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US Black church in Williamsburg, Woody Harrelson at Watergate: News from around our 50 states

10:10  09 october  2021
10:10  09 october  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Baseball break: Lawmakers pause infrastructure and debt ceiling squabbles for charity game

  Baseball break: Lawmakers pause infrastructure and debt ceiling squabbles for charity game Democrats and Republicans briefly took their cross-aisle fights to the baseball diamond on Tuesday, battling it out at the annual Congressional Baseball Game. © Provided by Washington Examiner The more than century-old tradition to raise money for charity comes amid a backdrop of a looming government shutdown if Congress does not fund the government by Friday, a standoff between Republicans and Democrats on raising the debt ceiling, and Democratic infighting on infrastructure and reconciliation bills threatening President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

Reginald F. Davis, from left, pastor of First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Connie Matthews Harshaw, a member of First Baptist, and Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg's director of archaeology, stand at the brick-and-mortar foundation of one the oldest Black churches in the U.S. on Wednesday in Williamsburg, Va. © Ben Finley Reginald F. Davis, from left, pastor of First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Connie Matthews Harshaw, a member of First Baptist, and Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg's director of archaeology, stand at the brick-and-mortar foundation of one the oldest Black churches in the U.S. on Wednesday in Williamsburg, Va.

Alabama

Former Sheriff Mike Blakely © Limestone County Sheriff's Department Former Sheriff Mike Blakely

Athens: A longtime sheriff removed from office after being convicted of theft and ethics violations is giving five-star reviews to the jail where he spent more than two weeks in custody after running it for decades. Ousted Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely addressed the news media Tuesday in his most extensive public comments since being convicted in August. Free on bond while appealing, Blakely maintained his innocence but had no complaints about doing time in the Limestone County jail in Athens. “Best jail in the state of Alabama – that’s another thing I’m proud of,” he said outside his attorney’s office in Huntsville. “The food was real good; the staff took very good care of me.” Blakely, 70, was convicted in August of taking no-interest loans from a jail fund that held prisoners’ money and of stealing $4,000 from his campaign account. He was in his 10th straight term when he was removed from office, making him Alabama’s longest-serving sheriff at the time. Wearing his trademark cowboy hat and boots, Blakely said he had fewer privileges than jail trusties and denied receiving special treatment from his former staff, saying he “couldn’t ask for better treatment from the inmates,” and some even offered to have him food delivered to the jail. “I said, ‘No, I eat the jail food ’cause I love it because I’ve been eating it for the last 38 years,” he said.

Human remains found by farmer amid search for Iowa boy missing since May

  Human remains found by farmer amid search for Iowa boy missing since May The remains of an adolescent were discovered by a farmer in rural Iowa in an area where an Iowa boy went missing in May. Xavior Harrelson was last seen the morning of May 27, days before his 11th birthday, when he left his home in Montezuma to go on a bike ride, authorities said.

Alaska

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Anchorage: A man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wednesday. In a separate threat left in a voice message at Murkowski’s Washington, D.C., office, the caller asked if the Alaska Republican knew what a .50-caliber shell does to a human head, according to court records unsealed Wednesday. Jay Allen Johnson, 65, of Delta Junction, was scheduled to make his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Fairbanks Wednesday over allegedly making threats against two senators, but the hearing was continued until Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The two senators were not named by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or in an affidavit outlining the investigation filed by Matthew Patrick Allen Oudbier, an FBI special agent. However, Karina Borger, a spokesperson for Murkowski, confirmed in an email that the senator was one of the targets and was listed in the affidavit as “Senator 1.” “Threats should be taken seriously and our laws should be enforced to ensure accountability,” Borger said in a follow-up . “Senator Murkowski is thankful for the hard work of the federal law enforcement and for all they do to keep us safe.” Alaska’s other U.S. senator, Dan Sullivan, was “Senator 2” in the affidavit, his senior adviser Amanda Coyne said in an email.

Body Matching Description of 11-Year-Old Boy Missing for 4 Months Found Near His Iowa Home

  Body Matching Description of 11-Year-Old Boy Missing for 4 Months Found Near His Iowa Home Xavior Harrelson was last seen on May 27 near his home in Montezuma, Iowa RELATED: Body of Missing Houston Man Found in Wyoming After Media Attention on Gabby Petito Led to Tips Xavior was last seen wearing a red T-shirt, blue pajama pants and black high-top shoes, ABC News and the Des Moines Register report. "We are not saying that it is Xavior Harrelson at this time," Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of Iowa DCI, told reporters in footage obtained by WOI-DT.

Arizona

Phoenix: An appellate court decision says the state’s constitutional protections for crime victims don’t prevent prosecutors from conducting pretrial interviews of victims who object. The Court of Appeals’ ruling Tuesday said the Arizona Constitution’s Victim’s Bill of Rights allows victims to refuse pretrial interviews with defendants or defense lawyers, but the court said that right of refusal does not extend to interviews or depositions with the prosecution. The court issued its ruling in a Yavapai County case involving a woman who is awaiting trial on a charge of luring a minor for sexual exploitation after allegedly sending a “suggestive photo” to a boy who was 14 years old at the time. The boy initially told prosecutors that he and the woman exchanged sexually explicit texts and photos, but he later declined to meet with prosecutors to prepare for his trial testimony. According to the ruling, the boy also said through his attorney that he would characterize certain evidence in a way more favorable to the woman than previously reported.

Everything to Know About Gwen Shamblin, the Late Diet Guru Chronicled in HBO Max's The Way Down

  Everything to Know About Gwen Shamblin, the Late Diet Guru Chronicled in HBO Max's The Way Down The docuseries follows Gwen Shamblin Lara's rise to fame from weight-loss champion to controversial religious leader — and is currently streaming on HBO Max .

Arkansas

Little Rock: Lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to legislation requiring employers to let their workers opt out of getting COVID-19 vaccines – a move opposed by the state’s Republican governor, business groups and hospitals. But the proposal faces uncertainty on whether it’ll take effect immediately or early next year if it’s enacted. The proposal is among several attempts to limit or prohibit vaccine requirements that have dominated the Legislature’s attention during a session that was supposed to focus on congressional redistricting. The bill’s sponsor portrayed it as a way to protect people on the verge of losing their jobs because they refuse to get vaccinated. “You want to take people that are willing to show up to work, you want to take people that have stuck with you through this entire mess called COVID, and now you want to put them out on the streets?” Republican Sen. Kim Hammer said. The proposal requires a process for employees to opt out if they are tested weekly or can prove they have COVID-19 antibodies. Health officials say antibody testing should not be used to assess immunity against the coronavirus. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, calling the proposal in itself a mandate that would prevent businesses from setting their own vaccination policies.

There wasn't a slow day on Capitol Hill this past week - with celebrity appearances, a congressional baseball game, and a second Sept. 30

  There wasn't a slow day on Capitol Hill this past week - with celebrity appearances, a congressional baseball game, and a second Sept. 30 It was a busy week on the Hill as lawmakers played a game of baseball, met with actor Woody Harrelson, and temporarily averted a government shutdown.On Monday evening, Senate Republicans blocked a House-approved measure aimed at averting both a debt default and a government shutdown.

California

Sacramento: The state is encouraging more use of fire to fight fire, such as when deliberately set burns were recently used to protect giant sequoias from a raging wildfire. But sometimes what are known as prescribed fires spread out of control, causing their own extensive damage. A bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Wednesday adds legal protections for private landowners and those who manage the blazes by raising the legal standard for seeking wildfire suppression costs from simple negligence to gross negligence. Such costs can include not only fighting the fire but also related rescues and investigations. Entities such as Native American tribes and community fire safe councils must generally use professional, certified “burn bosses” or government forestry officers to plan and manage the controlled blazes. While government employees are generally already protected from liability, the new law makes it more difficult to sue private burn bosses. The burns must be for wildfire hazard reduction, ecological maintenance and restoration, cultural burning, forest management or agriculture. Opponents said the liability change leaves wildfire victims “with a more difficult and less efficient cost recovery process.”

Remnants of Black church uncovered in Colonial Williamsburg

  Remnants of Black church uncovered in Colonial Williamsburg WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — The brick foundation of one of the nation's oldest Black churches has been unearthed at Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum in Virginia that continues to reckon with its past storytelling about the country's origins and the role of Black Americans. The First Baptist Church was formed in 1776 by free and enslaved Black people. They initially met secretly in fields and under trees in defiance of laws that prevented African Americans from congregating. By 1818, the church had its first building in the former colonial capital. The 16-foot by 20-foot (5-meter by 6-meter) structure was destroyed by a tornado in 1834.

Colorado

Denver: A health system is requiring “almost all” organ transplant patients to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before they receive their transplants. State Rep. Tim Geitner said in a Facebook Live video Tuesday that a woman shared a letter with him from UCHealth saying it would not perform a kidney transplant on her until she received a vaccine. The Republican state lawmaker tweeted a copy of the letter, which states that “if your decision is to refuse COVID vaccination you will be removed from the kidney transplant list.” It also says the woman has 30 days to start a COVID-19 vaccination series. UCHealth confirmed to USA TODAY that “in almost all situations, transplant recipients and living donors” within the system “are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in addition to meeting other health requirements.” The health system noted that transplant centers and medical providers often have requirements for transplant patients, such as receiving other kinds of vaccinations or avoiding alcohol. “These requirements increase the likelihood that a transplant will be successful and the patient will avoid rejection,” UCHealth said in a statement. The health system said for transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate can be 20% to more than 30%, far higher than the general population.

Connecticut

New Haven: Antisemitic and racist graffiti have been found twice in less than three weeks in a Yale University building that is under renovation, police said. In the first case, a construction crew working on the site found graffiti sprayed inside Kline Biology Towers on Sept. 20. The crew reported it to Yale police. The renovation company increased security, installing additional cameras and restricting access. Then late Saturday, video footage recorded vandals scaling a fence and breaking into the construction site to spray-paint antisemitic and racist rhetoric. Yale police said they are investigating both episodes, which they think are related. Yale President Peter Salovey said in a statement that the school condemns the vandalism and “will continue to stand united against acts of hate.”

Brick foundation of one of America's oldest Black churches unearthed in Colonial Williamsburg

  Brick foundation of one of America's oldest Black churches unearthed in Colonial Williamsburg The First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, in Virginia, is as old as America, having been founded by free and enslaved Blacks in 1776. © Courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Archaeologists have found the remnants of the 1818 structure, as well as that of a newer church building that was torn down in the 1950s. At that time, it was illegal for African Americans to gather, so the congregation initially met outside in secret until they were allowed to use a small building that became known as the Baptist Meeting House in the early 1800s.

Delaware

Michael McFarlane, a Tyler Technologies official overseeing Delaware's property tax reassessment effort, displays the vests surveyors are to wear when they visit homes and businesses as part of the process. © XERXES WILSON/DELAWARE NEWS JOURNAL Michael McFarlane, a Tyler Technologies official overseeing Delaware's property tax reassessment effort, displays the vests surveyors are to wear when they visit homes and businesses as part of the process.

Wilmington: Government employees in bright vests are beginning to visit every home and business in the state that is taxed by local government as part of a sweeping reform to Delaware’s property taxing systems. Home-visit surveys began in New Castle County last month and will begin this month in Kent and Sussex counties. They are an early step of public interaction in what will be a multiyear process for government to reassess property valuations used for taxing, the first such reassessment in decades. The inspections are meant to provide an updated and accurate view of the layout, size and improvements for each taxed property. For residential properties, the interaction will likely begin with a knock on the door from a government contractor. Their bright-colored vests will bear the name “Tyler” for Tyler Technologies Inc., the Texas-headquartered firm hired to conduct the reassessment. The data collector will show identification and ask property owners about the characteristics of the inside of the home and collect measurements and observations of the outside of the home. Property owners do not set up appointments, and they do not need to be home for the assessment. The inspectors will not enter the home unless invited by the property owner to view something specific inside.

District of Columbia

Washington: Actor Woody Harrelson punched a man in the neck after a verbal dispute at the Watergate Hotel, WUSA-TV reports. An incident report obtained by the station says a man and tried to grab Harrelson’s neck, and Harrelson told police he punched the man in the neck in defense. A nearby witness also told police that the man lunged at Harrelson and tried to put his hand around his neck. According to the police report, there were no arrests or charges. The identity of the man involved had not been released. Harrelson is in the D.C. area filming an upcoming HBO series called “The White House Plumbers” about the famed Watergate hotel investigation that revealed abuse of power by the Nixon administration. The five-part series will depict E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as the political masterminds behind the Watergate scandal. Harrelson stars as Hunt and Justin Theroux as Liddy.

Woody Harrelson Is Not Facing Charges After Punching Man in D.C. Incident

  Woody Harrelson Is Not Facing Charges After Punching Man in D.C. Incident Woody Harrelson Is Not Facing Charges After Punching Man in D.C. IncidentAccording to a police report obtained by Us Weekly, Harrelson, 60, got into a “verbal dispute” at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, October 7, and proceeded to punch another patron in the neck. The actor claimed that the alleged aggressor attempted to grab his neck during the incident. The Zombieland star retaliated out of “self-defense,” per the report.

Florida

Fort Lauderdale: The preliminary stage of jury selection in the trial of a school massacre suspect on charges that he attacked a jail guard concluded Wednesday, but not before attorneys clashed over whether Nikolas Cruz should be allowed to draw using colored pencils to avoid getting upset. Prosecutor Maria Schneider accused Cruz’s attorneys of giving him the colored pencils to make the suspected killer of 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February 2018 appear sympathetic before the prospective jurors. Cruz’s attorneys gave him the pencils after the 23-year-old became visibly upset when a woman in Wednesday’s first group of 32 prospects began crying after seeing him – the third time that happened over two days of preliminary screening. “They are doing (that) so the jury perceives that he is a child, that his mentality is somehow challenged,” Schneider told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer. Cruz’s lead attorney on the brawl case, Gabe Ermine, told Scherer the defense only wanted to soothe his emotions. Throughout Tuesday’s groups, Cruz had been alert, took notes and conversed with his attorneys – a sharp contrast from Wednesday, when he mostly stared glumly downward. Ermine said Cruz had not actually done any drawing. Scherer ruled Cruz cannot be given colored pencils, citing safety concerns.

Georgia

Savannah: A state agency says the number of highway chases involving state law enforcement officers jumped dramatically in 2020, resulting in hundreds of injuries and a few deaths. According to a report by the Department of Public Safety, the Georgia State Patrol and officers from other state agencies took part in more than 1,200 pursuits statewide last year. That’s almost double the number of chases in 2019 and the highest total in the past five years, WTOC-TV reports. “It seems like people run more and more from the police,” said Lt. Mark Riley, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. “I really don’t know what the catalyst is for that.” Officials say the increase has put more people in danger. The department’s report showed there were crashes in nearly 70% of highway chases last year. A total of 486 state troopers and officers were injured, as were 67 innocent bystanders. No law officers got killed, but four bystanders died. Most of the chases tracked by the state involved troopers with the Georgia State Patrol. A small number of pursuits also involved state Capitol police and the Georgia Motor Carrier Division. According to the department’s report, less than 1 in 3 Georgia highway chases last year resulted in no injuries or property damage.

Hawaii

Honolulu: The city’s bike-share service stopped losing money after tourists returned in large numbers this summer. Even so, Biki faces challenges because residents changed their bike riding patterns during the coronavirus pandemic, and tourism remains below pre-COVID-19 levels, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. “We’re stabilized,” said Bikeshare Hawaii Executive Director Todd Boulanger. “The summer boost in ride revenue basically ended the 12 months of losses. It doesn’t make us whole, but we are no longer bleeding.” Last year Bikeshare Hawaii, the nonprofit that manages Biki, experienced a 50% drop in trips because of the pandemic. To deal with losses, it decommissioned seven stations and reduced services. Bikeshare faces an uphill battle given that visitor numbers have waned again after the delta variant fueled a spike in coronaviruscases. Also, additional bikes and bike parts are a challenge to obtain due to ongoing global supply chain issues. Demand from residents has declined somewhat, too. Workers who used to drive into town and then ride a Biki to meetings have not returned fully and are not necessarily meeting in person anymore. Also, university crowds have not returned to the same level and are not using Biki at previously top stations, for instance, by Puck’s Alley in Moiliili.

Idaho

Boise: Even before his return from an overnight trip to Texas, the governor issued an executive order Wednesday repealing his political rival’s executive order from the previous day involving COVID-19 vaccine and coronavirus testing requirements. Republican Gov. Brad Little issued the order while still in Texas, a move that challenges the state’s long-standing practice of making the lieutenant governor acting governor when the governor is out of state. Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a far-right Republican who is running to take Little’s job, issued her order Tuesday and also sought to activate the Idaho National Guard to send soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border. Little was in Texas meeting with nine other Republican governors about border issues. Little’s executive order appears to lay the groundwork for a court challenge to determine who is in charge when governor leaves the state. His order says he did not authorize McGeachin to act, and it cites Idaho law. “Nor does my temporary presence in Texas on official business impair my ability to represent the people of Idaho thus necessitating action by another executive to ensure the continuity of state government,” the order says, charging that McGeachin’s order prohibiting mandatory coronavirus testing in schools would harm the state’s ability to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Illinois

Pingree Grove: Two zebras that escaped from a suburban Chicago pumpkin farm had travelers on a state highway doing double takes as the exotic animals hit the road during their brief taste of freedom. The young male and female zebras escaped Sunday from a pen inside an indoor zoo at Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard in Pingree Grove. They crossed Route 47 several times and wandered through farm fields in the northwest Chicago suburb. Illinois State Police were called because the ensuring chase was near Interstate 90, The Daily Herald reports. Other police agencies also joined the pursuit of the striped escapees. A passenger in a car filmed the animals running into a field and posted the video on TikTok. “They look like zebras. They got stripes. They are!” the driver exclaims in the video. Kane County Undersheriff Pat Gengler said police blocked traffic several times in the area, worried that cars would strike the zebras or gawking motorists would get in accidents. After about two hours, workers with the pumpkin patch and the zoo tracked down the animals on all-terrain vehicles and captured both of them. The zebras, which are supplied to the pumpkin patch by another business, were not injured during the pursuit. “It was pretty exciting for a while. It was all hands on deck,” said Jacob Goebbert, a farm employee.

Indiana

Indianapolis: The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana filed a federal court complaint Wednesday night against one of the largest banks in the state, Old National Bank, alleging that it unlawfully discriminated in residential mortgage lending based on race. The allegations were based on a fair housing investigation into the practices of area lenders that FHCCI launched in 2016. The center said it found that Old National Bank made more than 2,250 mortgage loans in the Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson metropolitan area in 2019 and 2020, but only 37 were to Black borrowers. It also identified the borrower’s race for more than 91% of these loans, the complaint alleges. The bank deliberately engaged in housing discrimination against Blacks, it alleges – conduct that FHCCI said constitutes redlining and is in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. Redlining was outlawed by the 1968 act, but it continues to persist today in the form of racially discriminatory lending practices and the undervaluing of homes owned by Black Americans, according to housing advocates and researchers. The complaint alleges Old National Bank structured its business to avoid providing access to mortgage credit to Black residents and neighborhoods in the Indianapolis area and made many fewer loans to Black applicants than its peers did.

Iowa

Des Moines: The second of two white men who brutally beat a Black man during what the victim said was a racist attack has been sentenced to probation. Jesse James Downs, 29, was sentenced Wednesday to a year of probation after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. A judge also ordered Downs to complete 150 hours of community service. An accomplice, 29-year-old Dale Lee Millard, was sentenced to three years of probation in March after he entered an Alford plea to a count of willful injury. The pleas came in the May 2020 attack on 23-year-old DarQuan Jones, who said the two men attacked him and shouted racial slurs at him after he knocked on his girlfriend’s door in Des Moines. Jones said the men also dragged him to a nearby creek and held his head underwater. Jones said the attack only ended after two women who heard his screams intervened. The attack left him with broken bones in his face and wrist and required 10 stitches. He said his medical bills topped $10,000. Jones said after the attack that he thought the men were going to kill him. “When they started dragging me to the creek, I thought it was over for me,” he said. The NAACP of Des Moines said the day the attack should be considered a hate crime, but Des Moines police said there was no evidence to firmly establish race as the primary motive.

Kansas

Topeka: Health officials are frustrated that many school boards remain reluctant to adopt mask mandates, even though most COVID-19 outbreaks in Kansas schools are occurring in districts without such requirements. The state has 68 active school clusters, down from 79 a week ago, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Wednesday. And those clusters have been connected to 596 cases, one hospitalization and one death. Of the active outbreaks from last week, only 29% occurred in districts that reported having a mask requirement. The outbreaks at schools without mask mandates and those that did not report what their mask policies were had clusters with about five to six times as many cases per capita, according to health department data. “It’s important to help parents understand that having your child wear masks in school keeps them there in school, and it keeps the schools operating and functioning,” said Stephanie Kuhlmann, a pediatric hospitalist at Wesley Children’s Hospital, during a Wednesday meeting of the governor’s Safer Classrooms Workgroup. Without universal masking, teachers become preoccupied with contact tracing and structuring classrooms to avoid close contacts, said Kevin Riemann, executive director of the Kansas National Education Association.

Kentucky

Frankfort: The state’s Republican attorney general laid out his strategy Wednesday to champion Kentucky’s embattled abortion law in court, calling his office the “last line of defense” for the measure that would block a second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies. Attorney General Daniel Cameron said his first goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to let him defend the 2018 law, which was previously struck down by lower courts. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the procedural dispute and scheduled a hearing next Tuesday. Addressing anti-abortion advocates outside the state Capitol, Cameron said he should have the opportunity to “make sure that we exhaust all avenues in defending our laws.” The disputed Kentucky law took aim at an abortion procedure known as “dilation and evacuation,” in which the fetus is removed with instruments. Opponents call it “barbaric and gruesome.” Abortion rights supporters say it’s a safe method for terminating a pregnancy. The procedure accounted for about 300 of the 3,200 abortions performed in Kentucky in 2018, the year the law was passed. The law’s opponents include the American Civil Liberties Union. Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, declared “enough is enough” in pushing back against Cameron’s efforts to defend it.

Louisiana

Rabbit Island: Restoration of an island in the state’s fragile coastal area is proving wildly popular with the birds for which it was rebuilt, their numbers exploding on the recently added land, authorities said Wednesday. Pelicans, egrets, herons, ibis, terns and other colonial water birds built about 6,100 nests on Rabbit Island – more than 16 times the number biologists had expected, a news release from the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said. The island supports the only brown pelican colony in southwest Louisiana, and about 1,500 pairs of pelicans were among the nesting birds. They included many of the 322 pelicans banded there this year and last, the agency said. Rabbit Island had eroded from nearly 290 acres to about 200 acres – with most of that either underwater or so low that high tides regularly covered nests. Dredging began last fall, adding 102 acres rather than the 88 planned and creating an expanse up to 3.5 feet above sea level. “We’re thrilled to see our state bird come home to a new and improved habitat,” authority chairman Chip Kline said. Settlement money from a devastating 2010 oil spill by energy giant BP estimated to have killed tens of thousands of pelicans in the Gulf area funded the $16.4 million project run by the coastal authority and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Maine

Brunswick: A program that lets state employers reduce worker hours instead of laying workers off entirely has been a “phenomenal tool” during the pandemic, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said Tuesday. The Workshare Program was used only by one or two employers before the pandemic hit in 2020, but that number has grown to more than 240, Gov. Janet Mills said. The programs prevented 3,044 layoffs, she said. “That is more than 3,000 people in Maine who were able to keep their jobs and keep going to work,” she said. The program lets employers voluntarily reduce hours to avoid layoffs while employees collect partial unemployment benefits. The program prevents downsizing and helps keep workers connected to their jobs, the governor’s office said. It also helps them maintain their job skills, the office said. It was supported by a $382,579 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to strengthen and promote the program. “Not only is work sharing a phenomenal tool for employers to retain their experienced workforce, but it is a lifesaver for workers,” Walsh said. Mills and Walsh attended a roundtable along with Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman and several businesses including L.L. Bean, American Roots and Darlings at Bowdoin College.

Maryland

Annapolis: A state board approved more than $421,000 in supplemental compensation Wednesday for the first person in the United States who was sentenced to death and later freed from prison because of DNA evidence. The Board of Public Works also approved $31,343 in attorneys’ fees in the case. Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to death and spent nearly nine years in prison for a Baltimore County murder he did not commit. He was exonerated in 1993. A year later, Maryland approved $300,000 to compensate him for the time he was wrongly incarcerated. Earlier this year, Maryland updated the law for compensating the wrongly convicted to create a standard process to determine how much compensation should be paid. The amount approved Wednesday brought the compensation for Bloodsworth up to what’s now set in law. The board has approved millions of dollars in the past two years for wrongly incarcerated people. In 2019, the board approved $9 million for five men who were wrongly imprisoned for a combined 120 years. It was the first time the board had approved such compensation in 15 years. Maryland banned the death penalty in 2013. Bloodsworth was a leading advocate for repeal.

Massachusetts

Boston: A bill that would permanently write into state law early voting options that were temporarily adopted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year was approved overwhelmingly Wednesday by the Massachusetts Senate. The bill would also enact same-day voter registration and make other changes to the commonwealth’s election process, including allowing no-excuse voting by mail. The Senate passed the bill by a 36-3 vote. Supporters say the proposal incorporates lessons learned during the pandemic and takes critical steps to expand the right to vote in Massachusetts at a time when many states are tightening access to the ballot box. State lawmakers previously enacted legislation to temporarily extend vote-by-mail and early voting options through Dec. 15. “One of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we had the chance to prove that the voting reforms that so many have advocated for can and do work,” Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said in a statement when the bill was unveiled. Many of the measures included in the legislation helped produce record voter turnout last fall, according to Patricia Comfort, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

Michigan

The state of Michigan is telling Benton Harbor residents not to use the city's water supplies for drinking or cooking. © Don Campbell, AP The state of Michigan is telling Benton Harbor residents not to use the city's water supplies for drinking or cooking.

Benton Harbor: The state on Wednesday urged the city’s residents to use only bottled water for cooking and drinking, a major shift in response to elevated levels of lead. The state recently said it would distribute free water and filters in the southwestern Michigan city. But federal regulators now are reviewing how effective the filters are in removing lead from water at certain levels, according to the health department. The state said more than 15,000 cases of water will be delivered in coming days to the predominantly Black and mostly low-income community. “We think they probably are effective,” state health department Director Elizabeth Hertel said of the filters. But “right now don’t use the water for cooking or drinking, even the filtered water, until we can guarantee the efficacy of those filters.” She didn’t know how long it would take. Filters so far have been given to more than 2,600 homes, the department said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it’s evaluating how filters perform specifically on Benton Harbor’s water chemistry. A local activist, the Rev. Edward Pinkney, said he’s pleased with the state’s emphasis on bottled water but said residents need to hear a stronger message. “The water is unsafe to use. Period. Any use. That will get more attention around here,” Pinkney said.

Minnesota

Minneapolis: The state Supreme Court on Wednesday denied former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin’s request to have a public defender represent him as he appeals his murder conviction and sentence in the death of George Floyd. The state’s high court said Chauvin has not established that he is entitled to a public defender. The justices made that decision after reviewing information about Chauvin’s debts and assets, as well as the Office of the Minnesota Appellate Public Defender’s prior determination that Chauvin was ineligible, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote. Chauvin may seek a public defender in the future if he’s unable to pay for a lawyer, the Supreme Court said. Chauvin filed documents last month saying he intends to appeal his conviction and sentence on 14 grounds, including that his trial should have been moved from Hennepin County and that the jury should have been sequestered. Chauvin also filed an affidavit saying he has no attorney in the appeals process and has no income aside from nominal prison wages. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association’s legal defense fund paid for his case before Judge Peter Cahill. Chauvin wrote: “I have been informed that their obligation to pay for my representation terminated upon my conviction and sentencing.”

Mississippi

Biloxi: A chancery court has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at blocking construction of a public pier, ruling that the city is within its rights to build the pier without a state tidelands lease. The Secretary of State’s Office had sued over a plan by Biloxi and Harrison County to lease the property to RW Development for construction of a municipal pier for public use, claiming that the city needed a tidelands lease, WLOX-TV reports. The chancery judge’s ruling Monday said municipal piers and harbors have been built in Biloxi for decades without requiring a tidelands lease. “This is outstanding news for Biloxi and all the cities and counties along the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said. “This is about public access and enjoyment of the waterfront, and the cities and counties have been building piers, harbors and other amenities on the waterfront for more than a hundred years.” A public pier had been at the Veterans Avenue site for years before being destroyed by a hurricane. RW Development plans to finalize the design of the pier and begin the permitting process with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. The lease between RW and the city and county states that the company is responsible for constructing and maintaining the public pier.

Missouri

Lee’s Summit: Hundreds of students at a suburban Kansas City high school walked out of class this week over allegations of LGBTQ students facing repeated harassment and bullying. The walkout happened Monday at Lee’s Summit High School after some students said administrators there have done nothing to protect bullied students, even after receiving repeated reports of the bullying, the Kansas City Star reports. The mother of one student told the Star her daughter was punched in the face last week by a boy after confronting him in a school hallway about harassing and bullying her gay friend. The mother, Melanie Davies, said the incident led to a fight between bullying students and the students allegedly being bullied. “No teachers were around,” Davies said. “Students broke it up.” Davies later took her daughter to the emergency room, where they learned she had a broken nose. The students who were being bullied and defended themselves in the fight were suspended from school along with the bullies, Davies said. Her daughter and friends also were not allowed to attend their senior homecoming dance because of the suspension, she said. District spokeswoman Katy Bergen told the Star the district prohibits all forms of bullying and investigates all complaints of bullying administrators receive.

Montana

Helena: A law firm is suing the state over a rule that bans businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees. This is the second lawsuit challenging the only law in the U.S. that prevents employers from mandating workers get vaccinated. Netzer Law Office, which has five employees and locations in Sidney and Billings, said the law passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature interferes with the business’s “choice in determining how best to provide a safe and healthy environment.” The law office is represented in the suit by Joel Krautter, a former Republican state lawmaker. The law – which applies to all vaccinations – says requiring vaccines as a condition of employment is discriminatory and violates the state’s human rights laws. The suit filed Tuesday in district court in Richland County says the new law violates the Montana Constitution, which guarantees the right to “a clean and healthful environment.” In addition to asking for the law to be deemed unconstitutional, the plaintiffs are asking for a preliminary injunction staying the enforcement of the law while the legal challenge is underway. The suit names state Republican State Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Commissioner of Labor and Industry Laurie Esau as defendants.

Nebraska

Holdrege: BD has completed an expansion at one of its plants that will help the company continue providing hundreds of millions of needles and syringes to the U.S. government to help with the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. The company said Thursday that the $70 million expansion of production lines at its plant in Holdrege was completed with the help of a $42 million investment from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “As the fight against COVID-19 continues, we are steadfast in our commitment to securing the nation’s supply continuity of these critical injection devices,” said Rick Byrd, president of Medication Delivery Solutions for BD. Dawn O’Connell, HHS’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said having a ready supply of domestically manufactured needles and syringes has been critical to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. “Taking action now to increase U.S.-based manufacturing capacity will allow us to meet the needs of patients and health care providers while also creating valuable U.S. jobs,” O’Connell said. In addition to the Holdrege plant, BD has manufacturing plants in Broken Bow and Columbus, Nebraska.

Nevada

Las Vegas: Casino industry leaders and vendors riding a resurgence of gambling following coronavirus closures are gathering in person for an annual conference this week – amid strict mask and vaccination rules – after meeting virtually a year ago. “We are thrilled to be back here, live, in Las Vegas,” American Gaming Association chief Bill Miller said Tuesday as he greeted about 500 people in a ballroom. Chairs were spaced apart in groups of two, three and four at the Global Gaming Expo at The Venetian resort on the Las Vegas Strip. “I mean, there’s nothing like getting back together in person,” Miller said, calling four days featuring an expansive trade show, breakout meetings and keynote speeches “a lot better than being on a Zoom (videoconference) call.” The event at The Venetian Expo center has drawn up to 27,000 attendees in recent years. Gaming association spokeswoman Allison Nielsen said current attendance figures wouldn’t be known until later this week. Attendees submitted proof of COVID-19 vaccination, many through the cellphone app Clear Health Pass, and were issued green wristbands to show they complied. Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat who ordered Nevada casinos and most other businesses closed from mid-March to June 2020, was among featured speakers.

New Hampshire

Concord: A civil rights complaint was filed against a woman accused of telling a Black child who accidentally broke her son’s toy that she would “kneel on his neck” and calling him a racial slur, the state attorney general’s office said Thursday. Kristina Graper threatened the 9-year-old boy who was playing in a neighborhood park with her son May 10, according to the complaint filed in Strafford County Superior Court. Graper’s son pushed the boy, and that push resulted in the boy “breaking a foam missile or foam bullet” that belonged to Graper’s son, who ran home to tell her what happened. Graper then went back to the park and found the other child, threatening him that she’d “kneel on his neck,” according to the complaint. A witness told Graper her behavior was unnecessary, and then Graper started yelling at that person. She called the child a racial slur before returning home, the complaint said. The child’s mother later called police. When she met with them June 1, Graper denied saying she would kneel on the boy’s neck but instead said words to the effect of “you wonder why you guys get (expletive) kneeled on,” according to the complaint. The complaint said the encounter distressed the child, who understood the comments to be a reference to the murder of George Floyd. He began to cry when he heard her words and has been afraid to return to the park, which he will only do “when other children are there to help keep him safe,” the complaint said.

New Jersey

Freehold: Building relationships with the LGBTQ community and enrolling local businesses to act as shelters where victims of bias crimes can seek immediate help are parts of a new program rolled out Wednesday by a prosecutor’s office. Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey introduced the program to assign liaisons to members of the gay, lesbian, transgender and other communities to chip away at decades of distrust between them and law enforcement. She enlisted the help of three Jersey Shore cities to conduct the pilot program called “Safe Place,” modeled after a similar initiative in Seattle. The program works with local businesses to display the rainbow-colored “Safe Place” logo in their windows to let victims of bias or hate crimes know their establishment is somewhere they can enter to seek shelter while authorities are called. “It’s a goal of our program to build bridges and collaborate with the LGBTQ community, some of whom have a distrust of law enforcement,” Linskey said. Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest gay rights organization, welcomed the outreach. He said years of mistrust have built up between law enforcement, dating back to years when authorities would raid and close establishments catering to a gay clientele.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: Top officials with the largest Native American tribe in the U.S. are renewing a request for congressional leaders to hold a field hearing before deciding on federal legislation aimed at limiting oil and gas development around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The Navajo Nation has struggled for years with high poverty rates and joblessness, and the tribe’s legislative leaders say individual Navajo allottees stand to lose an important source of income if a 10-mile buffer is created around the park as proposed. They’re calling for a smaller area of federal land holdings to be made off limits to oil and gas development as a compromise to protect Navajo interests. A World Heritage site, Chaco is thought to be the center of what was once a hub of Indigenous civilization. Within the park, walls of stacked stone jut up from the bottom of the canyon, some perfectly aligned with the seasonal movements of the sun and moon. Circular subterranean rooms called kivas are cut into the desert floor. Outside the park, archaeologists say there are discoveries still to be made. Other tribes, environmental groups and archaeologists have been pushing to stop drilling across an expansive area of northwestern New Mexico, saying sites beyond Chaco’s boundaries need protection, and the federal government’s leasing program needs an overhaul.

New York

New York: Mayor Bill de Blasio misused city resources by taking his police security detail with him on trips around the U.S. during his ill-fated presidential run, at a cost of roughly $320,000, and by letting his adult son use the detail as a free taxi service, investigators concluded in a report released Thursday. The city’s Department of Investigation, an independent agency that acts as a inspector general, also said a police van was improperly used to carry a futon when de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, moved from a Brooklyn apartment back to Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, in August 2018. Members of the mayor’s security team drove his son, Dante, around town and to and from Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut. The Department of Investigation laid much of the blame for the misuse of the detail on the police department, saying it had no written procedures defining when and how the detail should be used. Members of the security detail also at times transported the mayor’s staff members and guests including his brother, the report said. De Blasio said at a virtual news briefing that the report contained “many inconsistencies and inaccuracies” and said decisions about providing security during his presidential campaign and transportation for his family were made by police officials based on safety concerns.

North Carolina

Winston-Salem: A teacher has resigned from a charter school after telling Black students that if not for the Constitution, they would be her “field slaves,” a comment that one parent said brought attention to other racist incidents at the school. Winterville Charter Academy sent a memo that also referred to “racially insensitive words” being used by children in the class without any action from the teacher, who Principal Annastasia Ryan said in the memo “was supported in turning in her resignation and will not be returning on campus,” WITN-TV reports. Kanisha Tillman, who has an eighth grader at the school, said a parent sent her a text message Sept. 20 suggesting a particular teacher treated Black and white students differently. Her son later that day described one such incident in which he said a white student had called him a racist term. “When the Black student educated him on that being racist and him not liking it and not to call him that and asked the teacher for support, the teacher turned around and said to him, ‘Oh, it’s OK. We’re all a little bit racist,’ ” Tillman said.

North Dakota

Bismarck: A state trooper who fatally shot a man along an interstate last month has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office determined Trooper Steve Mayer was justified in his use of deadly force against 45-year-old Craig Knutson, of Billings, Montana. Mayer was assisting Morton County sheriff’s deputies who attempted to stop Knutson on Interstate 94 west of Mandan on Sept. 7. Knutson, accused of reckless driving, failed to pull over. Mayer used his patrol vehicle to force Knutson to stop. His father, Jerry Knutson, also of Billings, told The Bismarck Tribune he had no issues with Mayer being cleared because “he did what he had to do.” He said he was thankful his son did not get into a wreck on the highway or shoot an officer. He said there are law officers in the family. “Why he would think to not stop, I don’t understand,” he said of his son. The elder Knutson said his son was “a good man, a good father, a good son,” and what people saw in September was the “bad side of Craig,” whose drinking intensified after he was divorced in the last two years. A dispatcher can be heard in Highway Patrol video telling officers that Knutson was threatening to shoot himself. Knutson confirmed to the dispatcher that he had a gun but had no intention of harming any officers.

Ohio

A sculpture of a guitar hangs at the front of the Hard Rock Cafe during its official opening July 15 inside the Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati. © Zane Meyer-Thornton/The Enquirer A sculpture of a guitar hangs at the front of the Hard Rock Cafe during its official opening July 15 inside the Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati.

Cincinnati: Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose will help officially open the Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati for business. The casino’s grand reopening will begin at 11 a.m. Oct. 29, with Rose making the first table game bet. There will also be a live performance by Earth, Wind & Fire. In 2019, Hard Rock announced plans to overhaul the former Jack Casino, complete with a Hard Rock Cafe and eventual plans for a hotel, though it has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hard Rock Cafe opened in July. The reopening will include a guitar smash “led by celebrities and members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” as well as executives from the Hard Rock Casino, a news release said. Rose is expected to autograph the official Hard Rock Casino guitar, specially made for the casino’s memorabilia collection. Tickets went on sale Thursday for the Earth, Wind & Fire concert and can be purchased at HardRockCasinoCincinnati.com.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who has clashed repeatedly with Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and his appointees over the state’s response to COVID-19 in schools, said Thursday that she will switch parties and run as a Democrat against him next year. A longtime Republican first elected in 2014, Hofmeister said the decision to switch parties and run for governor was a difficult one, but “Kevin Stitt has hijacked the Republican Party here in Oklahoma.” She said in a statement that “with partisanship and ineffective leadership, Governor Stitt is running our state into the ground.” A former schoolteacher, Hofmeister was elected in 2014 after she won a GOP primary against incumbent Janet Barresi and then defeated Democrat John Cox in the general election. Hofmeister was reelected in 2018. She can’t run for the post again because of term limits. She oversaw Oklahoma schools during a tumultuous time that included massive protests and walkouts over teacher pay and school funding. Hofmeister broke with four of Stitt’s appointees to the state school board last year over whether to require schools to follow coronavirus protocols, including mask-wearing. Stitt’s appointees voted to make complying with the protocols optional.

Oregon

Salem: The state Supreme Court struck down the death sentence of an inmate in a ruling Thursday that found lawmakers had fundamentally altered “prevailing societal standards” for executions with a 2019 law change. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports experts believe the decision could eliminate the death sentence for all inmates facing the penalty. State lawmakers passed a bill in 2019 that narrowed what crimes qualify as aggravated murder – the only charge that carries capital punishment in Oregon – to murders of children younger than 14 years old, murders of law enforcement officers, terrorist attacks that kill at least two people, and prison killings carried out by someone who’d previously been convicted of murder. That’s a narrower scope than what formerly constituted aggravated murder. While the law change included a provision that did not make it retroactive, the court’s ruling appears to do that, relying on a section of the state’s Constitution that prohibits disproportionate punishments. “My expectation is that every death sentence that is currently in place will be overturned as a result of this,” said Jeffrey Ellis, co-director of the Oregon Capital Resource Center.

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh: The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board has ruled that graduate assistants at the University of Pittsburgh fell short in a 2019 effort to unionize. University officials disclosed the ruling involving graduate student employees Tuesday and said it effectively ends the drive to organize assistants who teach, do research and engage in other endeavors, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Union organizers, however, say they are appealing the decision. The United Steelworkers several years ago petitioned the labor board for an election, citing card campaign numbers indicating that at least 30% of the potential bargaining unit supported the idea of a union. But the bid fell more than three dozen votes short of approval in an election held over four days in 2019. The union and student organizers appealed, accusing university officials of tactics discouraging the vote. University officials said they did nothing inappropriate. The board ultimately concluded that management actions weren’t enough to affect the election result. The board’s final ruling upheld that decision. The Steelworkers said Wednesday that they are “already in the process” of appealing.

Rhode Island

Providence: Gov. Dan McKee disclosed his plans Thursday to spend about $113 million of the state’s more than $1.1 billion in federal relief funds on essential needs including affordable housing, support for small businesses, and bonuses for child care workers. The goal of the midyear budget amendment and spending a portion of the state’s American Rescue Plan funds is to accelerate the post-pandemic economy, he said. “We’re writing Rhode Island’s next chapter now,” the Democratic governor said at a State House news conference. “National assessments show that Rhode Island is, for once, a leading state as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. If we invest soon and invest wisely, we can continue to lead rather than follow, creating opportunities for Rhode Islanders as a result.” Of $45 million proposed for small businesses, $12.5 million would be used for immediate financial support, with the goal of spending 20% on minority-owned businesses. Another $10.5 million would go to technical assistance and for upgrading technical infrastructure. He also proposed spending an additional $15 million for affordable housing construction.

South Carolina

Columbia: A utility executive who repeatedly lied to keep investors pumping money into the state’s $9 billion nuclear reactor debacle will spend two years in prison for fraud, a federal judge decided Thursday. Former SCANA Corp. CEO Kevin Marsh agreed with prosecutors that he should serve the sentence, and the judge approved the deal, making him the first executive put behind bars for misleading the public on the project, which failed without ever generating a watt of power. Marsh said he wants to serve his time now because his wife of 46 years has incurable breast cancer, and he hopes to care for her after leaving prison. U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis cited Marsh’s remorse and expansive cooperation with federal authorities as she reluctantly accepted the plea deal, which is well below the federal sentencing guidelines of five years. She said the prosecution and defense depiction of the crime Marsh committed is a “vanilla way to describe it,” adding that it understates “the seriousness of this nondisclosure.” “Your crime was committed with a little more elegance and sophistication than many I see,” Geiger told Marsh. “But you don’t get credit for that.”

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: A veterinarian at the Great Plains Zoo said the zoo’s resident Amur tiger has tested positive for the coronavirus. Last week, zookeepers observed coughing and lethargy in the tiger, Keesa. A sample was taken and sent in for lab testing, and the zoo received the results Tuesday. The tiger has been off exhibit since Sunday as it is being treated for the virus. The zoo remains open during its regular hours, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days a week. Several other big cats, including two Amur tigers and two snow leopards, have since exhibited symptoms. All are being tested for and managed under the assumption of a positive result, according to a press release by the zoo. The Great Plains Zoo cares for three endangered Amur tigers named Callie, Yuri and Keesa, said Louden Wright, a veterinarian at the zoo. Transmission from cats to humans has not been shown to occur, although all big cats have been removed from public exhibit spaces for ongoing treatment and observation, a release said. “It’s unfortunate that, in spite of the precautions taken, we are seeing this disease in several of our large cats. The speed with which it has moved between these tigers and leopards really speaks to the insidious nature of this virus,” Wright in the release.

Tennessee

Music City Party Tub, a hot tub on wheels, is downtown Nashville's newest party vehicle. © Courtesy of Music City Party Tub Music City Party Tub, a hot tub on wheels, is downtown Nashville's newest party vehicle.

Nashville: The metropolitan government has asked a judge to temporarily shut down a hot tub on wheels, claiming in a lawsuit that the party vehicle is operating without a public swimming pool permit. The suit was filed in Davidson County Chancery Court last week. Music City Party Tub, the vehicle operator, was informed of the violation in an Aug. 11 letter from the Metro Public Health Department. A temporary injunction hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. According to the lawsuit, the business – which debuted in Nashville’s downtown entertainment district in April 2019 – also isn’t currently registered with the state and doesn’t have a business license in the county. The health department says that when owner Guy Williams came to its office in April 2019, staff told him to submit design plans for the mobile hot tub and apply for a public pool permit. The agency inspected the vehicle and told Williams what to fix to be approved, but the suit says he never returned. Health department workers told Williams in September 2020 that he was operating without a permit, according to the lawsuit. He said he was exempt because the hot tub is 50 gallons short of the “minimum capacity” for a public pool. Such an exemption doesn’t exist, the suit says.

Texas

San Antonio: A Bexar County judge denied an attorney’s motion to remove a 5-year-old boy from his foster home because his foster parents aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19. Senior Judge Susan Reed initially ruled that the boy should be removed from Richard and Barbara Bernhardt’s home, but she reversed her decision this week after learning that they have a medical condition, celiac disease, that they say prevents them from taking the vaccine, the San Antonio Express-News reports. William “Bill” Keiler, the attorney representing the boy, said he’s considering whether to appeal Reed’s ruling because he feels moving the boy would be the best way to protect his health and safety. Gaby Moreno, a conservatorship specialist for Texas Child Protective Services who handles the boy’s case, said she hasn’t received any training from her agency about COVID-19 protocols or policies for Texas foster parents. Richard and Barbara Bernhardt, the boy’s foster parents, said they haven’t been vaccinated because they have celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which people can’t eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. There is no gluten in any of the three vaccines in use in the U.S., according to the Society for the Study of Celiac Disease.

Utah

Rockville: A man who is suspected of shooting at vehicles and causing a lockdown of a tourist town outside Zion National Park was apprehended Wednesday night, authorities said. At least one injury was reported. The Washington County Critical Incident Task Force said in a statement that officers responded Wednesday about 3:40 p.m. to a report of a man who brandished a handgun during an argument in the city of Hurricane, about 20 miles southwest of the national park, then drove off in a silver pickup truck. Officers attempted a traffic stop, but the suspect continued along State Route 9 and shot at multiple vehicles, authorities said. Residents of Rockville, which has about 220 residents, were told to take shelter at 4:30 p.m. in response to gunfire on the highway, KSL-TV reports. State Route 9 was closed for a period of time in both directions through Rockville, according to the Utah Department of Transportation. Shuttle buses inside the park were briefly stopped as emergency vehicles sped through the park Wednesday evening. Authorities said that officers deployed spike sticks and exchanged gunfire as the suspect continued driving through the area. The vehicle crashed in Rockville, and the suspect fled into a nearby neighborhood, where he was found with a gunshot wound about 6:15 p.m.

Vermont

Montpelier: A program started during the pandemic that distributes free restaurant-made meals for people in need and directs revenues to local eateries has been extended for the rest of the year. Vermont Everyone Eats operates statewide, with the goal of addressing people’s food needs and supporting local eateries and farms. Restaurants are expected to get many ingredients, such as produce, locally. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is covering the meals $10 at a time, NECN reports. “Hunger is an emergency and a crisis every single day someone is experiencing it,” Jean Hamilton, the program’s statewide coordinator, told the news outlet. She expects recipients’ food needs to increase as their home heating bills start coming in and said restaurants have also been challenged. “A lot of restaurants had a very challenging summer and made significantly less money than they needed to to survive this winter,” Hamilton said. “So we’re really happy to be able to support both the restaurants and the folks that are seeking support from the meals. And then, of course, also the local farms that are helping make those meals local and farm-fresh.”

Virginia

Williamsburg: The brick foundation of one of the nation’s oldest Black churches has been unearthed at Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum that continues to reckon with its past storytelling about the country’s origins and the role of Black Americans. The First Baptist Church was formed in 1776 by free and enslaved Black people. They initially met secretly in fields and under trees in defiance of laws that prevented African Americans from congregating. By 1818, the church had its first building in the former colonial capital. The 16-by-20-foot structure was destroyed by a tornado in 1834. First Baptist’s second structure, built in 1856, stood there for a century. But an expanding Colonial Williamsburg bought the property in 1956 and turned it into a parking lot. First Baptist Pastor Reginald F. Davis, whose church now stands elsewhere in Williamsburg, said the uncovering of the church’s first home is “a rediscovery of the humanity of a people.” “This helps to erase the historical and social amnesia that has afflicted this country for so many years,” he said. Colonial Williamsburg on Thursday announced that it had located the foundation after analyzing layers of soil and artifacts such as a one-cent coin. More than half of the 2,000 people who lived in Williamsburg in the late 18th century were Black, and many were enslaved.

Washington

Seattle: The number of city police officers who have turned in required proof showing they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 is increasing. The department’s counts as of Wednesday showed 292 sworn officers still need to verify they’ve been fully vaccinated before the Oct. 18 deadline facing city employees, The Seattle Times reports. That 292 makes up 27% of all cops available to respond to calls in the city, according to the newspaper. The latest counts mean the department had received vaccination records for an additional 62 officers since Tuesday, when the Seattle Police Department for the first time publicly released specific numbers. The latest figures from the Seattle Police Department showed 782 sworn officers, or 73%, have submitted vaccination records. But at least 111 of those are seeking exemptions from the city’s mandate, department spokesman Sgt. Randy Huserik said. Nearly all of the police department’s civilian police employees – 98% – also have verified they’ve been fully vaccinated, the figures showed.

West Virginia

Charleston: NAACP West Virginia chapter President Owens Brown will be the first Black man to serve in the state Senate, Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday. Justice announced Brown’s appointment to the seat vacated by the resignation of Democratic former state Sen. Bill Ihlenfeld, who was confirmed Tuesday as the U.S. attorney for the state’s northern district. “I congratulate Owens beyond belief. He will do an incredible job,” Justice said in a statement. “I am so proud of this because we need diversity. We need other opinions.” Brown is a Wheeling resident. The Senate seat covers Brooke, Hancock and Ohio counties as well as part of Marshall County. Marie Redd of Huntington was the first Black person elected to the state Senate, in 1998.

Wisconsin

The Airport Fire Station on French Island in La Crosse, Wis. At least 40 wells that provide drinking water for residents near the airport were found to be contaminated with PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals that can cause cancer and other adverse effects if they collect in the human body. They've been used and manufactured in the U.S. since the 1940s. © Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel The Airport Fire Station on French Island in La Crosse, Wis. At least 40 wells that provide drinking water for residents near the airport were found to be contaminated with PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals that can cause cancer and other adverse effects if they collect in the human body. They've been used and manufactured in the U.S. since the 1940s.

La Crosse: State environmental regulators are prepared to spend more than a half-million dollars a year to provide bottled water to nearly 1,200 households on French Island because of concerns about contaminated drinking water. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health Services have issued a drinking water advisory indefinitely and plan to continue to make bottled water available to as many as 4,300 residents on the island near La Crosse amid concerns about PFAS contamination from testing or use of firefighting foam containing the chemical at the La Crosse Regional Airport on French Island. The so-called forever chemical raised concern because it’s among substances that have been linked to an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease and fertility issues. The chemicals, found in firefighting foam and everyday products like nonstick cookware, don’t break down easily in the environment. The DNR is providing bottled water to 1,162 households with money from the agency’s environmental repair fund. The agency has spent just under $96,000 for services invoiced through the end of May, but it expects to spend $550,000 to $600,000 a year on French Island, Wisconsin Public Radio reports.

Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park: A judge has sentenced a woman to four days in jail for not moving away while a grizzly bear with two cubs came dangerously close and bluff-charged her in Yellowstone National Park. Samantha R. Dehring, 25, of Carol Stream, Illinois, pleaded guilty Wednesday to willfully remaining, approaching and photographing wildlife within 100 yards. In addition to sentencing Dehring to jail, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs banned her from Yellowstone for a year and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine and $1,000 to a wildlife protection fund. Dehring’s attorney, Ethan Morris, didn’t immediately return a phone message Thursday seeking comment. She encountered the bear May 10 at Roaring Mountain, a hillside with numerous noisy steam vents called fumaroles. As the grizzly approached much closer than the football-field-length limit for people to approach bears and wolves in Yellowstone, other visitors backed away and got in their cars. Dehring stayed put and kept taking photos, federal prosecutors said in a statement Thursday. The grizzly eventually bluff-charged, running at Dehring but turning away without attacking her. “Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish,” acting Wyoming U.S. Attorney Bob Murray said in the statement.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Black church in Williamsburg, Woody Harrelson at Watergate: News from around our 50 states

Woody Harrelson Is Not Facing Charges After Punching Man in D.C. Incident .
Woody Harrelson Is Not Facing Charges After Punching Man in D.C. IncidentAccording to a police report obtained by Us Weekly, Harrelson, 60, got into a “verbal dispute” at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, October 7, and proceeded to punch another patron in the neck. The actor claimed that the alleged aggressor attempted to grab his neck during the incident. The Zombieland star retaliated out of “self-defense,” per the report.

usr: 2
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