Montgomery: The Alabama Democratic Party has launched a “Free Weed” website to support its effort to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state. The site, www.FreeWeedAL.com, argues that prosecutions for small amounts of cannabis are a waste of criminal justice resources and have disproportionately affected communities of color. The party argued legalizing marijuana could also bring economic benefits to the state. “Alabama’s Republican politicians seem hellbent on wasting money criminalizing ordinary people, ruining lives in the process,” state Rep. Chris England, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Criminalizing cannabis doesn’t make us safer.” The site is a mix of policy advocacy and promotion for the state Democratic Party and candidates. It includes statistics about marijuana prosecutions as well as links to donate to the state party, register to vote and volunteer to help candidates. It also offers “Free Weed” T-shirts and other merchandise. Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl called the site “a stunt.” “The Alabama Republican Party supports traditional family values. It’s important to us that our society and our families stay safe, strong, and healthy. The recreational use of marijuana does not encourage these principles,” Wahl said in a statement.
Juneau: The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has proposed an expansion of lands available for selection by Alaska Native Vietnam War-era veterans who are entitled to allotments. Tom Heinlein, acting state director for the land agency in Alaska, on Thursday recommended opening about 27 million acres of land for allotment selections by eligible veterans. Currently, about 1.2 million acres are available. Concerns have been raised that some of the currently available lands are difficult to access or outside veterans’ cultural homelands. Heinlein said the next step is to provide detailed land descriptions to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. It would be up to Haaland to sign and issue an opening order for land selections, he said. The plan is to get her that information in the coming weeks, Heinlein said. He called the matter a “super high priority” for Haaland, who visited with veterans last week during her trip to Alaska – her first to the state as secretary. “We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans,” she said in a statement, adding that she “will not ignore land allotments owed to our Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans.” Under the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act, Alaska Natives were allowed to apply for up to 160 acres of land. Many Alaska Natives were unaware of this program, which was ultimately expanded and extended.
Tucson: A developer is exploring the potential for what would be the state’s biggest wind farm on an expanse of high desert in Pinal County about 30 miles north of Tucson. But the company’s plan to erect up to 83 wind turbines at the site known as Oak Wells has already drawn opposition from local ranchers who say the wind farm would harm rangeland as well as the environment and native wildlife. Oak Wells Wind LLC, an Arizona company set up by Boston-based Galehead Development, has been testing the winds with a test station set up in the area since last fall. It has also conducted initial studies on local bird populations and met with state and federal wildlife officials. Galehead has partnered with Steelhead Americas, the North American development arm of Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas, to study the wind resource in a roughly 44,000-acre “area of interest.” No decision has been made on moving forward with the wind project, which if built at a proposed capacity of up to 300 megawatts would be the largest in the state, a manager of the project said. “At this point in time, we are still assessing the viability of a wind farm in the Oak Wells area, but we believe there would be strong interest if it is shown to be a viable area for development,” said Patrick Brown, a project development manager for Vestas.
Little Rock: Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday that he was considering calling a special session of the Legislature later this year after finance officials said they expected the state’s surplus to hit $1 billion by the end of the year. Hutchinson, a Republican, said he was weighing proposals to use the surplus money to expand broadband access in the state, to address additional school facility funding needs because of inflation and to enact further tax relief. Hutchinson said he did not expect to decide whether to call a special session until mid- to late summer at the earliest, contingent on whether there is consensus behind any proposals. The governor did not elaborate on how much money he was considering for each proposal. The state’s surplus for the fiscal year, which began July 1, is approaching $500 million, state finance officials said earlier this month. Hutchinson said the session might also address the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. That ruling could overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade.
Agoura Hills: Construction has begun on what is billed as the world’s largest wildlife crossing for mountain lions and other animals caught in Southern California’s urban sprawl. Officials held a ceremony Friday to mark the start of construction of a $90 million bridge over a freeway and feeder road that is about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. “This wildlife crossing could not have come at a better time. It is truly a game changer,” said Jeff Sikich, biologist for the National Park Service. “Today’s groundbreaking sets a path toward saving our local mountain lions and supporting the diversity of wildlife in this whole region.” The bridge will stretch 200 feet over U.S. 101 to give big cats, coyotes, deer and other wildlife a safe path to the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. It is expected to be completed by early 2025 and will be named the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing for the philanthropist whose foundation donated $25 million. About 300,000 cars a day travel that stretch of the 101 in Agoura Hills, a small city surrounded by a patchwork of protected wildland that the new crossing will connect. The star of the fundraising campaign to build the bridge was mountain lion P-22, who traveled across freeways and made his home in a huge Los Angeles park. While he is unlikely to use the span because he lives many miles away, P-22 became a symbol of the shrinking genetic diversity of wild animals that must remain all but trapped by sprawling development or risk becoming roadkill.
Boulder: Investigators believe a wildfire that forced the evacuation of nearly 20,000 people in northern Colorado last month was started by a very small campfire near a hiking trail, authorities said Thursday. However, investigators have exhausted all their leads and have not been able to identify a person responsible for starting the wildfire that broke out March 26 on the outskirts of Boulder, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said. The investigation has been stopped but will be reopened if there are any substantial new leads, it said. The remains of the campfire were found a few feet off a trail on public open space property just inside the city limits of Boulder, south of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the federal facility after which the fire was named, the sheriff’s office said. It is not known how old the campfire was, sheriff’s spokesperson Carrie Haverfield said. The 190-acre wildfire burned to within 1,000 yards of homes on the west end of the college town, near the area where more than 1,000 homes were destroyed by a wildfire pushed by strong winds in late December. The cause of December’s fire is still being investigated by the sheriff’s office.
Hartford: The state Senate on Friday gave final legislative approval to a multiyear labor agreement that includes 2.5% pay raises and bonuses for tens of thousands of state employees, despite concerns raised by some Republicans that taxpayers can’t afford it. The four-year deal, reached by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and recently ratified by 43,000 unionized workers, cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate on a vote of 22-13. The House approved the same agreement Thursday. As in the House, debate in the Senate focused on whether the wage enhancements will help stabilize a predicted tsunami of retirements while rewarding a workforce that endured the pandemic, or instead create future fiscal challenges for the state. Passage of the major labor deal comes as Lamont and the General Assembly are trying to reach an agreement in the final weeks of the legislative session on revisions to the state budget. Meanwhile, as new revenue projections show the state is now poised to end the current fiscal year June 30 with a nearly $4 billion surplus, state lawmakers are limited by caps on spending and revenues. Proponents of the deal contend the bonuses will likely save the state more money in the long run and predict an arbitrator would have probably awarded state employees 3% raises.
Wilmington: A battle is brewing over the health of the Delaware River, waged by the environmental groups sworn to protect it. PennFuture and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network have filed official petitions claiming the Delaware River Basin Commission is holding back on its promise to protect the integrity of the watershed around Wilmington, Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey. Studies conducted by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network have concluded that dissolved oxygen levels around these parts of the watershed aren’t high enough to sustain the good health of the river. Mostly these levels are attributed to wastewater treatment plants along the river that pollute it. Jessica O’Neill, a senior attorney at PennFuture, a Harrisburg-based environmental advocacy nonprofit, said the quantity of pollution allowed to be released by these wastewater plants is contingent on the limit set by the River Basin Commission, which she said is dragging its feet on raising the limit. But “raising dissolved oxygen levels in the Delaware Estuary is not as easy as flipping a switch, as some contend,” said Kate Schmidt, communications specialist for the commission. “Besides needing the scientific basis for such an action, as well as a public process, there are significant costs associated with raising the criteria.” Maya van Rossum, leader of the nonprofit Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said the environmental groups pushing back at the commission’s supposed inaction view the panel as working in lockstep with industrial interests.
District of Columbia
Washington: At least four people, including a 12-year-old girl, were shot when a gunman unleashed a flurry of bullets in the nation’s capital, leading to lockdowns at several schools Friday. The injured were expected to recover, and the suspect was found dead hours later inside an apartment at the scene as Metropolitan Police Department officers conducted door-to-door searches of buildings in the area. Authorities had said earlier that they were seeking a 23-year-old Virginia man as a person of interest. The man had been “linked to social media postings” that emerged as part of the investigation, said Assistant Metropolitan Police Chief Stuart Emerman. Police believe the man erected a “sniper-type setup” with a tripod and rifle in his apartment and began firing indiscriminately at people walking below, Chief Robert Contee said. The shooting was recorded and posted online on 4chan, an online message board. Separately on Friday, emergency medical crews were called to the Supreme Court about 6:30 p.m. after a man set himself on fire outside the building. Police said Saturday that the man, Wynn Bruce, 50, of Boulder, Colorado, had died.
Marathon: A rehabilitated green sea turtle was released back to the ocean in the Florida Keys on Friday to mark Earth Day. Several hundred onlookers watched on Marathon’s Sombrero Beach as staff from the Keys-based Turtle Hospital released “TJ Sharp,” a 65-pound juvenile sea turtle rescued in February. The endangered reptile had been discovered floating offshore, unable to dive and visibly affected by fibropapillomatosis, a condition that causes cauliflower-like tumors and affects sea turtles around the world. TJ’s condition upon arrival at the Turtle Hospital required surgical removal of the tumors and treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, fluids, vitamins, and a nourishing diet of greens and mixed seafood. “Sea turtles are the oldest animal known to man – to be able to take a sea turtle, rehabilitate it and return it to its ocean home on Earth Day, it’s just an amazing day,” Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach said. She said that although Earth Day is recognized once a year, humans can take daily steps to protect marine resources and help ensure the survival of sea turtles. “What people need to do to make every day Earth Day is to reduce single-use plastics, keep trash out of our oceans and help keep our planet clean,” Zirkelbach said.
Atlanta: U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was hostile during testimony Friday in a hearing on her eligibility to run for reelection, saying she did not remember liking and making various social media posts surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol last year and accusing an opposing lawyer of using chopped videos and twisting her words. Voters in the Georgia congresswoman’s district have said Greene helped facilitate the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection that disrupted certification of President Joe Biden’s victory, making her ineligible for reelection under a rarely cited section of the 14th Amendment dealing with “insurrection or rebellion.” But Greene – who, the day before the Capitol riot, proclaimed on TV that this is “our 1776 moment” – testified that she’s never endorsed violence. Greene is set to appear on the Republican ballot for Georgia’s May 24 primary and has been endorsed by ex-President Donald Trump. The administrative law judge who oversaw the hearing must present his findings to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who will then make the ultimate determination over whether Greene is qualified. Greene has repeatedly denied aiding or engaging in an insurrection and has filed a lawsuit alleging that the law the voters are using to challenge her eligibility is itself unconstitutional.
Honolulu: The U.S. government on Friday dropped its appeals of a state order requiring it to remove fuel from a massive military fuel storage facility that leaked petroleum into the Navy’s water system at Pearl Harbor last year. Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Defense notified the state and federal courts of its decision. The move comes more than a month after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the military would permanently shut down the tanks and drain all of their fuel. The Hawaii Department of Health, which issued the order, said the decision regarding the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility was a “step forward.” “While today’s announcement is good news, the work continues,” the department said in a statement. It said it would “continue to act expeditiously and proactively to oversee the safe defueling and decommissioning of Red Hill and restoration of the aquifer.” David Henkin, an attorney for Earthjustice which is representing the Sierra Club of Hawaii as an interested party in the case said his clients would remain vigilant to make sure the tanks are promptly defueled. “It’s a wonderful Earth Day gift to the people of Hawaii and in particular to all the residents of Oahu who depend on safe, clean drinking water when they turn on their tap,” Henkin said.
