Scottsboro: Jackson County plans to reopen the park where a deadly fire at a marina killed eight people a week ago. Most of Jackson County Park will reopen Monday, officials said, but the part of the marina where fire occurred will still be off-limits. Paul Smith, the county emergency management director, said crews would be cleaning up the site through the weekend. Environmental damage from the blaze didn’t get outside the immediate area around the marina, he told a news conference Friday. A fire broke out on a dock at the marina Jan. 27, destroying about three dozen boats and claiming eight lives. Officials have not determined the cause of the fire, but they said investigators are looking at one boat in particular. Most burned boats that sunk in the wide creek where the marina is located off the Tennessee River have been removed, Smith said, but some remain. Salvage work will take “quite a while,” he said.
Juneau: Gov. Mike Dunleavy is planning town hall meetings centered on the state’s fiscal situation and future. Events are planned for Petersburg on Monday and Wrangell on Tuesday. Dunleavy’s office said the town halls will be open to the public. Additional public events will be announced later as part of a town hall series, his office said. Dunleavy has said he plans to more directly communicate with Alaskans. His first year in office was marked by an ongoing recall effort, which was fueled by anger over budget cuts he proposed last year. Dunleavy has called the recall effort political. Besides the town halls, Dunleavy plans to meet with school and community leaders, tribes, business groups and nonprofits across the state, according to his office. Dunleavy told reporters Friday that the state is paying for the upcoming trips. He faced criticism last year for holding town halls hosted by Americans for Prosperity-Alaska.
Flagstaff: The City Council drew an overflow crowd as it moved toward declaring a climate emergency to address climate change and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. With more than 250 people present for the council’s consideration of the issue at a meeting last week, dozens had to sit on folding chairs in the lobby of City Hall to watch a livestream, the Arizona Daily Sun reports. The council is now poised to officially adopt the resolution following a legal review. “We have seen and felt the sense of emergency,” Councilwoman Regina Salas said after numerous members of the public spoke. The measure would be nonbinding. But activist Sara Kubisty said declaring a climate emergency sets a standard that residents and voters can cite during future policy discussions. Mayor Coral Evans said she supported the resolution but warned that further climate action will take real effort and won’t always be popular.
Jacksonville: The City Council voted Friday to allow new tests on fingerprints and DNA evidence relating to the case of a man the state put to death in 2017. The council voted to allow the tests that Ledell Lee’s family contends could exonerate him of the 1993 slaying of Debra Reese. Patricia Young, Lee’s sister, had sued the city to allow the new tests. Representing the family were the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas and the Innocence Project. The groups said they plan to have the DNA evidence tested at a nationally accredited laboratory at Young’s expense and to upload the fingerprints to a national database. Lee was the first of four inmates Arkansas executed in April 2017 before its supply of a lethal injection drug expired. The state had originally planned to execute eight inmates, but four were spared by court rulings.
San Francisco: A conservation group has reached an agreement to buy a canyon in the Santa Cruz Mountains that includes 100 acres of ancient redwood trees, a purchase that will help create a continuous corridor of protected redwood habitat stretching to the Pacific Ocean. Save the Redwoods League reached an agreement Thursday to buy the 564-acre Cascade Creek, nestled between Big Basin Redwoods and Ano Nuevo state parks, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The towering redwoods have never felt the blade of a saw, the kind to which conservationists reverently refer as “old-growth.” “We got here just in time,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, gesturing toward blue paint marks, which indicate they were once the target of loggers. The league has so far raised $8.6 million of the $9.6 million needed to complete the transaction, which is expected to close May 30.
Denver: The state Senate formally approved a death penalty repeal bill Friday and sent it to the House, where prospects for passage are favorable. Gov. Jared Polis has said he will sign a repeal bill. The 19-13 vote came in the seventh effort in recent years to repeal the state’s death penalty. The bill would apply to offenses charged on or after July 1. It would not apply to the three men on Colorado’s death row. That provision was added to the bill at the conclusion of an hourslong Senate floor debate Thursday. Democratic Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora again urged her colleagues to keep capital punishment – or at least refer the question to voters. Colorado’s last execution came in 1997. Twenty-one U.S. states have abolished capital punishment. Other states are currently considering action.
