Monroeville: The Swiss owner of a pulp mill in Alabama said it is investing $80 million to increase the amount of absorbent pulp it can produce there. The second line at the GP Cellulose Alabama River mill near Monroeville should be able to produce rolls of the absorbent material called fluff pulp in late 2023, a news release said. It said some major aspects are complete. The mill’s first line has been able to produce bales of paper pulp and rolls of fluff pulp since 2011. Fluff pulp is used in such items as diapers and feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products. The mill employs about 470 people.
Anchorage: A plane with seven people on board bound for Katmai National Park and Preserve crashed into the water as it was leaving a seaplane base in Anchorage, with two people suffering serious injuries, authorities said. Clint Johnson, chief of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska division, said the information he initially received was that there were six people on board. He said he was later told there were seven on board. Aaron Danielson, chief of the Ted Stevens International Airport Police and Fire, said there was some “initial confusion on scene.” A statement from the department late Tuesday afternoon said all seven were taken to area hospitals for evaluation and treatment. Johnson said the plane operated by Regal Air had taken off and was in its initial climb phase when the accident occurred. The airport police and fire department said the plane was conducting a water takeoff “when, according to the pilot, a strong crosswind caused the right wing to rise after the plane was airborne. While the pilot attempted to make corrections,” the plane crashed. Johnson said investigators are still gathering information. There have been strong winds in the Anchorage area recently but “we don’t know if that played a part in it or not.” He said the passengers were from outside Alaska.
Flagstaff: The Coconino County Board of Supervisors approved the transfer of $5 million to the county’s flood control district to deal with monsoonal flooding problems. Meanwhile Wednesday, Mayor Paul Deasy declared a state of emergency to make the city eligible for additional resources to support disaster response. The disaster grant assistance would help cover the costs associated with public infrastructure damage, including debris removal, emergency protective measures and the restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities. Since July 16, Flagstaff has experienced days of steady and heavy rain that has inundated neighborhoods in the shadow of mountains that burned recently. County officials said the flash flooding has impacted the Timberline, Wupatki Trails and Doney Park areas, as well as the west side of Flagstaff. The annual monsoon season is expected to last through September, with the possibility of daily rainfall. County officials believe the continued costs of flood mitigation could exceed the costs of the aftermath of the Schultz Fire in 2010, which were $5.6 million.
Fort Smith:Robert Craig, the oldest living World War II veteran of the 101st Airborne in Arkansas and the third-oldest World War II veteran in the U.S., celebrated his 100th birthday on July 18 amid much fanfare at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Craig was a part of the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive on the Western front. For almost a week during the battle, German soldiers surrounded Craig’s division. The Americans received supplies from airdrops. Gen. George Patton eventually broke through and delivered food and medical supplies. “I’m rather proud of the service I rendered,” said Craig, who received seven bronze stars and a presidential citation for his service.
Los Angeles: The city’s newest bridge, a $588 million architectural marvel with views of the downtown skyline, opened to great fanfare on July 10 but has been closed several times since then amid chaos and collisions. The 6th Street Viaduct – which soars over the concrete-lined Los Angeles River to connect downtown to the historic Eastside – quickly became a hot spot for street racing, graffiti and illegal takeovers that draw hundreds of spectators to watch drivers perform dangerous stunts in their vehicles. The Los Angeles Police Department has closed the bridge multiple times – an exact count was not available Wednesday – and in the latest move, announced Tuesday that it would be “closed until further notice due to illegal activity and public safety concerns” before backtracking and reopening it hours later. Officials hope to install speed bumps, safety fences and cameras on the less than 3-week-old bridge to curtail the behavior. In the meantime, officers are impounding vehicles and issuing citations. The bridge spans 3,500 feet from the trendy Arts District to Boyle Heights, a traditionally working class Latino neighborhood, in the largest and most expensive bridge ever built in the city.
Denver: Conservation groups filed lawsuits against state environmental agencies in Colorado and Montana this week targeting coal mines in the states. Two groups sued Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality on Monday over an approved expansion of the Rosebud Mine, a coal strip mine near the Wyoming border. On Tuesday, five organizations including the WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against Colorado environmental agencies alleging they failed to ensure the state’s largest coal mine, West Elk Mine, complied with state and federal clean air laws. The complaint filed in Gunnison County District Court contended that Colorado state officials failed to approve or deny an air pollution permit required by the U.S. government within the 18 months allotted by state law. The federal permit, granted by state agencies, would allow greater oversight over the mine’s compliance with clean air laws and regulations, ensuring that the company was sufficiently restricting methane emissions. If the state denied the permit application, the mine would have to halt operations. West Elk Mine sits in Colorado’s North Fork Valley and is owned by Arch Resources, a company based in St. Louis. The mine produced more than 4 million tons of coal in 2019, according to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, and emits greenhouse gases, including methane.
New Haven: Former House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who is running for a chance to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in November, has come under fire from the conservative wing of the party for her stances, including accusations she’s not a true Republican. More of that criticism was lodged Tuesday night, when Klarides appeared in the first GOP Senate debate with her two conservative challengers in the upcoming Aug. 9 primary. Leora Levy of Greenwich and attorney Peter Lumaj of Fairfield both oppose abortion and further restrictions on gun owners. “There is a contrast here,” Levy said, when comparing herself to Klarides. “And I’m running in a Republican primary, not a Democrat primary. And her views on abortion are more suited to running in a Democrat primary, are more like Senator Blumenthal’s.” Lumaj, however, referred to himself as the only “unwavering conservative” among the three candidates, criticizing Levy for previously supporting abortion rights. He said Republicans in Connecticut have lost statewide races because they nominated candidates who “were afraid to be a Republican.” But Klarides stressed a candidate with such conservative positions won’t win in Connecticut, where the largest voting block is made up of unaffiliated voters, followed by Democrats and then Republicans. There’s also strong support in the state for abortion rights, a key issue in this year’s election after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Wilmington:A catfish species that can grow up to 100 pounds and reach 4 feet in length is threatening a popular Delaware fishing hole and state environmental officials need anglers’ help to rid the waterway of the invasive fish. The culprit is the flathead catfish, a species native to the Mississippi and Ohio watersheds. It was recently found in Lums Pond near Glasgow, according to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Catfish species native to Delaware are scavengers and feed off the bottom of the water bodies in which they live. The flathead catfish eats other species, said Mike Steiger, a DNREC fisheries biologist. If the flathead catfish is left to feed on local species such as shad, crayfish or other pond fish, it could upset the local ecosystem and cause problems for other organisms in the area. “There’s probably not that many in the pond,” Steiger said. “Unchecked, they can definitely have a negative effect on native species.” Steiger is heading a project for the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife with the DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation aimed at removing the flathead catfish from Lums Pond. To capture the invasive species, the groups are using the technique of electro fishing, in which a specialized boat is used to deliver electroshocks in the water that temporarily stuns fish within a certain radius. This does not kill any of the fish but causes the affected fish to rise to the top of water, allowing them to be handled and captured more easily and with less stress for the fish. All flathead catfish that are found are then removed from Lums Pond. DNREC urges all who catch a flathead catfish to remove it from the water and report the incident.
Washington: Congressional leaders and Kansas officials praised aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart for advancing the cause of women’s rights during her barrier-breaking career at a ceremony unveiling her statue in the U.S. Capitol. Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, joins President Dwight Eisenhower as Kansas icons enshrined in the National Statuary Hall Collection. She is the 11th woman honored with a statue in the collection, where each state is represented by two people of significance. U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., said although Earhart is best known for flying across the ocean, she was also a military nurse, social worker, author and a champion for women’s advancement. “Female pilots used to be called ‘ladybirds,’ ‘sweethearts of the air,’ and because of Amelia Earhart, back then, now and into the future, women who fly planes are now called ‘pilots,’ ” Davids said. Earhart disappeared in July 1937 on a flight over the Pacific Ocean while trying to become the first pilot to circle the globe at the equator. No trace of her or her navigator, Fred Noonan, has ever been found, sparking numerous theories about what happened to them.
West Palm Beach: A woman who left her newborn baby in a trash bin pleaded guilty to attempted murder and child abuse, agreeing to a seven-year prison sentence and potential deportation. Two maintenance workers at a Boca Raton apartment complex heard faint crying sounds coming from the bin and rescued Rafaelle Sousa’s 6-pound, 8-ounce baby. She was taken in by her boyfriend, who named her Sarah, the Palm Beach Post reported. Sousa’s attorney said the 38-year-old Brazilian woman didn’t know she was pregnant until she went into labor, and was in shock when the baby was born three years ago. Sousa, who was already caring for her 3-year-old son, had taken Tylenol and diet pills in the months before the birth to cope with pain and sudden weight gain, but wasn’t able to afford a doctor’s visit and did not know she was expecting another child, her attorney said.
Atlanta: Democrat Stacey Abrams is promoting a plan she said will make housing more available and affordable across Georgia if she defeats Republican Gov. Brian Kemp this year. Abrams repeatedly criticized Kemp for Georgia’s sluggish use of its $989 million in federal rental assistance. Georgia still has almost half that money unused, Abrams said, although the state gave more of it to 12 large local governments that have been quicker to move the money out the door after the U.S. Treasury threatened to take some of it back. Tate Mitchell, a spokesperson for Kemp, said Abrams has Democrats to blame for making the cost of living more expensive. “In the last year alone, Gov. Kemp has allocated $100 million to support nonprofits that provide affordable housing and aid individuals experiencing homelessness,” Mitchell said in a statement. “If Stacey Abrams wants to blame anyone for economic instability, she should start with Joe Biden and her own party.” Abrams said she would seek to bolster Georgia’s weak tenant protections by requiring that leases guarantee the premises will be habitable and by providing a waiting period before a tenant could be evicted. She also would expand state assistance for down payments for first-time homebuyers, require that housing built using the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit serve some households with very low incomes and let local governments offer property tax breaks on affordable housing.