Boise: The U.S. Department of Defense plans to build an advanced mobile nuclear microreactor prototype at the Idaho National Laboratory. The department signed off on the Project Pele plan to build the reactor and reactor fuel outside of Idaho and then assemble and operate the reactor at the lab. The decision follows a two-volume, 600-page environmental impact statement that includes public comments evaluating alternatives for building and operating a gas-cooled microreactor that could produce 1 to 5 megawatts of power. “Advanced nuclear power has the potential to be a strategic game changer for the United States, both for the (Department of Defense) and for the commercial sector,” said Jeff Waksman, program manager for Project Pele. “For it to be adopted, it must first be successfully demonstrated under real-world operating conditions.” Officials had previously said preparing testing sites at the Idaho National Lab and then building and testing the microreactor would take about three years. The department said the project is subject to the availability of appropriations. The department said two reactor designs are being considered, and one chosen will be announced later. The department said both designs are high-temperature gas-cooled reactors using enriched uranium for fuel.
Chicago: A judge on Friday threw out 44 more convictions tied to a notorious former police sergeant who regularly framed people for drug crimes they didn’t commit, exonerations that victim advocates said would be among the last from one of the most disgraceful chapters in the Chicago Police Department’s history. The dismissal of the cases by Cook County Judge Erica Reddick was the result of petitions to do so filed by the victims’ attorneys with the support of the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office. “In order to restore trust in the criminal justice system, as prosecutors, we must approach every case with an eye toward the facts, the evidence, and the law,” Foxx said in a press release. The latest dismissals bring to more than 170 Black defendants who have seen their drug convictions tied to former Sgt. Ronald Watts and his tactical unit dismissed in recent years. Joshua Tepfer, an attorney with The Exoneration Project who has worked with many people convicted due to Watts and his crew, said that Friday’s hearing would be the last of a number of similar hearings in recent years in which large numbers of victims have had their convictions thrown out. He said only a few cases remain.
Indianapolis: A report from the Domestic Violence Network analyzing crisis calls to service providers in central Indiana shows calls to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department nearly doubled during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report recorded 2020 data from service providers across central Indiana, which includes Marion, Hamilton, Hendricks, Hancock, Boone, Johnson, Madison, Morgan, Monroe and Shelby counties. In 2020, there were approximately 13,500 calls made to five area agencies: the Julian Center, Sheltering Wings, Alternatives, Inc., Families First, Prevail and Beacon of Hope. (Families First has since merged with Children’s Bureau; the agency is now known as Firefly Children & Family Alliance.) Kelly McBride, executive director of Domestic Violence Network, said the pandemic did not cause domestic violence in central Indiana, but the effects of the stay-at-home orders exacerbated problems that had already been there. The report specifies that correlation does not equal causation in regard to COVID-19 and that COVID-19’s effect on domestic violence will be studied for years to come. COVID-19 stay-at-home orders put abusers and families into enclosed situations at home and also cited the stressors of people losing their jobs and increased alcohol use during the pandemic.
Des Moines: A check of the state’s online court system shows a unique name for the prosecutor in hundreds of cases: the Easter Bunny. The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports that on April 4, online docket sheets for hundreds of Polk County cases were revised to indicate the prosecution had been transferred from an assistant county attorney to “Easter Santa Bunny.” Bret Lucas, an assistant county attorney, said the situation stems from a recent realignment of cases within the county attorney’s office. Some cases were “transferred” to the Easter Bunny until all the work on the digital case transfer could be finished. Lucas said it appears that the Judicial Branch and the IT department decided to use the fake placeholder name. Stacy Curtis, a supervisor for the criminal division of the Polk County Clerk of Court’s Office, said the references to the Easter Bunny should not have been visible to the public.
Topeka: Housing developers will now be able to get state help for home projects related to economic development, the governor’s office announced Thursday. The Startup Housing Opportunity Venture Loan program is intended to help build houses to address the needs of communities across Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly said. “A shortage of quality, affordable housing is a barrier to economic growth and development throughout the state – and particularly in rural Kansas,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Affordable housing is a vital component of recruiting and retaining workers, families, and entrepreneurs to help rural and urban Kansas thrive. We can’t capitalize on our record-breaking economic success if we don’t have affordable housing options for our workforce, and I’m pleased this new program will be another step in addressing this challenge.” The SHOVL program will provide funding to housing developers for expenses incurred before the closing of permanent financing for housing developments. No-interest loans of up to $25,000, with a required 20% match, available to private developers, nonprofit organizations and local governments looking to construct housing developments in communities with populations of fewer than 10,000 people.
Hodgenville: The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park is seeking volunteers for its first Park Care Day. The volunteer day is being held Saturday at the Lincoln boyhood home site at Knob Creek, the park said in a statement. There will be a variety of projects for volunteers to tackle, including planting an interpretive garden at Knob Creek. Park staff researched to find heirloom variety seeds close to what the Lincoln family might have grown while living at the Knob Creek Farm, the statement said. Volunteers will plant seeds that include Bloody Butcher Corn, Scarlet Pole Runner Beans and Connecticut Field Pumpkins. Those interested in participating are encouraged to register by calling the Birthplace Visitor Center.
Baton Rouge: A 4-year-old girl is dead after her grandmother allegedly forced her to drink a bottle of whiskey while her mother watched, according to police. Sgt. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesperson, told news outlets the little girl’s grandmother, Roxanne Record, 53, and mother, Kadjah Record, 29, were arrested Friday, each on a charge of first-degree murder. It was unknown if either of them had an attorney who could speak on their behalf. Officers were sent to a Baton Rouge home about 11 a.m. Thursday after reports of an unresponsive child. The child, 4-year-old China Record, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office said an autopsy showed a cause of death was acute alcohol poisoning. The little girl had a blood-alcohol level of 0.680%, more than eight times the 0.08% driving limit for an adult, authorities said. While investigating, detectives say they learned the victim’s grandmother forced her to drink a bottle of the alcohol while the mother watched. The investigation remains ongoing.
Augusta: The state has created a website – maine.gov/reliefchecks – to help residents collect their $850 relief checks included in a $1.2 billion supplemental budget signed by the governor last week. The website aims to answer commonly asked questions surrounding eligibility, timing of checks and filing taxes. “We want to make sure that every eligible person is able to receive this assistance, and we are hopeful that this website can help accomplish that by answering some of the most common questions Maine people may have,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. The money accounts for more than half of the $1.2 billion budget. Mills proposed returning much of the money to Mainers as a historic surplus ballooned thanks to federal spending and rosier-than-expected revenue forecasts. The checks will be mailed to more than 850,000 individuals, but filing an income tax return is a prerequisite. The state is giving late-filers until Oct. 31 to submit their tax returns. Income limits for the payments are $100,000 for an individual or married filing separately; up to $150,000 for head of household; and $200,000 for couples filing jointly. The first round of checks will go out in June, and additional checks will roll out through the end of the year.
Baltimore: An area teen who created a COVID-19 kit for teachers has been recognized as one of 25 Prudential Emerging Visionaries from around the country. Arthur Wang, 17, realized the severity of the disease months before most of his classmates when he got updates about the coronavirus from his uncle, who is a doctor in China. That inspired the Columbia resident to come up with an effort to better support teachers and other workers in Howard County, where he is a junior at River Hill High School, and beyond. “We wanted to help the community,” he said. “I realized how hard it was for the teachers to switch from virtual to in-person classes. Some teachers said it was like flying a plane with no direction.” Wang inspired 42 other students in the county to form the nonprofit Clarksville Youth Care Group. The organization has donated more than 1,400 protective kits to teachers at 62 schools. And he’s not done yet. The kits include a handmade colorful cloth mask in assorted designs that features a pocket where a filter can be inserted for additional protection; an “ear saver,” which reduces the strain that masks place on the ears; a thank-you card; and a mask lanyard. Each kit takes about three hours to make. Wang, who previously raised $13,000 in an effort to make 3,600 face shields that were donated to 101 hospitals, clinics, dental offices, urgent care centers and first responders in seven states, raised $5,000 for the project focused on educators.
Boston: The mayor released a plan, on Earth Day, to address extreme heat caused by climate change in disadvantaged city neighborhoods. The Heat Resilience Solutions for Boston plan presents a number of strategies that Democratic Mayor Michelle Wu says will help build a “more just, equitable, and resilient Boston.” The plan focuses on five so-called environmental justice communities that experience greater burdens as temperatures rise: Chinatown, Dorchester, East Boston, Mattapan, and Roxbury. It also includes citywide strategies that Wu said her administration will pursue, such as distributing “pop-up cooling kits” that include a hose, misters and a tent to community organizations that have public events this summer. Wu said her administration will also launch a design challenge for heat resilient “cool” bus stops and educate property owners on the benefits of installing so-called cool roofs that increase energy efficiency. And a new Boston Extreme Temperatures Response Task Force will help coordinate the city’s efforts as it’s faced more hot days and nights over the past decade than any decade in the previous 50 years, Wu said. The heat plan is a part of Climate Ready Boston, ongoing efforts to prepare for sea level rise, coastal storms, extreme precipitation, extreme heat and other impacts.
Grand Rapids: The Rev. Al Sharpton demanded Friday that authorities publicly identify the officer who killed Patrick Lyoya, a Black man and native of Congo who was fatally shot in the back of the head after a struggle. Sharpton’s comments at Lyoya’s funeral renewed demands by Lyoya’s family members and activists. He told the roughly 1,000 people gathered that authorities cannot set a precedent of withholding the names of officers who kill people. Police in Grand Rapids have said they will withhold the officer’s name unless he is charged with a crime, which they describe as a long-standing practice that applies to the public as well as city employees. “Every time a young Black man or woman is arrested in this town, you put their name all over the news. Every time we’re suspected of something, you put our name out there,” Sharpton said. “How dare you hold the name of a man that killed this man? We want his name!” Mourners at Renaissance Church of God in Christ, many wearing T-shirts or sweatshirts bearing Lyoya’s picture, stood and applauded. In a statement Friday, City Manager Mark Washington acknowledged the demands and said he would discuss the matter with the police chief and human resources officials.
Minneapolis: A 13-year-old boy will soon earn his bachelor’s degree from college, with a major in physics and a minor in math. Elliott Tanner is maintaining a 3.78 grade point average at the University of Minnesota and participating in undergraduate research while also tutoring classmates. He wants to be a high-energy theoretical physicist and ultimately a professor of physics at the university. “I have an incredible passion for physics,” he said. “It’s been one of my favorite things to do.” Elliott’s mom, Michelle Tanner, said he started reading and doing math by age 3. Following a few years of home schooling and a high school curriculum that took him two years to complete, he began taking college classes when he was 9. “People who hear Elliott’s story say he doesn’t get to be a kid, or he grew up too fast,” Michelle said. “He still very much is a kid, and the only difference is he goes to school in a different building.” Besides being on the verge of graduating, he has been accepted into the University of Minnesota’s Physics PhD program. Now his parents are trying to figure out how to pay for it. “We’re just trying to explore all our options and coming up with dead ends,” Michelle said. “Trying to apply for any scholarships, fellowships, grants, and we have not been successful.”
Money: Stymied in their calls for a renewed investigation into the killing of Emmett Till, relatives and activists are advocating another possible path toward accountability: They want authorities to launch a kidnapping prosecution against the woman who set off the lynching by accusing the Black Chicago teen of improper advances in 1955. Carolyn Bryant Donham was named nearly 67 years ago in a warrant that accused her in Till’s abduction in Mississippi – even before his mangled body was found in a river, FBI records show – yet she was never arrested or brought to trial in a case that shocked the world for its brutality. Authorities at the time said the woman had two young children, and they did not want to bother her. Donham’s then-husband and another man were acquitted of murder. Relatives of Till still prefer a murder prosecution, but there is no evidence the kidnapping warrant was ever dismissed, so it could be used to arrest Donham and finally get her before a criminal court, said Jaribu Hill, an attorney working with the Till family. “This warrant is a stepping stone toward that,” she said. “Because warrants do not expire, we want to see that warrant served on her.” There are plenty of roadblocks. Witnesses have died in the decades since Till was lynched, and it’s unclear what happened to evidence collected by investigators.
