Our view is that this should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated. And I know our Legislature feels strongly about it,” said DeSantis. He predicted lawmakers would hold a special session “to be able to provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely and don’t want to be suffering under these masks during the school year.” DeSantis didn’t invite media to the discussion, but his office provided a video and transcript of the meeting in the state Capitol. Florida accounted for a fifth of the nation’s new coronavirus infections last week, more than any other state, according to the CDC. But DeSantis has been firmly opposed to lockdown restrictions, mask mandates and vaccine passports, signing a bill into law that prevents businesses to ask for proof of vaccination and local governments from imposing COVID restrictions.
Atlanta: Delta Air Lines is loosening restrictions on basic economy tickets to reduce the deluge of frustrated travelers facing hourslong waits on customer service phone lines. Basic economy tickets usually do not allow any changes to the itinerary, even for a change fee. The airline temporarily allowed more flexibility during the pandemic, but that policy ended earlier this year. Starting Wednesday, however, Delta will temporarily allow changes to basic economy tickets for travel through Dec. 31, 2021, “to help address call wait times as we increase staffing,” CEO Ed Bastian wrote in an update to customers. The changes can be made online without paying a change fee. Delta cut about 18,000 of its 90,000 employees last year through buyouts and early retirements to cut costs amid the pandemic, leaving it short-staffed when travelers rapidly returned to the skies. “The unexpected pace of the return of our customers has resulted in some unforeseen challenges as we ramp up to meet demand and handle a record-breaking level of calls,” Bastian told customers Tuesday. He acknowledged that “the last thing you want is to experience long hold times when you call reservations or receive a notification that your flight schedule has changed.” To alleviate the problem, the Atlanta-based airline also is hiring more than 5,000 people, including 1,300 reservations specialists who will be trained by September and 3,000 in airport customer service and other areas. Delta has hired more than 2,200 people in Georgia this year.
Honolulu: Hawaii’s Department of Health has updated its guidance to schools a week before the start of another school year during the pandemic. The department’s guidance includes recommendations for wearing masks in all indoor settings and maintaining at least 3 feet of physical distance between students in classrooms, when possible. Masks are recommended outdoors when there’s crowding or prolonged close contact, said acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. The department said schools should consider screening testing for all teachers and staff who have not been fully vaccinated regardless of the level of community transmission. The guidance also includes screening testing for those who are not fully vaccinated to facilitate participation in sports and other activities with a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Promoting vaccines against COVID-19 for all eligible children and adults is the top strategy for safe in-person learning, Kemble said. Hawaii’s public school students return to classes Aug. 3.
Idaho Falls: About 89% of Idaho residents live in communities where officials said masks should be worn again. The Post Register reported Wednesday that 27 of Idaho’s 44 counties have substantial to high transmission of COVID-19. Central District Health also said it supports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated recommendation for masks. Central District Health oversees Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties. The city of Boise on Wednesday started requiring masks indoors at its city-owned facilities. In a statement, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials said they were concerned about rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Idaho has the sixth-lowest vaccination rate, with only about 46% of all eligible residents being fully vaccinated, compared to 56% of all eligible Americans.
Chicago: A Michigan-based cannabis company on Tuesday ended its challenge of Illinois’ plan to authorize new marijuana business. Sozo Illinois Inc.’s decision to drop its lawsuit will allow Illinois to proceed with awarding licenses to operate marijuana dispensaries. The state on Thursday is to hold the first of three lotteries to award 55 licenses to applicants that scored 85% or better on their applications for recreational cannabis stores. The licenses have been delayed for more than a year, initially because of COVID-19-related issues. Problems with scoring the applications added to the delay. Sozo Illinois Inc. claimed Illinois law unfairly lowered its chances of getting a license. The lawsuit noted part of the law gives bonus points in scoring applications from Illinois-based companies, and another removed a bonus for hiring 10 people from areas hurt by the war on drugs. The lawsuit sought a court order to stop the lotteries. The Chicago Tribune reported Gov. J.B. Pritzker spokeswoman Charity Greene responded to Sozo Illinois’ actions with a statement saying it has a priority of his administration to establish a legal cannabis industry in Illinois that is equitable and reflects the diversity of the state.
South Bend:Elementary students in South Bend will be required to wear masks when the school year begins next month under the district’s new coronavirus response plan. The plan approved Monday night by the South Bend Community School Corp. board outlines the coronavirus measures that will be in place when the school year begins for students Aug. 11. Students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade will be required to wear masks indoors, but face coverings will not be required but strongly encouraged among unvaccinated staff and middle and high school students, the South Bend Tribune reported. Staff and middle- and high-school students who are vaccinated can go mask-free, but all visitors to any district school building will be required to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. Administrators said their decision comes in consultation with health officials and follows similar moves in large school districts, such as Indianapolis Public Schools and Wayne Township, in Indianapolis’ west suburbs. Unlike Indianapolis, which will collect voluntary proof of vaccination for those opting not to wear masks, South Bend’s policy will largely be based on an honor system.
Des Moines: Gov. Kim Reynolds rejected new federal government recommendations about wearing masks to help slow the rapid spread of a coronavirus variant in the U.S.. Reynolds signed a law in May that prohibits local officials from requiring masks to be worn in schools or businesses. Iowa ranks 21st in the nation when it comes to vaccinations, with 49.4% of the population, or 1.56 million people, fully vaccinated. Like many states, vaccination interest has stagnated in recent weeks. Iowa’s seven-day moving average of daily cases was 241 on Monday, the highest level since May 14.
Topeka: A central Kansas school district is requiring masks in its buildings, and public health officials in one of the state’s most populous counties are recommending that nearly every resident wear masks in indoor public spaces. Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature ended Kansas’ state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic in mid-June, citing a decline in new cases. The Salina district’s board of education voted 5-2 during a special Tuesday night meeting to impose its mask requirement, the Salina Journal reported. The district, which has about 6,900 students, appears to be the first outside the Kansas City area to impose a new mask mandate. It joined the Kansas City, Kansas, district and the neighboring Shawnee Mission district in Johnson County, the state’s most populous county, to require at least some students to wear masks. Meanwhile, the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health department on Tuesday began recommending that anyone age 2 or older wear masks in schools and other indoor spaces, even though the county has among the highest vaccination rates and the lowest total number of COVID-19 cases per capita among the state’s 105 counties.
Georgetown: A public workshop is planned to discuss options for an aging dam on the north fork of Elkhorn Creek, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources said. The agency said it will lead a discussion on Aug. 3 about the Great Crossing Dam near Georgetown. A study commissioned by Scott County officials found the low-head dam needs repair but isn’t in danger of immediate failure. Fish and Wildlife said it is considering options that include removing the structure from the waterway, which would improve safety for boaters and swimmers and also improve water quality. The meeting will be held at Great Crossing High School in Georgetown. Those attending will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback to department officials.
Baton Rouge: As COID-19 vaccine interest plummeted in Louisiana, the state saw a spike in the number of wasted shots, with more than 79,000 doses trashed largely because health providers couldn’t find enough arms quickly enough. Wasted doses of the vaccines numbered fewer than 1,500 only four months ago. But data provided to the Associated Press by the Louisiana Department of Health showed the unused, discarded shots surged to more than 50 times that number by July 23. Meanwhile, another 161,000 doses of the three COVID-19 vaccines available across the state are scheduled to expire within 14 days – a waste the Health Department hopes to avoid either through a possible federal decision to extend the expiration dates or through increased vaccine interest. Waste is not uncommon in mass immunization efforts, and the doses trashed in Louisiana so far represent less than 1% of the nearly 3.5 million vaccines that reached arms. Louisiana already is only drawing down a sliver of the vaccine doses made available by the federal government each week, despite an all-out push to get people interested in the shots that includes offering $2.3 million in cash prizes and scholarships.
East Boothbay: A Maine marine science lab has received $5 million to further research into whether seaweed-based food can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cows. Bigelow Laboratory has been working in recent years on whether the feed supplements can help cut emissions of methane at cattle operations. Methane emissions, which happen when cows belch, allegedly contribute to climate change. The laboratory said the grant is from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund and it will build on a project that began in 2019. Nichole Price, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory and the project leader, said the funding will help scientists apply their work in a way that is feasible on a global scale. The lab said it has had success in feed trials with individual herds. One of the biggest questions is how the supplement can be produced in large enough quantities and at a reasonable enough cost to make a dent in worldwide farming operations. Price said new parts of the project will “complement our existing search for the right seaweed solution and enable us to look into some creative ways that we can use what we’re learning to actually solve this global problem.”
