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US Church’s reckoning, orphaned bear cub, saving hemlocks: News from around our 50 states

01:10  13 september  2021
01:10  13 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Church Parishioner Arrested After Hidden Cameras Found in Women's Bathroom

  Church Parishioner Arrested After Hidden Cameras Found in Women's Bathroom Stephen Ramirez is accused of placing two recording devices inside the female restrooms at the L.A. Pentecostal Church.Stephen Ramirez, 32, has been accused of planting two recording devices inside the female restrooms at the L.A. Pentecostal Church located at 8300 Eastern Avenue in Bell Gardens.

Alabama

Tuscaloosa: City leaders have extended a ban on construction of large student housing developments in the hometown of the University of Alabama, where the mayor expressed concern about overtaxing municipal infrastructure and services. The Tuscaloosa City Council unanimously extended a moratorium that began in January 2019 during a meeting last week. The prohibition on permits for large-scale student housing projects will last at least until May 2022. The votes came at the urging of Mayor Walt Maddox, who said more work was needed to create rules and regulations to prevent such developments from becoming a drain on the city of about 101,000. “We’re also exploring some ideas on how do you fairly assess what these developments are costing in terms of city expenses, but we would appreciate a little bit more time to work through this,” he said. Bryan Winter, an attorney who has represented developers, said restrictions adopted last year to slow the spread of student housing already have made it difficult to move ahead with projects that will bring jobs and additional tax revenue. “They’ve already effectively tried to kill any outside investment in Tuscaloosa,” Winter said. “These rules and the moratorium are designed to discourage significant outside investment and revitalization in Tuscaloosa.”

Greece begins administering COVID vaccines outside churches

  Greece begins administering COVID vaccines outside churches ARCHANES, Greece (AP) — Greece has begun administering vaccinations for COVID-19 outside churches in a pilot program recently announced by the government as a means of encouraging more people to get the shots. Mobile National Health Organization units began administering shots Monday in a church yard in Archanes, a town near the city of Heraklion on the southern island of Crete. The single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine was being used, with shots being administered from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Fifty-two appointments were booked for the first day, but some people were turning up without appointments and were being given the vaccines.

Alaska

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Juneau: A comprehensive fiscal policy for the state “must be negotiated and agreed to as whole” and not taken up piecemeal, according to a report from a legislative working group that was charged with making recommendations for the special session that opened Monday. Pieces to which the report said the group agreed as necessary parts of a comprehensive approach include restructuring Alaska’s oil-wealth fund, limiting what is drawn from it and providing constitutional certainty for a dividend for residents. Other elements include a new dividend formula, new revenues, budget cuts and a “healthy” state infrastructure budget, as well as spending cap revisions and possible changes in how the constitutional budget reserve fund works. Lawmakers faced with deficits in recent years have relied heavily on the budget reserve fund, which requires three-fourths support in each the House and Senate to access. The report said that working group members “do not support addressing only one or two issues to the exclusion of others.” It said members recommended considering two approaches to the perennial debate over dividends: placing in the state constitution a dividend formula or constitutionalizing the promise of a dividend that would be based on a formula in law.

From Shanksville's scorched woods, two arborists emerged as unsung heroes of 9/11

  From Shanksville's scorched woods, two arborists emerged as unsung heroes of 9/11 US-USA-SEPT11-ARBORISTS:From Shanksville's scorched woods, two arborists emerged as unsung heroes of 9/11SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (Reuters) - The hemlock grove where United Airlines Flight 93 hurtled to the ground in rural Pennsylvania still haunts Mark Trautman and Ben Haupt 20 years later.

Arizona

Phoenix: A metro-area school district can keep its mask requirement for now, despite a new state law barring such mandates, a judge ruled Monday. Judge Randall Warner declined to immediately put the brakes on the Phoenix Union High School’s mask mandate, but he’s allowing teacher Douglas Hester to proceed with his lawsuit against it. Warner said the new law surrounding school mask mandates doesn’t take effect until Sept. 29, rejecting Hester’s claim that the statute has been in force since the Legislature approved it in late June. The law didn’t get the two-thirds approval needed to take effect immediately. While the ruling rejected Hester’s bid to stop to the district’s policy, Warner made an observation that could prove helpful to the teacher. The judge said Arizona law gives school boards the authority to protect students. But he also said the district failed to cite a legal authority showing the Legislature overstepped its bounds with the new law. Warner noted the law’s effective date is weeks away, saying that “many things could change in that time.”

Alaska Man in 'Stable' Condition After Being Mauled by Grizzly Bear, Two Cubs

  Alaska Man in 'Stable' Condition After Being Mauled by Grizzly Bear, Two Cubs The park explained that there are currently no plans to locate the grizzly bear, saying that "there is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous."In a press release from the park, the man was identified as 39-year-old Jason Long from Eagle River, Alaska.

Arkansas

Little Rock: The state reached another new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday as thousands of students headed back to school. The state reported 46 new coronavirus patients in hospitals, bringing the total to 1,459. That surpasses the record high the state reached last week. The state’s COVID-19 deaths increased by 31. Arkansas’ virus cases and hospitalizations have been skyrocketing in recent weeks because of the ultra-contagious delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate. Arkansas ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The hospitalizations spiked as the school year began for thousands of students, most of whom will be required to wear a mask following moves by dozens of districts after a judge blocked the state’s mask mandate. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Friday that she’s appealing the ruling against the mandate ban. “As many children across Arkansas head back to school today, I am praying for a safe and productive year,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has said he regrets signing the ban into law, tweeted Monday. The governor has said he agreed with the judge’s decision. There are only 22 intensive care unit beds available in the entire state, the Department of Health said.

Polish nun, cardinal who defied communism are beatified

  Polish nun, cardinal who defied communism are beatified WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's top political leaders on Sunday attended the beatification of two revered figures of the Catholic church — a cardinal who led the Polish church's resistance to communism and a blind nun who devoted her life to helping others who couldn't see. The beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and Mother Elzbieta Roza Czacka takes place at a time of declining church attendance and as some Poles have left the church over sex abuse scandals and the church's coziness with the current right-wing government.

