From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
Published 3:02 AM EDT Oct 8, 2019
Athens: The state’s cattle farmers are feeling the pinch from the worsening drought. Limestone County farmer Donna Jo Curtis tells the Athens News-Courier she already has started feeding hay to her livestock because fields are so dry. Farm ponds also are drying up, making water a concern as excessive heat stresses the animals. To help with the crunch, state agriculture officials have announced a plan to issue special free permits for trucks hauling hay. Forecasters are predicting cooler temperatures and increasing chances of rain that could help even more. The entire state is at least abnormally dry, and some areas are in an extreme drought. The Alabama Cattlemen’s Association describes cattle production as a $2.5 billion industry in the state.
Juneau: A Tlingit clan hat was welcomed back to southeast Alaska with ceremony and dance after spending more than a century away. A ceremony Sept. 25 included both an original sculpin hat, which was taken in 1884 from Sitka and became part of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection, and a replacement hat, which was given to the Kiks.adi clan. “It’s like seeing an old friend come around the corner when you thought you’d never see them again,” clan leader Ray Wilson told the Juneau Empire. The team-up and technology that led to the new hat and ceremony are unprecedented as far as the Smithsonian is aware. The replacement hat was made through careful study of the original, 3D imaging and consultation with the clan, said Eric Hollinger, tribal liaison for the repatriation office of the Smithsonian National History Museum.
Phoenix: A court-appointed expert in a lawsuit over the quality of health care in the state’s prisons says understaffing, inadequate funding and privatization of health care services are significant barriers in improving inmate care. The report released Friday comes as the state has been accused of persistently dragging its feet in recent years in following through on its promises in a 2014 settlement to improve health care for inmates. Expert Marc Stern says the state’s decision to privatize health care services for inmates is costing more than if the state ran those services itself. He recommended that the Legislature’s push for privatization of inmate care be rescinded or overridden by the judge so that the state can run those services again.
Hot Springs: Bacteria that can cause Legionnaire’s disease have been found in the showers of a Hot Springs spa. The Arkansas Department of Health says Legionella bacteria were found within Quapaw Baths & Spa, and the shower where water taken from a spring was cooled before use has been closed for cleaning. Legionnaire’s disease is a type of potentially fatal pneumonia but is treatable with antibiotics. The health department said it began investigating after three people with the disease reported staying at the spa. The department says thermal spring water at public fountains is safe while further testing continues. The spa said in a statement that it is cooperating with the department and asked for an investigation to determine the source of the contamination.
Los Angeles: At the end of the month, travelers will not be able to catch a rideshare or taxi outside terminals at Los Angeles International Airport. LAX announced Friday that passengers will instead have to take shuttles or walk to a special location outside the central terminal area where they can be picked up. The move is aimed at relieving congestion on the central road as construction picks up during a $14 billion improvement program. Ride-hailing vehicles and taxis will still be able to drop off passengers at terminals, but all pickups will be in the new location. Officials say that should remove about 15% of vehicle traffic from the central terminal area. The new system will remain in effect until a new automated people-mover goes into service in 2023.
Fort Collins: Enrollment at Colorado State University this fall sets a record. University officials say total enrollment tops 34,000 students, up by about 2,000 compared to four years ago. The Loveland Reporter-Herald reports undergraduate enrollment is up from about 24,500 in 2015 to 26,500 now. At the Fort Collins campus, over 64% of new first-year students are Colorado residents, 57% are women, and 24% of the new class are first in their family to attend college. Total enrollment at CSU-Fort Collins, CSU Global and CSU-Pueblo tops 57,000 students.
Hartford: State officials are launching a new health care cost-estimator tool. The Connecticut Office of Health Strategy has planned an event for Tuesday. The new cost estimator will be on the Healthscore CT website, which the office developed to give people free resources to make informed health care choices and policy decisions. The tool was designed to help residents compare what different health care providers charge for the same procedure. It’s part of the health strategy office’s effort to make cost and health care quality information more transparent and encourage providers to improve quality. Democratic Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and state lawmakers plan to attend Tuesday’s event at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
Wilmington: Delawareans love novels, especially those filled with mystery and intrigue. The most popular book in the past six months was mystery novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, according to data from the Delaware Division of Libraries. Not only is “Crawdads” the most checked-out book, at 2,169 checkouts, but it’s also at the top of waitlists, with 1,111 Delawareans waiting to get their hands on the New York Times bestselling book. Brandywine Hundred Library manager Jean Kaufman says the book was checked out 206 times in the past six months at her library, with 201 people in line for a copy. “Where the Crawdads Sing” has been on the top of the New York Times bestsellers list for more than 20 nonconsecutive weeks.
District of Columbia
Washington: D.C. lawmakers are considering emergency legislation to prohibit district agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agencies unless provided a judicial warrant or order. WTOP-FM reports D.C. Council member Charles Allen proposed the legislation, saying a 2012 district act restricting cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement isn’t enough anymore. Allen says the agency has adapted its practices to now request notification of release dates, in addition to or instead of requesting detainment. The council is set to review the proposed bill Tuesday. Prohibited assistance would include sharing information, complying with detainment requests and allowing federal immigration authorities to enter facilities owned by the district, which Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a sanctuary city.
Key Largo: A group of scuba divers submerged 30 feet beneath the surface to sculpt jack-o-lanterns during the annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest in the Florida Keys. Detroit’s Josephine Walker and Stephanie McClary crafted moray eels embracing a heart to win the competition at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Other carvings included stingrays, an octopus, jellyfish, a “Protect Our Coral” message and traditional toothy grins. Participants used knives and fine carving tools to transform their orange gourds into sea creatures. They had to keep the naturally buoyant pumpkins from floating away while they carved.
Athens: The University of Georgia has been seeking research proposals about the school’s history regarding slavery. University administrators say they’re committing $100,000 for the effort. The institution wants research from 1785, the year it was founded, to 1865, when the Civil War ended, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Some students, faculty, alumni and community leaders say the university should commit more money for the work. Some also think the time period of research should be extended beyond the Civil War. Colleges benefited from slavery after the Civil War through housing, zoning and educational policies that continued to discriminate against African Americans, said Kirt von Daacke, co-chair of the University of Virginia’s commission on slavery.
Wailuku: Maui will prohibit commercial activity in parks on Sundays and official holidays. The island’s Parks and Recreation Department said the changes to commercial permits will take place in about a month and reduce damage to parks, The Maui News reports. Commercial permits cover surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, windsurfing and kiteboarding lessons, as well as snorkeling tours. “The demand on county parks has grown in recent years, as has the resident and visitor numbers,” permits officer Lisa Almeida said during a public hearing last week. The changes and public hearing followed televised comments Mayor Michael Victorino made in August announcing his intention to limit commercial activity in parks on Sundays and holidays.
Twin Falls: A jail built to hold 194 is currently housing about 279 inmates – some crowded into an old trailer, others forced to sleep in plastic, boat-shaped containers lining the walls. The Times-News reports officials in Twin Falls County will ask voters in November to approve a $25 million bond to add modular units with 316 new beds to the jail. Capt. Doug Hughes says the overcrowding makes the jail dangerous for inmates and workers and makes it increasingly difficult to provide services to help inmates succeed once they are released. The county currently houses about 40 inmates in jails in other counties, which costs a little more than $1 million a year. Twin Falls County has not asked voters for a bond since the current jail facility was built in 1988.
Chicago: City officials are holding public meetings for residents to weigh in on the sale of recreational marijuana. A new state law will allow recreational marijuana to be sold to people 21 and older starting Jan. 1. Mayor Lori Lightfoot says her office wants to hear from residents, business owners and others about where businesses that sell marijuana should be allowed to operate. Lightfoot introduced an ordinance last month to create Chicago’s first zoning regulations for marijuana sales. She’s proposing the city establish seven zones across Chicago and cap the number of dispensaries in each zone. The plan would ban sales in most of Chicago’s downtown and within 500 feet of a school. The meetings are planned for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Indianapolis: State and federal data shows thousands of women are traveling out of state to terminate their pregnancies as abortion clinics close around Indiana and new laws restrict use of the procedure. While the number of abortions performed in the state declined by 14% between 2009 and 2017, the number of out-of-state abortions doubled. The data shows that more than 18,000 women crossed state lines during those years to get an abortion, predominantly to Illinois. That state has more abortion providers than Indiana, it does not ban abortions after 20 weeks, and the procedure is covered under Medicaid there. Abortion-rights advocates say women from Indiana are influenced by these factors to travel outside their communities to seek an abortion.
Des Moines: Republicans have chosen Rep. Pat Grassley to head their leadership teams as speaker-select of the Iowa House. The grandson of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley was chosen by the GOP House caucus Monday. He takes over as speaker after a vote of the full House in January. Current Speaker Linda Upmeyer announced last week that she would step down as speaker but serve the remainder of her current House term through the end of 2020. Grassley, a 36-year-old farmer from New Hartford, was first elected to the House in 2006. He operates a family farm with his father and grandfather, who also served in the Iowa House from 1959 to 1975. Rep. Matt Windschitl was chosen majority leader and Rep. John Wills speaker pro tem.
Garden City: The federal Drug Enforcement Administration plans to reopen an office that closed two years ago in Garden City. The Kansas News Service reports the office is reopening at a time when methamphetamine seizures are increasing in Finney County, and some drug-related shootings have been reported in the area. Finney County is one of about a dozen Kansas counties that the DEA classifies as a high-intensity drug trafficking area. It isn’t clear when the office will open. William Callahan, special agent in charge of the DEA’s St. Louis Division, says a team of six agents, who have started working, will also monitor opioids. He says the amount of meth seized through August by the county’s drug task force more than doubled the amount for all of 2018.
Louisville: A local Catholic church will declare itself a sanctuary in what its leaders say is a “public rejection of the brutal and racist policies” of President Donald Trump’s administration. Members of St. William Catholic Church will issue a statement on its sanctuary status Tuesday, describing the “deep faith traditions of providing sanctuary for those seeking assistance as well as what this will look like in our current political climate,” according to the church’s news release. St. William, founded in 1901 to serve Irish immigrants working in nearby railroad yards, has “long been committed to a social mission,” the release says. “But in 2017, as we witnessed the present administration’s increasingly racist rhetoric, tolerance for white supremacist terrorism, and encouragement of extreme enforcement by ICE and Border Patrol agents, it became clear to us that more was required.”
Shreveport: The United Daughters of the Confederacy says a monument that’s been ordered removed from in front of a courthouse is considered very fragile and could cost $1 million to be taken down safely. The UDC told KTSB-TV it hired an expert witness who says the 116-year-old statue outside Shreveport’s Caddo Parish Courthouse could fall apart if it isn’t moved carefully. They say the Mississippi Stone Guild found it would take nearly $1 million to properly move it. On Sept. 30, a planning committee recommended setting aside half of that in city funds if the group doesn’t move the monument itself by mid-November. The Shreveport Times reports UDC spokeswoman Jackie Nichols told the commission Thursday that the amount proposed isn’t enough and contends the group never said it would pay for the removal.
Orono: A scientist from the University of Maine will lead a new consortium that focuses on the sustainability of highly migratory fish species such as tuna and sharks. The Pelagic Ecosystem Research Consortium will be headed by UMaine’s Walt Golet. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is providing $1.6 million to support the effort. The University of Maine says the consortium will focus on subjects such as reducing accidental catch of highly migratory fish and increasing the understanding of their life histories. Golet says study of the fish, which include economically valuable species such as swordfish, can help improve their conservation.
Baltimore: City officials and the owners of the historic racetrack that hosts the Preakness Stakes have reached an agreement to keep the Triple Crown series’ middle jewel in the city. The agreement, which is subject to approval of the General Assembly during its next session, ends a bitter dispute between owner The Stronach Group and the city over the future of Pimlico Race Course. Located in northwest Baltimore, the second-oldest track in America has been home to the famed annual race since 1909, but it is in need of a major overhaul, which has previously been estimated at nearly half a billion dollars. Under the plan, The Stronach Group would donate the site to the city for community development in and around the track and an area hospital. The company would also build a new clubhouse. The dilapidated grandstand would be demolished.
Boston: Experts say trees in the region are producing a lot of acorns this year. The Boston Globe reports experts say the region appears to be experiencing a “mast year.” Certain conditions, including the weather, cause the trees to produce more acorns every few years. Marjorie Rines, a naturalist with Mass Audubon, says there are “tons more around,” and they’ve been “coming down pretty hard and fast.” In Boston, some residents have contacted the city’s Constituent Service Center recently to ask that street sweepers clear acorns in their neighborhoods. Mark Ashton, a professor of forest ecology at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, says it is a mast year, but not a big one.
Detroit: Ground is being broken for a park commemorating a half-century turnaround for a river that runs through the city’s industrial southwest side. Democratic U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib are among the dignitaries expected to attend Wednesday’s groundbreaking of the Fort Street Bridge Interpretive Park. The date, Oct. 9, also marks the 50th anniversary of a 1969 fire on the Rouge River. Sparks from an acetylene torch ignited oil and wooden debris in the river, sending flames high into the air. Organizers say the fire was among the catalysts for the Clean Water Act of 1972 and major watershed restoration efforts in the years since. Plans for the park include a sculpture, kayak launch, boardwalk, rain garden and walking path.
Minneapolis: The local police union is selling “Cops for Trump” T-shirts after the police department banned officers from wearing their uniforms in support of candidates at political events or in ads. The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis has accused police administrators of instituting the new policy just days before President Donald Trump’s visit to Minneapolis. Union chief Bob Kroll says a lot of officers want to go to Thursday’s rally wearing their uniforms because Trump is a “very pro-law enforcement president.” The Star Tribune reports the police department denies the new policy has anything to do with politics and says it’s been under consideration since early this year. Kroll says the T-shirts are on sale for $20.
Starkville: An animal rights group wants Mississippi State to retire its live bulldog mascot named Jak after he was crashed into by an Auburn University player making a mad dash through the end zone. News outlets report People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has sent a letter to the Mississippi college, saying it was sheer luck that Jak wasn’t severely injured or killed in the clash with tailback JaTarvious Whitlow. Whitlow scored the first touchdown of the game, entering the end zone with a momentum that carried him past the goal line and out of bounds, where he crashed into Jak, who then briefly left the sidelines. Jak’s official Twitter account says his chin and right hind leg were bruised, and he’ll return to mascot duties this week.
Jefferson City: State officials say welfare recipients with medical marijuana cards will continue to get financial aid. Social Services Department spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel says the agency won’t cut off help to those who test positive for pot as long as they have medical marijuana cards. The policy comes after Missouri voters in 2018 said patients with cancer, epilepsy and other illnesses may use cannabis if they get doctor approval. That put those patients at odds with a state law that requires Temporary Assistance for Needy Families applicants to be screened for drug use. If participants are asked to take a drug test and either fail or don’t show up, they risk losing welfare benefits for three years. Missouri now exempts recipients with medical marijuana cards.
Choteau: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Montana GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte fielded calls for better management of grizzly bears during a weekend visit to the state’s Rocky Mountain Front. The Independent Record reports ranchers, farmers and residents urged the pair on Saturday to consider allowing hunting because of grizzly attacks on livestock and occasionally people. All said they supported removing grizzlies from protected status under the Endangered Species Act. Gianforte, too, urged Bernhardt to delist the bear and allow the state to manage the species. Last year, a federal judge in Montana restored threatened species status for about 700 bears in the three-state Yellowstone region. Opponents of delisting cite a need for allowing populations in that region and the north to converge.
Omaha: The official state insect, the honeybee, is feeling the sting of agricultural chemicals, unfavorable weather, flooding and mites, according to beekeepers big and small. Keeping bees here has been so challenging lately that U.S. commercial beekeeping giant Adee Honey Farms recently gave up on Nebraska as a place to put hives during the summer. The company, which has almost 82,000 hives and trucks hives across the country to pollinate fruit and vegetables, had kept 12,000 hives in Nebraska – almost 500 million bees. At one time, Nebraska was the company’s top honey-producing state, according to the Omaha World-Herald. With its open ranges and river bottoms, Nebraska offered prime locations for bees to rest, recuperate and make honey. This year, the company put no hives here. Its bee losses in the state were 82% last year.
Las Vegas: The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a $10,000 cash drop from a helicopter over a soccer match last month. The Skyline Helicopter Tours chopper descended from the night sky Sept. 7 and hovered above 200 people gathered on the Cashman Field. The crowd looked up, and within seconds, streams of cold, hard cash shot from the helicopter’s belly and sent the people below scrambling to get their take. The cash drop that unfolded during halftime of the Las Vegas Lights soccer team’s home loss to the El Paso Locomotive is now the center of an FAA investigation to determine whether the pilot endangered people. Representatives from Skyline Helicopter Tours – known for its Strip and Hoover Dam flights – did not respond to requests for comment, but Las Vegas Lights owner Brett Lashbrook said he fully supports the promotion and how it worked.
Effingham: A building founded as a school by the Masons has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. Built in Effingham in 1858, the two-and-a-half-story New England Masonic Charitable Institute has Italianate details. The building’s three-stage tower has a Masonic seal on the front and clock faces on the two adjacent sides. Its octagonal open belfry protects the 1863 bell, which was used during World War II for air-raid warnings. The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources says the institute is the only school in the United States known to have been run by the Masons. It opened as a school in 1861 and ceased school operations in the early 1880s. The town library now occupies the first floor.
Bergenfield: The state’s public schools will have to test their water for lead twice as often as they do now and share the results on a yet-to-be-created state database under guidelines announced Monday by officials. The announcement continues a series of measures catalyzed by the recent water crisis in Newark, where residents in 14,000 homes with lead pipes have been given bottled water since mid-August after limited tests showed some filters weren’t adequately reducing lead levels. Lead in drinking water has been linked to developmental delays in children and can damage the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The Legislature is holding hearings, and the state Department of Environmental Protection is stepping up its inventory of lead pipes in water systems around the state, a process that started earlier in the year.
Albuquerque: A state high school sports governing board says unruly fans creating problems in football, cheerleading and basketball are threatening the future of soccer. The Albuquerque Journal reports New Mexico Activities Association recently announced that soccer games are being canceled and the sport is losing officials due to parental behavior. New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez described the situation as a “crisis” in a letter to coaches and athletic directors. She says the cussing, screaming and threats have to stop. The governing board said in April it was considering canceling next year’s cheerleading State Spirit Competition following death threats and inflammatory social media posts.
New York: An upcoming exhibit at the New York Public Library will offer a look into the very private life of J.D. Salinger. From Oct. 18 to Jan. 20, 2020, the library will show materials ranging from family photographs to letters to the original typescript for his classic “The Catcher in the Rye.” The exhibit is called “J.D. Salinger” and was organized by the library in partnership with the author’s widow, Colleen Salinger, and son, Matt Salinger. Matt Salinger said that while he plans to release his father’s unpublished writings at some point, the library will not be showing any unpublished material. J.D. Salinger, who died in 2010, published no books after the 1960s but continued to write during the following decades. Fans have long obsessed over what he had been working on. The exhibit will help mark the 100th anniversary of Salinger’s birth.
Ocracoke: Class is finally back in session on an island that was severely damaged by Hurricane Dorian. WITN reports classes for students on Ocracoke Island were being held Monday in three different and temporary locations as repairs continue. Start and end times are staggered to help families who may need to go to multiple school locations. Last week, Hyde County School Superintendent Stephen Basnight, who oversees Ocracoke School, told the board the community remains “devastated.” Ocracoke School was flooded with more than 3 feet of water. Basnight said the gym is still a pond, and expensive equipment in other rooms remains damaged. Students have been taking classes online with iPads from the state for the past month.
Grand Forks: University of North Dakota officials have broken ground on a new, $80 million Memorial Union. Groundbreaking was held outside UND’s School of Law during homecoming Friday. UND interim President Joshua Wynne says the new Memorial Union will be “the gateway” to the entire university in Grand Forks. Students voted last November in favor of replacing the school’s aging student union by raising student fees to support construction and upkeep of a new building. The new Memorial Union is scheduled for completion in 2021. The three-story building will feature 158,000 square feet of meeting and engagement spaces and include up-to-date technology, student services, and expanded dining and retail options.
Cincinnati: A City Council member wants to prohibit discrimination against natural hair and hairstyles associated with race. City Councilman Chris Seelbach has proposed that natural hair be added to Cincinnati’s discrimination policy. Seelbach says people of color have been forced to regard popular natural hairstyles such as cornrows or dreadlocks as liabilities in the workplace, housing and elsewhere. He says black women are especially penalized. The proposed law would call for the city to investigate complaints of discrimination and allow fines of up to $1,000. A public discussion on the issue with the Cincinnati City Council’s Arts, Youth & Inclusion committee is scheduled for Tuesday. The full council is expected to vote Wednesday.
Tulsa: Zac Hanson of the pop music band Hanson is recovering following a motorcycle crash in the state last week. The 33-year-old Hanson said in posts on Twitter, Facebook and the Tulsa-based band’s website that he is recovering after suffering a broken collarbone, three broken ribs and a cracked scapula. Hanson said he was able to walk away from the Tulsa crash thanks to “good quality protective gear.” Details of the crash were not revealed, but Hanson said he was preparing for a cross-country ride. Hanson said he will be replaced as drummer during an upcoming tour but will sing. Hanson is the youngest of three brothers who formed the band in the early 1990s. The band is best known for the song “MMMBop.”
Canby: An area creamery is working with a distiller to turn whey into vodka. KOIN-TV reports TMK Creamery, near Canby, is working with Jason Greenwood of Divine Distillers of Salem on the venture. Greenwood says whey-based vodka is not common. He says they have been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University to “perfect” the process. According to the university, most milk that goes into a cheese-making facility comes out as whey, which it says can be expensive to dispose of in landfills. The university says turning whey into protein powders or related products requires equipment that can be too expensive for small creameries. TMK Creamery’s Todd Koch says the hope is to be selling bottles of the vodka by month’s end.
Danville: A hospital says it is transferring some infants following a bacterial infection in its neonatal intensive care unit that affected eight newborns, three of whom have died. Geisinger Medical Center in Danville said Monday that four of the babies have recovered, and one is still being treated with antibiotics. The hospital said all of the babies had been born prematurely, and the three deaths “may have been a result of the infection complicating their already vulnerable state due to extreme prematurity.” Officials say they are working with state and federal health authorities to make sure the pseudomonas waterborne bacterial infection has been eradicated. As a precaution, the hospital is transferring babies born at less than 32 weeks to other hospitals and diverting other expected premature deliveries.
Narragansett: The American Civil Liberties Union says the town shouldn’t prohibit attendees at town meetings from interrupting, making slanderous remarks and behaving boisterously. The Narragansett Town Council is considering asking the town solicitor to draft a “decorum ordinance,” similar to new rules approved in Exeter last month. The Rhode Island ACLU chapter said Monday that considering such a proposal sends the wrong message and would have a “chilling effect” on Narragansett residents and their willingness to speak their minds at open forum sessions of council meetings. The ACLU says other municipalities shouldn’t follow Exeter’s “questionable lead.” The Narragansett council president’s recommendation for drafting the ordinance states it would ensure that First Amendment rights are protected while keeping town meetings civil.
Charleston: A large amount of land along the Savannah River is being protected from development. Jonathan Winthrop told The Post and Courier of Charleston that his family put the 13,868 acres near Allendale into a conservation easement because they love the wilderness and didn’t want to see it compromised. Nature Conservancy Coastal and Midlands Conservation Director David Bishop says the latest gift means 60 continuous miles along the Savannah River are protected. The value of the donated land was not disclosed. The land was part of a plantation before the Revolutionary War, and the Winthrop family has owned it since 1906. It’s been used to harvest timber, as a vacation retreat and for quail hunting.
Pierre: The estimated number of violent crimes is down in the state. U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons said Friday that the newly released FBI crime report shows the number of violent crimes in South Dakota in 2018 dropped for the first time in five years, declining about 5% compared to the year before. The report shows the estimated rate of violent crime in the state was about 405 offenses per 100,000 residents. The most dramatic drop was in the number of murders and non-negligent homicides, which dropped 56% from 2017 to 2018. Nationally, the estimated number of violent crimes as a whole decreased 3.3% in 2018 from the prior year.
Nashville: The Nashville Film Festival turns 50 this year with a new director who is expanding its footprint. WPLN-FM reports the festival directed by Jason Padgitt now includes city events every night as well as a new festival hub away from the multiplex where the movies are shown. Events range from house parties for VIP badge holders to big public celebrations, like one for a Chuck Berry documentary’s world premiere. New film programming manager Lauren Ponto says she maintained the festival’s eclectic mix of foreign titles and independent American films. She’s also showcasing more local talent, including K.D. Amond, director of “Five Women in the End.” It’s an apocalyptic thriller about a girls’ night gone wrong making its world premiere in the Tennessee First Competition. The festival runs through Saturday.
Dallas: The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. is requesting an independent investigation into the fatal shooting of a key witness in a police officer’s murder trial days after the officer’s conviction. In a statement Sunday, the LDF called the killing Friday of Joshua Brown “deeply alarming and highly suspicious.” Sherrilyn Ifill, the group’s president, said Brown’s death under such circumstances “cries out for answers.” Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Johnson is urging people to avoid speculation about Brown’s death. He says he believes the police will conduct a thorough investigation. Amber Guyger was convicted last week of murder in the death of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean, whose apartment she said she mistook for her own. Brown testified that on the night of the killing, he heard what sounded like “two people meeting by surprise” and then two gunshots.
Cottonwood Heights: More than a year after she set her mind to do more to help the environment, a Utah fourth grader has convinced her elementary school to switch from foam trays to biodegradable ones. The Deseret News reports Aggy Deagle successfully lobbied the Canyons School Board and inspired other schools to consider making the change. Deagle says she hated watching the trays go in the trash. Other students joined Deagle’s effort and helped her collect signatures from about 85% of the school’s students on a petition urging the change. The school district has also switched from plastic utensils to reusable metal ones. These changes have increased the nutritional services budget by about $200,000. Butler Elementary School Principal Jeff Nalwalker calls the change a “pretty big deal.”
North Hero: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is looking for help from the public in preparing some Lake Champlain beaches for nesting turtles. The year’s spiny softshell turtle beach cleanup day is Saturday, Oct. 26. Volunteers will pull up vegetation to prepare beach nesting sites for next year. The volunteers may also find a few hatchlings that remain in underground nests late in the year. In addition to threatened spiny softshell turtles, these nest sites are also used by map turtles, painted turtles and snapping turtles. Fish and Wildlife biologist Toni Mikula will have hatchling spiny softshell and other turtles on hand and will talk about the long-term turtle recovery efforts.
Alexandria: A row house that once housed one of the nation’s largest slave-trading businesses is up for sale. The Northern Virginia Urban League owns the home in Old Town Alexandria and operates it as a museum called Freedom House. News outlets report the league put the building up for sale to shed the financial burden of operating a lightly attended museum in an old building with high maintenance costs. City officials say they’d prefer the building not be sold to a private entity, but Alexandria is not in position to take over the museum’s operation. Slave traders used the building as a holding pen for several decades in the 19th century to keep slaves arriving through the city’s port until they were sold into the Deep South.
Yakima: Hop, apple and wine growers in the state have announced they are expecting to at least meet production levels from last year’s fall harvests. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports crop experts have prepared to meet hop and wine grape numbers from 2018 while surpassing apple production levels. Growers say apple harvest numbers will be available this week, and it is likely the harvest could bring in close to 137 million boxes, an 18% increase. Washington Tree Fruit Association says the expected number does not include apples processed into juice or other products. Experts say hop numbers could be close to the 107 million pounds harvested last year. Experts say grape numbers are also expected to be similar to 2018 with more than 260,000 tons harvested.
Williamson: Officials say state and local workers and volunteers have removed thousands of tires from a stretch of the Tug Fork River. Employees of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, with volunteers and employees from the city of Williamson and the Mingo County Commission removed 2,340 tires from a 100-yard stretch of the river over four days. An agency statement says eight volunteers logged 192 hours during the cleanup from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2. The department says tires were rolled into the river for decades, and they accumulated behind a school, possibly as a result of flooding some 40 years ago. An estimated 10,000 tires still await removal, and plans are underway for another cleanup next year.
Madison: The University of Wisconsin’s regents are preparing to take another step toward implementing punishments for students who interfere with campus speeches. The regents in 2017 adopted a policy declaring that students who twice disrupt others’ free speech would be suspended for at least one semester. A third offense would mean expulsion. The policy hasn’t taken effect, however, because the UW System’s administrative rules haven’t been amended to include it. The Board of Regents plans to vote during a meeting Friday at UW-Superior to approve a scope statement outlining such an amendment. Approval would authorize UW officials to begin drafting the language incorporating the policy changes into rule.
Chugwater: A former Peacekeeper missile alert facility has been dedicated as Wyoming’s newest state historical site. The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reports officials dedicated the site, 30 miles north of Cheyenne, on Saturday. F.E. Warren Air Force Base personnel operated the MX intercontinental ballistic missile facility from 1986 to 2005. Visitors can tour on-site living quarters and take an elevator 60 feet underground to see its guidance systems. Officials worked with Wyoming State Parks and the State Historic Preservation Office to prepare the public display.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports