Kenai: A wildlife monitoring group is seeking citizen scientists to help track beluga whales off the state’s coast. The Peninsula Clarion reports the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership is offering volunteers an opportunity to help scientists understand more about Cook Inlet beluga whales. The partnership is a collaboration of several organizations including Beluga Whale Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. Monitoring events are expected to take place between Aug. 14 and Nov. 15. Planned monitoring locations include Twentymile River and Bird Point near Girdwood, Ship Creek in Anchorage, and the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. Officials say volunteers will learn about the conservation needs of Cook Inlet beluga whales and receive training on identifying and recording data on beluga distribution and behavior.
Tucson: Officials have approved placing a “sanctuary city” measure on the ballot, but not without some pushback. KVOA-TV reports the Tucson City Council voted Tuesday night to allow the initiative on the November ballot, which could potentially lead to Arizona’s first-ever “sanctuary city.” Councilmembers were required to vote after the measure got more than the minimum required number of petition signatures. The initiative would add protections for people living in the U.S. illegally. Video shows a woman wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat repeatedly shouting that the initiative defies U.S. immigration law. The footage has since gone viral on social media because of an man in a green polo shirt laughing nearby. #GreenShirtGuy was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter as of Wednesday morning.
Little Rock: The governor is asking lawmakers to approve $25 million for a new state grant program aimed at increasing access to high-speed internet in rural areas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced the creation of the Arkansas Rural Connect program, which will provide grants to qualifying communities with at least 500 people to deploy high-speed broadband to residents. Hutchinson, who announced the program at a meeting of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association in Rogers, says he’ll ask the Legislative Council to approve $5.7 million for the program this year, and the remainder will need to be appropriated by lawmakers in next year’s legislative session. In May, Hutchinson released a plan to expand rural access to high-speed broadband by 2022.
Los Angeles: Actor Danny Trejo played a real-life hero when he helped rescue a baby trapped in an overturned car after two cars collided at an intersection in the Sylmar neighborhood Wednesday. Video aired by KABC-TV shows Trejo at the crash scene. Trejo says he crawled into the wrecked vehicle from one side but couldn’t unbuckle the child’s car seat from that angle. He says another bystander, a young woman, was able to undo the buckle. Together they pulled the baby safely from the wreckage. The Los Angeles Fire Department says three people were taken to a hospital, and there were no life-threatening injuries. The 75-year-old Trejo, an L.A. native, is perhaps best known for playing the character Machete, originally from the “Spy Kids” series.
Colorado Springs: State wildlife officials say thousands of tarantulas are expected to start their annual migration through the state soon. The Gazette reports the migration is expected to begin this month through early October. Officials say the Oklahoma brown tarantulas migrate through La Junta, about 176 miles southeast of Denver. Scientists say the majority of the spiders are 10-year-old males looking to mate with females hidden in Colorado’s grasslands. Officials say the peak time to view the migration is mid-September near Comanche National Grassland south of La Junta off U.S. Highway 109. Officials say tarantulas are mostly harmless to humans but have bites that can cause injury or allergic reaction and hairs that can be irritating to the eyes, mouth and nose.
Hartford: The federal Office for Civil Rights has launched an investigation into the state’s policy allowing transgender high school athletes to compete as the gender with which they identify. The investigation follows a complaint by the families of three girls who say they were discriminated against by having to compete in track against two athletes who were identified as male at birth. They say that violates Title IX, the federal law designed to ensure equal athletic opportunities for females. The Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference says its policy follows a state anti-discrimination law that says students must be treated in school by their gender identification. Transathlete.com says Connecticut is one of 17 states that allow transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions.
Wilmington: Everyone’s a critic, including Delaware Air National Guard officials who wanted nude images of Adam and Eve depicted in a 50-year-old mural by famed artist Jamie Wyeth to put on some pants. Someone apparently isn’t mooning over the huge, 10-by-30-foot mural that shows the bare buttocks of the Garden of Eden couple. It hangs on a wall of a building at the guard’s 80-acre base at the New Castle County Airport. The mural was created by Wyeth when he served with the Delaware Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. Air National Guard officials have had recent talks about possibly altering or covering up part of the artwork by the well-known painter. Wyeth is the scion of three generations of widely celebrated American artists, including his illustrator grandfather N.C. Wyeth and his late father Andrew Wyeth, one of the best-known painters of the 20th century.