California

Quincy: Firefighters are keeping an eye on a lone, emaciated bear cub that may have lost its mother to the country’s largest wildfire. The pointy-eared cub has been seen rambling solo along a mountain road burned by the Dixie Fire near Taylorsville, peering through brush and leaping through plants covered in fire-retardant chemicals. “Generally when you see them with a sow or a mother bear, they’ll stay with the mother bear and run off,” said firefighter Johnnie Macy, who was deployed from Golden, Colorado, to battle the fire. “This bear hasn’t done that, so because of that we think that the bear’s orphaned as a result of the fire.” Macy said Sunday that the team has been monitoring the cub for several days to determine if it is an orphan. A wildlife rescue team was waiting to extract the emaciated cub from the burn-scarred area. Macy called the situation “heartbreaking” but said it is “Mother Nature taking its course.” Earlier this month, a bear cub with burns to its paws and nose was rescued from a fire in eastern Siskiyou County in California. Also this month, an injured cub tunneled out of a Lake Tahoe wildlife care center where he was being treated for burns sustained in a wildfire. The bear has since been spotted in the wild.

Colorado

Fort Collins: Visitors lining Rocky Mountain National Park’s Moraine Park Road and Horseshoe Park shoulder to shoulder while taking in the elk bugling this fall might be asked to mask up. The National Park Service announced Monday that it is immediately requiring visitors, employees and contractors to wear a mask inside all park service buildings and in crowded outdoor spaces regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status or community transmission levels. The park service said the new requirement follows the latest science and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world,” park service Deputy Director Shawn Benge said in the news release. The requirement will be in effect until further notice and applies to all NPS buildings and public transportation systems. It also applies to outdoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as narrow or busy trails and overlooks. Moraine Park Road and Horseshoe Park attract large crowds of visitors to see elk in September and October, necessitating the park to stage rangers and volunteers in those areas to keep visitors a safe distance from the elk. The park’s shuttle service stations often are crowded, as are some of the more popular overlooks along Trail Ridge Road.

Bear crop circles, corpse blood, subway cameras: News from around our 50 states

  Bear crop circles, corpse blood, subway cameras: News from around our 50 states Apple-picking farm calls cops on Black family in Massachusetts, man presumed dead after trying to jump boiling cove in Oregon, and moreStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Connecticut

Hartford: A new use-of-force training program that will be required for all police officers in the state will emphasize “moral courage,” empathy and deescalation in an effort to reduce fatal shootings and other violent acts by officers. Officials believe it is one of the first use-of-force training programs in the country to be mandated across an entire state. Most police departments provide their own such training to officers based on state laws, which can result in patchworks of different standards and interpretations, said Keith Mello, police chief in Milford, Connecticut, and chairman of the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council. “We wanted to do something different and unique, and that is to create one single standard, one policy, one sheet of music by which police officers will be guided in making use-of-force decisions, and one training program,” Mello said at a council meeting during which the training program was unanimously approved. All of the more than 8,000 law enforcement officers in the state must take the four-hour training program by Dec. 31, 2022. They can apply for an extension of the deadline to April 1, 2023, at the latest. The council includes law enforcement officials, policy experts and people who have been negatively affected by the criminal justice system.

Delaware

Wilmington: A school board postponed its monthly meeting Monday after members of the audience refused to wear face coverings. About 40 minutes after the Brandywine School District Board meeting was set to begin, Board President John Skrobot told the room of about 75 people that the meeting would have to be rescheduled because so many people in the crowd weren’t wearing face coverings. Superintendent Lincoln Hohler cited Gov. John Carney’s universal mask mandate as the reason the meeting could not proceed unless everyone put on face masks. Several school boards, including Appoquinimink and Milford, have faced lengthy public comment periods in recent weeks with parents and community members voicing concerns about students being required to wear face coverings in classrooms. Officials apologized to those in attendance and watching on Zoom seeking information about returning to school, saying they would get that information out in the coming days.

Hunter Mauled by Bear Rescued by Alaska National Guard in Dramatic Video

  Hunter Mauled by Bear Rescued by Alaska National Guard in Dramatic Video The attack occurred in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve—the largest national park in the United States.Jason Long, 39, from Eagle River, Alaska, was mauled by a mother bear near the Chisana River in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve on September 8, according to a statement from the National Park Service (NPS).

District of Columbia

Washington: All health care workers in the city are required to get fully vaccinated under an order from Mayor Muriel Bowser, WUSA-TV reports. Health care workers must have at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 30, officials said. Employees who qualify for a health or religious exemption can opt out of the shots. The new policy applies to licensed, certified and registered health professionals; EMS providers such as paramedics and emergency medical technicians; and unlicensed health care workers, such as patient care technicians, personal care aides and environmental service staff. Bowser has also announced that D.C. government employees, including teachers at public schools, will be required to take COVID-19 vaccines or submit to weekly coronavirus testing. Government workers have until Sept. 19 to get fully inoculated, Bowser said. Unvaccinated employees who qualify for a health or religious exemption or who choose not to be vaccinated will be required to take a weekly coronavirus test. If they do not comply with the new policy, they will be subject to job penalities.

Florida

St. Petersburg: A judge refused Tuesday to close pretrial hearings to the media and public in the case of the man accused of killing 17 people in a 2018 high school mass shooting. Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer rejected a motion by defendant Nikolas Cruz’s lawyers claiming that intense media coverage jeopardizes his right to a fair trial. Scherer did not elaborate on her reasons for denial, saying she would detail them in a written order later. But Dana McElroy, attorney for the Associated Press, said it was the correct decision. “It allows access to all of the hearings and filings in this case of great public concern, which is both contemplated and required by the Constitution,” McElroy said after the hearing. Several media outlets, including the AP, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and CNN, had challenged the closure motion. Cruz’s lawyers contended that open hearings might publicly reveal inadmissible evidence that will never be heard at trial and that news coverage could otherwise create bias among jurors. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that pretrial hearings are presumed to be open in most circumstances and can be closed only when there are no alternatives available except moving the trial elsewhere in the state. Prosecutors insist the trial must take place in Broward County.

Grizzly Bear Gored to Death by Mountain Goat Discovered by Hiker

  Grizzly Bear Gored to Death by Mountain Goat Discovered by Hiker "Goats can kill a bear, but this remains a rare event," Quebec Laval University professor Steeve Côté told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.Officials said that mountain goats rarely triumph in their altercations with bears.

Georgia

Atlanta: Test scores fell for students across the state last year, amid questions about what the scores mean with few students taking the standardized tests in some districts. State officials said they believe the scores would have been worse if the missing students had also taken the tests, but they also deemphasized the weight they’re putting on the scores considering class disruptions stemming from COVID-19. The Georgia Department of Education released the annual Milestones test results Monday. Students in third through eighth grades as well as high schoolers take the tests. Federal law requires most of the tests, and the U.S. Department of Education insisted that students take them, despite two requests by Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods to cancel tests for the second year in a row. “These are traditional tests that are designed to measure student performance in a traditional classroom environment,” Department of Education Chief of Staff Matt Jones said. “And we all know that this past year was anything but traditional. Students and teachers had to deal with an ever-changing environment.” Normally, test results would be used to create report cards for schools and districts with letter grades. That won’t happen this year because Georgia and other states got waivers from the federal accountability requirement.

Hawaii

Honolulu: Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who works as an emergency room doctor on the Big Island, says a minority of unvaccinated people are pushing the state toward another lockdown. “I say we are two to four weeks at this rate from seeing major adjustments in what we’re able to do,” Green said. “It’s a small minority that is otherwise condemning society to a lockdown and potentially large-scale death. No one wants to close down businesses, no one wants to put in curfews, no one wants to curtail regular life or schools, but we have to keep people alive.” Green said all intensive care beds at the Hilo hospital are full – more than half with COVID-19 patients – and as of Sunday 58 of the 68 ICU units at Honolulu’s Queen’s Hospital were occupied, Hawaii News Now reports. In total, Green said 300 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and of those, at least 270 were unvaccinated. Protesters showed up outside Green’s condo over the weekend. “I’m probably going to be taking care of them in the hospital with my colleagues because they’re going to catch COVID,” Green said. “Those very individuals are condemning everyone in society to a much larger lockdown.”

Idaho

Lewiston: A federal judge says a discrimination lawsuit filed against the University of Idaho by a UI College of Law professor can move forward. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill rejected a request from the University of Idaho to throw out the lawsuit last week, The Lewiston Tribune reports. Professor Shaakirrah Sanders was hired to teach at the College of Law in 2011 and and in 2018 became the first African American to achieve the rank of full professor at the school. She filed the lawsuit several years ago, alleging that she was unfairly denied an associate dean position in 2017, that she faced a variety of unfair conditions and terms of employment, and that school officials retaliated against her when she complained about the treatment. The University of Idaho asked the court to throw out the lawsuit before it went to trial, contending in part that Sanders failed to file the complaint on time and that she failed to show there was a valid dispute about the facts of the case. In his ruling first reported by the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal, Winmill rejected the university’s argument, noting that UI’s Office of Civil Rights and Investigations received at least 35 reports of sexual or racial discrimination at the College of Law during a nine-year period starting in 2011. Those complaints triggered a formal review.

Illinois

Springfield: Federal pandemic relief money will be funneled into a $10 million grants program to aid the rebound of tourism in the Prairie State. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said last week that the grants will be handed out to organizations that are starting or enhancing tourism attractions or festivals planned for this year or next. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, doled out to states to help them recover from the economic damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are depleted. Projects most closely aligned with Commerce and Economic Opportunity guidelines will be funded. Grants will range from $10,000 to $1 million. They will require a local matching amount. The Tourism Attraction and Festivals Grant program will develop new attractions or improve existing ones across the state. It is available to a variety of sources including museums, businesses, events, performances and festivals.

Indiana

Indianapolis: The governor gave his support Monday to the growing number of school districts across the state issuing mask mandates for students and staff as they try to head off more COVID-19 outbreaks. Several of the state’s largest school districts in the Indianapolis area began requiring masks for indoor areas this week after starting the school year without such requirements, reacting to a growing number of coronavirus infections among students as the more transmissible delta variant continues surging. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would continue his policy of allowing local officials to impose mask rules and other steps to stem the coronavirus spread even as several school boards have faced vocal – and sometimes misleading – opposition to such actions. “I think the schools that are putting mask mandates into place are making a wise decision when the facts warrant it,” Holcomb said. “I’m not surprised by the pushback, having lived through the last year and a half.” Holcomb’s stance differs from that of Republican governors in Florida, Texas and other states that have issued statewide orders prohibiting mask-wearing mandates in schools.

Iowa

Iowa City: A new schools superintendent is apologizing for plagiarizing parts of a welcome letter she sent to district families, acknowledging she copied several phrases word-for-word from a similar letter a New York superintendent authored in 2017. Dr. Christine Trujillo, who started last month as superintendent of public schools in Gilbert, Iowa, admitted that her Aug. 10 back-to-school letter copied from a 2017 letter by Superintendent Gerard Poole of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District in New York. “I made a mistake and an error, and I apologize for that,” she told the Associated Press in an interview Monday evening. Trujillo said she was in a hurry to get the letter out while preparing for the school year. Her letter to parents misstated the district for which she worked and the time of year, copying these sentences from Poole: “It is an exciting time for the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, and I’m looking forward to the year ahead. Please accept my best wishes for a happy and healthy summer.” Hours later, she sent a revised letter that deleted those lines without explanation but still kept several other phrases copied from Poole. A district parent notified the AP of the similarities.

Kansas

Topeka: Top Republican legislators are accusing Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration of illegally spending at least $86 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds by not getting their approval first. Kelly’s office on Tuesday did not immediately respond to a letter from Senate President Ty Masterson, House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., and the chairs of the House and Senate budget committees. In the letter sent Monday, the lawmakers threatened to “explore all necessary legal actions” if she does not seek approval from leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature before state agencies spend relief dollars. Their dispute centers on relief funds that agencies received before the state’s current 2022 budget year began July 1. The four Republicans contend that a budget measure approved by lawmakers and signed by Kelly in May required an advisory committee’s review and legislative leaders’ consent for any spending starting July 1. “Respect for the rule of law compels you to cease your attempt to circumvent the will of the people as expressed by the Legislature and approved by your own hand,” the Republican lawmakers wrote. Kelly’s office contends the spending in question falls under a plan legislative leaders approved in June 2020, allocating $1.8 billion in federal relief funds.

Kentucky

a person cooking in a kitchen: The overcrowded Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky., burned to the ground on May 28, 1977, killing 165 people there for a Memorial Day weekend show by singer John Davidson. © The Enquirer/Gerry Wolter The overcrowded Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky., burned to the ground on May 28, 1977, killing 165 people there for a Memorial Day weekend show by singer John Davidson.

Southgate: Building on the former Beverly Hills Supper Club site is about to start, but the area where the Cabaret Room stood before fire destroyed the popular dinner club will become a memorial fountain honoring the 165 people who died. Nothing besides memorials has been put at the supper club site in Southgate since the May 28, 1977, fire that left 165 people dead. Survivors and witnesses have said the night still haunts them. Construction will start before the end of the month on an assisted living center, apartments and homes at the former Beverly Hills Supper Club site, according to a release from the builder Monday. In November 2020, attorneys for the developer, Ashley Builders Group, and a group of descendants of fire victims resolved a lawsuit with an agreement to allow building on part of the property. The agreement included a deed restriction to not build on the former Cabaret Room, where most people died in the fire. Plans for a permanent memorial fountain for the Cabaret Room were agreed upon. The Edgewood-based building company and Vision Realty Group have finalized the sale of the property. The planned $65 million Memorial Pointe residential community on the 80-acre site will include a memorial that will be donated to the city of Southgate once it is completed.

Louisiana

New Orleans: A man sentenced to life without parole for stealing a wallet is free after serving 12 years. New Orleans prosecutors agreed to dismiss a habitual offender sentencing enhancement against 65-year-old Henry Phillips, and he was released Monday, The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reports. Phillips was convicted in 2009 of purse-snatching after prosecutors said he swiped a man’s wallet from a McDonald’s counter and then pretended to have a gun when he was confronted. He stole $20 before he was arrested half a block away. Prosecutors under former District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro invoked his two prior robbery convictions to give him a sentence of mandatory life without parole, according to the newspaper. Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams’ office revisited the case as part of a larger project to review old sentences. “This case could have been a petty theft charge, but it was sentenced like a murder,” Phillips’ attorney, Colin Reingold, of the Promise of Justice Initiative, said in a statement. “In order to restore any sense of trust in our criminal legal system these cases have to be rooted out and purged.” In a letter to the court, the victims of the wallet-snatching said the incident did not damage their lives or emotional well-being, and they backed Phillips’ release.

Maine

Augusta: Despite the pandemic limiting access to lawmakers, corporate and political interests working to influence the State House spent $4 million on lobbyists in 2021. Pharmaceutical companies, cable companies, electric utilities, hospitals and casinos were the handful of companies spending the most on lobbyists. Advocates against youth smoking and the chemical industry were also included, the Portland Press Herald reports. According to disclosure reports filed with the Maine Ethics Commission, Jim Mitchell, an attorney with a longtime presence at the State House, made over $312,000 for his work before the Legislature in the first six months of the year, making him the highest-paid individual lobbyist in Maine. Mitchell’s clients include Comcast Cable Communications, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Central Maine Power Co. and New England Clean Energy Connect LLC, the newspaper said. The lobbying report also further underscores the revolving-door relationship between state government for both elected and appointed officials and the lobbying industry in Maine. Former state lawmakers were paid thousands for working to influence their former colleagues and incumbents on a range of issues, the newspaper said.

Maryland

Annapolis: At least 180 Afghan nationals are expected to arrive in the state amid a U.S. effort to evacuate allies from Afghanistan as the Taliban takes over the country. Maryland is prepared to receive even more refugees from Afghanistan as chaos embroils the country during the U.S. troop withdrawal, Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday. “Many of these Afghan citizens – our allies – bravely risked their lives to provide invaluable support for many years to our efforts as interpreters and support staff, and we have a moral obligation to help them,” Hogan said in a statement. The effort is part of “Operation Allies Refuge,” a program that provides Special Immigrant Visas to Afghans and Iraqis who assisted in U.S. efforts during military actions there. Democratic President Joe Biden set an Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan and end the conflict that began after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “The chaotic and heartbreaking scenes out of Afghanistan over the last several days – with innocent civilians running for their lives in fear of the Taliban – is the result of a rushed and irresponsible withdrawal,” the Republican governor said in Monday’s statement. Hogan’s office said Maryland is “ready and willing to receive more” Special Immigrant Visa recipients.

Massachusetts

Boston: Old North Church, a site pivotal to the freedom of the nation, is the same place where slave owners and traders once worshipped. Now, with a $75,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities announced Tuesday, the foundation responsible for the preservation of the church campus and the visitor experience plans to overhaul its educational programming to better reconcile and integrate those ties to slavery. “We’ll be able to address what I call the paradox of the Old North Church,” said Nikki Stewart, executive director of the Old North Foundation, which is distinct from the active Episcopal congregation that still uses the site for religious services. “People see us as a symbol of liberty and independence, but the reality is that the church benefited from the enslavement of Africans.” For example, the famous steeple was financed in part by the sale of logwood, the harvesting of which was dependent on slave labor, she said. The church, built in 1723, is known to generations of schoolchildren as the place where in 1775 two lanterns in the steeple signaled that the British were heading to Concord and Lexington “by sea” and set Paul Revere on the ride that ignited the American Revolution.

Michigan

Detroit: The Detroit Jazz Festival announced Tuesday that it will shift to an all-virtual format for this year’s event, which runs Sept. 3-6. No audiences will be present for the performances, which will be streamed and broadcast live and free from closed, indoor sound stages at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. Shows will air on Detroit public radio and television and stream on the festival’s social media channels and website, as well as the DetroitJazzFest LIVE! app. “We’ve followed the COVID-19 numbers on a daily basis,” said Detroit Festival Foundation president and artistic director Chris Collins. The event – the world’s largest jazz festival that is free to attend – is typically held outdoors in downtown Detroit each Labor Day weekend. “Last year, we had great success with the virtual element of our festival,” Collins said. “We built custom soundstages in the Marriott complex, in major ballrooms with 20-foot ceilings and 26,000 square feet of space – huge, well-ventilated rooms. We limited it to performers and essential workers, the sound engineers and photographers and such … about 10 people. So there’s a great amount of control and security that puts the health and safety in proper perspective. A million viewers tuned in from 32 countries to watch the outcome.”

Minnesota

a large jetliner sitting on top of a grass covered field: A trailer used by water protectors is seen at the Firelight Resistance camp near La Salle Lake State Park in Solway, Minn., on Aug. 7, amid rallies against Line 3, a proposed pipeline expansion to bring tar sands from Canada to Wisconsin. © KEREM YUCEL, AFP via Getty Images A trailer used by water protectors is seen at the Firelight Resistance camp near La Salle Lake State Park in Solway, Minn., on Aug. 7, amid rallies against Line 3, a proposed pipeline expansion to bring tar sands from Canada to Wisconsin.

Minneapolis: A former U.S. Navy diver who helped efforts to search for bodies in the treacherous waters of the Mississippi River after the I-35W bridge collapse in 2007 has returned his awards to protest the Line 3 oil pipeline. John Miller, 39, a native of Monticello who now lives in Hawaii, asked Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to stop construction on the pipeline replacement project until lawsuits challenging its approval play out in court, the Star Tribune reports. He spoke at an event Monday evening near the site of the bridge disaster, which killed 13 people and injured 145 others. Earlier Monday, Miller returned a commendation ribbon and pendant he received for his service, as well as a certificate of commendation from then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He said he grew up fishing and hunting and wants the pristine lands in northern Minnesota left alone for generations to enjoy. “The last time I came back to the Mississippi in distress was to help clean up after a disaster, and this time I come to do everything I can do to help prevent a disaster,” he said. Opponents say the new Line 3 will risk oil spills in waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice, and it will exacerbate climate change. Enbridge says the new pipeline, which replaces its aging current Line 3, is a safety enhancement that will restore its original capacity.

Mississippi

Starkville: Most of the state’s soybean crop is looking good, and so are prices, but some areas are still replanting acres that were flooded in June, Mississippi State University Extension Service experts say. Soybean specialist Trent Irby said 82% of the crop appears in good or excellent shape. Most of the state’s soybean crop was planted at normal times ranging from as early as late March through June after wheat harvest, he said. But he said soybeans were still being planted in mid-July and even late that month, leaving total acreage a big question. “Several areas around the state received big rain events during June that resulted in substantial flooding,” Irby said. “There were also areas impacted days later as rivers and creeks got out and flooded fields.” Agricultural economist Will Maples said prices are good, largely driven by a strong export market. “New crop November soybean futures averaged $13.72 per bushel for the week ending July 23, which is 35% higher than this time last year,” Maples said. “In early June, the November contract reached as high as $14.60 per bushel.” Maples said international demand for U.S. soybeans is expected to remain strong. “At this time of year, the soybean market is trading on the weather. Any weather disruptions on yield could have a price effect,” he said.

Missouri

Jefferson City: The summer surge of COVID-19 is causing a spike in deaths in the state, including 124 reported Tuesday. The state health department said 86 of those deaths were discovered in the agency’s weekly examination of death certificates from across the state, with one tracing to June, 52 to July and 33 to earlier this month. But 38 of the deaths were new, an unusually high one-day total. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Tuesday, Missouri ranked fourth in per capita deaths over seven days – and that doesn’t include the 124 additional deaths. The delta variant of the coronavirus began ravaging the state in June, causing a big rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Experts lay much of the blame on Missouri’s low vaccination rate. The CDC says just 50.2% of Missourians have initiated vaccination, compared to 59.8% of all Americans. Concerns about the spread of the virus have prompted the cancellation of Ozarks Pridefest for the second straight year. Organizers announced the decision Monday, citing the “overwhelming number of hospitalizations caused by COVID-19.”

Montana

Helena: The Blackfeet Reservation east of Glacier National Park implemented a mask mandate Monday after 18 cases of COVID-19 were identified in recent days. The mandate comes even as about 90% of reservation residents are fully vaccinated. In addition to a mask requirement, the tribe announced that its offices would be closed to the public, and it suspended nonessential travel for tribal programs. The travel restriction does not apply to tourists. The Blackfeet Reservation has allowed tourists to return this summer after last summer it closed to visitors to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The tribe’s announcement comes as Montana is experiencing increased spread of COVID-19, with several hot spots including Flathead Valley on the western side of Glacier National Park. The state announced 473 new cases Monday, bringing the number of active cases in Montana to more than 2,700. The state had 191 COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Monday – a number last recorded in January. Of the state’s eligible population, 49% of residents are fully vaccinated against the disease caused by the coronavirus, state health officials reported.

Nebraska

St. Paul: A state trooper shot and killed an 80-year-old man who pointed a rifle at officers after a dispute with a neighbor in the eastern Nebraska town of St. Paul, authorities said. The shooting happened shortly after 12:30 p.m. Saturday while officers were investigating an incident in which one man fired a gun during a dispute with a neighbor. Officers from the Nebraska State Patrol, Howard County Sheriff’s Office and St. Paul Police Department all responded in the town about 23 miles north of Grand Island. The Nebraska State Patrol said the officers found a man holding a rifle near a garage about 10 minutes after they arrived in the neighborhood. The man, identified as John Vogel of St. Paul, didn’t comply with commands to drop his gun and instead raised his rifle. The Nebraska State Patrol said a state trooper then fired his weapon twice, wounding Vogel. Officers gave him first aid until paramedics took him to a local hospital, where he died. The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating the shooting.

Nevada

Las Vegas: Vaccine verification at major venues emerged Tuesday as a coronavirus fighting front, with Las Vegas’ biggest trade conference following the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders in announcing they’ll require attendees to prove they’re inoculated. The Consumer Technology Association, sponsor of the CES gadget show, said it will require attendees in January to be vaccinated to enter venues including the expanded Las Vegas Convention Center, Mandalay Bay and Sands Expo center. “We understand vaccines offer us the best hope for stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Gary Shapiro, association president and CEO, said in a statement. “We are taking on our responsibility by requiring proof of vaccination to attend CES 2022 in Las Vegas.” The announcement came a day after Gov. Steve Sisolak said indoor venues with 4,000 or more attendees will be allowed to opt out of the state’s mask requirements if they opt in to a program ensuring that attendees have inoculations. The state vaccination rate topped 60% for the first time Tuesday for people ages 12 and older who have received at least one dose. State health officials said 49.5% of residents have been fully vaccinated. In the Las Vegas area, the figures ticked up a notch to 60.7% and 48.6%.

New Hampshire

Concord: Repeat drunken drivers who seriously injure or kill others will face longer prison sentences thanks in large part to a mother’s advocacy after the death of her son. Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday signed the Tyler Shaw Law, named for a 20-year-old Concord man who died in April 2018. It allows judges to hand down longer prison sentences to those convicted of negligent homicide who have previous drunken driving convictions. At the bill signing, he thanked Shaw’s mother for telling her story, the Concord Monitor reports. Beth Shaw said her experience with the criminal justice system showed her how broken it is. “I could not walk away without trying to make a change to honor Tyler and all the families who have lost loved ones to drunk driving,” she said. The driver who killed Tyler Shaw was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison. The crash marked his third arrest for driving while intoxicated. Former state Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, sponsored an earlier version of the bill, which was set aside during the coronavirus pandemic. Rep. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, refiled the bill this year.

New Jersey

Trenton: A woman who killed her abusive ex-fiance can proceed with a lawsuit that claims her rights as a domestic violence victim were violated when a county prosecutor publicly identified her, an appeals court ruled Tuesday. The suit alleges the woman’s civil rights were violated in 2016 when former Warren County Prosecutor Richard Burke identified her after a grand jury declined to indict her. A lower court had dismissed the suit, saying the prosecutor was informing the public about the completion of a criminal investigation. According to court documents, the woman’s ex-fiance drove from Florida to New Jersey to confront her, armed with a handgun, knives, zip ties and duct tape. After sexually assaulting her, tying her up and threatening to kill her, he allegedly told her to kill him with his own gun, or else he would shoot her. She shot him in the shoulder, and he died at the scene. The lawsuit alleged that after the grand jury declined to indict her, Burke disclosed the results of the investigation, as well as her identity, “for the purpose of political and/or personal gain.” The suit named Burke, the prosecutor’s office, the county and former state attorneys general Christopher Porrino and Gurbir Grewal.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: The state will begin routinely collecting demographic data about sexual orientation and gender identity during government surveys under an executive order signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The order Monday responds to growing concerns that basic demographic information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations is being left out of an array of studies that shape public policy and governmental planning decisions. Officials at the National Institutes of Health are developing guidelines for collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity to better serve unmapped LGBTQ populations. Lujan Grisham said survey responses will be voluntary as all state agencies begin collecting self-identification information. The order prohibits the public release of any personal identifying information. The governor called the order, lauded by several advocates for the LGBTQ community, a step toward identifying and addressing inequities in access to public resources. “If you really look at us as a community, we’ve never been asked who we are, ever,” said Democratic state Sen. Leo Jaramillo of Espanola, who is gay. “Now we’re included in a conversation and data-collecting that will then help in ways that we may not even see or think of.”

New York

Albany: There’s a disconnect in the effort to make New York state less reliant on fossil fuels. Solar farms, wind turbines and hydro dams are producing more renewable power for the state, but it can be difficult to deliver that power south to the massive New York City market. So state officials are considering proposals to effectively plug the city into more green power through high-voltage transmission lines that would run underground or underwater for more than 100 miles. Different proposed lines would go beneath the Hudson River or be buried along the state thruway. One long-planned line would run down the entire state to deliver hydropower from Canada. The proposals are designed to bring New York state a big step closer to its goal of relying on renewable sources for 70% of its power by 2030. The Cuomo administration this year offered incentives to build the lines after analysts concluded it would be difficult to hit the statewide goal without targeting New York City, which relies heavily on fossil fuel. That reliance is expected to increase in the short term because of the recent closure of Indian Point nuclear facility just north of the city.

North Carolina

Raleigh: A program created by legislators to prevent overcrowding in state prisons has paid county jail operators millions of dollars to house certain offenders even as those facilities exceed capacity, according to a report released Monday. Disability Rights North Carolina, the report’s author, said 50 counties received $4.2 million combined to house and transport people sentenced for misdemeanors during months between 2018 and 2020 when their jails were above 100% capacity. Fourteen people died in 2018 and 2019 in overcrowded jails that were participating in what’s known as the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program, the report said. “The conditions we found are extremely dangerous for all people in these overcrowded jails, staff and those housed in them, and we are especially concerned for the safety and well-being of people with disabilities in these jails,” group attorney Luke Woollard said in a news release. Jails have long have held people convicted of misdemeanors serving 90 days or fewer. State lawmakers passed a 2011 law that allowed jails, which are run by local sheriffs, to hold people sentenced to between 91 and 180 days for misdemeanors, The News & Observer of Raleigh reports. Jails received $40 per inmate per day. Sheriffs can opt out of the program.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Bakken Energy and Mitsubishi Power Americas on Monday announced they are acquiring a financially troubled synthetic natural gas plant in western North Dakota and plan to redevelop it to produce renewable energy. The companies said the deal to purchase the Great Plains Synfuels Plant from Dakota Gasification Co. is expected to be finalized by next April. Dakota Gasification is a subsidiary of Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The plant near Beulah is part of a proposed hub announced in June to produce clean hydrogen, which has a variety of uses including powering vehicles and energy generation. Republican Gov. Doug Burgum has hailed the project a key part of the state’s plan to become carbon-neutral by 2030. Officials said the hub consist of facilities that produce, store, transport and consume the carbon-free fuel. The hub will focus on the production of blue hydrogen, which is derived from natural gas with the carbon dioxide emissions captured and sequestered underground or used for enhanced oil recovery. Officials said they hope to connect the hub by a pipeline to other hubs throughout North America.

Ohio

Columbus: The state’s Vax-a-Million giveaway contributed to more people getting COVID-19 shots, several independent analyses recently found. Vax-a-Million, announced by Gov. Mike DeWine on May 12, gave $1 million to five vaccinated adults and a college scholarship to five vaccinated youth over five weeks. The state spent about $5.6 million on the effort. Each analysis of the lottery varied in the number of people estimated to have received an initial shot following the announcement – as many as 200,000. But they shared several conclusions, including that the promotion was less costly than other incentives being offered. The studies contrast with an earlier study that received widespread media attention for its conclusion that the lottery didn’t increase vaccinations. Professors at Xavier University’s Health Economic and Clinical Outcomes Research gave the most generous estimate yet for the five-week lottery’s impact. They estimated 213,388 additional Ohioans were vaccinated due to the lottery, according to an analysis provided to the USA TODAY Network – Ohio. Assuming all inoculated children ages 12 to 15 would have been vaccinated without the lottery, that leaves more than 108,000 others who started the inoculation process as a result of the lottery.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: After a deadly hostage situation March 27, officials at the Oklahoma County jail blamed staffing problems and promised to do better. “We’d like to get our staffing up to about 400,” the jail administrator, Greg Williams, said at a news conference days after an inmate took a guard hostage. Four months later, at the start of August, there were fewer full-time employees, not more. “Corrections facilities all over the country are experiencing staff shortages. We are no exception,” Williams said last week. “Frankly, lots of businesses are struggling to hire people right now.” And “COVID is certainly a factor.” At the news conference March 31, the jail administrator disclosed the facility only had 330 full-time employees. On Aug. 2, the number of full-time employees had fallen to 327, a jail spokesman said. On Monday, the workforce was up to 334, the administrator told the trust that took over operation of the jail last year. Seventeen employees, though, were out because of positive coronavirus tests.

Oregon

Portland: Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that she is extending the statewide residential mortgage foreclosure moratorium, aimed at those experiencing financial hardship during the pandemic, until Dec. 31. The moratorium, which allows homeowners to put their mortgages in forbearance, was set to expire Sept. 30. Based on the measure’s language, this is the last extension that Brown is authorized to issue. “As we continue to see record-high numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations driven by the delta surge, I am committed to ensuring that Oregonians have a warm, dry, safe place to live during this pandemic,” Brown said. “Extending the temporary residential foreclosure moratorium another three months will prevent removal of Oregonians from their homes by foreclosure, which would result in serious health, safety, welfare, and financial consequences, and which would undermine key efforts to prevent spread of COVID-19.” During the pandemic, the state’s ongoing housing crisis has only been exacerbated. In late July, more than 49,000 Oregon homeowners said they were not caught up on their mortgage payments, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse Survey.

Pennsylvania

a close up of a pond: Hemlock trees die along Muddy Creek in Lower Chanceford Township. © Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record Hemlock trees die along Muddy Creek in Lower Chanceford Township.

York: Saving the state tree could be key to protecting trout in one of the top fishing grounds in the nation and perhaps the world. The iconic hemlock is dying off, under siege from the invasive woolly adelgid bug that slowly sucks the life out of the giant trees. There is a direct correlation between hemlock and native trout, a species highly sensitive to water pollutants, stream erosion and warming temperatures. The situation is particularly crucial in Pennsylvania, which has more miles of stream than any state in the lower 48. The state is renowned for its fly fishing and trout, and hemlocks are one of the great protectors of their waters. The towering trees that often live for hundreds of years create their own ecosystems. Certain kinds of animal life, like warblers and salamanders, as well as insects and plants, depend upon them. Deer and others bed down under them for warmth in winter and to stay cool in summer. Hemlocks often reside along streams, their vast root systems helping to stabilize water levels and prevent erosion. Their branches provide unparalleled, cooling shade. Native trout, for example, require waters that don’t rise above the low-60s to spawn and thrive. They also eat the insects that eat fallen hemlock needles. When hemlocks die, there’s nothing substantial to take their place in short order.

Rhode Island

Providence: Attorney General Peter Neronha has filed objections to rate increases sought by health insurers that do business in the state. The rate proposals currently under consideration by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner “raised concerns about affordability” for people who buy policies on the individual market, Neronha said. “Given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, and in light of our analysis of the current financial strength of the involved health insurers, higher rates are not warranted, nor affordable for over 42,000 Rhode Islanders who purchase insurance on the individual market, and nearly 140,000 subscribers of small and large employer group plans,” he said. Blue Cross Blue Shield’s request is for a 3.1% increase in the individual market. Neighborhood Health Plan is seeking an 8.5% increase. Neighborhood said it offers the lowest-cost health plans on the state’s health insurance marketplace, and even with the proposed rate increase, “Neighborhood will still be the most cost effective option.” Blue Cross Blue Shield said in an email that it “recognizes the ongoing economic challenges facing its members due to COVID-19 and took steps to limit proposed rate increases.” The commissioner’s ruling is expected later this month.

South Carolina

Columbia: With hundreds of students already quarantined for COVID-19 at the start of the fall semester, the state’s second-largest public school district will require masks in schools despite a state budget proviso that bans districts from doing so without risking funding. Charleston County School District’s board voted 8-1 Monday evening to approve an emergency ordinance to require masks for anyone who enters school buildings through mid-October. Board Chair Eric Mack said the ordinance was proposed for the safety of students and staff given the rapid spread of the delta variant. The district serving nearly 50,000 students is the first school board to openly flout the state budget proviso that went into effect July 1 and prohibits South Carolina educational institutions from using appropriated funds to mandate masks. A similar vote was cast by Richland County Council earlier Monday; that ordinance will require masks for students and educators who serve children ages 2 through 14 in public and private schools and day cares. The Charleston City Council was scheduled to vote on its own school mask rule Tuesday. Columbia leaders earlier this month made masks mandatory for schoolchildren in the capital city who are too young to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: A witness to an incident last week involving MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell says he saw no reason for Lindell to claim he was attacked. Lindell, who was in Sioux Falls hosting an election fraud symposium, said Tuesday that his encounter with a man seeking a photo late Wednesday at a hotel left him doubled over in pain. Lindell said he has filed a report of an assault with the Sioux Falls Police Department and is conducting his own investigation into how the photo-seeker could have shoved an object between his ribs, leaving him unable to move his right arm. But “there was no attack,” said Jeff Buongiorno, the conference attendee who was taking the photo. Buongiorno, a Republican congressional candidate in Florida, said he and two others were “shooting the breeze” at the hotel bar late Wednesday when they spotted Lindell in the lobby and asked to take a photo with the businessman who has become an ally of former President Donald Trump. Then another man Buongiorno did not know approached and sought his own photo, which Buongiorno offered to snap with the man’s phone. Buongiorno said nothing he saw could be described as an attack that would leave Lindell in pain. Buongiorno, who said he supported “law and order,” was concerned Lindell’s claim would take up police time and resources.

Tennessee

a man and a woman walking down a street: Douglass High School students return for their first day of class in Memphis, Tenn., on Aug. 9. © Ariel Cobbert/ Commercial Appeal Douglass High School students return for their first day of class in Memphis, Tenn., on Aug. 9.

Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order Monday letting parents opt their children out of coronavirus-related mask mandates in K-12 schools, after a few school districts issued mask requirements for students and others. With the move, Lee also said he will not call the broad special legislative session requested by Republican House lawmakers to limit the authority of local officials to make rules aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, which has seen a resurgence in Tennessee via the delta variant. All 73 Republicans in the state House signaled support for a special session last week, and a handful of school board meetings have become contentious as some parents fight mask mandates for their children. But the Senate’s Republican leader, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, had said he trusts locally elected school boards to set COVID-19 health rules for schools. McNally on Monday called Lee’s order an “appropriate compromise that strikes a proper balance between freedom and public health.” Lee has resisted implementing a statewide mask mandate for schools and had left the decision to local school officials. The Republican governor’s order lets parents opt out if either a school board or a health department enacts a mask requirement over a school district.

Texas

Austin: An Eanes school district parent assaulted a teacher and ripped off her face mask, according to an email that Superintendent Tom Leonard sent to the community Tuesday. The incident occurred after several weeks of tension and debate in the district over mask rules and mandates. “A parent physically assaulted a teacher by ripping a mask off her face, others yelling at a teacher to take off her mask because they could not understand what the teacher was saying while her face was covered,” Leonard’s email said. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated in Eanes ISD. Our staff are on the front lines of this pandemic; let’s give them some space and grace. Please, I am asking everyone to be kind. ... Do not fight mask wars in our schools.” Eanes, like other school districts in Travis County, has been caught in a legal tug of war between local and state officials over masks in schools. The district originally said it would not require masks but would encourage them, a position that was in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s order banning mask requirements in schools. Travis County issued a contradictory order Aug. 11 that requires masks to be worn in schools. After a local judge upheld the county order, Eanes announced Saturday that it would reverse course and require masks in line with the county order.

Utah

a body of water: The already-dropping level of the Colorado River photographed in 2010. © Bureau of Reclamation The already-dropping level of the Colorado River photographed in 2010.

St. George: Cuts to Colorado River apportionments announced Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation triggered a new flood of protests against the city’s Lake Powell Pipeline project, the largest proposed diversion of additional water from this river that serves the needs of 40 million people throughout the West. “St. George is not going to get their pipeline,” said Robin Silver, a founder of the Center for Biological Diversity and a former Phoenix emergency room physician, in a press conference hosted by environmental groups Monday afternoon following the one held by the Bureau of Reclamation. “Whether they’re listening or not, they’re going to have no choice. But it’d be nice if they were listening so we could all figure out how to get out of this fix.” The Lake Powell Pipeline is the Washington County Water Conservancy District’s solution to the current rate of population growth outpacing its estimation of the local water supply. The project, which has been pursued by the state since the 1990s, would transport up to 28 billion gallons of water per year – enough to support about 150,000 households – from the Colorado River at Lake Powell 140 miles through the desert in a buried pipeline to Sand Hollow Reservoir for use by future St. George residents.

Vermont

Burlington: Lower College Street will be closed to vehicles for a month starting Friday as railroad track improvements are made near the waterfront for the long-awaited extension of the Amtrak train service from Rutland to Burlington. The west side of the street will be closed to vehicles until Sept. 17, but pedestrians and cyclists will be able to travel to Waterfront Park during the closure, the Vermont Agency of Transportation said. The Burlington bike path between Main and Colleges will remain closed for several more months. Amtrak passenger service is expected to return to Burlington next year. The Ethan Allen Express train, which travels from New York City to Rutland, is being extended north to Burlington, with stops in Middlebury and Vergennes.

Virginia

Richmond: A Republican state senator is among a group of people suing the Virginia Redistricting Commission over plans to count prisoners at their last known address instead of the prison where they’re incarcerated. The lawsuit says the change will politically weaken rural and conservative areas after the state draws new congressional and legislative districts. “Virginia prisons are typically located in rural districts with greater Republican voting strength, particularly in the southside and southwest regions of the commonwealth,” the suit said. The legal challenge was filed Friday in the Virginia Supreme Court. Petitioners include state Sen. Travis Hackworth, who represents a reliably Republican district that stretches from the Virginia-Kentucky border to Radford. Hackworth’s district includes five state correctional facilities, according to the lawsuit. Others who are suing include county representatives in western counties such as Buchanan and Tazewell. The lawsuit stems from the recent creation of the Virginia Redistricting Commission, which put redistricting in the hands of a bipartisan body. Voters approved the commission in a November referendum that amended the state constitution. But the lawsuit says other redistricting laws were passed by lawmakers outside the referendum and thus violated the state constitution.

Washington

Olympia: Gov. Jay Inslee is planning to grant as many as 1,200 commutations for people on community supervision whose drug convictions have been deemed unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Court. This spring, Inslee issued commutations to the handful of incarcerated people serving prison terms solely due to the overturned statute. Known as the Blake decision, the court overturned Washington’s felony drug-possession statute and rendered invalid decades of convictions. The ruling has made thousands of people eligible to get their records cleared and get paid back for legal financial obligations they paid while incarcerated or on supervision, but it has added to a backlog in the courts. The Seattle Times reports Inslee’s office said that as of Monday afternoon, the Democratic governor had signed 129 commutations for this latest round, and a spokesman said in an email that “new orders are being issued daily at this point, between 15 and 30 a day.” “I am committed to doing what I can to try to remedy the situation and assist the courts who are doing what they can to get through this backlog of cases,” Inslee said in a statement.

West Virginia

Charleston: The number of people hospitalized for the coronavirus in the state hit a six-month high Monday as a top health official warned that West Virginia is at a “defining moment” in its response to the pandemic. After two months of declines, virus-related hospitalizations in the state have increased sevenfold in the past six weeks, going from 52 on July 4 to 369 Monday. The majority are unvaccinated people, said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus expert. Hospitalizations peaked at 818 in early January and haven’t been this high since there were 394 on Feb. 8. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units has jumped from 17 on July 4 to 127 on Monday, according to state health data. Marsh said residents must take more precautions, including getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and wearing masks, because the more contagious delta variant of the virus is now present in 43 of the state’s 55 counties. Such confirmed cases have more than tripled this month to least 322. “This is really the defining moment for us in many ways as we see COVID-19 growing in West Virginia,” Marsh said at a news conference. “We see our hospital numbers going up. We see our ICU numbers going up. We see the number of people on ventilators going up.”

Wisconsin

Madison: Republican state Sen. Andre Jacques, one of the Legislature’s most conservative lawmakers and a vocal opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, tested positive for the coronavirus last week and was at the hospital Monday with pneumonia. The positive test and hospital care came after Jacque testified Wednesday in a packed Capitol hearing room without wearing a mask. The lawmaker from De Pere did not immediately return a text message Tuesday seeking comment on his condition. His spokesman, Matt Tompach, provided a statement from Jacque dated Monday night and said Tuesday afternoon that he had no update on his condition. “Sen. Jacque appreciates respect for his family, and the tremendous expressions of support he’s received from others,” Tompach said. “He’s tired but in good spirits.” Jacque said in the Monday night email that some of his family members also tested positive for the virus. Jacque, 40, has six children, including an infant. Jacque said in the email that he was at the hospital with pneumonia but did not say if he had been admitted. Jacque said he has had pneumonia before but did not immediately say whether it was diagnosed as COVID-19 pneumonia. His office did not immediately respond to questions about whether Jacque was vaccinated.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: The state will not return to a mask order or require COVID-19 vaccines despite a resurgence of the coronavirus, Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday. “The issue is not masks; the issue is COVID,” Gordon, a Republican, said in a news conference. “Here’s the thing: We already know what to do. We’ve been through this before.” Gordon imposed a statewide mask mandate in December and lifted it in March. Even so, mandates can cause some people to resist wearing masks, he said. “We know that there’s value to masks, and we recommend those masks. We also know people have very strong concerns about masks,” Gordon said. He said he also didn’t expect any shutdowns like the public health orders that forced many Wyoming businesses and public places to close or limit occupancy through much of 2020 and into 2021. Gordon made the remarks as coronavirus infections, because of the delta variant circulating worldwide, were back to levels unseen in Wyoming since January, though still roughly four times less than at the pandemic’s worst last November. Laramie County on Monday had the state’s highest infection rate, 698 per 100,000 people, followed by Natrona (469) and Campbell (324) counties, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Church’s reckoning, orphaned bear cub, saving hemlocks: News from around our 50 states

Grizzly Bear Gored to Death by Mountain Goat Discovered by Hiker .
"Goats can kill a bear, but this remains a rare event," Quebec Laval University professor Steeve Côté told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.Officials said that mountain goats rarely triumph in their altercations with bears.

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