Jefferson City: The city has agreed to reinstall two paving stones that contained a reference to a Confederate general to settle a lawsuit filed after the stones were removed, according to attorneys in the case. Edith Vogel, a former City Council member, sued the city and Mayor Carrie Tergin in March after the pavers were removed. Vogel paid for the stones to be installed at a park on a city greenway known as Adrian’s Island as part of a fundraising campaign. Vogel’s attorneys at Bradbury Law Firm said a federal judge approved a settlement Thursday, KOMU reports. Under the settlement, the city agreed to reinstall the pavers within 15 days and pay Vogel’s attorney’s fees. Vogel contended in her lawsuit that her free speech rights were violated when the stones were removed. The stones read: “Union Camp Lillie notes: deciding against attack the confederate army under Gen. Sterling Price turned from Jefferson City Oct. 7, 1864.” The City Council voted in October 2021 to remove a similar paving stone from a roadway. Although she is not required to do so, Vogel said she will donate to the Parks Foundation $2,000, which was the amount the city refunded to her when it removed the pavers.
Helena: The administrator of the state psychiatric hospital is leaving his post amid the facility’s loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding for repeated failures to meet health and safety standards, the state health department said Thursday. Kyle Fouts, who has led the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs since 2019, will begin work May 9 as administrator at the Intensive Behavior Center in Boulder, Colorado, the Montana State News Bureau reports. The center is a 12-bed, short-term treatment facility for people with intellectual disabilities. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had found patients at the Montana State Hospital were in “immediate jeopardy” several times in recent months before revoking the hospital’s federal funding effective April 12. Payments for patients who were already at the hospital continues for another 30 days, but no new patients would qualify for Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements. The hospital’s deficiencies included failing to separate patients with COVID-19 from those who weren’t sick. Three patients died of COVID-19. Another patient died after repeated falls. The hospital, which had about 142 patients in early April, is also short-staffed and has relied heavily on traveling staff, the agency found.
Cambridge: Wind-driven wildfires sweeping through parts of Nebraska contributed to the death of one person and injured at least three firefighters, authorities said Sunday. The person who died was in Red Willow County, in the southwest corner of the state, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Jodie Fawl said. Fawl said she didn’t have details about that person or where the firefighters were injured, though she said their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. Blazes have been reported in 12 counties around the state since Friday. The state agency said they were still burning Saturday night in five counties in Nebraska’s southwest: Perkins, Hayes, Furnas, Red Willow and Frontier counties. The agency didn’t provide estimates of the total area that had been burned or the number of homes or other structures that had been destroyed. Several small towns, including Cambridge, Bartley, Indianola and Wilsonville, in Nebraska’s southwest and Macy in its northeast, were forced to temporarily evacuate because of the fires. The evacuation orders were lifted Saturday. The Nebraska National Guard deployed three helicopters and several support trucks to help battle the blazes.
Crystal Bay: For nearly eight decades, the Tahoe Biltmore has been a familiar fixture for motorists rounding the curved stretch of pavement on Nevada State Route 28 that led to the property. Come 5 a.m. Saturday, the long-standing hotel-casino will close its doors one final time. “It’s been 76 years,” said Janet Fogerson, controller for the property. “I mean, the Rat Pack used to go across the street.” But not even Frank Sinatra and his crew can win against Father Time. The same can be said about the Tahoe Biltmore, whose old-school charm will soon yield to a more modern resort and residential project known as Boulder Bay. Chalk it up to the steady march of growth and progress, something from which even idyllic Lake Tahoe is not immune. “I have been up here for 42 years, so I have seen a lot of growth, and I have seen a lot of changes,” Fogerson said. “But when that building comes down, it’s going to be emotional.” The Tahoe Biltmore first opened in 1946. The crew celebrated one last hurrah by holding a goodbye party for the property this past Saturday, with cash drawings, free food and live entertainment.
Concord: A bill adding an exception to the state’s new abortion ban for cases in which the fetus has been diagnosed with “abnormalities incompatible with life” has been sent to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu, who said he would sign it. Since Jan. 1, New Hampshire has outlawed abortion after 24 weeks’ gestation, with exceptions only for pregnancies that threaten the mother’s life or health. Doctors who provide late-term abortions can face felony charges, and ultrasounds are required before any abortion. With nine Republicans joining all 10 Democrats, the state Senate voted 19-5 in favor of a bill to limit the use of ultrasounds and add the “abnormalities incompatible with life” exception. The bill passed the House last month. Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton, said she was grateful to women who shared heartbreaking stories, including a Brookline woman who learned 21 weeks into her pregnancy that one of her twins would not survive on her own after birth. “We know that there are many more women who have these deeply personal stories who may not be comfortable attending a public hearing who can attest that, yes, these circumstances are rare, but they happen to real families,” she said.
Camden: Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes allegedly froze out and retaliated against a media specialist in her office who twice refused to process compact discs that contained inappropriate pictures of her and her husband, according to a lawsuit filed last Monday in state Superior Court. The specialist, Henry Hernandez, of Clifton, claims in his suit that the retaliation worsened during the COVID-19 crisis. His bosses disregarded his medical issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems, and refused to install plastic desk barriers in his unit, the lawsuit said. They also unjustly docked his pay, isolated him by banning visitors to his office and ignored his concerns about being reinfected with the virus after he recovered from the illness in December 2021, according to court papers. In the five-count suit, Hernandez accused Valdes and Christopher Drelich, the county’s chief of investigators and his superior’s boss, of intending to cause him severe emotional distress. He also claimed they violated the state’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Hernandez wants a judge to levy punitive damages, interest costs, attorneys’ fees and any other relief, the suit said.
