Azalea Belles take part in the state’s bicentennial parade in Montgomery, Ala., on Saturday. (Photo: Jake Crandall/Montgomery Advertiser)
Montgomery: The state blew out 200 candles on its birthday cake Saturday, as officials and residents gathered to celebrate Alabama’s bicentennial. Gov. Kay Ivey spoke, and a series of monuments picturing the state’s history were unveiled in a park across the street from the Capitol. The 16 bronze plaques, each on a base of Alabama granite, depict scenes from the state’s history. State Sen. Arthur Orr, a Decatur Republican who has chaired the bicentennial celebration, said the bronze reliefs focus on ordinary people, showing that “history is made every day by people like us.” Saturday’s events included a parade up Dexter Avenue featuring a bus similar to the one on which Rosa Parks rode when she was arrested and sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. There also was a moon rover replica commemorating Huntsville’s contributions to the space program, plus a 150-member bicentennial all-star band that played a song composed for the occasion.
Anchorage: State prison officials have proposed giving inmates copies of their incoming mail rather than originals to crack down on smuggling, officials say. The Department of Corrections asked lawmakers to approve a $400,000 budget increase for the program, Alaska’s Energy Desk reports. All inmate mail except confidential letters from attorneys is already opened by prison staff. But that method of intercepting incoming contraband is not completely successful, Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom says. “People can be very, very creative,” she says. Four employees would copy more than 908,000 pages of inmate mail annually under the program, officials say. Dahlstrom says there may be sentimental value in allowing inmates to receive original versions of their mail, “but our job is to keep folks safe there.” The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has adopted the practice of copying mail at some federal corrections facilities.
The South Mountain Freeway is meant to provide long-distance travelers and local commuters a new route that avoids the often-congested segment of Interstate 10 through central Phoenix. (Photo: Paul Davenport/AP)
Phoenix: Cross-country travelers and local commuters will soon have a new route to traverse the metro area with opening of an east-west freeway that will skirt the often-congested section of Interstate 10 through downtown Phoenix. Gov. Doug Ducey and other government officials will gather Wednesday at new bridges over the Salt River to celebrate the imminent opening of the 22-mile South Mountain Freeway. The new South Mountain Freeway is part of the Loop 202 freeway already ringing much of the urban area and will provide a new connection between the Loop 202 Santan Freeway in Chandler on the east and Intestate 10 in southwest Phoenix on the west. Transportation officials and local government and tribal leaders are among those scheduled to be on hand with Ducey to mark the freeway’s completion. The governor’s office calls it “the culmination of the largest single freeway project in state history.”
Baxter: Arkansas State University-Mountain Home will offer a community education course on the American Revolution starting next month. Adjunct instructor Jim Carroll and film producer Peter Giuliano are teaming up to teach “From Colonies to Country: The Story of the American Revolution.” The course will examine the British colonies in North America before the revolution and look at why and how they were able to unite and successfully defeat the greatest military power in the world at the time. The class will be held from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Jan. 7 through March 19. The course will be a series of lectures, historical movies and audio-visuals that are designed to be fun, informative and patriotic. Proceeds from the course will go to the Scalia Institute of Criminal Justice at ASUMH.
The remains of residences leveled by the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 15, 2018. (Photo: Noah Berger/AP)
Sacramento: As homeowners in wildfire-prone areas struggle to find insurance, a lawsuit filed Friday will test the state’s authority to help them. California’s insurance industry pays into a fund that sells coverage to people who can’t buy it through no fault of their own. Known as the “insurer of last resort,” the California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan only offers fire insurance. Homeowners must purchase a second plan in the private market to cover other hazards like flooding and theft. Last month, state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara ordered the FAIR Plan to begin selling comprehensive insurance plans next year. His goal was to save homeowners money by not forcing them to purchase multiple insurance plans. But Friday, the FAIR Plan Association sued Lara, arguing his order is illegal.
Craig: A government land agency has announced plans to remove about 25 wild horses from private land in northwestern Colorado using a bait-and-trap technique. Craig Daily News reports removing wild horses from private land is part of the Bureau of Land Management’s responsibilities under the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act. The horses wandered about 6 miles east of the protected Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area, where more than 600 wild horses are estimated to live, officials say. Agency specialists are expected to select locations to use hay and water to attract the horses to specific areas until captured, officials say. The horses would be relocated to an agency facility in Rock Springs and made available for adoption or sale, agency officials say.
Newtown linebacker Ben Pinto (42) reacts after the Newtown Nighthawks beat the Darien Blue Wave with a walk-off touchdown in the Class LL state football championship at Trumbull High School on Saturday in Trumbull, Conn. Pinto is the brother of a Newtown shooting victim. (Photo: Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant via AP)
Newtown: The community marked the seventh anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School with vigils, church services and a moment of joy when the town’s high school football team – with a shooting victim’s brother as linebacker – won the state championship Saturday in a last-minute thrill. Twenty first graders and six educators were killed at the elementary school Dec. 14, 2012. At a remembrance service earlier Saturday, Monsignor Robert Weiss, of St. Rose of Lima Church, expressed dismay about how the spate of deadly gun violence has continued in the U.S. since Sandy Hook. According to Connecticut Against Gun Violence, which helped to organize vigils in the state Saturday, more than 700,000 Americans have been killed or injured in gun violence in the seven years after the attack.
Delaware Rep. Andria Bennett (Photo: Submitted by Andria Bennett)
Dover: When life handed a group of elementary school students lemons, they helped craft legislation protecting lemonade stands in the First State. The students from W. Reily Brown Elementary School’s Student Lighthouse Team, led by state Rep. Andria Bennett, are hoping to protect young entrepreneurs in the state from having their lemonade stands fined and shut down. Last week Bennett and the students discussed the proposed bill, which would keep a child-run stand that operates on a temporary basis to sell non-alcoholic beverages on private property exempt from licensing fees and other state, county and municipal regulations. Delaware code is very vague, Bennett says, and children could be subject to those strict regulations. The bill would provide clarity so that there wouldn’t be any consequences for stands that meet the proposed criteria.
District of Columbia
Washington: A D.C. schoolteacher is back on a mission to make sure underserved students have a Christmas to remember, WUSA-TV reports. Last year Azel Prather, of KIPP Arts and Technology Academy, took to Twitter asking the public for help raising money to buy toys for all 26 of his students. When word spread, he surpassed his goal and ended up surprising all 340 kids at the school with a gift. This week, Prather is adding a little something extra. On Wednesday, he’s giving his students a “self-care day” at school. His foundation, The Prather Foundation, has partnered with local barbers, beauticians and nail technicians for a day of pampering and helping kids feel good. On Friday, his foundation will host its Third Annual Zelf on the Shelf, a holiday outreach initiative with KIPPDC. More than 350 elementary students will be surprised with a holiday celebration featuring music, interactive programming and a visit from Santa. A truckload of wrapped presents will be waiting for the kids.
Ocoee: Traffic came to a citrusy standstill when nearly 1,000 grapefruits spilled from a delivery truck onto the Florida Turnpike in Orange County, authorities said. The fruit-hauling truck was traveling on the turnpike Wednesday afternoon when crates inside the vehicle broke, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Kim Montes said. The grapefruits spilled from the vehicle and blocked a section of the roadway near Ocoee, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The truck pulled over so the remaining fruit could be secured. Traffic was stopped completely for several minutes while state workers cleaned up the spilled citrus to open up one lane. Video taken by witnesses showed crews using push brooms to round up the rolling fruits. It took another three hours to clear the rest of the roadway and return traffic to normal. No injuries were reported.
Savannah: Some coastal residents are fighting an effort to relocate an iconic statue. Officials approved a plan last week to move the city’s Waving Girl statue, depicting a woman, Florence Martus, who greeted ships arriving and departing the city from 1887 to 1931. Maritime interests and a developer want to move the statue from a park to a spot closer to the edge of the Savannah River, saying mariners should be able to see it, the Savannah Morning News reports. When first placed, the monument was closer to the river. During the 1996 Olympics, the statue was moved. When replaced after the games, it was put 95 feet back from the river. Crepe myrtle trees have since grown up around the monument, obscuring the view. Some opponents of the move are merchants who want the statue near their businesses. Others say it looks like the move is a favor to Richard Kessler, who is developing the neighboring site.
Honolulu: Authorities have launched three inflatable tents at a park on Oahu to make up what they say is the first mobile homeless center on the island. Hawaii News Now reports the Homeless Outreach and Navigations for Unsheltered Persons project intends to temporarily house homeless people while social service agencies help them move into permanent housing. Officials say three 400-square-foot tents were set up at Waipahu Cultural Garden Park, and each tent can house up to 10 people. Officials say people housed in the tents would be given access to food, showers, restrooms and kennels for pets. City officials say $6 million was budgeted to cover costs for a three-year project. Officials say the project expects to spend 90 days in Waipahu before moving to another city-owned park.
Boise: Students won’t see a tuition increase if they attend one of the state’s four-year colleges or universities next year. The presidents of the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College announced the tuition and fee freeze in Boise on Thursday. It’s the first statewide tuition freeze in 43 years. Idaho State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said students’ share of the costs of operating the higher education institutions has increased dramatically. “Forty years ago, state funding covered 88% and tuition revenue paid 7% of that cost. Today, the numbers are nearly even,” she said. The freeze is for the 2020-2021 school year. In April, the Idaho State Board of Education approved a 5.6% increase in tuition for full-time, in-state undergrads at the University of Idaho and a 5.5% increase at LCSC for the 2019-2020 school year.
An African lion looks out over visitors to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. (Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast, AP)
Chicago: The lions at Lincoln Park Zoo are getting some new digs worthy of the kings of the jungle. Thanks to a $15 million donation, the zoo will be able to begin a gut rehab of its central Kovler Lion House. According to the Chicago Tribune, the newly announced lion house is the last phase of a decadelong zoo renovation project. The lions’ new home will be named the Pepper Family Wildlife Center, in honor of donors Richard and Roxelyn Pepper. Zoo officials say the lions will appreciate their new living quarters, which will include a zipline to make food delivery a more enjoyable experience for the lions and better holding spaces that officials hope will be more conducive to breeding. The renovation of the lion house is the final phase of the zoo’s $135 million Pride of Chicago capital campaign that has resulted in new homes for polar bears, penguins and macaques. Construction of the new lion exhibit is expected to take 18 to 22 months.
The “Peace Mural,” created 24 years ago by the late Kelby Love, a native of Elkhart, Ind., adorns the side of a building in town. (Photo: Geoff Lesar/The News via AP)
Elkhart: Some community members are trying to raise money to buy a building with a treasured mural painted on one side, fearing the city plans to acquire it and tear it down as part of a neighborhood revitalization project. The Elkhart Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday approved of trying to buy the building that depicts the “Peace Mural,” painted decades ago by the late artist Kelby Love. Sam Callantine, a local entrepreneur, says the mural was created amid heightened violence in the city during the mid-1990s, and it stands as a symbolic call for unity and peace. He and his business partner, Jason Moreno, believe the building can be saved. Callantine says the property can be repurposed to benefit the neighborhood. They want the city to hold off acting on the building so that concerned residents can have time to raise money to restore it.
Centerville: An atheist organization will fight for a display of its own on the Appanoose County Courthouse lawn if the City Council decides to return a Nativity display to the site, the group’s leader says. A Nativity scene was erected Nov. 18 on the grounds of the courthouse in Centerville, but some residents complained that a religious display should not be placed on government property. The display was moved last Monday to a spot about two blocks south, the Daily Iowegian reports. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that displaying a Nativity scene on public property does not violate the U.S. Constitution, saying it has a legitimate secular purpose and does not primarily advocate a certain religion. The Nativity in Centerville was created by the Centerville-Rathbun Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.
<p>Kansas – Quivira National Wildlife Refuge near Stafford was established in 1955 to provide and protect vital habitat for
migratory waterfowl in the Central Flyway.</p> (Photo: Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism)
St. John: The clash over water rights between the operators of a federal wildlife refuge in south central Kansas and farmers could potentially wind up in court if the two sides don’t reach an agreement on water usage. The Quivira National Wildlife Refuge has been complaining that it’s not getting its fair share of the water coming from the Rattlesnake Creek into its marsh. The federally operated refuge has been arguing for decades that too much groundwater is being pumped by farmers and wells. But a farmer says her livelihood depends on the water coming from the creek, Kansas News Service reports. Wendy Mawhirter, who farms wheat, corn and soybeans near the refuge, says cutting back on water usage would cause an array of negative outcomes, including a loss in profits. The current proposed solution suggests building water wells that the refuge could use to bring in additional water.
Gov. Andy Beshear signs an executive order Thursday in the state Capitol in Frankfort to restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have served their sentences. (Photo: Matt Stone/Courier Journal)
Frankfort: Just days into his term as governor, Democrat Andy Beshear already has checked off some big priorities from his to-do list: a new state school board installed; the education commissioner gone; more than 140,000 nonviolent felons’ voting rights restored. Now comes the hard part – working with a Republican-led Legislature with its own policy priorities. “This week’s actions are pieces of cake compared to what he faces in terms of building a budget and getting a program through the legislature,” longtime Kentucky political commentator Al Cross says. Beshear’s aggressive start as governor was possible because he did most of it with executive orders, fulfilling promises he had made during the campaign. Another executive order is expected any day now – one that would rescind his Republican predecessor’s effort to impose a work requirement as a condition for Medicaid health coverage.
New Orleans: A suspected cyberattack prompted a shutdown of city government computers Friday. The city’s website was down, but officials posted news of the shutdown on social media. Employees began noticing “suspicious activity” on computers about 11 a.m., officials said. “Out of an abundance of caution, all employees were immediately alerted to power down computers, unplug devices & disconnect from WiFi,” the city said on its NOLA Ready Facebook page. The governor’s office said in an email that the Louisiana National Guard and State Police are helping the city gauge the effects of the suspected attack, the second in a matter of days. Last month the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicle operations was hobbled by a cyberattack.
Portland: Sub-Saharan asylum-seekers have overwhelmed the city’s ability to house them. Officials have created overflow shelters at the Salvation Army and the YMCA to accommodate nearly 170 people, the Portland Press Herald reports. Most of the asylum-seekers are fleeing Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many have arrived surprised that the city is no longer operating a 24-hour shelter, according to city officials. The converted gymnasiums provide only overnight shelter, so families must seek daytime services at other locations in the community. “We have a lot of people arriving in flip-flops and shorts,” says Jeff Tardif, director of the city’s family shelter. The City Council is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss options in case asylum-seekers continue to arrive faster than they can be housed.
Annapolis: The state would invest $130 million more for pre-K and other education priorities under a plan announced Friday by Gov. Larry Hogan. The Republican said more than $100 million would be dedicated over the next two years to expand access to early support and interventions for young children and their families. Hogan also said he would commit more than $30 million over two years to fund Concentration of Poverty Grants to provide full-time coverage of health care practitioners and community school coordinators. The money would enable extended learning time, transportation to school and additional social workers, mentors, counselors and psychologists, the governor’s office said. Hogan said he’d commit more than $1 million to provide low-income students access to Advanced Placement tests free of charge, covering the costs of more than 25,500 AP exams.
Marlborough: More than 170 fire departments across the state are sharing $920,000 in grants for equipment intended to reduce firefighters’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. The state’s Firefighter Turnout Gear Grant program will provide firefighters in 144 departments with new hoods and gloves. About 3,000 hoods and 3,000 pairs of gloves will be purchased with the $500,000 grant. Through the Washer-Extractor Equipment Grant, $420,000 was awarded to 75 departments for equipment to clean their gear after exposure to smoke and other toxic chemicals. Forty-five fire departments were successful in applying for both grants. “Soot and ash-laden gear was once the mark of a seasoned firefighter, but we now know that washing gear after every exposure to smoke is the safest thing to do,” says Needham Fire Chief Dennis Condon, president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts.
Julie Ruttinger, of Tecumseh, Mich., holds a fruitcake baked by her great-great-grandmother in 1878. Fidelia Ford, pictured at right, died before the cake was served. (Photo: David Guralnick/Detroit News via AP)
Tecumseh: Some families pass down jewelry, watches or even recipes. But a Michigan family has its own heirloom – a 141-year-old fruitcake. The cake was initially preserved to honor Fidelia Ford, who baked it in 1878. She established a tradition of baking the cake and letting it age for a year before serving it during holiday seasons. Ford died at age 65 before her 1878 cake could be eaten, and by the time the holidays arrived, the family considered her handiwork a legacy, not food. Until his 2013 death, the cake was in the care of Morgan Ford, her great-grandson. He had stored it in an antique glass dish on the top shelf of a china cabinet in his Tecumseh home – which is where it remains today. Guinness World Records doesn’t have an entry for the oldest fruitcake, but as for cakes in general, the Ford fruitcake is nowhere near the world’s oldest, The Detroit News reports. That honor goes to a 4,176-year-old cake found in an Egyptian tomb, according to the Guinness organization.
A thief who stole a package from the front steps of a St. Paul, Minn., home left this thank-you note behind. (Photo: St. Paul Police Department/Star Tribune via AP)
St. Paul: A package thief who made off with a woman’s delivery last week decided to leave something behind for the victim – a handwritten thank-you note taunting her for the package. Homeowner Hilary Smith said she found the note on her porch after she got home from work, hours after she received a text saying her package had been delivered. The note said: “So just a quick little thank you for leaving me the opportunity of stealing your package. Very nice of you. Thank You.” It was signed: “The new owner of your package.” St. Paul police posted a picture of the note on Twitter on Friday and reminded residents who are expecting deliveries to take precautions to avoid thefts. Smith said she appreciates hand-crafted thank you notes, but not in this case. She told the Pioneer Press the package was a portable phone charger for her boss.
Jackson: A federal appeals court declared Friday that the state’s ban on abortion at 15 weeks is unconstitutional, dealing a blow to those seeking to overturn the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled correctly when he blocked the Mississippi law from taking effect in 2018. “In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” the appeals court judges wrote. “States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right, but they may not ban abortions.” The only abortion clinic in Mississippi sued the state after Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the law. The clinic said it provides abortions until 16 weeks.
