Montgomery: A federal judge will hear arguments next month on whether to block enforcement of a state law outlawing the use of gender-affirming medications to treat transgender people under age 19. The May 5 hearing is scheduled just days before the law is set to take effect May 8. U.S. District Judge Liles Burke set the evidentiary hearing, scheduled to last up to two days, on a request for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to stop Alabama officials from enforcing the law while a court challenge goes forward. The law will make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for medical providers to give puberty blockers and hormones to transgender people under age 19 to help affirm their gender identity. Four families with transgender children, two doctors and a member of the clergy filed a lawsuit challenging the law as an unconstitutional violation of equal protection and free speech rights and an intrusion into parental decisions.
Anchorage: Alaska Airlines says it’s canceling nonstop flights between Anchorage and Honolulu during the summer months, primarily because of limited staffing. The suspension will last from June until November. Alaska Airlines Public Affairs Manager Tim Thompson said no other major nonstop routes to and from Anchorage were affected, KTUU reports. Alaska Airlines has struggled with staffing levels this month, as pilots protested and the airline said it encountered a backlog in its training program while it worked to bring on more pilots. The company had 63 fewer pilots ready to fly in April than it had planned on in January, it said. Travelers between Alaska and Hawaii may have to use connecting flights in Seattle; Portland, Oregon or Los Angeles as alternatives. An Alaska Airlines spokesperson said in an email to the Associated Press that the airline has offered seasonal service on the Anchorage-Honolulu route in the past. The airline also plans to resume nonstop service from Anchorage to Maui and Anchorage to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island in the fall. The airline doesn’t operate these routes during the summer.
Phoenix: Legislation that greatly expands the rights of parents to know anything their children tell a teacher or school counselor and allows them to sue if information is withheld is headed to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. The parental rights bill sponsored by state Rep. Steve Kaiser was approved along party lines by the House on Monday. Changes made in the Senate, which passed the bill with no Democratic backing last week, required a second House vote. Kaiser had previously stripped the measure of major penalty provisions for teachers to get enough votes for its initial House passage. The broad expansion of the state’s parents’ bill of rights no longer will lead to fines, suspensions or dismissal for teachers or other school employees. But it does allow lawsuits against any school district or official for violations and requires them to prove they did not interfere with a parent’s rights. The House also gave final approval to a bill that expands the ability of parents to review books in school libraries and requires a 60-day review period for titles being considered for addition by librarians. Republicans say some schools are allowing books that contain inappropriate content on sex or sexual orientations in their collections. Democrats said both bills are overreactions that target teachers, and the parent’s rights bill will put children at risk.
Fort Smith: The Sebastian County judge wants to use federal COVID-19 dollars to fund a sobering center until 2026. County Judge David Hudson proposed that the quorum court use $2.5 million of the American Rescue Plan money to pay for a sobering center, where officers can take people accused of low-level, alcohol-related offenses, instead of taking them to jail. The center could also be used for people who have committed low-level crimes related to substance abuse, said Rusti Holwick, the CEO of The Guidance Center. “It really helps to just keep people out of jail who are nonviolent offenders,” Holwick said. The sobering center will be a safe place where medical staff will monitor those intoxicated and allow them to become stable. Hudson plans to have an upcoming meeting to exclusively discuss what the American Rescue Plan money should fund. At a follow-up meeting, the quorum court members will decide whether to provide money for the sobering center through the federal act. If people volunteer to go to the center – where they would stay until becoming sober – charges would be dropped, Hudson said. A typical stay would last about 12 hours.
Huntington Beach: A report issued Monday urges a coastal panel to deny a proposal to build a $1.4 billion desalination plant that would draw on the ocean to expand water sources in Southern California. Staff for the California Coastal Commission recommended the panel reject Poseidon Water’s proposal to build the 50 million gallon-a-day facility in Huntington Beach. The project is up for discussion before the panel May 12. “This project raises significant and complex coastal protection policy issues,” staff wrote, “including conformity with policies that require protection of marine life, water quality, environmentally sensitive habitat areas, and policies meant to avoid or minimize hazards associated with sea level rise, floods, tsunamis, and geologic hazards.” The staff also wrote that the proposal raises “significant issues” about potential impacts on environmental justice communities. It also lacks details about who would ultimately buy Poseidon’s water and at what cost, according to the report. Poseidon Water said it believed the commission staff erred in its recommendation. “No water infrastructure project in the state of California has ever undergone this level of study and scrutiny,” the company said in a statement. “If this recommendation stands, it will effectively be the death knell for desalination in California.”
Fort Collins: NOCO Distillery founder and master blender Sebastien Gavillet is busy commissioning custom bottle corks affixed with Star Trek figurines and dealing with a rush of new customers after a bottle of the distillery’s “Bourbon II” whiskey appeared on the latest season of Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Picard.” The bottle, shown during a bar scene, appeared on screen for a few seconds – just long enough for fans to pause and make out its name, batch, cask, bottle numbers, and the distillery’s logo and hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado. “I was floored,” said Gavillet, who woke up to a flurry of text messages and calls after the episode dropped on the streaming service. NOCO Distillery had dipped its toes in product placement thanks to Mark McFann, a distillery customer and owner of Cast a Long Shadow, a Fort Collins-based product placement company. Seeing it as an interesting marketing opportunity, Gavillet said NOCO Distillery also pursued small placements on Netflix’s “Lucifer,” the new Ben Affleck movie “Deep Water” and Peacock’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot, “Bel-Air.” While most of those placements were minor, Bourbon II’s extended appearance on “Star Trek: Picard” was “very unique,” he said. “People started showing up at the distillery ... waiting outside before it opened,” Gavillet said. “We started getting a lot of Trekkies as regulars.” He’s planning a special release of Bourbon II that will reflect the same batch and barrel number featured on the show.
New Haven: The city’s acting police chief was ordered to resign by a judge, who ruled Monday that the chief has held the temporary position longer than the city charter allows. Mayor Justin Elicker immediately vowed to appeal the ruling and said Renee Dominguez would remain acting chief during the legal challenge and until a permanent chief is hired. Dominguez, who has served as acting chief since March 2021, had been on track to become the first woman to permanently lead the New Haven Police Department. But in December, the city’s Board of Alders rejected Elicker’s nomination of her after some residents raised concerns about increasing violent crime and low diversity in the department. In his ruling, Judge Michael Kamp said the city charter prohibits acting city officials – including the police chief – from holding the temporary jobs for more than six months without their names being submitted to the Board of Alders. Elicker did submit Dominguez’s name to the alders within six months, but the board rejected the nomination, the judge said. “The clear import of the city charter is that an acting police chief cannot remain in place indefinitely,” Kamp wrote. “To conclude otherwise would completely thwart and eliminate the Board of Alders’ advice and consent role in approving the mayor’s nominee.”
Wilmington: The state ranks below the national average in available affordable housing for the lowest-income renters and is one of the most unfriendly to those households in the Mid-Atlantic region, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes” found no state in the nation offers enough affordable rental homes to accommodate the lowest-income households, with an average of 36 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 households. In Delaware that gap is even starker, with only 31 available homes for every 100 of the lowest-income renters. New Jersey had a similar supply for the lowest-income households with 31 available for every 100 renters. Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania offered 34, 37 and 39 homes for every 100 renters, respectively, according to the report. Seventy-two percent of Delawareans in the lowest-income bracket are spending more than 50% of their income to put a roof over their heads. “In Delaware, we have a shortage of 18,000 affordable and available rental units for the lowest-income renter households,” Rachel Stucker, executive director of Housing Alliance Delaware, said in a news release. “Significant and sustained federal and state-level investments in affordable housing development and preservation are needed. Housing is not optional.”
District of Columbia
Washington: The oldest existing structure on the National Mall has reopened to the public, WUSA-TV reports. The Lockkeeper’s House, on the corner of 17th and Constitution Avenue, is 185 years old and once served as the home of a canal lock tender. Following a restoration project by the Trust for the National Mall, which included moving the house approximately 36 feet to the south and then 35 feet to the west using a hydraulic system, the house now serves as the gateway to the National Mall. According to the National Park Service, tours of the small but mighty house happen daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include an immersive multimedia program to introduce visitors to the evolution and growth of the National Mall. It also includes information about the lockkeeper who collected tolls and managed traffic along the C&O Canal in the 1800s. Originally constructed in 1837 after George Washington advocated for canals in the nation’s capital, the lockkeeper’s house sat at the intersection of the former C&O Canal and Washington Canal. The lockkeeper kept records of merchandise that entered the city. Over the years the canals were filled, and the house evolved to meet the needs of the city, also serving as a tool shed for park staff, a watchman’s lodge, and a temporary holding cell for Park Police. The 540-square-foot house stood neglected for 40 years prior to the Trust for the National Mall’s $6 million effort to restore the building, which began in 2018.
Tallahassee: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday to create a police force dedicated to pursuing voter fraud and other election crimes, embracing a top priority of Republicans after ex-President Donald Trump’s false claims that reelection was stolen from him. The new law comes after the Republican governor made voting legislation a focus this year, pushing the GOP-controlled statehouse to create the policing unit as states reevaluate their own election systems in the wake of Trump’s unfounded allegations. DeSantis, who is running for reelection and widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, has both praised the last election as smooth and suggested more rules were needed to deter fraud, underscoring Trump’s lingering influence on Republican policymaking. Critics have deemed the law politically motivated and unnecessary, arguing that local prosecutors can handle election crimes. At a bill-signing ceremony Monday at a sports bar in Spring Hill, DeSantis justified the need for the new unit and suggested existing law enforcement may not be equipped or willing to thoroughly investigate fraud cases. “Some of them may not care as much about the election stuff. I think it’s been mixed at how those reactions are going to be. So we just want to make sure whatever laws are on the books, that those laws are enforced,” he said. Voter fraud is rare, typically occurs in isolated instances and is generally detected.
Athens: An economic analysis by University of Georgia professors estimates residents of Linnentown are owed upward of $5 million in reparations. The study assessed the financial loss from urban renewal in Linnentown, a Black community displaced in the 1960s to create student housing. The preliminary calculations come after the Athens mayor’s office assembled an economic analysis team at the request of the Athens Justice & Memory Project. Jerry Shannon, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and the Department of Financial Planning, Housing, and Consumer Economics, presented the report last week to the Athens Justice & Memory Project. “I think it’s important to note at the outset that our research is not meant to cover all forms of loss,” Shannon said. Through the analysis, it became clear researchers would not be able to effectively capture impacts on employment or education due to displacement, he said. Nor did they have the expertise to create a measure of the emotional trauma of forced displacement. State law also currently prohibits any state agency from giving funds to private individuals. But members of the Athens Justice & Memory Project, a resident-led effort to address the history and impact of urban renewal, discussed requesting funds to address a variety of projects or efforts like affordable housing.
Honolulu: Out-of-state visitors will soon need reservations to visit one of the islands’ most recognizable natural sites. State land officials announced Monday that the new policy for Diamond Head State Monument will take effect May 12. The iconic ancient volcanic crater stands at the end of Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu. Diamond Head is the third state park to have such a rule. Nonresidents must also make reservations for Haena State Park on Kauai and Waianapanapa State Park on Maui. Reservations are required at certain times to visit Haleakala National Park on Maui. Diamond Head can get thousands of visitors per day. The park attendance record was set in 2019 when about 6,000 people came to the site in one day. State officials said the new rules are needed to control damage to the environment and infrastructure, congestion on hiking trails, heavy vehicle traffic and illegal parking. “We want to reduce the impact of visitors and really ensure that our residents have access to these desirable places,” Gov. David Ige said during a visit to Diamond Head last week. “We can control the numbers of people who visit a particular place so they can more easily be spread out across the day.” Hawaii residents do not need reservations to visit the monument, but parking is limited.
