National Security: Alabama
Montgomery: The nation’s first memorial to lynching victims is expanding. The Equal Justice Initiative on Saturday opened a new welcome center and exhibition space that will add to the existing lynching memorial and museum that documents the history of racial inequality in America. The downtown pavilion will serve as a hub for visitors to the two previously opened sites: EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which documents the era of racial terror lynchings between 1877 and 1950, and the Legacy Museum. The Legacy Pavilion will include a monument to women, men and children who were victims of racial terror lynchings in the Civil War’s aftermath. It will also honor civil rights figures including Martin Luther King Jr., Claudette Colvin, John Lewis, Rosa Parks, Jonathan Daniels, Jo Ann Robinson, and E.D. Nixon and describe Montgomery’s role in fueling a civil rights movement. It’ll also include a gift shop, soul food restaurant, and a shuttle service to the memorial and museum.
National Security: Alaska
Juneau: The University of Alaska Southeast and other schools in the state university system have proposed increasing tuition starting in the fall to combat a decrease in state funding. The 5% increase was brought about after significant cuts to the state’s funding of the University of Alaska system, the Juneau Empire reports. The increase would generate up to $500,000 for the system and apply to resident undergraduate students, university chancellor Rick Caulfield said. Students taking 15 credit hours of courses a semester would pay about $400 more each year, university officials said. Only three students participated in a meeting scheduled for them to address university officials about the proposal, Caulfield said. Teacher education, marine biology and science programs, and mining and maritime-oriented vocational training are some of the university’s most successful programs, university officials said.
National Security: Arizona
Heber-Overgaard: U.S. Forest Service officials confirm that seven more wild horses have been found dead in eastern Arizona after eight others were found earlier this month and say that at least some were shot. “Several horses died due to bullet wounds,” but other carcasses were too badly decomposed to determine the cause of death, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests officials said in a statement Friday. The statement said the 15 carcasses were found in a ranger district headquartered in Heber-Overgaard, a rural community 109 miles northeast of Phoenix. According to the statement, evidence was limited because some of the carcasses “had been exposed to extreme weather conditions over extended periods of time.” Forest officials said law enforcement officials had taken steps to more quickly deploy equine experts and veterinarians to incident scenes to help collect evidence.
National Security: Arkansas
Little Rock: A state commission has approved nearly $9 million in funding to repair levees damaged by record flooding last year. The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission approved the $8.8 million in grant funding Thursday for 14 groups overseeing levees along the Arkansas River that were damaged last year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. The largest grants were for $1.6 million for the Riverdale area in Little Rock and $1.5 million for a levee district in Dardanelle. Last year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson created a task force to study how to improve the state’s aging levee system. The group presented its final report earlier this month and recommended increased oversight, consolidation of some levee districts, and state grants to fund improvements. Last year’s springtime flooding along the Arkansas River occurred because of heavy rainfall in Kansas and Oklahoma.
National Security: California
Sacramento: The state increased its efforts Friday to keep the federal government from allowing oil and gas drilling on more than 1 million acres of public land, suing to block the Trump administration from issuing new permits in the central part of the state. The federal lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management follows a new state law also intended to counter Trump administration plans to increase oil and gas production on protected public land. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued on behalf of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration, saying the permits would allow the controversial extraction method called hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. Newsom in October signed a law barring any California leasing authority from allowing pipelines or other oil and gas infrastructure to be built on state property. Federally protected areas are adjacent to state-owned land.
National Security: Colorado
Denver: After former Gov. John Hickenlooper came under fire for how he spent money from a little-known account in his office, similar accounts have been noted throughout state government that hold millions of taxpayer dollars, KCNC-TV reports. The money in the accounts comes from sources like federal dollars and legal settlements, and departments don’t have to disclose it to the Legislature. Democratic Sen. Dominick Moreno plans to change that with a bill he says the powerful Joint Budget Committee is drafting this year. As vice chair of the committee, Moreno has in-depth knowledge of state finances. But he says even he didn’t know about all the money state departments take in that isn’t reported and over which the Legislature has no control. The Colorado Sun reports the Hickenlooper account is paying ongoing legal bills related to an ethics complaint against the current U.S. Senate candidate.