Albuquerque: Federal authorities are taking to the airwaves to call attention to unsolved homicide and missing person cases on the largest Native American reservation in the U.S. The FBI announced last week that it’s running a 60-second radio ad in the Navajo language to call attention to what family members and advocacy groups have described as a crisis that is affecting Indian Country. Airing twice a day on an AM radio station broadcasting from the Navajo capital of Window Rock, Arizona, the spot features a plea from the mother of Lee Michael Pahe, who was found fatally shot last summer in Naschitti, New Mexico. “You don’t have to understand Navajo to feel the emotion of the mother who speaks about the loss of her son in this ad,” Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda of the Albuquerque FBI Division said in a statement. “Violent crime affects everyone the same way, and everyone deserves justice.” The radio spot comes as New Mexico implements legislation adopted earlier this year to ensure more effective coordination among law enforcement agencies when it comes to missing Native Americans or unsolved homicides. State Attorney General Hector Balderas has met with victims regarding obstacles to reporting, investigation and other issues that they have experienced.
Albany: The state could allow for the automatic sealing of some criminal records, make it harder to evict tenants, and ban gas and oil hookups in new buildings under bills that advocacy groups want lawmakers to pass in this year’s legislative session. The Democratic-led Legislature passed a $220 billion budget this month that boosted pay for health care and home care workers, shaved 16 cents off the cost of a gallon of gas through December, and tweaked a landmark bail law. But the budget excluded several criminal justice and environmental policy proposals that had received support from Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Senate. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he opposed using the budget to pass new policies. Lawmakers could also pass a bill that could nix former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, a Democrat, from the June primary ballot. Benjamin resigned April 12 in the wake of his arrest in a federal corruption investigation.
Asheville: A smarter-than-average bear took a tourist jaunt through downtown – even taking care to use crosswalks at intersections – before police guided it back to nature. Asheville police said the call they received Thursday about a bear milling through downtown was the third such call they’d received in a three-week span. Video posted by the police department on its Facebook page Friday shows the bear waiting at a crosswalk and looking both ways before crossing the intersection. In another clip he climbs a tree in a small park space. Officers guided the bear, which was wearing a tracking collar, back into a wooded area.
Bismarck: A group that wants to change the state constitution to require voter approval of constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60% and limit a measure to a single subject is a step closer to bringing the matter to a public vote. Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Friday said the sponsoring committee delivered 910 petitions with a claimed 33,624 signatures, just over the 31,000 signatures that must be approved to get the proposed measure on the November ballot. Jaeger approved the petitions for circulation a year ago. His office has 30 days to determine if the measure qualifies for the ballot. The citizen-led Protect North Dakota’s Constitution believes the voter threshold for amending the state constitution isn’t high enough. The group said a dozen constitutional amendments proposed since 2010 have been successful. Backers say the measures also often have contained multiple issues. Citizen initiatives allow residents to bypass lawmakers and get proposed state laws and constitutional amendments on ballots if they gather enough signatures from voters.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base: A high-ranking Air Force official has been convicted by a military judge of one of three specifications of abusive sexual contact in the first-ever military trial of an Air Force general. The charge faced by Maj. Gen. William Cooley during the weeklong court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base had three specifications, one alleging a forcible kiss and two alleging forcible touching in 2018. Cooley was convicted Saturday of the forcible kissing specification but acquitted of the other two. Officials said the verdict marks the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history. A former commander of Air Force Research Laboratory, Cooley was charged with abusive sexual contact in an encounter with a woman who gave him a ride after a backyard barbecue in New Mexico nearly four years ago. Officials said the woman is a civilian who is not a Department of Defense employee. Cooley is set to be sentenced Monday morning and could face as much as seven years in jail as well as loss of rank, pay and benefits. Cooley had the option of a trial by court member jurors or by military judge, and he chose to have the case heard by the judge.
Oklahoma City: Enoch Kelly Haney – a Native American artist, Seminole Nation chief and state lawmaker – has died at age 81. Haney’s death was announced Saturday by Brian Palmer, assistant chief of the Seminole Nation. A cause of death was not immediately released. “With a heavy heart, the Seminole Nation woke to the news of the passing of Chief Kelly Haney. An inspiration to many, an accomplished artist, his work with the State and later as Chief highlighted his career, but his greatest achievement is that of family. Keep his family in prayer and may they find comfort in knowing the Seminole Nation and Indian Country mourns his loss,” Palmer said in a statement on Facebook. In a tweet Saturday, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said Haney’s “contributions to our state are mighty.” Haney, who had most recently lived in Norman, grew up in Seminole. His grandfather was the chief of the Seminole Tribe in the 1940s. A Democrat, Haney was a Methodist minister prior to entering politics in 1978 as co-chair of then-Lt. Gov. George Nigh’s first of four successful campaigns for governor. Haney’s 17-foot sculpture “The Guardian,” a towering statue of a Native American, was placed atop the state Capitol dome in 2002.
Portland: The growth of the state’s wolf population slowed significantly last year because 21 animals were poisoned by poachers, hit by cars, or killed by wildlife officials after they attacked livestock, state wildlife authorities said Wednesday. The 2021 census counted 175 wolves, up just two animals from the previous year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said. The number of documented packs decreased to 21 from 22 after eight wolves in eastern Oregon were illegally poisoned, wiping out an entire pack. The number of breeding pairs of wolves was down to 16, from 17 in 2020. It was the slowest rate of wolf growth since 2016, although agency officials did add that wolves expanded their range into four new areas of activity in rural areas in Jefferson, Klamath, Grant and Union counties. The count only captures wolves observed through visual observations, tracks and remote camera photographs, and the actual number of wolves in Oregon is higher, officials stressed. Just 13% of the wolves in Oregon are in the western part of the state. Conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said the high number of wolf deaths at the hands of humans was unacceptable. “Oregon’s wolf population simply cannot sustain such high levels of human-caused wolf mortality,” said Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands’ legal director. “The state needs to both seriously prosecute poachers and stop killing wolves to subsidize commercial livestock operations.”