Boise: A nuclear waste treatment plant in eastern Idaho had two unanticipated shutdowns this year, U.S. officials said Tuesday, continuing a lengthy history of setbacks. Trent Neville of the U.S. Department of Energy said the agency is working on the problems at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit at the department’s 890-square-mile site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory. The plant might start operating later this year. Neville told members of the Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board and Idaho Cleanup Project that the plant ran out of liquid nitrogen in January and also had a rapid automatic shutdown while testing with a simulant material in February. The plant was built to treat 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing, radioactive waste from processing spent nuclear fuel to recover highly enriched uranium. The waste is in tanks above the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer that supplies water to cities and farms. The department is paying fines to Idaho for missing a deadline to convert the liquid waste into solid material as stipulated in a 1995 agreement that was the culmination of a series of federal lawsuits. Idaho, because of the missed deadline, is preventing the department from bringing in research quantities of spent nuclear fuel to be studied at the lab.
Springfield: Jurors on Monday convicted a state Department of Corrections officer for violating the civil rights of an inmate brutally beaten at a western Illinois prison in 2018, but they could not reach a verdict against a superior. Alex Banta, 30, of Quincy, was convicted after a four-week trial in U.S. District Court of conspiracy to deprive civil rights, deprivation of civil rights, obstruction of an investigation, falsification of documents and misleading conduct. Banta faces up to life in prison because jurors also indicated Monday in finding him guilty of the civil rights and conspiracy charges that those crimes led to the death of 65-year-old inmate Larry Earvin. Members of the eight-man, four-woman jury, while unanimous on Banta’s culpability, were split 9-3 on the involvement of co-defendant Lt. Todd Sheffler. The May 17, 2018, beating of inmate Earvin at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Quincy, 250 miles southwest of Chicago, resulted in 15 broken ribs and abdominal injuries so severe a portion of his bowel was surgically removed. He died June 26. Earvin allegedly refused to return to his cell in the housing unit known as R-1, and a disturbance there summoned dozens of officers for an escort to the segregation unit. “Those who were on the fence were on the fence because they didn’t think the assault happened in (segregation),” one juror said.
Clarksville: The federal government is accusing the town of discriminating against a man with HIV who applied to become a police officer. The Justice Department said it filed a lawsuit Monday against Clarksville, where police had offered a job to a man who was already working as a volunteer reserve officer but then dropped the offer in 2015 based on his HIV status, according to Justice. “No qualified individual should lose a hard-earned career opportunity because of misguided views about their disability that are not supported by medicine or science,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the department’s Civil Rights Division. HIV is a virus that can weaken the immune system. The man’s HIV is “well-controlled with medication and his viral load is, and during all relevant times was, fully suppressed,” the lawsuit says. Clarksville’s town manager, Kevin Baity, said the town is working with the Justice Department to “find an amicable solution.” The man spent 15 months appealing the decision. Clarksville added him back to the list but never hired him, according to the lawsuit. The man got a job with another police department.
Des Moines: After months of wrangling, state lawmakers have passed a bill to require most gas stations to offer gasoline with higher blends of ethanol at the pump, as Gov. Kim Reynolds seeks to bolster Iowa’s biofuels industry. The bill would require gas stations and other fuel retailers to offer gasoline with 15% ethanol, known as E15, beginning in 2026. That would greatly expand the availability of E15, which is currently available at just a fraction of Iowa’s gas stations and truck stops. The measure passed the state Senate on Tuesday on a 42-3 vote and cleared the House a short time later on a 81-13 vote. It now awaits Reynolds’ signature to become law. “This legislation is good for Iowa,” said the bill’s Senate floor manager, Sen. Waylon Brown, R-Osage. “The legislation opens new markets for Iowa’s ethanol – cleaner, greener renewable fuel.” Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Reynolds praised the bipartisan vote. She is expected to sign the bill, which is one of her legislative priorities. House lawmakers passed a version of the bill in early February, but the measure had languished in the Iowa Senate until this week. The final version of the legislation includes a more robust waiver process that senators estimate will allow hundreds of Iowa gas stations to opt out.
Topeka: A legislator has complained publicly about having to share women’s restrooms with a “huge” transgender colleague whom she derided as a potential threat to young children who visit the Statehouse. Republican state Rep. Cheryl Helmer on Tuesday stood firmly by her comments in an email to a University of Kansas graduate student while defending a bill she co-sponsored that would make it a felony for doctors to provide hormones or perform gender transition surgery for anyone under 18. She also decried what she called the “in your face” approach to promoting transgender rights by Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Byers, the first transgender elected lawmaker in Kansas. The House speaker called Helmer’s comments “unfortunate,” and Democrats condemned them. The state’s most visible LGBTQ rights lobbyist called for the House to censure Helmer. The Republican-controlled Legislature is trying to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a ban on transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s K-12 and college sports, and LGBTQ rights advocates say Helmer’s comments prove anti-trans bigotry is behind the measure. “We know this has been going on in offices and back rooms and conversations since the day I was elected,” Byers said Tuesday. “The shocking part is that it came out, that someone actually said it.”
Frankfort: Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday cited “drafting errors” in vetoing legislation that had been intended to expand the use of state lottery-supported scholarship money. The Democratic governor said he was supportive of the bill’s original intentions, including expanding scholarship funding for proprietary education under the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program. The popular state lottery-supported program allows students to earn money, based on academic performance, to help defray college expenses. Beshear said he also shared the bill sponsors’ desire to extend KEES scholarships to nonviolent offenders to support their transition back into society after incarceration. “However, acknowledged drafting errors will lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences that will undermine the bill and the goals it seeks to achieve,” the governor said in his veto message. “It is my hope that early in the next legislative session, those errors can be rectified.” The veto will stand since the measure passed on the final day of this year’s legislative session. Lawmakers won’t reconvene until January 2023 for their next regular session. In recent days, several organizations had urged the governor to veto the measure, saying it would have reduced opportunities for formerly incarcerated people to access state scholarships, contrary to the bill’s original intent.
Baton Rouge: Johnnie A. Jones Sr., a civil rights attorney and World War II veteran who was wounded during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, has died. Jones was 102 years old. His goddaughter, Mada McDonald, told WAFB-TV that Jones died Saturday at the Louisiana War Veterans’ Home in Jackson. Jones was born Nov. 30, 1919, in Laurel Hill, Louisiana, and raised on Rosemound Plantation by his parents, who farmed 73 acres of land but insisted that their son get an education. He graduated from Southern University and then was drafted in 1942. He became the Army’s first African American warrant officer. Jones said in 2019 that after returning from Europe, he had to move to the back of a bus filled with fellow soldiers as it crossed the Mason-Dixon line separating North from South. “I couldn’t sit with the soldiers I had been on the battlefield with. I had to go to the back of the bus,” he said. Moreover, while traveling to New Orleans to get shrapnel removed from his neck, Jones was pulled over by a white police officer and roughed up. Such events served as a call to action to fight racism. He obtained a law degree and was recruited in 1953 to help organize a bus boycott in Baton Rouge and defend the participants. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King used that event to plan his larger bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, several years later. Jones also defended students arrested during sit-ins as civil rights protests gained momentum in the South. His car was bombed twice.
Portland: Construction workers completed their feat of tearing down one bridge and replacing it with another over the weekend, allowing a key stretch of I-295 to reopen Monday morning in Maine’s largest city. The bridge closed Friday evening and reopened by 7:30 a.m., several hours ahead of schedule, for the morning commute. The technique of prefabricating a bridge and quickly moving it into place is the construction equivalent of ripping off a Band-Aid. It reduces highway disruptions to several days compared to an estimated four years of disruptions during typical construction, officials said. This is the first time the Maine Department of Transportation has tried the technique. A vehicle fire necessitated closure of part of the same highway later Monday morning. Fire departments responded to the fire in South Portland and extinguished it.
Baltimore: A police lieutenant won’t be prosecuted in the death of a Black man he shot in the back during an exchange of gunfire last fall, officials said Monday. The shooting happened about 2 a.m. Oct. 11 after Baltimore County police officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at a Woodlawn-area convenience store, according to a report from the Independent Investigations Division of the attorney general’s office. The report said the robber fled, crashed about a mile away and ran. Lt. Gregory Mead, who is white and has been with the department since 1996, responded to the area of the crash and saw Jovan Singleton, who was Black and resembled the description of the robbery suspect, the report says. In a written statement, Mead said he asked Singleton to sit on the curb, but he took off, and Mead followed. Seconds later, Mead said Singleton turned, and Mead saw a muzzle flash, heard a gunshot and, with a second muzzle flash, fell to the ground in pain, feeling like a crow bar hit his knee cap. He said Singleton moved toward him, and he fired. About five hours later, Singleton’s body was found about 173 feet from the shooting scene and 50 feet from a firearm under a car, according to the report. Mead suffered an “incapacitating knee injury” but was not shot, the report says.
Taunton: A county’s cold case unit is working to identify a dozen unidentified bodies or skeletal remains that have been found through the years, some dating back nearly four decades. Traditional methods using fingerprints or dental records have not resulted in their identification, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III said. At least two cases were determined to be homicides. “We are trying to identify these remains so that family members can have some closure and to also determine if a crime was committed,” he said in a news release Friday. “Our Cold Case Unit has been successful in solving multiple cold case homicides and previously unsolved violent sexual assaults. The unit is now expanding its efforts to focus on unidentified remains. If anyone has any information related to these cases, please contact us.” Two of the oldest cases are baby boys who were found dead in the woods. One died of exposure in November 1983 in Freetown; the other, found in Mansfield in January 1985, was born alive, but died a short time later, autopsies showed. The most recent case is a human skull in January 2021, found on the ocean floor southwest of Fish Island in New Bedford.
Grand Rapids: The police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya with a shot to the head has been with the Grand Rapids department for seven years, after starring as a pole vaulter at a small college and marrying his longtime girlfriend during a church mission trip to Africa. Christopher Schurr’s name had been circulating since his face was seen in videos of the April 4 confrontation with Lyoya, a Black man. But his identity wasn’t publicly acknowledged until Monday, when the police chief changed course and released it, three days after passionate demands at the funeral of the 26-year-old native of Congo. Chief Eric Winstrom said he was acting “in the interest of transparency, to reduce ongoing speculation and to avoid any further confusion,” though no other information about Schurr’s service with the department was released. Lyoya, who was unarmed, was facedown on the ground when he was shot in the back of the head, moments after a traffic stop in Michigan’s second-largest city. Schurr was on top of him and can be heard on video demanding that he take his hand off the white officer’s Taser. A forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy at the family’s request said the gun was pressed to Lyoya’s head when he was shot.
Minneapolis: A judge has ruled that the trial of three fired police officers charged with aiding and abetting George Floyd’s killing will not be livestreamed. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who cited the threat of COVID-19 to allow livestreaming of last year’s murder trial of Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s death, wrote in an order filed Monday evening that the pandemic has receded to the point that he cannot override the other three officers’ objections to live audio-visual coverage. The trial for former Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng is set to begin with motions June 13. Jury selection begins June 14 with opening statements set for July 5. Cahill said he expects the evidence phase to take four or five weeks, meaning the trial could last into early August. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs, and Thao kept bystanders back as Chauvin, who is white, used his knee to pin Floyd, a Black man, to the pavement for 91/2minutes on May 25, 2020, in a case that sparked protests around the world and a national reckoning on race. Thao, Lane and Kueng were convicted in a separate trial in federal court in February of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Chauvin pleaded guilty in December to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Sentencing dates have not been set in those cases, which were not televised due to federal court rules.
Tupelo: On a day that many state and local government offices were closed for Confederate Memorial Day, protesters said Monday that the state needs to stop commemorating the Confederacy. Several members of Indivisible Northeast Mississippi held signs denouncing the holiday in front of a Confederate monument at the old Lee County Courthouse in Tupelo, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports. Mississippi law designates the last Monday in April as Confederate Memorial Day. The protesters also criticized Republican Gov. Tate Reeves for issuing a proclamation that April is Confederate Heritage Month. “You have to ask yourself: ‘OK, what heritage is that?’ That heritage is one of white supremacy, the right to enslave human beings for economic gain,” said Mary Jane Meadows. Every Mississippi governor since Republican Kirk Fordice in the 1990s has issued a proclamation of April as Confederate Heritage Month, and Reeves said April 13 that he “didn’t think this was the year to stop doing it.” Daniel Jenkins of Tupelo said he was protesting Monday because, as a Black man, he doesn’t subscribe to the Confederate observances. Jenkins sees them as enduring signs of systemic racism, he said, urging others to join the fight against them.
Grain Valley: A suburban Kansas City school board has told teachers at a high school to remove cards and stickers showing support for LGBTQ students. The Grain Valley school board sent an email to families Monday saying members had “received a concern” about the cards and stickers some high school teachers were displaying to tell students they could approach them regarding LGBTQ questions, The Kansas City Star reports. “We remain committed to providing professional development to help our staff create a safe, collaborative, and inclusive environment, consistent with our core beliefs, where each student feels a sense of belonging,” the email said. “The use of these cards, however, is determined to not be an appropriate step at this time.” Some parents, teachers and advocates in the district opposed the decision. Travis Holt, a Grain Valley graduate who is gay, called the decision “disheartening” and said he is asking the school board to reconsider to “keep the students’ best interests at heart rather than buckling under pressure from a select few parents.”
Great Falls: First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park is seeking Native American vendors and artists to participate in the upcoming buffalo kite festival and craft fair. The festival is held July 9-10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature buffalo-themed kites made by Native artists nationwide. Artists will share information about their kites, and visitors will be invited to create their own kites to fly over the buffalo jump. Attendees can also make traditional Indigenous game pieces and dolls to take home. Alice Southworth, a park ranger, said she hopes Native American artists and vendors “share their traditional knowledge and passion with our visitors.” For more information, contact Southworth at 406-866-2217 or email@example.com, and visit fwp.mt.gov/first-peoples-buffalo-jump.
Omaha: Firefighters took advantage of higher humidity and calmer winds Monday to work toward containing a wildfire in rural southwestern Nebraska that has killed one person, injured at least 15 firefighters and destroyed at least six homes, an official said. Jonathan Ashford, spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team, said more than 80 firefighters, emergency management personnel and others were helping fight the fire, known as the Road 702 Fire. It had burned nearly 65 square miles in Red Willow, Furnas and Frontier counties by late Sunday. Officials initially reported the fire was spread over more than 78 square miles of mostly rolling rangeland, but Ashford said aerial mapping Sunday gave a more accurate size of the blaze. The fire that began last week has been fueled by tinder-dry conditions and days of strong winds. More favorable weather Monday had firefighters scrambling to dig trenches and create other breaks along the blaze’s perimeter, Ashford said.
Las Vegas: A federal judge said Monday that he’ll decide in three weeks whether to dismiss a condemned killer’s lawsuit challenging Nevada’s plan for his lethal injection because the state doesn’t have one of the drugs it would use. U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II acknowledged during a brief hearing with attorneys for the state and the inmate, Zane Michael Floyd, that key questions about the execution method remain unanswered following weeks of testimony late last year. But the Nevada Department of Corrections supply of the sedative ketamine expired Feb. 28, and Randall Gilmer, chief deputy state attorney general, said prison officials have been unable to get more. The prison execution method, or protocol, calls for using large doses of three or four drugs also including the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl or a substitute, alfentanil, possibly a muscle paralytic called cisatracurium, and either potassium chloride or potassium acetate to stop Floyd’s heart. Boulware said the question before him might have become moot. “There is no foreseeable likelihood that NDOC would be able to obtain one of the main drugs in the protocol,” Boulware said, adding that there also is no current warrant for Floyd’s death. State law calls for two weeks’ notice to schedule an execution and for them to be performed by lethal injection.
Concord: The state has a good track record when it comes to elections, but it would benefit from a voter confidence commission to address residents’ concerns in a time of political polarization, its new secretary of state said Tuesday. “It is clear to me that for some time now, a few years, that there’s just a decline, both nationally and in the state of New Hampshire, on general voters’ belief about the accuracy of election results,” David Scanlan said at a news conference from his Statehouse office. “I felt that it’s really important to initiate a discussion on that topic – a very public one – involving some very capable people with diverse interests, so we kind of get to the bottom of why we find ourselves in a situation, and how we can put the brakes on it and turn that trend around.” Scanlan replaced Bill Gardner, who retired in January after 45 years of overseeing elections, the state archives and other divisions. Scanlan had served as deputy secretary of state for 20 years. The announcement came months after an audit of a legislative race in Windham, where a discrepancy drew the attention of ex-President Donald Trump and his supporters seeking to bolster unfounded claims of election fraud. The audit showed the cause of the discrepancy was not a vote counting machine but a separate machine used to fold absentee ballots. But those who reject that conclusion have been pushing for either getting rid of automated counting machines or performing audits.
Trenton: Reports of antisemitic incidents in the state climbed to a record high last year, returning to pre-pandemic levels and seemingly boosted by heightened Middle East tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. There were 370 such incidents in New Jersey last year, a 25% increase over 2020 and part of a nationwide trend of rising harassment and violence against Jews, according to a report Tuesday from the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization. The report came a day after the Council on American-Islamic Relations said complaints of harassment against Muslim Americans had also reached a record high last year. New Jersey and its diverse communities were at the center of both troubling trends, with anti-Jewish or Muslim incidents making national headlines in Teaneck, Ridgefield, Clifton, Lakewood and other towns, the groups said. “We are alarmed by the dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents in New Jersey – (a) disturbing fact emblematic of a larger national problem,” Scott Richman, the regional director of the ADL’s New York/New Jersey office, said in a statement. The ADL documented the highest number of incidents in areas with among the highest Jewish populations in the region: Bergen County recorded 70 and Ocean County 44.
Albuquerque: Collecting piñon nuts has been tradition for Native American and Hispanic families in the Southwest for generations. But environmentalists are concerned that without the pinyon jay – a very social bird that essentially plants the next generation of trees by stashing away the seeds – it’s possible the piñon forests of New Mexico and other Western states could face another reproductive hurdle in the face of climate change, persistent drought and more severe wildfires. The Washington, D.C.-based group Defenders of Wildlife filed a petition Monday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the bird under the Endangered Species Act, saying the once common species plays an integral role in the high desert ecosystem. The group points to research that shows pinyon jay numbers have declined by an estimated 80% over the past five decades, a rate even faster than the greater sage grouse. Patricia Estrella, who represents the group in New Mexico, said that while population declines are well documented, the exact cause remains unclear as multiple threats are at play. Piñon-juniper forests cover more than 75,000 square miles in the United States, and wildlife managers in New Mexico and six other states already have classified the bird as a species of greatest conservation need. Nearly 60% of the jay’s remaining population can be found in New Mexico and Nevada, but its range also includes parts of California, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico’s Baja California.
New York: The failure of security cameras in the subway station where a gunman opened fire this month is the subject of an investigation. “As the horrific mass shooting two weeks ago in Sunset Park has raised questions about the MTA camera system, the Office of the Inspector General has initiated an inquiry into why the cameras were not transmitting on April 12 and a review of the maintenance and repair program for the critical equipment,” Acting Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General Elizabeth Keating said in a statement Monday announcing the probe. Police acknowledged that security cameras in three stations weren’t working on the morning of April 12, including the Brooklyn station where the gunman set off a smoke device and shot 10 people. The MTA has nearly 10,000 cameras at its 472 subway stations, and other cameras in nearby stations helped police track suspect Frank James’ movements before and after the shooting. James also left behind a bag containing weapons, smoke grenades and the key to a U-Haul truck he had driven. The truck was found parked near a station where authorities believe James entered the subway dressed in construction clothing. He was apprehended the following day in New York and charged with a federal terrorism offense.
Morrisville: A bipartisan panel of education leaders, legislators, and representatives of government agencies and outside groups on Monday recommended ways to improve North Carolina’s public education and access to it, from preschool to universities. Members of the Hunt-Lee Commission, which was formed to address inequities in student outcomes, backed 16 proposals, some of which need General Assembly approval. Others require better coordination between entities that already have authority to act, the report’s authors said. The commission, which met four times starting in August, praised current successes in education and discussed ways to make the system better. The report also urged testing new ideas, such as monetary incentives and benefits to make early childhood education an attractive career. Pilot programs should be created to encourage increasing spaces for toddlers and infants in child care centers through incentives, another recommendation said. As children get older, school systems could develop programs to ease the transition for students from middle school to high school, the report said. And providing in-state college tuition rates to some high school graduates in the state who lack legal residency could be considered, the report said.
Fargo: Federal investigators say a cyberattack on a company that provides software and billing services for doctors and health care professionals affected more than a half-million customers. Williston-based Adaptive Health Integrations was the target of a hacking incident that happened in mid-October, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The data breach was reported to the government earlier this month. “An unauthorized individual may have accessed a limited amount of data stored on our systems,” the company said in a release. “Upon learning of the issue, we contained the threat by disabling unauthorized access to our network and commenced a prompt and thorough investigation with assistance from external cybersecurity professionals.” The federal government says the security breach affected 510,574 people, KVRR radio reports. The company said some of the data could have contained personal information such as names, dates of birth, contact information, and Social Security numbers. It does not affect all Adaptive Health Integrations patients, and not all information was included for all individuals, the statement said.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base: An Air Force major general who was convicted on one of three specifications of an abusive sexual contact charge was told Tuesday he would receive a reprimand and must forfeit $10,910 of monthly pay for five months. Maj. Gen. William Cooley, 56, was found guilty Saturday in what was the first-ever military trial of an Air Force general. The weeklong court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio had three specifications, one accusing Cooley of a forcible kiss and two alleging forcible touching in 2018. Cooley was convicted of the forcible kissing specification but acquitted of the other two. Cooley had the option of a trial by court member jurors or by military judge and chose to have the case heard by the judge. He had faced a maximum punishment of dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for seven years. Speaking after the sentencing hearing, Cooley’s civilian attorney, Dan Conway, told the Dayton Daily News that his client is “very thankful for the judge’s compassion here.” Conway said the punishment was “a very significant sentence,” and he said a letter of reprimand may have implications in terms of the rank at which Cooley will be allowed to retire, if he chooses to do so.
Oklahoma City: A Republican lawmaker who wanted to refer to himself as “The Patriot” on the ballot can’t use that nickname, the Oklahoma Election Board has ruled. The board decided Monday that term-limited state Rep. Sean Roberts can still run for state labor commissioner, but he can’t refer to himself by that nickname on the ballot. Oklahoma election rules allow a candidate to use a nickname if it’s a name by which the candidate is generally known or under which they do business. Roberts’ opponent, Republican Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn, said there’s no evidence Roberts is known as “The Patriot.” She pointed out in her petition to the board that Roberts has appeared on the ballot in seven successive elections as Kevin Sean Roberts or Sean Roberts. Roberts said in a statement that he’s considering appealing the board’s decision. Also on Monday, the board rejected a petition by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jason Bollinger to have his Democratic opponent, Madison Horn, removed from the ballot. Bollinger alleged Horn’s candidacy declaration was incomplete. The two are seeking the Democratic nomination in the U.S. Senate race for the seat currently held by Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford.
Astoria: Wildlife officials have voted to end a summer steelhead hatchery program on the North Umpqua River after severe declines in the number of wild steelhead returning from the Pacific Ocean each summer, agency officials and environmentalists said. The 4-3 vote by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission transitions the agency to a “wild fish only” management plan in an attempt to help the genetically distinct wild summer steelhead bounce back. Wild winter steelhead, which do not have a hatchery program, remain strong. No smolts were released into the North Umpqua last summer either because of wildfires. Environmental groups said they owed the commission a “debt of gratitude” for taking the vote. State officials closed sport fishing on the Umpqua and North Umpqua rivers last summer in response to record-low wild summer steelhead returns. “We are thrilled to see the Commission end the hatchery summer steelhead program,” said Karl Konecny of the group Steamboaters, which is part of a coalition of environmental and angler groups that supported an end to the hatchery program. “The continued presence of hatchery fish on the spawning beds would have slowed the recovery and depressed the eventual size of the wild steelhead run.”
Somerset: A suspended western Pennsylvania prosecutor facing charges in a sexual assault case has now been charged in an unrelated assault almost a year ago. Jeffrey Thomas, 36, Somerset County’s elected district attorney, was jailed Monday on charges of simple assault, reckless endangerment and harassment after state police alleged that he was seen on a video call punching a woman as the two rode in a vehicle in May 2021. Authorities said a woman said she was on the call and saw Thomas punch the other woman at least 10 times in the head and face. She said she determined the alleged assault took place in a vehicle traveling between Cambria and Somerset counties, and she later found the victim and took photos of her injuries. Thomas was accused earlier of having attacked a woman in her Windber home in September. He faces sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful restraint and strangulation charges in that case. Defense attorney Ryan Tutera earlier said Thomas maintains he is innocent of all of the charges. Thomas was elected in 2019 but suspended after charges in the sexual assault case were filed, and his pay was halted several months ago. A message seeking comment on the new charges was left Tuesday for his attorney.
Providence: The head of the state Division of Motor Vehicles won’t face criminal charges in connection with an alleged prostitution operation that leased his rental property, the state’s attorney general said Monday. Attorney General Peter Neronha said his review of the Rhode Island State Police investigation into DMV Administrator Walter “Bud” Craddock is complete. His office concluded the evidence does not show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Craddock knew commercial sex activity was going on at his property in Cranston. When asked for comment from Craddock on Monday, a DMV spokesperson directed questions to the governor’s office. The governor’s office is referring the matter to the state’s human resources department and said that “two highly-respected organizations” have done a thorough review and “concluded there was no criminal activity or evidence of wrongdoing against Craddock,” who has said he had no knowledge of any illegal activities at the site and had never heard any complaints. Rhode Island’s Republican Party said Craddock should still be fired from his job. “Although there may not be enough evidence to charge Craddock with a crime, there is certainly enough evidence to show that Craddock had bad judgment,” the party said in a statement Monday.
Columbia: Mark Meadows – a former chief of staff to President Donald Trump who was removed earlier this month from voter rolls in North Carolina, which he once represented in Congress – is still a registered voter in South Carolina and another state, according to officials and a published report. Chris Whitmire, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Elections Commission, told the Associated Press the Republican former lawmaker and his wife registered as voters in the state in March 2022. “That’s when he became active,” Whitmire said, noting that neither Meadows had yet cast a vote in the state. “From our perspective, it just looks like any new South Carolina voter.” The South Carolina registration was first reported by The Washington Post, which noted that Meadows had been a registered voter simultaneously in three states – the Carolinas and Virginia – until North Carolina removed him from its rolls. Meadows remains a registered Virginia voter, the paper reports. Mark and Debra Meadows bought a home on picturesque Lake Keowee for $1.6 million in July, according to records for the property, which was listed on their South Carolina voter registration records.
Sioux Falls: The state Senate on Tuesday approved the rules for an impeachment trial of the state’s attorney general for his conduct surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash, laying out a two-day proceeding in June that gives just hours to either side to argue their case. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, a Republican, was impeached by the House this month over the crash in which he killed a pedestrian but initially said he may have struck a deer or other large animal. The Senate trial, which will decide whether he is guilty of the House impeachment charges, is historic since Ravnsborg is the first official to be impeached in South Dakota. The trial’s rules received unanimous approval in the Republican-controlled Senate. They give both the impeachment prosecutors and Ravnsborg’s defense attorney one hour for an opening statement, four hours to present evidence and one hour to close their arguments. Senators may take additional time to ask additional questions, debate the articles of impeachment and hear directly from Ravnsborg if he chooses to testify. The trial starts June 21. “These rules were designed to be a very simple and fair process,” said Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, who presides over the Senate. He added that the files used in the impeachment investigation will be posted online and that he expects senators to review those before the trial.
Franklin: Two years after voting to remove the Confederate flag from its seal, Williamson County finally has the go-ahead to do so. The Williamson County Commission voted in 2020 to request permission from the Tennessee Historical Commission to remove the flag from the upper-left quadrant of its 1960s-era seal. That decision came after months of discussion and the appointment of a task force that unanimously recommended removal. The county had to go through the Historical Commission because the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act limits the removal or changing of historical memorials. On Friday, the county shifted tactics, asking the Historical Commission to declare that the law does not apply to the seal. “Williamson County now brings this petition for a declaratory order asking the Tennessee Historical Commission to hold that … the seal is not a ‘memorial’ as defined in the act,” County Attorney Jeff Moseley wrote in the petition. Even if it was a memorial, the petition continued, “it was not erected for, named, or dedicated on public property in honor of any historic conflict, historic entity, historic event, historic figure or historic organization.” The Historical Commission unanimously accepted the county’s argument.
Austin: The world’s largest international dark sky reserve opened this month through a collaboration of entities that focus on environmental concerns and astronomy in West Texas, including the University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory, The Daily Texan reports. The new reserve, called the Greater Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve, stretches over 9 million acres and spans from Fort Davis to the Chihuahuan Desert, according to the International Dark-Sky Association. Stephen Hummel, dark sky initiative coordinator at the McDonald Observatory, said in addition to its uses in astronomy research, the reserve will protect and support wildlife. “We’ve been doing dark sky advocacy for a long time,” Hummel said. “Most of that, at least initially, was centered around protecting astronomical research, but over the decades, as the body of science has grown, we’re realizing it’s about so much more than astronomy. … Light pollution (poses) a threat to our environment.” Numerous organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to address climate change and biodiversity loss, contributed to the dark sky reserve’s creation.
St. George: In a national report on air quality pollution levels, southwest Utah earned the distinction of having some of the cleanest air in the country. Both Iron and Washington counties ranked as having high-quality air, according to the report, “State of the Air,” produced by the American Lung Association. The report measured pollution levels for both particle and ozone pollution over a three-year period from 2018 to 2020. St. George was one of the cleanest cities when it came to short-term particle pollution and ranked eighth in clean cities in the nation for year-round particle pollution, which is “a mixture of tiny bits of solids and liquids in the air we breathe,” according to the report. Factories, power plants, fires, diesel and gas-powered vehicles emit these polluting particles into the air. But while St. George ranked high for its quality in particle pollution, the city and surrounding area – Washington County – received a C grade for ozone pollution levels, with four days annually falling into the “orange” category of pollution. On an “orange” day, the air quality levels are unhealthy for sensitive groups, which include people diagnosed with heart or lung diseases, people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and anyone who is pregnant, according to the ALA.
Burlington: The city says construction could begin this summer on a road project that has been in the planning stages for decades. The Burlington City Council on Monday unanimously approved a construction contract for the $45 million Champlain Parkway. The project is designed to improve traffic circulation, alleviate overburdened roadways, protect Lake Champlain through enhanced storm water management, and improve vehicular, bike and pedestrian safety. The office of Mayor Miro Weinberger says the federal government will pay 95% of the cost, the state 3% and the city 2%. The Champlain Parkway will be a two-lane road that is designed to eventually connect Interstate 189 with with downtown Burlington, but the initial construction phase will not connect to the interstate. Weinberger’s office said the construction schedule will allow the mayor’s office and the City Council “to work with the public in the future to determine when our community is ready for the second phase of the project that will make the interstate connection.”
Richmond: The state’s attorney general has launched an inquiry into the Washington Commanders following allegations of financial improprieties raised by a congressional committee. Attorney General Jason Miyares, a Republican, disclosed his office’s investigation in a letter to a team lawyer Monday, saying he viewed it as his “responsibility to carefully examine the material facts regarding this matter.” “To be clear, I have not prejudged the issues raised regarding the Commanders,” he wrote. The announcement from Miyares comes about two weeks after the House Committee on Oversight and Reform wrote to the Federal Trade Commission saying it found evidence of deceptive business practices over the span of more than a decade, including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans. The Commanders denied the allegations in a letter to the FTC. “The team categorically denies any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind at any time. We adhere to strict internal processes that are consistent with industry and accounting standards, are audited annually by a globally respected independent auditing firm, and are also subject to regular audits by the NFL. We continue to cooperate fully with the Committee’s work,” the team said in a statement Monday.
Olympia: After efforts to restrict the use of natural gas in future commercial building heating systems stalled in the Legislature, the state’s Building Code Council adopted revisions to Washington’s energy code that require new businesses and apartments to mostly use heat pumps to warm air and water starting next year. The Spokesman-Review reports the council approved the changes on an 11-3 vote Friday. The new rules take effect July 1, 2023. Under the revised code, new commercial buildings would have to use heat pumps for space heating. The plan would effectively ban HVAC systems that use fossil fuels like natural gas – including most standard furnaces – or systems that use electric resistance, such as baseboard heaters, wall heaters, radiant heat systems and electric furnaces. Certain exceptions allow electric resistance to be used in specific situations as approved by a code official, and some exceptions also would be allowed for space heating using a fossil fuel. For water heating, 50% of water must be warmed by a heat pump system, while the rest can be heated by an additional source like electric resistance or fossil fuels.
Charleston: People having problems with mental health or suicidal thoughts will soon be able to find help by calling just three numbers – 988. The state Department of Health and Human Resources has received a federal grant to change over to the three-digit system July 16, WCHS-TV reports. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call center based in Charleston is operated by First Choice Services and answers West Virginia calls to the lifeline. Callers can reach help now at (800) 273-TALK (8255), before the change in July. “Coming in July, that number is going to be even more accessible,” said Sheila Moran, communications and marketing director for First Choice Services. “People will be able to dial simply 988 to reach someone 24 hours a day. So anyone who is feeling suicidal, or any kind of mental health crisis, can call that line.”
Brookfield: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is extending the taxpayer-funded contract of the former state Supreme Court justice leading a review of the 2020 election – a decision announced a day after ex-President Donald Trump sought to intimidate Vos by threatening a successful primary challenge if the review did not continue. In a statement Monday that did not name Vos directly, Trump suggested in a statement to his millions of supporters that the Rochester Republican will see a successful primary opponent if he does not extend former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman’s contract with the Assembly. “Anyone calling themselves a Republican in Wisconsin should support the continued investigation in Wisconsin without interference,” Trump said. On Tuesday, Vos issued a statement announcing Gableman’s office will remain open “as we guarantee the legal power of our legislative subpoenas and get through the other lawsuits that have gridlocked this investigation.” Vos hired Gableman to look into the last presidential election in June 2021, just hours after Trump blasted a statement to his supporters criticizing Vos and other Republican legislative leaders for not doing more to litigate his 2020 election loss. Vos gave Gableman a $676,000 taxpayer-funded budget, which includes an $11,000 monthly salary. Since the review launched, Gableman has missed multiple deadlines to issue a final report.
Casper: The state’s third through eighth graders saw a minimized loss in standardized testing scores as the pandemic disrupted classrooms, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Wyoming students were the least likely in the nation to be pushed out of in-person learning as COVID-19 began gripping the nation, according to the paper, which cited research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Brown University and MIT that showed less of a decline in scores in the Equality State than any other.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Piñon problems, Star Trek whiskey: News from around our 50 states