National Security: Connecticut
Hartford: The Democratic speaker of the state House says lawmakers should consider whether to ban Native American athletic nicknames and symbols at public high schools after one school restored its Redmen mascot just months after dropping it. “I’d like to see a bill introduced to have a public hearing and have the discussion,” Joe Aresimowicz told the Hartford Courant. The school board in Killingly voted in June to drop the high school’s Redmen nickname and then replaced it with Red Hawks in October. The board, with an infusion of new Republican members, restored Redmen last month. Aresimowicz called the mascot “highly offensive.” Across the state, 19 public high schools use Native American-themed nicknames or imagery. Opponents of such names say they are racist and perpetuate stereotypes. The defenders of Native mascots and symbols say they are signs of respect.
National Security: Delaware
Hockessin: A local temple is now home to a statue of a Hindu god said to be the tallest in the country. Hundreds of people celebrated the arrival of the 25-foot granite statue of the Hindu god Hanuman on Saturday morning at a temple in Hockessin. A welcome ceremony was held after a truck delivered the 60,000-pound statue. “Across India, Lord Hanuman is often enshrined and worshipped in the form of a towering statue, and we are proud to bring that tradition to Delaware,” says Patibanda Sarma, president of the Hindu Temple Association. Organizers of the effort to bring the statue to Delaware had said it would be the tallest statue of a Hindu god carved out of a single piece of stone in the United States. Sculptors in India spent about a year carving it.
National Security: District of Columbia
Washington: Thousands gathered on Freedom Plaza on Saturday as part of the nationwide Women’s March rallies focused on issues such as climate change, pay equity, reproductive rights and immigration, though crowds were noticeably smaller than in previous years. The 2017 march drew close to 1 million people. Last year about 100,000 held a rally east of the White House. This year’s protesters planned to march around the White House, but President Donald Trump wasn’t there, as he was spending the weekend at his resort in Florida. Organizers faced criticism from some local African American activists for failing to focus on local issues and damaging the ability of local activists to organize. “Local D.C. is a domestic colony and the actions of national organizers have to recognize that,” Black Lives Matter D.C. wrote in a letter last week to Women’s March organizers. “Here in D.C., these unstrategic mass mobilizations distract from local organizing, often overlook the black people who actually live here and even result in tougher laws against demonstration being passed locally.”
National Security: Florida
Tallahassee: The Legislature set a lot of lofty goals for its annual 60-day session: passing a budget expected to top $90 billion; lowering the cost of health care; preventing blue-green algae; and boosting teacher pay. But also on the agenda entering the second week of session are measures banning iguana breeding, protecting nude sunbathers, making shelter animals the official state pet, banning sunscreen bans, and giving hunters a sales tax break on guns and ammo. The full Senate will take up a bill that would ban local governments from banning sunscreens, while a House committee takes up its version of the bill, in reaction to Key West banning the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, which some researchers say can harm coral reefs.
National Security: Georgia
Atlanta: The state is on track to have its new election system ready for the presidential primaries in March, lawyers for the state assured a judge Friday, but critics pushed for a more concrete backup plan in case things don’t go as planned. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg tried throughout a conference call to strike a balance between the interests of the two sides while making it clear that she does not consider herself a “guarantor” for the state’s election system rollout. Totenberg is presiding over a lawsuit filed in 2017 by election integrity advocates and individual voters who alleged that the state’s outdated touch-screen voting machines and election management system, in use since 2002, were not secure and were vulnerable to hacking. Critics argue that the new system has many of the same security vulnerabilities as the old system and that voters can’t be sure the barcode read by the scanner accurately reflects their selections.
National Security: Hawaii
Honolulu: The U.S. Navy is honoring a World War II hero in naming a new aircraft carrier for Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller. The announcement is expected to be made at Pearl Harbor on Monday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Miller was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross for valor. He was recognized for manning a machine gun on the USS West Virginia and returning fire against Japanese planes during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. USS Miller, a destroyer escort, was previously named in his honor. An African American was not allowed to man a gun in the Navy in 1941, said Doreen Ravenscroft, a team leader for the Doris Miller Memorial. “Without him really knowing, he actually was a part of the civil rights movement because he changed the thinking in the Navy,” Ravenscroft said. Two of Miller’s nieces are expected to be at Pearl Harbor for the announcement.
