Montgomery: The city is planning a week of events to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1955, a dedicated group of people began standing firm against racist segregation in a boycott that spanned 382 days. Activities and events starting Dec. 1 will take place across the city that are designed to honor those who dedicated and risked their lives. This event is being led by Mayor Steven L. Reed, who recently stood with civil rights attorney Fred Gray to expunge the arrest record for Claudette Colvin. While the bus boycott was officially sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, Colvin was arrested months earlier for the same thing. A unity breakfast will be held Dec. 1 at St. Paul AME Church, and the Rosa Parks Museum will offer free admission all day on the anniversary of her arrest. Free tours of the apartment where she lived from 1951 to 1957 will also be available through the Montgomery Housing Authority. Items inside the home have been preserved or recreated to showcase where many important meetings were held during the civil rights movement. For a full list of activities and events throughout the day next Wednesday and beyond, see mgmbusboycott.com.
Anchorage: A man charged with threatening the lives of the state’s two U.S. senators pleaded not guilty Monday, and a judge decided he will remain in custody. Jason Weiner, an attorney for Jay Allen Johnson, entered the plea on his client’s behalf during Johnson’s arraignment in U.S. District Court in Fairbanks. Johnson, from the small community of Delta Junction, was indicted last week on six criminal counts – including threatening to murder a U.S. official, being a felon in possession of firearms, threatening to destroy property by fire and threatening interstate communications. The government is also seeking to confiscate two pistols, three revolvers, a rifle and a shotgun found on Johnson’s rural Alaska property because he is a felon who is not legally allowed to possess firearms. If convicted, Johnson could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines, assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Tansey said. Johnson, at an earlier hearing, said he is “a senior citizen, and I am highly disabled, and I will not be carrying out any of these threats.” Johnson’s wife testified during a detention hearing in October that her husband was was in pain after recent surgeries and “gets very angry listening to politics on the news.”
Phoenix: Volunteers gave out hundreds of free Thanksgiving turkeys Monday as the holidays approach and charities work to help people get what they need to celebrate. The event at the American Legion’s Post No. 65 in south Phoenix helped out about 1,000 families. The 18th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway was organized by the Sons of the American Legion and the nonprofit HeroZona Foundation. Gov. Doug Ducey Ducey stopped by to help and said in a statement that he was grateful to the volunteers and community groups that came together to help needy families. “It took teamwork to persevere through all the challenges of COVID-19, and events like the Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway show us all that Arizona will have that same sense of camaraderie for decades to come,” Ducey said. The governor’s office said about 50 volunteers joined AP Powell, HeroZona’s founding chairman, to hand out the free food. Powell said the group wanted to ensure that “underserved families in South Phoenix have the opportunity to enjoy Thanksgiving with their loved ones – no matter their circumstances.” Charities and nonprofit groups routinely ramp up their efforts around the holidays to provide food and holiday gifts to low-income Arizonans.
Little Rock: A longtime legislator who left the Republican Party earlier this year following the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol says he won’t run for reelection next year in the state Senate. Sen. Jim Hendren announced Monday that he would not seek another term representing northwest Arkansas. Hendren is a former president of the state Senate who has served in the chamber since 2013. Previously, he had served in the state House of Representatives from 1995 until 1999. He is the nephew of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Hendren left the GOP in February, citing the deadly riot at the Capitol and then-President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. In his announcement Monday, Hendren did not offer specifics on his future plans but said he planned to do more work with his nonprofit, Common Ground Arkansas. “Of course, that drive to serve isn’t gone,” he said in a statement. “I believe Common Ground has real solutions for Arkansas, and I’m dedicated to helping us build a more unified future together.”
Long Beach: The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have again postponed imposing fees on containers left on docks too long, citing progress in moving the cargo from marine terminals. The decision was made after a meeting Monday among the U.S. port envoy, John D. Porcari; industry stakeholders; and officials of the adjacent ports, the Port of Long Beach said in a press release. The “container dwell fee” will now not be considered before Nov. 29. “Since the fee was announced on Oct. 25, the two ports have seen a decline of 33% combined in aging cargo on the docks,” the statement said. “The executive directors of both ports are satisfied with the progress thus far and will reassess fee implementation after another week of monitoring data.” The fee was imposed by the harbor commissions of both ports as a measure to help ease congestion that has left dozens of ships waiting offshore.
Denver: The president of a suburban police union has been placed on paid administrative leave by the police department after he sent an email to the group’s 240 members calling diversity provisions in an agreement between the city and the state “sexist and racist.” Officer Doug Wilkinson sent the email Nov. 16 and was placed on leave the following day after multiple officers complained to human resources, Lt. Chris Amsler, an aide to Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, told KCNC-TV. “To match the ‘diversity’ of ‘the community’ we could make sure to hire 10% illegal aliens, 50% weed smokers, 10% crackheads, and a few child molesters and murderers to round it out. You know, so we can make the department look like the ‘community,’ ” Wilkinson wrote in the email. The email was prompted by an agreement announced the same day that set up reforms for the Aurora police and fire departments. The consent decree followed a lengthy state investigation that found a pattern of racist policing and excessive use of force. It calls for updated hiring practices so the police and fire departments better reflect the city’s racial makeup. Wilkinson told KCNC-TV his missive was intended to be “a private email message to the members” and should not have been made public.
Hartford: The state is ramping up efforts to get older residents COVID-19 booster shots by bringing special clinics to nursing homes, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday. The move comes as the state has seen its highest infection rates since early September. While many homes had boosters administered shortly after extra vaccine doses received the federal go-ahead, these latest clinics will help those facilities that haven’t finished getting residents and eligible staff another dose. “What we’re talking about now is some of the stragglers. As we’ve seen in the past, unfortunately some homes take a little longer to get organized. And so Dr. Juthani and her team are pushing those homes hard to get those clinics done and making sure that everyone in those homes who is eligible (gets a booster shot),” said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, referring to Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new coronavirus cases in Connecticut has risen by 397, an increase of about 117%, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins. Juthani said the state is on target to have had a booster clinic for residents and staff at 70% of long-term care facilities, including assisted living locations, by Thanksgiving. She said the rest will be finished by Dec. 15.
Dover: At a rally Monday, the Rev. Al Sharpton called on lawmakers to open police up to public scrutiny via the controversial Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and lambasted the state for its handling of officer-involved shootings. “It seemed to me ironic, if not insulting, as I was coming in that you have the nerve to name a street after Martin Luther King while the people of Dr. King are being abused by police, and you will not hold them accountable,” Sharpton said outside Legislative Hall. He spoke alongside police reform activists Lakeisha Nix, sister of Lymond Moses, shot and killed by New Castle County police earlier this year; Keandra McDole, sister of Jeremy McDole, a Black man in a wheelchair who was shot and killed by Wilmington police in 2015; and Blaine Hackett, a pastor at St. John African Methodist Church Inc. Sharpton and the local activists criticized Delaware for upholding the decades-old Bill of Rights law that lets police decide how to discipline bad-acting officers and limits how much the public can know about any punishment. The rally, hosted by quasi-grassroots advocacy company Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, was held in favor of legislation to amend the Officers’ Bill of Rights by opening up internal affairs records to the public and striking out certain provisions about how officers may be investigated.
District of Columbia
Washington: The regional train system serving the capital region will remain on drastically reduced service levels through at least the end of this year, as authorities grapple with a safety problem that has forced the majority of the trains out of service. Paul J. Wiedefeld, general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, announced Monday that there were no set timelines for the return of the 7000-series train cars to service. The trains are the newest in service, and the 748 cars compose about 60% of the fleet. The Metro authority’s safety commission abruptly ordered the withdrawal of the entire 7000-series line of trains in mid-October after a derailing revealed chronic problems with the wheels and axles. “We are intentionally not setting deadlines so that safety and good data drive our decisions, but we are mindful that customers want the best service we can provide as soon as we can deliver it, and we are committed to building back up in phases,” Wiedefeld said in a statement Monday. The original plans to bring older 6000-series trains out of retirement to help fill in the service gaps have been delayed by the global supply chain crisis, which has prevented the arrival of necessary parts.
Fort Lauderdale: The families of most of those killed and wounded in a 2018 high school massacre have reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the federal government over the FBI’s failure to stop the gunman even though it had received information he intended to attack. Attorneys for 16 of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and some of those wounded said Monday that they have reached a monetary settlement with the government over the FBI’s failure to investigate a tip it received about a month before the massacre. The 17th family chose not to sue. The attorneys said the settlement’s details are confidential, but a person familiar with the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the government will pay the families $127.5 million overall. “It has been an honor to represent the Parkland families who, through their immeasurable grief, have devoted themselves to making the world a safer place,” their lead attorney, Kristina Infante, said in a statement. Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, died in the shooting, commended the FBI for accepting responsibility for its inaction, comparing it to the Broward County school district and sheriff’s office, the school security staff and the psychologists who treated the shooter. He believes they all failed to stop the shooter and have ducked responsibility. “The FBI has made changes to make sure this never happens again,” Pollack said.
Atlanta: The state’s public university system won’t rename any of the 75 buildings or colleges an internal committee had recommended for changes mostly because of their association with slavery, segregation or mistreatment of American Indians, officials voted Monday. The system’s regents voted not to make any name changes, more than a year after they established a committee to study that issue. “History can teach us important lessons, lessons that if understood and applied make Georgia and its people stronger,” the regents said in a statement unanimously adopted by the board at a specially called meeting. The regents added that while the board would not pursue name changes involving the buildings and colleges as recommended by the advisory group’s report, it acknowledged there were many viewpoints on the matter. “Going forward, the board is committed to naming actions that reflect the strength and energy of Georgia’s diversity,” the statement said. Georgia passed a law in 2019 prohibiting state and local agencies from renaming any buildings named after a “historical entity” or removing any historical monument. Several regents released statements after the vote, but none directly explained why they supported making no changes. Many were appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who supported the 2019 law.
Honolulu: A male Hawaiian monk seal has died at a Big Island marine mammal hospital after a five-week battle with toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease spread by cat feces, officials said Monday. Toxoplasmosis is the biggest disease threat facing the Hawaiian monk seal, a critically endangered species numbering just 1,300 animals. The seal that died last week was known as RW22, the Marine Mammal Center said in a news release. The center called on cat owners to keep their feline pets indoors and dispose of litter in the trash to protect the species. Feral cat feces is also a concern. Stray cats have no predators in Hawaii, and their numbers have ballooned. Marketing research commissioned by the Hawaiian Humane Society in 2015 estimated Oahu alone had 300,000 feral cats. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received a report early last month that RW22 had a fishing line in his mouth off Oahu. An X-ray revealed the seal had swallowed some fishing gear. He also showed signs of partial facial nerve paralysis and a corneal ulcer to his left eye, a suspected symptom of toxoplasmosis. The Coast Guard flew RW22 to the seal hospital in Kailua-Kona, where veterinarians treated the seal in hopes of slowing the rate of infection. He regained some stamina and movement but continued to deteriorate.
Boise: The state’s top health official has deactivated crisis guidelines for rationing care at most of the state’s hospitals. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen issued the decision Monday after health officials said the number of COVID-19 patients remains high but no longer exceeds health care resources in most areas. Crisis standards remain in effect for northern Idaho. During a news conference, Jeppesen and other health care officials warned of possible future outbreaks. “We are not sharing a ‘mission accomplished’ message,” said James Souza, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Health System. “We don’t believe this will be our last surge of COVID. We hope it’s the worst one.” Crisis standards of care give legal and ethical guidelines to health care providers when they have too many patients and not enough resources to care for them all. They spell out exactly how health care should be rationed to save the most lives possible during a disaster. Idaho activated the crisis standards for northern Idaho on Sept. 7 and statewide Sept. 16. Officials didn’t have a timeline for when crisis standards might be lifted in the northern Idaho district, which covers five counties and includes Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene. Health officials said it will take time to catch up on routine surgeries that have been put off.
Chicago: Former President Barack Obama’s foundation said Monday that it has received a $100 million donation from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the largest individual contribution it has received to date. The Obama foundation said in a statement that the gift from Bezos is intended “to help expand the scope of programming that reaches emerging leaders” in the United States and around the world. The donation, it said, was also given in honor of John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights icon who died last year. As part of the gift, the foundation said Bezos has asked for the plaza at the Obama Presidential Center, under construction in Chicago’s South Side, to be named after Lewis. Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to Obama who serves as the foundation’s CEO, said in a statement that the foundation was “thrilled” by that idea. Construction on Obama’s legacy project is expected to cost about $830 million and be completed by 2025. In the meantime, the foundation said it’s giving donors the opportunity to “honor and elevate the names of those who have fought for a more just and equitable world” by naming public spaces in the center. “Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” Bezos said in the statement released by the foundation.
Indianapolis: Biking advocates reeling from the deaths of seven people this year in collisions between vehicles and cyclists are calling for the city to do more to try to prevent such crashes. About two dozen cyclists held a moment of silence for seven minutes – one for each crash victim – at a downtown plaza Sunday evening to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. The candlelight vigil was organized by Bike Indianapolis, a nonprofit group that says seven cyclists, by its count, have received a fatal blow from a vehicle in the capital city since mid-July. “This was too many deaths,” said Sylva Zhang, Bike Indianapolis’ marketing director. In each of the previous six years, the city recorded between one and five fatal crashes with cyclists, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization’s crash dashboard. Biking advocates want the city to establish a crash response team of city-county employees and independent citizens to examine crash sites involving cyclists and pedestrians and recommend preventive infrastructure and policy improvements. They also want the city to respond to those recommendations with plans and to create a database of crash data and reports immediately after they are submitted.
Des Moines: A law that prohibits Medicaid coverage for sex reassignment surgeries for transgender Iowans violates state law and the state constitution, a judge ruled in a decision made public Monday. Judge William Kelly ordered the Iowa Department of Human Services to provide coverage for sex reassignment surgeries when ordered to treat gender dysphoria, a psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity. It often begins in childhood, and some people may not experience it until after puberty or much later, according to the American Psychiatric Association. About 12 states exclude the surgeries in Medicaid coverage; 18 specifically include gender-affirming care; and others do not address it. The ruling is a victory for Aiden Vasquez and Mika Covington, two residents represented by the ACLU of Iowa. Kelly said state and federal courts in the past 16 years have found that gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, which is prohibited under civil rights laws. He also found the law violated the equal protection clause of the state constitution. It is not challenged in the record that surgical treatment for gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition, and the surgery is recommended for Vasquez and Covington by medical professionals as necessary and effective, the judge said.
Minneapolis: Dale “Duster” Hoffman didn’t want a sorrowful funeral, so instead he got a parade. KWCH-TV reports residents of the small town of Minneapolis, Kansas, turned out Sunday for a parade honoring Hoffman, who died this month at age 71. Hoffman had said he wanted his friends and family to remember him with a fun and joyful gathering. More than 100 cars took part in driving down Main Street as part of the parade. One relative said it was believed to be one of the largest parades ever in Minneapolis, a town of about 2,000 residents about 180 miles west of Kansas City, Missouri.
Lexington: A judge has ruled against a police union in a lawsuit that sought to stop a ban on no-knock warrants in the city. A Fayette County judge agreed Friday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the local police union, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge No. 4 filed suit in July against the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government over the no-knock warrant ban it enacted following months of debate after Breonna Taylor was killed by police in Louisville during a raid at her apartment. The union said in the lawsuit that banning the warrants is unsafe and that the organization has the right to bargain on behalf of Lexington officers over changes that affect officers’ “health and safety.” Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell said elected officials had the right to enact public policies without bargaining. The FOP may appeal the decision, local representative said.
Baton Rouge: Nearly 15 months after Hurricane Laura struck, the state is kicking off $11.3 million in housing repair and rebuilding programs for the southwestern city of Lake Charles while it waits for hundreds of millions in promised federal aid to arrive. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter, a Republican, announced the plans at a joint press conference Monday. The effort will be financed with federal housing and disaster recovery funds available to the state and city through various programs. The dollars largely will pay for home rehabilitation work for low- to moderate-income homeowners, with grants capped at $50,000 per household. A $1 million share of the money will help landlords rebuild housing if they are willing to rent to low- to moderate-income tenants. “The housing situation in Lake Charles is absolutely dire,” Hunter said. “This is going to help.” The city of Lake Charles will administer the program. Hunter didn’t immediately provide information on how people can apply, saying the city is still working out logistics. Edwards and Hunter acknowledged the money is nowhere near the amount needed to address the gaps in insurance coverage and blight of abandoned houses destroyed by Laura in Lake Charles alone, plus the needs of the southwestern region.
Portland: The herring fishing industry in the Northeast qualifies for federal assistance because its 2019 season has been declared a disaster. The federal government has the ability to declare a “fishery disaster” when adverse circumstances in a fishery cause economic hardship. A recent scientific assessment of the herring population found the species population has fallen, and tighter fishing quotas have made herring fishing more difficult. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced the disaster declaration Monday. Members of the herring fishing industry will be eligible for disaster assistance, and some fishery-related businesses might also qualify for federal loans, the commerce department said. The commerce department said the allocation of money will be determined soon. Herring are economically important because they’re widely used as lobster bait, as well as for food. The species is also critical to the health of the ocean because of its role in the food chain. Herring fishermen caught more than 200 million pounds of herring as recently as 2014, but the 2019 catch was less than 25 million. The fishery is based mostly in Maine and Massachusetts.
Sharpsburg: The vice mayor is facing federal firearms charges, authorities said. An indictment unsealed last week charges Jacob Martz, 41, with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a machine gun in connection with 16 firearms and multiple machine-gun conversion devices found at his home, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release. The indictment alleges Martz knew he was prohibited from possessing firearms due to previous felony firearms convictions, but he had 16 guns and about 5,200 rounds of ammunition on Oct. 6. It also alleges he possessed devices used to convert AR-15-style rifles into machine guns, officials said. Martz, vice mayor of Sharpsburg, a small western Maryland town, turned himself in Thursday and pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, defense attorney David W. Fischer said. “We intend to vigorously defend against these allegations,” Fischer said. U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Marcia Murphy said information about the investigation and what led to the charges wouldn’t be made public. Martz was released to his residence, she said. Martz faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each charge, although sentences are typically less than the maximum, officials said.
Boston: Mayor Michelle Wu signed an ordinance Monday designed to divest the city from fossil fuels. The ordinance will prohibit the use of public funds from being invested in the stocks, securities or other obligations of any company that derives more than 15% of its revenue from fossil fuels. The ordinance also extends to companies deriving more than 15% of revenue from tobacco products or private prison industries. Wu, a former city councilor sworn in as mayor last week, said the move is the culmination of a yearslong push to distance Boston from the fossil fuels that are helping drive the climate change that is threatening the coastal city. “This is deeply personal for many of us and urgent,” Wu said during a signing ceremony at Boston City Hall. “My older son, Blaise, was born in the first year that I served in this building and the first year that we started to hear it was the hottest year ever on record. Since then, his six years alive on this planet have each been our hottest on record. … We’re moving quickly to make sure that Boston will set the tone for what is possible for that brightest greenest future for all of our kids.” The ordinance will pull $65 million immediately out of the fossil fuel industry, said Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, a supporter of the ordinance, unanimously approved by the City Council last week.
Flint: At least one person died, and a 3-year-old child remained missing Tuesday, after an overnight explosion and fire destroyed three homes, damaged several others and sent debris falling onto a neighborhood, authorities said. Flint Fire Chief Raymond Barton said Tuesday that two people were rushed from the scene Monday night to area hospitals, where one of them – a 70-year-old man – was pronounced dead. The father of the missing child was in critical condition, Barton said. Another person reported minor injuries following the explosion, which destroyed three homes in the neighborhood on Flint’s west side, WJRT-TV reports. Barton said a Michigan State Police cadaver dog and fire crews with specialized equipment were searching for the 3-year-old. “This is a tragic time for our community,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley said during a Tuesday morning news conference. Three houses were fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the scene after 9:30 p.m. Monday. Officials said about 20 houses sustained damage, including broken windows from debris thrown across an entire block by the explosion, which was felt miles away. The cause of the explosion, which left the neighborhood littered with splintered wood and other debris, was under investigation, Neeley said.
Moorhead: The USDA Office of Tribal Relations announced this week that it will partner with several Native American-led organizations on projects to raise awareness of Indigenous perspectives about food and agriculture. “The United States government hasn’t always incorporated Indigenous views and values into our work. And that’s particularly true within the food and agricultural space,” said Heather Dawn Thompson, director of the Office of Tribal Relations and a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. “We’re taking this moment to rethink how the United States Department of Agriculture interacts with and thinks about Indigenous foods and Indigenous farming and ranching techniques.” Two regional seed processing centers will be created through the Minnesota-based Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, Minnesota Public Radio News reports. USDA will help fund equipment for the facilities, one in Minnesota and one in the southwestern U.S. “Some of this equipment is quite pricey and difficult for the average producer or seed saver to acquire on their own,” Thompson said. “So these will become regional hubs that will be available to Native producers to share and use in a cooperative fashion, in order to process their seeds and save them.” Minneapolis-based North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems will develop recipes using traditional Indigenous foods and foods provided to tribal communities through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program, said co-founder and executive director Dana Thompson.
Tupelo: A post office now bears the name of an Air Force colonel who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for nearly a decade. During his captivity, Carlyle “Smitty” Harris wrote a letter to his wife, Louise, that ended up at the same post office, the Daily Journal reports. It was renamed for him at a ceremony Friday. “This post office has been in our lives for about 57 years,” Harris said. He still had the letter he sent his wife and pulled it from his coat pocket as he spoke. The letter was delivered to the post office in 1965. Harris was shot down over North Vietnam on April 4 of that year and spent the next eight years as a prisoner of war. A bill to rename the post office was introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly and signed into law by President Joe Biden in August.
St. Louis: A former police officer convicted of beating a Black undercover detective during a 2017 racial injustice protest has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison – far more lenient than prosecutors and the victim had sought. Dustin Boone was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court after being convicted in June of a federal civil rights violation related to the attack on Luther Hall. Boone, 37, was one of five white officers charged in the beating. Boone’s sentence was less even than his own lawyers requested. While prosecutors sought a 10-year sentence, defense lawyers asked U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber to sentence Boone to 26 months. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the sentence appeared to stun Hall, his relatives and his supporters, who walked out of the courtroom before Webber finished pronouncing the sentence. They declined comment after the hearing, as did prosecutors. Hall, in a statement to Webber before the sentence was announced, said he thought Webber’s sentencing of two other officers charged in the case was too lenient, “leniency that’s not shown to African American defendants.” Boone’s attorneys had argued that he did not participate in the initial Sept. 17, 2017, beating and held Hall down only because other officers were “acting as though” they were making an arrest.
Helena: An investigation into a complaint that public officials tried to intimidate hospital employees into treating a COVID-19 patient with unapproved medications uncovered a voicemail left by a former state senator in which she said she didn’t think “senators would be too happy to hear about” the hospital’s care of the patient. Jennifer Fielder, now a member of the Public Service Commission, told the Legislature’s special counsel she left the voicemail with St. Peter’s Health on Oct. 11 as a personal matter on behalf of the patient, whom she described as a friend. Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour argued Tuesday that if Fielder were leaving a personal message, she wouldn’t have identified herself as a senator in the call. Attorney General Austin Knudsen has acknowledged he intervened in the case and later said Chief Deputy Attorney General Kristen Hansen brought the issue to him, but he denied intimidating anyone. In Fielder’s voicemail, she identified herself as a state senator, and later a former state senator, and said the patient was a Senate staffer. The patient previously served as a temporary state Senate staffer and was not working for the Legislature at the time of her hospitalization, according to the special counsel Abra Belke’s report, released Monday night. The patient, who was admitted to the hospital Oct. 9, died Oct. 26. She was 82.
Lincoln: Gov. Pete Ricketts railed Monday against the chancellor of the University of Nebraska’s flagship campus, saying he was misled about a plan designed to address racial disparities on campus, even as the university system’s president tried to deescalate the situation. Ricketts said he has “lost all faith” in University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green, who has endorsed the plan as a way to make the campus more diverse and inclusive. Ricketts said Green told him the plan was an effort to increase the number of minority faculty, staff and students on campus, which Ricketts said was “a good thing.” But he said Green didn’t tell him about other parts of the initiative, including a “call to action” statement that says structural racism in society is the cause of disparities between races and isn’t limited to individual beliefs or actions. The statement says the plan is intended to transform the university into a place where every person matters and gets “equitable outcomes.” The Republican governor has blasted the idea as “ideological indoctrination” that will encourage people to see each other through the lens of race instead of as individuals with unique strengths. Just hours before Ricketts spoke, University of Nebraska President Ted Carter released an open letter in support of the plan. “These are uncomfortable conversations, with passionate opinions on many sides,” he said. “Not every Nebraskan, not every member of the university community, will agree with every element of the plan.”
Las Vegas: Two Las Vegas-area elected officials are using the same word, “scary,” to describe weekend demonstrations outside their homes involving people expressing opposition to government COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates. “The scary thing – it was dark, and I couldn’t really see what was going on out there,” Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Segerblom, a Democrat, said Monday that about 20 protesters stayed about two hours outside his home Sunday, holding flags, honking and speaking into bullhorns. He said one repeated chant was: “No mask, no vax.” Outside Clark County School District Board President Linda Cavazos’ home in Henderson, as many as 40 demonstrators showed up about 4:30 p.m. and stayed for about two hours, Clark County School District Police Lt. Bryan Zink said. In photos provided by Cavazos, people can be seen carrying American flags, a yellow “Don’t tread on me” flag and a banner reading, “Let’s go, Brandon” – a term that has become code for a vulgar insult against President Joe Biden. Another man is draped in what appears to be a Confederate flag. Cavazos described the demonstration as “just scary.” “It’s more like bullying,” Cavazos said. “It’s more like intimidation. It’s just not OK.”
Concord: The state is getting more than $8.3 million to support marketing, workforce and other projects to boost business and travel. The funding was allocated through the American Rescue Plan. The state’s congressional delegation announced the funds last week. “Travel and tourism are core industries that fuel local economies across New Hampshire – these sectors are key to our state’s recovery following the pandemic,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement. The grant comes from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, which makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs, promote innovation and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.
Newark: The state has moved closer to withdrawing from a bi-state commission formed to monitor corruption at the New York region’s ports. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit filed by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor that had sought to block New Jersey’s move. If the state of New York doesn’t step in to file a legal challenge, the commission would effectively be dissolved. The commission was formed in the 1950s to combat entrenched organized crime influences at the ports. But in recent years, New Jersey has contended that organized crime has largely been driven out of the ports and that the commission was impeding job growth by over-regulating businesses there and making hiring more difficult. Under New Jersey’s plan, state police would take over investigating criminal activity at the ports. The New York-New Jersey port system, among the busiest in the country, includes container terminals in Newark, Elizabeth and Bayonne in New Jersey, as well as Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York. The New Jersey terminals handle the bulk of the port’s business. “The Governor is pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the Waterfront Commission’s appeal,” Michael Zhadanovsky, a spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy, said in an email Tuesday.
Albuquerque: Major repairs to a northern New Mexico dam will mean irrigation water will have to be stored elsewhere. Repairs on El Vado Dam are slated to start next spring, leaving it unusable for at least a year to deliver water to the Middle Rio Grande Valley, said Page Pegram of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. Abiquiu Lake most likely will be the backup, Pegram told the Albuquerque Journal. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to address cracks in El Vado’s steel faceplate and the foundation, as well as the deteriorating spillway. The dam was built in the 1930s, and its current condition isn’t safe for the public, the agency said. El Vado Dam can hold back about 60 billion gallons of water, but the capacity will be reduced significantly while the repairs are being done. Persistent drought also has meant less water in New Mexico reservoirs, and the region could be in store for a dry winter with a La Niña weather pattern. “Water supply conditions for the Middle Rio Grande in 2022 are expected to be significantly diminished,” Pegram said. “We expect stream flows in the basin to remain below average.”
Albany: The state is facing calls from faculty to boost its public university system by launching a university endowment – a step dozens of other states have taken. Lawmakers on the state Senate higher education committee held a hearing Monday as part of the ongoing budget process. New York’s economy is still rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state is facing demands for increased spending at a time when tax collections are strong. The state’s general fund as of September was $4.5 billion higher than the previous September. It’s time for New York to allocate $150 million in additional aid to state-operated campuses, said Frederick Kowal, president of the United University Professions union, which represents more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty. Kowal told lawmakers that New York flat-funded higher education and increased the state’s reliance on students’ tuition and fees under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The abandonment of our public higher education system has directly led to drops in enrollment,” Kowal said. And he said an endowment would provide a long-term funding resource to rebuild “depleted” academic departments and hire and promote a more diverse workforce.
Raleigh: Gov. Roy Cooper approved a measure Tuesday for a new governing structure for high school sports. The new law allows the State Board of Education to create a formal agreement with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, the nonprofit body currently governing high school athletics. Under the compromise legislation, the State Board of Education can now reach a memorandum of understanding with the group to administer and enforce the education board’s requirements for high school sports. The deal needs to be reached by March 15 and last an initial four years. “For months, we worked tirelessly to determine the best governing structure that supports our student-athletes and is transparent and accountable,” said a statement from state Sen. Vickie Sawyer, an Iredell County Republican who helped craft the bipartisan bill. “After productive conversations with the NCHSAA, State Board of Education, Governor’s Office, and our Democratic colleagues, we’ve established a clear path forward. I want to thank Gov. Cooper for signing this bill into law.” While state education officials must adopt student participation rules, they can delegate rules on items like school penalties and participation fees to the association, which currently represents more than 400 schools.
Bismarck: The state Game and Fish Department on Monday unveiled a plan to bring landowners, conservation groups, scientists and others together to restore native grasslands. The agency said North Dakota has lost more than 70% of its native prairie, which is essential for wildlife, pollinators, ranching operations and communities. About 60% of the nearly 5 million wetland acres in the state have been converted or lost. “When we talk about native prairie in the state, we need to acknowledge who the owners and managers of our native prairie are,” said Greg Link, the department’s conservation and communications division chief. “In most cases, we’re talking about ranchers and producers who run livestock on that prairie.” The so-called Meadowlark Initiative is named after the official state bird, known for its unique song. The western meadowlark populations in North Dakota are continuing to decline, wildlife officials said. The program allows producers to plant marginal cropland back to diverse native perennial grasslands for grazing. Funding is available to establish the grass and install grazing infrastructure, such as fencing and water. Producers also are eligible to receive rental payments for the first three years as the land transitions from cropland to grazing land.
Cleveland: CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies recklessly distributed massive amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties, a federal jury said Tuesday in a verdict that could set the tone for city and county governments across the country that want to hold pharmacies accountable for their roles in the opioid crisis. Lake and Trumbull counties blamed the three chain pharmacies for not stopping the flood of pills that caused hundreds of overdose deaths and cost each of the two counties about $1 billion, their attorney said. How much the pharmacies must pay in damages will be decided in the spring by a federal judge. It was the first time pharmacy companies had completed a trial to defend themselves in a drug crisis that has killed a half-million Americans over the past two decades. The counties were able to convince the jury that the pharmacies played an outsized role in creating a public nuisance in the way they dispensed pain medication into their communities. “The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs. This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted,” said Mark Lanier, an attorney for the counties. Spokespeople for CVSHealth and Walgreen Co. said the companies disagree with the verdict and will appeal. Two other chains, Rite Aid and Giant Eagle, already had settled lawsuits with the counties.
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday signed into law newly drawn maps for the state’s five congressional and 149 state House and Senate districts. The bills, approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature during a special session last week, contain the new district boundaries that will be in place for the next 10 years. The new maps had to reapportion the state’s population, which has continued shifting from rural communities to urban and suburban areas. Democrats strongly opposed the newly drawn 5th Congressional District, which has been competitive in recent years, with Democrats winning the seat as recently as 2018 before Republicans won it back last year. The new map moves Democratic portions of Oklahoma City’s core and south side into the heavily Republican 3rd Congressional District that stretches across western and northwestern Oklahoma. Andy Moore, executive director of the group People Not Politicians, which tried unsuccessfully to shift the responsibility of drawing the new maps from the Legislature to a bipartisan commission, said the new maps were a clear example of gerrymandering. “We are disappointed that the Legislature adopted a congressional map that was drawn in secret, divides communities and prioritizes politics over what’s best for Oklahoma voters,” he said in a statement.
Portland: As COVID-19 cases in the state continue to decrease, health officials announced Tuesday that they are immediately lifting statewide mask requirements in crowded outdoor settings. Oregon was the first state in the U.S. to reimplement an outdoor mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents in August as the delta variant of the coronavirus spread. At the time, Oregon was in the midst of its worst surge during the pandemic. Record daily COVID-19 cases were set day after day, and hospitalizations overwhelmed the health system. A majority of people hospitalized were unvaccinated. However, over the past six weeks, health officials say Oregon’s daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have steadily declined. Last week, cases decreased by 12% from the previous week. “We took decisive measures. And, as has been the case over the course of this pandemic, Oregonians resoundingly responded,” Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said Tuesday. “Together we have managed to turn back the tsunami of new infections that very nearly swamped our health care system.” Oregon has had some of the strictest statewide coronavirus-related restrictions and safety measures during the pandemic.
Philadelphia: Eight civilian Philadelphia Police Department employees were indicted on charges of collecting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to which they were not entitled because they remained employed. Seven of the employees are dispatchers, and one is a clerk. A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging them with theft of government funds, wire fraud and mail fraud. The accused took advantage of a system that was designed to aid people left unemployed because of the pandemic, prosecutors said. Each allegedly submitted weekly certifications stating that they were not employed and were ready, willing and able to work each day, prosecutors said. According to the indictment, those statements were false because each was employed by the police department. Prosecutors said the employees received assistance funds for multiple weeks while also collecting a salary from the city. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw on Tuesday said she will suspend them for 30 days with the intent to dismiss them at the end of the 30 days upon completion of arrest procedures.
Providence: The state has been awarded an $81.7 million federal grant for the state health department to build a new public health laboratory. Rhode Island’s congressional delegation announced the new federal Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity grant, saying the current facility, commissioned in 1978, has insufficient laboratory space, inadequate building systems and broken equipment, and the state spends more than $500,000 annually to keep it working efficiently. The state health laboratories work to investigate and mitigate life-threatening diseases, including COVID-19, eastern equine encephalitis, Ebola, H1N1 and Zika. Last year, when commercial testing services weren’t yet widely available, the number of coronavirus samples that could be tested was limited due to insufficient laboratory space, the delegation said. “COVID-19 revealed a serious gap in our health care infrastructure. This new federal funding will help Rhode Island bridge that gap and create a new state-of-the-art lab facility for the 21st century,” U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline said in a joint statement. The state health laboratories also work with state and municipal agencies to ensure the safety of drinking water and food, monitor water and air pollution, and help public safety and criminal investigations through police officer training, DNA testing and drug identification.
Columbia: State health and education officials want students to come up with a short song to encourage people to get COVID-19 vaccines. The winning jingle will get the winner’s school $10,000 toward music programs and be recorded and featured in statewide radio advertisements in 2022. Individual students, classes or groups can all compete in the Sing It to Win It campaign. The deadline is Jan. 31, officials said. Five finalists will be chosen and put up for a vote on both the state Department of Education and state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s social media accounts. A $5,000 second place and $3,000 third place prize will also be awarded to a school.
Sioux Falls: Marcella Rose LeBeau, an Army nurse who was honored for her service during World War II and leadership in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has died. She was 102. Family members said she “passed on to journey to the next world” late Sunday in Eagle Butte after experiencing problems with her digestive system and losing her appetite. LeBeau had remained active all of her life and earlier this month traveled to Oklahoma for a ceremony honoring her induction into the National Native American Hall of Fame. Her daughter, Gerri Lebeau, said the matriarch of her family demonstrated fortitude, as well as an ability to seek healing, as she overcame the abuses she faced at an Indian boarding school during her youth. She went on to treat front-line soldiers as an Army nurse in Europe during the Allied invasion of Normandy. After returning home, she became an outspoken advocate for health in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. “She was the foundation of our family,” said her grandson Ryman LeBeau. “She had a lifetime of good things that she had accomplished.” Lebeau was born in 1919 and grew up in Promise, South Dakota, as a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Her mother died when she was 10 years old, and her grandmother gave her the name Wigmunke’ Waste Win’, or Pretty Rainbow Woman. But LeBeau grew up at a time when the government was attempting to eradicate her culture – while her grandmother only spoke the Lakota language, she could be punished for speaking it at the boarding school.
Nashville: A historically Black medical college is giving students an early Thanksgiving gift – $10,000 in cash. Meharry Medical College President James E.K. Hildreth announced the gift Monday, telling students they would receive it Wednesday. The money comes from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, part of a federal coronavirus aid package. Schools across the country have used their money to wipe out student debts, offer free tuition and give cash grants such as the one at Meharry. In a video message to the Nashville school’s 956 students, Hildreth said they can manage their money however they choose, but he strongly urged them to use it for their education and training. Rising senior Benson Joseph said he is still deciding how to use his gift, but he will definitely set a portion aside to help cover travel expenses when he interviews for residency programs next year and other expenses financial aid does not cover. “It feels like Christmas came a little bit early,” said Joseph, who plans to pursue neurosurgery. “The last two years have been quite a trial for a lot of us.” Hildreth said in the video announcement that he is thankful for those who work at Meharry and those who support the college with their resources. “But mostly, I’m thankful for you students and the future of health care that is entrusted to you,” he said.
Dallas: Students at a suburban high school are planning more demonstrations after four students were arrested last week at a protest against the school’s response to allegations of sexual harassment. Hundreds of students decided to walk out of their classes at Little Elm High School on Friday morning after a sophomore publicly accused a freshman of sexually harassing and abusing her. The sophomore’s friend posted on social media that she had reported the abuse to the school’s administration. The friend alleged the administration then suspended the sophomore for three days for falsely accusing the freshman, according to the post. In a joint statement with Little Elm Mayor Curtis Cornelious, Little Elm Superintendent Daniel Gallagher said the school’s investigation of the alleged abuse did not find sufficient evidence of a crime. He denied allegations the student received disciplinary action for reporting the harassment. Another junior, Kailey Heaton, said things turned violent when police officers attempted to corral the protesting students by linking arms. Heaton said the officers began attempting to push the teens back, but students eventually broke through the line. Videos widely shared on social media show officers forcibly holding a student on the ground while arresting him. Others show two officers pepper-spraying one student and firing their Tasers at him. Cornelious said in a video statement on Facebook that officers were justified in their use of force against the students.
Salt Lake City: The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is investigating complaints related to the removal of several books from high school library shelves after a parent complaint. The Canyons School District appears to have disregarded its own policy for responding to such complaints by pulling nine books off the shelves, including “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, before completing a full review, the organization said in a statement. The removals came after a parent of younger students in the district emailed about what she called sexually explicit material in several titles that she learned about from social media, KSL.com reports. She told the outlet she had asked for them to be reviewed for content, not necessarily pulled. The Canyons policy states that books should remain in use until a full review of any challenged material is complete. In this case, nine books were removed from shelves in four high schools while a review was still in process. District spokesman Jeff Haney has said the district decided to pull the books off the shelves of the school libraries while district officials review the policy itself, which also says that challenges to library materials cannot come from outside a school community. In a statement to KSL.com, he framed the district’s action as a “review for content.”
Montpelier: Gov. Phil Scott signed into law Tuesday a bill that will allow the state’s municipalities to adopt temporary indoor mask mandates. Scott’s signature came a day after the Legislature held a special session in which the new law that allows a municipality to impose its own mask was introduced and approved. Scott said he called the special session at the request of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns as a compromise after some lawmakers urged him to reimpose a statewide mask mandate. “As you’ve heard me say repeatedly, masking when inside in public spaces is a good idea right now because masks work, but at this point in the pandemic, mandates won’t,” Scott said. “And I think they’ll be divisive and counterproductive.” Within hours of the new law taking effect, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said he would propose requiring facial coverings in indoor public settings except for situations in which all employees and customers in city businesses are verified to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The ordinance will go before the Burlington City Council on Dec. 1.
Richmond: A hospital has seen a surge in cases of a coronavirus-related complication in children, officials said. The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU said 15 kids were hospitalized at the same time last month with a rare inflammatory condition in children linked with the virus, WRIC-TV reports. It was the hospital’s highest peak since the pandemic started, officials said. Previously, it had two or three children hospitalized with the condition at a time. Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough, director of the hospital’s Mother-Infant Unit, said the hospital has seen 50 cases since the pandemic began. The condition can occur two to six weeks after a child recovers from a mild or asymptomatic battle with COVID-19. Kids get symptoms like fever, trouble breathing, abdominal pain and vomiting “and can progress to full shock very quickly,” Kimbrough said. No children with the condition have died on the hospital’s watch, she said. Among the cases the facility has seen, a majority of the children affected are kids of color, she said. Despite the “concerning” numbers last month, Kimbrough said health workers are hopeful that as more children get vaccinated against COVID-19, they will see fewer infections in that age group.
Seattle: The City Council has approved a 2022 budget that cuts police department spending from previous years, drawing criticism from people who say city voters earlier this month endorsed more spending on public safety. In an 8-1 vote Monday, the council approved a $355.5 million budget for the department, saying there are no cuts functionally for the Seattle Police Department. KOMO reports the budget includes funds to hire 125 officers in 2022. But the police department’s budget is smaller compared to years past. In 2021 the budget was $363 million, and in 2020 it was $401.8 million. Outgoing Mayor Jenny Durkan criticized the new spending plan. “Every time council acts, they’re telling officers that are here today if they’re valued or not,” Durkan said. “Mayor-elect Harrell ran on adding more officers, and I’m trying to set him up for success as much as I can.” Bruce Harrell easily won the race for Seattle mayor, running on a platform of increased spending on police services and criticizing opponents who advocated “defunding” the police. The new budget includes funds for 1,357 officers, and SPD reports currently having 1,120 officers on the force, which leaves 237 open jobs.
Snowshoe: A ski resort is opening some of its trails to the public on Thanksgiving. Snowshoe Mountain said it will start the ski season for the general public Thursday with a limited number of trails. The resort also will be open Wednesday to passholders and anyone who already purchased lift tickets for that day. The Pocahontas County facility will have 30 acres of available terrain to skiers and snowboarders with three lifts operating, the West Virginia Ski Areas Association said in a news release. Ski operations at Timberline resort could start as early as the weekend, while Canaan Valley and Winterplace resorts are scheduled to begin in the middle of next month, the statement said. Visitors are asked to check with individual resorts for COVID-19 safety requirements. The association again this year is offering a program that will let children in fourth and fifth grades ski or snowboard for free. Under the program, up to three junior lift tickets and one rental will be allowed at participating resorts during the 2021-22 season, the statement said. West Virginia resorts draw more than 800,000 skier visits a year, typically luring visitors from Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida. The ski and snowboard season traditionally runs through late March, weather permitting.
Madison: Cities are looking for ways to care for an increased number of people experiencing homelessness this winter. Joe Volk, executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness, said communities across the state have been allocating money to increase services for unsheltered people. He said much of the funding has come from federal pandemic recovery aid, often being used to provide hotel rooms and other temporary housing. Volk said there are more people experiencing homelessness this fall than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, including families with children, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. “We’ve been through an unimaginable year and a half of social and economic disruption,” Volk said. “Certainly things would probably be a lot worse if the federal government hadn’t stepped in.” But he said that “a certain number of those folks are going to fall through the cracks and become homeless.” The La Crosse City Council has voted to allocate $700,000 to fund a temporary winter shelter from November to March. In Madison, city officials have been working to relocate people living in tents at a local park to a new city-owned encampment. The site has 30 prefabricated shelters with heating and electricity, as well as bathroom facilities and on-site support staff from local nonprofits.
Laramie: A student team at the University of Wyoming has been awarded $100,000 for its work on technology to track carbon in soil as part of efforts to help capture and store greenhouse gases, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports