Birmingham: Two U.S. military veterans who disappeared three months ago while fighting with Ukrainian forces against Russia arrived home Saturday, greeted by hugs, cheers and tears of joy at the state’s main airport. Alex Drueke, 40, and Andy Huynh, 27, had gone missing June 9 in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border. The Alabama residents were released as part of a prisoner exchange. The pair had traveled to Ukraine on their own and bonded over their shared home state. “It’s them!” a family member shouted as the pair appeared at the top of an escalator at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Smiling but looking tired, the two were pulled into long, emotional hugs by family members after their connecting flight home, then whisked to a waiting car. “Surreal. I still have chill bumps,” said Drueke’s aunt, Dianna Shaw. “I always imagined this day. I always held not just hope but belief in this day. But I thought it was going to be two or three years from now at best.” The families of the two men announced their release Wednesday. They were among 10 prisoners released by Russian-backed separatists as part of a prisoner exchange mediated by Saudi Arabia. “I had to get my hands on him to actually believe it,” said Darla Black, whose daughter is engaged to Huynh. “I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude. We got our miracle.”
Anchorage: A woman was killed when the plane she was piloting crashed into Whiskey Lake near Skwentna, Alaska Wildlife Troopers said. The pilot was identified as Janell Rude, 67, of Anchorage, troopers said. An Air Force rescue team was deployed Sunday and found the plane submerged in the lake. She was the sole occupant onboard the Cessna 180A, troopers said. Troopers and military rescue swimmers recovered the body, which was then sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet that it was investigating the crash. Skwentna is located about 65 miles northwest of Anchorage.
Phoenix: Planned Parenthood asked a judge Monday to put on hold a ruling that allowed prosecutors to enforce a Civil War-era state law banning abortion in nearly all cases. Arizona’s largest abortion provider said the ruling issued late Friday has created confusion about the status of the law. Its lawyers cited conflicts created by the abortion ban dating to 1864, a more recent law banning abortions after 15 weeks, and a variety of other laws regulating the processes and paperwork when terminating pregnancies. “This confusion has forced Planned Parenthood Arizona to pause abortion services and cancel appointments scheduled this week – meaning that members of our community once again have been and will continue to be denied medical care that they deserve and need while this decision is in effect,” Brittany Fonteno, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement. Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson’s ruling lifted a 50-year-old injunction blocking enforcement of the 1864 law, which allows abortion only when the mother’s life is in danger. The injunction was imposed after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision guaranteed a right to abortion on 1973. Planned Parenthood asked Johnson to put her ruling on hold pending an appeal.
Little Rock: Pharoah Sanders, the influential tenor saxophonist revered in the jazz world for the spirituality of his work, has died, his record label announced. He was 81. Sanders, who launched his career playing alongside John Coltrane in the 1960s, died early Saturday, said the tweet from Luaka Bop, the label that released his 2021 album, “Promises.” It did not specify a cause. “We are devastated to share that Pharoah Sanders has passed away. He died peacefully surrounded by loving family and friends in Los Angeles earlier this morning. Always and forever the most beautiful human being, may he rest in peace,” said the label’s message on Twitter, accompanied by a heart emoji. Among the saxophonist’s best-known works was his two-part “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” from the “Karma” album released in 1969. The combined track is nearly 33 minutes long. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1940, Sanders began his early musical life by playing drums, then the clarinet in church. In high school, he began renting out the school saxophone. After high school he moved to Oakland, California, where he intended to attend art school. But he soon moved to New York to join the city’s avant-garde jazz scene. He hitchhiked his way across country, he told The New Yorker magazine in 2020.
San Francisco: A prominent law school named for a 19th-century rancher who sponsored deadly atrocities against Native Americans has a new name after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation approving the change. It was among several bills concerning indigenous people that the Democratic governor and former San Francisco mayor signed into law Friday, which he declared “Native American Day” in the state. The University of California’s Hastings College of the Law will be known as the College of the Law, San Francisco. The school’s graduates include former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. The school was founded in 1878 by Serranus Clinton Hastings, a wealthy rancher and former chief justice of the California Supreme Court who helped orchestrate and finance campaigns by white settlers in Mendocino County to kill and enslave members of the Yuki Indian tribe. The legislation also lays out restorative justice initiatives to be pursued by the college, such as renaming a law library with a Native language name, according to a statement from the governor’s office. Newsom also signed legislation to remove an offensive term for a Native American woman from all geographic features and place names in the state.
Denver: A suburb’s plan to show a nearly 50-year-old movie at its arts center has officials scrambling to revamp the town’s indecency laws. The Denver Post reports the city of Parker plans to show the 1975 cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Parker Arts, Culture & Events Center in October. But because the event center holds a liquor license, and the movie includes a momentary glimpse of a woman’s breast, the showing is prohibited under a town ordinance prohibiting “lewd and indecent” displays. “ ‘Lewd or indecent displays’ include the display of the female breast,” town staff said in a memo to Parker’s elected leaders. “Thus, the definition of ‘lewd and indecent displays’… would prohibit the screening of a movie, such as the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which displays the female breast.” Parker’s town council is considering two ordinances on the issue that officials say will bring the indecency code into compliance with a recent federal court ruling by no longer singling out female breasts – but not male breasts – as indecent. The council is expected to cast a final vote on the measures next month, potentially paving the way for the movie showing to continue as planned.
Old Saybrook: A 76-year-old man died Saturday when his SUV plunged into the water at Saybrook Point Marina and Resort in Old Saybrook, police said. Wedding guests at the nearby Saybrook Point Inn jumped in, pulled the man to shore and performed CPR but were unable to save him, police said. The man, identified as Steven Mark Wahle, of Old Saybrook, was pronounced dead at Middlesex Medical Center Shoreline in Westbrook. The incident happened about 10:15 p.m. The marina is located between the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River. A fire department dive team determined Wahle was the only person in the SUV. Police pulled the vehicle from the water and impounded it, pending an ongoing investigation.
Dover: A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. John Carney over the state’s requirement for political balance on its courts. Friday’s ruling is the latest in a long-running legal battle over a “major-party” provision in the Delaware Constitution under which judicial appointments to the state’s three highest courts are split between Republicans and Democrats. The Delaware Supreme Court, Court of Chancery and Superior Court are subject to a separate “bare majority” provision that also applies to Family Court and the Court of Common Pleas. That provision says no more than a bare majority of judges on those courts can be affiliated with a single political party. The result of the major-party provision is that any person not affiliated with either the Republican or the Democratic Party is unable serve on any of those courts. Wilmington lawyer James Adams, a former Democrat who is now an unaffiliated voter, claims that the provision violates his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by barring him from being considered for a judgeship on the Superior Court, a position for which he has twice applied and been rejected. Judge Maryellen Noreika ruled Friday that Adams had legal standing to challenge the major-party provision and denied Carney’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
District of Columbia
Washington: The chief of the U.S. Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 siege has a book deal. Steven A. Sund’s “Courage Under Fire: Under Siege and Outnumbered 58 to 1 on January 6” will come out Jan. 3, just shy of the two-year anniversary of the riot by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. “It’s time to break my silence and reveal everything that I know happened,” Sund said in a statement released Monday by Blackstone Publishing. Sund resigned under pressure soon after the insurrection and testified the following month that he hadn’t seen an FBI field report warning of potential violence. He said the overrunning of the U.S. Capitol was the result of widespread failures. “No single civilian law enforcement agency – and certainly not the USCP – is trained and equipped to repel, without significant military or other law enforcement assistance, an insurrection of thousands of armed, violent, and coordinated individuals focused on breaching a building at all costs,” he testified. According to Blackstone, Sund will provide “a detailed and harrowing minute-by-minute account of the attack.” He will include a “never-before-heard accounting of a call from the White House” during the siege and “never-before-detailed conversations” between himself and congressional leadership.
Fort Lauderdale: Prosecutors in the penalty trial of school shooter Nikolas Cruz will begin their rebuttal case Tuesday, challenging his attorneys’ contention that he murdered 17 people because his birth mother abused alcohol during pregnancy, a condition they say went untreated. Prosecutor Mike Satz’s team is expected to call experts who will testify Cruz has antisocial personality disorder – in lay terms, he’s a sociopath – and fully responsible for his Feb. 14, 2018, attack at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. According to the National Institutes of Health, people with antisocial personality disorder commit “exploitive, delinquent and criminal behavior with no remorse.” They usually have no regard for others, don’t follow the law, can’t sustain consistent relationships or employment, and use manipulation for personal gain, the NIH says. Prosecutors will want to reemphasize Cruz “understood exactly” what he was doing during the massacre and could “formulate and carry out a plan,” said David S. Weinstein, a Miami defense attorney and former prosecutor.
Atlanta: A district attorney said he may revisit a decades-old case in which the state Supreme Court overturned three murder convictions of a Black sharecropper in the killing of a white man, aiming to determine whether the sharecropper deserves to be formally but posthumously exonerated. Weaknesses in the case were detailed in a book published this year, “The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson.” Carroll County District Attorney Herb Cranford has launched a review of the case and could ask a judge to formally clear Henderson’s name, as charges against him were never dismissed, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. He was tried and convicted three times for the 1948 killing of 22-year-old Carl “Buddy” Stevens Jr., a Georgia Tech student who was shot while on a date in Carrollton, a town about 40 miles west of Atlanta. Henderson was arrested more than a year after the killing, and defense lawyers, including a biracial team funded by the NAACP, repeatedly poked holes in the prosecution’s case. Those questions, including some focusing on the alleged murder weapon at a time when forensic science was in its infancy, weren’t enough to persuade jurors to acquit Henderson. But they helped persuade appeals courts to repeatedly overturn the conviction. In January 1953, Henderson was allowed to post bail and leave jail, but the charges were never dropped.
Honolulu: A 52-year-old man has been indicted on multiple counts after he allegedly forced a 15-year-old girl to tie up her boyfriend, then kidnapped and sexually assaulted her, as well as forcing her to smoke meth. Authorities say Duncan Mahi walked up to the girl and her boyfriend at Anaehoomalu Beach on the Kona side of the Big Island on Sept. 16, put a knife to her throat, and took the girl’s money and her boyfriend’s cellphone. Court documents allege Mahi told the girl to tie her boyfriend’s legs and hands together using zip-ties and tape that he provided. He forced her to put the boyfriend’s shirt in his mouth, cover his head with a towel and secure both items with the tape, the police booking sheet said. Mahi told the girl she would die if her boyfriend got loose, according to the police account. Once at his property, he shackled her to a yellow bus behind the main house by putting a fabric cuff around her left ankle that was attached to a cable. Police said the girl managed to get free the next day after she convinced Mahi to take her to a restaurant in Hilo to get something to eat. A witness saw them scuffling outside Cafe Pesto and stopped Mahi from running after the girl. A homeless man sitting on the sidewalk said, “That’s the girl in the news,” after which Mahi ran to a car. Police found Mahi in Hilo about two hours later.
Boise: A judge has banned cameras from the courtroom in the high-profile triple murder case against a mother and her new husband, saying he fears the images could prevent a fair trial. Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce made the ruling Friday, saying news organizations will no longer be able to shoot still photography or videos inside the courtroom in the criminal case of Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell. The couple are charged with conspiring to kill Lori Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children and Chad Daybell’s late former wife, and the strange details of the case have drawn attention from around the world. Both Vallow Daybell and Daybell have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a potential death penalty. Late last month, Vallow Daybell’s attorneys asked the judge to ban cameras from the courtroom. They contended that one news organization abused the privilege by repeatedly zooming in on Vallow Daybell’s face during an Aug. 16 hearing. The attorneys, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, also claimed the cameras and microphones could potentially be used to overhear private conversations or to view private notes on the defense table, though they did not suggest that the equipment had ever actually been used in that way.
Chicago: A man climbed five stories of a fire escape to infiltrate a police facility Monday while officers were undergoing a SWAT training exercise and grabbed at least two guns before he was shot and wounded by police, the chief said. Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said the suspect was taken to the hospital with injuries not considered to be life-threatening. One officer was taken to the hospital with a sprained ankle. Brown said the suspect was seen on video leaving the facility and then returning to infiltrate it. He asked where to go to retrieve personal property at the facility in Homan Square on Chicago’s West Side. Then he came back to the building and climbed the fire escape to the fifth floor, where a door had been propped open for ventilation because there are no windows on that floor. Brown said it has not been determined if the man went to the building to retrieve property, saying that the man had an extensive record. It wasn’t immediately clear if property taken from the man was stored in the building. He had no other information about the man, other than to say he was a resident of Waukegan, a suburb about 42 miles north of Chicago.
Indianapolis: The state could face a growing number of extreme heat days in the next 30 years, affecting the number of heat-related illnesses as well as seasonal energy costs in the state. The extreme heat designation is characterized by the National Weather Service as days on which the heat index reaches above 125 degrees. A recent study from First Street Foundation found that most counties in Indiana will continue to see high heat day hikes, with the southern portion of the state seeing the largest increase in what are called extreme heat days. Martin, Harrison and Clark counties are expected to see the greatest increase. Greenhouse gas-induced climate change is a driving factor for the rising number of high or extreme heat days in the 21st century, according to a 2020 Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences study. Urban development and population growth are also contributing to the growing number of extreme heat days. Low estimates show a minimum temperature increase across the U.S. of 2.5 degrees over the next 30 years, but since warmer air has a greater capacity to hold water, humidity will increase as well. This will have a compounding effect on heat indexes, the study says.
Bondurant: The city is bucking a decadeslong Beggars’ Night tradition by setting a new day for trick-or-treating. The Bondurant City Council in January passed a resolution that sets the trick-or-treat holiday, known as Beggars’ Night, to the last Saturday of October. That means this year, trick-or-treating is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Des Moines suburb. In future years, trick-or-treating could be as early as Oct. 25 or on Halloween itself. Since the 1940s, cities across the Des Moines metro have held Beggars’ Night on Oct. 30 to avoid what had become some Halloween-night mischief. Most communities in the Des Moines metro will stick to that this year. In Bondurant, the idea to change to the last Saturday of October came from a community Facebook post. The city later conducted a survey to gauge interest. Of the 141 people who participated, 65% said they supported holding Beggars’ Night on a Saturday. City staff identified pros of setting a permanent day of the month, which included consistency, less rushing for families to enjoy the celebration, and kids not having school the next morning. Some possible cons included an impact on households with nontraditional work schedules, confusion about being the only metro community with that date, and a possible influx of people from outsiders.
Topeka: After the state paid out up to $466 million in fraudulent unemployment benefits, an oversight council tasked with ironing out issues doesn’t know the status of correcting critical cybersecurity issues. “I just don’t have a lot of confidence right now in the security of the system,” said state Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, “and I’m afraid for Kansas citizens.” Contractor FORVIS performed a cybersecurity audit, broken down into a risk assessment report and a penetration testing report. The firm also performed a forensic audit of unemployment insurance, estimating up to $466 million in fraudulent payments. The council released a redacted version of the penetration testing report this month. The risk assessment report hasn’t been publicly released. Officials said the risk assessment identified 31 recommendations, including six of a high priority, 11 medium and 14 low. The agency didn’t disclose an update on any of the six high priority recommendations, telling lawmakers the information could only be discussed in secret. “It’s got to be noted that there are 206 vulnerabilities listed in this report, of which 43 of them are critical, 74 are high and 89 are medium,” said Rep. Sean Tarwater, R-Stilwell, in apparent reference to the confidential risk assessment report from April.
Greenville: A park in western Kentucky is being renamed after singer-songwriter John Prine. A dedication ceremony for the John Prine Memorial Park at Rochester Dam in Muhlenberg County is scheduled for Oct. 1, news outlets report. The project is part of updating an existing county park, said Karen Harper Lain, a spokesperson and committee member for the John Prine Memorial Park. The project includes a new boat ramp, more parking, a picnic pavilion, new playground equipment and landscaping improvements. Prine, who died in 2020, wrote “Paradise” for his father about the small town of Paradise on the banks of the Green River. Now a ghost town, the Muhlenberg County site became the home of a coal plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority from the early 1960s to 2020. Prine attributed the town’s demise to strip mining, with a father telling his son, who asks to return to the county and Paradise: “Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.” After his death, Prine fans began to visit Rochester Dam, which is also mentioned in the song, to leave memorials to the musician. Lain and others approached Muhlenberg County Fiscal Court about renaming the park after Prine’s death and said officials were “immediately on board.”
Baton Rouge: A federal judge has decided not to block the state’s plan to move two dozen troubled juvenile offenders from a suburban New Orleans detention center to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. In a 64-page ruling issued late Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick denied a motion to immediately halt the plan to move the teenagers to the adult maximum-security facility despite calling it “untenable” and “disturbing,” The Advocate reports. The state’s Office of Juvenile Justice proved in a three-day court hearing this month that it could provide the youth constitutionally required levels of care at the Angola facility, Dick wrote. “The prospect of putting a teenager to bed at night in a locked cell behind razor wire surrounded by swamps at Angola is disturbing,” the judge said in the ruling. “Some of the children in OJJ’s care are so traumatized and emotionally and psychologically disturbed that OJJ is virtually unable to provide a secure care environment.” But she also wrote: “While locking children in cells at night at Angola is untenable, the threat of harm these youngsters present to themselves, and others, is intolerable. The untenable must yield to the intolerable.”
Kittery: Clammers will once again be permitted to dig for soft-shell clams, quahogs, oysters and mussels at Brave Boat Harbor. With the nod of approval from the state Department of Marine Resources, the town is reopening a long-closed tidal flat now deemed safe for shellfish harvesting. A limited number of licenses to harvest shellfish from Brave Boat Harbor will be sold by the town starting in October to both residents and nonresidents, as approved by the Kittery Town Council. Chuck Moran, the town’s deputy harbormaster and shellfish warden, told the council that the Department of Marine Resources found Brave Boat Harbor to be safe for clamming close to a year ago. Since that time, the town has been working with the Department of Marine Resources to prepare for the tidal flat’s reopening and the rollout of shellfish harvesting licenses. “We are now ready to look to sell licenses and open up the clamming season,” Moran said. Department of Marine Resources spokesperson Jeff Nichols confirmed the state found Brave Boat Harbor, which had been closed for a number of years due to higher levels of fecal coliform, to be safe to reopen last October.
Annapolis: The official portrait of retired Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera has been unveiled. The depiction was destined to be highly symbolic, as it would be the first of 24 such drawings of the state’s top jurists going back to 1778 to feature a woman. But contained in the portrait are a host of symbols chosen to depict a dedicated judge, accomplished appellate attorney, fierce advocate, proud Marylander, and loving wife, mother and grandmother. Barbera stepped down from the high court last September upon reaching Maryland’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70. Current Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader hosted the unveiling ceremony at the high court and said a young girl visiting the Court of Appeals might reasonably ask where the women are upon gazing at the portraits of all the men circling the atrium outside the courtroom. “After this afternoon, never again,” Fader said. “We will finally have a portrait of a female chief judge.” In the portrait, Barbera is seated in the red judicial robe she wore for the eight years she served as chief judge, and on her lap are legal briefs of a case pending before the high court. On the table beside her is a gavel, which she said represents not only the job of a judge but a note of thanks to her dozens of law clerks.
Worcester: The city’s fire department has been awarded nearly $15 million in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hire 60 new firefighters and purchase new equipment. “This funding from FEMA will assist our department in accomplishing its mission to protect the lives and property of the community by increasing daily staffing for a safer and more effective fire and emergency response,” Acting Fire Chief Martin Dyer said in an announcement. “We have a growing community, and that requires increased resources to ensure we have the personnel and equipment needed.” The city received two grants. The Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response program awarded $14.1 million for the salaries of 60 new firefighters over the next three years. A second grant of $806,000 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program will increase the fire department’s inventory of self-contained breathing apparatuses, personal radios and turnout gear for new recruits.
Detroit: The state loosened regulations on staffing levels this spring and allowed for more frequent lockdowns at Wayne County’s juvenile jail amid understaffing and overcrowding so severe it has been operating under a “temporary disaster” plan. Complaints have grown that the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility has confined residents to their rooms for long periods and deprived them of basic care, including daily showers, recreation time and vital medication. In a move described as “rare,” the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with overseeing the facility, first approved the jail’s request for a temporary waiver of licensing rules at the end of April because of its staffing problems. The rules variance allows the jail to operate with fewer staff and lets them lock residents in their rooms facility-wide when there aren’t enough workers. A month after the rules were relaxed, police were called to control a group of 18 residents who had gotten out of their secure rooms, destroyed property and fought each other, after one boy may have popped a lock and snagged a staffer’s set of keys. The juveniles blamed their breakout, in part, on not being let out of their rooms. “We are tired of not getting our showers. Nothing against you,” a youth told a staffer, according to an internal county investigation.
Minneapolis: In-person voting for the midterm elections opened Friday, kicking off a six-week sprint to Election Day in a landscape that has changed much since the pandemic drove a shift to mail balloting in the 2020 presidential contest. Twenty people voted in the first hour as Minneapolis opened its early voting center, taking advantage of generous rules that election officials credit with making the state a perennial leader in voter turnout. First in when the doors opened was Conrad Zbikowski, a 29-year-old communications and digital consultant who said he has voted early since at least 2017. “I like to vote early because you never know what might happen on Election Day,” Zbikowski said, displaying his civic pride with a T-shirt that bore the sailboat logo of the City of Lakes. “You might get sick; you might get COVID; you might get in a car crash – there’s many things that can happen. But what you do have control over is being able to vote early and getting that ballot in.” Minnesota’s ballot includes races for governor and other statewide offices, with control of the Legislature at stake, too. Zbikowski said he doesn’t take the right to vote for granted, given that his family came to America from Russia when it didn’t have free elections. As a part-time poll worker – he was off duty Friday – he said he’s seen Minnesota’s safeguards firsthand and has full confidence in the integrity of the process.
Jackson: After the state spent millions of dollars in welfare money on Brett Favre’s pet project, a university volleyball arena, the retired NFL quarterback tried two years later to get additional cash from the state’s welfare agency for another sports facility, new court documents show. The governor at the time, Republican Phil Bryant, texted in 2019 with Favre, who wanted to build an indoor practice facility for the University of Southern Mississippi’s football team. Bryant told him federal money for children and low-income adults is “tightly controlled,” and “improper use could result in violation of Federal Law.” Text messages between Bryant and Favre are in court documents filed Friday by Bryant’s lawyers that seek to show the governor was willing to help Favre raise private money for the volleyball facility starting in 2017 and was unaware for more than two years that welfare money was going to the project. Mississippi’s largest-ever public corruption case has ensnared several people, including a pro wrestler whose drug rehab was funded with welfare money. The state has filed a civil lawsuit against Favre and others to recover more than $20 million in misspent welfare money intended to help needy people in one of the country’s poorest states. Neither Bryant nor Favre is facing criminal charges.
Kansas City: The speaker of the state House is urging the U.S. attorney in Kansas City to shut down Agape Boarding School, accusing the Christian school of “what amounts to organized crime against children.” Republican House Speaker Rob Vescovo sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore that was made available to reporters Monday. In it, Vescovo said state efforts to close the school have failed, and the local prosecutor has failed to take action to protect the boys who attend the school in the southwestern Missouri town of Stockton. “Right now in Missouri we are faced with the horrifying truth that a network of immoral individuals have engaged in what amounts to organized crime against children,” Vescovo wrote. But he said the situation is “more far-reaching and contains more deeply-rooted corruption than we are able to address solely at the state level.” Vescovo didn’t immediately respond to an interview request to explain his concerns about corruption. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City declined comment. Agape’s attorney, John Schultz, called the allegations against the school “100% false.” “There’s no evidence to support closing down Agape,” Schultz said.
Great Falls: The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is seeking outdoor enthusiasts to spend the spring or summer working to preserve and protect one of the landscapes that they love. “Positions are available in multiple fields, including fire, recreation, natural resources, range, timber, visitor services, and archaeology,” park officials said in a statement about the more than 150 seasonal jobs for next spring and summer, with a weeklong application window opening Thursday. “Whether you want to work outside next summer or help visitors plan their trips, working for the Forest Service is an excellent way to build lifelong skills and connections. You will have the opportunity to enjoy a challenging adventure while contributing to an important mission.” The forest encompasses 2.8 million acres across central and north-central Montana. It includes island mountain ranges bisected by the Continental Divide and Missouri River and portions of 17 Montana counties, extending from the border of Glacier National Park to the southern tip of the Crazy Mountains and east across the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown. “This forest provides timber for people, forage for cattle and wildlife, habitat for fish, plants, and animals, and some of the best recreation opportunities in the country,” the news release said.
Omaha: A mining company that wants to extract an assortment of rare elements from southeast Nebraska has announced an agreement that will provide up to $285 million to help cover the roughly $1.1 billion cost of building the mine. In addition to a merger with a special purpose acquisition company called GX Acquisition Corp. II that NioCorp announced Monday, the Colorado-based company also signed letters of intent to borrow up to $81 million more from Yorkville Advisors Global. So NioCorp could get as much as $366 million to finance the project. NioCorp CEO Mark Smith said that “these transactions have the potential to put NioCorp on the fast track to obtain the required project financing.” The main element NioCorp plans to produce at the mine about 80 miles south of Omaha near the town of Elk Creek is a heat-resistant element called niobium, along with scandium and titanium. The company has said analysis of samples from the site shows there is also a significant amount of rare earth elements there like the ones President Joe Biden wants to produce more of domestically. But it’s not yet sure whether it will be economically feasible to also produce some of those elements that are used to create the strong magnets used in a variety of high-tech products such as electric vehicles and cellphones.
Reno: Gov. Steve Sisolak says the state is launching a prescription discount card, a method of softening the rising costs of medications. The digital card, called ArrayRX, saves an average of 80% on generic prescriptions and up to 20% on brand-name drugs and is free for Nevadans, Sisolak said. For those without health insurance, the card is set to lower costs significantly, the Democratic governor said at a Thursday press conference in Las Vegas. Those with health insurance will be able to compare their costs with ArrayRX and can opt for whichever option is cheaper, he said. “Taking care of yourself and prioritizing your health shouldn’t leave you bankrupt,” Sisolak said. State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said the digital card is “another tool in our toolbox to ensure that Nevadans can continue to afford the health care that they need and to take care of their families.” Sisolak announced in February at his State of the State address that Nevada would join Oregon and Washington in the Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium, a program to reduce prescription costs through state discount systems. There is no cost to the state, Nevada’s Health and Human Services spokesperson said. Instead, a small transaction fee built into the price paid by the consumer helps cover the cost of the program.
Seabrook: The state Department of Safety’s report on the July 12 false alarm sounding at the NextEra Seabrook nuclear power plant finds that because there was no procedure in place for an inadvertent siren activation, it took almost an hour to start notifying the public there was no emergency at the nuclear plant. The result, according to officials in the beach communities, was a certain degree of panic from many beachgoers and local residents who had been told to leave the area by the sirens’ verbal broadcasts at 10:50 a.m. That panic was made worse by a few well-meaning but problematic good Samaritans who drove around Hampton telling people to evacuate because there was a problem at the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant. Although many could accept human error at the power plant caused the 10 alarms to be sounded by mistake, it was the lack of proper public notification that frustrated authorities and the public. It wasn’t until 11:49 a.m., according to the report’s timeline, that state officials transmitted information to the public of the inadvertent alarm activation via social media. WOKQ, the radio station listed in the Seabrook Station Emergency information brochures to get updated information in case of an emergency, was never notified.
Trenton: Former Gov. James Florio, who championed a plan that substantially raised the state’s sales and income taxes, leading to his reelection defeat in 1993, died Sunday. He was 85. His law partner Doug Steinhardt and current Gov. Phil Murphy confirmed Florio died in statements Monday. “Governor Florio was a fighter who never backed down. He was a leader who cared more about the future of New Jersey than his own political fortunes,” Murphy, a fellow Democrat, said in his statement. Florio was a longtime public servant who held numerous posts on the local, county, state and federal levels. A Democrat, he made three unsuccessful gubernatorial runs before finally succeeding in 1989, when he defeated Republican Jim Courter and became the first Italian American to serve as the state’s chief executive. Florio drew sharp criticism in 1990 when he pushed a $2.8 billion tax increase through the Legislature that extended a sales tax to, among other things, toilet paper. It spawned massive voter resentment and spurred the formation of Hands Across New Jersey, an anti-tax grassroots group that used rolls of toilet paper as its symbol. Florio was ousted after one term by Republican Christie Whitman, who tapped into voter anger over the tax hike and won the race by about 26,000 votes.
Santa Fe: The state has granted funds to pay for possible prosecutions connected to last year’s fatal film-set shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports. The state Board of Finance greenlit more than $317,000 to cover the cost of investigating potential charges in the shooting on the set of “Rust” outside Santa Fe. First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies made an emergency request for the funds to go toward a special prosecutor, special investigator, several experts and other personnel. As many as four people could face charges, according to a copy of the request obtained by the newspaper, though Carmack-Altwies did not say anyone definitely would. “One of the possible defendants is well known movie actor Alec Baldwin,” she said. When reached for comment by the newspaper, she declined to say which crew members or cast could face charges. The possible charges at which her office is looking range from homicide to violations of state gun statutes. Carmack-Altwies said she is expecting to receive the final investigation report from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office soon.
New York: New York City officials are appealing a judge’s ruling that they lacked the legal authority to fire members of the city’s largest police union for violating a COVID-19 vaccination mandate. State Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank in Manhattan ruled Friday that the city health department’s mandate couldn’t be used to fire or put on leave members of the Police Benevolent Association. Frank said it was “undisputed” that city officials could issue vaccine mandates. But the judge said officials overstepped their authority by unilaterally creating a new condition of employment, as opposed to going through collective bargaining. Frank ordered the reinstatement of union members who were “wrongfully” terminated or put on unpaid leave for refusing to get vaccinated. The city immediately filed a notice of appeal, freezing the judge’s decision until the appeal is heard. “This decision confirms what we have said from the start: the vaccine mandate was an improper infringement on our members’ right to make personal medical decisions in consultation with their own health care professionals,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said the ruling “is at odds with every other court decision upholding the mandate as a condition of employment.”
Chapel Hill: After years of anticipation, a collection of rarely exhibited drawings by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn is now on display at the Ackland Art Museum. The Ackland’s newest exhibit, “Drawn to Life: Master Drawings from the Age of Rembrandt in the Peck Collection,” includes dozens of 17th and 18th century drawings by Dutch and Flemish artists, including five sketches by Rembrandt, who died in 1669. They’re all from the Peck Collection, which the Ackland received in 2017. It was the largest-ever gift for the UNC-Chapel Hill art museum, courtesy of the late UNC alumnus Sheldon Peck and his wife, Leena Peck. This vast collection, valued at $17 million, included 134 Dutch and Finnish drawings. “Drawn to Life,” with 70 pieces of work, marks the first time many of these drawings will be on view to the public since the donation. The museum notes that many can only be on display for short periods of time because they’re sensitive to light. While Rembrandt’s paintings and portraits from the Dutch Golden Age famously strike viewers with awe and a radiant glow, these drawings tell a vastly different story. This collection features more understated works that are meant to be looked at for longer periods of time.
Bismarck: There is little indication that an 18-year-old who died after being struck by an SUV was a political extremist as the driver claimed. Investigators say none of the witnesses they have interviewed support the idea that there was a political argument before authorities say Shannon Brandt struck Cayler Ellingson with his vehicle Sept. 18 in McHenry, and a family friend who knew the teen said he wasn’t active in politics. Court documents said Brandt told a 911 dispatcher that he felt threatened after having a political argument with Ellingson and believed the teen was part of a “Republican extremist group.” North Dakota Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind said Friday that authorities have talked to dozens of witnesses and plan to talk to more as they try to get a better picture of exactly what happened before the crash. “I can’t get into details about what the witnesses are describing to us. But what I can tell you is that this is not political in nature at all,” he said. “There is no evidence to support Brandt’s claim on the 911 call that Mr. Ellingson was a Republican extremist. There is no evidence to support that all through our continued investigation.” He also said there is no evidence to support Brandt’s claim that Ellingson was calling others to come hurt Brandt.
Columbus: Teachers barricaded classrooms, kids texted their parents, and police rushed to high school campuses across the state Friday as a rash of hoax reports of school shootings were made. Legislators are trying to make it a felony to knowingly make a false emergency report. State Rep. Kevin Miller, R-Newark, and state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, have introduced companion bills to increase the penalties on “swatting” − making bogus reports to bring about a big police response, usually to a residence. The legislation would make it a third-degree felony and elevate it to a first-degree felony if anyone is seriously injured as a result of the false report. Those convicted could also be ordered to pay the government for resources spent on the hoax call. “I’m appalled by this type of behavior. It especially sickens me that they’d do this to schools. Think of the emotional impact that these types of incidences have on all those involved,” said Miller, a retired state trooper. He said currently such calls are prosecuted as misdemeanors under inducing panic or making a false alarm. Brenner said in testimony that swatting started as a prank among online gamers who would call in a report to get a SWAT team to show up while someone was streaming their video game play. Brenner and Miller both said they hope their bills gain momentum when lawmakers return to voting session after the elections.
Oklahoma City: A church with a distinctive white, egg-shaped dome was torn down early Monday after the congregation’s attorney previously said recent asbestos removal was not part of any plan to destroy the First Christian Church building. The property, which also includes the former home of Jewel Box Theater, was home to one of the city’s biggest churches when it opened in the 1950s. The property was put up for sale in 2017 with a dwindling congregation still worshipping there. Preservationists thought they had a savior for the building when Crossings Church signed a purchase contract for the landmark in 2019. But that deal fell through when the congregation’s leadership concluded the costs of renovation exceeded their budget for a new location. A local developer, Andy Burnett, was among the latest to make an offer for the property. When contacted by phone Sunday night, Burnett confirmed he offered $2 million, all cash, with a closing in 45 days, to buy the property and keep the buildings standing as part of indoor and outdoor sand volleyball and sports complex. Burnett said he had not gotten a response but was hopeful and willing to continue the conversation.
Salem: Some parks officials say high demand for crowded campsites is leading to arguments, fistfights and even so-called campsite pirates. Brian Carroll with Linn County Parks and Recreation said park rangers had to play mediator this summer as would-be campers argued over first-come, first-served campsites at Sunnyside County Park. “People were literally fighting over campsites,” Carroll said. “What we experienced this year was certainly a general level of increased frustration and anxiety of people not being able to get their campsite. There seems to be less general common courtesy going on.” Tensions also escalated over reserved campsites, with some recreationists wrongly claiming already-reserved sites by tearing off the reservation tags and replacing them with their own, prompting the nickname “campsite pirates.” The original parties end up angry and confused when they arrive to find their campsite occupied. The practice isn’t common, but it’s happening more than it used to, Carroll said. “In the past, it was extremely rare,” he said. Earlier this year, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said it would seek legislation to give rangers added protection because of the increasing level of assaults and harassment targeting rangers.
Philadelphia: Workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art began a strike Monday, citing wage and health care issues, as the institution said it would remain open during the walkout. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the union representing about 180 of the museum’s approximately 350 workers set up picket lines Monday at entrances to the main building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and at the nearby Perelman Building and the Rodin Museum on the parkway. The museum posted a notice on social media saying it was open as usual Monday, with officials saying managers and nonunion employees would run the operation. “We are committed to serving our community as we continue to negotiate in good faith toward a fair and appropriate new labor agreement,” the museum said. Museum workers voted to unionize in July 2020, and leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 47, Local 397, said Friday that they had been in talks with the museum on a new contract for two years without success. Union officials said higher wages and reducing health care costs are among the important issues outstanding. “Our members will not accept a contract that does not bring wages and benefits at the museum up to an acceptable standard,” DC47 President Cathy Scott said in a statement.
Providence: With his Republican challenger nipping at his heels and calling him “out of touch,” Gov. Dan McKee on Monday scaled back, for now, the raises of up to 43% his administration was proposing for his Cabinet members. In a statement read aloud at a public hearing by Brian Daniels, the head of the state’s Office of Management and Budget, McKee said he was unaware of the state law dictating flat salaries for high-level agency directors when his administration submitted the original salary package. Among the proposed moves: a $60,000 pay hike for the state’s health director that would raise the salary for the position – held by a series of temporary replacements since Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott’s resignation last winter – from $140,000 a year to $200,000 a year. When first talking about that and other double-digits pay hikes, McKee said he envisioned them as new salary maximums to be phased in over time, not all-at-once increases. “However, it is now my understanding that, by statute, the proposals represent flat rates and not salary caps,” he said. “With that in mind, I conducted a balancing test between what is best for talent development in the civil service and what is the most fiscally responsible path forward for Rhode Island taxpayers.”
Columbia: More than 20 people were arrested and more than 300 dogs rescued as authorities raided dogfighting kennels in the state, federal prosecutors said Monday. The sting started when state and federal agents interrupted a dog fight in Richland County on Saturday, U.S. Attorney Adair Boroughs said in a statement. That led agents to serve 23 warrants Sunday at what were known to be places where dogs fight or are trained to fight in Clarendon, Lee, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and York counties, investigators said. Twenty people face state charges of animal cruelty and dogfighting, authorities said. Investigators also seized about 30 guns and $40,000 in cash, prosecutors said. Officials said 305 dogs were rescued, with about 275 of them believed to be part of the dogfighting ring. The Humane Society of the United States and Bark Nation are helping to take care of the dogs. Some of the dogs had severe scars, open wounds and cuts, the Humane Society said. Some of the dogs were unusually thin, chained to trees with no way of getting food or water, the agency said. The arrests over the weekend are the first steps in a broader investigation that could include federal charges, Boroughs said.
Sioux Falls: State Rep. Linda Duba, D-Sioux Falls, shared her abortion story for the first time in public during a reproductive justice rally organized by the South Dakota Democratic Party on Sunday. Standing on a stage and speaking to a crowd of people dressed in green – the international symbol for abortion access – at Fawick Park in Sioux Falls, Duba told the story of a young college girl in the winter of 1976 who found herself pregnant. Although abortion had been legal in the United States for nearly three years with the passage of Roe v. Wade, abortions were still not provided in South Dakota. “She came from a family who was pretty strict. She was worried about what people would think of her if they found out that she was pregnant, and that young girl was me,” Duba said. Duba was one of five speakers, four of whom are running for office this November, who spoke about the importance of abortion access. Because of a 2005 trigger law tied to the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe in June, abortions in South Dakota are banned, even in cases of rape and incest. Duba said that women today must travel out of state, similar to what she had to do 47 years ago when she was a sophomore at South Dakota State University and went to Minneapolis on a Saturday for a 15-minute abortion procedure. “It was probably one of the scariest times in my life, and then I came back home, and I never told a soul,” she said.
Nashville: Tennesseans are being asked to cement a right-to-work law into the state constitution at the ballot box in November – a move touted by pro-business leaders but adamantly opposed by labor unions. The state’s right-to-work law allows employees to opt out of joining a union and paying the dues even if the workforce is unionized. Tennessee’s major unions are against Amendment 1 and criticized the right-to-work law for creating a “free-loader situation.” “It makes unions the only entity that has to provide services to people who did not pay for them,” said Jason Freeman, the political director with Service Employees International Union Local 205, based in Nashville. “A majority of workers in a place can choose to unionize, and then the people who have not joined are entitled to the benefits and services their co-workers are paying for, while they are not.” Supporters of the amendment said they believe the right-to-work law bolsters Tennessee’s business-friendly economic climate and provides workers with a choice. “Through unions, employees can be forced to join something that they disagree with,” said Justin Owen, the president of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a conservative think tank. “That violates their freedom of association and should ultimately be left up to the individual.”
Austin: A year after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott defended the state’s new abortion law – which makes no exceptions in cases of rape – by assuring that Texas would get to work eliminating sexual assaults, Lindsey LeBlanc is busy as ever helping rape victims in a college town outside Houston. “The numbers have stayed consistently high,” said LeBlanc, executive director of the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Bryan, near Texas A&M University. Despite hiring two additional counselors in the past six months, she still has a waitlist for victims. “We are struggling to keep up with demand,” she said. Overwhelming majorities of voters think their state should generally allow abortion in specific cases, including rape, incest or if the health of the pregnant person is endangered. Asked what Abbott has done in the past year to eliminate rape, spokeswoman Renae Eze highlighted older measures to clear rape test kit backlogs, a law signed in June aimed at coordinating and expanding sexual assault resources, and a task force his office launched in 2019 to address the issue. More than 14,000 rape crimes have been reported in Texas since the law took effect last year, according to data from the Texas Department of Public Safety. That was slightly down from the year before and consistent with a decline in other violent crime figures across the state.
Salt Lake City: Two women survived a mountain lion attack over the weekend when they were running in a canyon east of Salt Lake City. They came upon the mountain lion as they came around a corner on a trail run Sunday morning in Millcreek Canyon, said Faith Jolley, a spokesperson for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The mountain lion leapt at the woman closest to the animal, leaving two puncture wounds on leg, she said. They were able to get away and down the mountain after the uninjured woman threw a rock at the mountain lion. The woman’s injuries aren’t considered life-threatening, Jolley said. Wildlife officials later found the mountain lion they believe was the one in the attack and euthanized the animal. Jolley said mountain lion attacks are quite rare in that part of Utah.
Burlington: The retail sale of adult-use marijuana becomes legal in the state Saturday, ushering in a new source of revenue for Vermont, as well as satisfied customers, advocates hope. But in reality, hardly anyone will be ready to start selling Oct. 1. As of Friday, only three businesses had their licenses from the Cannabis Control Board: Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland, FLORA Cannabis in Middlebury and CeresMED in Burlington. And only three businesses had their licenses from the city of Burlington − Ceres, Grass Queen and Green State Dispensary − making CeresMED the only business in the city with both state and city licenses in place. Russell Todia, chief operating officer of CaresMED, said in an email that the downtown Burlington store is “tracking to begin adult-use cannabis sales in Vermont on October 1.” Nellie Marvel of the Cannabis Control Board said Friday the board will likely approve at least one more retail outlet at next week’s board meeting. “I cannot say at this time which those might be, or how many will be presented to the board for approval,” Marvel said. “Those numbers are subject to change pretty much until the last minute as we continue to have communications from applicants.” A total of 30 businesses have applied to the Cannabis Control Board for retail licenses.
McLean: The CIA has revealed a model of Ayman al-Zawahri’s safe house, used to brief President Joe Biden about the al-Qaida leader’s whereabouts before the agency killed him in a drone strike in Afghanistan. Shortly after al-Zawahri’s death, White House officials released a photo showing Biden talking to CIA Director William Burns with a closed wooden box on the table in front of them. Now, the contents of the box – a model depicting a white-walled home with at least five stories and three partially obscured balconies – are on display at the CIA Museum inside the agency’s Virginia headquarters. The museum is closed to the public, and access is generally limited to the agency’s employees and guests. The CIA allowed journalists to tour the museum, newly refurbished in time for the agency’s 75th anniversary, as part of a broader effort to showcase its history and achievements. Most of the exhibits took years or decades to declassify. The al-Zawahri model home is the rare artifact that had been used by intelligence officers just weeks beforehand. Al-Zawahri was killed in late July, nearly a year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan ending a two-decade war in which the CIA had a central role. The agency sent the first American forces two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Seattle: People in the greater Seattle area will be asked to approve as much as $1.25 billion in new taxes to improve the mental health system and build five regional crisis care centers. The Seattle Times reports King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and others on Monday said they would put the tax plan on the April 2023 ballot. The King County levy would begin in 2024. The median-value homeowner would pay about $121 that year and continue through 2032. Officials did not say where the new five crisis facilities would be located. The tax package would also maintain and invest in residential treatment beds at long-term facilities that provide youth and adults with addiction and mental health treatment.
Beaver: A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against a jail on behalf of current and former inmates who have described conditions at the facility as inhumane. The complaint filed last week about conditions at Southern Regional Jail in Beaver references a lack of access to water and food, as well as overcrowded conditions and fights that were allowed to continue until someone was injured, WVVA-TV reports. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told the station that the agency could not comment on ongoing litigation, but an investigation of conditions at the jail earlier this year found no evidence of inhumane treatment. Republican Gov. Jim Justice ordered the investigation in March after WVVA reported allegations of water deprivation, failure to provide toilet paper and inmates having to sleep on hard floors without a mattress. “Our investigators talked with a bunch of people and pulled a bunch of records and, at the end of the day, they determined that the allegations were simply not true,” Justice said in an April statement.
Madison: A conservative news outlet sued the Wisconsin Parole Commission on Monday, alleging that it has refused to comply with open records requests made earlier this year. Wisconsin Right Now has been publishing a series of articles highlighting violent offenders who have received parole under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration. A reporter for the outlet in May requested lists of all offenders who have been granted parole, release or early release since 2019, when Evers appointed John Tate as chairman of the commission. The commission sent a list of offenders released through 2021 and said in June that it would provide more recent information as it became available. According to the lawsuit, the commission did not respond to further communications or provide that information. The commission and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to messages left Monday. Tate stepped down from his role in June at Evers’ request after the decision to parole a man who served less than 25 years of an 80-year sentence for stabbing his wife to death angered the victim’s family and drew criticism from Republicans in the state.
Jackson: The state’s Department of Transportation wants to use 23 acres of federal land to house temporary laborers as construction ramps up on a highway project, but conservationists are pushing back, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports. The parcel, under U.S. Bureau of Land Management control, isn’t “an appropriate site” and would be better turned into a public park, a proposal first made in the 1990s, said Jared Baecker, director of the nonprofit Snake River Fund. Bob Hammond, an engineer with the Wyoming Department of Transportation, told the newspaper that while he understands the desire to preserve the land for recreation, “there’s no funding to do it in the next five or more years.”
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: John Prine, Rocky Horror: News from around our 50 states