Montgomery:The state is considering whether to use $400million in pandemic relief funds to build new prisons, a proposal Gov. Kay Ivey and Republican legislative leaders said would save state taxpayers’ money, but that critics argue is not for what the funds are supposed to be used. Lawmakers on Monday begin a special session focused on a $1.3 billion prison construction plan to build at least three new prisons and renovate others. The projects would be done in phases and funded with a $785 million bond issue, $150 million in general fund dollars and $400 million from the state’s $2.2 billion share of American Rescue Plan funds. Ivey and Republican legislative leaders have defended the use of the virus funds, saying it will enable the state to essentially “pay cash” for part of the construction and avoid using state dollars as well as paying interest on a loan.
Juneau: The state reported more than 1,700 resident COVID-19 cases Friday, which state health officials said included reports from earlier this month as they work to clear a backlog that has built up during the latest case surge. Health officials encouraged looking at cases by their symptom onset date versus the date they were submitted to the state health department. Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, also recommended looking at weekly trends. Zink said the high daily report includes a mix of current and older cases, “but it does not diminish the fact we continue to see tremendous COVID spread in our communities.” Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, told reporters there is no indication yet that Alaska has hit a peak.
Tucson: More than a dozen B-1 bombers decommissioned by the Air Force have been flown to a boneyard in Tucson. The last of the 13 bombers destined for storage or disposal at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson arrived Thursday after being flown from a base in California, an Air Force statement said. The Air Force decommissioned a total of 17 B-1s, with the other four going to various locations for testing and other purposes. With the retirements of 17 of the B-1 bombers, 45 others remain in the Air Force’s active inventory. In addition, four of the B-1s sent to Davis-Monthan will be stored in a manner that would allow them to be put back into use if needed. The Air Force said retiring some of its B-1s will allow it to give more attention to remaining B-1s to increase their readiness while the service transitions to a bomber fleet consisting of only two types of aircraft – rebuilt B-52s and a new model, the B-21.
Little Rock: The number of COVID-19 patients in Arkansas’ hospitals hit its lowest point in two months on Friday as the state reported more than 1,300 new coronavirus cases. The state Department of Health reported COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped by 62 to 894. It’s the lowest number of COVID-19 patients the state has reported since 875 were hospitalized on July 24. The state reported 1,365 new coronavirus cases, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 491,221. Arkansas ranks 23rd in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Sacramento: California will strike the word “alien” from its state laws, getting rid of what Gov. Gavin Newsom called “an offensive term for a human being” that has “fueled a divisive and hurtful narrative.” Newsom on Friday signed a law that removes the word from various sections of the California state code. California passed laws in 2015 and 2016 that removed the word from the state’s labor and education code. But the law Newsom signed on Friday finishes the job by removing the word from all state laws. The word will be replaced with terms such as “noncitizen” or “immigrant.” “By changing this term, we are ensuring California’s laws reflect our state’s values,” Newsom said. The federal government has used the term “alien” to describe people in the U.S. who are not citizens since at least 1798 with the passage of the “Aliens and Sedition Acts.” But Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, a Democrat from Arleta, said the word “has become weaponized and has been used in place of explicitly racial slurs to dehumanize immigrants.”
Denver: Whistleblower allegations that the state health department’s air pollution division interfered with staff efforts to properly enforce federal air quality standards are unsubstantiated, according to an independent report released Friday by the Colorado attorney general’s office. The Colorado Department of Law, which is led by Attorney General Phil Weiser, hired the independent investigator after a complaint was filed with the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of inspector general in March. Three whistleblowers alleged that dozens of air pollution permits were issued unlawfully by the health department’s Air Pollution Control Division to companies, and that at least one whistleblower was asked to falsify data to get pollution estimates under permitted limits. They also alleged that health department division leaders ignored EPA regulations on modeling and permitting short-term pollutants from important Colorado industries – including mines, asphalt plants and oil and gas gathering sites. They said the permits were part of a larger problem of state officials allegedly catering to industry. The Denver Post reported the findings released Friday didn’t substantiate the claims of fraud and suppression.
Durham: A retired Connecticut physician and surgeon’s license was suspended Friday by a state medical board for allegedly providing people she had not treated with blank vaccine, mask-wearing and other exemption forms, so long as they sent her a self-addressed stamped envelope in the mail requesting the paperwork. The state Department of Public Health said it received an anonymous tip in July about Dr. Sue Mcintosh of Durham sending people fraudulent exemption forms. After an investigation, DPH called on the Connecticut Medical Examining Board to hold Friday’s emergency hearing and summarily suspend the doctor, saying she poses a “clear and immediate danger to public health and safety.” The panel voted unanimously in favor of the suspension. A full hearing on the merits of the case is scheduled for Oct. 5.
Dover: A judge has refused to order a hospital to administer the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to a man who is seriously ill with COVID-19. Vice Chancellor Morgan Zurn said in a ruling issued Friday that patients, even if they are gravely ill, do not have a right to a particular medical treatment. She also said a health care provider’s duty to treat is bound by that provider’s standard of care. “While ivermectin has been approved as safe and effective to treat human parasitic infections, and so is distinct from a wholly unapproved new drug, DeMarco still has no right to compel its use to treat COVID-19 outside the standard of care,” Zurn wrote. The ruling came a day after a hearing in a lawsuit filed last week by Mary Ellen DeMarco on behalf of her husband, David, against Christiana Care Health Services. Despite refusing to issue an injunction sought by Mary Ellen DeMarco, Zurn indicated she was prepared to quickly consider an application for an interlocutory appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court.
District of Columbia
Washington:Two women, a pastor and a college student, who live in the D.C. area, will headline CBS’s “Survivor 41” that premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday, WUSA-TV reported. Shantel Smith, 34, who is from Toronto, is a pastor at Emmanuel Brinklow Church,.and Liana Wallace, 20, who is from Evanston, Illinois, is a junior at Georgetown University. The Emmy Award-winning series returns this fall on CBS as 18 new castaways will compete for $1 million and the title of Sole Survivor.
Miami: A ferret has tested positive for the coronavirus in Florida, the first ferret to test positive for the virus in the United States, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release. A ferret in the European nation of Slovenia previously tested positive for the virus. USDA officials said samples from the Florida ferret were tested after the animal showed symptoms that included sneezing and coughing. Officials believed the ferret acquired the virus from an infected human. The small mustelids are commonly kept as pets. Officials didn’t say where in Florida the infected ferret was found. COVID-19 has been reported in several animal species around the world, usually animals that come in close contact with infected humans, officials said. The USDA said the the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is low and doesn’t recommend routine testing for animals.
Savannah: The largest city in coastal Georgia is in talks about a new way to recycle glass that it’s burying in a landfill, even though it still accepts glass in recycling bins. WTOC-TV reported Savannah officials are in talks with Glass WRX SC, a South Carolina company that seeks to recycle glass into air and water filtration systems, road surfaces and prefabricated interior walls. The city stopped recycling glass more than five years ago after running out of users willing to accept the bulky material. It’s a common problem nationwide. Savannah still finds new users for paper, plastic and metals that it collects from all-in-one recycling bins. In 2020, about 25% of what the city collected from recycling bins, including about 1,000 tons of glass, were buried in the city landfill. Some of that was because materials were too contaminated for further use. City officials recently toured Glass WRX SC’s facility in Beaufort, South Carolina. One use is turning glass into rock-like water filters.
Honolulu: Hawaiian Airlines said a passenger assaulted one of its flight attendants in an unprovoked attack during a flight. The airline said the incident occurred shortly after flight HA152 left Honolulu for Hilo at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. The flight attendant was walking down the aisle at the time. The pilot returned the plane to Honolulu. Deputy sheriffs assigned to the airport arrested a 32-year-old male passenger for third-degree assault based on information they received from the airline, said Toni Schwartz, a spokesperson for the state Department of Public Safety. The FBI was investigating the matter, said agency spokesperson Joy Van Der Voort. Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Alex Da Silva said the flight attendant was evaluated for injuries and released from work to rest. The flight took off again for Hilo at 9:09 a.m.
Boise: The U.S. Department of Defense is taking input on its plan to build an advanced mobile nuclear microreactor prototype at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho. The department began a 45-day comment period on Friday with the release of a draft environmental impact study evaluating alternatives for building and operating the microreactor that could produce 1 to 5 megawatts of power. The department’s energy needs are expected to increase, it said. The draft environmental impact statement cited President Joe Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order prioritizing climate change considerations in national security as another reason for pursuing microreactors. The draft document said alternative energy sources such as wind and solar were problematic because they are limited by location, weather and available land area, and would require redundant power supplies.
Rockford:The northern Illinois city that figured prominently in the movie “A League of Their Own” might be getting a museum of its own. The Rockford Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously last week to grant a special-use permit to build a $10 million International Women’s Baseball Museum at Beyer Park on the city’s southeast side, the Rockford Register Star reported. The city and the league gained international fame in 1992 when the movie starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna was released. At the park, Beyer Stadium was the actual home of the real Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s and 1950s. To put the museum on the site, the Rockford Park District, which owns Beyer Park, plans to sell an acre of land at the north end of the park to the International Women’s Baseball Center. The vote came after a group called Friends of Beyer Stadium urged the zoning board to find a different site for the museum – an effort the group said will continue as the issue moves to a Rockford City Council committee on Monday and the full council on Oct. 4.