Washington: An internal review of D.C. public schools shows more than 30% of employees have expired background checks. News outlets report Chancellor Lewis Ferebee shared the review’s findings with parents Tuesday and in a letter Wednesday. The district launched the review in June after an employee of a private before- and after-school program allegedly kissed and fondled a 13-year-old student on multiple occasions. The district says it discovered the company didn’t conduct proper background checks. Ferebee says by the end of October, all after-school staff, school staff and central office staff will have active background checks. He also says staff will receive more training on how to spot and respond to sexual misconduct cases.
Fort Lauderdale: Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state is expanding its efforts to eradicate invasive pythons in the Everglades and is working with the federal government to get snake hunters to remote areas of Big Cypress National Preserve. DeSantis announced Wednesday that Florida will double its resources for python removal and that the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture have a new agreement to begin hunting pythons in 130,000 acres of state parks. He’s directing the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the South Florida Water Management District to work together to research ways to eliminate pythons and to make a python challenge an annual event instead of once every three years. The challenge awards python hunters who capture the most snakes, which have decimated native species.
Milton: A farmer says his beloved miniature donkey named Sammy was literally scared to death by this year’s Fourth of July fireworks. Now he and an animal rights group want Georgia to ban rockets that go boom. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and others Wednesday asking for a “Sammy’s law” limiting fireworks to the non-explosive, non-aerial varieties. John Bogino tells WGCL-TV that Sammy and his other farm animals are like pets to him. His pet donkey of 22 years died last month, and he says Sammy wasn’t his first animal to die because of fireworks. He says one of his horses fled explosions in late July several years ago and had to be euthanized due to severe injuries.
Honolulu: Scientists have discovered that a growing pond of water inside a crater is being heated by the Kilauea volcano. The U.S. Geological Survey says temperature readings taken last weekend show that the pool of water in Kilauea’s Halemaumau crater, the former home of a popular lava lake, is about 158 degrees Fahrenheit. For the first time in recorded history, the presence of water in the crater was confirmed last week. Since then, scientists have found two other small pools of water nearby. The crater floor collapsed about 2,000 feet, and the lava lake disappeared last summer as Kilauea stopped erupting for the first time in over 30 years. USGS geologist Matt Patrick told the Associated Press it’s hard to determine how deep the magma chamber is beneath the bottom of the crater floor where the water was found.
Spokane: A study by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has found that cougars kill more elk than wolves in the state. The Spokesman-Review reports the study found that wolves accounted for 32% of adult female elk deaths and 28% of elk calf deaths. The study found that cougars accounted for 35% of adult female elk deaths and 45% of elk calf deaths. The study published earlier this year in the Journal of Wildlife Management examined 15 years of data. The study also found that food availability and the severity of winter is the most important factor for elk calf survival. Idaho Department of Fish and Game senior wildlife research biologist Jon Horne says the findings are also likely applicable for Washington, Montana and Canada.
Springfield: Officials are showcasing one of the most popular attractions of the Illinois State Fair. The butter cow was unveiled Wednesday afternoon at the fairgrounds. The sculpture has been a part of the state fair for almost 100 years. This year’s cow has been sculpted from 800 pounds of recycled butter. The cow stands near the word “Future” to incorporate the theme of the fair, which is “Building Our Future.” The cow is on display at the Dairy Building. Last year, hundreds of pounds of butter were sculpted into a cow by the same Iowa artist, Sarah Pratt. The base had “Land of Lincoln” written on it and included a stovepipe hat, as a nod to Abraham Lincoln. The fair started Thursday and ends Aug. 18.
Indianapolis: Rainbow-colored streamers welcomed students back for the first day of classes Thursday at Cathedral High School, a show of support for a gay teacher fired from the Catholic school over the summer. The brightly colored streamers were a silent twist on a long-held Cathedral tradition to decorate “the hill” with toilet paper on the first day of school, but they still spoke volumes. The private high school has been embroiled in a debate over LGBTQ rights since it fired longtime teacher Joshua Payne-Elliott because of his same-sex marriage. Cathedral officials have said they only did so at the order of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which began requiring employment contracts with “ministerial language” and morality clauses to be used at its schools four years ago.
