Dothan: Police searching the home of a man suspected of attacking a woman in her home found more than 400 pairs of women’s panties, authorities said. Investigators also found dozens of photos of John Thomas Uda’s co-workers taken without their permission from the neck down, leading to 50 counts of voyeurism, Dothan police told news outlets. Uda, 27, also is charged with attempted rape, three counts of burglary, aggravated criminal surveillance and two counts of illegal possession of a credit card. Police are trying to figure out how many of those 400 paris of women’s underwear, which had been worn, might have been stolen. Investigators said worn panties can also be bought on the internet. Uda was accused in 2019 of stealing women’s underwear from laundromats, authorities said. Jail records did not indicate if Uda had an attorney.
Nome: A miner who said he was harassed by a bear for seven straight nights in the tundra near Nome was rescued when a passing Coast Guard helicopter spotted an SOS, the internationally recognized sign for help, on top of his cabin. The man, who was not identified by the Coast Guard in a statement, was taken to waiting rescue personnel in Nome. The helicopter crew was flying from Kotzebue to Kodiak on July 16 when it saw the SOS on top of the building. The crew circled back over the mining camp and saw a man waving his arms, another recognized sign of distress, the Coast Guard statement said. The man requested medical assistance after the helicopter landed, saying he had been attacked by a bear a few days earlier. The man appeared to have a leg injury and bruising on his torso, the Coast Guard said. The man said the bear had returned to his camp and harassed him every night for the previous week, according to the statement. Friends the same day the man was found had reported him overdue when he hadn’t returned to Nome. The Coast Guard statement didn’t specify what type of bear was involved.
Page:Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir on the Colorado River, is about to hit the lowest water level since it was filled in 1963, the Bureau of Reclamation said. As of Friday afternoon, agency data showed the elevation at 3,555.35 feet above sea level. Despite the recent rain, officials anticipated the levels to decline to 3,555.1 feet by last weekend. The last time the reservoir dropped that low was in 2005, during the early days of a prolonged drought that continues to linger to this day. Once it falls below that level, it will mark a new low in the reservoir’s history. “The fact that we’ve reached this new record underscores the difficult situation that we’re in,” said Wayne Pullan, regional director for the Upper Colorado Basin at the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Glen Canyon Dam, during a press call to discuss the milestone. Because of the low water levels, the bureau plans to release water from three upper basin reservoirs downstream into Lake Powell ahead of schedule. The emergency measure is intended to help ensure the water level remains high enough to keep the hydropower turbines spinning and generating electricity.
Little Rock: Arkansas’ coronavirus cases rose by nearly 2,000 on Friday as the state’s COVID-19 surge prompted the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to scale back its hospital visitor policy. The Department of Health said the state’s virus cases rose by 1,987 to 372,313 total since the pandemic began. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by 22 to 871, with 328 in intensive care and 159 on ventilators. UAMS announced that beginning Monday it will change its visitation policy to limit patients to one visitor per day. Previously, patients could have multiple visitors a day as long as only one visitor was in the patient’s room at a time. UAMS said it will continue to allow additional visitors for end-of-life situations. UAMS will continue to require visitors to pass a daily health screening and wear a photo ID badge and a face mask. Hospital visitors will also be required to stay in the patient’s room at all times.
San Diego: An unvaccinated snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has contracted COVID-19. Caretakers noticed that Ramil, a 9-year-old male snow leopard, had a cough and runny nose on Thursday. Later, two separate tests of his stool confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement Friday. Ramil is not showing additional symptoms, the zoo said, but because he shares an enclosure with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards, the staff assumes they have been exposed. As a result, the animals were quarantined and their exhibit was closed. It’s unknown how Ramil got infected. In January, a troop of eight gorillas at the zoo’s sister facility, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, contracted COVID-19 from a keeper who had the virus but showed no symptoms. The gorilla troop, which has since recovered, became the first known example of the virus infecting apes. The case prompted the zoo to request an experimental COVID-19 vaccine for animals for emergency use. The vaccine from Zoetis, animal health company that was once part of Pfizer, was administered to species most at risk of contracting COVID-19, including several primates and big cats.
Windsor:The city closed Windsor Lake on Friday afternoon and shifted planned activities this week because of the detection of blue-green algae in the water. The lake, swim beach and dog park are closed to the public until further notice while the city works with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to monitor bacteria levels. Permitted boats are allowed on the lake “to assist in agitating the water,” but tubing, water skiing and other water activities are not allowed. The algae was detected in a precautionary water test July 19. On July 20, the town put out an algae advisory and put signs around the lake, but staff had not yet identified any toxins. Blue-green algae are known to spread rapidly and can be a result of hot weather, stagnant water and stormwater runoff. CDPHE said that the algae, while common in Colorado, can sometimes produce toxins that can harm people and be fatal to dogs and other animals.
Newtown: After nearly eight years of discussion and planning, a memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is nearing construction with the goal of offering a peaceful place for reflection. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned next month at the site down the street where the shooting occurred that killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. Construction will be finished before the 10th anniversary next year, officials said. The State Bond Commission approved $2.5 million for the project on Friday, which the town will use to defray much of the $3.7 million local voters approved in April for the total cost of the memorial. The key area of the memorial will be a water feature with a sycamore tree in the middle and the victims’ names engraved on the top of the surrounding supporting wall. The water flow has been designed so floatable candles, flowers and other objects will move toward the tree and circle around it. Pathways will take visitors through a variety of plantings, including flower gardens.
Dagsboro: A historic chapel that predates the Revolutionary War has reopened to the public following a 16-month closure because of the pandemic. Prince George’s Chapel in Dagsboro welcomed the public for monthly tours Sunday, the Delaware State News reported. “It wasn’t worth even trying to open it up with all the restrictions and everything. So we’ve had it shut down,” Brian Baull, president of the nonprofit organization that serves as caretaker for the chapel, told the newspaper. Tours, which will take place the fourth Sunday of each month, are free. Construction on the chapel began in 1755 and was completed two years later. It was deeded to the state of Delaware in 1967, restored and reopened as a museum. In 1971, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Its most prominent feature is a vaulted ceiling made of heart-of-pine planks, the newspaper reported.
District of Columbia
Washington:Mayor Muriel Bowser has activated the District’s Heat Emergency Plan for the first half of this week, WUSA-TV reported. The plan goes into effect when the forecast of the temperature or heat index in the District is 95 degrees or higher. That causes the city to open cooling centers for residents seeking relief from the heat. A list of District cooling centers can be found here. In addition, the city recommends that residents stay indoors, find places in the shade or with air conditioning to seek relief from the heat; check on neighbors – children, the elderly and those with access and functional needs are the most vulnerable in the community; dink plenty of water and wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing; do not leave children or pets in vehicles; pet owners should keep pets indoors, walk pets early in the morning and give pets plenty of water.
Marathon: A juvenile green sea turtle rehabilitated at the Keys-based Turtle Hospital has been fitted with a satellite-tracking transmitter and released from a Keys beach to join the 14th Tour de Turtles, a marathon-like race that follows long-distance migration of sea turtles over three months. The educational outreach program organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy raises awareness about sea turtles and threats to their survival. “The Tour de Turtles is an online educational program where, starting August 1, we’re tracking 19 turtles from Florida, Panama, Costa Rica and Nevis,” said Dan Evans, a senior research biologist with the Sea Turtle Conservancy. “It’s the idea that we’re tracking which turtle swims the furthest distance over three months.” Dubbed “Lucky Pulse” by her rescuers for a pulse-like marking on her head, the Keys turtle was released Friday to raise awareness about her own affliction. She was found off the Keys on March 17, entangled in fishing trap line and covered with fibropapilloma, debilitating tumors that develop from a herpes-like virus that affects sea turtles around the world. After the tumors’ removal, Lucky Pulse’s recovery included blood transfusions, breathing treatments, a broad spectrum of antibiotics, fluids, vitamins and a diet of seafood and greens.
Columbus: Residents at a mobile home park said they have had almost no water service for the past three weeks. So little water comes out of the pipes that it is almost impossible to flush toilets, wash dishes or take a bath at the Sea Breeze Mobile Home Park in Columbus, WRBL-TV reported. The water also isn’t safe to drink. “I had to spend three days in the hotel, me and my 8-year-old and my wife. That was money coming out of our pocket,” resident Jeffery Williams said. Water has been restored to some areas of the mobile home park and a citation has been issued to owner Fountain Bleau Capital LLC, said Columbus Inspection and Code Enforcement Director Ryan Pruett. The Massachusetts owner of the park said the maintenance staff was infected with COVID-19 and that delayed fixing the water problems.
Hilo: A lawsuit challenging using police forces from other islands to respond to protests over a giant telescope planned for Hawaii’s tallest mountain is headed to the state Supreme Court. Police officers from Oahu and Maui flew to the Big Island in 2019 to help control protesters who blocked the mountain’s access road. Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope said it will desecrate land held sacred by Native Hawaiians. Big Island resident E. Kalani Flores’ lawsuit against police chiefs of the Hawaii County, Maui County and Honolulu forces argued his rights to observe Native Hawaiian cultural practices on Mauna Kea were violated by the police presence. The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case next month, Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported. The lawsuit said police violated a state statute that a police chief can operate on a neighboring island if doing so is required in the pursuit of an investigation that started in that chief’s jurisdiction. The lawsuit was initially dismissed because of a technicality and later went before the state Intermediate Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the police chiefs.
Ketchum: A multiyear project to improve forest health in and around one of the nation’s top ski destinations has begun in central Idaho. The 10-year Bald Mountain Stewardship Project is intended in part to reduce the chances of a wildfire at Sun Valley Resort’s Bald Mountain ski area that operates on U.S. Forest Service land. The Idaho Mountain Express reported that work has started on the Forest Service’s plan to reduce fuel, restore forest health and enhance recreation opportunities. The ski area is a huge economic driver. But pine beetles, dwarf mistletoe and white pine blister rust are killing trees on the ski-run-carved mountain that forms a scenic and much-photographed backdrop for the resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley. Experts said the aging forest long protected from wildfires is at risk, leading to the project that also will clear debris within the ski area. The 9-square-mile project includes Sun Valley Resort’s nearly 5-square-mile ski area, of which about 4 square miles is skiable terrain. Officials said wildfires in 2007 and 2013 surrounded 9,150-foot Bald Mountain with burned forest, creating an island of green trees and increasing bark beetle attacks.
Rockton:Officials have found elevated levels of harmful metals in groundwater monitoring wells at a Rockton Superfund toxic waste site. But the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency noted that the substances were not found in the municipal water system for the Village of Rockton. Its water was tested June 21. Testing of private wells near the site will begin soon. The metals discovered include antimony, cadmium, chromium and nickel. Some metals are essential nutrients, but others can cause health problems. The results came from wells that check groundwater on the site of the former Beloit Corp. toxic waste investigations at the former manufacturer of paper-making products have been underway since 1992. Elevated metal levels were found in 16 of 20 monitoring wells. All are contained on the Superfund site. The samples were collected following the June 14 explosion and devastating fire at Chemtool Inc., located on the Superfund site. Metals were not previously a concern on the Beloit Corp. property. State officials are investigating their source. Officials said that until testing is completed, those with private wells living in the Blackhawk neighborhood adjacent to Chemtool should use bottled water for drinking and cooking.
Burns Harbor: Indiana’s Lake Michigan port has seen a big increase in shipments this year as the global economy rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic. In June, the port handled a 52% spike in cargo. So far this year, the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor has had more than a 36% increase in maritime tonnage compared with the same period last year, said Vanta E. Coda II, chief executive of the Indianapolis-based Ports of Indiana port authority. “Steel is up more than 100% and limestone has climbed nearly 90%, too. We look forward to additional growth in the second half of the year,” Coda said. Through the end of June, international cargos shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Great Lakes ports are up by 8.37% to 12.9 million tons, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported. Great Lakes shipping officials attributed the boost to increased domestic construction, manufacturing activity and global export demand. Shipments of cement are up 36%, gypsum 79% and general cargo 61%. Iron ore volumes are up 14%, partly because of exports to Asia and Europe. Coke, another steelmaking input, is up 125%, partly because of exports to France, the Netherlands and other European countries.
Cedar Rapids: Forty Iowans, including some from the Cedar Rapids area, had to undergo treatment for rabies after they were potentially in contact with a rabid bat at the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. More than 180 individuals were advised to receive the rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, which contains the rabies vaccine, after a wild bat was found near a person attending one of the Henry Doorly Zoo’s multiple overnight campouts at the aquarium earlier this month. A total of 186 overnight campers, including youth and adult groups, were contacted by the Nebraska public health department, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Among those were dozens of Iowans, mostly adolescents and their parents, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Linn County Public Health said anyone locally who has been impacted has been contacted and the appropriate follow-up has been conducted. Public health officials in Nebraska recommended all campers who stayed at the zoo overnight June 29, June 30, July 2 and July 3 receive prophylaxis. The recommendation came after a camper staying in the aquarium the night of July 3 woke up to a wild bat near her head. A team found seven bats in the building, one of which tested positive for rabies, a news release from the zoo stated.
Topeka:Union members at the Frito-Lay plant in Topeka have approved a new contract and will return to work Monday, ending a nearly three-week strike at the plant, union officials said. Members of Local 218 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union approved the contract Friday. It gives all union members a 4% pay raise over two years and guarantees workers at least one day off each week, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. More than 500 of the 850 employees represented by the union went on strike on July 5, complaining of a toxic work environment, forced overtime and a lack of pay raises. Workers said the shifts were caused by a severe staffing shortage at the plant. Carolyn Fisher, spokeswoman for PepsiCo., Frito-Lay’s parent company, said the contract allows the company to rebid its entire facility, or parts of it, once during the two-year contract. Labor-management committees will be formed to make recommendations on staffing and overtime and shape the rebid process.
Frankfort: Two members of Kentucky State University’s governing board resigned days before the abrupt departure of the campus president, adding to the upheaval in the highest ranks of the school as it faces an independent investigation into its finances. Soon after M. Christopher Brown II’s resignation as school president last week, Gov. Andy Beshear called for an independent accounting of KSU’s finances and signed an order empowering the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to provide guidance and oversight during the review. The development came as Kentucky’s sole public historically Black university contended with concerns about its financial health and lawsuits alleging misconduct by campus officials. In the days before Brown’s departure, Candace McGraw submitted her resignation from the school’s Board of Regents. In her resignation letter, McGraw said she was “not fully aware of the time needed to engage fully in order to ensure the ongoing success of the university.” McGraw, a recent board appointee, is CEO of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Paul Harnice also resigned from the school’s board before Brown left, The State Journal reported. Harnice’s resignation letter did not provide an apparent reason for his resignation, The State Journal reported.
Baton Rouge: With more than 1,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards encouraged everyone, whether vaccinated or not, to wear masks indoors if they can’t stay distanced from others. But the Democratic governor stopped short of issuing a statewide face covering mandate or new restrictions on activities and businesses amid the state’s fourth spike of COVID-19, driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Louisiana – which has among the nation’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates – is seeing thousands of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness each day, and its hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks. Edwards said Louisiana has the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation and has been labeled a “state of concern” by the White House. Edwards placed the blame squarely on people refusing to get immunized against the coronavirus in a state where only about 48% of those eligible for the vaccines have gotten at least one shot.
Portland: Maine is home to the last wild Atlantic salmon populations in the U.S., but a new push to protect the fish at the state level is unlikely to land them on the endangered list. Atlantic salmon once teemed in U.S. rivers, but now return from the sea to only a handful of rivers in eastern and central Maine. The fish are protected at the federal level under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but a coalition of environmental groups and scientists said the fish could be afforded more protections if they were added to Maine’s own list of endangered and threatened species. State law allows Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher to make that recommendation, but his office told the Associated Press he does not intend to do it. The department has done extensive work to conserve and restore the fish, and Keliher “does not believe a listing at the state level would afford additional conservation benefits or protections,” said Jeff Nichols, a department spokesperson. The environmentalists who want to see the fish on the state list said they’re going to keep pushing for it and other protections. Adding the fish to the state endangered list would mean conservation of salmon would be treated as a bigger concern in state permitting processes, said John Burrows, executive director for U.S. operations for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
Oakland: A state police helicopter hoisted an injured swimmer to safety in western Maryland. The helicopter was dispatched shortly after 5 p.m. Friday to rescue a swimmer who sustained a head injury after slipping on a rock at Swallow Falls along the Youghiogheny River in Garrett County, state police said in a news release Saturday. The helicopter was requested partly because of the steep terrain and nature of the victim’s injuries, police said. The helicopter hovered 275 feet above the river as a trooper with medical equipment was lowered to the scene to prepare the patient for an aerial extraction, the news release said. Once the patient was secured inside the AW-139 helicopter, the crew provided medical care during the trip to a hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia. The patient wasn’t identified, and the person’s condition wasn’t immediately known.
Boston: A rare first-place medal from the first modern Olympic Games has sold for more than $180,000. Boston-based RR Auction said Friday that the winning bidder for the silver medal from the 1896 games in Athens, Greece, was a collector based on the East Coast. The company estimated before the auction that the first place medal could fetch about $75,000. At the inaugural Olympiad, first-place winners were awarded silver medals and second-place finishers earned bronze, the auction house said. There was no award for placing third. Unlike today’s games where thousands of athletes compete, just 250 were featured at the first modern games, the company said. Other notable items sold include a gold medal bestowed on the Argentine men’s soccer team during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics that went for more than $97,000. A gold medal for the U.S. men’s basketball team during the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics also sold for more than $83,000 and a gold medal awarded to Swedish wrestler Ivar Johansson during the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Olympics sold for more than $45,000.
Corunna: Elected officials in Shiawassee County who gave themselves bonuses of $65,000 with federal COVID-19 relief aid said they will return the money following days of criticism. County commissioners acted after the county prosecutor said the payments were illegal, The Argus-Press reported. The Michigan Constitution bars additional compensation for elected officials “after services had already been rendered,” prosecutor Scott Koerner said Friday. The commissioners, all Republicans, voted on July 15 to award themselves $65,000 as part of a plan to give $557,000 to 250 county employees as “hazard pay” for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The smallest amounts for recipients were $1,000 to $2,000. But County Board Chairman Jeremy Root got $25,000. Two more commissioners received $10,000 each, and four others received $5,000 each. The commissioners awarded money to other elected officials, including the prosecutor, the sheriff and the county clerk, all Republicans. They, too, said they would give it back. Two Michigan congressmen, a Democrat and a Republican, said federal virus aid wasn’t intended to reward elected officials.
Blaine: A crane fell over at a construction site in the Minneapolis suburb of Lexington on Friday, causing a power outage for nearly 900 customers in the area as temperatures climbed into the mid-90s. There were no injuries reported. A dispatch supervisor with the Centennial Lakes Police Department said the call came in shortly before 12:30 p.m. The crane fell into power lines and onto the partially constructed building. Dispatch supervisor Donnelle Lawrence said the building was evacuated. The collapse also caused a small grass fire, which was quickly extinguished, Lawrence said. Xcel Energy reported reported nearly 900 customers in the areas of Blaine, Circle Pines and Lexington were without power after the collapse according to its online outage map. Temperatures were in the mid-90s on Friday afternoon and the area was under a heat advisory, as forecasters said the combination of heat and humidity made the temperature feel like it was 100 degrees.
Jackson: Even as COVID-19 cases have increased rapidly in Mississippi in recent days, some school districts are saying masks will be optional for students, teachers and staff. Among the districts taking that approach is the state’s largest one, DeSoto County School District. “Right now, there are no state mandates or local mandates requiring masks,” Superintendent Cory Uselton told WMC-TV. “Last year, we were under a mask mandate because of the governor’s executive order. There’s no executive order in place right now, so that will be a parental decision.” As part of its guidance for K-12 school settings, the State Department of Health recommends masks for anyone not fully vaccinated. It also recommends people 12 and older get vaccinated. Instead of encouraging either of those things, the DeSoto District will give families information from the health department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics, Uselton said.
O’Fallon: St. Louis city and county officials said they will require masks in some public places starting Monday, citing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases spurred by the delta variant. Masks will be mandatory in indoor public places and on public transportation for everyone age 5 or older, even for those who are vaccinated, officials said in a news release Friday. Masking outdoors “will be strongly encouraged,” especially in group settings. The decision comes as both of Missouri’s urban areas are seeing a big uptick in cases in hospitalizations that began in rural areas of the state, especially in southwestern Missouri. The Kansas City Star reported Friday that medical leaders in that region appear to be on the verge of calling for a new mask mandate there, as well.
Helena: Five firefighters were injured when a thunderstorm and swirling winds in central Montana blew a lightning-caused wildfire back on them, federal officials said. All five remained in medical facilities and were still being evaluated and treated Saturday, a day after they were injured, Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Mark Jacobsen said. He declined to release the extent of the firefighters’ injuries or specify where they were being treated. They had joined other crews working on the 1,300-acre fire burning in rough, steep terrain about 36 miles northwest of the town of Jordan. They were building a defensive fire line Thursday when the weather shifted, Jacobsen said. “Numerous wind shifts and rapid rates of spread resulted in erratic fire behavior as thunderstorms and associated cells were passing over the area when the incident occurred,” he said. Other firefighters in the area were able to call for help and the injured firefighters – three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crew members from North Dakota and two USDA Forest Service firefighters from New Mexico – were evacuated, Jacobsen said. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Friday that crews from Utah and California were coming to Montana on Saturday to help fight fires. Utah will send two task forces with a total of seven engines and 25 personnel, and California is sending a strike team with five engines and 20 personnel, Gianforte said. The teams will be in Montana for two weeks, and Montana will pay their costs, the governor said.
Omaha: Nearly 50 Nebraska school boards have objected to proposed state health education standards that include lessons for young children on gender identity and gender expression. State Sen. Joni Albrecht said 47 school boards across the state have either adopted resolutions or sent letters opposing the first draft of the standards that the Nebraska Department of Education is considering. Albrecht was part of a group of 30 state senators who signed a statement urging school districts to object to the standards. The standards would be optional if they’re approved, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Under the proposed standards, kindergartners would learn about different kinds of family structures, including same-gender families. First-graders would be taught about gender identity and gender stereotypes. Sixth-graders would learn about a range of identities related to sexual orientation, including heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, two-spirit, asexual and pansexual. They would be taught the differences between cisgender, transgender, gender nonbinary, gender expansive and gender identity. The proposal has faced strong opposition from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has no direct influence over the state board, and large crowds have attended state education board meetings. State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt told school districts in a letter earlier this month that there would be changes in the second draft of the standards. He said that next draft will remove many of the explicit examples and make clear that discussions of sensitive health-related topics should be “thoughtfully conducted with parental input at a local level.”
Las Vegas: Coronavirus numbers remained high in Nevada as the state reported more than 1,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, at least 20 deaths and hospitalizations climbing past the 1,000 plateau for the first time in more than five months, state health officials said. The 1,003 new cases reported by the state Department of Health and Human Services nearly matched the 1,004 new cases reported on Tuesday. It was the highest since 1,070 cases were recorded Jan. 30, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The updated figures pushed totals to 349,043 COVID-19 cases and 5,817 deaths statewide since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Concord: New Hampshire residents can’t be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to access public facilities, benefits or services under a bill signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu. Supporters said the bill signed this week establishes “medical freedom” by specifying that all residents have the “natural, essential and inherent right to bodily integrity, free from any threat or compulsion by government to accept an immunization.” It does not, however, supersede the state law regarding vaccinations as a prerequisite for admission to school. That law lists seven required vaccinations but does not include the COVID-19 vaccine. The new law also does not apply to county nursing homes, the state psychiatric hospital or other medical facilities operated by the state or other governmental bodies. And it allows mandatory immunizations in prisons and jails when there is a significant health threat.
Secaucus: New Jersey on Friday took the first step to rid the lower Hackensack River of heavily contaminated sediment dating from the state’s industrial past. State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette announced the commitment of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to seek placement of the 23-mile stretch of river on the federal government’s list of Superfund toxic sites. Approval would mean access to federal funding and would enable the Environmental Protection Agency to seek the parties responsible for polluting the waters to help fund the remediation, once identified. “Designating the lower Hackensack River as a federal Superfund site will provide the tools we need to remove decades of contamination that have polluted river sediments and restore the natural resources that have been impaired for far too long,” LaTourette said. A previous EPA study found elevated levels of cancer-causing dioxin, cadmium, lead, mercury and PCBs in sediment sampled from the river’s mouth at Newark Bay to the Oradell Reservoir. Achieving Superfund status could take years to complete. “I realize that this is one step in the process and that cleanup will take time,” said Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan. He said he has been working to get the designation since 2015.
Santa Fe: New Mexico schools plan to spend the bulk of the federal coronavirus relief money they have received on technology and building upgrades rather than student learning loss. A report this week before the New Mexico Legislature’s budget committee showed school districts and charters plan to spend 38% of the $490 million they received thus far on technology and HVAC systems. T he Santa Fe New Mexican reported that schools plan to spend 9% of the funds on learning loss programs and 8% on interventions for at-risk students. The budget committee’s program evaluation manager Micaela Fischer told lawmakers those numbers were surprising because students likely missed out on learning because of the shift to remote classrooms during the pandemic. Los Alamos Public Schools is an exception to the trend and plans to spend all of the money it received from a December coronavirus relief package to address learning loss with summer and after-school programs.
Yonkers: Police and bystanders lifted a car to free a trapped baby after a suspected drunken driver struck the girl and her mother and then plowed through a storefront with the pair on the hood. The crash and rescue were recorded on video released by Yonkers Police. It showed a Hyundai Elantra striking a curb and parked car Friday before driving into a woman as she crossed the street with a child in her arms. With the woman and child on the hood of the car, it accelerates through the storefront of a barber shop. Police body camera footage from inside the building showed Yonkers Officers Rocco Fusco and Paul Samoyedny, who had been having breakfast nearby, frantically working with bystanders to lift the heavily damaged car and pull the crying 8-month-old girl from beneath it. “Luckily, two veteran officers of Yonkers’ finest just happened to be getting breakfast next door and quickly took action along with members of the community to rescue a child trapped under the vehicle and render aid to her mother,” Police Commissioner John Mueller said in a news release. “The actions taken are nothing short of heroic.” The baby sustained a skull fracture and burns to her back and foot. Her 36-year-old mother broke a leg, the news release said. The 43-year-old male driver and a female passenger were not injured. The driver, from Yonkers, was charged with driving while intoxicated, vehicular assault and aggravated unlicensed operation.
Ocracoke: Transportation officials said successful drone flights this week to Ocracoke have them hopeful that it might soon get easier to deliver vital supplies to the remote Outer Banks island amid bad weather. The Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation and U.S.-based drone logistics company Volansi completed two successful trial flights of a delivery drone from a ferry dock in Hatteras to Ocracoke Island, the department said in a news release. “This is a tremendous first step in better connecting Ocracoke Island to potentially life-saving supplies and equipment,” Secretary of Transportation Eric Boyette said in a statement. “Today, Ocracoke Island is accessible only by plane or by boat. What we’re working on here is an entirely new, third method of serving the needs of Ocracoke’s people.” The tests involved an 8-mile round-trip flight averaging 18 minutes in flight time. The first delivered a small survival kit, space blankets and a chocolate muffin to Ocracoke, and the second delivered bottles of water, according to the news release. The next test, at a time to be determined, will involve a longer flight, the department said.
Bismarck: The federal government has denied a request by North Dakota leaders to allow ranchers struggling with drought to hay idled grassland while it’s still of good quality. The Bismarck Tribune reported the state Agriculture Department is looking into the reasons why the request was denied. The federal government is allowing limited emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program land, which typically is idled under a government program that pays farmers to protect erodible land and create wildlife habitat. North Dakota ranchers all summer have been seeking federal government permission to also hay that land. The CRP typically doesn’t open until after nesting season ends, to protect wildlife populations. The season in North Dakota ends Aug. 1. Ranchers said that after that day, grass might not be of good enough quality to make it worthwhile to hay. State officials and members of North Dakota’s congressional delegation this summer have pushed the U.S. Department of Agriculture for earlier CRP haying. State Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring earlier this week made another plea. His department has received hundreds of calls from ranchers in recent weeks about the issue.
Cincinnati:The Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame is officially scheduled to open next summer. Plans for the interactive park and star-studded path were unveiled Saturday during an induction ceremony. The crowd was lively while the P. Ann Everson-Price & The All-Star Band played tributes to the walk’s first inductees as well as other famous Black musicians and funk artists. The first four inductees to receive stars on the Walk of Fame will be Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Bootsy Collins, King Records icon Otis Williams, and Grammy Winners The Isley Brothers and the late Gospel great Dr. Charles Fold. The Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame is intended to stand toe-to-toe with The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta’s Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame; and Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, each inductee will have their name placed on a star on the walkway. The funding for the park and walkway will come from the $159 million stimulus fund that was awarded to the county. The Hamilton County Commission unanimously voted in favor of the park while deciding on how to spend the county’s stimulus money. The park was awarded $9 million. Procter and Gamble has also partnered with the project and will pay for the new inductee stars for the next several years.
Oklahoma City:The owner of a dilapidated Oklahoma Panhandle wind farm has presented plans to clean up the most dangerous of the wind turbine towers. The plans are to address dangerously broken-down towers and turbines of the 60-tower KODE Novus I and II wind farm near Guymon, The Oklahoman reported. Owner Olympia Renewable Platform LLC has hired a contractor to remove broken blades from seven towers and topple a couple of others topped with burned-out generator nacelles. The company assured the repair work could begin next month and take 20 to 30 days to complete, depending on wind conditions. Dozens of wind turbines in the complex have been locked down and aren’t part of the cleanup plan. Oklahoma Corporation Commission officials have determined that the dilapidated wind towers are dangerous to the public, which had easy access to the scene until Olympia erected temporary fencing around it. The complex was developed and owned by a subsidiary of a South Korean company until it went bankrupt.
Portland: Low oxygen levels measured off the coast of Oregon and Washington are raising concerns of large “dead zones” that could decimate crabs and bottom-dwelling fish within them. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this week that researchers have detected unseasonably low oxygen levels in a large area off the Pacific coast, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Year after year of low oxygen levels beginning in the early 2000s led researchers to determine Oregon now has a “hypoxia season” – just as it has a fire season – and this year’s hypoxia season has arrived far earlier than usual. The start of the hypoxia season is marked by the upwelling of cold bottom water. Winds initiated that upwelling this year around March. Chan said that’s the earliest Oregon ocean-watchers have seen in 35 years. That could have major implications for coastal economies, particularly related to the Dungeness crab. Dead zones happen as winds pick up, driving cold water from the bottom of the ocean toward the surface, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That contributes to blooms of phytoplankton, which once they die, sink to the ocean floor. Bacteria consume oxygen while decomposing the plankton.
Harrisburg: President Joe Biden will head to the Allentown area Wednesday as he fights for passage in the Senate of a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure measure that a bipartisan group of senators brokered with him. The White House is billing Biden’s visit to Macungie as a stop to “emphasize the importance of American manufacturing, buying products made in America, and supporting good-paying jobs for American workers.” It gave no other details of the visit – Biden’s second to Pennsylvania so far this month after he went to Philadelphia last week to speak on voting rights. In the Senate, Republicans rejected an effort this week to begin debate on the infrastructure deal. Supporters said they need more time before another vote, possibly next week. Macungie is near the home of Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who voted against opening debate. In a statement after the vote, Toomey echoed other Republicans in pointing out that crucial details about the deal are not completed. Should an agreement be reached on those, Toomey said he will consider the measure “based on its substance.” Pennsylvania’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Bob Casey, voted with other Democrats to start debate.
Providence: Environmental officials in Rhode Island have extended their ban on shellfish harvesting in certain areas of the state. The state Department of Environmental Management said a ban that was set to expire Sunday will be extended until further notice. The announcement covers what it refers to as the “Lower Providence River Conditional Area E” and “Upper Bay Conditional Area A.” The closures were enacted after recent heavy rainfall and are being extended because test samples showed continued high bacteria levels in the water. At least one other shellfish area in Greenwich Bay reopened to harvesting Sunday, and two others in Mt. Hope Bay and the Kickemuit River are open, the agency said.
Nichols: A utility is building walls around an electric substation to prevent it from being overrun by floodwaters in the first-of-its-kind project in South Carolina. Duke Energy is spending $1.6 million on the Nichols project to protect a substation that has flooded twice in the past five years, utility spokesperson Ryan Mosier told the Morning News of Florence. The substation was flooded in 2016 in Hurricane Matthew and 2018 in Hurricane Florence. In 2018, the substation, which takes high voltage power from plants and converts it to lower voltage electricity for homes, was out for five weeks, Mosier said. The substation is surrounded by reinforced fiberglass walls. Crews put up aluminum gates when flooding is threatened, which keep water out but allow crews access inside. The walls are 6-to-8 feet tall with access gates. The gates are installed when the company forecasts potential flooding. Crews can also quickly access the substation for maintenance. Duke Energy has already installed the walls at facilities in Lumberton and Wallace in North Carolina and plans four more projects, Mosier said, Other nearby substations to Nichols are on higher ground and didn’t need the walls, said Davy Gregg, a Duke Energy supervisor for the Marion County area.
Sioux Falls:A replica of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came to Sioux Falls over the weekend as part of a honorary tour to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the monument. The half-scale replica was at the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance and crowds came to view it and learn more about its history. The original Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia, across the Delaware River from the nation’s capital.. The replica is part of a traveling exhibition called A Call to Honor: Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. The Americanism Committee of the Exchange Club in Rome, Georgia, is responsible for the exhibition and brings the replica to all parts of the United States.
Nashville:The bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest that had been prominently displayed inside the state Capitol for decades – over objections from Black lawmakers and activists – was removed from its pedestal Friday. The image of Forrest has sparked protests since its installation in 1978 as defenders sought to tout his legacy while critics objected to honoring a historical figure who supported the South’s secession. Over the years, some suggested adding historical context next to the bust. Yet many others, including Republican Gov. Bill Lee, successfully argued for moving it to the Tennessee State Museum, just north of the Capitol. Forrest was a Confederate cavalry general who amassed a fortune before the Civil War as a Memphis slave trader and plantation owner. Later, he was a leader of the Klan as it terrorized Black people. The busts of Union Navy Adm. David Farragut and U.S. Navy Adm. Albert Gleaves also were moved to the museum on Friday, part of an agreement used to win over the votes needed on key panels that military leaders shouldn’t be displayed in the Capitol.
Dallas: The Dallas area was the country’s top market for commercial property investments in the first half of 2021. Dallas retained the top real estate spot it gained last year during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Real Capital Analytics. Through the first six months of this year, Dallas saw almost $13.4 billion in commercial property deals – 43% more than in the same period a year ago. Last year, more than $19.7 billion in commercial real estate deals were recorded in the local market. Sales of dozens of local apartment communities and warehouses, plus the $700 million purchase of Uptown Dallas’ Crescent complex, all contributed to the huge volume of property investments in the area this year. The Crescent was ranked as the second-largest commercial property deal in the country in the first six months of 2021.
Salt Lake City:People in Utah gathered to celebrate the state’s history and recognize early Mormon pioneers who trekked west in search of religious freedom. Pioneer Day is a beloved only-in-Utah holiday every July 24 that features parades, rodeos, fireworks and more. The festivities were canceled last year because of the pandemic. Hundreds of people on Friday camped and staked out spots along the parade route in downtown Salt Lake City. Pioneer Day marks the date in 1847 when Brigham Young and other Mormon pioneers, many pulling handcarts, ended their treacherous journey across the country from Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley. Many businesses and government offices close for the state holiday.
Montpelier: Signs will be posted near eight Vermont ponds where the use of baitfish is prohibited to protect native brook trout, the Fish and Wildlife Department said. 1/2“Wild native brook trout thrive in ponds where there are simple fish communities with no or few other fish species,” department fisheries biologist Jud Kratzer said in a statement earlier this week. “Adding new fish species, even minnows, disrupts a long-established food chain. Trout populations suffer as a result.” Brook trout are native to the eastern United States but no longer exist in much of their original range, the department said. Signs will be posted at public access points near Beaver Pond in Holland; Blake Pond in Sutton; Cow Mountain Pond in Granby; Jobs Pond in Westmore; Lewis Pond in Lewis; North Pond in Chittenden; Unknown Pond in Avery’s Gore; and Noyes Pond in Groton.
Culpeper: Virginia’s government watchdog said the commonwealth’s land conservation easement program that offers participants tax breaks needs improvement. Auditors with the Office of the State Inspector General found items such as trash, old tires, inoperable vehicles and a manure storage area containing dead cattle parts on properties with easements it inspected, the Culpeper Star-Exponent reported. “Virginia provides tax credits up to $75 million per year for conservation easements and land donations,” Inspector General Michael Westfall said in a statement. “In effect, Virginia is paying for natural resource preservation through these tax credits.” There’s a $1 million tax credit value threshold for a Department of Conservation and Recreation quality review of an easement. Among the watchdog’s recommendations was lowering that threshold. But Dan Holmes, director of state policy for the Piedmont Environmental Council, told the newspaper the tax credit was a valuable tool and questioned the audit’s conclusions and methodology.
Seattle: Mayor Jenny Durkan and other city officials plan to add a response unit for 911 calls that don’t require typical, armed police officers. Officials said they are still working out details, and it won’t launch until at least next year, The Seattle Times reported. Durkan said the idea is to provide 911 dispatchers with a new option for certain calls, such as wellness checks, that are associated with neither criminal nor medical emergencies. The mayor said it could be similar to the city’s Health One program, which sends firefighters and social workers to nonemergency medical calls. It will likely be staffed by civilian city employees, possibly partnered with certain officers, she said. The responders will know deescalation techniques and how to guide people to social services, she said, adding that it might be called “Triage One.” Durkan said she intends to include funding for the new option in her 2022 budget proposal, which is due in September. She hasn’t said what it might cost but said it would start as a pilot program, with limited capacity.
Charleston: The state treasurer’s office raised nearly $140,000 for law enforcement agencies through its unclaimed property firearms auction. This year’s event had record inventory – more than 500 firearms lots – because the pandemic prevented the treasurer’s office from holding an auction last year, Treasurer Riley Moore’s office said in a news release. The treasurer’s office raised $139,790 during the auction. Under state law, state and local law enforcement agencies can turn over unclaimed, seized or outdated firearms in their possession to the treasurer’s office for auction, and the proceeds can be returned to the law enforcement agency. This year’s auction attracted more than 60 federally licensed firearms dealers. Bidders must be a valid, licensed federal firearms dealer. The event isn’t open to the general public.
Madison: The University of Wisconsin System plans to offer nearly $500,000 in scholarships this fall to students who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. System President Tommy Thompson said all vaccinated students at regional four- and two-year campuses that get at least 70% of their students vaccinated by Oct. 15 will be eligible for a drawing for a $7,000 scholarship. Seventy students will win, with more winners coming from campuses with larger enrollments. UW-Madison students won’t be eligible, Thompson said, because Chancellor Rebecca Blank is working on her own vaccination incentive programs. Asked for details on Blank’s plans, UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said the flagship university is “on a path” to reach 80% vaccination among students and is “considering incentives” but had nothing to announce. Thompson has called for campuses to offer at least three-quarters of their courses in-person this fall. He said he set the vaccination threshold at 70% for the scholarship drawing because that’s generally considered the minimum for herd immunity.
Casper: Officials expect moderate to extreme drought to persist and spread throughout Wyoming. The multiyear drought is the state’s worst since 2013. Last year was Wyoming’s fifth-driest and 16th-warmest since 1895, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Even parts of the state with average or above-average precipitation got it earlier in the year than usual, leaving those areas just as susceptible to drought now, Wyoming Game and Fish Department terrestrial habitat supervisor Ian Tator told the state Game and Fish Commission last week. “On a statewide basis, there’s nowhere that’s doing fantastic,” Tator said. Fishing spots also face strain as water levels fall and temperatures rise, state fisheries management coordinator Dave Zafft told the commission.