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US Mail carrier legacy, pardoning a ‘witch,’ hermit to rebuild: News from around our 50 states

07:55  07 september  2021
07:55  07 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

USPS has shorted some workers’ pay for years, CPI finds

  USPS has shorted some workers’ pay for years, CPI finds Nancy Campos’ back ached as she loaded more than 100 Amazon packages onto her truck. The 59-year-old grandmother, a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, had worked 13 days in a row without a lunch break, and now she was delivering on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to keep up with a never-ending flow of boxes. At the end of her shift that January day, Campos filled out her time sheet. Then she took a picture of it — for proof. “I knewAt the end of her shift that January day, Campos filled out her time sheet. Then she took a picture of it — for proof.

Alabama

Jimmy Helms wearing a suit and tie: Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed speaks at a City Council meeting in Montgomery, Ala., on May 4. © Mickey Welsh / Advertiser Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed speaks at a City Council meeting in Montgomery, Ala., on May 4.

Montgomery: The City Council has rejected 5-4 an anti-discrimination ordinance that would have protected LGBTQ residents and others, even as Mayor Steven Reed threatened to send businesses to Birmingham if the vote failed. Reed said the two-month process leading to the vote showed that he was wrong to tell companies how far the city has come. If the vote failed, he said, he would be forced to tell businesses that value diversity and inclusiveness that “maybe this isn’t the place for that project because I can’t stand behind it. Maybe this isn’t the place for what your employees are looking for because I can’t tell you in good faith that this city ... shares your values and your vision.” He also threatened to give Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s cellphone number to those businesses. Birmingham’s council passed a similar ordinance in 2017. “They’ve learned from their mistakes,” Reed said. Councilwoman Audrey Graham, who voted against the Montgomery ordinance, asked Reed if he’s serious about that threat. He responded: “Those individuals that ask me an honest question, then I’m going to give them an honest answer.” The ordinance would have made it illegal to discriminate against a range of groups in the areas of public accommodation, housing and employment, as well as in all city practices, including contracting.

Mother-of-two gets real about the struggles of parenthood

  Mother-of-two gets real about the struggles of parenthood Parents often sugar coat their experiences but one mother-of-two spoke the truth. Stacey Green, a blogger from Toronto, took to TikTok to reveal what she wished she'd known before parenthoodStacey Green, a Canadian blogger, recently took to TikTok to reveal what she wished she'd known before embarking on parenthood.

Alaska

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Anchorage: A federal judge on Wednesday threw out Trump administration approvals for a large planned oil project on Alaska’s North Slope, saying the federal review was flawed and didn’t include mitigation measures for polar bears. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage vacated permits for ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in a 110-page ruling. The Trump administration approved the project in late 2020, and the Biden administration defended the project in court. Rebecca Boys, a ConocoPhillips spokesperson, said the company would review Gleason’s decision “and evaluate the options available regarding this project.” Spokespersons for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department said their agencies had no comment. The Bureau of Land Management conducted the environmental review of the project that Gleason found flawed. Conservation groups and Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, described as a grassroots organization, had challenged the adequacy of the review process. Karlin Itchoak, Alaska director for The Wilderness Society, in a statement called the ruling “a step toward protecting public lands and the people who would be most negatively impacted by the BLM’s haphazard greenlighting of the Willow project.”

Royal Navy warships leave for landmark five-year Pacific deployment

  Royal Navy warships leave for landmark five-year Pacific deployment Two Royal Navy patrol ships left the United Kingdom on Tuesday for a five-year deployment that will see them act as "the eyes and ears" of Britain from the west coast of Africa, to the west coast of the United States, according to a British Defense Ministry statement. © LPhot Lee Blease/Royal Navy HMS Spey and HMS Tamar depart for their forward deployment to the Indo-Pacific "Two-thirds of the world is our playground," said Lt. Cmdr.

Arizona

Bullhead City: Employees in a northwestern Arizona school district cannot discuss vaccination status or mask-wearing with students under a motion approved unanimously by the local school board. The edict from the Colorado River Union High School District Governing Board carries no repercussions for administrators, staff or teachers who violate it. That would be up to Superintendent Monte Silk, who supported the motion. The debate over masks and vaccines in schools has been heated. At least 26 school districts in Arizona have enacted their own mask mandates, even as Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has tried to prevent them and threatened schools with a loss of funding. Those school districts account for nearly 300,000 students and 450 schools, mostly around Phoenix and Tucson. The Colorado River Union High School District’s gag rule, however, is rare. Board member Ashley Gerich, who calls herself a “non-vaxxer,” requested the item be put on the board’s agenda this week. She said a couple of students, including her daughter, told her conversations about the vaccine made them feel uncomfortable, the Mohave Daily News reports.

McCain's speech saying Blinken will be dangerous to America resurfaces

  McCain's speech saying Blinken will be dangerous to America resurfaces The late Sen. John McCain's 2014 floor speech against the nomination of Antony Blinken to be deputy secretary of State has resurfaced amid the U.S.'s pull-out from Afghanistan.The Arizona Republican came to the Senate floor on December 16, 2014 and told colleagues that he rarely spoke out publicly against a president's nominee, but he considered Blinken 'unqualified' and 'one of the worst selections of a very bad lot.

Arkansas

Little Rock: Three parents are suing over a northwest Arkansas school district’s decision to require face masks after a judge blocked the state’s mask mandate ban. The lawsuit filed Wednesday over the Bentonville School District’s mandate argues the local school board had no authority to impose the requirement. The parents are asking a Benton County judge to temporarily block the district from enforcing the ban while they challenge it. The parents are “forced to choose either to exercise their fundamental liberty interests in refusing to place face coverings on their children against their will or for the children to face expulsion from school,” the lawsuit said. Public health officials have urged schools to require masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus due to the highly contagious delta variant. Arkansas ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. More than 70 public school districts and charter schools have imposed mask mandates since Arkansas’ ban against them was blocked. The requirements cover more than half of the state’s public school students. “Our legal counsel is currently reviewing the matter and we look forward to a vigorous defense of our district,” Leslee Wright, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville School District, said in a statement.

Mike Pence tears into Biden's COVID speech

  Mike Pence tears into Biden's COVID speech Mike Pence on Friday tore into the tone of President Joe Biden's COVID speech, while blaming the current president and vice president for some Americans' vaccine hesitancy.'I have to tell you the president's speech yesterday was unlike anything I've ever heard from an American president,' Pence said on Fox & Friends. 'I mean to have the president of the United States say that he's been patient but his patience is wearing thin. That's not how the American people expect to be spoken to by our elected leader.

