Auburn: A new ranking credits Auburn University with having the nation‚Äôs happiest college students, while the University of Alabama, its chief rival, is No. 2 at partying. The Princeton Review ranks universities in a number of categories each year, and Auburn comes in No. 1 this year in terms of having a happy student body. Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, is ranked second behind Auburn. The rankings list Alabama as the nation‚Äôs second-best party school behind Syracuse University in New York. The Princeton Review is a college admission services company. Its rankings are determined by student surveys on their experiences at 385 universities nationwide.
Anchorage: A Russia-designed floating nuclear power plant has begun its journey through the Arctic Ocean this month, causing concerns in the Frontier State. Alaska Public Media reports the 472-foot barge launched in St. Petersburg, Russia, and will continue along the coast to the Bering Strait separating that nation from Alaska. Russian officials say the plan is to dock the world‚Äôs first floating nuclear power plant at Pevek, Russia, about 1,250 miles from Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska advocates say they are concerned about potential radiation the barge could produce in the northwest region. Officials say the barge named Akademik Lomonosov is capable of powering a city about the size of Fairbanks and will provide heat and power to the mining region, starting in December.
Scottsdale: The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is asking for food donations via its Amazon wish list, citing ‚Äúan unexpected change in policy‚ÄĚ tied to an existing supplier. The corporate decision on the handling of damaged, donated food products means Southwest Wildlife urgently needs dry dog and cat food, which can be given to a variety of animals, including bears, coyotes, skunks, foxes and raccoons. The organization says this year has been especially challenging due to the large number of injured and orphaned animals coming to the shelter. Southwest Wildlife‚Äôs wish lists include Purina dog and puppy food products and Nutro brand dry cat and kitten products. Donors can purchase food through the company‚Äôs Amazon wish list, send food to the center or drop it off.
Mansfield: Officials say a series of escapes from the Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center is merely a symptom of larger problems with the facility, the Southwest Times Record reports. Arkansas Department of Human Services officials say the facility, which holds mid-level juvenile offenders and from January 2017 through June was run by the state, has security protocols, a lack of staff training and a climbable fence that have created an environment that since December has allowed 12 youths on four occasions to escape. Department of Youth Services officials also lied to Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runion about the placement of a youth who had previously escaped from the Treatment Center. Treatment Center personnel since the beginning of 2019 have called the Sheriff‚Äôs Office at least 17 times for assistance.
Santa Ana: Orange County, long known as a national GOP stronghold, now has more registered Democrats than Republicans. The county‚Äôs Registrar of Voters says there are 89 more Democrats than Republicans among its 1.6 million registered voters. The county between Los Angeles and San Diego was home to President Richard Nixon and long known as a conservative bastion. The parties each have about 547,000 registered voters, while 441,000 registered voters have no party affiliation. The ascendancy of the county‚Äôs Democrats mirrors a long-running trend in California. Today, Democrats hold every statewide office; dominate both chambers of the Legislature; and command a nearly 4 million edge over the GOP in voter registrations. Republicans have drifted into third-party status in the state, behind Democrats and independents.
Denver: Thousands of people have hiked up to a popular scenic lake using a new reservation system. The Denver Post reports that White River National Forest officials received five out of five stars on a shuttle service implemented in May from more than 95% of survey respondents visiting Glenwood Canyon‚Äôs Hanging Lake. Park officials say the system replaces a visitor parking lot with $12 shuttle rides from Glenwood Springs to the lake about 155 miles west of Denver. Officials say the goal was to improve the health of the trail and lake by moderating human impact while also improving the visitor experience. Officials say Hanging Lake has a daily limit of 615 visitors and has reached more than 40,000 hikers since the program began earlier this year.
New London: Construction of the planned National Coast Guard Museum is expected to begin early next year. Members of the museum‚Äôs board tell The Day of New London that a request for proposals for the first phase of construction is expected to go out Sept. 1. The final design, which was approved earlier this year by the board, calls for an 80,000-square-foot, five-story, interactive, environmentally friendly museum on the city‚Äôs waterfront. Plans call for the Coast Guard‚Äôs tall ship, the Barque Eagle, to be docked near the museum at a renovated City Pier when the ship is in New London. The museum association has raised about $48 million in public and private funds toward the estimated $100 million cost of the project.
Wilmington: Private donors have pledged to replace a memorial plaque dedicated to a lynching victim that was recently stolen. Delaware State University official Steven Newton said the school would donate funds to help replace the marker. Last week a person noticed the marker to commemorate the lynching of George White was missing. White, a black man, was accused of raping and killing a white woman. A mob lynched him in 1903. Public Archives director Stephen Marz said private donors have also begun contributing to the replacement costs. The marker was erected in June. The memorial organizers say they began raising funds for the new, $2,200 marker shortly after the original disappeared. Delaware authorities offered a $2,000 reward as they investigated.
Washington: The first black woman to serve as American University‚Äôs student government president has won a lawsuit against a neo-Nazi website operator who orchestrated an online harassment campaign against her. A federal judge granted default judgment Friday to Taylor Dumpson and awarded her more than $725,000 after The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin and a follower failed to respond to her lawsuit. The judge also entered a restraining order against Anglin, his Moonbase Holdings limited liability company, and Brian Andrew Ade. After Dumpson became student government president in 2017, someone hung nooses with bananas containing derogatory messages on the university‚Äôs campus. Anglin posted an article about the incident and directed followers to ‚Äútroll storm‚ÄĚ Dumpson on social media.
Naples: A wolf-dog hybrid that escaped from a sanctuary after jumping a 10-foot fence has been captured. News outlets report that something startled Eva on Wednesday morning at the Shy Wolf Sanctuary, prompting her to jump the fence. Sanctuary spokeswoman Cindee Woolley says Eva was spotted in the afternoon and shot with a tranquilizer but ran off before the sedation took effect. A news release from the sanctuary says calls of sightings to the Collier County Sheriff‚Äôs Office helped searchers locate the wolf-dog Wednesday evening. Woolley says Eva has been placed in a roofed enclosure to prevent any future escapes. Eva weighs about 60 to 70 pounds and is owned by Miami residents who had boarded her at the sanctuary days before her escape.
Atlanta: A court order has stopped demolition after it had already begun on a downtown building where the first country hit song is believed to have been recorded. Part of the building was knocked down Thursday before crews learned a Fulton County judge issued a temporary restraining order. News outlets report the ruling by Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua will halt further demolition until a hearing Aug. 29. A developer plans to build a 21-story, Margaritaville-themed hotel and restaurant near where the building currently stands. Atlanta resident and architect Kyle Kessler sued the city, claiming it didn‚Äôt allow for due process in deciding to demolish the building. The city says it followed proper zoning procedures. Fiddlin‚Äô John Carson likely recorded ‚ÄúLittle Log Cabin in the Lane‚ÄĚ in the building in 1923.
Honolulu: Experts say two native bird populations have declined by more than half and could face extinction. Hawaii News Now reports Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project discovered 312 Maui parrotbills and 2,411 crested honeycreepers remain in the wild. Experts say a new monitoring report conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and other wildlife agencies reveals that is 50% less than previous population estimates. Wildlife officials say studies over several decades found multiple threats to these two bird species, including disease and habitat degradation. Experts say there are plans to reintroduce the parrotbills to the Nakula Natural Area Reserve in southwest Maui in order to boost the endangered species‚Äô numbers. Officials say more than 200,000 native plants were planted in forest reserves since 2013 in preparation for the reintroduction.
Boise: Central Idaho ranch owners want construction of a trail connecting the popular tourist destinations of Redfish Lake and Stanley stopped and additional work to make it a smooth path for hikers and bikers prohibited. Sawtooth Mountain Ranch owners David Boren and Lynn Arnone have been fighting construction of the trail with a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government and on Thursday filed new documents contending the proposed trail violates terms of an easement. The U.S. Forest Service has a conservation easement deed dating to 2005 that allows a trail 30 feet wide to cross about 1.5 miles of private property. The lawsuit recognizes that an easement exists but contends it doesn‚Äôt allow the Forest Service to bring in machinery to create or maintain an improved trail for recreationists.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed legislation he says will remove a barrier for teacher candidates and help address a statewide shortage of teachers. The new law eliminates a requirement that teacher candidates pass a test of basic skills to get an educator license. Supporters say the test was unnecessary because admission to a teacher preparation program already demonstrates that candidates have basic academic skills. It also required candidates to demonstrate skills that weren‚Äôt related to the grade or subject they intended to teach. The test cost more than $60. The Illinois State Board of Education says more than 1,400 classroom positions were unfilled at the start of the last school year. The new law means about 1,300 teaching candidates will be able to start student teaching this fall.
Indianapolis: In the past two decades, the state‚Äôs little-known caviar industry has pumped millions of dollars ‚Äď one $25 ounce at a time ‚Äď into the economies of some of southern Indiana‚Äôs poorest counties. But the windfall could soon come to an end. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is considering a proposal to stop sanctioning commercial fishing for roe-bearing species, a move that officials say will end decades of overfishing but that some decry as a case of government excess. If approved, the plan would mark the end for a Hoosier industry that is probably better known for the publicity surrounding a series of poaching stings than for the valuable eggs fishermen harvest from American paddlefish and shovelnose sturgeon.
Ankeny: Court records show a newspaper carrier helped save a woman caught in a sex trafficking ring. One of the Des Moines Register‚Äôs delivery workers, Lavon Franz, was on her paper route early the morning of July 28 in Ankeny when she saw a woman waving her arms on the side of the road. When Franz pulled over, the woman ‚Äď who had no cellphone or ID ‚Äď was crying and said she wanted to go back home to a small town about an hour northwest of Ankeny. Franz took the woman to a convenience store, where an employee called police. Police arrested a 25-year-old woman from East Dubuque, Illinois, on suspicion of pimping and human trafficking. Police say Walters scheduled times for men to pay the rescued woman and others for sex at hotels in Ankeny.
Topeka: The state plans to begin moving inmates to a private prison in Arizona by the end of the summer to help relieve crowding in state prisons. The state Department of Corrections announced Friday that it has signed a contract with Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic that calls for moving up to 360 inmates to CoreCivic‚Äôs Saguaro Correctional Facility by the end of the year. Kansas has about 10,000 prison inmates, about 100 more than the listed capacity for its facilities. The department is housing more than 100 inmates in county jails. The state budget includes $16.4 million to put 600 male inmates in county jails or out-of-state prisons. But legislative leaders have had misgivings about using private prisons and in June blocked $6.6 million of the funding in June over that possibility.
Bowling Green: The city has been named one of the nation‚Äôs top destinations for bachelor parties. In Men‚Äôs Journal‚Äôs recent list of the 25 best bachelor party destinations in America, Bowling Green is No. 2. First, the group can take a trip to the National Corvette Museum to check out more than 80 variations of the classic American sports car. While a museum might not be what every groom has in mind for his last party as a single man, this museum also has a giant sinkhole containing even more cars. Once the crew have had their car fix, a little spelunking is in order. Men‚Äôs Journal recommends heading to Mammoth Cave National Park to explore the world‚Äôs longest cave system, about a 35-minute drive from Bowling Green.
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge: The state will build 3 miles of breakwaters to protect a wildlife refuge where the shoreline is rapidly eroding and the bottom is extremely soft. A news release says the new work adds to 4 miles of breakwaters already sheltering the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in southwest Louisiana. Like the earlier one, the new breakwater will have a core of 10-foot-long geotextile ‚Äúpillows‚ÄĚ filled with very light clay baked at extremely high temperatures. A study in 2011 found that such breakwaters can be built higher than all-rock construction on soft water bottom, making them much better at preventing erosion. The $18 million cost includes $5 million of the state surplus and $4.3 million from Cameron Parish disaster block grants, with the rest in matching funds from BP oil spill penalties.
Portland: A survey indicates the cruise ship industry is an important source of return visitors to the state. The survey found that cruise ship passengers don‚Äôt make a huge economic impact during their brief visits ashore but that 1 in 3 of them plans to return in the near future. The Portland Press Herald reports the Maine Office of Tourism commissioned the survey to get a reading of passengers‚Äô experiences, perceptions and spending. A Portland-based tourism research group talked to more than 2,500 passengers and crew across nine ports from July to November. CruiseMaine Director Sarah Flink says it was important to have a ‚Äúbaseline understanding of the demographics.‚ÄĚ About 400,000 cruise visitors sailed on ships to Maine, spending $29 million. Passengers spent about $70 on average during their visits ashore.
Baltimore: The city‚Äôs police commissioner has named a senior FBI agent as the head of the department‚Äôs Public Integrity Bureau, which oversees officer misconduct investigations and has faced criticism in the past. Michael Harrison introduced Brian Nadeau on Thursday. He has been the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI‚Äôs Baltimore Field Office. Nadeau handled organized crime investigations for the FBI and led the agency‚Äôs public corruption unit. At a news conference, Harrison told outlets Nadeau is ‚Äúquite familiar‚ÄĚ with Baltimore and the challenges facing the department. A recent investigation by The Baltimore Sun revealed the department failed to investigate misconduct complaints soon enough, causing about 75 cases to expire without conclusions since 2016.
Springfield: Officials are embracing a controversial tactic amid a dramatic spike in fatal overdoses ‚Äď sending men to jail for court-ordered addiction treatment. Hampden County Sheriff Thomas Cocchi has designated a jail wing for the treatment of men civilly committed for substance abuse reasons. Cocchi and his supporters say the year-old program, which is the only one of its kind in western Massachusetts, is key to curbing the county‚Äôs opioid problem. Fatal overdoses have surged more than 80% in Hampden County even as they‚Äôve declined statewide. But Bonnie Tenneriello, of Prisoners‚Äô Legal Services, says forcing people into correctional facilities for treatment only stigmatizes addiction. The civil rights group is suing the state to end the practice. A state commission also recently recommended ending it.
Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan will install locks on all classroom and lab doors inside a building where reports of an active shooter triggered campuswide panic last spring. The active shooter alert occurred in March when a sorority held an event featuring balloon popping at the same time as a vigil nearby for victims of the deadly New Zealand mosque shooting. The university said Wednesday that the changes at Mason Hall will help university faculty, staff and students facilitate a faster lockdown in the case of an emergency. MLive reports that the installation is expected to be completed by the end of this month. The project is expected to give the university a better idea of what types of locks are needed inside some of the campus‚Äô more historic buildings.
Roseau: Local officials say they‚Äôre not optimistic about a return to normal hours at two customs stations used by many residents on both sides of the state‚Äôs border with Canada who had built their lives around the old order of easy crossings. U.S. Customs and Border Protection cut the hours of the stations in Roseau and Lancaster in January 2018 as it shifted officers to the Mexican border. The Border Patrol now says many of those officers are being sent home. But Roseau city planner Todd Peterson tells Minnesota Public Radio that Border Patrol officials have told him that officers returning north will be channeled to crossings viewed as more important than Roseau. And he says he doesn‚Äôt think local officials can do much to change their minds.
Oxford: A pizza shop is offering free pies for immigrants and refugees in response to immigration raids at seven poultry plants elsewhere in the state. Dodo Pizza owner Alena Tikhova tells WMC-TV she‚Äôs making the offer because she moved from Russia four years ago and wants to offset ‚Äúhate and cruelty‚ÄĚ that she sees against people from abroad. The Oxford pizza store is offering a free medium pizza though Aug. 18 to anyone from another country. Tikhova says the offer is a statement of compassion, saying the 680 arrests by immigration officials ‚Äúdoesn‚Äôt feel right to me as a human being.‚ÄĚ The owner says Dodo Pizza has given free pizzas to first responders and government workers during past shutdowns, and she plans future donations.
St. Louis: Washington University plans to open a center aimed at becoming a national leader in research and learning on the issue of race. St. Louis Public Radio reports the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity will open in October. The idea for the center emerged in the aftermath of unrest in nearby Ferguson after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by a white police officer in 2014. The officer was not charged, but the resulting protests shone a light on how police in Ferguson and other areas targeted blacks and how courts profited from fines and court costs largely borne by blacks. Washington University‚Äôs provost and a professor of law, Adrienne Davis, will lead the center as founding director.
Missoula: Forest Service officials have proposed increasing prices and charging new fees for rental cabins and campgrounds in the Lolo National Forest. The Missoulian reports the federal agency aims to bring the income at sites in the forest in line with the cost of services. The changes include increasing lookouts and cabins that cost $30 to $80 per night up to $45 to $115 per night. Campgrounds would increase to $10 to $20 depending on the site. Forest implementation staff officer Chris James says the new and higher fees are expected to bring in about $250,000 each year. He says about 95% of the fees are directed back into maintaining the forest. The agency is taking public comment on the proposal through Sept. 30.
Omaha: The state Supreme Court on Friday upheld the dismissal of a unique lawsuit brought by a group of tanning salon owners who had claimed the Nebraska Cancer Coalition defamed them and hurt their businesses with an anti-indoor tanning message. The business owners, who operated some 30 tanning salons in Omaha and Lincoln, sued in 2015 after the coalition launched its ‚ÄúThe Bed is Dead‚ÄĚ campaign, which includes a website and ads that link tanning bed use to skin cancer. The campaign makes such claims as, ‚ÄúTanning before age 35 raises your risk of melanoma by nearly 60%.‚ÄĚ The lawsuit says the campaign not only defamed the salons but also violated the Nebraska Deceptive Trade Practices Act. But the high court in its unanimous decision agreed with a Douglas County District Court judge‚Äôs dismissal of the lawsuit last year, saying a defamation claim requires more than general criticisms of an industry.
Las Vegas: Transportation officials are marking what they call ‚Äúsubstantial completion‚ÄĚ of three years of work on a $1 billion upgrade of the state‚Äôs busiest freeway near downtown and the Las Vegas Strip. Gov. Steve Sisolak declared at a Thursday ceremony that the work dubbed ‚ÄúProject Neon‚ÄĚ will improve safety and reduce congestion and commuter delays. Workers widened a crucial 4 miles of Interstate 15 between Sahara Avenue and the busy ‚ÄúSpaghetti Bowl‚ÄĚ interchange with U.S. 95, and they installed new overpasses and 42 electronic signs to notify motorists of traffic snarls and road hazards. Officials call the highway the busiest in Nevada, carrying 300,000 vehicles a day. They say traffic is expected to double by 2040.
Concord: Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed a bill that would have re-established and raised the state‚Äôs minimum wage, saying it would have had a detrimental effect on workers. The state currently relies on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the lowest in New England. The Legislature‚Äôs bill would have set it at $10 per hour in 2020 and $12 per hour in 2022. Sununu said according to studies, other states and cities that have artificially raised the minimum wage have seen take-home pay decline because minimum-wage workers have their hours cut or their jobs eliminated. The National Federation of Independent Business in New Hampshire supported Sununu, saying many small businesses can‚Äôt afford the increased labor costs. Rep. Brian Sullivan, D-Grantham, said it‚Äôs impossible for a couple to live on two 40-hour jobs at $7.25 per hour.
Westfield: A house whose current owners were scared off the property by a series of threatening letters has sold for $400,000 less than the owners paid. Derek and Maria Broaddus bought the Westfield home for $1,355,657 in 2014 but didn‚Äôt move in after receiving the first of four letters from the anonymous writer. NJ.com reports Andrew and Allison Carr purchased it for $959,360. It was originally listed for $1.25 million in 2016. Andrew Carr declined comment. In a series of letters, the writer asked if the Broadduses were bringing ‚Äúyoung blood‚ÄĚ into the home and asked the names of their two children. The Broadduses claimed the writer had a ‚Äúmentally disturbed fixation‚ÄĚ on the home. The writer was never found. A judge threw out lawsuits stemming from the purchase.
Albuquerque: A smattering of heroin hotspots dotted an online map of the state‚Äôs largest city Friday as officials announced the new mapping tool, saying they plan to use it to track drug-use migration across the area. At a news conference, Bernalillo County officials said the GIS map will show the public where used needles and syringes have been collected by county cleanup crews and volunteer groups in Albuquerque and elsewhere across their jurisdiction. It also will show how many needles have been picked up at a single location, providing data that officials say can be used to make sound policy decisions and learn more about the habits of drug users. On Friday, a cleanup crew of mostly county workers gathered at an abandoned property in northeast Albuquerque, where they collected 84 needles ‚Äď the first batch to be logged in real-time ‚Äď into the GIS map at bernco.gov/needles.