National Security: Idaho
Boise: The state has the nation’s sixth-highest growth rate for spending on corrections in the past 25 years, and with the governor proposing a 12.1% budget increase for the Department of Correction, the department’s director says the state is at a “critical juncture,” the Idaho Press reports. Idaho increased spending on corrections by 207% between 1992 and 2018, according to a report by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy in Boise. Idaho’s expenditures outpace its spending during the same time period on education, which increased by 94% for public schools and 39% for higher education. At least some of that spending is the result of policy decisions the Legislature made in the past 40 years, according to the report. Idaho is one of only three states in the country where inmates are required by law to serve 100% of their fixed terms, the result of truth-in-sentencing legislation passed in the 1980s, according to the report.
National Security: Illinois
Chicago: The city will test updated bus routes on the West Side under a pilot program recently approved by the Chicago Transit Board. City officials tout the change as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s promise to invest in neighborhoods outside the downtown core. The pilot program is designed to provide streamlined service along the city’s grid system and improve connections to city trains, according to city officials. For example, riders will have more access to jobs, services and schools near the University of Illinois at Chicago, where there are also several hospitals. The changes take effect in April and will last one year. Chicago Transit Authority staff will determine whether to make the changes permanent. The changes will cost about $550,000 and be funded with CTA operating funds, according to officials.
National Security: Indiana
Bloomington: Portions of two parks are getting a special designation because of a rare tree species. Areas in Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest will be considered high conservation value forest areas in an effort to preserve the yellowwood tree population. The Forest Stewardship Council’s certification is a way to ensure that 591 acres where the trees are growing are managed so they remain part of the landscape, says Mike Spalding, resource specialist with Monroe-Monroe and Yellowwood state forests. Civilian Conservation Corps workers in Brown County State Park first discovered the trees in 1933. Forester T.E. Shaw and Charles Deam, Indiana’s first state forester, verified and documented the discovery. One theory was that the yellowwood trees were brought north by Kentucky settlers, but that was proven false when the trees were analyzed. The results showed the trees were genetically distinct and had been in the area for thousands of years.
National Security: Iowa
Waterloo: Organizers of an emergency warming shelter say they will have to close because the space doesn’t meet fire code regulations. The Waterloo Warming Center opened Jan. 6 at Jubilee United Methodist Church’s Freedom resource center. But after an inspection, officials noted the space didn’t have a sprinkler system and ordered that the center close by Tuesday. Organizers began searching for a new location and implored city officials not to force them out of the current site until a replacement can be found. Temperatures are supposed to remain below freezing until later this week. “We understand and appreciate the need for fire safety regulations, but we cannot close this location down until a new appropriate location has been secured,” Black Hawk County Supervisor Chris Schwartz told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. “The alternative is leaving folks out to freeze to death on our streets.”
National Security: Kansas
Topeka: Former governor and plastic surgeon Jeff Colyer is about to add Chaka Khan backup singer to his resume. Colyer is part of a student and faculty choir that will join the “Queen of Funk” on stage for a Martin Luther King Day event hosted by Georgetown University at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Kansas City Star reports. “I get to be a backup singer for Chaka Khan. That’s pretty cool,” said Colyer, who was was a fellow at Georgetown’s Institute of Politics and Public Service during the fall semester. The performance will include a piece composed by Khan, who achieved success in the 1970s as a vocalist in the funk band Rufus and as a solo artist in the 1980s with her hit single “I Feel For You.” Colyer, of Overland Park, was lieutenant governor in 2018 and rose to the top job after fellow Republican Sam Brownback resigned to take an ambassadorship.
National Security: Kentucky
Frankfort: Inmate populations and deteriorating prisons are sapping the state of money needed for priorities like education and health care, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says. Stepping up his push for criminal justice reform as the “fiscally responsible thing to do,” Beshear said Friday that the state needs to reduce incarceration rates, which in turn would create opportunities to consolidate prisons. “Criminal-justice reform isn’t just the right thing to do – and I believe it is – it’s the moral thing to do,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “It is absolutely necessary to do for this budget and most especially for every budget” after that. Beshear, who previously served as the state’s attorney general, stressed that he wants to revamp the criminal-justice system in a way that doesn’t compromise public safety.
National Security: Louisiana
New Orleans: Plans are on again to implode a hotel building that partially collapsed last fall, killing three workers, city officials said Friday. Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said at a news conference that the implosion is expected to take place in mid-March. Implosion had been considered and then rejected in the weeks after the Oct. 12 collapse at the planned Hard Rock Hotel on Canal Street, at the edge of the French Quarter. But on Friday, officials said the implosion plan was back on. It was deemed safer than having workers dismantle the structure. “Putting more people at risk, I cannot live with that and will not support that,” Cantrell said. And it will mean commerce and traffic can return to the area around the unstable building more quickly. Implosion will also bring the building down ahead of hurricane season, which begins June 1.
National Security: Maine
Westbrook: What goes around comes around. An ice disk appears to be forming in the same river where an unusually large one formed last winter and quickly gained international fame. The City of Westbrook tweeted an aerial view of the disk in the Presumpscot River with the message: “ICE BREAKING NEWS: Ice Disk 2020 is making a run for it…It’s not a perfect circle yet, but it is rotating counter-clockwise again & the seagulls are along for the ride.” The ice formation comes just about a year after a disk measuring about 100 yards in diameter was spotted in the Presumpscot River. It eventually had a devoted webcam; social media users compared it to an alien spacecraft and the moon; and ducks used it as a raft. A video of the disk shows a nascent ice blob that is thinner and less circular than the famous disk of 2019.
National Security: Maryland
Baltimore: The city will formally name a courthouse after the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings in the first half of 2020. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young on Friday unveiled the renderings of the bronze plaques that will be affixed to the building’s exterior. One includes an image and biography of the congressman, and the other reads “Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse.” The powerful Democratic congressman and civil rights champion died Oct. 17 at age 68 of complications from long-standing health issues. He had represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore, since 1996. Cummings graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and practiced in Baltimore. “Elijah was a son of Baltimore. He was proud of Baltimore,” his widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, said during the unveiling ceremony. “His career as a legal professional started in this courthouse.”
National Security: Massachusetts
Boston: A push to expand school breakfast programs is making its way through the Legislature. The state Senate last week unanimously approved legislation aimed at increasing participation rates in the programs. The bill would require public schools with 60% or more of students currently eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the school bell rings. Massachusetts currently requires all high-poverty schools to provide breakfast to every eligible student. Because breakfast is typically offered before the bell, participation levels are less than 40%, compared to up to 90% participation for free and reduced lunch. Supporters of the bill say moving breakfast to after the bell will boost participation and ensure all students have the nutrition they need.
National Security: Michigan
Owosso: A whopping $43,170 in forgotten cash was discovered inside a footstool donated to a resale shop. Howard Kirby bought the piece and other furniture for $70 after Christmas. He was stunned Sunday when his daughter-in-law unzipped the cushion and shouted. After the shock wore off, he began the extraordinary step of returning the money to the former owners. “I do what I can to be as much like Christ as I can, and this is the moral thing to do,” said Kirby, 54. “This is going to help them. I’m so happy for them.” The footstool was part of a living room set donated to a Habitat For Humanity store by Kim Fauth-Newberry and her husband. The furniture had belonged to her grandfather, Phillip Fauth, who died in July. Fauth-Newberry said Fauth was a frugal man who always paid in cash, even $9,000 for a new roof. The newly discovered money was separated with paper clips and topped with handwritten notes.
National Security: Minnesota
Minneapolis: The state’s voters on Friday became some of the first in the country to cast ballots in the presidential primaries as early voting began for the Super Tuesday contest. Eligible Minnesota voters can now vote at county courthouses across the state and early voting stations in some cities, and they can also request absentee ballots for the March 3 primary. But the votes won’t be counted until primary night. Fifteen candidates are on the Democratic ballot, even though some already have dropped out of the race. The GOP ballot lists only President Donald Trump, though write-in votes are allowed. It’s Minnesota’s first presidential primary since 1992 after years of using precinct caucuses to kick off the process of selecting national convention delegates. Voters must request either a Democratic or Republican ballot, and their names will be shared with the state’s major parties.
National Security: Mississippi
Jackson: The Board of Education is keeping the state’s U.S. history exam, despite months of pressure from teachers and others to cut testing. The board voted unanimously Thursday to keep the test, one of four public school students must take in high school. A testing task force in August had recommended the state do away with what’s the only state test not required by federal law. “It was extremely disheartening that board members placed so much confidence in a staff recommendation over the recommendations of the task force, commission, and multiple surveys of practitioners throughout the state that favored elimination of the assessment,” Mississippi Professional Educators, the state’s largest teachers group, wrote in a message to members.