Honolulu: A U.S. defense contractor and his wife who lived for decades under the identities of two dead Texas children have been charged with identity theft and conspiring against the government, according to federal court records unsealed in Honolulu. Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison, both in their 60s, who allegedly lived for decades under the names Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague, were arrested Friday in Kapolei on the island of Oahu. Prosecutors are seeking to have the couple held without bail, which could indicate the case is about more than fraudulently obtaining drivers’ licenses, passports and Defense Department credentials. Those documents helped Primrose get secret security clearance with the U.S. Coast Guard and as a defense contractor and old photos showed the couple wearing uniforms of the KGB, the former Russian spy agency, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck said in court papers. Faded Polaroids of each in uniform were included in the motion to have them held. A “close associate” said Morrison lived in Romania while it was a Soviet bloc country, Muehleck said. Morrison’s attorney said her client never lived in Romania and that she and Primrose tried the same jacket on as a joke and posed for photos in it. Even if the couple used new identities, attorney Megan Kau told The Associated Press, they have lived law-abiding lives for three decades.
Boise: Idaho has been selected as the site for a proposed nuclear test reactor that would dramatically reduce the time needed to develop nuclear fuels and components for a new generation of nuclear reactors that could help reduce global warming, the U.S. Department of Energy said. The Energy Department said it selected its 890-square-mile site in eastern Idaho that includes the Idaho National Laboratory to build the Versatile Test Reactor, or VTR. The VTR is a sodium-cooled fast test reactor that would be the first fast spectrum test reactor to operate in the United States in nearly three decades. The Energy Department has requested funding from Congress to move the VTR project into the design phase. The project includes facilities for examining material tested in the reactor, as well as managing spent fuel produced by the reactor. Scientists have said the test reactor could help lead to new nuclear reactors and reduce the use of fossil fuels blamed for global warming. The Energy Department is hoping to have the test reactor running by the end of 2026. Currently, such nuclear testing capacity only exists in Russia, the department said.
Chicago: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, 77, of Illinois said he tested positive for the coronavirus and was in quarantine with what he described as minor symptoms. The No. 2 Senate Democrat, who said in a statement he was vaccinated and received two booster shots, planned to continue to work remotely. Durbin’s announcement occurred after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last week he tested positive following travel to the White House, Maine and Florida. Earlier this week, Pritzker said on Twitter that he tested negative for the virus. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden ended his COVID-19 isolation, days after he also tested positive.
Indianapolis: A federal judge has ordered Indianapolis Public Schools to allow a 10-year-old transgender girl to rejoin her school’s softball team while a lawsuit continues against a state law that bans transgender females from competing in girls school sports. U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in Indianapolis issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday on behalf of the girl, finding she “has established that she has a strong likelihood of succeeding on the merits” of her claim. Indianapolis Public School told the girl’s mother earlier this year that her daughter would no longer be able to play on the softball team because of the new law, the judge added. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of the girl in hopes of blocking the law. The suit was filed in May, minutes after Republican state lawmakers voted to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of the legislation, and alleged that preventing the girl from rejoining her team because she is transgender is violation of Title IX and the U.S. Constitution.
Des Moines: State officials are asking residents to keep an eye out for the spotted laternfly after recently confirming the finding of two of the invasive insects in central Iowa. As a young nymph, it is a black weevil-like bug with white spots but adds patches of bright red as it develops into a flying insect. It’s native to China, India and Vietnam, and was accidentally introduced into Pennsylvania in 2014, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. It has since been confirmed in 11 states and threatens the country’s grape, orchard, nursery and logging industries. The state agricultural department was notified earlier this month of the presence of two immature spotted lanternflies in Dallas County, and federal identification confirmed them. Nearby areas surveyed have not resulted in signs of an ongoing infestation, the department said. Anyone spotting the insect is asked to contact the department’s Entomology and Plant Science Bureau.
Topeka:A Bali myna, one of the world’s rarest – and some say most beautiful – birds was hatched this month at the Topeka Zoo. The Asian songbird was born July 2, making it the third species of that bird at the zoo, said Joe Maloney, who works at the zoo with invertebrates. Bali mynas are among the most vocal birds in the zoo’s Tropical Rainforest, where their distinctive plumage and calls make them easily recognizable, Maloney said. The critically endangered The population of Bali mynas in the wild has been reduced by habitat loss and illegal trapping carried out to acquire them to be caged songbirds, said Taylor Miller, the Topeka Zoo’s communications coordinator. Females of the species tend to lay one to three eggs but usually only one will survive, Miller said. “They are cavity nesters, so the chick is currently located in a special box built by keepers,” she said. The box simulates a cavity nest but allows enough space for animal care staff to keep a close watch on them, Miller said. “The mom and dad are excellent parents and you can regularly catch glimpses of them carrying food to their nesting area,” said Wrylie Guffey, animal curator at the zoo. Bali mynas begin flying when they are 3-4 weeks old and become fully independent when they are 6-7 weeks old, Miller said.
Frankfort: The University of Pikeville will receive a $4.4 million grant to support construction of an agritech research and education center. The UPIKE Ag-Tech Innovation Center of Excellence will be located at the Kentucky Enterprise Industrial Park at Marion Branch in Pikeville, state officials said. The project will be matched with $5.75 million in local funds. Gov. Andy Beshear announced the grant award Wednesday. The project aims to promote job growth by bringing innovative industry to the area while enhancing educational opportunities for UPIKE students, officials said.
Chauvin: Authorities in south-central Louisiana are looking for those responsible for vandalizing the Chauvin Sculpture Garden, a local landmark created by a self-taught artist. Three concrete sculptures were broken, and one is missing, said Gary LaFleur, head of the Center for Bayou Studies at Nicholls State University. Vandals also damaged a sculpture of an angel that held an amber globe, similar to how the Statue of Liberty holds its torch. The garden owned by Nicholls State was created by self-taught artist Kenny Hill when he moved to Chauvin in 1988. A bricklayer by trade, Hill created more than 100 concrete statues along Bayou Little Caillou in Terrebonne Parish before walking away from his home about a decade later. He left no trace of his whereabouts, but about 10,000 visitors each year visit the menagerie of angels, Cajuns, self portraits and other figures he left behind.
Portland: A Roman Catholic priest is returning to active ministry after an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse, the Diocese of Portland said. The diocese said its investigation into the Rev. Robert Vaillancourt took a year. The allegations concerned sexual abuse of girls in the 1980s. The diocese said in a statement the allegations were “determined to be unfounded.” It said Vaillancourt has not received a new assignment from the diocese yet. Vaillancourt was placed on administrative leave in July 2021 after the diocese received the first complaint. The diocese then received a second allegation from an attorney representing another woman. Vaillancourt denied any wrongdoing at the time of the accusations and the diocese said he cooperated with the investigation. He is a native of Lewiston who has served at parishes across the state.
Assateague Island: More military ordnance has washed ashore at Assateague Island National Seashore, the Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office reported. The fire marshal’s office, along with the U.S. Air Force 436th Civil Engineer Squadron-Emergency Ordnance Disposal team based out of Dover Air Force Base responded to Assateague shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday for three suspected military ordnance that washed ashore in an area known as North Ocean Beach. It is the second incident of military ordnance washing ashore at Assateauge in as many weeks. National Park Service Rangers reported the suspicious devices. Ordnance disposal technicians determined the devices, which had been in the ocean for an unknown amount of time, needed to be rendered safe in place. From 1944 to 1947, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Corps used the Maryland portion of Assateague Island as a bombing and strafing range. Air crews from Chincoteague, Virginia, and Manteo, North Carolina, would fire practice rockets, bombs and machine guns from the air at targets on the ground.
Fitchburg: A decorated State Police dog called “as loyal a partner as any Trooper ever had” by the agency’s commander was shot and killed by a man who had barricaded himself inside a home. Frankie, a nearly 11-year-old Belgian malinois with a tan coat and black snout, was shot Tuesday afternoon by a 38-year-old suspect, according to a statement from State Police Col. Christopher Mason. He was the first State Police dog to die in the line of duty, Mason said. Frankie’s handler, Sgt. David Stucenski, was not injured. Stucenski and Frankie won the state law enforcement Medal of Valor in 2017 for apprehending a suspect who opened fire on them, and also won three awards from the U.S. Police Canine Association in 2014. Police went to the multifamily Fitchburg home at about 9 a.m. Tuesday after learning the suspect, wanted on warrants charging him with firearms offenses, was there. Negotiators tried to get the suspect to surrender peacefully but he refused. Just before 3 p.m., he was spotted at a back door and officers decided to try and apprehend him. Stucenski and Frankie approached, but the suspect fired multiple shots before retreating back inside. He later apparently took his own life. Frankie was shot and taken to an animal hospital where he died, Mason said. Frankie’s body was escorted in a motorcade to the Final Gift Pet Memorial Center pet crematorium in Cranston, Rhode Island, as police officers and firefighters paid tribute on overpasses along the highway. A service to honor Frankie will be held, although a date hasn’t been set, state police said Wednesday.
Lansing: A man who admitted to calling in a bomb threat at the state Capitol was sentenced Wednesday to one year in jail, Attorney General Dana Nessel said. Michael Varrone, 49, of Charlotte pleaded guilty last month to false report or threat of bomb/harmful device. Prosecutors dismissed two terrorism charges against him. Judge James Jamo sentenced Varrone to one year in the Ingham County Jail with no possibility of early release and three years’ probation, Nessel said. Varrone must also undergo mental health treatment.
Moorhead: Workers at the largest sugar beet processor in the U.S. have rejected a contract offer that includes a 17% pay increase over four years. Union President John Riskey said the offer from American Crystal Sugar was recently rejected by an overwhelming margin, but he did not provide details on how many members voted or the margin of rejection. The Moorhead-based cooperative said it negotiated for 10 days with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union. The company said in addition to the pay increase, the contract offered more vacation, increased pension benefits and a $1,000 ratification bonus if the new contract was approved by Sunday, when the current contract expires. Riskey said workers felt they deserved a bigger pay increase after helping the company weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Riskey said workers want contract talks to continue, Minnesota Public Radio reported. American Crystal said the new deadline for an agreement is Sept. 15. It agreed to continuing contract talks with a federal mediator.
Jackson: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a deadly bacteria has been found in environmental samples on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The discovery of the bacteria is the first in the U.S. According to a CDC release, a person on the coast was diagnosed with melioidosis in 2020, a rare disease caused by a bacteria known as Burkholderia pseudomallei. A second person living in close geographic proximity was diagnosed with the disease in 2022. The cases prompted state health officials and the CDC to take samples and test household products, soil and water in and around both patients’ homes, with permission. The bacteria was found in samples of soil and standing water. How long it has been on the coast and its spatial distribution isn’t known, but the CDC said conditions are conducive to its growth along all Gulf Coast states. The CDC said an average of 12 cases of the disease occur annually in the U.S., but according to state epidemiologist Paul Byers, most of those cases are the result of travel to countries where the bacteria have been known to occur. Melioidosis has a wide range of nonspecific symptoms such as fever, joint pain and headaches and can cause conditions that include pneumonia, abscess formation or blood infections. Worldwide, melioidosis is fatal in 10% to 50% of those infected, according to the CDC.
Springfield: The city’s Department of Workforce Development has been awarded a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor that will run through 2026. The grant money will go toward bolstering registered apprenticeship programs during the ongoing labor shortage. The Department of Workforce Development was one of 30 organizations nationwide, and the only one in Missouri, to be awarded this grant funding, according to a news release.
Great Falls:Montana posted 2,320 newly reported COVID-19 cases in the last week and the state’s total active confirmed reports stand at 2,199, with 109 active hospitalizations, according to the state website. Cascade County reported 192 new cases, bringing the actives cases to 205. One death has been reported, a male in his 80s, vaccinated but not boosted, with underlying health conditions. The community level in Cascade County has dropped from high to medium this week. Benefis Hospital reported 14 hospitalized by the virus.
Springfield: Meta, Facebook’s parent company, announced plans Thursday to expand a data center it is building in the Omaha suburbs. A Meta spokesperson said the social media giant now plans to build a ninth building in the complex it is constructing in Papillion and Springfield southwest of Omaha in Sarpy County. The company said the data center will cost more than $1.5 billion and eventually include 4 million square feet. Meta plans to complete the project it began in 2017 by the end of 2024. About 150 people are maintaining computers at the site that is expected to employ about 300. Six of the nine buildings are operational. Meta said all of the data center’s electricity will come from renewable energy, including wind farms in northeast Nebraska and Kansas. Several other major companies have built data centers in the area around the Meta data center, including Google, Yahoo, Travelers Insurance and Fidelity Investments.
Reno:Parents and students will again be faced with an alternating bus schedule when school starts on Aug. 15 as the Washoe County School District struggles with staffing shortages. Bus routes will be suspended for one week on a rotating basis in each of the district’s five service areas. The calendar for bus rotation schedules is available on the district’s website. Additional student transportation bus information will be available on Aug. 5. Students in remote areas will continue to have daily bus service, said Adam Searcy, chief facilities management officer, during a school board meeting Tuesday. Those neighborhoods are: Rancho Haven, Antelope Valley, Hungry Valley, Palomino Valley, Nixon, Wadsworth and Natchez. Buses designated for special education students will continue in full operation, as required by federal law. Searcy said additional neighborhoods will return to daily transportation as more bus drivers become available. Bus drivers will be sent to work in areas with the greatest need. Families will be given advance notice before returning to the daily transportation system. Searcy added he hopes the entire school district will return to a daily transportation system by fall break.
Concord: A woman has pleaded guilty to charges she sold unapproved drugs on her website that claimed to be remedies and treatments for COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Justice said. U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young said in a news release that Diana Daffin, 69, of Charlotte, North Carolina, pleaded guilty Wednesday to selling unapproved drugs with the intent to defraud or mislead the Food and Drug Administration. In February 2021, Daffin sold an undercover law enforcement officer a product advertised as a drug that could cure, mitigate, treat and prevent COVID-19 in humans. Daffin later sold and shipped that drug and other unapproved drugs to the undercover agent, according to prosecutors. Daffin is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 2.
Atlantic City: Officials from the Golden Nugget will negotiate Thursday with Atlantic City’s main casino workers union on a new contract that would guarantee the seaside gambling resort labor peace for four years. The Golden Nugget is the only one of Atlantic City’s nine casinos without a new deal with Local 54 of the Unite Here union. The sides were expected to negotiate Thursday morning, and the likelihood of a deal appears high given the fact that the rest of the city’s casinos have agreed to new pacts. Thursday’s session followed the successful completion of negotiations Wednesday with Resorts casino on a new contract that contains the same economic elements as those reached with other casinos. Housekeeping employees will see their pay increase to $22 an hour at the end of the four-year contract. In addition to raises, the agreements maintain fully funded family health care and pension benefits, language that protects jobs and increases work opportunities, and new technology protections, the union said. The union has authorized a strike on Saturday if a new contract is not reached with Golden Nugget.
Las Vegas: Authorities have identified the bodies of three people who died in fast-moving floodwaters in Tecolote Canyon in northern New Mexico. San Miguel County sheriff’s officials said the victims were members of a West Texas family and were swept away last week during monsoon rains in mountainous terrain scorched by a 533-square mile wildfire. They said the three from Hale County were identified as 62-year-old Jimmy Chris Cummings, his 62-year-old wife Linda Jane Cummings and her 84-year-old mother Betty Greenhaw. Authorities said the women’s bodies were discovered in Tecolote Creek floodwaters July 22 near their truck, which also had been swept from the cabin the family owned. The body of Jimmy Cummings was found Tuesday within debris left by the flood in the creek, according to sheriff’s officials. The cabin the family owned in Tecolote Canyon on Camp Blue Haven property for more than 60 years was destroyed by the floodwaters.
New York City: New York is inching toward becoming the first U.S. city to charge motorists an extra fee for entering its most congested areas. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said a long-delayed environmental assessment should be released by federal regulators next month, to be followed by public hearings. The MTA also named the members of a board that will decide the plan’s pricing, discounts and exemptions. The practice is commonly referred to as congestion pricing and has been used in cities including London, Singapore and Stockholm. In New York, motorists entering Manhattan below 60th Street would be charged a toll electronically. The revenue, estimated at $1 billion annually, would be used to back borrowing for capital improvements to the MTA’s subway and bus systems. The tolls aren’t expected to be implemented until late next year at the earliest. Some lawmakers in New Jersey have said the plan is unfair because motorists already pay tolls at bridges and tunnels to enter New York, and the money from congestion pricing won’t be used to improve public transit in New Jersey. Some motorists paying tolls to enter Manhattan from New Jersey are expected to receive discounts or be exempt.
Raleigh: Tens of thousands of people convicted of felonies but who aren’t behind bars can now register to vote and cast ballots following an appeals court ruling. Expanding the scope of those able to register and vote began Wednesday, the State Board of Elections said – the day after local elections were held in more than a dozen localities. The change proceeds from litigation challenging a 1973 law that prevents someone convicted of a felony from having voting rights restored while they are still on probation, parole or post-release supervision. A panel of trial judges struck down the law in March, declaring it violates the state constitution largely because it discriminates against Black residents. The state Supreme Court agreed in May to hear an appeal of that decision, and the case remains pending. But the justices didn’t touch a Court of Appeals ruling that prevented registration requests from the felons who weren’t in prison or jail from being fulfilled only through Tuesday. So these applicants – for now and unless the Supreme Court reverses the trial court ruling – will be able to vote, starting with the November general election.
Fargo: A judge put on hold the state’s trigger law banning abortion while a lawsuit moves forward that argues it violates the state constitution, ruling the attorney general had prematurely calculated the date when the ban should take effect. Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick sided with the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, that Attorney General Drew Wrigley “prematurely attempted to execute” the trigger language. The clinic had argued that a 30-day clock should not have started until the U.S. Supreme Court issued its certified judgment on Tuesday. The ban had been set to take effect on Thursday. Shortly after the ruling, Wrigley said he was heading to the North Dakota Legislative Council’s office to drop off another certification of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reversed Roe vs. Wade. He did not comment about the judge’s order. North Dakota’s law would make abortion illegal in the state except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Columbus: A man accused of raping and impregnating a 10-year-old Ohio girl who traveled to Indiana for an abortion was ordered held without bond Thursday by a judge who cited overwhelming evidence and the fact he apparently is living in the U.S. illegally. Gerson Fuentes, 27, faces two counts of raping the girl, who turned 10 before having the abortion in a case that has become a flashpoint in the national discussion about access to the procedure since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Fuentes, who is from Guatemala, faces the possibility of life in prison with no chance of parole. That penalty and “not having any ties to this community that can be proved legally makes it a substantial flight risk,” Franklin County Judge Julie Lynch said after a 35-minute hearing. The girl confirmed that Fuentes attacked her, Fuentes confessed to Columbus police detectives and DNA testing of the aborted fetus confirmed Fuentes was the father, Franklin County Prosecutor Dan Meyer and Detective Jeffrey Huhn said in court Thursday. Huhn said he was unable, when searching multiple databases, to find any evidence that Fuentes was in the country legally. Fuentes’ attorney, Bryan Bowen, argued against a no-bond hearing and unsuccessfully asked Lynch to set a reasonable bond. He said there was no evidence of physical abuse outside of the rapes or that the girl had been put under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He also said Fuentes had family ties in Columbus, that he had a job, and that there was no evidence of a criminal history. Fuentes has lived in the area about seven years.