Hartford: The state is giving $1.3 million to help house victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, advocates say. The state’s Department of Housing and Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced a new round of funding Thursday, the Hartford Courant reports. The coalition said the money will allow the two state agencies continue to find safe housing for victims who are fleeing intimate partner violence and human trafficking. The new funding followed an initial $1.7 million received last year when the two agencies began to collaborate in their effort to house victims of abuse and human trafficking. Gov. Ned Lamont commended the agencies’ efforts and said the state has been a leader “on issues pertaining to domestic and family violence and providing protections for survivors, and enhancing these services remains a priority.”
Dover: Democratic Gov. John Carney is proposing to increase the state’s operating budget by almost 4% next fiscal year, boosting spending to more than $4.6 billion. The budget proposal unveiled Thursday for the fiscal year starting July 1 includes a 2% pay raise for state employees, who also received pay raises last year and the year before, at a $29.3 million cost to taxpayers. Carney’s proposed operating budget includes $36.5 million in new spending to address school enrollment growth. He’s also proposing a record capital budget of $892.8 million for construction, maintenance, technology, equipment, economic development and environmental projects. The proposal includes $50 million in new spending for clean water initiatives, $50 million for economic development, and $50 million to build and renovate schools in Wilmington.
District of Columbia
Washington: A new study has been granted $1 million to determine who would qualify for free or discounted fares on Metro, officials say. The district’s social science center called The Lab received $1 million in grant funding to run the study, WUSA-TV reports. The city says 18% of all Metrorail riders are considered low-income, and that number jumps to 48% on Metrobus. City Administrator Rashad Young says the study ensures the city does not waste its money, as it could ultimately pay Metro for revenue it loses. Researchers say they want the system to be seamless with SmarTrip cards, perhaps linked to databases of other social services, like food stamps. Young also says the idea will not be a handout in a city where getting around can bankrupt those trying to make ends meet. Officials say 2,500 adults will be asked to participate in the study starting this summer.
Islamorada: Visiting Tibetan monks helped release a rehabilitated sea turtle in the Florida Keys. Hundreds of spectators witnessed the release Thursday of “Drifter,” a 170-pound female adult loggerhead sea turtle who was rehabilitated at the Keys-based Turtle Hospital after she was found floating offshore of the Lower Keys last November. The monks hail from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in India. “Drifter” was released into the Atlantic Ocean off an Islamorada resort after an hourlong ceremony performed by the monks, each an ordained student of the Dalai Lama. Ritual chants aspired that the turtle and other animals enjoy long lives. Minyak Rinpoche, the group’s leader, said the key to ultimate happiness is compassion for all living things and loving kindness. Staff at the Turtle Hospital have been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for almost 35 years.
Atlanta: Anne Cox Chambers, a newspaper heiress, diplomat and philanthropist who was one of the country’s richest women, died Friday at the age of 100. Chambers’ nephew James Cox Kennedy announced her death to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, her company’s flagship newspaper. Chambers, a director of Cox Enterprises Inc., promoted Jimmy Carter’s political career and served as U.S. ambassador to Belgium during his presidency. Forbes estimated her net worth several years ago at nearly $17 billion. She was well known for her charitable giving and served on the boards of the Atlanta Arts Alliance and the High Museum of Art, among other institutions. She owned a white-columned manor across from the governor’s mansion in Atlanta, where Jimmy Carter brought his daughter, Amy, over to swim in the pool. Gov. Brian Kemp issued a statement Friday praising Chambers, saying her “contributions to the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia will be felt for generations to come.”
Honolulu: Law enforcement officers from around the country gathered in the city for a ceremony to honor one of two officers killed while responding to a call in which a suspect and his landlord died and nearby homes were leveled by fire. Officer Tiffany Enriquez was memorialized Thursday by her family, members of the public, and police officers and emergency personnel who formed a “thin blue line” at the Honolulu Police Department headquarters as part of Enriquez’s “end of watch” ceremony. Enriquez, 38, was a seven-year veteran of the Honolulu police assigned to Waikiki. The Air Force veteran was the first female officer to die in the line of duty in Hawaii when she was fatally shot Jan. 19 along with Officer Kaulike Kalama. Authorities say Jaroslav Hanel, 69, shot the officers and killed landlord Lois Cain in a suspected landlord-tenant dispute.