Salisbury:The Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal is investigating three incidents of houses being set on fire on Nokomis Avenue in Salisbury. The first broke out on July 21. A social media post from the Salisbury Fire Department showed crews responded to the blaze just before 6 a.m. and were able to extinguish the fire and clear the scene before 7:30 a.m. Two other fires were reported simultaneously on July 23, just before 10 p.m., according to a news release from the fire marshal’s office. The homes are owned by Milford Twilley Rentals, the fire marshal’s office said, and were left with moderate fire, heat and smoke damage. There were no injuries, but the fire marshal’s office estimated the blazes totaled about $110,000 in damages. Smoke alarms were present for two of the fires but did not activate because the fires were set outside at the back of the homes. The fire marshal’s office said neighbors noticed all three blazes and reported them to the fire department. No arrests have been made. Deputy state fire marshals are asking anyone with information to call (410) 713-3780. Callers can remain anonymous.
Boston: An Army officer from Massachusetts who was reported missing in action during the Korean War has been accounted for and is coming home for burial, military officials said. The remains of 1st Lt. Thomas J. Redgate, are scheduled to buried at the veterans’ cemetery in Bourne on Sept. 17, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in a statement. Redgate, a member of Battery A, 48th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division, was reported missing Dec. 11, 1950, when his unit was attacked during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, according to the Army. The exact details surrounding his loss were not known, and his remains could not be recovered at the time. He was 24. In July 2018, following a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea turned over 55 boxes that purportedly contained the remains of American service members killed during the war. The remains were examined at the DPAA’s laboratory in Hawaii, and based on anthropological analysis, as well as DNA and circumstantial evidence, one set was determined to be Redgate’s. Redgate, whose hometown was listed as Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, was accounted for in April 2020, but the announcement was made Wednesday because his family only recently received a full briefing of his identification, the Army said. Redgate’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Marysville:City leaders have enacted a new law banning chickens, pheasants, badgers, kangaroos, coyotes and even cougars and tigers, the Times Herald of Port Huron reported. The new domestic animals and fowl ordinance that goes into effect in mid-August was crafted after some residents complained about neighbors who owned chickens and crowing roosters, according to Marysville City Manager Randy Fernandez. Marysville’s current ordinance bans “animals or domestic fowl within the city except dogs, cats, birds, fowl, or animals commonly classified as pets,” the newspaper reported. “So, what this basically does is tighten the limit on … no more chickens and some other animals that we would consider livestock, that do not belong in the limits of Marysville or any other city,” Fernandez told city council members Monday. Marysville has about 9,600 residents and is located along the St. Clair River, which separates that part of Michigan from Canada. The new ordinance allows Fernandez to deal with addressing future animal complaints “case-by-case if that’s the way that administration wants to,” City Attorney Al Francis said. However, the inclusion of animals such as chinchillas, doves and ferrets on the banned list might have been a little too much, according to Councilman Dave Barber, who said he knows people who keep such animals. “I get the rest of it, and I feel for the folks who have chickens,” Barber said. “But I question those three.”
St. Paul: Department of Health officials said they are investigating a COVID-19 outbreak at a camp for teenagers in the northwestern part of the state. Communications specialist Erin McHenry said state health officials are investigating “a cluster of cases” at the Castaway Club Young Life Camp on Pelican Lake, about 45 miles east of Fargo, North Dakota. The facility typically hosts teenagers from about 10 states, camp manager Greg Johnson said. Johnson said he’s aware of 10 virus cases involving staff members over the past two weeks, with no new infections in the last week. The number of infected guests wasn’t immediately known because cases might have been reported in other states, KVRR-TV reported. Johnson said when the outbreak began, special protocols were put into place that included an indoor mask mandate and in some circumstances an outdoor mask requirement.
Jackson: Gov. Tate Reeves does not plan to issue a mask mandate for schools, even as COVID-19 cases are proliferating in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. “Governor Reeves has no intention of requiring students and staff to wear masks when they’re in school this fall,” his spokeswoman, Bailey Martin, said Tuesday. A few Mississippi school districts have started classes, and others are starting by mid-August. Some parents have raised concerns about the virus spreading among children too young to be vaccinated, and many school districts have said they will not require students or employees to wear masks because the governor has not set a mask mandate.
Kansas City: Garth Brooks fans will have a chance to be vaccinated against the coronavirus when the country music star performs at Arrowhead Stadium on Aug. 7. Chiefs president Mark Donovan said the team plans to take every opportunity to offer vaccinations at Arrowhead, The Kansas City Star reported. Donovan said the organization isn’t sure if it will be able to use Arrowhead Stadium as a vaccination site on Chiefs game days this fall but “we’re trying to work through that as well.” A vaccination clinic was held at Arrowhead Stadium in the spring.
Bozeman: Health officials have issued a safety advisory for a lake just outside Yellowstone National Park after harmful algal blooms toxic to humans and animals were detected. The bloom of algae was in Hebgen Lake, a reservoir in southwestern Montana near the borders of Idaho and Wyoming, officials said. NorthWestern Energy monitors six locations across the reservoir weekly, said company spokesperson Jo Dee Black. Warmer water temperatures and a lower-than-usual water level is causing more algae growth earlier in the season than in a typical year, Black told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Blue-green algae is native to Montana’s freshwater lakes and reservoirs and not all varieties are harmful. But some algal blooms produce toxins that pose a risk to people, pets and livestock when ingested or through prolonged contact, according to NorthWestern Energy and the Gallatin City-County Health Department. Don’t drink, swallow or swim in water that has harmful blooms, officials said. The blooms can look like pea soup, grass clippings or green latex paint and are typically suspended in the water and can appear as floating mats.
Omaha: Police have arrested a man accused of attacking and shooting another man in the neck with a BB gun for wearing a mask. The incident happened Tuesday in the vestibule of a midtown grocery store as one man was leaving and another was entering, the Omaha World-Herald reported. One man was not wearing a mask, police said, and ran up to and spit on the other man, who was wearing a mask. A fight ensued, and police said the unmasked man pulled out a BB-gun replica of a pistol and shot the other man. The injured man told officers that when he demanded to know why he was attacked, the unmasked man responded, “You’re on the other team.” The victim suffered injuries to his face, neck and shoulder and had to pull a pellet out of his shoulder, he said. Officers arrested the accused shooter on suspicion of felony terroristic threats and misdemeanor assault.
Las Vegas: A Nevada print news organization and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing to ensure access to what could be the state’s first execution in 15 years. A federal lawsuit invoking First Amendment rights seeks a court order banning state prisons chief Charles Daniels from preventing witnesses, including reporters, from observing the lethal injection of convicted killer Zane Michael Floyd. State and federal judges have put off Floyd’s execution until at least late October to allow time for appeals to be heard. Aides to Gov. Steve Sisolak and state Attorney General Aaron Ford declined to comment on the lawsuit filed by ACLU attorneys Friday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. Ford’s office represents state officials in several court challenges of the execution plan. The lawsuit said witnesses should have “uninterrupted viewing” of the condemned man from the time he enters the execution chamber until he is declared dead, with an unfettered ability to hear and see the process. It points to an execution manual released in June, allowing the prisons chief to choose the number and names of media representatives. Floyd, who was a Marine, received the death penalty in 2000 for killing four people and wounding a fifth with a shotgun at a Las Vegas supermarket in 1999. He also was convicted of repeatedly raping a woman the night before the rampage. The last person executed in Nevada was Daryl Mack, who asked to die in 2006 following his conviction in a 1988 rape and murder in Reno.
Concord: Gov. Chris Sununu said New Hampshire will not be issuing new mask guidance following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas where COVID-19 transmission is substantial or high. Four of New Hampshire’s 10 counties and the city of Nashua are experiencing moderate transmission, and the rest of the state is seeing minimal transmission, according to figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services. “At this point, it isn’t about the government providing that bubble of safety around individuals,” Sununu told WMUR-TV. Instead, he said it’s about the individual taking on personal responsibility. “It is your choice,” Sununu said. “We have all the power to protect ourselves and the community, and that’s getting the vaccine. It’s safe. It’s easy.” More than 53% of the state has been fully vaccinated. Sununu said he’s frustrated that more residents are not vaccinated, given the extensive effort made by the state to get vaccines out to the public, but he said he understands it is a personal choice.