Muncie:A beverage can company has started work on a factory in eastern Indiana where it expects to produce about 3.6 billion cans a year. A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week for the new aluminum can factory in Muncie that will be operated by Canpack, a subsidiary of the Polish company Giorgi Global. The factory is expected to ultimately employ about 340 people, according to the company. The new factory will help meet the demand for more beverage cans in the U.S., company executive Tom Johnson told The Star Press. Johnson said the company plans to start recruiting employees early next year and have the factory in operation by late 2022. Delaware County approved 15 years of property tax breaks for the new factory, while the state agreed to provide up to $6 million in tax credits and worker training grants.
Waterloo: At least 16 people in eastern Iowa were charged with gun crimes after a two-day sweep by federal authorities this week. Grand juries met Wednesday through Friday in the U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa and issued the indictments, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. Many of those indicted have already been charged in state courts for weapons offenses. Most of the indictments were for felons in possession of a firearm or for having a firearm and using drugs.
Topeka: Gov. Laura Kelly said the state will adopt the recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning Pfizer booster shots as part of the effort to fight COVID-19. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky ruled Thursday that people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 and older who have chronic health problems such as diabetes should be offered a booster once they’re six months past their last Pfizer dose. Kelly, a Democrat, said in a news release that she has authorized all COVID-19 vaccine providers to begin administering Pfizer booster shots to eligible Kansans as of Friday. Kelly said the CDC’s announcement “will provide additional protection to the most vulnerable Kansans and our frontline healthcare workers.”
Frankfort: Gov. Andy Beshear called on the state’s residents Friday to honor a 15-year-old Fayette County student who died from COVID-19 by lighting porches with green lights. In a statement posted to social media, he also urged Kentuckians to “encourage vaccinations among friends and family and to mask up indoors.” Sophomore Christopher “C.J.” Gordon Jr. died from virus, Fayette County Superintendent Demetrus Liggins confirmed Thursday in a news release. Gordon’s mother, Renita Wright Gordon, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Gordon always put other people first and you rarely saw him “not smiling.” Earlier this month, a 15-year-old Shelby County student who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 before the school year began also died from the virus.
Alexandria: Next month, people can order firewood from the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office and in the process help out the community and inmates. Sheriff Mark Wood has started a firewood project that can help recycle the many trees felled by recent hurricanes and winter storms. Priority for the wood will go to elderly and disabled residents of the parish, but anyone can buy up to two ricks beginning Oct. 1. Each rick costs $60, and sales are handled with money orders only. Wood told The Town Talk the object isn’t to make a lot of money through the venture. Some of the proceeds will go toward the upkeep of chainsaws and log splitters, and some will go into the sheriff’s office Inmate Welfare Fund. Money from the fund is “used to purchase basketballs and other sports equipment and work clothes or work boots for those inmates who have an economic need,” according to a news release. Some inmates don’t have family to help them with things like shoes, he said. He said the fund can help provide that so inmates “can continue paying back their debts to society.” Residents interested in buying wood through the program can call (318) 709-8489 to check availability. The sheriff’s office also asks local tree surgeons or cutters to call them if they have hardwood trees needing disposal.
Portland: Maine’s wild blueberry growers had a bounce-back year this summer after struggling with low prices and small crops sizes in recent seasons. The only commercial-scale wild blueberry growers in the U.S. harvest the fruit in Maine, mostly in the rural Down East region. The 2020 crop was less than 48 million pounds, and that was the lowest number since 2004. But the 2021 season, which ended recently, appeared to be much better, said David Yarborough, emeritus professor of horticulture with the University of Maine. He said the crop was likely about 90 million pounds, which would be the most blueberries since 2016. Growers had a better year in part because of a cool, wet July, Yarborough said. Hot summers and droughts have hurt the crop in recent years. It was also a good season for pollinators, Yarborough said. Prices were also up to about 70 cents per pound to farmers, which would be an improvement of 10 cents from last year and more than twice the number from 2017, when prices cratered, he said. Wild blueberries are smaller than cultivated blueberries, and they serve a slightly different niche in the market. Although many cultivated blueberries are sold fresh, the vast majority of the wild blueberry crop is frozen. The berries are also used extensively in processed food products.
Baltimore: City officials said two sewer discharges have released an unknown amount of sewage in residential neighborhoods. The City Department of Public Works issued a notice of the overflows Saturday. One occurred in the Reiserstown area northwest of downtown and affected the stream known as Gwynns Falls. The other happened in the Poplar Hill neighborhood north of downtown and impacted the stream known as Jones Falls. Officials urged people to avoid swimming or other contact with the impacted streams.
Boston: City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu has won the endorsement of her former political rival and current office holder, Acting Mayor Kim Janey. Janey made the endorsement Saturday, the Boston Globe reported. In a statement, Janey said Wu has the record and values to protect and build upon the city’s progress in becoming more “equitable, just and resilient.” “Important policies like our housing agenda, equitable vaccine distribution, and how we handle mental health crises are on the line in this election,” said Janey. “Moreover, Black and brown residents who are most impacted by systemic inequities need a leader in City Hall who will center equity and inclusion in all her policies, and ensure they have a seat at the table when real decisions are made.” Wu was the top vote-getter in Sept. 14′s preliminary election. City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George came in second and also advanced to the Nov. 2 general election, and three major contenders – City Councilor Andrea Campbell, Janey, and John Barros – were eliminated.
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office said she will declare unenforceable a Republican-written budget provision that seeks to ban indoor mask requirements for children. The Democrat had been expected to block the language as unconstitutional since $55 billion in spending was unveiled and quickly passed by Michigan’s Legislature earlier this week. Spokesman Bobby Leddy confirmed this week’s move in a statement, calling the proposed restriction “dangerous.” The provision, which is not tied to spending, would prevent the state health director and local health officers from issuing or enforcing orders that require children under age 18 to wear a face covering. More than a dozen counties, including most of the state’s most populated ones, mandate masking in schools to curb COVID-19. Various K-12 districts in other counties also require face coverings. The governor and GOP legislators did negotiate other language related to coronavirus vaccine exemptions and reporting requirements for epidemic orders.
St. Paul: State regulators launched a court-ordered process for assessing the risks to clean water from waste from the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. The Department of Natural Resources announced plans for a trial-like proceeding known as a contested case hearing, which was ordered by the Minnesota Supreme Court in April. The hearing will be confined to the narrow question of whether the bentonite clay lining planned for the mine’s waste basin would be sufficient to keep pollution contained. A prehearing conference has been set for Nov. 1. An administrative law judge will later schedule the hearing itself, which will be a potentially lengthy proceeding in which all sides can present evidence and call witnesses before the neutral judge, who will report his findings back to the agency. The open pit mine and processing plant near Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes would be Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine. Environmentalists have fought it because of the potential for acid mine drainage.PolyMet said the mine will be safe and that the project has undergone more than a decade of thorough, public environmental reviews.
Jackson: The state will soon start rebuilding a section of highway that collapsed during torrential rainfall brought by Hurricane Ida, the head of the state Department of Transportation said. Two people were killed and nine injured Aug. 30 as seven vehicles plunged into a deep pit that opened up on the dark, rural stretch of Mississippi Highway 26 near Lucedale. One of the injured people died in a hospital on Sept. 11. Department of Transportation Director Brad White told legislative budget writers Friday that the department has completed a geotechnical review and will choose a company early next month to repair the damage for about $1.2 million. He said the highway could reopen in about 45 days. White said the area had received more than double its average annual rainfall before the hurricane, and then Ida dumped more than 12 inches of rain in less than a day. The stretch of highway is on a hillside, and White said the deluge blew out a pipe that ran under the roadbed.
Jefferson City: State lawmakers who want to halt all public funds to Planned Parenthood are recommending the Legislature give Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration authority to cancel abortion providers’ Medicaid contracts based on behavior in other states deemed illegal or unethical. The Senate Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection approved a report with that recommendation on Thursday. Planned Parenthood is Missouri’s only abortion provider. Abortion providers are prohibited from using Medicaid funds for abortion except when the mother’s life is in danger or in the cases of rape or incest. Some lawmakers want to pull all public funds, including those for birth control, sexually transmitted disease treatments, cancer screenings and other health care for low-income women. Democrats warned that the move would trigger a confrontation with the federal government that could threaten the overall Medicaid program.
Helena: A therapeutic boarding school in northwestern Montana, which state inspectors learned had once made boys sleep outside in winter conditions without proper clothing as punishment, closed Friday. Staffers confirmed to the Montana State News Bureau on Tuesday that the 16-bed Wood Creek Academy near Thompson Falls was shutting down. A message had also been posted on the program’s website, which had been pulled down by Friday. Wood Creek Academy, a residential boarding school for boys ages 13 to 18, had been the subject of two complaints filed with the state within the past year and inspections uncovered other infractions. The state health department sent inspectors to the boarding school in January in response to a complaint. The inspection found two boys ran away from the school one morning in January and Wood Creek Academy staff waited for more than an hour before calling law enforcement. As punishment for running away, staff prohibited the boys from having any interaction with their peers for three days. Such punishment is prohibited under state regulations. The inspector reported the boys also were sent to sleep in shorts and T-shirts in tents as nighttime temperatures dipped as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kearney: Authorities in south-central Nebraska said a teenage girl survived after a car she was driving collided with a train. The collision was so violent that her car’s engine was ejected. The crash happened Wednesday at a rural railroad crossing west of Kearney, the Kearney Hub reported. Buffalo County Sheriff’s officials said Sydney Conner, 17, was traveling north on a county road about 7:45 a.m. when her car collided with a westbound Union Pacific train. Sheriff’s Sgt. Ramey Ristine said investigators believe Connor was blinded by the rising sun as she approached the crossing and didn’t see the train. There are no crossing arms at that railroad intersection, but it is marked with stop signs.
Elko: A hospital in rural northeastern Nevada is pleading with residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and to take other precautions to help slow the spread of the coronavirus to “keep our health care system from being overrun.” The Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital in Elko said Friday the virus was “running rampant”” in the region and that the hospital’s intensive care and medical-surgical units were near capacity and that it had postponed elective surgeries and added beds. “As a hospital staff, we are pleading with you to practice the precautions we know are effective in stopping COVID-19,” the hospital said in a statement posted on social media. “Avoid large gatherings, wear a mask when around people from outside your household, observe physical distancing, and practice good hand hygiene. Most importantly, please get vaccinated against COVID-19.” The hospital said wait times were longer than normal but that it was still able to safely provide medical care. “Please help us slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our healthcare system from being overrun,” the hospital said.
Concord: A former high school teacher accused of soliciting sexually explicit videos from a student for money and making and possessing child pornography has pleaded guilty to human trafficking and manufacturing child sex abuse images. Joshua Harwood, 38, of Manchester entered his pleas to the two felony counts on Wednesday, the Concord Monitor reported. Harwood had taught business at the high school, where he was hired in July 2020. Police were notified of the allegations involving a minor in December and Harwood was placed on administrative leave. He was later arrested and has been in jail since February. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 19. On the trafficking charge, attorneys are recommending a sentence of 31/2 to seven years in jail, which may be suspended if Harwood completes a sex offender program. They’re recommending a consecutive sentence of 71/2 to 15 years, a portion of which may be suspended, for the manufacturing charge.
Cherry Hill:The New Jersey craft beer scene took home a few big honors at this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Among the 265 breweries awarded 290 medals from the Brewers Association were Mechanical Brewery of Cherry Hill, which took home the gold in the English mild or bitter category for its Momentum. Departed Soles Brewing Co. of Jersey City and Spellbound Brewing of Mount Holly each took home silver medals. The Jersey City brewery was honored in a gluten-free beer category for None Shall PATH, and the Mount Holly brewery won for its wood- and barrel-aged beer for Porter Aged on Palo Santo. The Great American Beer Festival honored beers in 97 categories spanning 175 styles in the 35th edition of its competition, with judging held across 17 days and 34 sessions, according to a news release.
Albuquerque: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham visited southern New Mexico on Friday to talk with fellow elected Democratic leaders and business groups about economic development and to tour a military base near the U.S.-Mexico border where Afghan refugees are being housed. The Democrat’s visit was not made public until late in the afternoon. Her office said she walked through the processing area at Fort Bliss Army base, spoke with volunteers about the need for winter coats and other items for those at the facility and saw how the refugees were screened for COVID-19. “Whenever the federal government tells us they need our help, New Mexico is ready to help these families on their way,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement after the tour. There was no indication that Lujan Grisham visited the U.S.-Mexico border while in the area. She has faced criticism in recent months for not doing more to address the concerns of residents along the border amid the latest influx of immigrants.
Holbrook: Mourners began arriving at a Long Island funeral home viewing Sunday for Gabby Petito, whose death on a cross-country trip has sparked a manhunt for her boyfriend. A line had formed outside the funeral home in Holbrook, about 35 miles east of New York City, by noon, and groups of firefighters were seen filing past. A fire truck sat on each side of the building, each with its ladder raised. Across the street from the funeral home, a chain link fence was adorned with posters featuring Petito’s image and messages such as, “She touched the world.” Petito was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she didn’t respond to calls and texts for several days while she and Brian Laundrie visited parks in the West. Her body was discovered Sept. 19 in a remote area in northwestern Wyoming. Laundrie and Petito grew up on Long Island but in recent years moved to Florida. Petito’s death has been classified as homicide, meaning she was killed by another person, but medical examiners in Wyoming haven’t disclosed how she died pending further autopsy results. The couple posted online about their trip in a white Ford Transit van converted into a camper. They got into a physical altercation Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah, that led to a police stop for a possible domestic violence case. Ultimately, police there decided to separate the quarreling couple for the night. But no charges were filed, and no serious injuries were reported. Investigators have been searching for Laundrie in Florida, and searched his parents’ home in North Port, about 35 miles south of Sarasota.
Raleigh: Authorities said a bank robber was caught after they determined he had taken his getaway vehicle for a test drive from a car dealer. The Raleigh-based U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that 68-year-old Glenn Alin Martinoff was sentenced to more than four years in prison on Thursday after previously pleading guilty to bank robbery. The news release said Martinoff entered a Wilmington bank in January wearing a mask and gloves and brandishing a large screwdriver. He robbed the location of more than $6,000, authorities said. Investigators using surveillance video determined his getaway car was for sale at a nearby dealership. The news release said that authorities found out he had taken the car for a test drive to use as his getaway car. The news release said investigators found the cash and clothing worn during the robbery during a search of his apartment.
Makoti: The first car jumping attempt in five years by North Dakota’s version of Evil Knievel ended in disaster when the car driven by the man known as the Flying Farmer corkscrewed off the ramp and rolled. Authorities said John Smith, 57, was alert after the crash Saturday at a rural gravel pit and that he even tried to pull himself out of the car while talking to rescuers. He was eventually cut out and taken by a medical helicopter to a hospital, according to firefighters. The extent of his injuries wasn’t known. The crowd of about 300 spectators went silent when Smith crashed. Family members, including his daughters and wife of 34 years, Melinda, reacted emotionally, running to the mangled car, The Bismarck Tribune reported. Smith’s previous jump was in 2016, when he rose over towering flames to clear a burning trailer. Smith, who farms near Makoti, in western North Dakota, said he was inspired by the motorcycle daredevil Knievel while growing up. He has gained notoriety for his jumps at fairs and other attractions across the state. He has performed more than 100 jumps, even jumping on a frozen lake.
Columbus: Gov. Mike DeWine’s top lobbyist, a man linked to an ongoing federal bribery investigation but never charged, resigned Friday after three years on the job. Legislative Director Dan McCarthy cited “the pace and grind” of the job and referred to predecessors who warned him against serving more than two years. “I know I’ve run quite a bit over my two year commitment but I think now is the right time to resign as your Legislative Director,” McCarthy wrote in his letter to DeWine. Federal prosecutors charged five individuals last year, including the then-House speaker, with orchestrating a $60 million bribery scheme to assure the 2019 passage of a bill bailing out two nuclear power plants. Prosecutors said the scheme also involved killing efforts to put a petition on the ballot to overturn the bailout. The power plants were operated at the time by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. McCarthy is a former FirstEnergy lobbyist who was president of one of the dark money groups, Partners for Progress, which has been implicated in the alleged bribery scheme. McCarthy has said his actions were legal and DeWine’s office has said it has no indication McCarthy is a target of the investigation, which continues.
Okmulgee: Muscogee Nation voters have approved press protections for their tribe’s news enterprise. Citizens voted 1,914-596 last week to amend the tribe’s constitution to include press protections and mandate funding for Mvskoke Media, Indian Country Today reported. Although freedom of the press is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, many tribal nations lack such language in their constitutions. The Muscogee amendment allows the tribe’s news enterprise – which includes print, broadcast and digital operations – to operate “free from political interest or undue influence, harassment, censorship, control or restrictions from any department” of the tribe’s government. The effort traces to 2015, when the tribe passed the Free Press Act establishing independent media. Its governing body later repealed the law during an emergency meeting. Last year, tribal leaders unanimously restored the press freedoms by passing the Independent Muscogee (Creek) Press Act, which was viewed as a positive step.
Newberg: A school board has banned educators from displaying Black Lives Matter and gay pride symbols, prompting a torrent of recriminations and threats to boycott the town and its businesses. Newberg, a town of 25,000 residents situated 25 miles southwest of Portland in gorgeous wine country, has become an unlikely focal point of a fight between the left and right across the nation over schooling. The City Council has condemned the action by the Newberg School Board. So did members of color of the Oregon Legislature and House and Senate Democrats. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is threatening to sue. The Oregon State Board of Education called on the school board to reverse course, saying student identities should be welcomed and affirmed. But the four conservative members of the seven-member board are digging in their heels. Member Brian Shannon, who proposed the ban, said lawmakers from Portland should keep out of the school district’s business and instead focus on Portland, where homelessness is an issue.
Philadelphia: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has joined a federal investigation of Pennsylvania’s largest pension fund and is seeking among other things records to determine whether improper “compensation and gifts” might have been offered staff, a newspaper reported. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the commission is also seeking records earlier sought by the U.S. attorney’s office about what officials of the $64 billion Public School Employees’ Retirement System have called a mistake in calculating the fund’s long-term investment performance. The newspaper reported that the subpoena given to the school pension plan Friday was the first indication that investigators are looking into possible presents or money from investment advisers and consultants. State employees are forbidden from accepting such gifts under a ban imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf. The Securities and Exchange Commission pursues civil rather than criminal complaints and has broad power to impose fines, discipline financial players and order changes. Pension fund system spokesperson Steve Esack said Saturday that the fund had no comment on the SEC action, the newspaper said.
Providence: The man authorities sid leads the Rhode Island chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club has turned down a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for five years, and will now take his chances at trial. Joseph Lancia, 30, of Smithfield told a judge Thursday that he would rather go to trial, WPRI-TV reported. He faces multiple criminal counts stemming from two incidents. In one case, he is charged with shooting at a truck in June 2019 being driven by a former Hells Angels prospect with whom he had a dispute. He is charged with felony assault and battery in that case. He is also charged with knocking someone unconscious with a punch outside a Providence strip club in March 2020. Prosecutors initially offered a deal that came with eight years in prison, but after speaking with the judge, the sentence was lowered to five. Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney said if Lancia is found guilty at trial on all counts, he faces 61 years behind bars. Lancia, who is out on bail, refused to comment outside of court.
St. George: State transportation officials want to hear from the public about a project to widen part of Interstate 26 and improve one of the state’s key interchanges. The state is spending $19 million on preliminary engineering work to widen 22 miles of I-26 in Orangeburg, Berkeley and Dorchester counties. The project also will modernize I-26’s interchange with Interstate 95. The tight, curving off ramps often cause backups. The Department of Transportation is accepting comments about the project until Oct. 10 on its website. The project from Exit 165 to Exit 187 on I-26 will also improve interchanges and take other steps to make the highway safer. It is also part of a larger plan to have three lanes in each direction on I-26 from Charleston to Columbia by the end of the decade.
Rapid City: A Missouri-based battery manufacturer has selected Rapid City for a factory complex that it said could employ up to 1,500 people. AEsir Technologies plans to construct four buildings. The first building will be a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center capable of producing 1.2 million batteries annually. The company initially plans to hire 400 employees and expand to 1,200 to 1,500 employees. The first phase will cost about $90 million, with a total price tag of $300 million when all four phases of the development are finished, according to CEO Randy Moore. The company looked for an available labor force, an economic development incentive package and community support when searching for the ideal location for the new facility, Moore said. Twenty other communities were considered for the facility. Moore said easy access to rail, a state highway and Rapid City Regional Airport were also factors in the company’s decision to choose Rapid City. AEsir Technologies manufactures nickel zinc batteries that Moore said are two to three times more powerful than lithium ion batteries and last just as long. He said they use potassium hydroxide as the electrolyte, an active ingredient in soaps and shampoos, which makes the batteries environmentally friendly.
Nashville:Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark has died at the age of 71, the court announced Friday. She had been diagnosed with cancer. According to a news release, Clark died overnight after 16 years in her role, serving the longest tenure of her counterparts on the court while she was on the bench for more than 1,100 Supreme Court cases. Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who will select Clark’s replacement, called her a “trailblazer for women in the legal profession.” Clark was appointed to her seat in 2005 by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and served as chief justice from 2010 to 2012. Chief Justice Roger Page said Clark, better known as Connie, “loved the Tennessee judicial system and has made it better in immeasurable ways.” All but one of the remaining justices – Sharon Lee, whom Bredesen also appointed – were appointees of former Gov. Bill Haslam, signaling a likely shift further rightward for the court with an appointment by Lee. The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments will recommend three candidates to the governor, who will make his pick. The Legislature must confirm the selection.
El Paso:A group of 14 Mexican soldiers was detained Saturday after inadvertently crossing the border at the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said. The soldiers were returned to Mexico after being detained by CBP for about 5 hours. One of the soldiers was issued a civil fine for being in possession of a personal-use amount of marijuana, CBP said. The incident occurred shortly after midnight Saturday when CBP officers saw two Mexican military vehicles cross the international border line on the middle of the bridge, CBP said. The bridge is also known as Puente Internacional Córdova de las Américas and as the Puente Libre, or free bridge, because there is no bridge toll charge. CBP officers approached the military trucks and temporarily detained the soldiers and secured their weapons and equipment. Photos shared on social media showed soldiers sitting on the asphalt and a military pickup stopped near the CBP checkpoints at the foot of the bridge on the El Paso side. The soldiers told CBP that they did not realize they had entered U.S. territory. CBP contacted Mexican military leadership who soon arrived at the international bridge. Shortly before 5 a.m., all the soldiers, equipment and vehicles were returned to Mexico, CBP said. Similar border incidents have occurred over the years, often involving Mexican soldiers or federal police from other parts of Mexico who cross the borderline into the U.S. at the middle of the international bridges in El Paso.
Salt Lake City: The home arena of the NBA’s Utah Jazz announced Friday that it will require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test for all fans over the age of 12. Vivint Smart Home Arena, located in Salt Lake City, will require fans to present proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of the event to enter the venue. Employees who work at the arena are required to be fully vaccinated. “As a community gathering place, we have a responsibility to protect our guests by putting health and safety standards in place,” Jim Olson, president of Vivint Arena and the Utah Jazz, said in a statement. “We believe this is the path forward to shut down this pandemic.” Guests under the age of 12 will be allowed inside the arena if they wear a mask at all times. Other guests are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask, but it is not mandatory.
Williston: Three people were sent to a hospital with nonlife-threatening complaints Friday after being exposed to bear spray at a local hotel, the Williston Fire Department said. Emergency crews were sent to a local inn about 10:30 a.m. Friday after receiving a report that four employees were having difficulty breathing. The investigation determined a can of bear attack deterrent was left in one of the second floor rooms where it was accidentally discharged by housekeeping staff. Bear spray is stronger than police pepper spray. Officials said 30 people in the hotel were evacuated. Three people were taken to a hospital and a fourth was treated at the hotel and released. The firefighters ventilated the building. Occupants and staff of the hotel were able to reoccupy the building shortly after noon.
Charlottesville: The University of Virginia has announced plans for a new performing arts center funded by a $50 million donation. University President Jim Ryan said the gift is being made by Tessa Ader. The news release said the new center for dance, concerts, theater and other performances will be in the area known as the Emmet-Ivy corridor. “My late husband, Richard, and I long felt that a state-of-the-art performing arts center was needed by the University of Virginia,” Ader said in a statement to The Daily Progress. “I believe this new facility will be a wonderful asset to our community and am hopeful my gift will encourage others to come forward as well to make it a reality.” Although designs haven’t been completed, the university said the center will include a concert hall with more than 1,000 seats, a 150-seat recital hall and rehearsal studios. The center will also hold national touring artists. “The performing arts center will be a place that celebrates the arts as fundamental to the human condition, a university education and a democratic society,” Ryan said in the news release.
Seattle: An administrative law judge has recommended that a Native American tribe in Washington state once again be allowed to hunt gray whales – a major step in its decadeslong effort to resume the ancient practice. “This is a testament to what we’ve been saying all these years: that we’re doing everything we can to show we’re moving forward responsibly,” Patrick DePoe, vice chairman of the Makah Tribe on the remote northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, said Friday. “We’re not doing this for commercial reasons. We’re doing it for spiritual and cultural reasons.” DePoe was in high school in the late 1990s when the Makah were last allowed to hunt whales – occasions that drew angry protests from animal rights activists, who sometimes threw smoke bombs at the whalers and sprayed fire extinguishers into their faces. Since then, the tribe’s attempts have been tied up in legal challenges and scientific review. A federal appeals court ruled in 2002 that the Makah needed a waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act; the tribe applied for one in 2005 but still hasn’t received one. On Thursday, nearly two years after he presided over a hearing on NOAA Fisheries’ proposal to approve the waiver, administrative law Judge George Jordan issued his 156-page recommendation to the U.S. Department of Commerce, finding that the tribal hunts would have no effect on the healthy overall population of the whales. The recommendation, along with a public comment period and further environmental analysis, will inform the department’s final decision, though no timeline for that has been set. As proposed, the waiver would allow the tribe to land up to 20 Eastern North Pacific gray whales over 10 years, with hunts timed to minimize the low chances of the hunters accidentally harpooning an endangered Western North Pacific gray whale.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice is urging residents who got the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to get their booster shot, citing the rising number of hospitalizations involving vaccinated people. There were 16,223 active COVID-19 cases reported statewide on Friday, with 1,008 people being treated in a hospital, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. The number of fully vaccinated people who have been hospitalized has increased 20%, Justice said. “That tells us there’s a growing need, more and more and more, for people that are fully vaccinated to get their booster shot,” he said. He said booster shots are available, for the most part, for people age 18 and over who had their second Pfizer shot at least six months ago. Booster shots are not yet available for other vaccines. Justice also pleaded again for the unvaccinated to get the vaccine. He said 3,700 doses have been given since the last update, but that’s not enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia ranks last among the states in doses administered per 100,000 population.
Milwaukee:North America’s oldest polar bear living in human care at the Milwaukee County Zoo has died, zoo officials said Saturday. The Journal Sentinel reported 36-year-old Snow Lilly was euthanized Friday because of her declining health and subsequent quality of life concerns. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the median life expectancy for polar bears in human care is about 23 years. A recent wellness exam found Snow Lilly had heart disease and was undergoing other age-related changes, the release said. Snow Lilly came to the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2005 from the Bronx Zoo. “Snow Lilly was a visitor favorite at the Zoo and considered one of the iconic animals in the population,” said Zoo Director Amos Morris in a statement. “She will be sorely missed by both staff and visitors.” In recent years, the zoo called on Snow Lilly to stand in for a groundhog and usher in spring at a Groundhog’s Day celebration in 2018. She also shared a birthday with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich. A necropsy will be performed, as important information can continue to be collected from it and help other polar bears living in human care. Final necropsy results will be forthcoming in the upcoming months.
Gillette: Kristi Gabriel, 42, who survived a brush with death with COVID-19 but also lost her father and aunt to the disease, is pleading for the public to get vaccinated. “Even though I’ve gone through what I’ve gone through, some of my family still doesn’t agree with the vaccine,” she said. “And it’s shocking. It’s difficult to try to explain things to them. … I know there is a lot of misleading information out there and I know sources are trying to cut down on that, but you can’t eliminate them all. It’s unbelievable some of the fictitious stuff that’s out there and people are buying into.”