Dyersville: They’ve built it. Now they’re coming. Major League Baseball is headed to town in 2020. The Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees announced Thursday that the two teams will play an official big-league game at the “Field of Dreams” movie site Aug. 13, 2020. “It’s definitely exciting,” says Roman Weinberg, the director of operations for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site. “There’s nothing more American than the Field of Dreams and America’s pastime.” The 1989 movie centers on the 1919 White Sox and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson, who was banned by MLB along with seven of his teammates for his alleged role in the White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series, inspires a farmer, played by Kevin Costner, to build a baseball field. The site has since become a tourist attraction, with fans from across the globe flocking to the Iowa cornfield to see it.
Topeka: The state plans to impose what some tax experts say would be the nation’s most aggressive policy for collecting taxes on online sales, possibly inviting a legal battle. The Department of Revenue issued a notice last week saying any “remote seller” doing business with Kansas residents must register with the department, collect state and local sales taxes, and forward the revenues to the state, starting Oct. 1. It cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year allowing states to collect sales taxes on internet sales. Most states now have policies to collect such taxes, but almost all set minimum annual sales or transaction thresholds to exempt small businesses, according to groups tracking tax laws. Kansas is the first to attempt to collect the taxes without exempting any businesses, they said.
Louisville: Amid major legislative efforts to restrict or end abortion in the state, a new poll commissioned by Planned Parenthood finds a majority of likely voters in the commonwealth believe the procedure should remain available. Asked whether it’s important for women to have “access to all of the reproductive health care options available, including abortion,” 65% said yes, according to the poll. Also, 65% said they’d have doubts about a law that bans abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case legalizing abortion. Just 18% said they believe all abortions should be illegal – though another 37% said abortion should be allowed only in “extreme cases,” such as for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or to save the life of the woman. And 43% said abortion should be legal with some regulations.
Pride: A highway marker honoring blues singer and guitarist Buddy Guy has been recovered, months after it disappeared. News outlets report Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office received a tip Wednesday that the sign was at a person’s house in Pride, roughly 30 miles northeast of Baton Rouge. Lt. Craig Dabadie says investigators believe a driver ran off the road and knocked the sign off a pole in May. Someone else picked it up as a souvenir. The sign was posted along Louisiana 1, marking the spot where Guy recorded a music video. The marker honors the Louisiana native’s legacy in music. Rolling Stone magazine listed him at No. 23 on its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists.” No arrests were made, and the investigation is ongoing.
Portland: A federal program designed to help farmers suffering due to trade disruption is unlikely to assist the state’s wild blueberry growers. Maine is the sole commercial producer of wild blueberries in the United States. The industry has struggled in recent years with falling crop sizes and low prices to farmers. Maine Agriculture Commissioner Amanda Beal has called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include the crop in its Market Facilitation Program, which is slated to provide billions to growers negatively impacted by foreign trade retaliation. But the USDA said in a statement that the program is intended for crops that aren’t easily used in school food programs or through food banks. Wild blueberries sometimes fill those needs. The agency says the blueberries remain eligible for other USDA assistance programs.
Baltimore: The news of Toni Morrison’s death led a west Baltimore artist to create his own version of an ancestral shrine. The Baltimore Sun reports that 50-year-old Ernest Shaw Jr. completed a mural of the celebrated artist and Nobel laureate by Tuesday, just a day after Morrison’s death. Shaw says he considers the death of the 88-year-old Morrison to be the acquiring of an ancestor. He says creating the mural was his way of pouring libations, a reference to a ritual used to honor ancestors and deities. He says there’s no death in dying as Morrison has just transitioned to now work with “the other side.” The spontaneous mural dedicated to “TONI M” covers a Graffiti Alley wall behind Motor House and took several hours to complete.
Boston: Ever since “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry after the Boston Marathon bombing, the idea of “strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy. People mourning this past weekend’s mass shootings in Ohio and Texas have rallied around the slogans “Dayton Strong” and “El Paso Strong.” After many tragedies, the mantra has been used in social media posts, memorials, pins, stickers and other mementos. Massachusetts resident Christopher Dobens co-created the blue and yellow “Boston Strong” T-shirts that helped rocket the phrase into the national lexicon. He says the idea was inspired by Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong cancer foundation and the U.S. Army’s “Army Strong” slogan. Dobens says it’s heartbreaking to see so many places have had to adopt the “strong” mantra because of violence.
St. Ignace: State and federal agencies are gearing up for a celebration of Smokey Bear’s 75-year legacy of preventing forest fires. Smokey will join staffers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other partners Friday at Straits State Park in St. Ignace. A family-friendly birthday party is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. It will feature a fire truck open house, displays of wildland fire equipment, fire-prevention games, refreshments and an opportunity to meet the iconic bear. Smokey has shared fire-prevention messages with the signature phrase, “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Debbie Begalle of the Michigan DNR’s Forest Resources Division says the slogan is still relevant. Nine out of 10 wildfires are started by people.
St. Paul: The state Department of Natural Resources has denied requests to reconsider the tailings dam permits that it issued for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine. The DNR said Wednesday that opponents did not raise any new issues that materially affect its 2018 decision granting the permits. The Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa and environmental groups asked the DNR to reconsider in light of tailings dam failures elsewhere. DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a statement that her agency studied the failures but remains confident in the safety of the PolyMet dam. The DNR issued its decision one day after the Minnesota Court of Appeals stayed a different permit for the mine, governing water pollution, pending a court investigation into potential irregularities in how state and federal regulators handled that permit.
Biloxi: Hurricane Katrina left lasting scars on the Hurricane Camille Memorial at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. The church reached out to the Biloxi Fire Department, which, in turn, reached out to Lodging and Leisure Investments for help in returning the memorial to its best condition in light of the storm’s upcoming 50th anniversary. Officials tell WLOX-TV restoring the tile mosaic is the greatest challenge in the project. Other work includes power washing and cleaning each name on the memorial’s walls. Camille’s 50th anniversary will include a memorial service at the memorial site at 5 p.m. Aug. 17. Afterward, a program will be held at the Seafood & Maritime Industry Museum at 6 p.m.
Jefferson City: Attorney General Eric Schmitt says counting of untested rape kits in the state is nearly complete. Schmitt said Wednesday that 95.6% of law enforcement agencies and 98.5% of hospitals and Veterans Affairs medical facilities have completed their inventory of sexual assault evidence kits. Former Attorney General Josh Hawley began an audit of the backlog in 2017 after the Columbia Missourian reported Missouri had never done a statewide review of untested rape kits. Schmitt began a SAFE Kits Initiative in February and appointed Judge M. Keithley Williams to lead the effort to eliminate the backlog of sexual assault kits. The counting project received funds from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Rape kits contain DNA samples and other evidence from medical procedures conducted immediately after an attack.
Missoula: A man charged with assaulting a 13-year-old boy who refused to remove his hat during the national anthem believed he was doing what President Donald Trump wanted him to do, his attorney says. Attorney Lance Jasper told the Missoulian he will seek a mental health evaluation for Curt Brockway, a U.S. Army veteran who became caught up in the heightened animosity and rhetoric gripping the nation and convinced himself he was following the president’s orders. “His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished,” Jasper said. He said Brockway “certainly didn’t understand it was a crime.” Brockway suffered a traumatic brain injury in a vehicle crash in 2000 that has affected his decision making, and Jasper said he plans to raise that in his client’s defense.
Lincoln: The remains of twins who joined the Navy together have been returned to the city for burial, decades after their deaths on a battleship at Pearl Harbor. The Lincoln Journal Star reports two ceremonies will be held in succession Saturday at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery for Rudolph Blitz and brother Leo Blitz. There will be two flag-covered caskets, two 21-gun salutes, two invocations, two flags presented to their surviving sister, 93-year-old Lincoln resident Betty Pitsch. Her DNA contribution helped bring her older brothers home. The 17-year-old twins left Lincoln High to join the Navy in 1938 and had been stationed at Pearl Harbor for a year and a day before the USS Oklahoma went down during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by Japan. Their remains were buried at a Honolulu cemetery and later identified after being unearthed in 2015.
Reno: A jumbo jetliner that sparked controversy at last year’s Burning Man festival when it got stuck in the desert for nearly a month has returned for this year’s event after organizers agreed to post a bond for the popular art installation. The Bureau of Land Management granted a special permit to the foundation that converted the 747 into a nightclub. Burning Man officials reviewed the Big Imagination Foundation’s plans before it transported the multi-ton aircraft last weekend to the Black Rock Desert, 100 miles north of Reno. Group leaders haven’t disclosed the cost of the performance bond. They get the money back if they comply with the permit. Critics say the plane severely damaged the playa floor last year when it dug holes into the soft alkali dust and got stuck.
Concord: Gov. Chris Sununu has signed a bill to help the state’s dairy farmers. The purpose of the bill is to provide a way to support dairy farmers by buying specially labeled milk for an extra 50 cents per gallon. The measure creates a dairy premium fund that replaces the milk producers’ emergency relief fund. Money remaining in the fund after payment of the premiums would be available to promote the program. It’s anticipated that the premium milk will be available this fall.