Oklahoma City: The second half of Scissortail Park will open Sept. 23, with events running that weekend from Friday night to Sunday night. The park will be the relaxed counterpart to the more heavily programmed upper portion, and at the same time be a place for children to play soccer, basketball, futsal and pickleball. MAPS 4 Program Manager David Todd said construction crews just have “finishing touches” left before the park is ready for its first visitors. The upper and lower portions of the park were funded by the voter-approved MAPS 3 penny sales tax, which ran from April 2010 to December 2017. The price tag for the park’s lower portion is now $24.5 million, a 9.5% increase over the original $22.2 million budget. The increase was paid for through higher-than-expected sales tax collections. The park project broke ground in November 2020.
Portland: A new audit from the Secretary of State has found Oregon’s unemployment insurance system experienced many problems during the pandemic, delaying payments to thousands of workers who lost jobs. The audit highlights known issues including the Employment Department’s antiquated and inflexible computer system and frequent turnover in its executive ranks. Previous audits warned that the agency’s mainframe system, dating to the 1990s, was too rigid to handle complicated claims or rule changes, and relied too much on manual processes, leading to errors. A 2015 audit recommended the system be replaced – a process that is only now underway.
Harrisburg: Four Pennsylvania universities said they will follow through with tuition increases despite calls from state House Republicans to roll back the price hikes. The lawmakers, including Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, the GOP nominee for governor, argued Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Lincoln and Temple are receiving federal funds and do not need to increase tuition. The universities did not receive a bump in funding in this year’s state budget. Instead, through one-time federal funds, the universities will split about $30 million on top of budget funding. At Penn State, in-state undergraduate students will see tuition increase by 5% at the University Park campus and 2% at the Commonwealth Campuses. Nonresidents will see a 6% tuition increase at University Park and a 3% increase at the Commonwealth campuses. A 5% increase will be instituted for Penn State World Campus undergraduates. Most in-state students paying full tuition at Pitts’ campus will see their tuition rate rise by 3.5%. Regional campus tuition rates will rise by 2%. Temple students will see a 3.9% increase for 2022–2023 undergraduate and graduate base tuition for in-state and out-of-state students. Lincoln’s tuition will increased by less than 1% for the incoming class, according to figures on its website. A university spokesperson didn’t immediately confirm the increase amount.
Pawtucket:As primary elections near, the city agreed to halt the enforcement of an ordinance restricting the placement of political signs in yards more than 30 days before an election as the parties work out a resolution in the case. The city reached a consent agreement with the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union before a court hearing Thursday not to enforce limitations on timing, lighting and size of political yard signs. Under the agreement, the city will not enforce, nor threaten to enforce, “any size, placement, and/or illumination restrictions on political campaign signs, including but not limited to candidate campaign signs or issue signs, that are more stringent than those imposed on nonpolitical signs.” The ordinance had also specified that signs could not be illuminated or exceed 12 square feet. The ACLU sued the city Tuesday on behalf of two Democratic candidates for state legislature – Jennifer Stewart and Cherie Cruz – arguing the ordinance banning the posting of political yard signs more than 30 days before an election was unconstitutional and should be struck down.
Columbia: Turning around the state’s chronically dangerous juvenile prisons is now the job of Eden Hendrick, a prosecutor who sent some of those children to jail. Hendrick is leading the state Department of Juvenile Justice after two of her predecessors resigned following state audits that found major faults, from a “useless and ineffective” in-house police force to an inability to keep children safe. “We’ve been fighting this battle for a long time,” Hendrick said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m very hopeful that now that it’s actually getting some traction, and that we’ll be able to actually start to provide these youths the real services that they need.” Hendrick was confirmed in May shortly before the agency agreed to sweeping reforms at the main juvenile prison. Fixes included installing a modern surveillance system, revising use of force rules, reducing solitary confinement and making sure children get physical and recreational activity. Hendrick, who took over as interim director in September, is asking for time, to change the prisons and the culture of an agency whose employees often feel forgotten and unappreciated.
Aberdeen: The proposed budget for the Aberdeen School District is up 3.3% from a year ago, and COVID-19 grant funding is a major reason why. That money will allow for the construction of a greenhouse and new classrooms at the A-TEC Academy on the Central High School campus. Finance Director Tom Janish presented the proposed budget for 2022-23 to the Aberdeen School Board during this week’s meeting. The board heard about the preliminary budget in May. The final budget has to be approved at the end of September. Until then, the school board can make adjustments. For the 2022-23 school year, the overall budget is projected at $59.38 million, with about $10 million going toward the the capital outlay fund and special education fund. Another $33.5 million is for the general fund, with the remaining dollars going toward debt service, food service and other areas. Overall, the general fund will see a 3.3% increase. The state's contribution to the general fund is going up about 6% to $18.77 million. That's about 56% of total general fund revenue, Janish said. Most of the rest of the money will come from property taxes.
Charleston: A German chemical company plans to add 200 jobs through an expansion at its Tennessee campus. The state Department of Economic and Community Development said Wacker has begun a feasibility study to add new silicone production facilities in Charleston. A $200 million investment there would be phased over several years. The company employs 700 people at the site. The first phase of the expansion would add plants to produce high-consistency silicone rubber and silicone sealants. In 2015, Wacker began producing hyper-pure polysilicon for semi-conductor and high-efficiency solar cells. In 2019, Wacker added production of pyrogenic silica. With the new announcement, the company will have invested nearly $3 billion at the site.