Macedon: Singer Alicia Keys and music producer husband Swizz Beats are planning to create a performing arts center in upstate New York. The couple‚Äôs proposal to transform an industrial site in rural Macedon was introduced at a town board meeting Thursday. Linda Shaw, an attorney for Keys and her husband, whose real name is Kasseem Dean, says the project will repurpose three vacant buildings to include a classroom, an office building, an art exhibit hall and a performing arts center. The Democrat and Chronicle reports the center is a part of The Dean Collection, the couple‚Äôs organization that focuses on supporting artists. Town engineer Scott Allen called the proposal exciting. Shaw says she is scheduled to appear before the city‚Äôs planning board Aug. 19.
Raleigh: The state has a new law focused on ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft that supporters contend will improve safety for both passengers and drivers. Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday that he‚Äôs signed a bill that cleared the General Assembly unanimously last month. The bill‚Äôs impetus was the death of a University of South Carolina student who police say was killed after getting into a car driven by a man posing as an Uber driver. The law makes impersonating a ride-hailing driver a crime while increasing the penalty for assaulting a genuine ride-hailing driver. Starting in October, ride-hailing cars must have front license tag numbers. By next summer, they‚Äôll have to display their company‚Äôs logo to be clearly seen day and night, although alternative signage is possible.
Bismarck: The huge white tube between Washburn and Underwood that once carried coal over U.S. Highway 83 is coming down. The Bismarck Tribune reports the tube that for decades served as a landmark along the road in central North Dakota is being removed Monday. It‚Äôs part of a 3-mile conveyor that the Falkirk Mining Co. installed in 1992 to transport coal from its mining operations east of the highway to its handling facilities on the west side. The company last used the conveyor in 2001. In the years since, Falkirk has relied on large trucks, which can each haul more than 200 tons of coal. The vehicles pass underneath the highway to Great River Energy‚Äôs Coal Creek Station. The power plant burns it to generate electricity.
Wilberforce: A historically black university is advancing its plans to become the first public institution in the state to conduct hemp research. Central State University announced Thursday it‚Äôs received $7.1 million in contributions toward current initiatives, including its new hemp research program. The sum includes a single record-setting private donation of $2 million from philanthropist Frank Murphy. President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond says Central State is the only Ohio public university planting seeds for research into hemp, a strain of the cannabis plant used for fiber and cannabidiol, or CBD. Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill last month legalizing cultivation of industrial hemp and the manufacture and sale of CBD products. The next day, the Department of Agriculture planted Ohio‚Äôs first legal hemp plants since World War II.
Oklahoma City: The state‚Äôs treasurer says overall receipts to the treasury are continuing to rise, but he warns there are signs of a potential economic slowdown on the horizon. State Treasurer Randy McDaniel released figures Friday that show gross receipts to the treasury topped $1.1 billion in July, up nearly 10% from July last year. Overall collections for the past 12 months totaled nearly $13.7 billion, almost 12% higher than the prior 12 months. But McDaniel also reports tax receipts from the production of oil and gas are declining, and sales tax collections are beginning to drop for the first time in two years. Treasury officials reported sales tax receipts fell below those of the prior year in both June and July.
Salem: Gov. Kate Brown has decided not to veto a bill that will ease rules for farmers clearing out irrigation ditches, her office told Oregon Public Broadcasting. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported her decision was likely to please many in rural parts of the state, but it spurred a furious reaction from environmental groups. The legislation says farmers would need to give notice that they were going to clear an irrigation ditch but would not need a permit unless they planned to move more than 3,000 cubic yards of material over a five-year period ‚Äď a 60-fold increase from the current 50-cubic-yard threshold, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Environmental groups argued that the measure undermines the state‚Äôs ability to protect state wetlands. Many farm fields in the Willamette Valley are classified as wetlands.
Philadelphia: Workers have started to neutralize a highly toxic chemical on the site of a massive refinery that‚Äôs been shut down since explosions and a blaze June 21. Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel says workers are at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions site around the clock, seven days a week in an effort to neutralize the 33,000 gallons of hydrofluoric acid there. It could take several weeks to complete. Hydrofluoric acid is one of the most dangerous chemicals in use. Refineries use it to create high-octane fuel. Chemical safety officials have said once it had been released into the atmosphere, a low-lying toxic cloud could travel quickly over miles, affecting more than a million people. Thiel says air monitoring is continuing, and there are no signs that the chemical was ever released.
Providence: The state‚Äôs oldest black church celebrated its 200th anniversary over the weekend. The Congdon Street Baptist Church opened in 1819 and has had an integral role in providing spiritual and educational needs for the city‚Äôs black communities. The Providence Journal reports the original members of the church came from the First Baptist Church in America, where they were forced to worship in a segregated space. In 1863, as tensions grew among the congregation and their white neighbors, the original church was torn down without their approval. Harold Metts, a church deacon and Democratic state senator from Providence, says the congregation has always combated ‚Äúsuch evil‚ÄĚ with good.
Blythewood: ‚ÄúSchool Prayer Zone‚ÄĚ signs are cropping up near some schools in the state. News outlets report the white and fluorescent green signs show two figures kneeling in prayer, their hands clasped above the words ‚Äú2 Chronicles 7:14.‚ÄĚ The Bible verse promises those who pray and ‚Äúturn from their wicked ways‚ÄĚ will be forgiven. The $714 signs by nonprofit Christ Teens can be seen in several counties and resemble official signs by the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The agency says it didn‚Äôt approve the signs, but they‚Äôre legal as long as they sit on private property and are outside the highway rights of way. Nonprofit director and founder Vanessa Frazier says she came up with the idea in 2016 and has been working out the details with the state agency ever since.
Sioux Falls: The military says recent high-altitude balloon flights over the state and others in the Midwest complied with federal laws against conducting surveillance on civilians. Pentagon spokesman Chris Mitchell says two test flights recently launched from Baltic, South Dakota, were part of a project to develop all-weather radar-imaging capability from the stratosphere. He says no tracking information was collected during these flights, and none will be collected in future flights. But the South Dakota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that it still has many questions about the imagery and how it will be used. Policy Director Libby Skarin says the Pentagon statement seems to contradict filings, first reported by The Guardian, saying the balloons were meant to provide persistent surveillance to locate drug trafficking and homeland security threats.
Memphis: Health officials say this year‚Äôs first human case of West Nile virus in the state has been reported. The Shelby County Health Department said Thursday that the mosquito-borne illness has been found in an unidentified person. The person‚Äôs condition wasn‚Äôt released. Officials said in June that the virus had been found in mosquitoes in the county. Crews have been treating mosquito breeding sites with insecticides and setting traps to capture and kill the insects. The West Nile virus can occasionally cause severe disease or even death. But most human infections are mild and cause fever, headache and body aches that last a few days. The case reported Thursday is the state‚Äôs first this year. Three people died of West Nile virus in 2018 in Shelby County.
San Antonio: A local Native American group is bringing a new battle to the Alamo, filing a legal notice declaring the grounds to be an abandoned or unknown cemetery. The San Antonio Express-News reports that could delay the $450 million project to restore and enhance the sacred Texas shrine. And the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions plans to go even further: The group has launched a fundraising campaign to file a federal lawsuit alleging discriminatory practices in the way city, state and nonprofit officials are guiding the project. Executive Director Ramon Vasquez says new guidelines on the handling of human remains unearthed during the planned restoration work were developed without consulting his organization, whose members are descendants of indigenous people who lived ‚Äď and likely were buried ‚Äď in this area well before the Battle of the Alamo.
Salt Lake City: Voter fraud is rare in the state and typically involves parents submitting ballots for children who are away from home serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the lieutenant governor says. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox says voter fraud is usually the result of a misunderstanding of election laws, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. ‚ÄúThey think, ‚ÄėOh, I‚Äôll just fill it out for him, and I‚Äôll sign it and send it back in,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ Cox said during a gubernatorial campaign visit to Fielding. In those cases, Cox said state officials ‚Äúcall them up and tell them that‚Äôs illegal, you can‚Äôt do that.‚ÄĚ Completing another person‚Äôs voting form is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Parents may be concerned the postal system will not deliver a ballot in time from overseas. But electronic voting options are now available to young missionaries, officials say.
Burke: Law enforcement is suggesting that the town require bicyclists to ride single-file on town roads. The Kingdom Trail Association attracts thousands of mountain bikers and others to a trail network in the Northeast Kingdom. The Caledonian Record reports that a deputy from the Caledonia County Sheriff‚Äôs Department suggested the ordinance and says it would be safer for everyone. Deputy Joe Rossi says some of the roads in the area are narrow and twisty. Abby Long, executive director of the Kingdom Trail Association, said she would support such an ordinance. Selectboard Chair Christine Emmons said the present law in Vermont is for two bicyclists abreast, so a change would require the adoption of an ordinance.
Norfolk: A federal judge ruled Friday that a school board‚Äôs transgender bathroom ban discriminated against a former student, Gavin Grimm, the latest in a string of decisions nationwide that favor transgender students who faced similar policies. The order issued by U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen is a major victory for the American Civil Liberties Union and for Grimm. His four-year lawsuit was once a federal test case and had come to embody the debate about transgender student rights. The Gloucester County School Board‚Äôs policy required Grimm, a transgender male student, to use girls‚Äô restrooms or private bathrooms. The judge wrote that Grimm‚Äôs rights were violated under the U.S. Constitution‚Äôs equal protection clause as well as under Title IX, the federal policy that protects against gender-based discrimination.
Tacoma: Water has gushed from a glacier on Mount Rainier, damaging a road and trail as it flowed down. The News Tribune reports the water burst on the South Tahoma Glacier started last Monday without warning. Mount Rainier National Park officials say the flow formed new waterfalls and moved boulders down the mountain, leading to the closure of Westside Road and the Tahoma Creek Trail. No injuries were reported. Geologists say similar glacier bursts could occur in the coming weeks or months. The park is warning visitors to head to higher ground if they hear unusual sounds or see changes in creek water levels and ground shaking.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice says he‚Äôs asked his administration to see what it can do to prevent the closure of Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling. The Republican governor issued a statement Thursday saying that saving the hospital‚Äôs jobs must be a top priority. The Ohio Valley Medical Center and the East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio, released a statement Wednesday saying they would close within two to three months. The planned closures also come after an unsuccessful search for a buyer. The hospitals have lost more than $37 million in the past two years due to declining volume and reimbursements, the statement says. It also says they haven‚Äôt been able to compete with the business practices of nearby Wheeling Hospital, pointing to a federal lawsuit that accuses Wheeling Hospital of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid.
Manitowoc: A judge has rejected a man‚Äôs bid for a new trial in a killing featured in the Netflix series ‚ÄúMaking a Murderer.‚ÄĚ Judge Angela Sutkiewicz on Thursday denied Steven Avery‚Äôs request in the 2005 killing of photographer Teresa Halbach. Halbach‚Äôs remains were found in the Avery family‚Äôs salvage yard. Avery argued the state turned over bones to the Halbach family without notifying the defense, but WLUK-TV reports the judge ruled that does not mean Avery should get a new trial. The bones were given to Halbach‚Äôs family in 2011, but Avery‚Äôs attorneys were not notified until 2018. Tests were inconclusive about whether the bones were animal or human. Avery‚Äôs attorney, Kathleen Zellner, tweeted an appeal is likely. Avery‚Äôs nephew, Brendan Dassey, also is serving a life sentence in the killing.
Gillette: The city attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the most sparklers lighted simultaneously over the weekend. Organizers were hoping for about 2,000 people to participate in Saturday night‚Äôs effort. The current mark of 1,713 was set in August 2018 in the Japanese city of Takarazuka. Jessica Seders, executive director of Gillette Main Street, told the Gillette News Record she believes the effort was record-breaking. When the count is complete, photos and video will be submitted to Guinness for a determination. Fran Silverness says, if nothing else, it brought the community together.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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