Kearny: Two actors from the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” visited federal immigration detainees at the Hudson County jail Thursday. Vicci Martinez and Emily Tarver met with two female detainees from Jamaica. The actors, whose show tackled issues of immigration detention and family separation in its final season, said they wanted to draw attention to the plight of immigrants in such facilities. The visit was organized by Freedom for Immigrants, an organization that aims to abolish immigration detention and was featured in the final season of the show, and First Friends of New Jersey and New York, a nonprofit that sends volunteers to visit immigrant detainees. After leaving the jail, Tarver recounted the story of the woman she met, a victim of domestic violence who sought help from the police and wound up detained, for four months so far, when her immigration status came into play.
San Antonio: A federal agency is taking advantage of high water levels in the Rio Grande to help a tiny minnow listed as an endangered species. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation workers recently aided in creating more habitat for the Rio Grande silvery minnow on the Middle Rio Grande, the Albuquerque Journal reports. Reclamation crews worked from January to March to lower and widen the riverbank on the southern end of private property near Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. They excavated 46,000 cubic yards of dirt to create water channels where minnows could escape the fast-moving river. The tiny fish, listed as endangered in 1994, was once abundant throughout the Rio Grande Basin from Colorado to Texas and into Mexico. It’s now found only in a fraction of its historic habitat as the river system has seen dam building and the straightening of its once meandering channels over the past 150 years.
Albany: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has approved legislation aimed at bolstering the health and safety standards for all pet dealers operating in the state. The bill signed Thursday calls for separate spaces for pregnant animals and requires all enclosures be cleaned daily and disinfected at least once every two weeks. “Pet dealers must be held to standards that will promote the safety, good health, and overall well-being of the animals in their care,” says a memo attached to the bill. Under the new law, which takes effect in 90 days, pet dealers are required to regularly groom animals to prevent matting and flea and tick infestations and provide animals with diurnal lighting cycles, which mimic natural, 24-hour light patterns. And any for-profit dealer selling, or planning to sell, at least 25 cats or dogs in a year must provide an annual veterinary checkup for each animal.
Wake Forest: The city is being recognized for its commitment to preserving monarch butterflies. Wake Forest announced Wednesday that the recognition was awarded by Monarch City USA, a nonprofit organization that promotes the species and recognizes areas that work on recovering butterfly populations. The nonprofit group says that the butterflies rely on milkweed and nectar plants. The butterfly’s population has declined as the plants have dwindled. Wake Forest, northeast of Raleigh, features the plants that attract the butterflies at E. Carroll Joyner Park. The town has installed signs that identify the butterfly habitat and one noting Wake Forest’s designation as a “Monarch City USA.” The nonprofit says it’s the first in the state to receive the designation.
Bismarck: Two environmental groups who say regulators should have intervened in the location of an oil refinery near the state’s top tourist attraction, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, are taking their case to the state Supreme Court. The Public Service Commission last year declined to review whether the refinery could be built just 3 miles from the park in the western Badlands, the Bismarck Tribune reports. Regulators concluded the proposed $800 million Davis Refinery would be too small to warrant review under state law. The Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Dakota Resource Council don’t believe developer Meridian Energy Group is being forthright about the refinery’s size and asked a state judge to force the commission to hold a hearing. South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick refused in May, ruling that the PSC followed state law.
Springdale: A long-standing community event is facing backlash on social media. A Facebook post promoting Springdale’s annual Goldfish Swim has garnered more than 3,500 comments, most outraged, since it was posted Aug. 1. The end-of-summer event has been going on for almost 40 years. More than 4,700 people have signed a Change.org petition to stop the event, saying it is “obvious” animal abuse. City officials take 1,000 feeder goldfish and put them in the Springdale Community Center Pool. Children under the age of 12 try to catch the fish with their bare hands, take them home and care for them. “No nets, poles or help from mom and dad. Bring a plastic bucket to take your new pet home,” the post about the event says. The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Springdale Pool.
