Spaceport America, police cat, Superdome plan: News from around our 50 states

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

Published 3:51 AM EDT Aug 16, 2019


Decatur: The city is looking for a new slogan, and it won’t be “A little different.” The north Alabama community of 55,000 people is trying to come up with a new branding tagline, and a Birmingham-based consulting firm suggested it use “A little different.” City leaders liked the idea. Council member Kristi Hill says it seemed modern. But the Decatur Daily reports the public reaction was so negative that leaders voted this week for the company to try again. Hill says the town isn’t ready for something as edgy as “A little different.” Decatur is on the Tennessee River, and it has long been called the “River City.” Council member Chuck Ard says residents need to speak up if they don’t want to lose that identity.


Kenai: Country musician Zac Brown has lost a bid to limit snoopers on his private property in the state, the latest case in which the desires of the wealthy or celebrity for privacy have been at odds with public access. The lead singer for the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning Southern rock group that bears his name had sought to remove easements allowing access along his property, but the bid was rejected by a planning commission on the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, KSRM-AM reports. “I’m not interested in the public coming up to my home, people snooping, walking up to my windows,” Brown told the commission. “I’ve had to sell property for this reason.” Brown’s log home in Homer overlooks scenic Kachemak Bay. Homer, with a population of about 5,600, is frequented by fishermen and free spirits and bills itself as the “Halibut Capital of the World.”


Phoenix: A court has scheduled arguments Oct. 23 in former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s appeal of a ruling that refused to erase his criminal record after he was pardoned by President Donald Trump. Arpaio was convicted of misdemeanor contempt of court for disobeying a court order to stop his immigration patrols. A judge who had refused to expunge the conviction says that pardons don’t erase convictions or the facts of cases and that Arpaio’s clemency only mooted his possible punishments. Arpaio’s lawyers argued their client was deprived of his opportunity to appeal his conviction because the pardon came before he was sentenced and final judgment was entered, so the conviction must be erased. A special prosecutor says Arpaio relinquished his right to appeal his conviction when he accepted the pardon.


Little Rock: A plant-based food producer has asked a federal court to temporarily stop the state from enforcing a law that bans labeling vegetarian and vegan products as meat and advertising them as such while litigation is underway. Hood River, Oregon-based Tofurky Co. told courts Wednesday that complying with the law would have a “severe detrimental impact” because of the cost to change marketing and packaging. It’s not clear if the law has been enforced since taking effect three weeks ago. The law’s authors say it’s designed to protect consumers. Tofurky claims the lawsuit restricts commercial speech protected by the First Amendment. A spokeswoman says Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is reviewing the motion to determine next steps.


Los Angeles: Nearly 500 animals including lions, tigers, alligators and wolves will get new homes after officials announced a long-struggling Southern California sanctuary is shutting down. The Los Angeles Times reports the board of directors of the Wildlife Waystation in the Angeles National Forest voted this week to close after 43 years. The Department of Fish and Wildlife says it’s collaborating with the facility and animal welfare organizations across the country to relocate 470 exotic animals, including 42 chimpanzees. Officials with the 160-acre Wildlife Waystation were unavailable for comment. But a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman said the sanctuary suffered extensive damage in a 2017 wildfire and during severe flooding earlier this year. The Times says for two decades, authorities have been scrutinizing the waystation for alleged environmental and animal-safety violations.


Bethune: The state has set a new hail record, though the exact size of the hail that fell near the Kansas border is still being determined. Officials with the National Weather Service and the Colorado State University Climate Center measured a hail stone that fell at a home north of Bethune on Tuesday and was preserved in a freezer at 4.8 inches in diameter. That’s about the size of a softball, although it’s more oblong. Measurements taken by the family that recovered the hail stone after it was safe to go outside show it was initially a little bigger. The Climate Center says it will consider all information to determine a final measurement. The previous hail record for Colorado is 4.5 inches. The national record is 8 inches – the size of a volleyball – set in 2010 in South Dakota.


