US Pandemic memes, giant rubber ducky, tattoo boom: News from around our 50 states

15:00  11 september  2021
15:00  11 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Chiefs' Tyrann Mathieu tests positive for COVID-19, could return for Week 1

  Chiefs' Tyrann Mathieu tests positive for COVID-19, could return for Week 1 Mathieu is fully vaccinated, which means he could return to team activities without completing an isolation period of at least 10 days if he produces two negative virus tests taken 24 hours apart. McDowell added Mathieu was asymptomatic as of Wednesday afternoon. In a corresponding roster move, Kansas City re-signed wide receiver Marcus Kemp. For now, Mathieu is on track to be available for the regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns held at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 12.

a man eating a piece of paper: A meme used by the Baltimore City Health Department. © Baltimore City Health Department A meme used by the Baltimore City Health Department.


Birmingham: A major state employer, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System, said Tuesday that it would require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as communities large and small canceled events and as more schools ordered face masks to confront the worsening surge of the coronavirus. The city of Montgomery announced Monday that band shows and other events connected with back-to-back football games planned next month between historically Black colleges were being called off because of the pandemic. Mule Day, the biggest annual event in the 4,500-person town of Winfield, also was called off for the second year straight because of rising cases of COVID-19 in northwest Alabama. In Cullman, where the Rock the South country music festival held last week drew thousands, health officials were concerned about a rise in COVID-19 cases linked to the gathering. Judy Smith, area administrator of the state health department, said 41% of recent COVID-19 cases were in people between the ages of 21 and 49. “That’s probably the majority of what went to Rock the South,” she told the Decatur Daily. Other large events are pushing ahead. The National Shrimp Festival, which can attract as many as 250,000 people to Gulf Shores, remains scheduled for October, a city spokesperson said.

Disappeared ducky, ramen rewards, Dorothy Parker: News from around our 50 states

  Disappeared ducky, ramen rewards, Dorothy Parker: News from around our 50 states Stone’s inscription may mark distance to Spain from Alabama, park seeks to downplay Confederate giants in Georgia, and moreStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.


Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Juneau: A ship that sank off Kodiak Island more than three decades ago has started to leak diesel fuel, and a state official suspects ground shaking from last month’s massive magnitude 8.2 earthquake might be the reason. The vessel sank in 1989 in Womens Bay, “and it’s been resting there since,” Jade Gamble, the state’s on-scene spill coordinator, told CoastAlaska. The first reports of an oil sheen came in a week after the July 28 earthquake, the largest in the U.S. in the past half-century. It’s not clear how much diesel fuel or other contaminants remain on the Saint Patrick. The 138-foot former scallop boat was hit by a rogue wave in November 1981 near Marmot Island. The crew of 12 abandoned ship; only two survived. The vessel eventually was towed to Womens Bay, where it later sank. “They’ve been able to minimize the leak,” Gamble said. “Our main goal is to ensure we don’t have some type of catastrophic release.” An official at the Alaska Earthquake Center said it’s not clear if the quake is responsible for the ship’s leak, however. The epicenter was about 260 miles southwest of Womens Bay. Despite its size, the quake didn’t cause serious damage or produce a major tsunami.

Red Sox place right-hander Nick Pivetta on COVID-19 IL as outbreak worsens

  Red Sox place right-hander Nick Pivetta on COVID-19 IL as outbreak worsens The Red Sox now have a combination of 12 players and coaches sidelined due to the coronavirus. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts; utility man Enrique Hernandez; second baseman Christian Arroyo; infielder Yairo Munoz; and pitchers Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura and Martin Perez tested positive for COVID-19, while left-hander Josh Taylor and first-base coach Tom Goodwin are in quarantine as close contacts. Quality control coach Ramon Vazquez has also tested positive for the virus.


Phoenix: Conservative groups and Republican lawmakers said Tuesday that they will ask voters to approve an ID requirement for mail-in ballots, potentially creating a significant new voting requirement in a crucial battleground state. The measure is the latest GOP effort to impose new restrictions following Donald Trump’s baseless claims that he lost the 2020 presidential race because of fraud. “There’s a confidence crisis among many people,” said Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard, one of the lawmakers supporting the initiative. “How it came to be is somewhat immaterial to the fact that it exists and, by virtue of it existing, is a threat to democracy.” Nearly 90% of Arizona voters cast ballots they receive in the mail. Voting-rights advocates say imposing new requirements on those citizens is inevitably going to lead some votes to be left uncounted. The proposed initiative is backed by influential and deep-pocketed groups, including the Free Enterprise Club and Heritage Action. Doubts about the integrity of the election are fueled by groups on the right pushing conspiracy theories about what happened in 2020, said Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director for All Voting is Local, a voting-rights group. “Its beyond nonsensical that you create a problem and then you now have to create a solution to the problem you created,” he said.

Majestic sequoia trees can live for thousands of years. Climate change could wipe them out

  Majestic sequoia trees can live for thousands of years. Climate change could wipe them out When fires broke out at a national park last summer, the loss was something even experts didn't think possible. More than 10% of the world's population of mature sequoias went up in flames -- along with a a big chunk of history.Almost everything about a sequoia tree is giant: It can grow to more than 200 feet tall and live longer than 3,000 years. Yet the sequoia's footprint is shrinking, as human-induced climate change threatens this ancient tree's survival.


Little Rock: The state Department of Health on Tuesday reported 41 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 6,539. Arkansas’ COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased by 49 to 1,410, a day after the state reached a new record for people in the hospital due to the coronavirus. The state reported 2,203 new virus cases, bringing its total to 422,866. Arkansas ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The state’s cases and hospitalizations have skyrocketed in recent weeks because of the ultra-contagious delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate. There are only 17 intensive care unit beds available in the state, the department said. There are 542 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state and 328 on ventilators. Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted Tuesday that COVID patients make up about 47% of the state’s adult ICU beds. Nearly 39% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The department reported more than 12,000 doses of vaccine were given Monday.

Matt Damon and Wife Luciana Got the Same Tattoo Designed by Heath Ledger: 'It's Like an Angel'

  Matt Damon and Wife Luciana Got the Same Tattoo Designed by Heath Ledger: 'It's Like an Angel' "Heath was an incredibly restless, creative person," Matt Damon said of the late actor As it turned out, Damon walked away with two tattoos that day after seeing a sketch Ledger had done on Campbell's computer. "That's something that Heath had on his arm," Damon said of an abstract design that also sits on his right arm. "Heath was an incredibly restless, creative person." RELATED VIDEO: Ben Affleck On His Bond with Matt Damon: My 'Sanity and Mental Health Has Really Benefited "He was really sensitive. This stuff just flowed out of him.


Los Angeles: Los Angeles County on Tuesday ordered people to wear masks at all outdoor mass events such as concerts and sports games, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. The county health officer mandated masks at all times for any event with a crowd greater than 10,000 except when people are actively eating and drinking. The order will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday. SoFi Stadium announced it would implement the new mask mandate at L.A. Rams and Chargers games this weekend. Other sports venues were expected to follow suit. The county previously required masks to be worn in most indoor public places, such as restaurants and gyms. The revised order now also covers “mega events” ranging from marathons to car shows and food festivals. Delta, a much more contagious variant of the coronavirus, is fueling a surge of new cases across the country. California is averaging about 10,000 new infections a day. LA County, which has 10 million residents, on Tuesday announced nearly 3,000 new cases of COVID-19, with about 1,700 people hospitalized. There also were 30 new deaths reported. Most of those infections are among the unvaccinated, authorities said.


Denver: Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday rescinded a 19th-century proclamation that called for citizens to kill Native Americans and take their property, in what he hopes can begin to make amends for “sins of the past.” The 1864 order by Colorado’s second territorial governor, John Evans, would eventually lead to the Sand Creek massacre, one of Colorado’s darkest and most fraught historic moments. The brutal assault left more than 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne people – mostly women, children and elderly – dead. Evans’ proclamation was never lawful because it established treaty rights and federal Indian law, Polis said at the signing of his executive order on the Capitol steps. “It also directly contradicted the Colorado Constitution, the United States Constitution and Colorado criminal codes at the time,” the Democratic governor said to whoops from the crowd. Polis stood alongside citizens of the Southern Ute, Ute Mountain, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, many dressed in traditional regalia. Some held signs reading “Recognize Indigenous knowledge, people, land” and “Decolonize to survive.” Evans governed the territory of Colorado during three years of the Civil War, from 1862 to 1865. He resigned after the Sand Creek massacre happened under his order.

'Salad doesn't cure COVID, Connor': Baltimore vaccine campaign goes viral for being 'authentic'

  'Salad doesn't cure COVID, Connor': Baltimore vaccine campaign goes viral for being 'authentic' The Baltimore City Health Department has created funny memes to help spread information about COVID-19 and the vaccines.And in the last few weeks, the city's messages have gone viral with a positive outcome , according to Adam Abadir, director of communications for the Baltimore City Health Department.


Bridgeport: The earthquake that killed hundreds of people in Haiti on Saturday has had an unforeseen emotional effect on a local parish and the Rev. Dukens Boliere. Boliere is the pastor of Shekinah Free Methodist Worship Center in Bridgeport. He also oversees a sister parish with the same name in Corail, Haiti, that was destroyed by the 7.2 magnitude quake over the weekend, the New Haven Register reports. Boliere said one member of the parish was killed, and the church caretaker is in critical condition after his house, located next to the church, collapsed on him. “The church is completely destroyed,” Boliere said. “We will be in the rebuilding mode after we assess the situation.” Corail is in a remote, mountainous area in the country’s southern peninsula, making it difficult to contact the church even in the best of times, according to the newspaper. The Bridgeport parish will hold a meeting Sunday, “gather some money and send some survival kits,” Boliere said. “It’s going to be an endeavor, but we are determined that we are going to help them as much as we can,” he said. “It’s going to be very difficult. We are going to need logistical help from Haiti to get it to them.”


Lewes: A small downtown church is one of the first in the state to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church in defense of LGTBQ rights and same-sex marriage. Historic Groome Church, formerly known as Groome United Methodist Church, announced its disaffiliation this month. Groome’s pastor, the Rev. S. Willard Crossan III, said the United Methodist Church has wrestled with these issues for a half-century and has “repeatedly failed to come to a meaningful resolution.” “The LGBTQ community is an important and vital part of the greater Lewes/Rehoboth community in which we live, its members are part of our daily life,” Crossan said in a news release. “They are our friends, neighbors, family members, the people we worship with, choose to love, to marry, to do business and play sports with. ... How can we reconcile the posture of the denomination with our conscience, the calling of our congregation, our ministry and the commandment of love we believe to be the heart of the Gospel?” he said. “We can’t.” Groome’s exit was finalized in a disaffiliation agreement negotiated over a two-year period with the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, which includes churches in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Jake Paul shoots down Tyron Woodley rematch after ex-UFC champ doesn't get 'I love Jake Paul' tattoo

  Jake Paul shoots down Tyron Woodley rematch after ex-UFC champ doesn't get 'I love Jake Paul' tattoo A Jake Paul-Tyron Woodley appears to no longer be happening, for extremely Jake Paul reasons. The YouTube star-turned-aspiring boxer told ESPN on Monday that he is moving on from a potential rematch against Woodley, whom he beat by split decision last month, after the former UFC welterweight champion allegedly declined to honor his side of their tattoo bet. Paul and Woodley appeared to reach a verbal agreement immediately after their boxing match, with Woodley demanding another shot and Paul agreeing as long as Woodley get an "I love Jake Paul" tattoo. Round 2 anyone? ????????#PaulWoodley pic.twitter.

District of Columbia

Washington: All Metro employees will be required to get COVID-19 vaccines or upload coronavirus test results weekly to the WMATA employee portal starting Sept. 7, WUSA-TV reports. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials said in a statement released Tuesday that if employees choose to remain unvaccinated, they can either fill out a medical or religious accommodation form or take a weekly virus test, the expense and responsibility for which will fall on the employee. New hires with Metro will have to show proof of vaccination before starting to work at Metro, WMATA said.


Miami Beach: An oceanfront park is emerging as the leading site for a memorial to the victims of a deadly condominium building collapse, a judge said Wednesday. The city of Miami Beach recently offered a portion of the 28-acre North Beach Oceanside Park as the potential location to remember the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building, which killed 98 people. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said at a remote hearing Wednesday that it was unrealistic to pursue any plan for a memorial where the 12-story condo once stood, as some family members wish. That nearly 2-acre location in Surfside, he said, must be sold to compensate victims of the tragedy. At least one bidder has offered up to $120 million for the property. “It has to be used for the benefit of all the victims collectively,” Hanzman said. The park, he added, is “a remarkable and extremely valuable piece of real estate. I understand this is a beautiful site that is within walking distance.” Still, some family members of collapse victims say they would prefer a fitting memorial at the exact location. “I believe the memorial should be at Surfside, and not Miami Beach, at the site of the tragedy,” said Pablo Langenfeld, whose daughter and son-in-law died in the collapse. The park is about 100 feet from the collapse site.

California wildfires threaten famous giant sequoia trees

  California wildfires threaten famous giant sequoia trees THREE RIVERS, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters wrapped the base of the world's largest tree in a fire-resistant blanket as they tried to save a famous grove of gigantic old-growth sequoias from wildfires burning Thursday in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada. The colossal General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest, some other sequoias, the Giant Forest Museum and other buildings were wrapped as protection against the possibility of intense flames, fire spokeswoman Rebecca Paterson said.


Atlanta: The State Election Board on Wednesday took a step toward a possible eventual takeover of elections in Georgia’s most populous county under a process outlined in the state’s sweeping new voting law. The board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a bipartisan, three-person review panel to investigate the handling of elections in Fulton County, a Democratic bastion that includes most of the city of Atlanta. The county has long been a target for Republicans. Their attacks increased after former President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that fraud in the county contributed to his narrow loss in the state. An independent monitor appointed by the State Election Board found no evidence of fraud or malfeasance. GOP lawmakers last month asked the state board to appoint the performance review panel, initiating the process that could allow the Republican-controlled state board to replace the county’s board of registration and elections with an administrator it chooses. Fulton County accounts for about 11% of the state’s electorate, and President Joe Biden won nearly 73% of votes cast there in the November election. The county is about 45.5% white, 44.5% Black and 7.6% people of Asian descent, according to U.S. census data.


Honolulu: Intensive care units in the state’s largest private hospital system are functioning at or near capacity this week amid an alarming surge of coronavirus cases on the islands, a hospital official said. Some ICU beds were open at The Queen’s Health Systems hospitals Tuesday, but the units were “completely full” Monday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. The hospitals were looking at canceling elective surgeries and procedures and diverting emergency patients to other hospitals. “Queen’s is accepting patients who need emergency care for treatment such as traumas, heart attacks and strokes,” said Jason Chang, The Queen’s Health systems chief operating officer and The Queen’s Medical Center president. “We remain committed to providing care by constantly evaluating our operations to ensure our doors remain open to those in need of emergency care.” But Chang said Monday that the staff is being stretched thin. “They are tired, and there is a level of frustration when you know the COVID patient you are caring for was not vaccinated, and it was largely preventable,” he said. Chang said there is no indication that the surge in new COVID-19 patients will come to an end soon. “So in two weeks the situation actually may be worse,” he said.


Boise: Hospitals are reporting record numbers of COVID-19 patients on ventilators, public health officials have reactivated a “crisis standards of care” task force, and epidemiologists are warning that based on the current rate of spread, the state could see as many as 30,000 new cases a week by mid-October. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials made the announcements during an online news conference Tuesday afternoon. Public health administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said they were “extremely alarmed” by the surge. “Hospitals are completely stressed and overwhelmed and in many cases seeking assistance,” she said. There are 65 COVID-19 patients on ventilators statewide, just over last winter’s record of 63 patients. Idaho hospitals are struggling to maintain adequate staff levels, as employees get sick or decide to find work elsewhere. Based on the current infection rate of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, hospitals could have to implement crisis standards of care in as soon as two weeks, Shaw-Tulloch said. Crisis standards are intended to help hospitals direct scarce resources to the patients most likely to survive. One northern Idaho hospital is struggling to fill 500 jobs, Shaw-Tulloch said.


Chicago: The city’s southern suburbs will receive a new area code in the coming months to meet the demand for new telephone numbers. The 464 area code will overlay the 708 area code, the Illinois Commerce Commission said Monday. It will be available only when all assignable prefixes in the 708 code have been exhausted, the panel said. That’s not expected to occur until January. The 708 area code serves most of western and southern Cook County and eastern and southern Will County including Alsip, Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Lansing and Oak Lawn. With an overlay, an additional area code is added to the same geographic area as the existing area code, with all current phone customers retaining the original area code. The 464 area code will be assigned to new customers requesting local phone service, cellular and paging services, and alarms, the commission said. Current 708 area customers will keep their numbers. Consumers seeking additional telephone lines will, in most cases, continue to be able to receive 708 telephone numbers, even after the 464 area code is in service, the commission said. Local calls will remain local calls.


Indianapolis: The state will continue paying out an extra $300 in weekly federal unemployment payments despite a Tuesday court ruling that the Republican governor had the authority to cut off the benefit. Those payments will continue because the state must give recipients a 30-day notice that they will stop, which extends past the scheduled Sept. 6 end of the federal pandemic unemployment programs, Indiana Department of Workforce Development spokesman Scott Olson said. Gov. Eric Holcomb decided in May to withdraw Indiana from the programs effective in mid-June, but a Marion County judge ruled that Indiana law requires the state to procure all available federal unemployment benefits for residents. The state resumed making the payments in July after an Indiana Court of Appeals panel turned down the state’s request to immediately block the order. A different appeals court panel, however, overturned that judge’s decision in a 3-0 ruling released Tuesday, finding that the federal pandemic unemployment programs were intended to be temporary and differed from the already existing unemployment benefits system.


Iowa City: The University of Iowa has revised its guidance for faculty on how to handle discussions of masks and COVID-19 vaccines in the classroom this fall, walking back earlier guidelines that restricted when and how those conversations could take place. Original FAQ-style guidance for faculty was posted online Aug. 10 and removed for revision two days later. It said faculty could only make statements in the classroom related to the use of masks or vaccinations “in the context of course material discussions of health-related issues,” and faculty could not ask students or colleagues about their vaccination status. University leadership quickly met with faculty leaders after some raised issue with the guidance. The revised, far looser guidance was published Tuesday and stresses that the university strongly encourages masks and vaccinations, although neither are required. The new guidance for faculty includes a pre-written statement they can choose to include on syllabi, reinforcing that the university encourages the use of masks and vaccines. Faculty also have the option of including a personal statement outlining why they are choosing to wear a mask indoors on syllabi.


Topeka: A mountain lion remembered as the best painter among all the Topeka Zoo’s animals has been euthanized. The aging male cat, Dakota, used his paws to paint, said the zoo’s animal curator, Shanna Simpson. “He loved painting and was intentional about it,” she recalled Wednesday. “He would look at the canvas and place his paw where he thought it should go. It was adorable.” Dakota also loved his keepers, eating fish and playing with balls, Simpson said. Dakota was euthanized Monday after being found to have a perforation in his gastrointestinal tract, said Jared Bednar, the zoo’s director of administration and creative. “At nearly 14 years old, Dakota lived a full life, as male mountain lions typically live to approximately 13.6 years,” Bednar said Tuesday. Dakota had lived at the Topeka Zoo since the opening in 2009 of its Kansas Carnivores exhibit, which features mountain lions and river otters in displays designed to recreate the Kansas prairie. Dakota shared his habitat with a female mountain lion, Cassy, who survives. Both had been orphaned in the wild and lived at the Denver Zoo before being transferred to Topeka, Bednar said. He said that after 10 days of declining appetite and health, Dakota stopped eating and on Monday received a computed tomography scan, which revealed air within his abdomen.


Louisville: The Kentucky Association of Health Plans will give away a free unlimited ride wristband and a $20 gift card, while supplies last, to attendees 12 and older who receive free COVID-19 vaccines at the West Wing Health Pavilion during the Kentucky State Fair. A choice of vaccines will be offered at the State Fair, which opens Thursday and runs through Aug. 29 at the Kentucky Exposition Center. In addition to the giveaway, the “Shots Across the Bluegrass Tour” campaign will offer Medicaid members an incentive offered by their health plan. The state’s vaccine dashboard shows 2,419,442 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine. That is 54% of the state’s population and 66% of its adult population. Children 12 to 15 years old were the most recent group to become eligible to receive a vaccine. Kentucky is requiring facial coverings in state government buildings. That means that in compliance with the policy, masks will be mandated indoors at the fair but are not required outdoors. There will be 89 hand sanitizer stations added throughout the fairgrounds for this summer’s event.


Angola: For the second year in a row, the annual rodeo of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state corrections department announced the decision Wednesday. The rodeo and an accompanying arts and crafts fair had been slated for each weekend in October. The department news release said the rodeo has grown in popularity since it first started in 1965. The arena for the rodeo now can hold as many as 10,000 people. The department said it was canceling the rodeo for the health and safety of prisoners and staff as a fourth surge of COVID-19 grips the state. The release said the penitentiary staff will contact those who had already bought tickets to issue refunds.


Belfast: The sudden appearance of a giant rubber duck in a harbor is a whimsical whodunit that’s defied sleuths so far. The yellow waterfowl emblazoned with the word “joy” appeared in Belfast Harbor over the weekend, and it’s a mystery who put it there. Harbor Master Katherine Given told the Bangor Daily News that the 25-foot-tall duck doesn’t pose a navigational hazard, so there’s no rush to shoo it away. “Everybody loves it,” Given said. “I have no idea who owns it, but it kind of fits Belfast. A lot of people want to keep it here.” Judy Herman, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, stopped to snap photos Tuesday. “It’s wonderful,” she told New England Cable News. “Who would expect to see a duck in the middle of the water here?”


Baltimore: The city wanted to meet people where they were to provide COVID-19 vaccination information, so officials turned to social media and used memes to debunk myths. And in the past few weeks, the city’s messages have gone viral with a positive outcome, said Adam Abadir, director of communications for the Baltimore City Health Department. “We can be authentic, we can be funny, and we can reach people who we wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise,” he said. At the beginning of the pandemic, the health department used more standard communications to get information out about COVID-19, vaccines and harm-reduction principles. After social media users reached out with questions on how to communicate safety principles with friends and family, members of the health agency were scratching their heads – until a viral moment set off the light bulb. In January, Mayor Brandon Scott garnered media attention when he told a man, “Shorty, pull your mask up, man.” Video of the incident set social media ablaze. “I remember walking around the city and hearing people say, ‘Shorty, pull your mask up,’ ” Abadir said. And when an online detractor said a keto diet full of kale salads was keeping them coronavirus-free, the department turned it into a meme, too: “Salad doesn’t cure COVID, Connor.”


Boston: Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday filed a nearly $1.6 billion supplemental budget, most of which would be used to provide unemployment insurance relief for employers, which he said is critical to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation relies on a roughly $5 billion budget surplus based on better-than-expected tax revenues. “Thanks to careful management of the commonwealth’s tax revenues and strong economic activity, Massachusetts has an unprecedented surplus at the close of fiscal year 2021, and this legislation ensures those resources are put to work to support local economies and small businesses,” the Republican governor said in a statement. Driven by pandemic-related claims, the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, funded by a payroll tax on employers, is expected to be $4 billion in the red by the end of next year, according to state figures. The governor’s proposal to provide $1 billion to the fund would relieve employers’ future obligations. Business groups have been lobbying for the help. The supplemental budget bill would also finally implement the income tax charitable deduction first approved by voters nearly 20 years ago, helping charities and nonprofits who supported vulnerable populations through the pandemic.


a piece of broccoli: The eggs of balsam woolly adelgid will produce the bug that can cause extreme damage to trees. © Scott Tunnock, United States of United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service The eggs of balsam woolly adelgid will produce the bug that can cause extreme damage to trees.

Rockland: An invasive bug that could threaten the Christmas tree industry has been discovered in the western part of the state. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said Monday that it had confirmed the presence of the balsam woolly adelgid near Rockford in Kent County. A homeowner noticed several Fraser firs declining and contacted an arborist, who spotted the infestation and alerted the state, the agency said. It’s unclear how the bug reached Michigan or how long it’s been in the state. “Human movement is one of the most common ways non-native species spread. When traveling, remember to leave firewood at home and buy it locally at your destination,” said Rob Miller, an invasive species prevention and specialist for MDARD. The Balsam woolly adelgid has been on Michigan’s invasive species watchlist for years. The sap-sucking insect damages trees, weakening or killing them over the course of many years. The balsam woolly adelgid favors true fir trees, including balsam, Fraser and concolor (white) fir. “This invasive insect is a threat to the nearly 1.9 billion balsam fir trees in Michigan’s forests,” Miller said in a news release. “As the third largest Christmas tree-growing state in the country, Michigan produces nearly 13.5 million fir trees each year.”


Minneapolis: Pollution control and natural resources officials on Wednesday released a $700 million plan to improve the drinking water for 14 Twin Cities communities whose groundwater was contaminated due to decades­long chemical disposal by 3M Co. The long-term plan, which is expected to help 174,000 residents, aims to build or improve six water treatment plants and treat 33 municipal wells while connecting nearly 300 homes to municipal water systems and providing home filtration systems to residents with private wells to remove a persistent family of chemicals known as PFAS. “This plan protects drinking water now and into the future,” said Kirk Koudelka, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “The result is a plan that is comprehensive, safe and sustainable, resilient, and flexible to address the growing communities’ needs and an ever-changing PFAS world.” Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances – chemicals developed by Maplewood-based 3M designed to make products resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease and water – made their way into the groundwater in the Twin Cities’ eastern metropolitan area following decades of dumping into the area’s landfills by the company.


Jackson: Amid the worst pandemic in a century, the state is leading the nation in increased diabetes deaths per capita, according to a just-released Diabetes Care study. “It’s a perfect storm,” said Tim Moore, president and CEO of the Mississippi Hospital Association. “We already have an unhealthy population in Mississippi because of poverty and lower access to health care, and now we have a population that’s getting very sick.” Mississippi has seen more than 7,880 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday. According to the state Department of Health, diabetes was an underlying condition in 1,347 of those deaths. Researchers found that between Jan. 1 and Nov. 3 of 2020, Mississippi – which has a 14.8% adult diabetes rate that trails only West Virginia – saw diabetes deaths rise 1.43 times higher than the historical level. That is the nation’s highest. This revelation comes as Mississippi faces its fiercest battle in the COVID-19 pandemic, with the coronavirus’ delta variant causing hospitals to be flooded with people in critical condition, including “young people, expectant mothers and newborns,” Moore said. The state’s largest hospital, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, has within just a week been forced to set up two field hospitals, one of them in a parking garage.


St. Louis: Leaders of the state’s two urban areas have a message for refugees from Afghanistan: You are welcome here. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page released a joint statement Tuesday saying they are “ready, willing, and prepared” to welcome at least 1,000 Afghanistan citizens through the Special Immigrant Visa program. “This plan is consistent with our collective goal to build a more welcoming and inclusive St. Louis region, no matter where they come from or any identity they hold,” the statement said. On Monday, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas wrote on Twitter that his city “would proudly accept refugees from Afghanistan who have served bravely by our side over the past generation.” Jones, Page and Lucas are all Democrats. Pentagon officials said Tuesday that the U.S. military is coordinating with the Taliban while accelerating the airlift of Americans and Afghan allies from the Kabul airport. The Taliban swept to power after 20 years of war against the U.S.-supported Kabul government.


Great Falls: The Little Shell Tribal Health Department has announced that the tribe will postpone its 10th annual powwow amid the spike in COVID-19 cases. Chairman Gerald Gray said the health department, powwow committee and tribal council were involved in the decision to postpone. “We felt it was best not to take a chance with the new variant and our elders and youth,” he said in an email. “Being an indoor powwow, we felt that it could possibly turn into a super-spreader event. We believe this is the best decision to protect our communities, our families and ourselves.” The event, which was set for Aug. 27-29, would have been the tribe’s first powwow celebration since gaining federal recognition in 2019.


Lincoln: Labor shortages that have plagued businesses across the country have also put the squeeze on state parks, leading officials to make the unprecedented move to cut hours and services at parks across the state. Nebraska’s state parks were already short-staffed this summer, operating with only an estimated 70% of their normal workforce, state parks administrator Jim Swenson told the Lincoln Journal Star. Now, with many seasonal workers headed back to school, parks are more short-staffed than ever. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission recently released a list of hour and service reductions at many of its properties, including scaling back hours at the Family Aquatic Center and John Wayne Stables at Mahoney State Park at Ashland. Trail rides and swimming pools at Ponca and Niobrara state parks are now operating on weekends only. Opening hours for visitor centers and offices have also been cut at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area and Nature Center, Ash Hollow State Historical Park, Fort Kearny and Lake McConaughy, among others.


Carlin: A monument memorializing the mining town’s first Chinese pioneers will be unveiled next month. Three years ago, the remains of 13 Chinese men were buried in the Carlin Cemetery after they were discovered in 1996 during an excavation behind a house. The dedication ceremony for the new Carlin 13 monument is planned Sept. 6 at the cemetery, followed by a visit to the Carlin Chinese Garden and museum tours, the Elko Daily Free Press reports. A local viewing also is planned of the short film “Going Home” documenting the immigrants’ journey. The bodies were exhumed and studied by archaeologists from the Nevada State Museum, U.S. Forest Service, Elko County Chapter of the Nevada Archaeological Association and anthropologists from the Smithsonian Institution. The remains were eventually moved to UNLV in Las Vegas. Research on the men was published in the 2005 book “Chinese American Death Rituals: Respecting the Ancestors.” Lijuchin “Lee” Chin, owner of Chin’s Cafe, led a campaign to bring back “the oldest citizens of Carlin” and presided over a traditional Chinese ceremony at the 2018 reburial. A year later, the Carlin 13 were recognized with a cemetery plaque in conjunction with the 150th Golden Spike Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad.

New Hampshire

Concord: The New Hampshire Department of Justice wants nearly $1 million to continue investigating and prosecuting those accused of physically and sexually abusing children at the state’s youth detention center. The current two-year budget includes $350,000 for the cost of prosecuting crimes and defending the state against civil lawsuits, but the department estimates it will need an additional $2.7 million through June 30, 2022. Of that total, more than $950,000 would go to the Criminal Justice Bureau, mostly for the investigation into abuse allegations at the Sununu Youth Services Center, previously known as the Youth Development Center, in Manchester. “Over the last 26 months, this has evolved into a complex and multi-faceted investigation,” Attorney General John Formella wrote in a recent letter to Gov. Chris Sununu, the Executive Council and lawmakers. “This case involves a very large volume of documents, involving decades of records.” Ten men were charged in April with either sexually assaulting or acting as accomplices to the assault of more than a dozen teenagers from 1994 to 2007, while an 11th man faces charges related to a pretrial facility in Concord. More than 300 men and women have come forward with allegations involving 150 staffers from 1963 to 2018.

New Jersey

Atlantic City: Gamblers continue to return to the city’s casinos this summer, even as a contagious new variant of the coronavirus continues to spread, yet it was internet gambling that set a new monthly record in July. Figures released Monday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show the nine casinos collectively won $118.6 million online in July, the best month ever for a state that was an early adopter of internet betting. The previous record was $113.7 million in March of this year. July’s figure was an increase of almost 36% from July 2020, when casinos had just begun to reopen after a 31/2-month virus-related shutdown. “This could show that patrons have not lost their appetite for internet gaming products even as they return to the in-person gaming experience, or that more people overall are participating in different gaming options,” said Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Stockton University, which studies the gambling industry. When in-person casino gambling and sports betting revenue is included, the casinos and three horse tracks that offer sports betting won over $450 million in July, an increase of more than 70% from a year ago.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: New Mexico has retained its title as the nation’s most heavily Hispanic state, with 47.7% of respondents to the 2020 census identifying ancestry linked to Latin America and other Spanish-speaking areas. California and Texas were neck and neck as runners up, with about 39% of residents claiming Latino or Hispanic heritage. Nearly 31% of Arizona residents describe themselves as Hispanic. In New Mexico, Latino pride runs deep within a region of the U.S. where Spanish conquerors arrived in the late 1500s and Mexico governed for decades during the 19th century. The state is currently led by its third consecutive Hispanic governor. The share of New Mexico residents who identify themselves as Indigenous by race or by combined ancestry was 12.4%. Alaska was the most predominantly Native American state, followed by Oklahoma and then New Mexico. An earlier set of data released in April showed New Mexico’s population grew by 2.8% over the past decade, making it one of the slowest-growing states in the U.S. West, adding about 58,000 residents to a population of just over 2.1 million.

New York

New York: A wood stork typically seen in tropical and subtropical regions migrated to New York City but died 10 days after it was first spotted on Staten Island, apparently after eating a large piece of hardened foam, researchers said. The juvenile wood stork was first seen by bird researcher Anthony Ciancimino on July 31 in a saltwater marsh near an Amazon warehouse, the Staten Island Advance reports. Lawrence Pugliares, a nature photographer and administrator of a Staten Island wildlife Facebook group, received a call Aug. 9 from a group member who said the stork appeared to be choking, the newspaper reports. The bird died soon after Pugliares arrived to check on it. Jose Ramirez-Garofalo and Shannon Curley, two adjunct biology professors at the College of Staten Island, brought the stork to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, where a necropsy revealed a piece of insular foam more than 3 feet long in the bird’s stomach. “It was in the gut of the animal, so it presumably ate it thinking it was a prey item like an eel or a snake,” Curley told the Advance. Wood storks typically breed in Florida, Georgia and coastal South Carolina. The species was put on the federal endangered species list in 1984 but downgraded to threatened in 2014.

North Carolina

Raleigh: Lawmakers on Tuesday finalized legislation to raise the minimum age to get married in the state from 14 to 16, a decision that would end the state’s status as an outlier compared to surrounding states. The Senate voted unanimously to accept House changes to the measure, which now goes to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for his expected signature. Children who are 16 or 17 would still be required to receive parental permission or a judge’s approval to get married, and the age difference between the youth and their spouse now could be no more than four years. Current law has no minimum age gap between the spouses, and children as young as 14 can get married if they become pregnant and if a judge allows it. Parental permission has otherwise been required beginning at 16. House and Senate legislators joined women’s rights advocates and child protection groups this year to raise the marriage age. They had tried to raise it to 18 with no exceptions, but some lawmakers remained comfortable keeping certain marriages involving a child or two youths as an option. Still, marriage reform advocates and Cooper were pleased with the agreed-to higher threshold.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Active cases of COVID-19 soared above 1,000 for the first time since spring, state health officials reported Tuesday. The state’s coronavirus dashboard showed 267 new coronavirus cases. The Bismarck Tribune reports it’s the highest daily total since 303 cases on Jan. 8. Active cases statewide rose to 1,101, up 112 from Monday and more than double the total just two weeks ago. Cases are spiking nationwide due primarily to the highly contagious and fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus. Health officials also confirmed three more virus-related deaths Tuesday, raising North Dakota’s pandemic death toll to 1,548. Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, North Dakota has had 113,673 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 111,024 recoveries and 4,487 hospitalizations. Forty-four COVID-19 patients remained in hospitals Tuesday, down three from Monday.


Columbus: Gov. Mike DeWine strongly urged Tuesday that schoolchildren continue wearing masks in school at least for the beginning of the academic year to avert more drastic coronavirus measures, such as quarantines or a return to online learning. DeWine said the state doesn’t have experience with children in classes without masks, and kids can’t afford another year without in-person schooling. “The best way to make sure a child can stay in school and not have his or her classes interrupted is for that child to be vaccinated,” DeWine said during a news conference. “If that child cannot be vaccinated, the best way to ensure a good school year for that child is for that child to wear a mask while in class. ... Or having everybody in class wear a mask, that’s how we slow this down. That’s how we keep kids in the classroom.” The Republican governor noted that the 3,235 coronavirus cases reported Tuesday, along with 1,571 hospitalizations, were the most since February. School mask mandates vary widely across Ohio. But Columbus, the largest district with about 50,000 students, is requiring them, as are Cincinnati and Cleveland schools, at least for the beginning of the year.


Oklahoma City: The state’s Indian gaming industry paid $167 million in exclusivity fees to the state last fiscal year, a record amount that signals the industry’s rebound. The coronavirus pandemic prompted all of Oklahoma’s tribally operated casinos to shutter within days of each other in March 2020. Most remained closed for two months or longer. The shutdown cut off a key revenue source for tribal governments, as well as the state. One year later, business is back, according to executives gathered Tuesday for the annual Indian gaming conference in Oklahoma City. State revenues from gaming increased more than 35% between the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years, which end in June, according to figures provided by Matthew Morgan, who chairs the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. The growth reflects pent-up demand and limited options to get out elsewhere, said Jessica Feil, vice president of the American Gaming Association. Operators now are grappling with how to maintain the success and continue to expand. Morgan credited a unified pandemic response among tribal leaders as the reason most casinos were able to reopen by the end of June 2020. The group put together safety recommendations, such as requiring face masks, that can be adjusted in response to the spread of COVID-19.


Seaside: Scores of live sand dollars began washing ashore on the Oregon coast Sunday, mystifying locals. The Seaside Aquarium posted photos of the sand dollars to Facebook, reporting that thousands washed up with the afternoon high tides on the south end of Seaside Beach, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports. “At this time, we do not know what has caused this, and these types of incidents usually have several contributing factors,” the aquarium wrote on Facebook. The post received hundreds of comments, many from concerned people who urged locals to rush out and throw the creatures back into the water. However, sand dollars can only live a few minutes out of the ocean, the aquarium said. Sand dollars are a species of sea urchin covered in tube feet and spines that they use to move and eat. In rough waters they lie flat partially buried in the sand, but in calmer waters they stand upright like wheels. The creatures feed on algae and other small bits of organic material.


Philadelphia: A judge has ruled that a statue of Christopher Columbus can remain in south Philadelphia, reversing the city’s decision to remove it after the explorer became a focus of protesters amid nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice. Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick said last year’s decision to remove the now-boarded-up statue from Marconi Plaza was unsupported by law and based on insufficient evidence. “It is baffling to this court as to how the city of Philadelphia wants to remove the statue without any legal basis. The city’s entire argument and case is devoid of any legal foundation,” Patrick wrote. The ruling Tuesday overturns a decision in September by a city licensing board that upheld a July 2020 decision by the city historical commission to remove the 144-year-old statue. The judge wrote that the city failed to provide an adequate opportunity for public input about its future. A city representative expressed disappointment and said officials were exploring all options “including a possible appeal.” Attorney George Bochetto, who represents the Friends of Marconi Plaza, said the plaintiffs were “ecstatic.” He said he would immediately seek an order to remove a wooden box constructed by city crews around the statue after clashes between protesters and residents.

Rhode Island

Providence: The state’s education council has voted to reject any district’s back-to-school plans that don’t include mask mandates, essentially requiring face coverings for all K-12 students this fall, despite being told by a state Education Department lawyer that it did not have the authority to do so. After the Rhode Island Council on Elementary and Secondary Education made its unanimous decision during a meeting Tuesday night, Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green said she will follow the directive, WPRI-TV reports. “They’re my bosses; yes, I have to follow the council’s direction,” she said. “Basically, what was said tonight is we will take our chances with any lawsuits that may happen.” The decision comes as the delta variant is being blamed for another wave of coronavirus cases across the state. Department of Education lawyer Anthony Cottone told the council before the vote that it does not have the authority to mandate masks in school districts statewide. Only the Legislature by statute or the governor through executive order can do so, he said. Democratic Gov. Dan McKee has recommended masks for schoolchildren but has resisted issuing a mask mandate, saying the issue should be left up to school districts, many of which have already issued mask requirements.

South Carolina

Greenville: Anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon in the state no longer has to keep their weapon hidden under clothing. Gov. Henry McMaster held a ceremonial signing last week for a new state law allowing people to carry pistols in the open. The law still requires a permit obtained in a training class to carry a pistol in public, but it eliminates the need to keep a holster hidden under a pant leg or jacket. The legislation passed this spring also eliminates a $50 permit fee to get a concealed weapons permit and lowers the number of bullets that someone must fire at a target in an accuracy test to get a permit from 50 to 25 shots. Requirements remain that a permit holder be 21 or over, take eight hours of training and pass a background check that includes fingerprinting. “This is a good day for South Carolina. It is a happy day for law-abiding citizens,” McMaster said Friday at the Palmetto State Armory in Greenville, joined by Second Amendment advocates. The South Carolina House this year passed a bill allowing anyone who can legally own a gun to carry one openly. That proposal is now in the Senate. The law was opposed by State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel as well as police chiefs and sheriffs in some of the state’s largest population centers.

South Dakota

a man sitting in a chair: Tattoo artists Andrew Thomas, left, and Mike Adaver work on tattoos for their respective clients Friday, Aug. 13, at Siouxperior Ink in Sioux Falls, S.D. © Erin Bormett / Argus Leader Tattoo artists Andrew Thomas, left, and Mike Adaver work on tattoos for their respective clients Friday, Aug. 13, at Siouxperior Ink in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Sioux Falls: Tattoo shops are booming, with waits up to six months long for an appointment, as the economic reopening has customers looking to get the ink they’ve delayed. On the most recent Friday the 13th – traditionally a busy day for tattoo studios, as they draw walk-in clients seeking a quick “flash” tattoo preset design that’s on sale – Siouxperior Ink was busy filling walk-ins and completing hours­long work for clients who had booked appointments months ahead of time. It was a stark contrast to the lack of traffic the shop had in its scheduling book last year. During the slow pandemic months, owner and tattoo artist Andrew Thomas created extra Halloween masks, and artist Mike Adaver painted metal striping on cars for side income. “A lot of people, they would cancel appointments because it’s like, ‘Now I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m laid off from work,’ ” Thomas said. “It’s like, ‘Hey we understand. It was rough on everybody.’ ” Now the shop is booked, a sentiment echoed across Sioux Falls as many tattoo studios have seen a rush of people booking appointments into the end of the year. Some studios have even closed their books to new clients.


Nashville: State officials say five counties will no longer require emissions testing of vehicles early next year under new federal approval, though the capital city area won’t be among them. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said the Environmental Protection Agency has approved a revision to the state’s air quality plan that allows for Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties to eliminate their testing. The requirement will end Jan. 14, 2022. Nashville-Davidson County is forging ahead under a state law that offers an option for local agencies with their own air pollution control program to continue vehicle emission testing. The Republican-supermajority General Assembly passed legislation in 2018 to seek federal approval to eliminate vehicle emissions testing.


Austin: As COVID-19 cases rise, businesses could be at risk of being punished by the state if they try to require customers to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. In its recent regular session, the Legislature passed a measure that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of immunization. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which regulates alcohol sales, posted on its website this week that it may require compliance with the law as a condition of holding a liquor license or other authorization. The agency said it has not taken action against any businesses to date but has requested to meet with business operators where “potential noncompliance could be taking place.” The agency’s statement came after Austin restaurants Launderette and Fresa’s, which share the same ownership group, announced earlier in the week that they would require anyone dining indoors at their restaurants to provide proof of at least a first round of vaccinations against COVID-19. The restaurants’ social media posts said indoor diners would have to wear masks when not seated at a table, though outdoor diners would not need proof of vaccination, nor would they have to wear masks.


a group of people standing in front of a large crowd of people: The Utah Symphony performs the National Anthem at Ruby's Bryce Canyon Rim during the 2014 Mighty Five Tour. © Estabrook Photography/Utah Symphony The Utah Symphony performs the National Anthem at Ruby's Bryce Canyon Rim during the 2014 Mighty Five Tour.

St. George: After a tumultuous year of limited in-person performances, the Utah Symphony has reemerged with the “Forever Mighty” Tour, visiting many of the state’s national parks and landscapes and ending Saturday in Hurricane with hundreds of attendees despite the threat of harsh rains. The symphony previously held the “Mighty 5 Tour” in 2014 and the “Great American Road Trip Tour” in 2017, both with performances in similar settings. This year’s tour aimed to promote responsible recreation amid record visitation and celebrating togetherness after more than a year of limited live entertainment, organizers said. “We have exceptional performers and musicians in Utah, and it’s important for everyone to have the opportunity to experience them live and in-person,” Jill Remington Love, executive director of the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement, said in a May press release. With heavy cloud cover as nearby St. George was hit with monsoon rains Saturday night, hundreds gathered on lawn chairs, blankets or reserved white chairs in the grassy area 25 miles from Zion National Park. Before Hurricane, the tour traveled 500 miles through rural communities, stopping in Cache Valley on Tuesday, Helper on Wednesday, Bryce Canyon National Park on Thursday and Kanab’s Angels Landing on Friday.


Montpelier: Environmental groups allege in a lawsuit that a state agency has failed to protect endangered bats when spraying pesticides to deter mosquitoes. The Vermont Natural Resources Council and Center for Biological Diversity accused the Agency of Natural Resources of endangering five bat species while spraying for bugs – a claim one official said has no legal or scientific merit. “If our scientists had credible scientific evidence that the mosquito control district insecticide use was having an impact on the bat population, we would certainly take action,” said Louis Porter, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, little brown bat, eastern small-footed bat and tricolored bat are protected by Vermont’s Protection of Endangered Species Act. Mason Overstreet, an attorney at Vermont Law School’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic, said in a statement that “poorly regulated pesticide spraying is putting the state’s threatened and endangered bats at risk.” The environmental groups said the spraying is done at night when bats are hunting for insects. The bats are exposed to the toxins when they inhale or eat insects that have been sprayed. Porter said the state has “done as much or more as any state in the country to protect and restore threatened and endangered bats.”


Manassas: The U.S. Treasury Department is releasing a shipment of tiles that were intended for a northern Virginia mosque but were confiscated at Dulles International Airport after they were determined to have violated sanctions on Iran. Word of the release came through the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which released a letter dated Aug. 16 from the Treasury Department to attorneys representing the Manassas Mosque. “We welcome this decision as a reaffirmation of our nation’s respect for religious freedom and diversity. Americans of all religious backgrounds should have access to the symbols of their faith, whatever the origin of those symbols,” CAIR’s national deputy director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, said in a news release. The 750 pounds of tiles were a gift from a mosque in the Iranian city of Qom to the Virginia mosque and include verses from the Quran. Imam Abolfazl Nahidian said the custom-made tiles were shipped in June and were to be used in construction of a new mosque a few miles away. Nahidian said he paid no money for them, but a Customs and Border Protection officer at the airport blocked the mosque from claiming the tiles, citing the sanctions. A letter from Customs and Border Protection had initially informed the mosque that the tiles must be shipped back or destroyed.


Ford: Strong winds on Monday led to fire growth in central and eastern Washington that prompted new mandatory evacuations and burned homes, fire officials said. A fire northwest of Spokane that started Sunday near the town of Ford caused residents to scramble to leave their homes Monday, The Spokesman-Review reports. Authorities called for Ford residents and those in nearby communities to immediately evacuate as the Ford Corkscrew Fire threatened hundreds of buildings. Hannah Roach, 18, was with her six other family members as well as pets, including geckos, lizards, dogs and birds packed into their pickup truck, as they stopped for groceries in Loon Lake. Behind her, smoke plumes and glowing orange flames crept over the hillside near where her family lived. “We didn’t actually hear about the fire. We saw it first,” Roach said. “We decided to get ahead of it.” The fire has damaged or destroyed 20 buildings – including eight homes – and has burned through more than 20 square miles, officials said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Ford Corkscrew fire, officials said. The blaze’s cause is under investigation.

West Virginia

Charleston: West Virginia University said Tuesday that it is requiring masks to be worn in classrooms and labs for the next 30 days, citing several factors, including that not enough students and employees have submitted proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The university announced the change effective Wednesday, the first day of classes on the Morgantown campus, regardless of a person’s vaccination status. While WVU does not require its students and employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the university had set a vaccine verification goal of 80% by Sept. 1. Students, faculty and staff on all campuses are required to provide either vaccine verification or a negative coronavirus test result by Friday. But the rates are well short of that goal. So far just 68.4% of students and 67.5% of faculty and staff on the Morgantown campus have submitted their verification paperwork, with the rates being much lower on the Beckley and Keyser campuses, the school said. In addition, many had not completed a required COVID-19 education module by a Tuesday deadline. WVU also cited the anticipated recommendation of booster shots for long-lasting protection against the virus.


Madison: Hundreds or even thousands of Afghan refugees could be headed to Fort McCoy for processing, according to Pentagon officials. Afghans are scrambling to find ways to escape after the Taliban overran their country over the past week, initiating the blitz with U.S. troops weeks away from the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline. Garry Reid, director of the Department of Defense’s Afghanistan Crisis Action Group, told reporters Monday that the U.S. Army is working to set up reception centers for Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas. He said the Army is preparing to receive as many as 22,000 refugees at the two bases as well as at Fort Lee in Virginia. Fort McCoy spokeswoman Tonya Townsell said Monday that the base, located between Tomah and Sparta, has been notified it will receive refugees and is prepared to house them in soldiers’ barracks as well as provide them with food and medical care. Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement saying the state stands ready to assist Afghans seeking refuge. The last time Fort McCoy served as a refugee center was in 1980, when the base housed 14,000 Cubans who fled from Fidel Castro’s government.


a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Tourists await the eruption of Grand Geyser in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Tourists await the eruption of Grand Geyser in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Yellowstone National Park: The park won’t implement a timed-entry system at least in the next year, but it’s possible eventually, the park’s superintendent said. Yellowstone is among the busiest national parks during the summer. Other busy parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, have implemented timed entry, which requires visitors to reserve a time when they may enter. The goal is to reduce auto traffic, which at Yellowstone’s busier entrances can stretch up to a mile during summer, the Cody Enterprise reports. Timed entry in Yellowstone would most likely be limited to the South entrance north of Grand Teton National Park and West entrance near West Yellowstone, Montana, Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said Friday. The gate west of Cody and the Montana gates outside Gardiner and Cooke City are less busy. A decision on timed entry would be made far in advance, after consultation with the public and likely coordination with Grand Teton, Sholly said. “I don’t think it needs to be implemented next year or the immediate future,” Sholly said. Yellowstone has been setting tourism records this year after being shut down at the start of the 2020 summer season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pandemic memes, giant rubber ducky, tattoo boom: News from around our 50 states

California wildfires threaten famous giant sequoia trees .
THREE RIVERS, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters wrapped the base of the world's largest tree in a fire-resistant blanket as they tried to save a famous grove of gigantic old-growth sequoias from wildfires burning Thursday in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada. The colossal General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest, some other sequoias, the Giant Forest Museum and other buildings were wrapped as protection against the possibility of intense flames, fire spokeswoman Rebecca Paterson said.

usr: 2
This is interesting!