St. Louis County police Sgt. Keith Wildhaber returns from lunch break to the St. Louis County courthouse on the third day of his discrimination case against the county in Clayton, Mo., on Oct. 24. (Photo: Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
Clayton: A gay St. Louis County police sergeant who was awarded nearly $20 million in a discrimination lawsuit has been promoted to lieutenant and picked as the leader of a newly created diversity and inclusion unit. Police Chief Jon Belmar said in a news release Thursday night announcing the unit that the department “must demonstrate to our officers and to our community that we prioritize diversity and inclusion.” The announcement comes after a jury ruled in October in favor of Keith Wildhaber, who says he was passed over for promotion 23 times and told to “tone down” his “gayness.” Wildhaber’s attorney, Russ Riggan, described the promotion as “hopefully a crucial first step for the county in making necessary changes to its culture in order to better serve the citizens.”
Astronaut Christina Koch (Photo: NASA)
Livingston: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station spent 20 minutes speaking with high school students in the town she now calls home. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Natalie Davis-McGrath, a science teacher at Park High School in Livingston, dialed into the station for a chat with astronaut Christina Koch. The call came in a gym filled with students. Koch was traveling about 5 miles per second about 250 miles above Earth at the time, officials said. Koch, wearing a pink T-shirt with the outline of the state of Montana, answered questions Thursday about what life in space is like, what research she does and if her perspective about living on Earth has changed. She said she was inspired to become an astronaut by anything that made her feel small and made her think about the universe, including the sky and mountains. “It’s the same reason why I think I love the mountains in Montana and around Livingston,” Koch said.
Lincoln: People can learn the basics of ice fishing or pick up some tips from experienced anglers during several January events. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says classroom instruction for beginners and families is scheduled to run Jan. 6 at the Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center in Lincoln. The fee is $5 per family. People can sign up online. A free, on-ice event will be held Jan. 11 at Holmes Lake. The Nebraska Fish and Game Association will host a free classroom clinic at Yanney Heritage Park’s Environmental Resource Center in Kearney on Jan. 18. Seating is limited, so registration is requested by emailing [email protected] Fort Kearny State Recreation Area Lake No. 6 will be the site of a free, on-ice event Jan. 19. Limited loaner equipment will be available, and bait and instruction will be provided for on-ice events. Fishing permits can be purchased online.
Republic Services recycling truck driver Jerry Bates makes makes his rounds in Las Vegas in 2013. (Photo: L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Las Vegas: Las Vegas Strip resorts have won praise for their recycling efforts, but a state analysis shows the rest of the Vegas area falls short of national recycling rates and has shown little signs of improvement since 2003. About 20% of waste produced in Clark County last year was recycled, according to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection’s 2019 Waste and Reduction Report. That was nearly 10% lower than recycling rates in the Reno area and Carson City and well below the national recycling rate of 35%. State lawmakers set a 25% recycling goal since 1991, but the rate has barely risen above 21% since 2003, the Sun found. The Las Vegas Sun reports that municipal contracts with the main waste-hauler in the region, Republic Services, only guarantee recycling service to single-family homes in Clark County.
Concord: The state’s new bail law allows judges to set bail at an amount a defendant can’t afford solely if that person is a flight risk, the state Supreme Court said in an opinion released Friday. The court was asked to interpret the statute, which was amended last year, in the case of Christina Hill. She was charged with possessing drugs and selling them while she was released on bail on other charges. At the bail hearing on the new charges, lawyers for the state requested that Hill be jailed while she awaited trial. They said she had a criminal record dating to 2007, including convictions for violating the terms of her probation. Hill’s lawyer said it wasn’t necessary to detain her before trial because she’s not dangerous. The judge decided that releasing Hill wouldn’t be dangerous but ordered that before she could be released, Hill had to pay $25,000 cash bail.
A NJ Transit bus approaches the Lincoln Tunnel on its way out of Ridgefield, N.J. (Photo: Tariq Zehawi/NorthJersey.com)
Weehawken: More buses may be able to travel between New Jersey and New York City through the Lincoln Tunnel with the help of autonomous technology. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Thursday approved spending $4.8 million to award contracts to two firms to test whether sensors and other technology can shorten the distance between buses and boost speed in the tunnel’s exclusive bus lane. The lane handles 1,850 buses carrying more than 70,000 passengers each weekday between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., the agency said. Bus drivers would still be behind the wheel and could still control their vehicles. Testing would begin off-site next month, and the technologies would eventually be demonstrated in the lane during early weekend hours on buses that are not carrying passengers.
Archer, a Mexican gray wolf, was born in May at the ABQ BioPark zoo in Albuquerque, N.M. The BioPark is among the partners working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to recover the endangered species. (Photo: ABQ BioPark via AP)
Albuquerque: The city’s zoo is celebrating the survival of one of three Mexican gray wolf pups born at the facility this year. ABQ BioPark officials say the pup has grown over the last several months and is becoming more curious and confident. The births of the pups in May marked the first time in nearly 15 years that the BioPark welcomed Mexican wolf pups, the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America. To date, the zoo has had 72 pups born, although not all have survived. About 30% of all Mexican wolf pups die within the first year. The BioPark also temporarily holds and cares for injured wild wolves that need medical treatment or rehabilitation. Two wolves that arrived in November were from separate packs in Arizona and New Mexico and had both been caught in leg hold traps. Both are expected to return to their wild packs after a little more care and rehabilitation.
A protester holds a sign as members of the New York Assembly speak in favor of the Green Light Bill, aimed at allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, during a rally June 17 at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. (Photo: Hans Pennink/AP)
Albany: A law that will allow New Yorkers to get driver’s licenses without having to prove they are in the country legally weathered a second court challenge Friday, days before its enactment. A federal district judge ruled against Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, saying he lacked the legal capacity to bring the lawsuit. Merola, a Republican, had argued that the state law conflicts with federal immigration law. Judge Gary Sharpe wrote in his decision that he was not ruling on the legality of the law but on whether Merola could bring the suit. A federal judge in western New York ruled against a county clerk in Buffalo on similar grounds last month. Starting Monday, license applicants without a valid Social Security number will be able to submit alternative forms of ID that include valid passports and driver’s licenses issued in other countries.
Raleigh: Critics on Friday pushed back against a deal to protect a Civil War statue that once stood on the University of North Carolina’s flagship campus and to give $2.5 million to a neo-Confederate organization, as a civil rights group objected to it in court and a foundation withdrew a grant. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a motion Friday to intervene and set aside the $2.5 million consent judgment between the UNC Board of Governors and the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The agreement involves a statue of a Confederate soldier known as “Silent Sam” that stood on the Chapel Hill campus for more than 100 years until protesters toppled it in August 2018. The New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has withdrawn a $1.5 million grant intended for the Chapel Hill campus.
Bismarck: The state’s mineral resources director says North Dakota reached a production record of 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. The figures Lynn Helms released reflect the month of October. The increase comes a month after production had dropped to 1.44 million barrels per day. The Bismarck Tribune reports rainy weather in September hampered activity because roads were closed. “It should be a very happy holiday for the state of North Dakota,” Helms said. She said she expects production will continue to increase in the Bakken for the foreseeable future because OPEC and Russia agreed to curb oil outputs this month to reduce an abundant global supply. “It should result in small increments of production growth through the year 2020,” Helms said.
Columbus: Gov. Mike DeWine and his administration are focusing on improvements to the state’s highway rest areas. The Republican governor spoke recently about the “sorry” state of Ohio’s rest areas in an address to an Ohio Contractors Association conference in Columbus. The governor has a vision for the state’s rest areas, Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks told Cleveland.com. “Our rest areas should not just be places where people go take care of biological necessities – they should be really places where we promote all that’s good about Ohio,” Marchbanks said. That vision includes lodge- or chalet-style buildings, well-lit parking areas and dog parks, along with flat-screen TVs displaying weather conditions and kiosks highlighting great Ohioans such as astronaut Neil Armstrong and other state information, according to Cleveland.com. There are also hopes for speakers pumping out a soundtrack of songs from famous Ohio musicians.
Cordell: A man suspected of abducting a woman and missing a court date on charges of assaulting two police officers was shot and killed Thursday by police in western Oklahoma, authorities said. Cade Humphrey, 30, died at a hospital after he was shot about 9 p.m. Thursday near Cordell, about 85 miles west of Oklahoma City, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The woman, 26, was found alive and said she had been beaten by Humphrey on Wednesday and forced to accompany him. Authorities had been searching for Humphrey since he missed a Wednesday court appearance on charges of assaulting two Lone Grove police officers. The woman and Humphrey had previously been in a relationship, according to OSBI spokeswoman Brooke Arbeitman.
Demonstrators against a proposed natural gas pipeline and export terminal in Oregon flood into the State Capitol on Nov. 21 in Salem to demand Democratic Gov. Kate Brown stand against the proposal. They staged a sit-in at her office in the Capitol, but she was not present. (Photo: Andrew Selsky/AP)
Salem: A prosecutor has declined to file charges against 21 protesters who were arrested during a sit-in at the governor’s office last month as they protested a planned natural gas pipeline and marine terminal, a spokeswoman said Friday. The office of Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson decided not to charge the 21 with criminal trespass in the second degree, her spokeswoman Amy Queen said. Gov. Kate Brown’s spokesman said the governor support the decision. “Gov. Brown supports freedom of expression for all Oregonians, and she agrees with the district attorney’s office that pursuing charges would not have been a good use of public resources,” spokesman Charles Boyle said. Hundreds of protesters had come into the Capitol on Nov. 21. Most left within a few hours. But several dozen refused to leave Brown’s office until she opposed the pipeline, which she did not.
Pittsburgh: The Roman Catholic diocese of Pittsburgh has announced plans to merge more than two dozen parishes into eight new parishes next year. Bishop David Zubik said Satuday that 26 parishes will be part of the Jan. 6 mergers, which will reduce the number of parishes in the diocese from 170 to 152. The diocese said that no buildings would be closing. Zubik wrote in a letter to be read or distributed at the weekend’s Masses that “this has not been a simple task.” But he said the changes would mean more effective ministry “by addressing financial needs, sharing resources and allowing your clergy to focus on the spiritual work for which they were ordained.” Officials said the mergers follow “extensive consultation” with laity in all parishes, including 329 parish meetings across the diocese in 2017.
Providence: The city’s public school district is in a better financial position than previously thought, but resources need to be reallocated, according to an independent financial analysis released Friday. The state, which assumed control of the struggling district last month, released the analysis by Ernst & Young. Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green said the school community’s needs have evolved, but the district’s $450 million budget “has clearly not kept pace.” The analysis found the city’s projected deficit for the district is “likely overstated,” but growing central office and transportation costs could be cut. Central office costs are $25 million of the budget. Compared to other districts, the district appears to spend about 40% more per pupil on transportation, and benefits are about 10% more as a percentage of salaries, the analysis said.
The Folly Boat sits in the marsh behind Chris John's house on James Island, S.C., in 2017, after the vessel crashed into John's dock during Irma. (Photo: Michael Pronzato, AP)
James Island: The Folly Boat has finally found a new home along the road to one of the state’s most popular beaches more than two years after Hurricane Irma tried to sweep it away. Crews used a crane and flatbed truck Thursday to move the boat, an unofficial landmark famous for its hand-painted messages, from the private marsh where it ended up after the 2017 hurricane to a bar called The Barrel on Folly Road. The Folly Boat first became famous in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo washed it up on the road to Folly Beach. Instead of moving it, residents and others started painting homemade messages of love, school spirit, politics and whatever else popped up. The boat was filled with 40,000 pounds of concrete and steel to keep it in place. But the strong waves and high water from Hurricane Irma washed it away even though the storm made landfall some 300 miles away in Florida.
Rapid City: The Oglala Sioux Tribe is considering whether to appeal a decision by a panel of judges that a proposed uranium mine site in southwest South Dakota doesn’t have to be surveyed for Native American burials or artifacts. The three judges with the U.S. Atomic Safety and Licensing Board said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission tried diligently to do an on-the-ground survey for Native American burials, artifacts and other historical and cultural resources. But they say the commission was justified in giving up because the tribe wouldn’t cooperate. The company proposing the mine, Powertech, a subsidiary of Azarga Uranium, in Canada, still has several more regulatory approvals to obtain before it can begin mining, including licenses and permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
A scenic summer sunset along one of the many rocky outcroppings in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee. (Photo: Getty Images)
Oneida: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and the Big South Fork Bike Club are planning their annual “Mail Run” for mountain bikers on New Year’s Day. Bikers meet at 10 a.m. at Bandy Creek Visitor Center. Rides vary from 8 to 35 miles, allowing bikers to choose their distance, the park said in a news release. Hot chocolate and coffee will be available before the rides. “The ride is traditionally called the Mail Run because ‘neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of the night’ keep us from getting out there on the first of the year,” said Joe Cross, president of the Big South Fork Bike Club. The park has almost 300 miles of trails that allow mountain biking. In 2012, it was the first national park to receive the International Mountain Biking Association’s Epic Ride designation.
Galveston: City leaders have turned down a proposal that would require horseback riders to pick up what their animals leave behind on the beach after equestrians argued that horse manure is harmless. One person even brought a bag of manure to Thursday’s City Council meeting while arguing against the measure, the Galveston County Daily News reports. “It is really pretty much non-toxic and doesn’t do anything,” island veterinarian Lea Fistein said as she placed her fingers into the bag of manure. “It’s really the only feces I would touch with my hands.” City code requires people to clean up pet waste left behind on public beaches, but horses are exempt from that rule. City staff members had suggested lifting the exclusion for horses. Horse riders told the council that requiring riders to pick up manure would prevent people from riding on the beach because it’s difficult to carry the necessary equipment to remove the droppings.
A glass recycler crushes beer bottles as the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control delivers 275 cases of beer on three pallets to the new food digester in North Salt Lake on Friday. The state can no longer sell the beer – all between 4% and 5% ABV – because it can’t compete with privately owned grocery and convenience stores, which started selling higher-alcohol beers Nov. 1. (Photo: Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Salt Lake City: Liquor authorities have thrown away thousands of gallons of drinkable beer after state law changed to allow higher-alcohol brews. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control disposed of beer worth almost $18,000 on Friday, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Authorities say they were legally required to dump the beer from state-owned liquor stores because a new law allowed those beers to be sold in private stores instead. Utah had long prohibited grocery and convenience stores from selling beer stronger than 4% alcohol by volume. Everything else was sold at state liquor stores. The law effective Oct. 31 increased that limit to 5%. Because the state-owned stores can’t stock anything available on the open market, officials discounted beers between 4% and 5% before Halloween, then threw away everything that was left. Workers disposed of the 275 cases of bottles and cans at a recycling facility.
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo answers questions during an April news conference. (Photo: RYAN MERCER/FREE PRESS)
Burlington: The police chief in the state’s largest city used an anonymous Twitter account to troll a government critic, he admitted last week. Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said he took six weeks of medical leave to seek mental health treatment after telling his story to the mayor. Seven Days weekly newspaper first reported the story Thursday. For one hour July 4, del Pozo said, he used the anonymous Twitter account to respond to the critic. “I erased the tweets and deleted the account because I realized I was wrong, and it wasn’t becoming of me,” he said Friday. He told Seven Days that he created @WinkleWatchers to respond to political activist Charles Winkleman. Winkleman posted to his website that “Del Pozo’s social media is meant to bully and silence critics, whether it be private citizens or oversight groups like Copwatch, all while promoting himself.”
Charlottesville: The Charlottesville Police Department is taking a Dodge Challenger out of service because of its similarity to the car used in a fatal attack during a 2017 white supremacist rally. The city announced the decision in a news release Thursday. City Manager Tarron Richardson said the vehicle was “clearly a reminder” of the attack, which killed Heather Heyer and left dozens more injured. He said the city believes removing it from the fleet is in the best interests of the community. The news release says the decision was reached after questions were raised on social media and by the community. The 2017 Dodge Challenger was purchased as a used vehicle for $20,976 in January 2018. The city says it will be “disposed of” by the end of the current fiscal year.
A massive crane is used to lift a 2,000-ton section of the tunnel boring machine known as Bertha that was stalled underground in Seattle on March 30, 2015, and awaiting repairs while digging the tunnel to replace the elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct roadway. (Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP)
Olympia: A jury on Friday awarded the Washington State Department of Transportation $57.2 million in damages over delays in the construction of a highway tunnel that runs beneath downtown Seattle. The Seattle Times reports the verdict against the tunnel contractors in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia represents the entire amount the state requested. “The contractor, not the taxpayers, is responsible for the costs of repairing the tunneling machine,” WSDOT spokeswoman Laura Newborn said. The Dec. 6, 2013, stall of the tunnel-boring machine known as Bertha – then the world’s largest drill at more than 57 feet in diameter – delayed the project more than two years and required contractors to lift the 4 million-pound front end and replace damaged parts, including cracked main gears and broken bearing seals.
Charleston: The state Board of Education is once again trying to reduce high school graduation requirements. News outlets report the board voted Wednesday to open two proposals to public comment until Jan. 24. One involves lessening the number of social studies credits required to graduate. It would essentially require students study all of U.S. history in one course instead of two. The policy was previously proposed and abandoned after officials said public comments were overwhelmingly against the change. The proposal also would nix the requirement that students take a world studies course and allow students to take other social studies classes to replace the currently required civics course. The same proposal would also stop requiring counties to offer economics and geography. The other proposal requires middle schools to offer career exploration opportunities and would require full-time virtual school programs be offered for grades 6 to 12.
Port Washington: A judge on Friday ordered that the registrations of up to 234,000 voters be tossed out because they may have moved, a victory for conservatives that could make it more difficult for people to vote next year in the key swing state. The judge sided with three voters represented by a conservative law firm who argued the state elections commission should have immediately deactivated any of the roughly 234,000 voters who didn’t respond to an October mailing within 30 days. The voters were flagged as having potentially moved. Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy denied a request by elections commission attorneys to put his decision on hold. He ordered the state Elections Commission to follow the law requiring voters who didn’t respond to be deactivated. The ruling comes in the early stages of the case and is expected to be immediately appealed.
Cheyenne: The final federal quarterly oil and gas lease sale in the state this year netted $10.8 million in bids, the federal Bureau of Land Management says. The BLM received bids on 123 parcels totaling about 123,000 acres around the state in Wednesday’s sale. Wyoming produces more energy on public land than almost any other state in the country. The bureau released 160 of the 169 nominated public land and mineral parcels to energy companies for purchase. The withdrawn parcels conflicted with designated big game migration corridors and existing coal mining operations, the BLM concluded. The state receives about half of the funds made through federal lease sales. Last year, the sales brought $117 million back into state coffers. Statewide lease sales have attracted opposition from conservation groups and some landowners, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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