Trenton: Vaccinated and unvaccinated residents in New Jersey should wear masks indoors when there is an increased risk of spreading the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy said. Murphy said the state’s coronavirus metrics are going in the wrong direction, and new data suggested the delta variant is more transmissible, “which is why we are making this strong recommendation.” Instances where masks are recommended include: crowded indoor settings, those involving close contact with others who aren’t fully vaccinated and those where someone’s vaccine status is unknown. Murphy made the recommendation in a joint statement with Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. Murphy’s recommendation didn’t address schools. Murphy spokesperson Alyana Alfaro Post said Wednesday there was no update yet on masks in schools. New Jersey has among the highest percentages of people vaccinated in the country.
Los Alamos: A bountiful wildflower bloom at Bandelier National Monument is drawing some early risers who want to avoid the midday crowds, and the visitors center is responding to accommodate them. Starting Sunday, the visitor center will open a half-hour earlier at 8:30 a.m. Acting Superintendent Dennis Milligan said that will give staff more time to hand out information on trails and safety. The Southwest has been inundated with rain during the monsoon season, bolstering wildflowers. Mariposa lilies, harebells and shooting stars are abundant along trails like the Cerro Grande and Alamo Boundary at Bandelier. Monument officials said the massive wildflower bloom should last for several more weeks. They said visitors should feel free to photograph the flowers but don’t pick them so others can enjoy the view. Visitation to the monument that features canyons and ancient cliff dwellings dropped drastically during the pandemic. Officials said they’re now seeing a 157% increase in visitation since 2019.
Southampton: A village in the Hamptons will pay its outgoing police chief more than $774,000 for unused sick and vacation time after village officials voted to end his contract. Southampton Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings’ contract contained provisions that allowed for the large payout, Newsday reported Wednesday. The village board voted on July 20 to end his contract on Sept. 10 and approved the payout. The agreement calculated 686 unused days at $1,095 per day, plus almost $23,000 in retroactive per diem pay. The newspaper obtained the information through public records requests. Cummings, 57, has been police chief in the village of the wealthy enclave since 2011, after joining the department in 1987. He had clashed with Mayor Jesse Warren, who won reelection in June, the newspaper reported. Warren criticized the contract that allowed the large payout in a statement Tuesday. Cummings did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper. He and his wife will also get medical and dental benefits without premiums for the rest of their lives, unless his wife were to remarry.
Raleigh: North Carolina’s health department will require workers, volunteers and others at 14 state-run health care facilities to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Sept. 30 unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption, according to a memo. The Associated Press obtained a departmental FAQ about the vaccine mandate that said those who don’t get fully vaccinated or exempted by the deadline could face “disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, for unacceptable personal conduct.” Republican House Speaker Tim Moore first shed light on the development through a news release Tuesday night. Although he is vaccinated and encourages others to get the shots, he said he believes residents should have the ability to make their own decisions without fear of reprisal. The speaker also noted that none of the available COVID-19 vaccines the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use have thus far received full FDA approval. North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services did not comment on Moore’s criticism, but confirmed it will require many within the Division of State Operated Health Facilities to get vaccinated. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office has not responded to questions about whether the governor supports a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state workers.
Watford City: The operator of an oil well pad where a fire has been burning since last week in McKenzie County has brought in a specialized emergency response crew to get a handle on the blaze. The well pad is located on federal land just south of Lake Sakakawea northeast of Watford City. Its operator, Petro-Hunt, is working with Texas-based Wild Well Control. “They can come in and know how to analyze or diagnose the problem and get to it,” said Dave Glatt, director of the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. McKenzie County Emergency Manager Karolin Jappe said authorities have closed roads in the area and are asking people to avoid driving or boating near the fire, the Bismarck Tribune reported. The cause of the fire, which broke out Jan. 22, is unknown. Clouds of black smoke are rising from the blaze, causing state environmental officials to encourage nearby residents to monitor their local air quality at www.airnow.gov. Air quality is already poor in parts of North Dakota because of wildfire smoke from the western U.S. and Canada. Petro-Hunt initially reported to the state that an estimated 100 barrels of oil and 100 barrels of saltwater spilled at the site. The true volume of the spills is not yet known, Glatt said. The fire is contained to the well pad, and it has not resulted in any injuries, according to Petro-Hunt.