Glen Rose: A wildfire that blackened 101/2 square miles of north Texas, destroying 16 homes, reached 40% containment Wednesday, double what it had been the day before, officials said. The multiagency firefighting team fighting the Chalk Mountain Fire 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth said it had completed a fire line around the blaze Wednesday. However, the lines are sufficient only to be impervious to further spreading in 40% of the fire zone, primarily its southern reaches. In a statement, team officials said work continues to improve the lines around the rest of the zone while also attacking stubborn hot spots within the zone’s interior. No injuries have been reported.
St. George:A stormy day of rain helped firefighters battling the Dodge Springs Fire near the Utah-Nevada border on Monday, but the fire was still just 10% contained and threatened to flare back up if winds and hotter temperatures persisted, officials said. The fire, which was burning in Washington County about 25 miles northwest of St. George, began July 22, sparked by a lightning strike. It was burning through pinyon pines and juniper trees in rough terrain that was difficult for firefighters to access but remote enough that there had been no evacuations or road closures.
Burlington:LandAir, the trucking firm with facilities in Williston and Windsor that closed unexpectedly earlier this month, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, meaning it will not be reorganized but will be liquidated. The company has about $3 million in assets and about $43 million in debts, according to documents filed in federal bankruptcy court in Massachusetts, where LandAir is based. Only two creditors have secured claims – Banc of California for $5 million and Corbel Capital Partners, the Los Angeles-based private investment firm that owned the company, for nearly $34 million. There are hundreds of unsecured creditors across the country, which include many Vermont companies. In addition, brothers Thomas and William Spencer, whose father Fred founded what would become LandAir in Burlington in 1968 as Allied Air Freight, are owed $137,500 each as the result of a lawsuit. The brothers’ attorney declined to comment.
Chincoteague: The Chincoteague Pony Swim returned Wednesday morning for the first time since the pandemic. The move of the ponies across the Assateague Channel is a 97-year tradition attended by enthusiastic spectators, many of whom arrived hours early to claim the best spots. Shortly after 9 a.m., a red-orange flare shot up from a Coast Guard boat, signaling to the group of horseback riders known as the Saltwater Cowboys that it was time to bring the ponies across the channel. The ponies didn’t want to be hurried, though, and paused to nibble on grass in the shallow water at the start of their journey. The ponies were submerged up to their necks, water churning as they made their way across the channel. It was over in 41/2 minutes. The swim raises money to buy equipment for the fire department, pays the roughly $45,000 yearly vet bill for the ponies and funds eight scholarships for Chincoteague high schoolers, said Denise Bowden, a spokeswoman for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. After the swim, about 65 foals were auctioned. It’s important to reduce the population of the horses because the fire department has an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep only 150 ponies on Assateague, Bowden said.
Seattle: People in the state’s most populous county should soon be able to drop off unwanted guns and ammunition at any sheriff’s office or storefront location, assured of its safe disposal. The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved legislation Tuesday to create a permanent program within its Sheriff’s Office that allows people to voluntarily return firearms and ammunition, The Seattle Times reported. The legislation asks the county executive to evaluate the feasibility of allowing drop offs and allowing people to request a sheriff’s deputy to pick up an unwanted firearm. People also could drop off guns at locations in the 10 contract cities where the county sheriff provides police services. And the legislation asks the sheriff to look for partnerships with other cities to expand access for people looking to turn over guns or ammunition. During a 2013 gun buyback program coordinated by King County and the city of Seattle, 716 firearms were surrendered to law enforcement in exchange for gift cards.
Charleston: The deadline to apply for the school clothing allowance has been extended because of a system outage that is affecting multiple state agencies, the Department of Health and Human Resources said. Children who are eligible will receive a $200 benefit each to buy school clothing or piece goods to sew clothing. Families can apply online at wvpath.org, and applications are due by 5 p.m. Aug. 12. Local DHHR offices can supply paper applications, which must be postmarked by Aug. 12. Automatic benefits will go to families with school-age children by the end of June who receive WV WORKS cash assistance; parents or guardians of children in foster care; and children ages 4 to 18 who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, are enrolled in school and whose household income is under 130% of the federal poverty level.
Madison: A conservative law firm is pushing back against a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that transparency advocates said has damaged the state’s open records law by limiting when people who sue over records requests can recover attorney’s fees. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on Thursday called for the Republican-controlled Legislature to strengthen open records laws in response to a 4-3 ruling earlier this month by the conservative-controlled Supreme Court that found that if an entity decides to release records after being sued, the requester can be awarded attorney’s fees only if a court issues a ruling, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. In a policy brief, WILL urged the Legislature to amend state law to ensure that requesters will be able to recover attorney’s fees if they prevail in open records lawsuits. The brief offered multiple suggestions for how to amend the law.
Jackson: An accident involving the aerial tram at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on Saturday left a contractor severely injured, the Casper Star Tribune reported.