Philadelphia: The city abandoned its indoor mask mandate Friday, just days after becoming the first U.S. metropolis to reimpose compulsory masking in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. City officials who had previously stressed the need to head off a new wave of coronavirus infections by requiring people to mask up indoors abruptly called it off after what they said was an unexpected drop in the number of people in the hospital and a leveling-off of new infections. The city had taken plenty of heat for the renewed masking order, with a lawsuit already filed and two of the three leading Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat expressing opposition to it at a debate Thursday night. But city officials insisted Friday that their decision was about the data, not any external legal or political pressure. “I had said when I announced this that if we didn’t see hospitalizations rising that we needed to rethink this and that we shouldn’t have a mandate. So that’s what we’re doing today,” the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, said at a virtual news conference Friday. Still, the city’s on-again, off-again decision-making left some people scratching their heads, with restaurant manager Jesse Andreozzi saying officials were “flip-floppy” when it came to masks.
Providence: The city’s taxpayers own a desirable piece of property right by the ocean in Narragansett – they just can’t use it. For close to a decade, the city’s summer camp at the southern tip of Point Judith has been boarded up and closed to the public. And although Providence is now awash in $166 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, the city currently has no plans to use any of that money to reopen it, according to a spokesman for Mayor Jorge Elorza. Public records show Providence is currently paying $13,061 a year in taxes to the Town of Narragansett for the property, which is valued at $1,092,100. “I would love to see the property rehabbed so that the residents of Providence can go back to enjoying day trips there,” said City Councilman Michael Correia, who pushed for years to reopen the seaside camp. “I do have to admit that it has fallen off the radar since the pandemic hit.” The property is typically referred to as “Camp Cronin” – a frequent source of confusion, since it abuts the much larger Camp Cronin Fishing Area, which is state-owned and open to the public. Providence once owned both parts of Camp Cronin, purchased from the federal government after World War II. It served as a summer camp that got inner-city children out of their sweltering neighborhoods, regardless of parents’ ability to pay. Over the years, the city also routinely bused nursing home residents and other older people to Camp Cronin so they could take in the fresh air, enjoy a cookout and play bingo.
Columbia: Supporters of a bill to allow women to get birth control pills at pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription are trying to get it passed before this year’s session ends. A state House subcommittee on Wednesday approved the bill, sending it to the chamber’s full medical committee. The bill has already passed the Senate, but there are just nine regular legislative days left in the General Assembly’s 2022 session. Pharmacists could choose whether to participate in the program, which allows them to give birth control pills or other hormonal contraceptives to women over 18 without a doctor’s visit, The Post and Courier reports. Even in areas without doctors, there are pharmacies close by, state Rep. Russell Ott told the newspaper. “If we want to get serious about cutting down on abortions, if we’re going to decrease the number of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, we need to get real,” said Ott, D-St. Matthews. The bill unanimously passed the Senate last year. Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, introduced it after the General Assembly passed a bill greatly restricting abortions, saying it was another logical step to stopping unwanted pregnancies. The only GOP member of the House subcommittee voted against the bill. Rep. Joe Bustos, R-Mount Pleasant, said a doctor should be involved “anytime you’re putting chemicals into your body.”
Sioux Falls: A newly formed organization wants to put a question on the November ballot that would forbid the construction or operation of any new slaughterhouses within city limits. It’s a ballot question aimed squarely at Wholestone Farms, a Nebraska-based pork processor that announced plans last year to build a $500 million plant in northeastern Sioux Falls. The executive director of Citizens for a Sustainable Sioux Falls called the project “a step backwards” for the quality of life in Sioux Falls that was going to “slide in under the radar,” listing concerns including odor, water quality and affordable housing. Wholestone’s board chair, on the other hand, said the company is an open book and going above and beyond to be a good neighbor, while questioning who exactly is funding the opposition to the plant. Citizens for a Sustainable Sioux Falls has been pushing back against the plant since at least March 11, when it sent out a press release entitled “New Survey: Sioux Falls Residents Raise Alarm on Mega-Slaughterhouse.” The group is headed by Robert Peterson, who has worked as a field director for Marty Jackley’s gubernatorial campaign and as a public policy and outreach manager at the South Dakota Treasurer’s Office.
Memphis: Prosecutors will no longer pursue illegal voter registration charges against a woman who was granted a new trial after she challenged her jury conviction, a district attorney said Friday. Charges against Black Lives Matter activist Pamela Moses, 44, are being dismissed, and she will no longer face a second trial “in the interest of judicial economy,” Shelby County district attorney Amy Weirich said in a statement. Moses, who had prior felonies, was convicted in November of registering to vote illegally in Memphis in 2019 and was sentenced Jan. 31 to six years and one day in prison. She has said she was unaware she was ineligible to vote. At the time, legal experts said her sentence was excessive. Moses filed a motion asking for a new trial. In February, Criminal Court Judge Mark Ward overturned her conviction and granted Moses a second trial, which now won’t take place. In all, Moses has spent 82 days in custody on the case, “which is sufficient,” Weirich said in her statement. Moses’ previous felony convictions permanently barred her from voting. In 2015, she pleaded guilty to two felonies as well as three misdemeanors and was placed on probation for seven years. Moses said the Tennessee Department of Correction gave her a certificate saying her probation had ended – leading her to believe she could begin working to restore her voting rights – but then rescinded the certificate.
Eagle Pass: A Texas National Guard member went missing Friday after going into the river along the U.S.-Mexico border to help a migrant who was struggling to swim across, according to a local sheriff. A woman trying to cross the Rio Grande from Mexico made it about halfway to the other side when she appeared to begin going under the water, Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber said. The rescue attempt happened near Eagle Pass at a section of the river known for strong currents. “He jumped in the river,” Schmerber said. “They never saw him come out.” He said the Guard member, who has not been identified, took off his jacket and left his radio before going into the water. The woman made it across and was placed in the custody of Border Patrol, said Schmerber, whose department was involved early in the search. The Texas National Guard said in a statement that state troopers and Border Patrol agents were also helping. The attempted water rescue happened about 8:30 a.m., according to Schmerber. The Guard member was assigned to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s sprawling border security mission, known as Operation Lone Star, which has deployed thousands of Guard members across Texas’ 1,200-mile southern border since launching last year. The mission has come under scrutiny over migrants sitting in border jails for months on trespassing charges and low morale among Guard members over living conditions, long deployments and little to do.
Salt Lake City: Democrats pulling hard to defeat Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Lee took the unusual step Saturday of spurning a party hopeful to instead get behind an independent, former presidential candidate Evan McMullin. Democrats were swayed by calls from prominent members who said McMullin, a conservative who captured a significant share of the vote in Utah in 2016, was the best chance to beat Lee in the deeply conservative state that hasn’t elected a Democratic U.S. senator for more than 50 years. “I want to represent you. I’m committed to that. I will maintain my independence,” McMullin told Democratic delegates. Lee also faced two GOP challengers at his party’s nominating conventions. He handily won in front of the right-leaning crowd with more than 70% of the vote. But those candidates will still appear on the primary ballot because they used the state’s other path to the primary ballot and gathered signatures. Former state lawmaker Becky Edwards garnered about 12% of the vote Saturday. Former gubernatorial deputy chief of staff Ally Isom came in third.
Northfield: Three Norwich University students are facing criminal charges and others being ticketed for hazing after an investigation into allegations of branding and waterboarding involving the women’s rugby team at the private military college, town police said Friday. One 22-year-old student is charged with simple assault, and another is charged with reckless endangerment in the March 20 incident. Another student, 21, is charged with both simple assault and reckless endangerment, according to the police department. They and three other students are being ticketed for hazing, a civil infraction. Five of the students are members of the women’s rugby team, and one is on the women’s lacrosse team, Norwich said. The civil infraction is handled by the Judicial Bureau and carries a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, police said. Norwich said in a statement that it has “zero-tolerance regarding hazing misconduct from our students” and will take appropriate disciplinary action now that its investigations are completed. Northfield Officer Karie Tucker said in an affidavit that she went to the school March 20 for a report of someone being held at knifepoint. Tucker said she spoke two days later to the woman, who reported she had been “branded” using pliers and a lighter by other members of the rugby team.
Williamsburg: A local school board has decided against buying some new social studies textbooks because of concerns from some citizens that one of the books encourages “divisive teachings,” including critical race theory. The Williamsburg-James City County school board voted 4-3 on Tuesday not to buy the books, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Board Chairman Greg Dowell said he found nothing wrong with the book’s overall content. But he said he couldn’t vote “yes” because of the controversy around it and the possibility that it could cause further “community division.” “We are transitioning out of a period of discord in our community and our country, and that takes all of us,” Dowell said. The textbook of concern is “Government in America: People, Politics and Policy,” which is often taught in Advanced Placement government and politics classes. It examines current events and public policy, while offering examples of political unrest. One citizen at Tuesday’s board meeting claimed the book was biased and left-leaning. Another said the cover photograph was a form of indoctrination. The photo is of a protest outside the U.S. Capitol with signs reading, “Silence is violence,” “No justice no peace,” and “Stop killing Black people.”
Seattle: The clock ran down at the end of the homecoming game, and spectators stormed the football field, knocking over members of the high school band – all to gather around an assistant coach as he took a knee in prayer, surrounded by uniformed players. Six years later, after losing his coaching job and repeatedly losing in court, that former coach, Joe Kennedy, will take his arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, saying the Bremerton School District violated his First Amendment rights by refusing to let him continue praying at midfield immediately after games. Four conservative justices have already expressed concerns with how his case has been handled. Kennedy’s effort to get his job back helped earn him an appearance at a 2016 Donald Trump rally and quickly became a cultural touchstone, pitting the religious liberties of public school employees against what his critics describe as long-standing principles separating church and state and protecting students from religious coercion. Lawyers for the school district say officials had no problem letting Kennedy pray separately from students or letting him return to the field to pray after the students had left. But allowing him to pray at midfield immediately after games with students there risked being seen as government endorsement of religion.
Charleston: All 55 counties in the state will offer early voting for this year’s primary election, which is being held May 10. Early voting starts Wednesday and continues through May 7, including the last two Saturdays before the primary, Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office said. Voters may cast an early ballot at the county courthouse, an annex or a designated voting location during normal business hours. On Saturdays, voting will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. West Virginia’s primary is semi-open, meaning voters who aren’t affiliated with a recognized political party may participate in the primary of the party of their choice. Unaffiliated voters must ask poll workers for the specific party’s ballot they desire, Warner’s office said. More information about in-person and absentee voting and a list of early voting sites are available online at GoVoteWV.com. Voters can also check registration at the site.
Farmington: Management of a park listed on the National Register of Historic Places has been returned to the state in hopes of better preserving more than two dozen Native American effigy mounds. The 22-acre Lizard Mound Park in Washington County was first designated as a state park in 1950. The property and its 28 effigy mounds have been owned and managed by the county since 1980 but now have been transferred back to the state’s care. Lizard Mound in Farmington has one of the largest and most intact effigy mound groups in the country, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit superintendent Samantha Lindquist will oversee Lizard Mound and said it won’t be run like a typical state park. “It’s not going to be managed as, say, a recreation facility,” she said. “There’s going to be a few picnic tables, but it’s not going to become overly developed. There’s not going to be all these special uses of the site. The site is an ancestral burial ground. It has cultural and historical significance. So it’s going to be preserved in that way.” As a burial ground, the Lizard Mound area is considered sacred by Native people. The Ho-Chunk consider the mound builders to be among their ancestors. While conical and linear mounds can be found throughout the Midwest, effigy mounds are unique to southern Wisconsin – the ancestral homeland of the Ho-Chunk people.
Cheyenne: U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is among recipients of this year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award, with the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation citing her break with the Republican Party in defending the Constitution and opposing ex-President Donald Trump’s actions Jan. 6, 2021, as he sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Cheney voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting violence among his supporters at the U.S. Capitol after a rally on the National Mall.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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