Akron:A vandal defaced a large LeBron James-inspired “Space Jam” mural in Akron. A red clown nose was spray painted on James’ face, along with the words “LA FLOP” sometime early Monday morning on the artwork created by Copley artist Chardae Slater on the front of a West Market Street business. The mural is located not far from James’ alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Vincent High School, and the I Promise School he helped found for at-risk Akron children. Akron Police have been alerted to the vandalism and Slater said she’s hopeful businesses near the mural will be willing to share any security camera footage they might have that captured the culprit or culprits. James’ representatives did not return a request for comment Monday about the recent vandalism. Slater said it might take up to two weeks to fix the mural. “It’s fixable,” she said. “It’s just oh my God. I’m trying to keep positive.”
Tulsa: City employees who are unvaccinated for the coronavirus will not receive hazard leave if they contract the illness, Mayor G.T Bynum said. Hazard leave is paid leave that is not counted against sick days or vacation days, city spokesperson Michelle Brooks said. Affected unvaccinated employees could use sick days or vacation if they become ill with the virus. Ascension St. John Hospital in Tulsa announced its employees would be required to become vaccinated by Nov. 12, with exemptions possible for medical or religious regions. “Tens of thousands of Ascension associates have already been vaccinated with the available vaccines, as have millions of people across the country and the world,” Ascension said in a statement. “But we must do more to overcome this pandemic as we provide safe environments for those we serve.” Ascension joins OU Health, Mercy and SSM Health as hospitals in the state requiring employee vaccinations.
Salem:A former Oregon lawmaker who was expelled for letting violent protesters into the state Capitol pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of official misconduct. The Statesman Journal reported that Mike Nearman was sentenced to 18 months probation, during which he will need to complete 80 hours of community service and is banned from the Capitol building and grounds. He will also pay $200 in court fees and $2,700 to the Oregon Legislative Administration for damages done during the Dec. 21 riot. As part of the agreement in Marion County Circuit Court, a count of criminal trespass was dismissed. Last month, Nearman, a Republican from Polk County, became the first member of the Oregon House to be expelled in its 160-year history. The House voted 59-1 to remove him from the Legislature for disorderly behavior. Nearman was seen on security video opening a door to protesters on Dec. 21 as lawmakers met in emergency session to deal with economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Protesters barged into the building, which was closed to the public because of pandemic safety protocols, got into shoving matches with police and sprayed officers with bear spray. Some of the protesters had guns.
Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf said he is not considering a statewide mask mandate as coronavirus cases surge in Pennsylvania and across the country, and his administration said it is not requiring masks in schools. Wolf, speaking on KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh, said his strategy to fight the spread of COVID-19 has been the vaccine, and will continue to be. The masking mandate was for when there was no vaccine, Wolf said. “People have the ability, each individual to make the decision to get a vaccine,” Wolf said. “If they do, that’s the protection.” Wolf’s administration also said it is not considering mandating masks in K-12 schools. However, it said it is recommending that Pennsylvanians and Pennsylvania schools follow federal guidance on mask-wearing.
Providence: Rhode Island’s two largest health care systems are requiring all employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The announcements Tuesday by Lifespan and Care New England – which are moving toward a merger – came as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread and the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention issued new face-covering guidelines. “It is our responsibility to keep our patients, and our staff, safe. This program will be based on the best evidence that we have to date about preventing transmission of COVID-19,” Dr. James Fanale, Care New England’s chief executive, said in a statement. Care New England said it would “move toward” requiring vaccinations by first requiring that all managers receive a first dose before Labor Day. More details will be released within the next seven to 10 days. Lifespan announced that its vaccine mandate will go into effect Sept. 1, and it is the system’s goal to have all employees show proof of immunization within 60 days. Lifespan operates Rhode Island, Hasbro Children’s, Bradley, Newport, and The Miriam hospitals. Care New England operates Butler, Kent, and Women & Infants hospitals.
Columbia: Health officials are looking for people who might have come in contact with a rabid puppy or its missing littermate along the Georgia-South Carolina border. The Department of Health and Environmental Control said the agency recently identified a rabid puppy that was born in Edgefield County, near Lanier Road in the town of Johnston. The small, tan-and-white pit bull puppy was approximately 7 weeks old and weighed about 5 pounds. The dog and a littermate were taken to Augusta, Georgia, between July 14 and July 17. Both puppies were also taken to a gathering in Clearwater, South Carolina, about that time, the agency said. The rabid puppy was also taken to a birthday party in Florence, South Carolina. Health officials have yet to find the littermate or identify its rabies status. The health agency is now searching for people who attended the Clearwater gathering or might have had contact with the littermate puppy. “We are deeply concerned about all persons involved, as rabies is fatal if left untreated after exposure,” said Dr. Gil Potter, Midlands Region Medical Director. People who came in contact with the puppy’s saliva should seek medical attention, as they might have been exposed to rabies, the agency said. Animals can shed the virus for up to two weeks before showing symptoms of rabies.
Sioux Falls:Staff and inmates at South Dakota prisons are no longer required to wear masks following an order from Gov. Kristi Noem lifting the requirement. Among neighboring states, South Dakota is the only one to lift a mask requirement in prisons, the Argus Leader reported. Noem’s move was spurred by a meeting she had with employees at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls. They cheered when she told them they could remove their masks during a meeting Friday. The governor was at the prison to respond to an ongoing human resources investigation into complaints of low employee morale, shorthanded prison staff and insufficient tactical gear for corrections officers. Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury told the Argus Leader the governor would have made the move even sooner if she was aware of the Department of Corrections policy. He said it was “common sense” given the rate of virus cases and would help boost employee morale. The Department of Corrections said 70% of inmates have received at least one vaccination. It does not track the vaccination rate among staff.
Nashville: A group of state Senate Republicans are urging the public to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, a move that comes as case numbers are beginning to again climb throughout the state. “Unfortunately, efforts to get more people vaccinated have been hampered by politicization of COVID-19,” the group of 17 lawmakers wrote in a letter Tuesday. “This should not be political.” Tennessee has faced increased national scrutiny over its low COVID-19 vaccination rates after the Department of Health fired its top vaccination chief and briefly halted outreach for childhood vaccines. Some GOP leaders have since gone on the defensive, with Gov. Bill Lee urging Tennesseans to get a COVID-19 shot after remaining mum on the subject for several weeks. On Tuesday, Senate Republican leadership reiterated that getting the vaccine was a “personal choice” but encouraged people to talk to their doctor about the vaccination.
La Porte: Two people are dead and 30 were hospitalized after a chemical leak at a Houston-area plant, officials said. LyondellBasell said that about 100,000 pounds of a mixture that included acetic acid was released in the leak that started Tuesday night at its La Porte Complex. The company said that the “all clear” was given early Wednesday, and that the leak had been isolated and contained. The company said air monitoring was ongoing and hasn’t shown “actionable levels.” Two contractors were killed and 30 workers were taken to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment, the company said. Of those, it said 24 were treated and released. The names of the contractors who died were not immediately released. The cause was under investigation, the company said, adding it was cooperating with authorities. Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen said that the chemicals involved can severely burn skin and are toxic if inhaled.
Cedar City: Flash floods caused extensive damage in Cedar City and led Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards to declare a state of emergency. Residents of the basement apartments at University West Apartments said they lost everything they own after the flood waters reached several feet high, Fox13 news reported. Cheryl Beeston said her daughter and son-in-law, Cheyenne and Kyle Brunson, were at work when the floods hit, but their home is ruined. “It’s worse than I ever expected. They’ve been married – it’ll be five months tomorrow – and they’ve lost everything,” she said. One volunteer did manage to find her daughter’s wedding ring, though. “We’re so grateful for that,” Beeston said. “We’re grateful for all the help that’s here.” Parts of the Southern Utah University campus, including the stadium were also damaged alongside entire neighborhoods, business complexes and roads. A Walmart parking lot became a waist-high pond and drivers waded out to their cars with help from Walmart employees.
Burlington:More than a dozen blood donation opportunities are scheduled across Vermont in August as the American Red Cross is reporting a severe blood shortage. The need for donations is higher this summer as more people are seeking treatment after deferring care during the coronavirus pandemic, Northern New England Red Cross spokeswoman Mary Brant told the Burlington Free Press. Organ transplants and elective surgeries have increased. Hospital emergency rooms also are handling more trauma cases, Brant said. The Red Cross has been distributing 12% more blood products to hospitals across the country than it was during the same time last year, the newspaper reported. Vermonters are urged to make an appointment now to give blood by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, visiting redcrossblood.org or downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor app on a smartphone.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam introduced two more spending proposals for the state’s $4.3 billion share of federal coronavirus relief money, calling for investments in clean water projects and more than $860 million to replenish the fund that pays unemployment benefits. The Democratic governor has been incrementally rolling out his spending plans ahead of a special legislative session that begins next week, when lawmakers will vote on how to allocate the money from the American Rescue Plan.
Olympia: Gov. Jay Inslee said the state will follow federal guidance and recommend that people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas where there is a worrying rate of COVID-19 – including people who are fully vaccinated. Inslee also said the state will continue to require that all students and employees of K-12 schools wear masks when instruction resumes for the upcoming school year. Inslee’s office said the masking guidance for the general public indoors in places with a substantial or high COVID-19 rate is a recommendation only, but the school masking requirement is state law. Health officials in more than a half-dozen western Washington counties were already recommending mask-wearing in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccine status because of a rise in COVID-19 cases and the highly infectious delta variant.
Clarksburg: The Clarksburg Water Board has made $416,000 available in its budget to address lead found in some customers’ household drinking water. The board won’t make capital purchases this year and postponed buying items including lab equipment and three trucks, The Exponent Telegram reported. “These items are needed. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be in the budget,” Jason Myers, the board’s general manager, said at a meeting on Tuesday. “However, with public health in mind … we’re willing to forgo this.” The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said funds are available to help with the problem but asked the board to outline how much of its own money could be used, according to Myers. On top of available aid from the health department and the Environmental Protection Agency, the board plans to request funding from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council. The region’s planning and development council is also helping to find funding sources. Of the 120 water samples collected for lead testing that were returned as of Tuesday afternoon, only one was above an allowable limit set by the EPA. The lead issue was discovered when drinking water samples were collected from the homes of three children diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels. The toxic metal can be particularly harmful to children. Multiple sources of exposure were identified, so the water couldn’t have been the sole cause of the higher levels.
Madison: The chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party said he is stepping down from the volunteer position he has held since April 2019. Andrew Hitt departure comes just over a year before the 2022 midterm elections, where Republicans are trying to retain the U.S. Senate seat held by Ron Johnson and defeat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Hitt, 43, said he will leave the post upon election of a successor, which will take place by early September. Hitt, from Appleton, is an attorney with the Michael Best and Friedrich law firm and also is a partner in its lobbying arm, Michael Best Strategies. Hitt said he was leaving to focus on his family and private sector career. “It’s bittersweet to step down now with such an exciting election cycle ahead, but I know it is the right thing to do for my family and employer after the sacrifices they made so I could provide steady leadership at a crucial time,” Hitt said in a statement. Hitt was a visible chairman, working closely with party activists, insiders and office holders, raising money and also being the public face for the GOP in the media. During his time as chairman, the state GOP opened its first office in Milwaukee and also suffered a cyberattack where $2.3 million was stolen.
Dayton: Investigators found a man dead after a boy allegedly told authorities in Montana he killed his father. The 15-year-old allegedly confessed to authorities in the Hardin, Montana, area, leading investigators to find the body at a home in Dayton early Wednesday, Sheridan County sheriff’s officials said in a statement. Sheriff’s officials didn’t identify the boy or dead man. Sheriff’s officials and Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents were investigating, according to the statement. There was no threat to the public and people should keep away from the home to allow a thorough investigation, Undersheriff Levi Dominguez said.