Oklahoma City: Police were justified when they fatally shot a black teenager who was naked and unarmed, an attorney for the city argues in a response to a civil rights lawsuit filed by the teen’s parents. The parents of Isaiah Mark Lewis contend in their federal lawsuit that Sgt. Milo Box and Officer Denton Scherman used excessive force and acted “unnecessarily and unjustly” when they hit their 17-year-old son with a stun gun and then fatally shot him April 29 after he allegedly broke into a home. In a response filed Wednesday on behalf of the city, attorney Taylor Clark denies that the city violated Lewis’ constitutional rights and says: “Lewis was justifiably shot by a service weapon after being ineffectively tasered.” “Edmond also admits that Isaiah Mark Lewis was naked and unarmed when he was shot and that verbal commands were given to Isaiah Mark Lewis prior to the shooting,” Clark wrote. The officers have been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. Taylor declined further comment.
Salem: A judge has ruled that the state Fish and Wildlife Commission illegally reversed an earlier decision granting endangered species status to the marbled murrelet, a small seabird that nests in old-growth forests. Environmental groups say Oregon has sought to avoid protections for the bird, allowing clear-cut logging in its habitat. A spokeswoman for the wildlife department said it won’t comment on legal matters. The ruling was by Lane County Circuit Court Judge Lauren Holland in Eugene. Conservation groups said they petitioned the wildlife commission to list the marbled murrelet as endangered, and it voted to do so, concluding the bird was likely to go extinct. But the commission reversed itself without explanation. Holland said the commission was required to explain its reversal and failed to do so.
Philadelphia: Philadelphia’s Music Alliance will induct musicians spanning a wide range of genres to its Walk of Fame, including The Philadelphia Orchestra, R&B group The O’Jays and ’80s rock band The Hooters. The class of 2019’s other honorees include Philadelphia socialite and philanthropist Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton, who died in 2017; disco queen Evelyn “Champagne” King; and Jody Gerson, the current CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group and the first woman to run a major music-publishing company. Longtime rock-radio DJ Pierre Robert is this year’s dual Radio Row Award recipient and Walk of Fame inductee. The announcements were made Wednesday at the Independence Visitor Center. The group will be formally inducted Oct. 22 during a gala at The Bellevue.
Providence: Gov. Gina Raimondo says the state will begin offering a gender-neutral option for residents to put on their driver’s licenses and birth certificates. Rhode Island will join the ranks of about a dozen other states already offering an option of “X” instead of the standard “M” or “F.” The option is in response to the governor’s conversations with the transgender and LGBTQ community. The Democratic governor says this is “just basic fairness” in order to ensure all residents are being recognized for who they are. The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Health echoed the governor’s remarks. The governor adds that the biggest hurdle has been the implementation of the change. Residents could potentially see the option available within a year.
Aiken: Officials say the U.S. government followed a requirement to remove weapons-grade plutonium from the state. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said 1 metric ton of nuclear material has been shipped out of the Savannah River Site near Aiken. The U.S. Energy Department was ordered in 2017 to remove that much plutonium by January. Federal court records said half the plutonium was sent to Nevada. Wilson’s statement Wednesday didn’t say where the other half was shipped. South Carolina sued the federal agency after it halted a plan to turn plutonium once used to make nuclear weapons into fuel for nuclear reactors. The Energy Department owes the state $200 million in fines in part because 11 metric tons of plutonium remain at the site.
Burke: As this small town recovers from a tornado that destroyed its civic center and caused other extensive damage, some residents are asking why the community’s warning siren wasn’t sounded. The EF-1 tornado with 100 mph winds ripped through Burke on Tuesday night, ripping roofs off buildings and homes, uprooting trees and leaving the school building unusable for the beginning of classes. Two men suffered minor injuries when a garage collapsed. Gov. Kristi Noem visited the community Wednesday and called the damage “unbelievable.” Noem promised the state’s help in the community’s restoration efforts. Burke Mayor Thomas Glover says the siren is sounded when officials get notification of a tornado sighting or that one is imminent. Glover says that did not happen.
Nashville: Add Glen Campbell to the list of late country music legends with a museum in their honor in the city’s downtown. Clearbrook Hospitality LLC announced plans Thursday to open The Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage, a live music venue, at the corner of Broadway and 2nd Avenue. It’s slated to open in early 2020. Campbell died in 2017 at age 81 following an extended battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The 4,000-square-foot venue will feature immersive, interactive displays showcasing different stages of Campbell’s career. He was a studio musician in The Wrecking Crew; the singer of many hit records including “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights”; and a television and film actor. In the evenings, the museum will transform into live music venue The Rhinestone Stage, where national and local acts can perform intimate shows.
Austin: The state’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday is coming this weekend. The Texas Comptroller’s Office says the tax break begins Friday and runs through Sunday. Customers can buy most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks – sold for less than $100 – tax free from a Texas store or from an online or catalog seller doing business in the state. The sales tax exemption applies only to qualifying items. The tax break does not include products such as jewelry, handbags, briefcases, luggage, computer bags, umbrellas, wallets and watches. The Texas sales tax holiday weekend started in 1999.
Riverton: Administrators from more than 60 schools in northern Utah gathered ahead of the first day of classes to assemble “care kits” for students in need. The Deseret News reports administrators from the Jordan School District met Wednesday to pack more than 2,400 kits, which include food, personal hygiene products and backpacks loaded with school supplies. Walmart donated the supplies. Event organizer Peggy Margetts said the kits help students in a discrete way and show students their school cares about their well-being. Students will receive the kits at the start of school. Administrators said they will keep some on hand to use during the year.
Montpelier: The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets says the state’s cheese producers won 44 ribbons at the American Cheese Society’s annual awards competition. Officials say this is Vermont’s best showing yet. The results were announced at the society’s annual conference last week in Richmond, Virginia. Agriculture officials say five Vermont cheeses were finalists for the best in show. A total of 25 Vermont companies submitted cheeses to be judged among the more than 2,000 total entries. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott congratulated the state’s cheesemakers on their “impressive achievement.” He says their “commitment to excellence is helping Vermont grow its economy by creating jobs and further strengthening our great Vermont brand.”
Blacksburg: Town officials are cracking down on an unsanctioned Virginia Tech fraternity they say is operating in violation of zoning rules. Blacksburg officials recently determined the house is being used as a base for the rogue frat Omega Alpha Kappa. Zoning Administrator Paul Patterson said frat activities at the house must stop. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the fraternity is not recognized by the university and was formed by members of Kappa Delta Rho when that chapter was suspended for violating alcohol policies. The fraternity has a history of trash citations and accusations that members made female guests at social events feel uncomfortable. The Roanoke Times reports the university has advised students to avoid the fraternity and seven others for their safety.
Seattle: A $219 million property-tax levy that would abolish overdue fines in the Seattle Public Library system is heading toward approval. The Seattle Times reports the seven-year levy supporting the library system had 73% of the vote in returns Tuesday. The measure proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan would authorize additional property taxes and replace a $123 million library levy set to expire at the end of this year. The levy would collect about 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2020. The additional library funding would support seismic renovations, new programs for children, more social workers, extended operating hours and the elimination of fines for overdue items. About $167 million would be used to maintain current services.
Charleston: The state’s Public Port Authority board has decided to consider lease proposals and bids for the Heartland Intermodal Gateway Facility in Prichard. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the board made a motion Wednesday in Charleston to delay a possible public sale. West Virginia Transportation Secretary Byrd White says the board discussed selling it because of a funding shortage. Wayne County Commissioner Jeff Maddox says the county’s economy isn’t the best, but a sale for “pennies on the dollar” would be “a grave error.” The board will further discuss options at its September meeting. The $32 million facility opened in 2015 on 76 acres donated by Norfolk Southern railroad. It’s designed to move containers more efficiently by rail through a double-stack method while offering a cheaper alternative to gas-guzzling trucks.
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Madison: State prison officials say they illegally released information that could reveal whether inmates are in substance abuse treatment. The Department of Corrections said Thursday that officials responding to an open records request released records June 24 that contained 1,041 inmates’ personal identification numbers and locations. No names were released, but DOC officials say someone could use the numbers and locations to learn whether an inmate is at a substance abuse facility or receiving treatment. The agency says that information is confidential under Wisconsin law. Only two people saw the information, and they’ve since confirmed the data has been destroyed. DOC spokeswoman Molly Vidal didn’t answer emailed questions asking who received the questions and what information they actually wanted.
Meeteetse: A ranch where black-footed ferrets were discovered in the 1980s is being preserved. The Nature Conservancy recently announced a conservation easement agreement to restrict the Lazy BV ranch’s 2,300 acres near Meeteetse from being subdivided or developed. The ranch is in the area where the ferrets were discovered in 1981 after they were thought to be extinct. The ferrets were used to start a captive-breeding program that has restored black-footed ferrets in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and elsewhere in the western U.S. Jim Luchsinger of The Nature Conservancy tells Wyoming Public Radio it had been a dream of the ranch owners to protect the ranch and bring ferrets back. The protected land is also home to greater sage grouse, mule deer, antelope and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
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