Hartford: A pilot program in several cities aims to divert people accused of low-level offenses and who are homeless or have mental illness from the criminal justice system and get them treatment instead. The Early Screening and Intervention Initiative asks specially trained prosecutors to screen for low-level offenses – such as fourth-degree larceny or second-degree assault – and work with counselors in the courthouse to get the defendants treatment. If the person completes treatment, prosecutors then can decide not to pursue the case. The Division of Criminal Justice says the goal is to reduce the burden on the courts and find more appropriate, and often cheaper, outcomes for people struggling with addiction or other mental health issues in a state where police often file charges directly rather than working through prosecutors.


New Castle: Big Brother wants to keep a closer eye on big rigs in the state. Gov. John Carney was expected to sign legislation Thursday that authorizes state and local governments to install vehicle height monitoring systems. The systems use camera technology to record images of motor vehicles whose heights exceed specified size limits. The legislation is aimed at making sure tractor-trailer drivers aren’t using roads on which trucks are prohibited. State transportation officials will have one year from enactment of the legislation to identify roads as potential candidates for the monitoring systems and conduct an analysis to determine the appropriateness of each location. State officials could then install monitoring systems on state-maintained roads, and local governments could adopt ordinances authorizing monitoring systems on locally maintained roads after notifying the public.

District of Columbia

Washington: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has defended its plan to house unaccompanied migrant children in the city. The Washington Post reports DHHS says unaccompanied minors were apprehended alone, unlike migrant children separated from their families. It says its wards have beds and access to meals, legal services, games and classes. It says it awarded Dynamic Service Solutions a $20.5 million contract this month to operate a 200-bed D.C. facility for kids ages 12 to 17. The Maryland-based contractor has applied for a permit to open the shelter and posted jobs for people to work with “unaccompanied alien” children there. City officials have denounced the shelter, and Councilwoman Brianne K. Nadeau may propose emergency legislation to limit the number of youths allowed at shelters.


Miami: The federal government is proposing to strip the tiny Key deer of its endangered species status despite what environmentalists say are continuing threats to the animal due to development in the Florida Keys, its only known habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says its studies show there is no more significant threat to the deer and has set a public forum Aug. 22 in the Keys on removing the deer from the Endangered Species List. Environmental groups say stripping the deer of endangered status would leave it at the mercy of further development. The deer, which grows to about 30 inches at the shoulder, have become a tourist attraction. Its numbers are estimated at about 600, up from as low as a couple dozen in the 1950s.


Atlanta: A federal judge overseeing a challenge to the state’s outdated voting system said that after years of inaction in the face of warnings about vulnerabilities, state officials have finally taken a solid step in the right direction. But she foreshadowed a looming fight over the state’s new system, writing that “it may be ‘like ‘deja vu all over again.’ ” U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s order Thursday prohibits the state from using its antiquated paperless touchscreen machines and election management system beyond this year. She also said the state must be ready to use hand-marked paper ballots if its new system isn’t in place for the March 24 presidential primary election.


Hilo: University of Hawaii students protesting the construction of a $1.4 billion telescope are expected to have class options allowing them to remain on the mountain, a report says. The plan to start construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island has been thwarted for weeks by a group of Native Hawaiian activists who say the construction will further desecrate a mountain that already has more than a dozen observatories. A list of more than 200 courses students can take either online or via distance learning has become available, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports. The majority of the remote classes for student demonstrators are offered through UH-Manoa, while others are offered by the UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College. Course topics include Hawaiian religion, mythology, culture and language, Pacific Island literature, business, creative writing, and philosophy.


Boise: State officials are looking into how the Trump administration’s move to weaken how it applies the Endangered Species Act could affect federally protected species in the Gem State. Scott Pugrud, Idaho Office of Species Conservation administrator, says his office is reviewing the regulatory changes. “We’ve got all our staff kind of digging in and seeing what they are and what the impacts will be on Idaho,” Pugrud told the Idaho Press. Idaho is home to six endangered and 13 threatened species, including sockeye salmon and Kootenai River white sturgeon. Threatened species include Canada lynx and grizzly bears. Idaho’s Office of Species Conservation was established in 2000, one year after the peregrine falcon was removed from the endangered species list. The bird bounced back with a successful captive-breeding effort led by the Peregrine Fund, now based in Boise.


Springfield: Visitors to the Illinois State Fair can see a plot of newly legalized industrial hemp growing. The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that 100 industrial hemp and eight CBD plants were planted next to the U of I Master Gardner’s land on 8th Street. Hemp production was legalized last summer, and officials in April made applications available to would-be growers. Agriculture Director John Sullivan says the two varieties of the cash crop are easy to differentiate. CBD plants need to branch out to produce buds for oils. Industrial strains are planted close together so they will grow tall with long, straight stems for production of fiber or hurd – dense, absorbent material. An agriculture official will be giving presentations at the hemp plot daily from 1 to 3 p.m.


Indianapolis: The cemetery where 1930s gangster John Dillinger is buried is objecting to his body’s planned exhumation as part of a television documentary. Crown Hill Cemetery said in a statement Wednesday that it objects to the exhumation in part because it’s concerned that “the complex and commercial nature of this exhumation could cause disruption to the peaceful tranquility of the Cemetery” and people visiting loved ones’ graves. Dillinger was fatally shot by FBI agents in Chicago in 1934. WXIN-TV reports that Dillinger’s nephew, Michael C. Thompson, sued the cemetery Wednesday, arguing it should allow him and his family to exhume Dillinger’s remains for a forensic examination to determine if it’s in fact Dillinger’s body. That exhumation would be part of a Dillinger documentary for The History Channel.


Des Moines: A full weekend of international food and music is in store next month, with the 15th annual World Food & Music Festival set to be held at Western Gateway Park in downtown Des Moines on Sept. 20-22. More than 50 food vendors representing more than 25 countries and culinary regions will be featured at one of the city’s premier food and music events. The festival will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. The band Vertical Horizon, which had a No. 1 Billboard spot in 2000 for “Everything You Want,” will headline the festival Saturday.


Wichita: Prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City, Kansas, improperly listened to recorded communications between inmates and their defense attorneys and willfully violated court orders during an independent investigation of the systemic practice, a judge said in a ruling that could upend hundreds of federal convictions and sentences. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in a 188-page decision handed down late Tuesday also held the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas in contempt of court, saying she would impose monetary sanctions against the government as punishment for violating orders to preserve evidence and turn over documents to the court-appointed special master investigating prosecutors’ use of video and phone recordings at the privately run Corrections Corporation of America detention center in Leavenworth, Kansas.


Lexington: A new state law requires public schools to display the motto “In God We Trust,” and one school district has responded with framed copies of a $1 bill. Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Wednesday that all schools in the district have been provided the framed copy to display. Parent Brittany Pike posted a message on Facebook saying she was pleased to see the back of the dollar bill framed at an elementary school last week and said her children “don’t feel awkward or excluded for not believing in any God.” Republican state Rep. Brandon Reed of Hodgenville filed the legislation that created the new law. He says he’s disappointed to see schools “spend time searching for silly loopholes,” noting the law passed with broad support.


New Orleans: The iconic Superdome, home to the Saints football team and a symbol of the city’s revival after Hurricane Katrina, will undergo a $450 million facelift, under a financing plan approved Thursday that is aimed at keeping the NFL team in Louisiana for decades. The 44-year-old domed stadium, which has hosted seven Super Bowls, will see its ramp system removed and replaced with elevators and escalators, club and suite levels expanded, new entry gates erected, concession stands added and access for people with disabilities improved. Construction is expected to take four years, working around football and other event schedules, but will be completed before the Superdome hosts its next Super Bowl in 2024, says Doug Thornton, a New Orleans-based executive for SMG, which manages the facility.


Rockland: Pop artist Robert Indiana had $13 million in the bank even as his house sank into disrepair before his death, with pigeons living in the roof, water damaging books, rotting wood and the stench of cat urine, according to court documents filed Wednesday. Documents filed by Indiana’s estate allege that aide Jamie Thomas was not a selfless caregiver, contending he “improperly lined his pockets,” claimed as gifts more than 100 of Indiana’s works, and allowed Indiana to live in “squalor and filth.” Indiana, whose “LOVE” series is instantly recognizable worldwide, died at his home on Vinalhaven Island on May 19, 2018. He was 89. The documents, filed in Superior Court, accuse Thomas of violating his duties to Indiana. In the end, it took more than 1,000 hours of cleanup and the disposal of 8.6 tons of ruined, waterlogged paper to get the home in order, the documents say.


Owings Mills: An African American school principal says he was degraded by a white Baltimore County police officer while he and his son watched an arrest. The Baltimore Sun reports police are investigating the claim made by Patterson High School Principal Vance Benton, who says he and his 15-year-old son were observing an arrest last month when the officer began “baiting” him, making belittling comments, such as asking Benton if he could read and insinuating that Benton’s son would be arrested someday. His letter to county officials says he’d never experienced such “degradation, disrespect and humiliation.” He wrote that innocent lives are in jeopardy from this kind of racial bias. Police Chief Melissa Hyatt says they’re taking the complaint seriously. The department denied the paper’s request for the officer’s body camera recording.


Provincetown: An increase in the number of great white sharks around Cape Cod has forced a longtime charity swim race to be rerouted. The Cape Cod Times reports that Cape Cod National Seashore officials have denied a permit for the 32nd annual Swim for Life & Paddler Flotilla. The race was originally slated to start off Long Point Beach in Provincetown Harbor. Agency superintendent Brian Carlstrom says starting the race there isn’t in line with the organization’s “shark-smart” principles. Carlstrom says the agency made the decision out of an abundance of caution. The rerouted Sept. 7 race will be closer to shore. The state’s first fatal shark attack in 80 years occurred last September off Cape Cod. Another man was seriously injured in an attack last August.


Detroit: More than half of the state’s inmates who are eligible for resentencing following a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on so-called juvenile lifers still are waiting to learn their fate. An analysis found nearly 200 inmates, or about 55% of those eligible, haven’t gotten new sentencing hearings. As of early July, 86 of the state’s 354 juvenile lifers have been released. “We are not resolving cases at the rate that you would hope, given that the United States Supreme Court said these sentences should be rare,” says Tina Olson, an attorney with the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office. Her office is representing roughly two-thirds of the state’s cases. Prosecutors defend the process and say they’re thoughtfully weighing each case.


St. Paul: A conservative law center is suing state Attorney General Keith Ellison, alleging that a lawyer working in his office on climate issues is an improper political plant. Attorney Pete Surdo is working for Ellison under a fellowship with the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at New York University’s School of Law. Minnesota Public Radio reports the center was funded by billionaire donor Michael Bloomberg to address climate issues. Doug Seaton of the Upper Midwest Law Center says the connection is improper and unethical. He also says the arrangement violates a state law requiring all lawyers in the attorney general’s office to be state-paid. But Ellison says the arrangement is legal. He says Minnesotans expect an attorney general who enforces environmental law, and he’s happy to accept the help.


Jackson: The state’s largest city will stop curbside recycling collections by month’s end. Public Works Director Bob Miller says the program is indefinitely suspended, in part because China’s demand for recycled materials has fallen. Officials say more than 300 cities nationwide have stopped curbside collections. Jackson is referring residents to private collectors and says it’s seeking drop-off alternatives. Residents will get at least one more curbside collection before Sept. 1. Miller says while the city has been spending $1.15 million annually for curbside pickup, less than a third of residents participate. He says Jackson will consider restarting curbside recycling when the marketplace “reorganizes itself.” Waste Management, which collects Jackson’s garbage and recycling, argues the city can’t cut recycling from its contract. Jackson officials disagree and haven’t paid for months.


Jefferson City: The state Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Central Railroad have more time to negotiate over a proposed 144-mile bike trail that would stretch across the state. Missouri State Parks said Wednesday that the U.S. Surface Transportation Board approved a request for another 133 days to negotiate an agreement for the Rock Island Trail, which would run from Windsor in western Missouri to Beaufort in eastern Missouri. The trail would run along a former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad path. The Jefferson City News-Tribune reports Mike Sunderland, of the Missouri State Parks, says the extension will allow the Missouri State Park Foundation to develop potential partnerships to support the project.


Missoula: A federal land agency has purchased a large area of land from a state conservation organization, increasing the amount of public ownership in the region. The Missoulian reports the Bureau of Land Management signed paperwork this week to purchase 20 square miles in the Lower Blackfoot River corridor just east of Missoula. Federal officials say money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund was used to purchase the land, with future plans to acquire additional areas by the end of 2020. Officials say the goal is to reach 94 square miles in the Blackfoot drainage and return formerly public lands that were given away decades ago. Officials say any additional purchases will have to go through a federal review process.


Lincoln: Officials say hunters may begin donating deer to the Hunters Helping the Hungry program beginning Sept. 1 at 11 processor locations around the state. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says two more will accept deer for the program starting Nov. 1 and Nov. 16. Hunters pay no processing costs for the processing. The program is funded solely by tax-deductible contributions. Ground venison is distributed by charitable organizations to Nebraskans in need. Processors accept only whole deer in good condition to ensure a good yield of pure ground venison. Learn more about the program and how to support it at the commission website, or contact program coordinator Teresa Lombard at 402 471-5430 or


Elko: The Federal Highway Administration has issued an environmental excellence award to state wildlife and transportation officials for creating wildlife safety crossings on special highway overpasses in northeast Nevada. The award recognizes nine safety crossings installed on Interstate 80 in Elko County between Wendover and Wells and U.S. Highway 93 north of Wells to reduce potentially dangerous vehicle-animal collisions. The overpasses are covered with native soil and vegetation to replicate the natural environment and encourage crossing by mule deer, elk and other animals. Nevada’s departments of transportation and wildlife worked together to identify the most critical deer migration and roadway-crossing points, including GPS collars to track the migratory movements of hundreds of deer.

New Hampshire

Manchester: The police department says it will install surveillance cameras despite a judge’s warning they could violate privacy laws. New Hampshire Public Radio reports the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire sued the city of Manchester over the cameras in June. A judge’s preliminary order Tuesday said reviewing the footage and using it to identify someone is illegal, though installing the cameras isn’t. Manchester police want to install the three cameras near City Hall because of complaints about crime, panhandling and loitering. A live feed would be transmitted to the dispatch office. While not intended for traffic, the cameras on Elm Street could capture a driver’s identifying information, such as their face or license plate, which the ACLU says is against the law.

New Jersey

Trenton: A judge has put a temporary hold on a new state law allowing terminally ill patients to seek life-ending drugs. Judge Paul Innes of Superior Court in Mercer County signed the temporary order Wednesday blocking the law and set a hearing for October. Brought by Dr. Yosef Glassman, the suit seeking to block the law argues it violates constitutional rights as well as common law barring suicide. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill in April, making New Jersey the seventh state allowing the practice. Maine enacted a similar law in June, becoming the eighth. New Jersey’s law went into effect this month. Murphy said at an unrelated event Thursday that he will fight the suit, and the attorney general will put out guidance.

New Mexico

Upham: Virgin Galactic has unveiled its digs at Spaceport America. The once-empty hangar in a remote spot in the New Mexico desert that anchors the taxpayer-financed launch and landing facility has been transformed into a custom-tailored headquarters where Virgin Galactic will run its commercial flight operations. Two levels within the spaceport include mission control, a preparation area for pilots, and a lounge for paying customers and their friends and families, with each element of the fit and finish paying homage to either the desert landscape that surrounds the futuristic outpost or the promise of traveling to the edge of space. Billionaire Richard Branson, who is behind Virgin Galactic, and former Gov. Bill Richardson first pitched the plan for the spaceport nearly 15 years ago, but there were plenty of construction delays and cost overruns.

New York

Syracuse: Visitors may now get a look at two rare leopard cubs at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced that the little Amur leopards made their public debut Wednesday at the Syracuse zoo. The male and female cubs gradually ventured out from private quarters into their exhibit. It’s a temporary one while the zoo works toward a new, more complex $400,000 outdoor space for the leopard family. The cubs were born June 19 to parents Tria and Rafferty. The cubs don’t yet have names. The zoo plans a vote soon. Amur leopards are considered critically endangered. They are found in far eastern Russia, where an estimated 84 remain in the wild, up from about 30 in 2012. About 250 Amur leopards live under human care.

North Carolina

Mocksville: The police department is evicting its pet cat named Sgt. Butters, and some residents are mounting a campaign to bring him back. The Winston-Salem Journal reports the Mocksville Police Department’s resident feline needed a new home after concerns were raised about a pregnant woman who worked in the building and said she couldn’t be around cats. Officers had rescued the cat last year after it was seen hanging around the department. A Save Sarge Butters petition on was nearing its goal late Thursday. Sgt. Butters has been credited with helping to restore the department’s tarnished image after a jury awarded $4.1 million in damages to three former officers who said two town officials fired them in 2011 for reporting allegations of corruptions to state officials.

North Dakota

Minot: North Dakota State Fair officials have decided against holding a tobacco-free day at next year’s event. The state Health Department and Bismarck tobacco prevention coalition had asked the fair board to designate Family-Military Day as smoke-free at the 2020 event. Fair Board President Gary Knell says it would be difficult to make a fairgrounds ban work. The board decided to continue following state guidelines regarding tobacco in public places. State law prohibits smoking in enclosed public spaces oe within 20 feet of doors, windows or ventilation systems of public buildings. The Minot Daily News reports Knell says even though the board denied a tobacco-free day, advocacy groups could set up booths at the fair to encourage people to go tobacco-free on the grounds.


Portsmouth: A man is crediting his dog for saving him after the man suffered a bad fall. WSAZ-TV reports Jimmy Hale fell off a flood wall in Portsmouth last week while walking Taco. Hale ended up passing out after falling 15 feet and didn’t wake up until the next day. Hale says he screamed for help, but no one answered. That’s when Hale says he heard a lawnmower and then footsteps. Portsmouth city worker Mark Puckett says he only noticed Hale because of Taco, who stayed on the wall until someone showed up. Hale was flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he was still recovering Wednesday from pelvic and wrist injuries. Hale was reunited with Taco in the hospital Wednesday, and the two had an emotional reunion.


Oklahoma City: The maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin has agreed to provide access to propriety research and other data to researchers at Oklahoma State University to help them find causes and treatments for drug addiction. Purdue Pharma announced the agreement Thursday in a joint statement with OSU. Purdue said it will provide OSU’s new National Center for Wellness & Recovery access to “research molecules and certain associated data” that will help with research into addiction. The company and its controlling family, the Sacklers, agreed earlier this year to pay Oklahoma $270 million to settle allegations they helped create the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing campaign. That money is being used to establish the research center at OSU.


Portland: The governor has signed a bill requiring eggs produced by commercial farms to eventually be cage-free. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Gov. Kate Brown approved the new law mandating all eggs produced or sold in Oregon must come from cage-free hens by 2024. The measure signed Monday applies to commercial farms with 3,000 or more chickens. The state requirements will give about 4 million birds added space and perches. The Humane Society of the United States called the law a “monumental win for hens confined in tiny cages in the egg industry.” Oregon joins a handful of other states with similar laws including California, Washington and Massachusetts. The newspaper cites reports that say cage-free laws provide an improvement for chickens, but most remain held in small spaces and cages.


Mechanicsburg: A man is accused of putting people at risk by placing unidentified substances into consumer product packaging and returning the items to retail stores. Police on Wednesday charged 58-year-old Robert Keith Burns of Mechanicsburg with reckless endangerment, theft by deception and criminal mischief through tampering. The arrest affidavit says Burns wouldn’t tell investigators what materials were put inside of packaging for beauty aids and medication returned to stores or recovered from his home. He’s in jail, unable to post $50,000 bail. Burns doesn’t have a lawyer listed in court records. Authorities seized packaging, glue, jars and white cream from a search of Burns’ home last week. Police have said they are trying to determine what substances were used and haven’t fielded any reports of people being sickened.

Rhode Island

Central Falls: The state’s attorney general and state police launched investigations Thursday after a truck drove through a group protesting federal immigration policies at a detention center, which has since placed an employee on leave. At least two people were injured, one seriously, Wednesday night outside the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, according to the Jewish youth movement Never Again Action. The center is used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A video posted by the group on social media shows a black pickup that protesters say was operated by a uniformed corrections officer driving up to an entrance blocked by demonstrators. The vehicle stops before again moving forward. Protesters surround the truck, screaming and chanting: “The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!”

South Carolina

Beaufort: A former commercial helicopter pilot has become the first female Marine to pilot the F-35, a next-generation joint strike fighter aircraft. The Island Packet reports Capt. Anneliese Satz completed her fighter jet training this summer at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort. Satz trained in Mississippi, Florida and Texas over the past four years before arriving in Beaufort last summer to train in the F-35B Lightning II. A station statement says Satz’s aircraft is a supersonic stealth vessel designed to operate from short-field bases and near front-line combat zones. The statement says the 29-year-old Satz credits her history as a commercial helicopter pilot as what prepared her for a career in military aviation. She’s now headed to Iwakuni, Japan, to join a unit called the Green Knights.

South Dakota

Brandon: The state Department of Health and city officials are trying to assure residents the quality of the city’s drinking water is just fine. Concerns were raised after a doctored water quality report surfaced online that indicated unsafe radium levels. The report had redacted information about the company that conducted the testing, as well as the identity of the customer who hired the water quality assessment done. The state and city investigated and found the report posted online July 28 had been altered. The city of Brandon held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to address the issue and assure residents Brandon’s drinking water meets Environmental Protection Agency safety standards.


Memphis: A local startup aims to use honey to help heal wounds, and Regional One Health is putting its unique product to the test. Apis is a dissolvable patch made of manuka honey from New Zealand and the structural protein collagen that protects wounds during the healing process. It’s the first product by SweetBio, a company with four full-time employees based out of the University of Memphis’ CommuniTech Research Park. SweetBio wants to figure out where exactly its product fits in the health care industry, a question Regional One’s health system is suited to answer thanks to the variety of patient scenarios it encounters. Regional Medical Center in Memphis, an acute-care hospital, is in that system. The partnership is the next step in Apis’ journey to becoming a commercial product, following its FDA clearance for wound management in May.


Houston: Area voters will be asked this fall to approve up to $3.5 billion in bonds to expand public transportation that supporters say could benefit more than a dozen communities. Metropolitan Transit Authority board members on Tuesday agreed to place the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot. The bonds would be repaid by future sales tax revenues. Federal money will also be sought for the anticipated $7.5 billion in projects that could extend three light rail lines, expand use of bus rapid transit in dedicated lanes and create high-occupancy vehicle lanes along most of Houston’s freeways. Houston-area voters in 1978 created METRO and approved a one-cent sales tax to support operations.


Salt Lake City: The University of Utah plans to spend about $925,000 to improve safety following the killing of a student track athlete on the Salt Lake City campus. University President Ruth Watkins had called for a task force to evaluate safety after 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey was gunned down in October by a man she briefly dated. The task force made two dozen recommendations, including improving building alarms, adding police patrol outside of night classes and hiring a chief security officer. The university is also rolling out a campus ride-hailing service. Students hired to be drivers will transport students and staff across campus. The university plans to have most of the security measures in place before classes start next week.


Wilmington: A nonprofit created in response to Tropical Storm Irene is dissolving and donating its funds for local trail upgrades. The Wilmington Selectboard voted this week to accept more than $176,000 of remaining assets from the Wilmington Fund to be used for renovations of the Valley Trail system. The Brattleboro Reformer reports the money is meant to be used to enhance, upgrade and build the trail system with “family friendly” biking and hiking. The designated area spans about 5.6 miles between Wilmington and Dover. Town Manager Scott Tucker says the board’s next step is to plan the design for the trail system. He did not give a cost or exact time estimate for the project. Tucker says they hope to begin construction by next spring.


Charlottesville: The widows of two state troopers killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville are suing the state and others, blaming their husbands’ deaths on a “maintenance nightmare.” Amanda Bates and Karen Cullen filed wrongful death lawsuits Monday against Virginia, the Secretariat of Public Safety and Homeland Security and state police. Berke M.M. Bates and H. Jay Cullen had been monitoring the “Unite the Right” rally Aug. 12, 2017, before their helicopter crashed. The lawsuits say the helicopter was a “maintenance nightmare” with a history of malfunctions. Federal transportation safety investigators expect to issue a final report on the crash next year. A preliminary report did not offer a likely cause. Spokeswomen for the defendants said they couldn’t comment on pending litigation.


Spokane: Newly leaked emails show conservative state Rep. Matt Shea has had close ties with a group in the state that trained children and young men for religious combat. The Spokesman-Review reports the emails were first revealed in The Guardian on Wednesday, while Shea’s ties with Team Rugged also showed up in a video on Shea’s public Facebook page. “The entire purpose behind Team Rugged is to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men,” a man identified as the group’s leader, Patrick Caughran, wrote in a 2016 email to Shea, R-Spokane Valley. “Everything about it is both politically incorrect and what would be considered shocking truth to most modern christians,” Caughran wrote. “There will be scenarios where every participant will have to fight against one of the most barbaric enemies that are invading our country, Muslims terrorists.”

West Virginia

Fort Gay: The town has received a grant that’s expected to help transform a lock house into a community historical site. The Herald-Dispatch reports the FOCUS WV Brownfields Grant check was presented last week to leaders in Fort Gay. The $5,000 grant will allow the town to get an environmental assessment, which is the first step in transforming the Lock Masters House at the Big Sandy Lock and Dam #3. The town hopes to turn the lock house into a welcome center and community museum. Leaders also want to add a public river walk. Construction of the dam was completed in 1897 but abandoned in 1925. Currently, the locks are mainly used by a few fishers, but Mayor Joetta Hatfield says she hopes the site attracts more anglers in the future.


Madison: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos accused a paralyzed Democratic lawmaker of trying to sabotage a new national role for the Republican legislative leader by publicly seeking accommodations for his disability. This “does not seem like an accident to me,” Vos told a conservative radio show host Thursday. “Everything they do is political and trying to make the other side look bad.” Vos earlier this year rejected Rep. Jimmy Anderson’s request to be able to call into meetings he cannot attend because of his disability and to bar overnight floor sessions. Vos told WISN’s Jay Weber he believes the timing of Anderson’s public appeal was meant to undermine the announcement of Vos taking over as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures. But Democratic leaders made the request in February, and Anderson reached out to a reporter in May. Vos took over the new role 10 days after the story was published.


Cheyenne: A new state park at a former launch command center for one of the world’s most powerful nuclear missiles has opened to the public this week. KGAB-AM reports the Quebec 1 Wyoming Historic Site north of Cheyenne opened for tours Tuesday. An official grand opening is set for this weekend. The former Peacekeeper missile site is located off Interstate 25 about 25 miles north of Cheyenne. Tourists will be able to go underground to the steel-reinforced concrete capsule. The site also features a museum. It’s estimated that the site will attract 50,000-60,000 visitors a year.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports


Read More