Florence: A new facility has opened with the aim of reducing poverty and its effects on families. The Shoals Dream Center is envisioned as a hub for an array of services to aid the area’s families, The TimesDaily reports. Among them: providing food; academic tutoring and mentoring for at-risk kids. The center also plans to offer addiction recovery resources and life skills training. The Shoals Dream Center is an extension of the Chapel church. The social services components will offer after-school programs where students can engage in learning and developmental training, activities, and games three days per week, says Toyia Gourley, director of the Dream Center Academy. The food distribution is set up in the style of a supermarket, the newspaper reports.
Fairbanks: The state agency overseeing air quality has agreed to submit a cleanup plan by mid-December for this city that has some of the nation’s most polluted winter air. A federal court judge, as part of a lawsuit, approved an agreement that set the deadline for the cleanup plan to be submitted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Judge Thomas Zilly also approved a mid-January deadline for the EPA to make sure the plan complete. Clean air advocates sued in December, saying the state failed to submit a legally compliant plan to address particulate pollution caused by wood-burning stoves and other sources. Fine particulate is a pollutant that can cause heart and lung problems.
Tucson: The University of Arizona has announced it is changing its abbreviation from UA to UArizona in an effort to increase search engine optimization results for the college. The Tucson-based college in a statement Monday said the change would help distinguish the school from other national and international entities that use UA, including the University of Alabama, Under Armour and United Airlines. Officials say the southern Arizona school was not appearing high on Google results for “UA.” University officials say the college will now use UArizona for its communications. The college had already changed its Twitter handle to @uarizona. Officials say there are not yet any plans to use the new abbreviation on college merchandise or in chants at sporting events.
Jonesboro: An Arkansas State University alumnus says he was surprised to spot a few curious critters running around the campus library. Codie Clark, a math tutor, says he spotted at least two raccoons Sunday on the third floor of the university’s Dean B. Ellis Library while waiting for a student to arrive for a tutoring session. Clark says other students then cornered one raccoon. Associate Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications Bill Smith told KAIT-TV that the school’s facility management personnel humanely trapped the animals after being notified by library staff. Clark says an animal rescuer released the racoons back into the wild that night. Smith noted the raccoons likely came to campus because of recent rain. He encouraged anyone who encounters wild animals to contact the Facilities Management Department.
Sacramento: Some of the country’s largest ride-sharing companies proposed a state law Tuesday that would let them continue to treat drivers as independent contractors while also guaranteeing them a minimum wage and money for health insurance. The Legislature enacted legislation this year requiring such companies to treat drivers as employees, which would let them form a union and entitle them to benefits. But the law proposed Tuesday would exempt ride-sharing companies. The proposal must be approved by voters. If passed, it would supersede the Legislature’s action and any similar ordinances by local governments. It also would prevent lawmakers from passing another law to block it. The proposal will only get on the November 2020 ballot if supporters can gather about 660,000 signatures. Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have already pledged $90 million to support the effort, making it one of the most expensive ballot measures ever.
Denver: Hundreds of state employees have prepared to have their emails eliminated to remove access to government records that would otherwise be public. The Denver Post reports the affected employees work for the Department of Regulatory Agencies, which regulates state industries including insurance, banks, electric utilities and real estate. Officials say the department’s 600 employees were notified multiple times of the upcoming purge set to begin Friday. Department officials say employees were instructed to preserve any vital emails, including pending litigation or existing open records requests. Officials say the purge is to ensure department emails are easily searchable. Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition says deletion of electronic records is a major problem for those seeking information. Colorado law gives state departments broad discretion in crafting their record-keeping policies.
Waterbury: Gov. Ned Lamont has signed an executive order that creates an entity charged with coming up with a plan for better coordination between state government agencies and the business community. The Democrat says he has a goal of transforming a workforce development system that’s currently designed to meet the needs of 20th-century jobs into one that serves 21st-century jobs. He says the state’s education and training system today is “too static and disconnected,” and there’s a need for better collaboration with business and labor so Connecticut’s teachers know what skills to teach. Lamont announced the creation of the Governor’s Workforce Council at Naugatuck Community College on Tuesday.
Dover: A federal magistrate is recommending dismissal of a lawsuit against Delaware State University officials by a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student. The magistrate ruled Tuesday that the revised lawsuit by Mai-Ajah Keel is time-barred and that Keel has failed to state a claim. Keel says after she reported the assault in 2013, she was met with deliberate indifference by school officials and harassment and retaliation by her alleged attacker and other students. Keel’s alleged attacker, Jason Faustin, was charged in 2015 with fourth-degree rape. The charges were later dropped, but Faustin was suspended from campus after a school panel found him “responsible” for sexual assault. Faustin later served as an intern in the Dover office of Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Coons.
Congress: District of Columbia
Washington: There was glam; there were costumes; there were high heels and a race. In a D.C. tradition that has made a statement since the 1980s, the 33rd Annual 17th Street High Heel Race took off Tuesday evening with a parade and race near Dupont Circle, WUSA-TV reports. The event is the district’s second-largest annual LGBTQ community event, filled with cheer as costumed drag queens and other participants race down the street. It was originally started by a group of 25 drag queens who decided to sprint down the road and strut their stuff. This year, the event brought out thousands of residents and visitors to join in on the fun. Even Mayor Muriel Bowser made an appearance at the event, serving as the grand marshal to kick off the celebration.
Orlando: A memorial for the Pulse nightclub massacre will have a reflecting pool with rainbow-colored lines radiating from it, and a nearby museum will resemble a three-dimensional spirograph, according to design concepts announced Wednesday. Forty-nine people were killed and dozens more were injured when a gunman opened fire at the gay nightclub in June 2016. It was the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman opened fire on Las Vegas concertgoers in 2017. The design concepts are only a starting point for discussions on the Pulse memorial and museum and are open to revisions, according to organizers. The designs were produced by several French architects and artists who worked with an Orlando architectural firm and a DePaul University professor. Plans call for the memorial to feature a garden with 49 trees in honor of the victims who were killed.
Atlanta: Officials are moving forward with plans for some new parks in the city. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that the City Council last week approved the purchase of land from The Conservation Fund for a park in the Home Park neighborhood. The city will buy the land for a little more than $200,000. City officials also approved funding to purchase two properties for the $40 million Rodney Cook Sr. Park currently under construction in the Vine City neighborhood. The AJC says the park will feature 18 sculptures memorializing civil rights heroes, including Martin Luther King Jr.
Hilo: The Big Island neighborhood that was ravaged by the 2018 Kilauea volcano eruption has become a destination for tourists wanting to get a look at the damage caused by one of the largest eruptions in the volcano’s recent history. But the Hawaii Tribune Herald reports residents of the Leilani Estates neighborhood consider the visitors a nuisance and are relieved to see interest beginning to wane. Tourism increased as residents were trying to return to their homes and property after being forced to evacuate. More than 700 homes were destroyed. Leilani Estates Community Association president Andy Andrews says the number of tourists has fallen significantly since earlier this year, and there are fewer confrontations between locals and visitors, who he says ignore warning signs and parking rules.
Boise: Latino students make up 18% of the enrollment in the state’s public schools, but their achievement scores continue to lag state averages. The Idaho Statesman reports researchers and state officials say improving Latino students’ outcomes is an urgent need because of their importance to the state’s workforce. The Idaho Department of Education has set long-term goals to improve Latino outcomes. However, the department has left strategy for reaching those goals to districts and schools with little success in two years. Latino students are recording lower-than-average test scores and fewer postsecondary degrees. Rod Gramer, the CEO of Idaho Business for education, says if the Latino students are not successful, Idaho is not going to be successful.
Chicago: The city’s teachers union voted to approve a tentative contract agreement with city officials Wednesday but refused to end a strike that has canceled two weeks of classes unless the mayor adds school days to cover that lost time. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday night that she would not meet that demand. Lightfoot accused the union’s top leadership of “moving the goal posts” by raising the issue Wednesday rather than in a face-to-face meeting with her Tuesday. “Not once during that three-and-a-half-hour meeting did they raise compensation for strike days,” Lightfoot said heatedly. Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said it would require cutting winter or spring break days or adding days to the end of the year. Union President Jesse Sharkey said the teachers are not asking to be paid for a strike but do credit the walkout for forcing the district to compromise on some contract issues.
Seymour: John Mellencamp, the subject of a new mural in his hometown, endorsed the project by adding a few significant brushstrokes Tuesday afternoon. Indiana rock star Mellencamp painted his initials, “JJM,” on the exterior of a music store in Seymour, the community he immortalized in 1985 hit “Small Town.” Artist Pamela Bliss says Mellencamp was reserved and appreciative during his surprise visit, but he also flashed his signature ornery demeanor when Bliss offered a small paintbrush after he agreed to sign the work. “He said, ‘You call that a (expletive) brush? Give me another one,’ ” Bliss said, laughing. “I got a little piece of the real John right there.” Bliss says she’s a fan of Mellencamp’s paintings, some of which are currently on display at the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour and at ACA Galleries in New York City.
Waukee: Authorities are investigating another explosion at a gender reveal party that happened one day after a blast at a similar gathering killed a 56-year-old woman in a nearby community. Authorities say no one was injured in the explosion Sunday in rural Waukee, a Des Moines suburb, but they are looking into unconfirmed claims that the blast broke a neighbor’s windows. Waukee Fire Capt. Tomme Tysdal says the Waukee explosion came from a commercially available gender reveal kit, unlike the homemade device that killed Pamela Kreimeyer on Saturday near Knoxville, a town 45 miles away. Authorities say Kreimeyer died instantly when her family’s device exploded, hitting her in the head from 45 feet away.
Dodge City: A monkey that was injured last month trying to protect his offspring from being taken by an intruder during an apparent break-in at a zoo has died. Officials at the Wright Park Zoo say the 32-year-old tufted capuchin monkey was found unresponsive early Tuesday. City spokeswoman Abbey Martin says the zoo’s veterinarian was unable to revive the monkey, named Vern. The Hutchinson News reports a necropsy will be done to determine the cause of death. Vern underwent surgery for broken bones after the Sept. 3 break-in. A younger monkey named Pickett was found loose within the city limits and returned to the zoo. Vern and a female monkey named Charro arrived at the zoo in 1988. Their two youngest sons, Jack and Pickett, are part of the zoo’s current capuchin troop.
Murray: Murray State University students are using GPS devices to track box turtles and learn about the technology’s value. Assistant wildlife biology professor Andrea Darracq says students work in the classroom to build the tracking devices and go into the field at an off-campus university property to locate the turtles. The university says the turtles are tracked with the GPS devices and a transmitter, allowing the students to determine a turtle’s location with a receiver and compare it to more precise GPS readings. The school says the capturing and marking of turtles was done with approval from its Institute on Animal Care and Use Committee and a state educational wildlife collection permit.
New Orleans: A $2.1 million research project at Tulane University is aimed at helping members of an American Indian tribe cope with climate change and economic inequality. In a news release, Tulane says the project aims to benefit the United Houma Nation. Challenges facing the south Louisiana tribe include coastal land loss that threatens fishing, trapping and even some homes. Part of the project will involve examining how tribal citizens move within and outside the state to manage these and other challenges. Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine was awarded the project by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program.
Gardiner: It looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and – if it gets a prosthetic leg – will once again walk like a duck. Loni Hamner, of Gardiner, recently adopted a female Mallard duck that was left with one leg and a stump after being attacked by a fox last year. Hamner says the duck she’s named Faith can hop and hobble around, but she wants her “to have a good duck quality of life and do all the things ducks like to do.” The Bangor Daily News reports that a query on the Maine Poultry Connection Facebook page led Hamner to the University of Maine Advanced Structure and Composites Center. Lab manager Paul Bussiere says he’ll create a prosthetic leg for Faith for free in his spare time.
Annapolis: Exelon Corp., the energy company that runs the Conowingo Dam, will invest more than $200 million in environmental projects, according to an agreement announced Tuesday by Gov. Larry Hogan. Officials have been focusing on how to address the environmental impact of trash and debris that has been swept downstream from Pennsylvania to Maryland through the dam after heavy rains. State officials also are concerned that sediment buildup behind the dam’s walls could be released and wreak havoc on the fragile Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The money in the proposed settlement will be used to improve water quality in the Lower Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, Hogan said. Parts of the agreement will be submitted for approval to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as part of the licensing renewal for the dam.
Carver: The cranberry industry is looking to solar power for relief as it struggles with plummeting fruit prices. Cranberry farmers in Massachusetts, the nation’s second-largest grower after Wisconsin, are proposing to build solar panels above their bogs. Jordan Macknick, an analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, says the novel approach to blending solar production with crop cultivation is being researched but hasn’t been tried before on a large scale anywhere in the world. Michael Wainio, a Massachusetts cranberry farmer proposing one of the projects, says revenue from solar power is essential to maintaining his family’s farm near Cape Cod. University of Massachusetts researchers have launched a study to examine the idea. Opponents argue there would be long-term environmental consequences.
Detroit: The funeral for John Conyers, who served more than 50 years in Congress, will be held Monday at a church in the city. The public will get a chance to show their respect for Conyers on Saturday and Sunday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Conyers died Sunday at age 90, two years after resigning from the U.S. House. Monica Conyers tells The Detroit News that her husband’s funeral will be held at Greater Grace Temple. She anticipates former President Bill Clinton will attend, along with elected officials. On Twitter, Clinton called Conyers a “champion for justice & equality.” Conyers was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and is credited with creating the federal holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Minneapolis: Data show that the University of Minnesota’s 2019 freshmen class is the biggest in 50 years and includes the most students of color in the school’s history. The Minnesota Daily reports the Office of Institutional Research’s numbers reveal that most freshmen – about 54% – are female. In 2010, 18% of the freshman class was students of color. Now, minority students make up more than a quarter of this year’s class. Vice provost and dean of the school’s Office of Undergraduate Education Bob McMaster says part of the rise is due to changes in Minnesota high schools, which have seen demographic shifts in recent years. Still, the number of black students remains relatively small. About 5% of new students are black, up slightly from over 4% a decade ago.
Jackson: With the nationwide closure of Fred’s Pharmacy, one county is taking it really hard. The residents of Kemper County in east-central Mississippi now find themselves without any pharmacy in the entire county. Residents will have to place and pick up prescriptions at pharmacies in Meridian or Philadelphia – about a 30-minute drive to each one. Mississippi Board of Pharmacy President Ryan Harper says that will be an issue for some of the state’s most critical patients. He says patients on multiple prescriptions also usually have a huge hurdle of having access to reliable transportation. Fred’s closed Oct. 18. It was located in the county seat, Dekalb, with a population of just over 1,000 residents.
Kansas City: The mayor is proposing an ordinance aimed at helping police keep firearms away from those with a history of domestic violence. The Kansas Star reports that the ordinance Quinton Lucas unveiled Wednesday would allow police to take firearms from domestic violence offenders or those who are the subject of restraining orders. A similar federal law exists, but backers say a local law would help police and prosecutors pursue the cases. Lucas and his staff wrote the proposal with help from the Rose Brooks Center, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Shelter victim advocate Annie Struby says more than half of the most dangerous domestic abusers in Kansas City have access to firearms.
Helena: The state has spent more than $2 million on snow plowing so far this year, surpassing what costs were by this date for the past two years. The Independent Record reports snow plowing costs for the state Department of Transportation increased by more than 250% since last year. Department officials say they spent $575,577 from July 1 to Oct. 28 last year and $544,872 during the same period in 2017. Officials say record snowstorms have hit large regions just days into the fall season, breaking decadeslong snowfall records in cities like Great Falls. Officials say about 277,800 miles have been plowed so far this season. Only a quarter of that was plowed this time last year. Officials say costs include labor, operating equipment and materials.
North Platte: Officials have begun the process to get the city’s downtown placed on the National Register of Historic Places. City officials convened an open house Monday to review the federal and state historic-district guidelines with members of an Omaha planning firm and the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office. Omaha-based RDG will prepare North Platte’s nomination papers. Stephanie Rose, an urban planner for the firm, says residents are welcome to share their thoughts and historic information with her over the coming months. If the U.S. National Park Service adds downtown North Platte to the register, buildings that are at least 50 years old within the district could qualify for federal and state historic tax credits to help pay for rehabilitation projects.
Las Vegas: The state’s casinos took in nearly $1.06 billion in winnings last month – a high for 2019 and a record for September in a key index of state fiscal health. Nevada Gaming Control Board analyst Michael Lawton attributes Wednesday’s healthy “gaming win” report to an increase in slot machine play and results from Las Vegas Strip and Clark County casinos. Lawton says a 6.8% increase in the monthly figure compared with the same month a year ago was the fourth straight increase in the year-to-year comparison. The state took in almost $66.4 million in taxes on the September 2019 figures. The $1.059 billion tally topped the previous September best of $1.058 billion in 2007 by just $100,000. October 2007 was the best month ever for casino winnings, at $1.165 billion.
Congress: New Hampshire
Durham: The University System of New Hampshire has announced that tuition for in-state students will be frozen in place for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Concord Monitor reports that the state board of trustees announced Tuesday that it had unanimously voted to freeze tuition for undergraduate students. The freeze will go into effect for students at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, Keene State College and Granite State College. The New Hampshire House recently increased the state’s appropriation to the university system by $12 million over two years to freeze tuition. Gov. Chris Sununu called the announcement a “big win for New Hampshire students.” This is the system’s first tuition freeze since 2013.
Congress: New Jersey
Woodbridge: A small plane crashed through the roof of a home Tuesday, killing the pilot and causing an explosion that set two houses ablaze in a New Jersey suburb of New York City. No one was in the home in which the Cessna 414 crashed, but flames spread to another house, where a woman escaped injury, Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said. The plane went down about 11 a.m. not far from an elementary school, according to National Transportation Safety Board investigator Adam Gerhardt. The crash sent flames into the air, belched smoke for hours and left neighbors thinking the earth was shaking. Gerhardt said the pilot was flying using instrument flight rules typically used by experienced pilots when flying with reduced visibility. The weather in the area was cloudy and misty at the time of the crash.
Congress: New Mexico
Albuquerque: The U.S. House has approved legislation that would prohibit oil and gas development on federal land surrounding a national park held sacred by numerous Native American tribes. The vote came Wednesday to make permanent a buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico says there are some areas where drilling should not take place, and the area around Chaco is one of them. Aside from prohibiting new permits and canceling any existing nonproducing leases, the measure suggests additional studies and protective measures should be taken to address health, safety and environmental effects on nearby communities and tribal interests. The area includes land belonging to the Navajo Nation and individual tribal members. The legislation does not affect those parcels.
Congress: New York
New York: City lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill that bans restaurants and grocery stores from selling foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose, considered a culinary delicacy for centuries. The bill, expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, would forbid the sale of the French specialty starting in 2022. Animal welfare activists had campaigned for a ban on the grounds that the methods used to produce foie gras are cruel, involving force-feeding a bird a corn-based mixture through a tube slipped down its throat. Farmers who produce foie gras – meaning fatty liver in French – say the birds are treated humanely and don’t suffer during the fattening process. The council vote was 42-6 for the final version of the bill that calls for a fine of up to $2,000 for each violation. With about 1,000 New York restaurants offering foie gras, top chefs did not take kindly to the news, including Momofuku’s David Chang, who called it “idiocracy.”
Congress: North Carolina
Spencer: The state has received a federal grant to renovate a 1920s rail car that was built to comply with the racist Jim Crow laws of the 20th century. State officials say the National Park Service awarded a grant of more than $287,000 to renovate the railroad car that’s now at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer. The 44-seat coach hasn’t been used since 1969. The car has 22 seats in the rear that were designated for African Americans so that it complied with segregation laws. It needs extensive renovation, including asbestos removal. The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources says it’s one of few such cars held by a museum for public viewing. Another one is at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Congress: North Dakota
Bismarck: The state auditor is retracting an audit critical of the city of Williston after officials provided more information to the state. Auditor Josh Gallion issued the audit report Monday but retracted it late Tuesday. Gallion says the audit “highlighted several areas of concern,” including a violation of the state’s open meetings law and $92 million in airport contracts that were not disclosed in financial statements. Gallion says the city auditor signed off on the report last week. But Gallion says the city has now provided more information for review. Gallion says auditors are reviewing the new information and will issue a revised audit later.
Cleveland: A federal civil rights lawsuit says a 10-year-old Muslim boy was questioned about his patriotism and religious beliefs by a student teacher at a school outside Cleveland and was ordered to undress to determine whether his parents had abused him. The lawsuit filed last week says the boy’s teacher, the student teacher and a nurse for the Lakeview Local School District in Cortland held him against his will in a room last November and coerced him into saying he’d been disciplined by his mother with a belt. Family attorney Matthew Abens says a county children’s services investigation quickly determined there was no wrongdoing by his parents. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says the boy is being treated for trauma.
Oklahoma City: Health officials say the frequency of congenital syphilis cases has risen sharply in the state during the past five years and continues to increase. The Oklahoma Department of Health said Tuesday that the state has experienced a 283% increase in the number of congenital syphilis cases among women since 2014 and a 92% increase since last year. Adults transmit syphilis through sexual contact, but health officials say congenital syphilis can be transmitted by an infected mother to her baby in the womb or through the birthing process. The disease can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, birth defects and death. Officials say health care providers should test pregnant women for the disease early in their pregnancy and again early in the third trimester.
Salem: The number of wolves in the state is growing, but not particularly fast. State biologists tallied a minimum of 124 wolves statewide last year, according to the annual wolf report released Wednesday. The number represented an 11% increase over the previous year, but only a growth of 14 animals since 2015. Four wolves were killed illegally in 2017, and another five were killed due to conflict with livestock. Wolves continued to expand their territory. A pair of resident wolves were documented in the Mount Hood area for the first time, meaning the apex predator has a foothold in every region of the state except the coast. Oregon is home to at least 12 wolf packs, according to the report, including 11 that have a breeding male and female with at least two pups that survived the winter.
Bethlehem: A prosecutor says he will recommend dismissal of charges against a woman authorities say handed her 1-month-old baby to a bus driver and walked away in tears. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Wednesday that 26-year-old Ashley Walters “clearly has some mental health issues.” He said she had displayed combative and erratic behavior and would be involuntarily committed for treatment. Walters was charged with child endangerment after authorities said she boarded a bus in Bethlehem, placed her son on the farebox and told the driver to call police because “this was her son that she can’t take care of.” Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven Law allows babies up to 28 days old to be left at a hospital or police station. Morganelli says Walters’ baby was 32 days old.
Congress: Rhode Island
Providence: The city has come up with what it calls a “climate justice plan” to reduce its carbon footprint while accounting for the needs of low-income and minority neighborhoods. The plan unveiled Friday by the city’s Office of Sustainability and Racial and Environmental Justice Committee includes getting 100% of municipal buildings’ electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and making all city vehicles and school buses run on renewable energy by 2040. Priorities outlined in the 88-page plan include planting more trees and expanding green spaces; investing in bike paths, trails and sidewalk improvements; and eliminating food waste. The plan says neighborhoods with the largest populations of people of color and lowest median incomes have the most pollution, the severe health effects from environmental causes, and the least amount of green space.
Congress: South Carolina
Charleston: Environmental groups are taking steps toward suing a company they say is responsible for polluting the state’s waters with tiny plastic beads. News outlets report the groups represented by Southern Environmental Law Center sent Frontier Logistics a 60-day legal notice Monday on grounds it violated the Clean Water Act. The state environmental control department cited Frontier in July after the plastic bits, called nurdles, were found in its facility and thought to be the same ones spilled onto Sullivan’s Island. Environmental groups say they’re still washing up. But Frontier’s vice president contends the nurdles can’t be traced to it. An environmental control spokeswoman said Frontier installed preventative measures, so the agency closed the matter. The pellets are turned into plastic products, and environmentalists say marine animals mistake them for food.
Congress: South Dakota
Sioux Falls: University leaders tell state lawmakers they’re working to implement a new law aimed at ensuring free speech and intellectual diversity on campus. A legislative committee summoned regents and university presidents to a meeting Wednesday to detail their efforts to comply with the law. Its passage last spring came after controversy over a “Hawaiian Day” party theme at the University of South Dakota revived conservative lawmakers’ complaints about political correctness on campus. The university presidents said they’re holding trainings for students and faculty on protecting speech. They say they’re also working to gauge students’ experiences on campus. The Board of Regents is required to give a written report on its implementation of the law by Dec. 1.
Cleveland: You’ve heard of a pumpkin being turned into a carriage, but what about into a boat? Justin Ownby has tried for years to grow the perfect giant pumpkin, with limited success. This year, though, he outdid himself. “We’ve pumpkin spiced everything else; why not pumpkin spice a boat?” he said. Ownby, 36, owns a family farm in Cleveland with his wife, Christin, 32, and their four children. A massive pumpkin in his patch grew to more than 900 pounds and several feet across this year, big enough to carve out space for a grown man to sit inside it and paddle across a pond – before it sank under him. “It’s fish food now,” Ownby said with a laugh. “There’s catfish in there. They’ll make short work of that thing.”
Harlingen: The critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle had an offseason for nesting this year along beaches in the state, with 190 nests recorded in Texas. The Valley Morning Star reports the number, which covers a geographic area from the Bolivar Peninsula south to Boca Chica beach, was down from 250 nests logged last year and 353 in 2017. But this year’s sharp drop-off in Kemp’s ridley nesting in Mexico has set off yellow-flag alerts among scientists who track and study the species. The Texas nesting numbers were not necessarily poor by the standards of the past decade, and they tend to fluctuate because adult females don’t return to their home beach every year to lay a clutch of eggs. Recent studies show female Kemp’s ridleys may come back to nest at three-plus-year intervals.
Salt Lake City: A state liquor commission has announced it is running out of bar licenses for potential business owners again after a similar shortage two years ago. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control handed out its last 2019 bar permits Tuesday to two establishments in Lehi and West Valley City. Department authorities say five other business were placed on the waiting list, some of them planning to open in November and December. Officials say businesses must wait for a population increase after applying due to a state law allowing one bar for every 10,200 people. Officials say three permits are expected before July 2020 following new population information. Some owners say the Legislature should review the population quota.
Montpelier: The state has named a new poet laureate. Republican Gov. Phil Scott appointed Mary Ruefle to the honorary position this week. WCAX-TV reports she was recommended by a panel of judges. The poet laureate is picked every four years and serves as the state’s ambassador for the art of poetry, participating in ceremonies and readings in Vermont and nationwide. Ruefle said at the ceremony Monday that she was honored to join the ranks of those who served before her and was humbled and scared. She said she’s used to that and said that’s how she feels in the face of poetry and as “a member of that tribe.” Chard Deniord was the state’s last poet laureate. Robert Frost served as Vermont’s first in 1961.
Richmond: Democrats hoping to seize control of the Legislature in next month’s elections say passing the long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment will be a top priority next year. Passed by Congress in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment would ban discrimination on the basis of sex, explicitly enshrining equality for women in the U.S. Constitution. Thirty-seven states have ratified it, and advocates say having 38 would meet the constitutional threshold for approval, though it would also likely spark court battles over a long-passed ratification deadline and other legal questions. Other states are working toward ratification, but advocates say the once solidly conservative Virginia, where every seat is on the ballot in November, appears closest. The measure has cleared Virginia’s GOP-controlled Senate before but stalled in the House, which Republicans also narrowly control.
Yakima: County officials have announced a proposal to turn a jail into a homeless shelter and use an additional sales tax for funding. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the proposal would convert the 288-bed jail into a multi-care facility named the Yakima County Care Campus. Yakima County commissioners say the 0.3% countywide sales tax that generates more than $3.5 million a year could fund the care facility with commissioner approval. Officials say commissioners are expected to hold a city hall meeting Oct. 29 to decide. Commissioners say the facility would offer mental health services, substance abuse treatment and long-term housing. Officials say an 8,000-square-foot storage building on the jail’s property would be used as permanent shelter. Commissioners expect to fully convert the facility by 2026.
Congress: West Virginia
Richwood: An 11-foot python that was on the loose was found Tuesday, about a month after it got out of its tank, broke through a window screen and slithered outside. Richwood Police Chief Charles Burkhamer says a letter carrier saw the snake laying out in the sun next to a roadway Tuesday, about a block away from where it escaped a month ago. Authorities had been scouring the area trying to find the reptile, and Richwood residents had been notified to keep watch over small children and house pets. Burkhamer said he faced a practical question as he looked at the massive snake on the side of the road. “What am I going to do with it?” he wondered. “We didn’t have a dog crate big enough.” So Burkhamer stuck the snake in a trash can for safekeeping until it could be returned to its owner, who has been asked to register the animal with state officials and reinforce the reptile’s tank.
Madison: The state has the widest achievement gap between black and white students of any state based on results of a test known as the nation’s report card. The National Assessment of Educational Progress test results released Wednesday show no significant change from statewide results a decade ago. However, declining scores for the lowest-performing students resulted in Wisconsin having the widest achievement gap of any state. State superintendent of schools Carolyn Stanford Taylor says the achievement gap is a crisis, and closing the gaps is “imperative for our state.” The test was given to students in fourth and eighth grades last spring. Wisconsin’s scores were higher than the national averages in both grades and in both subjects.
Cody: Farmers in the state are wrapping up a difficult year for sugar beets. A cold snap followed by a week of mild temperatures is threatening the harvest in the Bighorn Basin. A freeze followed by a thaw causes liquids to run out and spoil other beets when they’re stacked in piles. It also lowers the sugar content and price for beets. The Cody Enterprise reports a summer hailstorm and rainy weather also made for a difficult year. Farmer Cody Easum says harvest size and sugar content are both low this year. A local beet pile is growing by about 1,200 tons per day, down from 3,000-4,000 tons in a typical year.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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