Boise: The state’s roads are becoming increasingly dangerous with distracted drivers and a growing number of motorists, the director of the Idaho Department of Transportation says. “Drivers are more distracted than ever before,” Brian Ness told state lawmakers on a budget-setting committee Friday. “And I think technology may be to blame for much of that.” Legislation to impose a statewide ban on handheld cellphone use while driving is pending in the Senate, and distracted driving legislation is pending in the House. Ness isn’t taking a position on the legislation, but his agency is running a campaign aimed at having people put away distractions while driving. Ness was before the committee to present his agency’s budget. Republican Gov. Brad Little has proposed a 7.9% increase from last year to $785 million. The committee won’t start setting state agency budgets for several more weeks.
Chicago: The city is suing a coffee company for trademark infringement, saying its logo is nearly identical to the symbol for the city’s fire department. Fire Department Coffee’s logo features the letters F, D and C, intertwined in a stylized monogram, just like the one for the Chicago Fire Department, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The design is likely used to confuse consumers into thinking the city has endorsed or sponsored the business, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday. Firefighters run the Rockford-based company, and “10% of proceeds from every order goes towards supporting ill or injured firefighters and first responders,” according to its website. “Fire Department Coffee pursued all of the correct legal channels and secured an approved, registered trademark for our current Fire Department Coffee logo,” the company said in a statement.
Indianapolis: Four members of the Indianapolis City-County Council openly identify as members of the LGBTQ community, which is the most ever for the legislative body. Newly elected member Ali Brown, who is bisexual, says none of the candidates won in November for that reason. “None of that was part of (anything) groundbreaking or anything like that,” Brown says. “It was just something that was.” But LGBTQ advocates hope it means their concerns are better heard. “The only expectation we have is that they listen to our community and provide a voice to the issues important to our community,” says Chris Handberg, executive director of Indy Pride. “Whereas in the past, we have not had easy access to lawmakers and politicians and leaders to be able to provide some of that.” The candidates were elected as part of a Democratic wave on the council. Indiana’s legislature is overwhelmingly Republican.
Des Moines: A divided state Supreme Court concluded Friday that a central Iowa recreational lake that owners tout as the state’s largest private lake isn’t private at all because it is accessible via a public waterway. The ruling could have ramifications for private lake developments connected to rivers that want to keep out nonmember boaters. It’s not immediately clear how many lakes in the state could be affected. The 4-2 decision came in the case of Jeffrey Alan Meyers, who was arrested by Iowa Department of Natural Resources officers for boating while intoxicated on Lake Panorama in July 2018. The DNR officers initially stopped Meyers’ pontoon boat on the lake because it was decorated with blue lights, violating an Iowa law against displaying blue lights on a boat that’s not an emergency vessel. DNR officers claimed they had jurisdiction because the lake is connected to the publicly accessible Middle Raccoon River.
Lawrence: As the Super Bowl neared, University of Kansas students urged administrators to call off classes on the day after the big game and to provide vomit bags on campus if they didn’t. The Student Senate made the request in a resolution passed Thursday as the Kansas City Chiefs prepared to play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the team’s first trip to the Super Bowl since 1970. It said Chancellor Douglas Girod should consider the “health implications of students attending classes and attempting course work less than 12 hours after the culmination of the Super Bowl and any celebrations that follow the game, should the Kansas City Chiefs emerge victorious.” The resolution also said Student Senate members don’t condone the tradition of fans mimicking tomahawk chops or “any other behavior that mocks or is offensive to Native American culture.” They urged the Chiefs to “take proactive attempts to end such traditions.”
Louisville: The number of travelers taking flights at the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport last year set a record, officials said. The airport announced in a statement on Thursday that 2019 was its busiest year yet with 4.2 million passengers. That’s nearly 300,000 more than it had in 2000, when there were 3.9 million passengers. “Exceeding the 4 million mark is something we are very proud of and is a new milestone for our airport,” said Dan Mann, executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. “We know how successful 2019 was for passenger traffic, and we believe the numbers for 2020 will be even better.” Last year, the six airlines serving Louisville increased capacity on 20 different routes including the addition of nonstop flights to multiple locations. “Direct flights are essential in making us attractive for businesses and visitors,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
Baton Rouge: Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration reached another impasse Friday over the state’s income forecast, unable to strike a deal with the Legislature’s new Republican leaders about how to set the projections used to build the budget. The Democratic governor had been hopeful that a change in the House’s top leadership would break through repeated logjams over the forecast and give him the updated, larger state income forecast he wanted as he crafts his budget proposal for next year. Instead, the Edwards administration found itself at odds with both the new Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and new GOP Senate President Page Cortez during the latest meeting of the Revenue Estimating Conference. Both expressed concerns about the numbers proposed by nonpartisan legislative and administrative economists that the governor’s chief budget adviser wanted to use.
Portland: Allen’s Coffee Brandy, a venerable brand of liquor beloved in Maine, is no longer the top-selling alcohol in the Pine Tree State. State alcoholic beverage records say Mainers spent $12.2 million on Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and $11.7 million on Tito’s Handmade Vodka last year, the Bangor Daily News reports. Those sales were enough to eclipse Allen’s, which garnered $9.2 million in sales. Allen’s remains the most-purchased hard alcohol in the state in terms of volume. People purchased more than 90,000 cases of Allen’s in Maine last year, while Tito’s came in second at 71,000. Allen’s is produced by M.S. Walker of Massachusetts. Sales are trending downward, though. Revenue of Allen’s has dropped by about a sixth since 2014. Last year’s sales lagged about $400,000 behind the 2018 figure. Maine is the only significant market for Allen’s, which is especially popular in a milk-based mixed drink called a “Sombrero.”
Bel Air: The city’s police chief has been placed on administrative leave after being accused of physical and verbal fights with his estranged wife and teenage son. Charles A. Moore Jr., chief of Bel Air police, was served a temporary protective order Tuesday, news outlets report. Deputy Chief Richard Peschek will serve as chief in Moore’s absence, town officials say. Moore and his wife separated in 2016, according to court documents obtained by The Aegis, a division of The Baltimore Sun. In December, Moore and his adult son went to his wife’s house, where Moore allegedly got into an argument with his teenage son and attempted to choke the boy after being punched by the teen, court documents state. Jason Silverstein, Moore’s attorney, said his client is the victim, the newspaper reports. Moore was also accused of sending “belittling text messages” to his wife and threatening to to “bash her head,” according to the documents.
Boston: Bay State voters who can’t get to their local polling location for the upcoming presidential primaries can now pick up absentee ballots. Voters who will be out of town March 3 or have a disability or religious belief that prevents them from voting at their polling place are eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Those who need a ballot mailed to them may send an absentee ballot application to their city or town hall. Family members may also complete the application on a voter’s behalf. Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin is recommending voters submit absentee ballot applications as soon as possible to allow time for the ballot to be mailed to the voter and returned to their city or town hall. Ballots must be delivered to the local election office by the close of polls March 3 in order to be counted. Early voting will also be available Feb. 24-28 for all voters.
St. Clair Shores: People who live along the shores of Lake St. Clair are wondering how much it will cost them to clean up a sludge-like substance that recently washed up on their properties. Tests of samples taken from one property in Macomb County, in southeastern Michigan, showed the substance to be decaying algae containing E. coli bacteria, the county health department said in a release. Health officials have said the algae presents “no imminent public health hazard.” But to vacuum the material up using a sanitary truck and then dispose it could cost about $10,000 per home, according to Ryan Siarkowski, the owner of Synergy Development Specialist. It will cost more if a homeowner also removes the soil beneath the material, said Siarkowski, who noted that every house would be different. Lake St. Clair feeds into the Detroit River and is part of the waterway linking lakes Huron and Erie.
Duluth: The breathtaking ice caves along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore will likely be inaccessible this year due to low ice coverage on Lake Superior. On Friday, less than 5% of Lake Superior was covered by ice; ice coverage is typically 25% at the end of January. The Star Tribune reports the last time the ice caves were accessible by foot was in 2015. While ice coverage on Superior usually peaks in February or March, data shows most winters with this level of ice Jan. 31 don’t accumulate much more. A University of Michigan study last year said tracking ice on the Great Lakes is an ideal case study for climate research. Ice surrounding the Bayfield Peninsula was more consistent before the late 1990s, when “all of a sudden we saw years in which there was no safe ice cover,” said Andrew Gronewold, a study author. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Oxford: Former Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith is set to receive a journalism award from his alma mater, the University of Mississippi. The university’s School of Journalism and New Media announced in a news release that Smith is the latest to be honored with its Silver Em award. Smith will receive the award during a ceremony April 1 in Oxford. Smith, who grew up in Holly Springs, spent more than 20 years anchoring Fox News before leaving the network last year. “Shepard Smith embodies what a journalist should be – for decades, he has reported the news without fear or favor,” said Debora Wenger, assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships and professor of journalism. “Because he got his start in journalism here at the University of Mississippi, we feel extraordinarily proud of all he has accomplished.”
Jefferson City: Lawmakers this session are trying to make it easier for military spouses and out-of-state doctors, teachers, pharmacists and other licensed professionals to get jobs in the state. Legislation approved by the state House last week would allow those professionals to work in the state without going through its licensing process. One bill would make the exception only for military spouses, who might move frequently. That bill wouldn’t allow military spouses to transfer teaching licenses to Missouri. Another bill would apply what’s called license reciprocity to all out-of-state professionals. Republican Gov. Mike Parson called for license reciprocity for military spouses during his January State of the State address to the Republican-led Legislature. He told House and Senate sponsors of the measure that he’s counting on them to send legislation to his desk “very soon.”
Helena: The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted a secretarial natural disaster designation to 17 counties that requested federal aid after incurring losses caused by multiple disasters during the 2019 crop year, Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday. The designation will make producers eligible for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency, including emergency loans. The farmers have eight months to apply for the loans. The counties designated are Cascade, Chouteau, Daniels, Dawson, Glacier, McCone, Pondera, Prairie, Richland, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Sheridan, Teton, Toole, Treasure, Valley and Wibaux. Bullock sent two letters to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting a secretarial disaster designation for several counties that had multiple disasters, including excessive moisture and snow, freezing, frost, hail and high winds.
Kearney: Officials are investigating how a pair of juvenile offenders managed to escape custody twice in a 24-hour period. The incident began Tuesday night when a report of two suspicious males led the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office to call the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney to see if it was missing any teens. The facility’s staff checked and reported two teens were missing, the Kearney Hub reports. Early the next day, deputies in neighboring Seward County found an abandoned, stolen car in a snowbank off Interstate 80. Footprints in the snow led deputies to the two escaped juveniles. By Wednesday afternoon, York County deputies received a report that a transportation company driver taking the teens back to the Kearney facility had been assaulted and the transport van stolen. York police tracked the van to Hamilton County, where the teens were again taken into custody and back to the youth center, which has been plagued by escapes and understaffing in recent years.
Las Vegas: The city has opened a new park named for a police officer killed in the line of duty in 2014. The numerous officials and dignitaries who attended the dedication ceremony Friday for Officer Alyn Beck Memorial Park on Friday included Gov. Steve Sisolak, Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Beck and another officer were killed while having lunch at a restaurant when they were shot by a couple who also killed a civilian who tried to stop them. The couple eventually died in a gunfight with other officers. The 10-acre park named after Beck features a lacrosse field, soccer fields, basketball court and a shaded playground with benches for families.
Hampton Beach: The village’s annual Easter egg hunt has been moved inland out of concern that plastic eggs could end up in the ocean. The Hampton Beach Parks & Recreation Department announced on Facebook on Wednesday that the department will no longer host the Easter Egg Dig on the beach because it cannot ensure all eggs will be accounted for, the Portsmouth Herald reports. “I know there’s a lot of people that love this, and it’s been a tradition,” Recreation Director Rene Boudreau said. “I also feel that it’s a time where these kinds of decisions have to be made, and I’d rather be known for trying to help the cause as opposed to be part of the problems.” The department’s post received mixed reaction. Some parents praised the decision, while others called it “very silly.” But Blue Ocean Society Director Jen Kennedy wrote in a letter to the editor that many eggs that are not found during the hunt are discovered in beach cleanups months later.
Elmwood Park: A northern New Jersey paper plant is operating again, a year after a massive fire destroyed most of it. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was among the guests Friday at the Marcal plant in Elmwood Park for a ceremony at one of the few buildings that wasn’t leveled by the January 2019 fire. “We need to get back to work,” Marcal CEO Rob Baron said Friday. Marcal’s resumption of operations was made possible through a merger with Lewistown, Pennsylvania-based Nittany Paper Mills. Investigators conducted more than 100 interviews and concluded that the fire started in a building where large rolls of paper were stored, but they have been unable to determine the cause due to the extensive damage. The fire destroyed 30 of 36 buildings as well as Marcal’s familiar red sign visible from Interstate 80. Demolition at the site began last August. About 500 people lost their jobs.