National Security: Missouri
St. Louis: The president of a predominantly black police union says the city prosecutor’s lawsuit is correct in pointing out racial concerns in St. Louis, including biases within the police department itself. Ethical Society of Police President Heather Taylor stopped short of endorsing Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s federal lawsuit accusing “entrenched interests” of impeding her efforts to reform racist practices, but Taylor questioned how anyone could ignore the department’s “long history of racial discrimination.” She said in a statement that denying racial bias within the department is “a slap in the face to minority and non-minority officers with whom we are proud to serve.” She said the union has often cited racial disparities in discipline, promotions and job placement.
National Security: Montana
Choteau: An ice jam that has caused flooding along a creek in central Montana had nearly submerged a town park and was rising into residents’ basements and crawl spaces, leading the city to declare a state of emergency Friday. The ice jam came after subzero temperatures and was exacerbated by high ground water. It is likely to remain until warmer temperatures thaw the blocked culverts and stream beds. Water up to 6 inches deep was reported on some streets after ice traveling down Spring Creek was backed up, weather officials said. The ice jam came after temperatures dropped to 20 degrees below zero, officials said. Residents were encouraged to take shorter showers and reduce the amount of times toilets are flushed to avoid overwhelming the sewer system. Sewer main lines were completely filled, and crews sandbagged manholes in the area to avoid further surface water infiltration, city officials said.
National Security: Nebraska
Lincoln: Want to try your hand at waterfowl or turkey hunting, but leery of the expense of buying blinds and decoys? The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a solution. UNL’s Outdoor Adventure Center is now offering that equipment for rent to the public. The rentals had previously been offered for about a year only to the university’s students. Officials recently decided to expand the policy to allow the public to rent the equipment, too. Micaela Rahe with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said it’s the first program of its kind in the state. Hunting gear currently available for rent includes a pop-up blind, layout blind, duck decoy set of 14 birds and a jake/hen turkey decoy combination. Each is individually available to the public for $6 per day, $12 for three days or $16 for a full week.
National Security: Nevada
Reno: A pigeon wearing a tiny sombrero was discovered following sightings of its cowboy hat-wearing cousins in Las Vegas, a city manager says. Reno City Manager Sabra Newby tweeted about the bird Wednesday, saying it’s quirky and fun but still inhumane, KOLO-TV reports. It is the first known sighting of hat-wearing birds in the region, Washoe County Regional Animal Services officials say. The sighting comes after a pigeon in Las Vegas with a miniature cowboy hat glued to its head died last week, animal officials say. People who see the bird are encouraged to call animal service dispatch officers, officials say. It is unclear who put the hat on the bird. “Reno cares about our animals,” Newby says. “They need protection and don’t need to become a punchline.”
National Security: New Hampshire
Concord: A group that organized a big memorial bike ride following the deaths of seven motorcyclists in a collision with a pickup truck is presenting the state agencies that helped out with a custom-made, wooden U.S. flag. The flag is etched with the victims’ names from the June crash in Randolph. A presentation by the Ride for Fallen 7 Foundation is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday at the state Incident Planning and Operations Center, where the flag will be displayed. The building houses agencies from the safety and transportation departments. An estimated 3,000 motorcycles, with 4,500 riders from around the country, took part in the Ride for the Fallen 7 in July. They rode 90 miles from Laconia to the crash site in Randolph, where a memorial service was held. Those killed were members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club.
National Security: New Jersey
Trenton: Barring health insurance that excludes coverage for preexisting conditions and letting children stay on their parents’ plans until 26 would be preserved under a slate of new laws the state enacted last week, even if the Affordable Care Act is struck down in court. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the nine bills Thursday. They’re aimed at shoring up key provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, which is opposed by Republicans in Congress and the White House. Democratic and Republican attorneys general are fighting in court over the law, sometimes referred to as “Obamacare.” New Jersey has about 800,000 people benefiting from the law, with about half a million people getting covered through Medicaid expansion under the law and 300,000 on the individual marketplace.
National Security: New Mexico
Jemez Springs: A national preserve in northern New Mexico that is sometimes referred to as the “Yellowstone of the Southwest” has added another piece of property to its land holdings that contains sulfuric acid hot springs, volcanic fumaroles and steaming mud pots. The National Park Service announced last week that it recently completed the purchase of a 40-acre parcel known as Sulphur Springs within the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Many of the geothermal features on the property are found nowhere else in New Mexico, and similar sites are very rare in the Western United States, officials said. The acidic pools and streams in the area also are home to a range of “extremophile” algae and bacteria. Acquiring Sulphur Springs was critical to protecting the breadth of geothermal features within the preserve, officials said. The $500,000 purchase was made through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and nonprofit groups.
National Security: New York
New York: Federal authorities are turning to a new tactic in the escalating conflict over the city’s so-called sanctuary policies, issuing four “immigration subpoenas” for information about inmates wanted for deportation. “This is not a request – it’s a demand,” Henry Lucero, said a senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official. “This is a last resort for us. Dangerous criminals are being released every single day in New York.” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration said Saturday that the city would review the subpoenas. “New York City will not change the policies that have made us the safest big city in America,” spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said in an email. The development came days after ICE sent similar subpoenas to Denver, a move that reflected the agency’s mounting frustration with jurisdictions that do not honor deportation “detainers” or provide any details about defendants going in and out of local custody.
National Security: North Carolina
Wilson: Wilson County plans to add four new historical markers this year to commemorate African American heroes, including a 1946 effort to organize tobacco workers. Called Operation Dixie, the unionization effort was led by black women demanding better working conditions in the tobacco industry. The state unveiled a historical marker in Rocky Mount in 2011. The local chapter of the Tobacco Workers International Union formed in Wilson in 1946. Other markers to be unveiled in Wilson this year will honor the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute, Dr. Frank S. Hargrave, and Charles H. Darden, the Wilson Times reports. The marker for Hargrave describes him as the founder of Mercy Hospital, which treated African Americans in an era when even hospitals were segregated by race. In 1914, he was elected president of the National Medical Association, which was the African American equivalent of the American Medical Association.
National Security: North Dakota
Bismarck: Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday that he has pardoned 16 people convicted of low-level marijuana crimes, the first wave in what may be thousands under a new policy the first-term Republican said gives former offenders a second chance. The policy adopted last year allows people with low-level marijuana convictions to petition to have their records wiped clean if they avoid unlawful behavior for five years. The pardons erase the convictions as if they never occurred, and records are shielded from public view. Burgum and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem both supported the change, which brings North Dakota in line with some other states and cities. Past convictions can be problematic for people trying to find jobs and housing. Burgum has said the policy change could help address North Dakota’s workforce shortage and grow its economy, while removing the stigma for what are minor cases from years ago.
National Security: Ohio
Cincinnati: A woman who was among the “Freedom Riders” who challenged racial segregation in the 1960s will be the keynote speaker at a breakfast honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center says Betty Daniels Rosemond will speak Monday at the King Legacy Awards Breakfast recognizing participants in a youth leadership program. Three students will be given awards for their work. Rosemond grew up in New Orleans and joined the Congress of Racial Equality, a leading civil rights organization. She was among bus riders, black and white, who braved possible violence to advocate for racial equality in the segregated South. The center invites guests to join in the 45th annual MLK Coalition March in downtown Cincinnati after the breakfast that will include an interfaith prayer service at Fountain Square.
National Security: Oklahoma
Oklahoma City: A state panel that includes appointees of Gov. Kevin Stitt has approved more taxpayer subsidies for the Jenks-based company the governor founded and ran until after his election in 2018. The three-member Quality Jobs Program Incentive Approval Committee on Thursday voted unanimously to approve an application from Gateway First Bank. The contract was first reported by the online publication The Frontier. Two of the members who approved the application, Department of Commerce Director Brent Kisling and Oklahoma Tax Commission Chairman Charles Prater, were appointed by Stitt. Under the program, companies that create up to $2.5 million in new annual payrolls within three years can qualify for quarterly cash payments of up to 5% of new payroll costs. The company already has received more than $876,000 in taxpayer subsidies under an existing contract under the program, state records show.
National Security: Oregon
Salem: The state’s changing climate and ocean conditions are already harming its native fish and wildlife, officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife say. That’s making it difficult for ODFW to meet its statutory mandate to manage the resources in its care. In response, the department is developing a Climate and Ocean Change Policy that will help shape where its limited resources are spent. On Friday, the public and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission had their first chance to hear about the proposal. “Our climate and ocean are changing in ways that are not favorable for fish and wildlife,” said Shaun Clements, ODFW senior policy analyst. “We’ve been working on trying to address these impacts.” For example, Oregon may have to abandon spending in some areas where species are unlikely to survive, in order to focus on those where they will, said Davia Palmeri, the department’s conservation policy coordinator.
National Security: Pennsylvania
Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf says he will follow through on his plan to close another state prison, announced originally in August as a cost-cutting step amid a declining inmate population and rising prison costs. Wolf’s administration carried out the required hearings on its plan, which was criticized by the corrections’ officers union and state lawmakers whose districts surround Retreat state prison in northeastern Pennsylvania. Retreat, about 10 miles west of Wilkes-Barre, has about 400 employees and about 940 inmates. Closing could occur in four months at an annual savings of $40 million, the administration said. Employees will be offered jobs at another state prison within 65 miles of Retreat, it said. Retreat was particularly vulnerable to closing: Its original buildings date back to the 19th century, and it has the fewest beds of any of Pennsylvania’s 25 state prisons.
National Security: Rhode Island
Providence: Political, community and religious leaders are celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. at the state’s annual commemoration of the civil rights leader. The public is invited to the event, beginning at 4 p.m. Monday at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Providence. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and other elected leaders plan to attend. The Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission organizes the annual celebration. State Rep. Raymond Hull, a Providence Democrat, leads the commission and will serve as the master of ceremonies. Hull said Friday that with the turmoil in the nation today, it’s important to look back and reflect on what King stood for and how he brought people together to cure injustices. The commemoration includes speeches, awards and performances by the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir and RPM Voices of Rhode Island.
National Security: South Carolina
Greenville: A feature that has helped Furman University receive past honors as one of the most beautiful campuses in America has been taken away. Forty of the decades-old oak trees that lined Furman’s Mall have been cut down. They’ll be replaced with new species of oaks with life spans from 250 to more than 400 years: overcup, Nuttall’s, scarlet and swamp white, the university says. The nearly 70-year-old trees were starting to die, and limbs were starting to fall and become hazardous, according to Clinton Colmenares, spokesman for the university. Their removal is the latest phase in a multiyear project to replace original trees with better species that live longer and are just as big, Colmenares says. Furman broke ground on its current campus in 1953. The trees along the mall were planted between 1956 and 1958, the university says.
National Security: South Dakota
Pierre: Gov. Kristi Noem was the sixth-most-unpopular governor in the country in the final months of 2019, according to the Morning Consult’s latest polling. Forty-five percent of South Dakotans surveyed disapproved of the job Noem was doing as governor, and 43% approved, while 12% said they didn’t know, according to the 2019 fourth-quarter governors poll released Thursday by Morning Consult, a research services company. The poll had a 3% margin of error. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Thune was among the top 10 most popular senators in the Morning Consult’s 2019 fourth-quarter poll. Thune had an approval rating of 52%, and U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds had an approval rating of 50%, with a 3% margin of error, according to Morning Consult. Both of their Morning Consult approval ratings have remained in the low- to mid-50s range throughout 2019.
National Security: Tennessee
Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee will introduce legislation this year that would amend a law requiring the state to honor Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Lee’s office confirmed Friday that the Republican, who has previously expressed his displeasure over the honor, was working on the bill. The office did not provide further details. According to the law in question, Tennessee governors must sign six proclamations throughout the year designating as days of special observance Robert E. Lee Day (Jan. 19), Abraham Lincoln Day (Feb. 12), Andrew Jackson Day (March 15), Confederate Decoration Day (June 3), Nathan Bedford Forrest Day (July 13) and Veterans Day (Nov. 11). Lee received national backlash in July when signed the Nathan Bedford Forrest proclamation and declined to answer questions about whether he thought the law should change. Lee later clarified that he didn’t like signing the proclamation and would prefer to see the law changed.
National Security: Texas
Corpus Christi: Demolition of the last of the city’s three Columbus ship replicas began Thursday morning despite efforts to raise funds for repairs. The demolition of the La Nina comes after the Columbus Sailing Association was unable to raise enough money to support the reconstruction of a new bottom and main deck. The ship is one of three Columbus ship replicas that first sailed to Corpus Christi in 1992 as part of Spain’s 500th anniversary of the “Voyage to the New World” celebration. La Pinta and La Santa Maria were too costly to repair. The association created a GoFundMe campaign in 2017 to raise $100,000 to fix the damaged La Nina. The fundraiser has raised $4,335.
National Security: Utah
Salt Lake City: About a third of the state’s registered voters are at risk of not being able to participate in March’s Super Tuesday presidential primary if they don’t request ballots. State and county election officials have been sending letters and trying to get the message out before it’s too late. This will be the first time Utah takes part in Super Tuesday, when 14 states vote, after lawmakers moved up the primary to make the state more relevant in the process. The state’s nearly 510,000 independent voters can request a ballot for the Republican or Democratic primary, but the process is slightly different. The Republican primary is closed, so voters who want to cast a ballot must return the form to become GOP registered voters by Feb. 3. The Democratic primary is open, so independent voters can get a ballot without registering with the party. They have until Feb. 25 to request the ballot if they intend to remain unaffiliated but need to send it in by Feb. 3 if they want to become a registered Democrat.
National Security: Vermont
Burlington: State transportation officials said they are hopeful upgrades to the rail line between Rutland and Burlington can be ready sometime next year, which will make it possible to resume Amtrak rail service between the cities. Officials have been working for years to upgrade the 75 miles of rail and complete a number of other projects, such as station improvements and rail crossings. One of the major projects on the route, a new rail tunnel through downtown Middlebury, is slated for completion next year. Rutland Mayor David Allaire, who serves on the Governor’s Rail Advisory Council, said he was hopeful the line will be done by the end of next year, the Rutland Herald reports. Once the improvements are completed, officials plan to have Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express, which now travels between New York City and Rutland, continue to Burlington.
National Security: Virginia
Richmond: State officials and U.S. hate-monitoring groups are warning about the potential for violence ahead of a gun-rights rally expected to draw a mix of militias, firearms advocates and white supremacists to the city. Citing credible threats of violence, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a temporary state of emergency days ahead of Monday’s rally, banning all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square. Virginia’s solicitor general last week said law enforcement had identified “credible evidence” that armed out-of-state groups planned to come to Virginia with the possible intention of participating in a “violent insurrection.” Online, threats of violence have been “rampant” among anti-government and far-right groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white supremacists and other extremists. Conspiracy theories and other misinformation have also proliferated.
National Security: Washington
Newhalem: The National Park Service is investigating the desecration of an archaeological site in the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, and the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe is hoping to bring those responsible to justice. The Skagit Valley Herald reports evidence of digging was found over the summer at the Newhalem Rock Shelter camp used by the ancestors of the Upper Skagit tribe. “We were shocked and dismayed that someone would do something like this at a cultural site,” the tribe’s Natural Resources Director Scott Schuyler said. “Some of these places are thousands of years old, and the fact that someone would want to come in and purposely destroy, damage or steal, it’s just unbelievable.” The tribe is working with the Park Service on the investigation and offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to those responsible.
National Security: West Virginia
Ripley: Health officials are hoping a new initiative will help Jackson County residents quickly inform first responders about their medical conditions. WCHS-TV reports the Jackson County Health Department is offering free seat belt covers that will display personal and medical information that first responders can use during a car crash or other emergency situations. Known as “Medical Seat Belt Safety Days,” the county will provide the free covers March 26-27. People interested should bring their medical insurance information and a list of medications they currently take. Car seat safety checks also will be provided during that time at no charge.
National Security: Wisconsin
Milwaukee: Much of the west side of downtown and some areas east of the Milwaukee River will be inside a security zone during next summer’s Democratic National Convention, officials announced Friday. Police Chief Alfonso Morales said every resident and business in the zone will have access to their property. The main inconvenience for residents will be travel times, officials said. It’s still not known which part of downtown will be behind barriers or fences. Officials said they have outlined a broad security footprint, and the small, more restricted area should be announced later. The main convention venues include Fiserv Forum, UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, Miller High Life Theatre and the Wisconsin Center.
National Security: Wyoming
Jackson: State wildlife managers are criticizing plans by Grand Teton National Park to shoot nonnative mountain goats by helicopter. Inclement weather has so far prevented the aerial gunning, though park officials recently closed off a wide area of the Teton Range where shooting is to occur. “Having government personnel kill mountain goats from helicopters and leaving them to rot and be wasted is unacceptable,” Wyoming Game and Fish Commission President David Rael wrote to acting park Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail in a recent letter. The commission last week approved a resolution opposing the plans, favoring the use of volunteers to hunt the goats on the ground. The governor-appointed commission sets official policies and procedures for wildlife management, including hunting seasons and quotas, across Wyoming.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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