California

a view of a city with a mountain in the background: A home with a large pool is visible in the Hollywood Hills area, part of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. © AP A home with a large pool is visible in the Hollywood Hills area, part of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Los Angeles: A major Southern California water agency has declared a water supply alert for the first time in seven years and is asking residents to voluntarily conserve. The Los Angeles Times reports the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California took the step Tuesday, hoping to lessen the need for more severe actions such as reducing water supplies to member agencies. The move came a day after U.S. officials declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River, a key water source for Southern California. “This is a wake-up call for what lies ahead,” said Deven Upadhyay, chief operating officer for the district that supplies water to 19 million Californians, from the Los Angeles area to U.S.-Mexico border. “We cannot overstate the seriousness of this drought,” he said. “Conditions are getting worse, and more importantly, we don’t know how long it will last.” Gov. Gavin Newsom last month asked Californians to scale back water use, and many of the state’s counties, mostly in Central and Northern California, are already under a state of drought emergency. Concern about water supplies spread to the state’s heavily populated southern region following a winter of low precipitation and shrinking reservoirs throughout the West.

Venice Film Festival 2021: Penelope Cruz wows at the closing ceremony

  Venice Film Festival 2021: Penelope Cruz wows at the closing ceremony Penelope Cruz and Maggie Gyllenhaal led the stars on the red carpet at the closing ceremony of the 78th Venice International Film Festival on Saturday. The Vanilla Sky actress, 47, stunned in a shimmering silver off-the shoulder gown as she posed for the cameras on the final day of the annual event.As Donnie Darko star Maggie, 43, looked as glamorous as ever in a plunging white gown as she worked her best angles for the camera.

Colorado

a pond of water: Damage will close the popular Hanging Lake trail indefinitely. © U.S. Forest Service Damage will close the popular Hanging Lake trail indefinitely.

Glenwood Springs: Forest Service officials said Wednesday that Hanging Lake Trail, a popular tourist destination in western Colorado, will be closed for the rest of the summer season and likely beyond because of extensive damage caused by large mudslides in late July. The announcement came after a preliminary assessment earlier in the week that revealed damaged and destroyed bridges, as well as large sections of the trail blocked by debris and mud. “The Hanging Lake Trail is not safe and impassable in some areas and will remain closed for the foreseeable future,” said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “The debris flows we saw in July are probably not the last we will see, so there could be additional damage in the weeks and months ahead.” The trail leads to the emerald-colored Hanging Lake, which is designated as a National Natural Landmark and is about 1,000 feet up a side canyon of Glenwood Canyon. The lake was discolored by mud flows that resulted from a wildfire that torched the area last summer. “The good news is that the water in Hanging Lake is clearing from the debris flow, the boardwalk at the lake wasn’t damaged, and the fish are still swimming,” Fitzwilliams said.

Connecticut

Ashford: Ground was broken Wednesday at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for seriously ill children to replace buildings that burned to the ground in a February fire. The Feb. 12 blaze at the camp founded by the late actor Paul Newman destroyed a section of the eastern Connecticut camp that was made to look like the center of an Old West town. It had housed the camp’s woodworking shop, the arts and crafts area, the camp store, and its educational kitchen. Camp officials said they have received 4,500 donations for the rebuild, including a $1 million match from Travelers and the Travelers Championship golf tournament and a $1 million gift from Newman’s Own Foundation. That will allow the camp to build a new, accessible single-level “creative complex” that will not only replace what was lost but also include new features, such as a quiet sensory area for campers and dedicated space for parents and caregivers. “We want to dedicate this moment to everyone who helped us heal and made us whole again,” said Jimmy Canton, the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp’s chief executive officer. “Your kindness was the bridge that brought us from grief to gratitude, and your friendship is why we are able to celebrate this milestone.”

Justin Bieber cuts a casual figure as he steps out in NYC

  Justin Bieber cuts a casual figure as he steps out in NYC He won two Moon person trophies on Sunday night at the MTV VMAs. And one day later, Justin Bieber was spotted arriving to his New York City hotel with he and wife Hailey Bieber's dog Oscar.And one day later, Justin Bieber was spotted arriving to his New York City hotel with he and wife Hailey Bieber's dog Oscar.

Delaware

Dover: Police are investigating after photos of two officers who appear to be sleeping in their patrol vehicles were posted on social media. Police said in a Facebook post Tuesday that the department was looking into the matter and that such “behavior is unacceptable to our agency, unfair to our citizens, and certainly outside of department policy.” One photo shows an officer leaned back in his driver’s seat with his eyes shut and his mouth partially open. The other shows an officer leaned back in a police SUV driver’s seat facing away from the car window and toward a computer screen. The officers, who have not been named, were scheduled to meet with command staff late Tuesday, police spokesman Sgt. Mark Hoffman said. The department’s code of conduct states that the health, well-being and overall safety of officers is a top priority. Police said in a statement that officers are encouraged not to operate vehicles when fatigued and urged to speak with a supervisor “so proper measures can be taken” if they feel unwell or unusually fatigued. “With that being said, there is no language that allows such activity,” the department said.

District of Columbia

Washington: Canceled because of the pandemic 16 months ago, Honor Flights to Washington resumed Wednesday, WUSA-TV reports. The program brings veterans from around the nation to D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor. The flights and tours are free. At the World War II Memorial, 113 veterans were visiting Wednesday from the Honor Flight hub in Chicago. “Probably the most touching moments are watching watching the veterans reflect as they look at the Wall of Stars,” said David Smith, president of the Honor Flight Network. “There are over 400,000 stars there; it represents those that were lost.” Wednesday’s visit honored three veterans from World War II, 34 who served in the Korean War, and 76 veterans of the Vietnam conflict.

The challenge for future US Navy aircraft carriers is much closer to home than China's missiles, top Democrat says

  The challenge for future US Navy aircraft carriers is much closer to home than China's missiles, top Democrat says Carriers are still the centerpiece of the US fleet, but a stronger China and tighter budgets mean rethinking how they're designed and used.China's missile arsenal has only gotten bigger, but the Navy's flattops may now face another challenge closer to home.

Florida

Orlando: The number of U.S. tourists who came to Sunshine State in the second quarter of this year has returned to pre-pandemic levels, though the international market is still lagging, according to figures released Thursday. Florida received about 30.6 million domestic visitors from April through June, a 6% increase over the same time in 2019 and a 216% jump from the same time last year, during the height of COVID-19 pandemic closures, state tourism marketing firm Visit Florida said in a news release. Overall, the state had 31.4 million visitors in the second quarter of this year, an increase of 220% from the same period a year earlier. Florida’s international market has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels due in part to restrictions on entering the United States. Florida welcomed only 1.1 million visitors from overseas and Canada in the second quarter of this year, compared to 3.5 million visitors in the second quarter of 2019. During the spring of 2020, Florida’s major theme parks and hotels around the state were either shuttered or had limited operations due to the pandemic. As of Thursday, though, Walt Disney World is tweaking its face mask policy, allowing visitors to choose whether to wear face coverings in outdoor lines, outdoor theaters and outdoor attractions. Masks had been required previously.

Georgia

Atlanta: Health care providers at some of the state’s largest hospital systems warned Thursday about the increasing toll of the latest coronavirus surge on younger patients, hospital staffs and health care capacity as they implored people to get vaccinated, wear masks and avoid large gatherings. The guidance came as the state’s hospitals – already struggling with rising patient numbers – brace for even higher COVID-19 case counts that could surpass a winter peak. “The unfortunate thing is we don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘We’re full, and we’re closed,’ ” said Robert Jansen, chief medical officer at Atlanta’s Grady Health System. “We’re not a hotel, so people will continue to come and our staff will continue to cope, and we’ll continue to find places to take care of these patients, but it is going to be difficult, and it’s not going to be easy, and it won’t make people happy.” Jansen said the hospital’s emergency room is facing a “tsunami” of patients infected with the delta variant of the coronavirus, forcing staff to divert ambulances to other hospitals for quicker care. As at other hospitals in the state, the influx is primarily people who are unvaccinated.

Hawaii

Kailua-Kona: Officials on the Big Island are considering closing beaches and canceling the Ironman World Championship in response to a surge of coronavirus cases. “Right now our numbers are skyrocketing. It’s a shame because we as a county have been doing a great job,” Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth told County Council members. “But we let down our guards – I let down my guard.” The administration is revising its emergency rules and will submit the changes to Gov. David Ige for approval, West Hawaii Today reports. That revision could include a return to restrictions at parks and beaches that allow people to cross the sand only to get to the ocean to surf, swim or fish but not to gather or sit. Similar restrictions were enacted across Hawaii during the peak of the pandemic last year. The Ironman World Championship is currently set for Oct. 9 in Kailua-Kona. Roth said a decision would be made soon about whether the event could go on. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t look too positive for Ironman this year,” the mayor said. “The question with Ironman is what do you do with all the people who come to spectate.”

Idaho

Boise: Students across the state lost some academic ground during the coronavirus pandemic, with standardized testing scores dropping in math and language arts compared to 2019. The Idaho Department of Education released the Idaho Standardized Achievement Test scores Tuesday. The test – required under federal rules – is typically administered to students in third through eighth grades and 10th grade each spring. But the 2020 test was canceled after the federal requirement was temporarily lifted as schools closed amid the coronavirus pandemic. For the 2021 round of testing, students showed the biggest decline in math skills, with 39.6% of students testing at “proficient” or “advanced” levels this spring, compared to 44.4% two years ago. English language arts skills had a smaller drop, with just over 54% of students scoring as proficient or advanced compared to 55% in 2019. “The onset of the pandemic in spring 2020 disrupted the ISAT along with all Idaho school operations, so we weren’t surprised that scores did not continue the gradual upward trend of the previous few years of testing,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in a statement. “We expected an impact, and now we can use these results to move forward to rebuild academic performance.”

Illinois

Rockford: Some residents are crying foul over a proposed museum for women’s baseball in a city that had one of the sport’s most successful teams in the 1940s. A zoning board postponed a decision Tuesday on a permit for the project at Beyer Park. The Rockford Park District is willing to sell an acre of the park to the International Women’s Baseball Center. A group called Friends of Beyer Stadium said it supports the concept but has acquired land directly west of Beyer Park.“Shame on you,” said Greg Schwanke, president of Friends of Beyer Stadium. “I spent 14 years out there building this place and turned it into a national attraction for the city of Rockford. We’re not going down. We’re fighting all of the way.” The Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played at Beyer Stadium. The team was featured in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own,” with Tom Hanks, Madonna and Geena Davis. The International Women’s Baseball Center is launching a $10 million fundraising campaign for construction of a museum and activity center. “We’ve had people already calling us from outside the area asking us when the museum is going to open,” said Rosemary Collins, a retired judge involved with the group. “They will travel here to see it. It will have an economic boon for the entire area.”

Indiana

Indianapolis: Facing a pandemic unlike any his predecessors have seen, Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday announced the formation of a public health commission that will spend the next year finding ways to improve the overall health of Hoosiers. While COVID-19 response will figure into the work of the 15-person commission, Holcomb said the panel’s scope would go far beyond this latest crisis. “We’ve got our game plan right now to continue to work through the pandemic,” he said. “That’s not what this commission or this task force is about. This is a long-term look at where we want our state to be decades from now.” Holcomb tapped longtime Republican politician Luke Kenley and former state health commissioner Dr. Judy Monroe to co-chair the body. The group will convene for the first time next month and is expected to issue a report by next summer, in time for 2023 budget discussions, Holcomb said. Over the past year, Holcomb has weathered criticism from all sides for his handling of the pandemic. Some have complained that he has not done enough to halt the spread of the coronavirus, lifting restrictions like the mask mandate too soon. Others have complained that he overreached his authority in taking steps such as that mask mandate.

Iowa

Des Moines: Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state would welcome refugees from Afghanistan who want to resettle in Iowa, saying their situation is much different from the immigrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border whom the Republican governor refused to accept in April. Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst discussed plans to take refugees while attending the Iowa State Fair on Wednesday. “We’re working with the State Department right now; we’re offering our opportunity to settle here in Iowa,” Ernst said. The Republican senator said she is working with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to push the U.S. Department of State to allow as many people as possible to qualify for the Special Immigrant Visa Program, designed to aid people who worked with the U.S. military as interpreters or translators in Iraq or Afghanistan. The U.S. Bureau of Refugee Services has said Iowa could take as many as 2,000 refugees a year, and Reynolds didn’t disagree with that number. “We’ll work with them to determine what that looks like and just make sure we have a process in place and we have families and homes for them to go,” she said. “We want to be a partner, we want them here, and we want them to know that.” In April Reynolds said she rejected a federal request to accept migrant children from the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that “is the president’s problem.”

Kansas

Wichita: Officials in some communities are battling a rise in COVID-19 cases by mandating masks for kids, issuing emergency orders and requiring vaccines. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Kansas has risen over the past two weeks from 605.14 new cases per day Aug. 3 to 797.14 new cases per day Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In the Lawrence area, Douglas County leaders approved a health order Wednesday that will require children ages 2 to 12 to wear masks while in indoor public spaces. The decision followed four hours of public comment that included jeering and interruptions from a largely maskless crowd, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. Douglas County’s health officer, Dr. Thomas Marcellino was momentarily drowned out by laughter and heckling from the crowd when he tried to explain the reasoning for the order. One person called him a liar and disgusting, and some in the crowd started chanting “no more masks.” One public commenter even compared maskless children being excluded from activities to racial segregation. There are various exceptions to the proposed order, including youth with a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.

Kentucky

a group of people standing in front of a building: Kentucky State Police were called into Louisville, Ky., during racial justice demonstrations in the summer of 2020 and squared off against protesters on Fifth Street. © Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal Kentucky State Police were called into Louisville, Ky., during racial justice demonstrations in the summer of 2020 and squared off against protesters on Fifth Street.

Pine Top: During a five-year span that ended last year, Kentucky State Police fatally shot at least 41 people – more than any other law enforcement agency in the commonwealth, according to a published report. Police declined to release the numbers, but the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and the Marshall Project built a database using a combination of publicly available data and state police records, according to an article the entities published in partnership with the Lexington Herald-Leader. The report said Kentucky troopers killed more people in rural communities than any other department in the nation, according to the partnership’s analysis of data compiled by the Washington Post. None of the 41 fatal shootings resulted in troopers being prosecuted. Of those killed, about 75% were armed, and a majority were suffering from addiction or mental health problems, according to the investigation. Kentucky State Police investigate shootings with no outside oversight, a practice some experts and prosecutors say is problematic. “I don’t think it should be done,” said Dave Stengel, the former commonwealth’s attorney in Louisville. He said there is potential for conflicts of interest. “Everybody knows everybody else.”

Louisiana

New Orleans: A civilian Pentagon official ordered the Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday to conduct a full environmental assessment of a $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics complex planned in the state, drawing praise from environmentalists. Jaime Pinkham, the Army’s acting assistant secretary for civil works, ordered the review after a virtual meeting with opponents of a Corps wetlands permit that allowed Formosa Plastics Group member FG LA LLC to build 10 chemical plants and four other major facilities on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Critics praised the decision. “The Army Corps has finally heard our pleas and understands our pain. With God’s help, Formosa Plastics will soon pull out of our community,” said a statement by Sharon Lavigne, who founded the local group Rise St. James to fight the planned complex announced in 2018. Formosa, based in Taiwan, wants to produce polyethylene, polypropylene, polymer and ethylene glycol on 2,400 acres in St. James Parish. Dubbed the Sunshine Project because it’s near the Sunshine Bridge, the project is expected to provide 1,200 permanent jobs and up to 8,000 construction jobs, the state has said.

Maine

Portland: Several music venues plan to require vaccinations for concertgoers. State Theater, Thompson’s Point and Portland House of Music are among those in the city requiring COVID-19 shots or a negative test for the coronavirus. Elsewhere, the Opera House at Boothbay Harbor and Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield are also requiring proof of vaccination. The marquee sign above State Theater says: “Vaccines are a gateway drug to concerts.” “We hope we can keep our doors open, and we need your support and understanding to do so,” the Portland House of Music said. The announcements come amid a surge in the delta variant of the coronavirus, which now accounts for virtually all infections in Maine. Meanwhile, the University of Maine System is requiring all students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear wear face coverings inside its buildings. The new policy applies to all, regardless of vaccination status. “With our classrooms and other indoor spaces no longer set up to impose social distancing, face coverings are an important strategy we can employ to effectively control the transmission of COVID, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status and testing participation,” Chancellor Dannel Malloy wrote. Bates College has adopted a similar requirement at its Lewiston campus.

Maryland

Salisbury: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a lawsuit against Shore Transit after the public transit agency refused to display PETA advertisements on its buses. The animal rights group applied to display two advertisements on Shore Transit buses in May 2020. Both advertisements read: “No One Needs to Kill to Eat. Close the slaughterhouses: Save the workers, their families, and the animals.” Shore Transit denied the application, saying the advertisements violated its advertising policy. The agency prohibits advertisements that are “political, controversial, offensive, objectionable or in poor taste,” according to the suit. However, PETA claims Shore Transit does not have any written guidance for following these terms. PETA alleges that by denying the application, Shore Transit violated the First and 14th Amendments. In July 2021, PETA renewed its application to advertise, and it says it has not received a response. PETA filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing PETA. The suit names Shore Transit, Shore Transit Director Brad Bellacicco and the Tri-County Council for the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland as defendants. Shore Transit offers public transportation in Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties.

Massachusetts

Boston: More than three centuries after a woman was wrongly convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death, she’s finally on the verge of being exonerated, thanks to a curious eighth grade civics class. State Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, has introduced legislation to clear the name of Elizabeth Johnson Jr., who was condemned in 1693 at the height of the Salem Witch Trials but never executed. DiZoglio said she was inspired by sleuthing done by a group of 13- and 14-year-olds at North Andover Middle School. Civics teacher Carrie LaPierre’s students painstakingly researched Johnson and the steps that would need to be taken to make sure she was formally pardoned. “It is important that we work to correct history,” DiZoglio said Wednesday. “We will never be able to change what happened to these victims, but at the very least, we can set the record straight.” If lawmakers approve the measure, Johnson will be the last accused witch to be cleared, according to Witches of Massachusetts Bay, a group devoted to the history and lore of the 17th-century witch hunts. In the 328 years since a frenzy of Puritan injustice that began in 1692, dozens of suspects officially were cleared, including Johnson’s own mother, the daughter of a minister whose conviction eventually was reversed. But for some reason, Johnson’s name wasn’t included in various legislative attempts to set the record straight.

Michigan

Detroit: In need of quick cash and find yourself in a forest? Well, you may have an opportunity on your hands. The state Department of Natural Resources is offering $75 for bushels of pine cones for the month of September. The agency is in need of these for replanting purposes, refilling forests with new conifer trees. But the DNR is requesting a specific kind of cone: the red pine cone, marked by its craggy, reddish bark and 4- to 6-inch needles that grow in pairs. The DNR notes that Scotch and Austrian pine cones will not be accepted. Scotch cones are marked by their flayed and thick bark, while Austrian cones are more orb-like than red cones. Cones should be picked off the tree, as fallen cones are usually too old or wet. And one can tell the age of the cone from the way the scales are arranged. The scales should be closed with a hint of green or purple. All brown and they’re too far gone. The correct kind of bag is being distributed at select DNR locations. The cones will be processed in machines that harvest their seeds, which will be used to replenish the in-high-demand red pine, among other initiatives to refill Michigan forests.

Minnesota

Isabella: A wildfire in the Superior National Forest that crews have been fighting since the weekend has grown to 61/4 square miles, but U.S. Forest Service officials said Thursday morning that it grew little overnight. The Forest Service said lightning caused the fire first spotted Sunday near Greenwood Lake, about 25 miles southwest of Isabella. It grew from 5 square miles to 61/4 by Wednesday evening, after what officials described as a “very active” afternoon of expansion on its western flank. But in an update posted Thursday morning, Forest Service officials said there was no significant change overnight, which is often the case with forest fires. Thursday’s forecast in the area called for continued hot, dry weather, with thunderstorms expected Friday night and Saturday. The fire led authorities to evacuate about 75 homes Monday near McDougal Lake, just north of where the fire started. Many dwellings in the area, which is deep in the forest, are seasonal cabins. Some small portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area to the north and northeast have been closed as a precaution due to the blaze, and two smaller fires spotted over the weekend in the wilderness. No injuries or damage to structures has been reported. Crews are also fighting several smaller wildfires in northeastern Minnesota.

Mississippi

Avery Mitchell is one of eight children currently in the ICU at Children's of Mississippi because of COVID-19. Of the eight patients, five are under the age of 12, thus are too young to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. © Courtesy of Children's of Mississippi Avery Mitchell is one of eight children currently in the ICU at Children's of Mississippi because of COVID-19. Of the eight patients, five are under the age of 12, thus are too young to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Jackson: The state’s only pediatric hospital is treating its largest number of COVID-19 cases so far during the pandemic, the hospital said Thursday. Children’s of Mississippi is part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. “Today, Children’s of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center reported 28 children with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, the highest number of pediatric COVID-19 patients at the state’s only children’s hospital since the beginning of the pandemic,” the hospital said on Facebook. “Of these hospitalized children, 100% are unvaccinated. This number includes eight children in the ICU, including five who are too young to receive the vaccine.” Meanwhile, state health officials say almost 1,000 hospital beds that could be used to treat patients during the latest surge of coronavirus are unstaffed because of a shortage of health care workers. Mississippi is facing a record number of people hospitalized with the virus – 1,633 on Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health – and has the highest per capita rate of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 case tracker.

Missouri

Springfield: Two employees are suing Springfield Public Schools over the district’s mandatory racial equity training, which they contend violates their rights and is an “unconstitutional condition of employment.” The federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Jennifer Lumley, a records secretary for the special services department, and Brooke Henderson, who works on plans for students with disabilities. Henderson is a member of Back on Track America and has frequently accused the district of inserting critical race theory into its training. Critical race theory, which studies America’s history through the lens of racism, is not mentioned in the lawsuit. But the women allege the term “equity” and other phrases used during the training are code for the theory, which they contend conditions “individuals to see each other’s skin color first and foremost.” All employees were required to take the training during the 2020-21 school year or lose pay. As part of the training, they were required to commit to equity and becoming “anti-racist educators,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against the district, its school board and four district officials. Stephen Hall, spokesman for the district, said the district is prepared to defend its equity efforts and is confident the court will find the lawsuit is without merit.

Montana

Bozeman: Montana State University and the University of Montana are telling everyone to wear masks indoors on campus. Montana State University President Waded Cruzado and University of Montana President Seth Bodnar both cited the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus as one reason for their requests and also urged people to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Cruzado said Montana State’s decision would last through Oct. 1 but said in a message to students, staff and faculty that mandates “foment dissension and division.” She also said she understands people find pandemic-related mandates “odious,” and they require enforcement, so she is asking people to voluntarily wear their masks because it is the right thing to do. Bodnar also said UM is urging but not requiring masks, and he said the university will revisit its stance Sept. 20. He noted the uptick in cases in Missoula County had placed it in a “high risk” zone based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he pointed to advice from health officials that says masks can help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Nebraska

Omaha: Officials are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak at a state correctional facility as coronavirus cases surge statewide. After 33 inmates tested positive for the virus at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center in Lincoln, officials paused all visits and volunteer activities there and asked county jails to delay sending new inmates if they can. All adult men who enter the state prison system go through the facility. Officials said all inmates who test positive for the virus are being housed away from other inmates to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The state Department of Correctional Services has also started providing bars of soap, which inmates had to purchase before the pandemic, and masks to inmates who request them. Officials say they have also stepped up efforts to disinfect spaces where people live and congregate in prisons. Department Director Scott Frakes said the increase in cases in the prison system – which lists 36 active cases – follows an increase in the community. “It is not a surprise that we have an uptick in cases now, especially at DEC which serves as the intake facility for all male inmates who are new admits or returning to us from the community,” Frakes said.

Nevada

Las Vegas: The U.S. debut of a long-established international food and beverage industry trade show could make Las Vegas a magnet for foodies and food product retailers, distributors and wholesalers, event producers and tourism officials said. An announcement Tuesday by Emerald Holding Inc. and Comexposium, owner of the SIAL brand of worldwide food shows, was timed as a topper to Emerald’s ongoing International Pizza Expo now at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “This partnership underscores the ever-increasing importance of creating a single event for the food industry,” Jessica Blue, Emerald executive vice president, said in a statement. SIAL, for Salon International de L’Alimentation, has a 50-year history and says it draws some 16,000 exhibitors and 700,000 visitors from 200 countries to 10 shows in France, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates. “We plan to bring a new international food exhibition to life in Las Vegas to enable comprehensive sourcing of new products,” said Nicolas Trentesaux, SIAL Network Global CEO. The announcement hosted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority puts the SIAL America show on the Convention Center schedule for March 2022.

New Hampshire

Concord: A billionaire software company CEO has given a former hermit $180,000 to rebuild his cabin in a new location. Alexander Karp, CEO of Palantir Technologies, gave David Lidstone a personal check last week, Lidstone’s friend, Jodie Gedeon said on Facebook. A spokesperson for the data analytics software company confirmed the donation to the Concord Monitor. “How can I express myself and my gratitude towards something like that? I start to tear up whenever I think about it,” Lidstone told the Monitor. “For an old logger who always had to work, for anyone to give you that type of money, it’s incredibly difficult for me to get my head around.” There has been an outpouring of support for Lidstone since he was jailed July 15 and accused of squatting for nearly 30 years on property owned by a Vermont man. His cabin burned down this month shortly before his release, but he recently secured temporary housing through the winter. The location is being kept secret to protect Lidstone’s privacy, Gedeon said. But supporters will have a chance to meet Lidstone at a “thank you” event in Warner, New Hampshire, on Saturday. Lidstone has said he doesn’t think he can go back to being a hermit. “Maybe the things I’ve been trying to avoid are the things that I really need in life,” he said.

New Jersey

Manasquan: Huge gates that could be slammed shut when major storms approach would be built across the mouths of three inlets in New Jersey, closable barriers would cut parts of two bays in half, and 19,000 homes would be raised as part of a $16 billion plan to address back bay flooding, one of the major sources of storm damage at the Jersey Shore. After five years of study, federal and state officials unveiled recommendations Thursday that would drastically change the appearance of some iconic spots at the shore. It also would be one of the most ambitious and costly efforts any U.S. state has yet taken to address back bay flooding. The term refers to floods that are not primarily caused by waves crashing over ocean barriers but by stealthily rising water levels in bays along inland shorelines. Although ocean waves caused severe damage during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, back bay flooding also caused extensive damage in that storm. In numerous places, it was the primary source of property damage during Sandy. “To better protect New Jersey’s residents, communities, and economy, we must plan and prepare today for the climate change risks of tomorrow,” said Shawn LaTourette, New Jersey’s environmental protection commissioner.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm heard from industry officials Wednesday about what it will take to boost renewable energy development in the state and across the nation as the Biden administration pushes its initiatives to reduce emissions and address climate change. Developers and policy experts said without more transmission infrastructure and a cohesive grid, renewable energy will be stranded in remote spots like rural New Mexico, and opportunities for economic development will be hampered as a result. “This stuff is as important as building highways. It’s as important as building hospitals and schools,” said Fernando Martinez, executive director of the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority. “The only way we’re going to accomplish this … is that we really do need a predictable regulatory landscape.” He and others told Granholm about permitting bottlenecks that have slowed the development of major transmission projects in New Mexico. They said if the Biden administration wants to reach its goals, the U.S. can’t afford to take decades to site and build transmission lines. A major line to connect wind farms in eastern New Mexico to the grid, for example, is almost complete but needs the approval of more than 430 easements from ranchers and other landowners.

New York

New York: A group of restaurants asked a judge this week to block the city’s latest effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, calling the city’s mandate that customers show proof of vaccination “arbitrary, irrational, unscientific and unlawful.” The group argued that the new rules would severely harm their businesses and livelihood. The city’s proof-of-vaccination edict went into effect Tuesday and requires anyone dining indoors at restaurants, going to museums, attending concerts, working out at a gym or entering many indoor public venues show proof that they have been inoculated against COVID-19. The group of restaurateurs that filed the lawsuit in Richmond County, which encompasses Staten Island, said restaurants and other establishments included in the city’s vaccine mandate were unfairly targeted because many other places such as grocery stores, hair salons, churches, schools and office buildings were excluded from the mandate. “This vaccine mandate is arbitrary and capricious due to the fact that it targets certain establishments but not others with no rational whatsoever,” the lawsuit says. Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced the new rules Aug. 3. He said enforcement won’t begin until Sept. 13 to give businesses more time to prepare and people an opportunity to get vaccinated.

North Carolina

Chapel Hill: A college tradition has come under scrutiny after pictures the school posted on social media showed hundreds of students gathered at a campus landmark waiting to get a drink of water in the midst of a COVID-19 surge. Pictures posted to Twitter by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed a line of students approaching the Old Well on Wednesday waiting to get a drink and a picture. According to tradition, students who drink from the fountain at the well on the first day of classes will get good grades for the entire school year. It was first reported by The News & Observer of Raleigh. The tradition was canceled last year because of the pandemic. The resumption brought a thread of negative reactions. “Tradition aside, you couldn’t just find a couple paper cups for this? In the middle of the fourth wave of a global pandemic?” said one response. “It would have been a great idea to put this tradition on hold,” said another response. According to the newspaper, the university issued a statement saying it had consulted with public health experts who agreed it was OK to proceed with the tradition since there is little to no evidence of surface transmission of the coronavirus. Students who chose to participate were encouraged to wear a mask and maintain distance while waiting in line.

North Dakota

Bismarck: There are no current plans to bring any of the people fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan to the state, officials said. The North Dakota Department of Human Services, who oversees the Refugee Resettlement Program, said the process is actually quite extensive. It takes eight different government agencies and six background checks for a person to gain clearance for the Refugee Resettlement Program in North Dakota, officials said. The state’s refugee coordinator said the people being transported to the U.S. are classified as Special Immigrant Visa Holders. Each person will be resettled in an area of the country in which Afghans have already settled, KXNET-TV reports. “There are strong communities that have already been set up for individuals that have a successful history of gaining employment, assimilating within the community, learning English and, you know, really developing successful relationships with a variety of different community members,” Holly Triska-Dally said. The Pentagon said that over the prior 24 hours about 2,000 people, including 325 American citizens, had been flown out of the Kabul international airport on 18 flights by U.S. Air Force C-17 transport planes.

Ohio

Columbus: Whether because of a lack of computer access, lack of awareness or mistrust, about 180,000 children in the state are not benefiting from the government’s enhanced Child Tax Credit program. That’s the conclusion drawn by Alex Coccia, a senior policy analyst at the Center for the Study of Social Policy, a national nonprofit organization. On a conference call with several members of local and national nonprofits this week, Coccia said that through the first two months of the program, 2.151 million Ohio children have received the tax credit’s advance payments, but he estimated that 2.33 million children are eligible. The monthly payments of either $250 or $300 per child began in July and will continue through December, with another six months’ worth of money available upon filing a tax return in 2022. The payments go out automatically to the roughly 90% of eligible Americans who filed a tax return this year, but the concern is that the “non-filers” still may be unaware of the benefit. Those who do not file a tax return, because of very low incomes or several other reasons, must “opt in” through an online portal on the IRS website. And that’s where access issues begin. “We’re worried about non-English speakers, those who lack secure housing, and those with limited internet access,” Coccia said.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: The state’s school districts should have “the autonomy” to enact mask requirements, which are banned by state law, according to the superintendent of schools. “School districts deserve the autonomy to enact policies that protect our schoolchildren and staff from COVID exposure and infection,” Oklahoma Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said in a statement Wednesday. Hofmeister’s comments came after U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in letters to her and Gov. Kevin Stitt that the ban may violate the American Rescue Plan Act that provided $123 billion to the nation’s schools to help them return to the classroom. Cardona sent similar letters to several other states with similar mask bans. Stitt’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. A spokesperson for Stitt told the Tulsa World on Wednesday that the governor had not yet seen the letter. Hofmeister, whose recommendation for a statewide mask mandate in schools was rejected in July 2020 in a 4-3 vote by the state Board of Education, said vaccinations and mask wearing are key to keeping schools open for in-person classes. “I think Ronald Reagan was right when he said those closest to the problem are the ones best suited to address it,” Hofmeister said.

Oregon

a man wearing a suit and tie: Chuck Sams © Contributed photo Chuck Sams

Salem: President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated Oregon resident and tribal citizen Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III to head the National Park Service. If confirmed by the Senate, Sams would be the first Native American to hold the position. He is Cayuse and Walla Walla and a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Sams has worked in state and tribal governments and the nonprofit natural resource and conservation management fields for over 25 years, White House officials said. “The diverse experience that Chuck brings to the National Park Service will be an incredible asset as we work to conserve and protect our national parks to make them more accessible for everyone,” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary, said in a news release. “The outdoors are for everyone, and we have an obligation to protect them for generations to come.” Currently, Sams is a member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a role appointed by Gov. Kate Brown. The Democratic governor said in a statement Wednesday that it was a proud day for Oregon. She described Sams as a “passionate student and teacher of the history and culture of our lands and our people.”

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh: Mister Rogers’ deliveryman’s son, who’s now a real-life mail carrier, briefly appeared this week on an episode of a children’s show based on one of Mister Rogers’ puppets. Alex Newell, 39, is the son of David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Alex Newell had a cameo on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. In Wednesday’s episode, Newell appears as a mail carrier ensuring a little girl’s care package has been delivered to a friend, according to the newspaper. David Newell said Rogers was the first person who came to visit him at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital after each of his three children were born, including Alex. “In a way, Alex grew up in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, in reality and in pretend,” his dad said. “He watched the program as he was growing up, and now he’s making a delivery on (‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’). And that makes me so proud.” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” features 4-year-old Daniel Tiger, son of the original show’s Daniel Striped Tiger.

Rhode Island

Providence: The cost of running the city’s guaranteed-income pilot program will be more than the total of cash payments given to low-income families. The 110 households selected to take part in the pilot will receive $500 monthly, adding up to $6,000 over the course of the one-year experiment. In total, $660,000 will be given away in no-strings-attached cash grants. Meanwhile, expenses associated with administering the program and researching its effectiveness are already expected to top $723,000, according to an estimate provided by Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office. While that means that the total cost of the pilot program will exceed the $1.1 million that Elorza had originally anticipated, none of that is taxpayer money. The pilot program is being fully funded by private donors, including Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey. Joining a growing number of Democratic mayors nationwide, Elorza has championed the idea that a guaranteed income can help lift people out of poverty, pointing to Stockton, California, which found that many recipients used the money for basic needs and that they were more likely to be employed full time after taking part in the program. Providence is now encouraging anyone who makes less than 200% of the federal poverty level to apply before the Saturday deadline.

South Carolina

Myrtle Beach: The Myrtle Beach International Airport has been the busiest airport in the Palmetto State this summer. The airport set a record for passenger traffic with more than 500,000 total passengers in July, WBTW-TV reports. That’s the highest monthly passenger count ever recorded at an airport in South Carolina’s history. Total passenger traffic for July totaled nearly 550,000 – a 49% increase over July 2019, airport officials said.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The head of the South Dakota National Guard says Gov. Kristi Noem didn’t tell him she would use a private donation for the deployment to the U.S. border with Mexico until after the mission was already planned. Noem’s decision to accept a $1 million donation from a Tennessee billionaire last month was met with hefty criticism from those who said it allowed a private donor to commandeer a military force. But Maj. Gen. Jeffery Marlette told a legislative budgeting committee Wednesday that the donation was not a factor in planning the deployment. “Our National Guard is not for hire,” he told lawmakers. “Nowhere in this planning process was there a discussion of, ‘I’ll go send the Guard if I can find somebody to pay for it.’ ” The Republican governor last month described the $1 million donation offer from billionaire Republican donor Willis Johnson as a “surprise” that came as she was deciding whether to send police officers or National Guard troops, as well as how to fund the deployment. The state was responding to a request from Texas and Arizona to send law enforcement officers under an agreement between states to assist during emergencies

Tennessee

Nashville: Hospitals warned Thursday that the intensive care units are full in nearly every hospital in the state’s major metropolitan areas, pleading with Tennesseans to get vaccinated and wear masks while not going so far as to criticize Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of mask mandates in K-12 schools. Meanwhile, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona warned Tennessee in a letter Wednesday that the order might violate federal law. The Tennessee Hospital Association said in its statement that the hospitals in metropolitan areas with full ICUs are the same ones that normally accept transfers from smaller hospitals of the sickest patients. “This means that if you or a loved one need treatment for any type of serious healthcare problem like a severe injury, heart attack, or stroke, you may not be able to access the care you need, when you need it,” the statement says. It cites Tennessee Department of Health data from May and July that found “at least 88% of these COVID hospitalizations and 94% of COVID deaths are among unvaccinated individuals.” And a Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt School of Medicine report released Thursday found hospitalizations have increased more than tenfold in a little more than a month, the fastest rate of increase of the pandemic.

Texas

Austin: The Austin City Limits Music Festival announced plans Thursday to require a negative coronavirus test or proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all patrons attending the event, scheduled to take place Oct. 1-3 and 8-10 in Zilker Park. While the festival will still admit children 10 and younger for free with a ticketed adult, the popular Austin Kiddie Limits section of festival programming has been paused for the 2021 event. Families attending the festival will be required to provide a negative virus test result for unvaccinated children. The festival also has added a “fan health pledge” to the website. It requests that fans skip the festival if they have tested positive or been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus within 14 days of the beginning of the festival or if they experience symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within 48 hours of the festival. It also requests that fans do not attend if they “have travelled to any international territory identified by federal or applicable state or local governments as being subject to travel or quarantine advisories due to COVID-19.” The move comes as Austin grapples with rising coronavirus hospitalizations in the area. Music venues and industry leaders have been trying to figure out how to increase safety measures right as large events return.

Utah

Lehi: A teacher is no longer employed at a high school after a video of her sharing political opinions in class began circulating online, school district officials said Wednesday. The teacher at Lehi High School was initially placed on administrative leave after the video surfaced, but Alpine School District officials confirmed she no longer works there. District spokesman David Stephenson declined to say whether the teacher was fired or resigned. Video that appears to be surreptitiously recorded by a student in the classroom shows the teacher criticizing people who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The video was shared online by conservative activists who have led demonstrations against mask mandates and vaccines throughout the state. “I don’t have to be happy about the fact that there’s kids coming in here with their variants that could possibly get me or my family sick,” the video showed the teacher saying. “That’s rude, and I’m not going to pretend like it’s not.” She can also be heard saying that most students are smarter than their parents and that they don’t need to believe everything their parents believe. The Alpine School District, which declined to identify the teacher, said in a statement that the district disavowed her comments.

Vermont

Colchester: The state’s largest utility is reminding customers that they can apply for grant money to get caught up on past-due utility bills related to the pandemic. A total of $55 million in free grant money is available to help renters, homeowners, businesses and farms pay overdue utility bills tied to the pandemic, Green Mountain Power said in a statement Tuesday. “More than 20,000 GMP customers have fallen at least two months behind on their accounts during the pandemic, yet only about 2,000 have applied for these new assistance programs,” said Steve Costello, a GMP vice president. The Vermont Department of Public Service is taking grant applications through Oct. 25. The money, which does not have to be repaid, can go toward past-due landline phone, electric, natural gas and water service bills, the utility said.

Virginia

Newport News: A school board has voted to ignore state guidelines on protecting transgender students rather than change its policies as the law requires before the school year starts. The Newport News School Board voted 5-1 against the change with one member abstaining at a crowded meeting Tuesday, The Daily Press reports. Newport News is one of the largest districts in the state and among the first in Hampton Roads to refuse to follow the law passed last year. Under the law, school districts must adopt policies consistent with or more comprehensive than the model policies. They include allowing students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and allowing students to use pronouns and a name that reflect their gender identity. Most board members said they wanted more information, citing their discomfort with parts of the guidelines. Before the vote, Chair Douglas Brown said there’s nothing stopping the district from spending more time on the matter before revisiting it. Still, Brown said the law violates the rights of Christian parents like him who believe kids aren’t capable of making choices about their gender.

Washington

Seattle: Authorities say there are more people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state than at any time during the pandemic. Cassie Sauer, president of the Washington State Hospital Association. said as of Thursday morning there were 1,240 people with the coronavirus in state hospitals. The previous highest number was about 1,100 in December. “Hospitals are still really, really full across the state,” Sauer said at a news conference. Hospitals are also seeing more people due to the effects of recent heat waves, smoke from wildfires and injuries due to summer activities. Sauer said until the recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the state had been holding steady at about 300 to 350 people. The numbers began increasing in early July and have been doubling about every two weeks. There has been a slight slowing in COVID-19 admissions recently, but Sauer said it’s too early to say if that’s a trend. To help free up capacity, Sauer said hospitals have been working with the state to move other patients who can be discharged into places like long-term care facilities. “We will have plenty of capacity if we can move patients out,” she said.

West Virginia

Charleston: U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh toured an underground coal mine for the first time, joining U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin at a northern West Virginia facility Wednesday. Walsh did his best to signal that Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration won’t be an enemy of the coal industry as he and Manchin visited American Consolidated Natural Resources’ Golden Ridge Portal Mine near Wheeling. “It was quite the experience, I’ll tell you that,” Walsh said in a telephone interview on his way back to Washington, D.C. He described donning the proper safety equipment, taking an elevator ride down to the mine, and then a mantrip ride by rail to the longwall to watch a machine grind and extract coal from the seam. Walsh’s agency oversees the Mine Safety and Health Administration as well as the administration of benefits for coal miners disabled by black lung disease. “I felt it was really important for me to go down and get a feel for what mine workers do,” Walsh said. “I have a different understanding and appreciation of the work.” Democratic candidates for president have struggled in recent years to connect with voters in West Virginia, in part due to a push toward clean energy under the Obama administration. Still, despite his promises, coal did not come roaring back under Republican President Donald Trump.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells: The Mount Olympus Water and Theme Park is building the nation’s first rotating waterslide as part of a $23 million expansion. The project includes a new 22,500-square-foot building attached to the indoor waterpark. The rotating waterslide, named Medusa’s Slidewheel, is a four-person raft ride that combines the rotation of a Ferris wheel with the propulsion of a waterslide, according to a news release from architecture and engineer firm Ramaker and Associates, which is working on the project. Outside the United States, the only other rotating waterslides are in China and Poland, the news release said. Mount Olympus announced the project on its Facebook page Aug. 6. Construction began in July and is scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day 2022. “It will be the coolest slide that ever hit the waterpark industry,” Mount Olympus CEO and owner Nick Laskaris told WiscNews. “Not just the Dells, but the industry as a whole.” In addition to Medusa’s Slidewheel, the indoor waterpark expansion project will include a large swimming pool area, Laskaris told WiscNews. The existing indoor waterpark will be remodeled to match the new addition, he said.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: Marijuana advocates plan to begin circulating petitions in September for two proposed ballot measures – one asking if the state should legalize medical marijuana, and the other if it should decriminalize pot. The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office this week approved the wording of the proposed questions. The Secretary of State’s Office has now begun the process of seeking bids for printing the petitions. The process ends Aug. 25. The Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws plans to begin gathering signatures on or soon after Sept. 1. “We’ll be hitting events, going door to door. We intend to get it all wrapped up by February,” Wyoming NORML Executive Director Bennett Sondeno said Wednesday. The group has a “big list” of Wyoming events where it plans to gather signatures in the next few months, Sondeno said. February is the deadline to submit enough valid signatures to the Wyoming secretary of state to get the measures before voters in the 2022 general election, Sondeno said. Wyoming is among a minority of states that don’t allow cannabis in some fashion.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mail carrier legacy, pardoning a ‘witch,’ hermit to rebuild: News from around our 50 states

The challenge for future US Navy aircraft carriers is much closer to home than China's missiles, top Democrat says .
Carriers are still the centerpiece of the US fleet, but a stronger China and tighter budgets mean rethinking how they're designed and used.China's missile arsenal has only gotten bigger, but the Navy's flattops may now face another challenge closer to home.

usr: 1
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