Albuquerque: Police hired a convicted felon and allowed him to continue working in a high-ranking position even after officials learned he had provided a wrong birthdate and Social Security number, city records show. Documents obtained by KOAT-TV through an open records request show that Amir Chapel was hired in April as the department’s policy and compliance manager. The position, which paid $72,000 a year, was created to make sure police followed the city’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice involving use of excessive force. A department memo and court records show Chapel had been convicted of forgery in Texas, misuse of a credit card in Illinois and robbery in California. Under Albuquerque personnel rules, applicants are ineligible for city employment if they make a false statement on applications or if they have a prior felony conviction involving “moral turpitude.”
Albany: The New York State Bar Association is endorsing the legalization of recreational marijuana, as state lawmakers consider proposals this session to legalize the drug. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has put forward legislation to legalize marijuana in the state. Under the governor’s proposal, sales to retail dispensaries would be taxed at 20%, and people could have 1 ounce of marijuana before getting in trouble. A separate proposal, backed by Democrats in the Legislature, would permit people to have to have 3 ounces of marijuana. The legislation would set one of the largest limits for legal marijuana possession in the nation. The bar association on Friday announced that it supports legalizing adult recreational marijuana. The association also said it approved a report that outlined various recommendations for how the state should address the issue.
Raleigh: From interstate improvements to turn lanes, the state’s Department of Transportation is asking residents to advise which projects they want funded over the next 10 years. A statewide public comment period to submit ideas continues through Feb. 28 for the 10-year transportation plan for 2023-2032. Residents can send project suggestions in a short, interactive survey found on the 2023-2032 STIP website. Projects can be for any type of transportation, including highway, aviation, bicycle, pedestrian, ferries, rail and public transportation. The comment period is not for maintenance, such as patching potholes. In addition, a three-day open house will be held Tuesday through Thursday during regular business hours at DOT’s Division Five headquarters in Durham for in-person input about potential projects in Wake, Durham, Franklin, Person, Granville, Vance and Warren counties.
Bismarck: A pipeline spill of oil-field wastewater in northwestern North Dakota has affected more cropland than originally reported. State environmental scientist Bill Suess said regulators were notified last month of the 8,400-gallon pipeline leak in Renville County. The pipeline is operated by Texas-based Cobra Oil and Gas. Regulators initially said about 1,000 square feet of cropland was affected. The landowner, Sherwood resident Allan Engh, said people involved in the cleanup of the site told him the brine could have contaminated as much as 400,000 square feet of soil. Suess told the Bismarck Tribune that estimate could be accurate, but the official number is not yet known. “We know it’s bigger; we know it’s impacting a very large area,” Suess said. He said the spill of produced water happened 2 miles north of Sherwood and within a mile of the U.S.-Canada border. The cause of the pipeline leak is unknown.
Cincinnati: Fiona, the hippopotamus heartthrob at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, apparently made a mess of her Super Bowl prediction Thursday. Zookeepers placed two “enrichment” toys in front of her, marked with the logos of the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. While the plan called for Fiona to nudge one of the items with her snout to indicate her pick, she instead chose to lose her leafy green lunch on the Chiefs’ item, WLWT-TV reports. Fiona’s premature birth three years ago drew international attention. She has since grown to 1,200 pounds, roughly the weight of four NFL offensive linemen. It’s the third year she has handicapped the Super Bowl, correctly picking the Philadelphia Eagles to beat the New England Patriots in 2018 but missing on the Los Angeles Rams upsetting the Patriots in 2019.
Norman: A judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the University of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents of negligence in its handling of a sexual harassment case. Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled Thursday that the case filed by Levi Hilliard involves a “mixed question of law and facts” that should be decided in future legal proceedings, The Norman Transcript reports. Balkman, however, did dismiss a portion of the lawsuit that sought punitive damages against the university. Hilliard, a former server at a university restaurant, says former OU Vice President Jim “Tripp” Hall III made sexual advances toward him on multiple occasions. He says Hall “patted him on the buttocks” during the fall 2017 semester and pinched his nipples at the university club where Hilliard worked.
Portland: The city has agreed to pay an African American couple $120,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit that contended a police officer pulled them over and then broke the key off in the ignition, leaving them stranded. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports city officials settled the suit Friday with Claudius and Daynelle Banks. Officer Christian Berge said he pulled the couple over in March 2015 at 2 a.m. for drifting into oncoming traffic. Attorneys for the Banks said Berge never filed a report or conducted a field sobriety test. Berge said he didn’t have time or backup support to process a drunken driving arrest, so he gave the Banks a warning and allowed them to walk home. Berge said he accidentally broke the key off not in the ignition but in the driver’s door lock. He denied searching the vehicle. Court documents say Berge had approached the vehicle and ordered, “Get your black (expletive) out of the car.”
Harrisburg: A judge put a freeze on a new state police policy regarding sales of partially manufactured gun frames that can be made into working pistols and rifles. Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson issued the preliminary injunction Friday, about three weeks after state police provided guidance to gun dealers about how to perform background checks for sales of what are often called 80% receivers or unassembled “ghost guns.” Brobson said the plaintiffs, businesses that manufacture and sell the gun frames, have raised a legitimate question about whether the state police policy is too vague. He said he would be open to revisiting the scope of his injunction, depending on what state police does in response. State police announced last month that gun dealers must call the state gun-purchase background check system for sales of the 80% receivers and are not permitted to simply use the online system.
Providence: A bill would require safety barriers or netting on bridges that connect islands to the state’s mainland. If made into law, the barriers would be required for three bridges that connect Aquidneck and Conanicut islands to the Rhode Island mainland – Mount Hope Bridge, the Claiborne Pell Bridge and the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge – by Jan. 1, 2022, in an effort to prevent suicides. Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr., D-Warwick, introduced the legislation. He described the problem as “frequent” and said in a statement that Portsmouth Police responded to Mount Hope Bridge 36 times last year. Between 2010 and 2018, there were 27 suicide deaths from the three bridges, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health. The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority already has prevention measures in place, including a surveillance system that allows authorities to act quickly.
Columbia: The state’s military museum covers 250 years of artifacts and stories of brave soldiers fighting for their country, from the Revolutionary War to the ongoing conflict Afghanistan. But the museum’s official name – the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum – is stuck in the four years South Carolinians didn’t fight for the U.S. And when anything involving the Confederacy comes up, it drags on fundraising and admissions, Executive Director Allen Roberson says. When recently working on renewing its national accreditation, the American Alliance of Museums Accreditation said the museum could make it easier on itself by eliminating “Confederate” from its name. Roberson has his own reason for suggesting the change. “The name right now is too long. And what do you think about when you hear ‘relic’? I prefer ‘artifacts,’ ” he says, suggesting a relic would be a small bottle of sand from a desert battle, while an artifact would be the pen a president used to sign a declaration of war.
Rapid City: Tribal police have taken over law enforcement duties from the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Tribal Police Chief Robert Ecoffey told the Rapid City Journal said the tribe wasn’t getting “enough resources in terms of manpower” from the BIA. The move is allowed under the 1975 Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act, which allows tribes to manage federal programs that affect their communities. Charles Addington, director of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, said the agency supports the move. Tribal officers will take control of the BIA’s $1.3 million budget, property, equipment and responsibilities, which include investigating higher-level crimes on the reservation, Addington said. Ecoffey said the BIA allocates nine positions to the reservation, and nine of his officers have now been promoted to detective.
Nashville: The state’s Department of Environment and Conservation on Thursday announced that Dunbar Cave State Park has been selected as the 2019 Tennessee State Park of the Year. The agency says Dunbar Cave State Park – which encompasses 144 acres – is the site of significant prehistoric Mississippian Native American cave art, as well as a prehistoric site for part of the Eastern Woodlands. Over the past two years, the staff has transformed Dunbar Cave State Park by redeveloping cave tours to be more engaging. Research performed by park staffers resulted in new discoveries of Mississippian art and rare Cherokee written symbols that represent syllables. “Dunbar Cave State Park represents some of the highest qualities of our state parks system,” Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson says. “It takes a lot to stand out among the work of our 56 state parks, and we are proud of the work that has been done at Dunbar Cave.”
Dallas: More than a dozen police officers have been disciplined for making offensive statements on social media, including posts that were bigoted or made light of police violence. The city’s police department announced Thursday that 13 officers whose posts violated department policy would receive punishments ranging from a written reprimand to unpaid suspension. Two more cases are still being reviewed, and one officer resigned, the department said in a statement and memo on the disciplinary measures. The officers can appeal their punishments. “It is imperative that we operate with the highest level of ethics and integrity to ensure that the public is confident in the legitimacy of who we are as a law enforcement agency,” Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said. The officer’s posts were among thousands identified by researchers with the Plain View Project as potentially undermining public confidence in police departments around the country.
Brigham City: A 9-year-old boy is in stable condition after accidentally shooting himself in the head, authorities say. Brigham City Police Department responded to the call Thursday just after 5 p.m., authorities said. The boy was taken to Brigham City Community Hospital but was later transferred to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, authorities said. An investigation is ongoing. The accidental shooting occurred just hours after a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot himself in the head while playing with a gun in his home in Murray, about 65 miles south of Brigham City, authorities say. Police believe the 3-year-old boy was awake before his parents and another sibling and used a chair to reach a handgun that was sitting on a kitchen cabinet, officer Kenny Bass told the Deseret News.
Montpelier: Republican Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed a paid family and medical leave bill, saying it would have worsened economic inequity in the state. Scott said Friday that he will move forward with a voluntary program that doesn’t rely on a mandatory $29 million payroll tax. “For years, Vermonters have made it clear they don’t want, nor can they afford, new broad-based taxes,” he said in a statement. “We cannot continue to make the state less affordable for working Vermonters and more difficult for employers to employ them – even for well-intentioned programs like this one.” Democratic legislative leaders expressed disappointment about the veto. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said the bill represented significant movement toward Scott’s position, but the governor was unwilling to compromise.
Tazewell: A rescued puppy is helping lighten the stressful days of the dispatchers at a 911 center. The puppy’s former owners surrendered the 8-week-old lab mix to the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, and dispatchers fell in love, WVNS-TV reports. “A lot of people don’t realize how stressful this job can be,” Edwinna Cecil told the station. “If we have a bad call, you can’t be upset when you see something this precious. It helps calm everybody down. The whole atmosphere has changed since he’s been here.” As the official 911 dispatcher service dog, he will not only provide emotional support but also be an ambassador for 911, attending events and visiting schools. Dispatchers are asking the public to help name the puppy. People can vote on the sheriff’s office Facebook page for their favorite or four proposed names – Mischief, Rookie, Taser or Creed. Votes will be counted Monday afternoon.
Richland: Energy Northwest is considering whether there is a need and regional interest for adding a small modular nuclear reactor system near the Tri-Cities – Kennewick, Pasco and Richland. Energy Northwest already operates the only commercial nuclear power reactor in the Northwest, Columbia Generating Station near Richland, in addition to small solar and hydroelectric projects and a wind farm. The public agency currently generates the electricity for more than 1.5 million customers in Washington state. Now it plans to spend up to $2 million to look at the feasibility of small modular reactors that might be added near its existing reactor. The study will look at the electricity that will be needed in the Northwest in coming decades and where it will come from.
Charleston: The state may soon require the speedy testing and collection of rape kits under a bill passed by the House of Delegates on Friday. Lawmakers approved the proposal by a unanimous vote of 96-0 without debate. It now moves to the Senate for consideration. The bill comes amid a national push to clear backlogs of the kits. More than 20 states have approved bills to require submission guidelines or kit audits in the past two years, according to the advocacy group End The Backlog. The measure would require the kits to be submitted to the state police’s forensic lab within 30 days or as soon as possible after collection. It would also allow for the creation of a tracking process of the kits and would require a court order before law enforcement could dispose of the examinations.
Milwaukee: The city’s first brewery since Prohibition, Sprecher Brewing, was sold Friday to a group of local investors. Sprecher Brewing is credited with jump-starting the craft beer age in Milwaukee when Randy Sprecher and business partner James Bubolz opened shop in 1985, with $40,000 and a hand-built brew kettle. Sprecher Brewing is metro Milwaukee’s longest-running craft brewery. Sharad Chadha, former vice president for GE Medical and an executive with Samsung, will be the brewery’s CEO. Milwaukee native and entrepreneur Andy Nunemaker will be chairman of the board, and Jim Kanter, the former general manager for MilllerCoors, will also be on the leadership team. “Nothing is really going to change for our partners and suppliers and things like that,” brewery president Jeff Hamilton said Friday. Chadha said the goal is to make Sprecher a national craft beverage producer.
Casper: The headdress worn by a Native leader is returning to the tribe after he gave it to a non-Native dentist living in the state, tribal leaders said. The Northern Arapaho Tribe held a ceremony Saturday to welcome the headdress of Chief Black Coal, who guided many to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming in the 19th century, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Coal gave his headdress to a dentist who would often travel to the reservation to provide dental care, officials said. The great-grandson of that dentist contacted the tribe last year asking if the tribe wanted the headdress back, tribal leaders said. The Tribal Historic Preservation office accepted the offer, and descendants of Coal traveled to Massachusetts to retrieve the 140-year-old headdress, officials said.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports