Birmingham: Jefferson County is preserving what’s left of the lockup where officials say Martin Luther King Jr. served his final time behind bars just months before his assassination. County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Thursday to memorialize and preserve an area on the seventh floor of the county courthouse that used to be a jail. Much of the floor is now used for storage and mechanical equipment. Sheriff Mark Pettway said the civil rights leader was held on the floor in 1967, when he served three days for contempt after losing an appeal on his conviction for demonstrating without a permit years earlier. A small area including two pale-green cells, an isolation chamber, a shower and mechanical equipment are all that remain from the old jail. The county doesn’t know whether King was held in that exact section or another section that has since been removed.
Juneau: A judge ruled Friday that an effort to recall Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy may proceed, a decision that is expected to be appealed. The decision by Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth in Anchorage followed arguments in the case Friday and came two months after Gail Fenumiai, director of the state Division of Elections, rejected a bid to advance the recall effort. Fenumiai said her decision was based on an opinion from Attorney General Kevin Clarkson that found the reasons listed for recall were “factually and legally deficient.” The Recall Dunleavy group has argued that Clarkson’s analysis was overreaching and that the recall effort should have been allowed to move to a second, signature-gathering phase. Among its claims, the group said Dunleavy violated the law by not appointing a judge within a required time frame, misused state funds for partisan online ads and mailers, and improperly used his veto authority to “attack the judiciary.”
Mesa: Tonto National Forest officials say workers plan to begin installing 4 miles of steel fencing along and near the lower Salt River east of metro Phoenix to prevent wild horses from crossing the Bush Highway and to keep livestock from mingling with the horse herd. Forest officials say the fence work starting Monday is the second phase of a project that saw workers complete installation Friday of 10 miles of barbed wire fencing. That work began in November. Forest Service and state Department of Agriculture officials said previous fences didn’t prevent horses from getting onto the highway, resulting in the deaths of 20 or more horses annually. The Forest Service said the project includes installing 35 gates at designated trails and historically used access points.
Little Rock: A judge on Friday said he won’t stay his order reinstating a police officer fired for fatally shooting a black motorist. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox denied the city of Little Rock’s request to stay his order regarding Officer Charles Starks, who was fired over the fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire. Starks fired at least 15 times through the windshield of a car Blackshire was driving in February. Starks and another officer were attempting a motor vehicle stop at the time. Police commanders fired Starks in May, saying he violated department policy. Fox had previously upheld a city commission’s ruling that Starks violated policy prohibiting officers from voluntarily placing themselves in front of an oncoming vehicle “where deadly force is the probable outcome.” But the judge said a 30-day suspension and reduction to an entry-level officer salary are more appropriate sanctions, and he ordered the city to comply by Jan. 16.
San Francisco: It was a bad week for robots in the Bay Area. A Silicon Valley company that used robots to make its pizzas closed last week, and three coffee shops in downtown San Francisco that used robots as baristas also shuttered. Zume Pizza said it is cutting 172 jobs in Mountain View and eliminating another 80 at its facility in San Francisco. The Mountain View startup, which first began delivering pizzas in 2016, said it intends to focus on its food packaging and delivery systems, the Mercury News in San Jose reports. In San Francisco, Cafe X closed three of its coffee shops in the financial district. The startup’s founder, Henry Hu, said the downtown cafes helped develop the newest machine being used at shops at San Francisco International Airport and Mineta San Jose International Airport, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Loveland: Northern Colorado commuters will have to say goodbye, at least for now, to Equinox, the giant sculpture of three horses galloping along a ribbon of railroad tracks at the intersection of Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34. The five-story-tall sculpture, put in place in 2014, will be taken down in the next couple of weeks, according to the city. The interchange is being redesigned as part of an interstate-widening project. The sculpture will be placed in storage “until a new location can be selected,” according to a city news release. Equinox was created by three Loveland residents – figurative sculptor Jack Kreutzer, structural engineer and artist Doug Rutledge, and artist and philanthropist Doug Erion – and was inspired by the art of Arapaho and Cheyenne Plains Indians. Loveland says it’s the biggest public art project in city history. It cost $225,000.
Hartford: An agreement reached Friday in a long-running school desegregation case in the capital city will put the district on a path to ending 30 years of litigation, state officials said. The settlement includes new measures to reach diversity goals and allows for judicial oversight to end once the effort is shown to produce opportunities in diverse school settings for all Hartford families. The Sheff v. O’Neill case began in 1989 with a lawsuit challenging racial and economic segregation and inequalities between Hartford schools and suburban schools against then-Gov. William O’Neill. The plaintiffs were black, Latino and white families from Hartford. The case was named after Milo Sheff, one of the main plaintiffs, and his mother, Elizabeth Horton Sheff. In 1996, the state Supreme Court ruled the extreme racial isolation of Hartford students violated the state Constitution.
Rehoboth Beach: Seaside Jewish Community celebrated a milestone 23 years in the making this month, the Delaware State News reports. The groundbreaking group began meeting in 1997 when strangers responded to an advertisement in the Cape Gazette newspaper requesting fellowship for a Passover Seder feast to celebrate the beginning of the holiday with fellow Jewish community members. Nearly 100 members responded. By 2006, Seaside Jewish Community had grown to 200 members, prompting them to purchase their current facility after renting it for several years. Fourteen years later, the community had another need based on growth – expansion. They are now about 600 members strong and need more space so their community can continue to thrive. The need for an expansion was demonstrated as community members who attended the Jan. 5 groundbreaking had to sit in an overflow room where the ceremony was streamed live online because the sanctuary was full.
District of Columbia
Washington: A group in D.C. is extending the fight to decriminalize drugs beyond cannabis to magic mushrooms, WUSA-TV reports. Spokesperson Melissa Lavasani says she suffered with postpartum depression and found relief when she gave the psychedelic substance a try after listening to a Joe Rogan podcast on which mycologist Paul Stamets discussed the benefits and uses of psilocybin mushrooms. She says it made all the difference for her, but the fear didn’t leave her – she was, after all, still using an illegal Schedule I substance. In an effort to alleviate those fears and help others struggling with similar situations, she joined the group Decriminalize Nature DC to bring the fight to politics. The group has submitted a ballot initiative to the D.C. Board of Elections to decide whether it can move forward. A hearing will be held Feb. 12.
Sunrise: Miami’s upcoming Super Bowl will mean death for dozens of invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades – and wildlife officials say that’s a good thing. The game’s organizing committee is working with the state to promote the Python Bowl, a 10-day contest that began Friday that will give out all-terrain vehicles and cash to the hunters who kill the most and biggest of these non-native snakes. The pythons, which can grow to 20 feet, are descended from pets released starting five decades ago. The big serpents have been devouring native mammal and bird populations. Kristen Sommers, a wildlife impact manager for the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says officials understand the number of pythons caught during the contest won’t even make a dent in the population, which might exceed 100,000. But the goal is to raise the public’s awareness of the problem.
Tybee Island: A project to repair erosion to the state’s largest public beach is underway east of Savannah. Crews have been pumping sand onto the beach at Tybee Island since early December. Tybee Island City Manager Shawn Gillen told WTOC-TV work is about a week behind schedule, but crews should be done pumping new sand onto the beach around Jan. 20. The state and federal governments are spending $13.8 million to renourish Tybee Island’s beach. The project has been in the works since hurricanes Mathew and Irma pushed damaging storm surge onto the Georgia coast in 2016 and 2017. The repair work includes building a new stretch of dune to help protect beachfront structures from future surge, as well as rebuilding several crossover walkways onto the beach that suffered storm damage.
Honolulu: The Hawaii Air National Guard will start selecting candidates in April for one of four space control squadrons in the country in the Air National Guard, military officials said. The state Air Guard would select 88 military members for the 293rd Space Control Squad based at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Operations by the new squadron are classified, but its main objective is to protect and defend the nation’s satellite communication systems, Hawaii Air Guard commander Brig. Gen. Ryan Okahara says. The announcement comes after President Donald Trump signed the $738 billion National Defense Authorization Act in December funding the military and creating the Space Force, the first new armed service since 1947.
Lewiston: A Clean Water Act lawsuit filed by the Nez Perce Tribe that seeks to force a Canadian gold mining company to acquire permits for pollution discharged from its central Idaho facility will be allowed to continue, a federal judge decided. Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Boise forwarded the lawsuit first filed by the tribe in August against Midas Gold Corp. and its subsidiary, Midas Gold Idaho, The Lewiston Tribune reports. “Midas Gold’s motion to stay the Tribe’s litigation was simply a delay tactic,” Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee chairman Shannon F. Wheeler said. The company is discharging water polluted with arsenic, cyanide, mercury and other heavy metals into streams of the Salmon River, home to several species of fish protected by the Endangered Species Act, Nez Perce Tribal leaders say. The streams also run through traditional territory where tribal members fish, tribe officials say.
Chicago: DNA tests to determine if a coyote captured on the city’s North Side is the same animal that attacked a 6-year-old boy will take weeks to complete, a city animal control official said Friday. Kelley Gandurski, executive director of Chicago Animal Care and Control, says the coyote will eventually be relocated outside the city. The agency’s Jenny Schlueter says another coyote was spotted in the same area Thursday night but eluded capture. Animal control officers have continued to search for coyotes in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and downtown. Experts say the majority of cases in which people suspect coyotes turn out to have been attacks by dogs, but Chicago officials remain confident the animal that attacked the boy Wednesday was a coyote. If so, it would be the first confirmed coyote attack on a human in Illinois, according to a wildlife biologist with the Urban Coyote Research Project.
South Whitley: A northern Indiana dam that was the scene of a deadly 2017 kayaking accident has been demolished, making the region’s Eel River safer for recreation and removing a barrier to migrating fish. A crew that began demolishing the Collamer Dam on Wednesday finished removing the last of the concrete structure Thursday, said Jerry Sweeten, a retired Manchester University biology professor. The dam’s removal means the Eel River now includes about 95 miles of free-flowing open waterway that will promote both safer recreation and the river’s ecological health, Sweeten said. “This is a remarkable thing, to open up this much of the river,” he told The Journal Gazette. There’s now no barrier to migrating fish, including small-mouth bass and several species of suckers, including the great red horse sucker, which is an endangered species in Indiana, Sweeten said. The river has 52 fish species, 43 of which migrate upstream, he said.
Des Moines: State Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice David Wiggins announced Friday that he’s retiring. Wiggins, 69, said he will retire March 13. He was appointed to the court by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2003. He was named acting chief justice in November after the unexpected death of Chief Justice Mark Cady, who had named Wiggins as his replacement if he were to be unable to act. Wiggins’ departure will give Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds an opportunity to replace one of the two remaining Democratic appointees on the seven-member court. She just received the names of three nominees Thursday to fill Cady’s vacant seat. Wiggins could have served until 2023, when he turns 72, the mandatory retirement age for state judges in Iowa. His current term is to expire in December.
Wichita: The state’s farmers have seeded an estimated 6.9 million acres into winter wheat, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday. The state’s winter wheat acreage is equal to the area planted a year earlier, the agency said. Winter wheat is planted in the fall for harvest the following year. Kansas is the nation’s biggest producer. Separately, the agency also reported that about 394 million bushels of wheat are now stored in the state, down 13% from the amount in storage at this time a year ago.
Covington: A homeless shelter in northern Kentucky is moving to a bigger facility and will offer more services, officials said. The Northern Kentucky Emergency Shelter in Covington will move to a building on West 13th Street later this year that includes space for a medical clinic, lockers and laundry services. The building can house up to 55 more people in need, says Kim Webb, executive director of the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky. The shelter worked with Kenton County officials and St. Elizabeth Healthcare, which bought the building, to provide services for the homeless in the region. More than 1,500 people experienced homelessness in Boone, Kenton and Cambell counties between July 2018 and June 2019, according to a report from the Northern Kentucky Homelessness Working Group.
New Orleans: Southern University at New Orleans will suspend all of its athletics programs at the end of the academic year, trying to save money and dig itself out of years of financial problems. The Southern University Board of Supervisors approved the move Friday without objection, at the request of SUNO Interim Chancellor James Ammons. “This is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made as an administrator,” Ammons said. He said while he understands the importance of athletics programs to attracting students and drawing alumni support, the campus must focus on protecting its academic programs rather than continuing to steer money to sports. The historically black public university is on probation by its accrediting agency amid continuing financial woes that have stretched over years as enrollment has fallen.
Kennebunkport: A sign welcoming people crossing the bridge into this coastal town has been stolen, police said. In a Facebook post Friday, police said the “Welcome to Kennebunkport” sign posted off the side of the Lanigan Bridge is missing, though it was unclear when it was removed. The bridge is a popular spot for visitors and tourists to take photos, often with the sign in the background, CentralMaine.com reports. The sign, which shows some of town’s skyline, is made of copper and aluminum, but police don’t think it was stolen for scrap. “I believe it’s a trophy sitting in somebody’s living room,” Kennebunkport Police Deputy Chief Kurt Moses told WGME-TV, “and we just want to get the word out that we would like our sign back.” It must have taken some effort to dismantle the sign, as it was secured with several bolts on a railing over the river, the chief said.
Ocean City: This coastal community has playfully invited Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan to vacation there after the couple said they would step back from royal duties. The city tweeted Wednesday that the couple is “welcome to come for a visit any time!” and that “our castles may not be as grand as those back home,” but it’s “a great place for any family looking to take a break from it all.” City officials weren’t available to comment on whether the couple responded to the offer. Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan say they intend to become “financially independent” and to “balance” their time between the U.K. and North America.
Boston: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is warning international students that federal immigration officials may visit their work sites to verify that their employment is directly related to their studies. School officials sent a memo to faculty Thursday saying the Department of Homeland Security has been making site visits to employers of foreign students in science, technology, engineering and math fields. The school is notifying students separately and telling them what to expect from the visits. MIT spokeswoman Kimberly Allen said the memo was not prompted by any visit to the institute. Immigration officials announced last year that they would begin workplace visits for some students in the federal Optional Practical Training program, which allows those with student visas to take temporary jobs related to their studies. Students in STEM fields can get their visas extended by two years, while others can get one-year extensions.
Madison Heights: An industrial site in suburban Detroit from which a greenish stream of contaminated water leaked onto a freeway will be considered for the federal Superfund cleanup program, state officials said Friday. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy said an evaluation of the Electro-Plating Services Inc. site will be completed this spring. It will be based on dozens of soil and water samples being taken by the department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The chrome plating company in Madison Heights was shut down by state regulators in 2016 due to mismanagement of industrial waste. An EPA cleanup removed toxic chemicals and contaminated liquids. The leak of bright green goo onto the shoulder of Interstate 696 last month prompted a new investigation. It found high levels of numerous toxins in soil and groundwater at the site, including hexavalent chromium, which is associated with cancer, kidney and liver damage.
Minneapolis: The Minneapolis VA Health Care Center has been cited for failures in connection with the 2018 suicide of a veteran in its care. It’s the second time in 16 months that a federal watchdog has cited the medical center after a suicide. In a report last week, the VA Office of Inspector General found the Minnesota veteran said he wanted to die after he was admitted in spring 2018. A nurse also overheard him telling someone on the telephone that he would die at the hospital. Hours after that call, he attempted suicide and couldn’t be revived. The inspector general found that staff members failed to share the man’s suicidal thoughts with others on the treatment team, which might have prevented his death, the Star Tribune reports. His death came weeks after another veteran killed himself in the center’s parking lot, less than 24 hours after he was discharged from the mental health unit.
Jackson: Gov. Phil Bryant is leaving office Tuesday after serving his limit of two terms. The Republican says he believes the state’s economy is stronger, vulnerable children are better protected, and students are showing stronger academic performance. He also says a recent outburst of violence in Mississippi prisons is not something he would have wanted as part of his legacy. Five inmates were killed, an undisclosed number were injured, and facilities at the State Penitentiary at Parchman were so damaged that the state set an emergency contract to move 375 inmates to a private prison. Bryant’s predecessor, fellow GOP Gov. Haley Barbour, pardoned nearly 200 people as he finished his second term in 2012. People protesting prison conditions last week called on Bryant to release some nonviolent inmates to ease prison crowding, but the onetime deputy sheriff says he will not issue any pardons or commute any sentences and does not think of inmates as victims.
St. Louis: Getting legal representation will take longer for hundreds of criminal defendants in the state’s largest county now that its judicial circuit has instituted a waiting list that supporters say is the only way to reduce the massive caseloads its overworked public defenders have been handling. St. Louis County’s waiting list went into effect Jan. 2 following an order by the county’s presiding judge, Gloria Reno. Her review last fall found that public defenders – lawyers who are assigned to defendants who can’t afford private attorneys – were juggling far more cases than they could logically handle. The list was requested by the St. Louis County public defender office and had the support of Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, who in a November court filing called it “the least-bad alternative available.”
Helena: NorthWestern Energy has donated $15,000 to efforts to memorialize Judy Martz, who served as the state’s first female governor and lieutenant governor. The donation for a statue was announced last week by Lisa Perry, NorthWestern Energy’s community relations manager for the Billings division, at the Montana Chamber of Commerce’s 20th annual Business Days at the Capitol luncheon. Martz, 74, died in Butte in Oct. 30, 2017, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. In 2019, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 275, by Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell. It gives a committee five years to raise funds to put a museum-quality statue or bust in honor of the Republican governor on the Capitol grounds. The committee must raise funds, and the statue design must get approval from the Capitol Grounds Advisory Committee and the Montana Historical Society.
Lincoln: Requests for early ballots can be submitted starting this week, the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office reports. The office said in a news release that the first day to submit applications for an early ballot at county offices is Monday. Counties receiving early voting requests will keep a list of the requests, Secretary of State Bob Evnen said. Those requests will be among the first ballots mailed staring April 6, he said. Nebraska’s primary election this year is May 12. Some counties maintain a permanent early voting list, which allows counties to reach out to voters who have indicated an ongoing preference to vote by mail. Each voter on the list will receive a postcard, which the voter can return indicating he or she would like to receive a ballot by mail.
Las Vegas: Two human skulls and two human jawbones were discovered in archival storage boxes by a volunteer, prompting an investigation, Clark County Museum officials say. The 50-year-old museum grew from a collection of items from the Las Vegas Valley’s first female mortician, Anna Roberts Parks, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. This was the first time human remains were found in Parks’ collection, museum registrar Cynthia Sanford says. “She had lots of animal bones and things along those lines, but we’ve never found human remains before,” Sanford says. “She was a mortician, so it seems like that would be kind of a weird line to cross.” A volunteer was going through archival boxes Dec. 5 when the four bones were found, Sanford says. The bones were brought to the Clark County coroner’s office for investigation, officials say.
North Woodstock: Organizers of annual hand-crafted ice castle sculptures in the state opened the popular tourist attraction over the weekend as planned, despite warmer weather. The frozen attraction is located in six places across North America, including in North Woodstock. The castles include LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides and fountains. The winter wonderland is built from scratch when the cold conditions allow the ice to sprout from the barren ground. Warming weather is always a threat for the Ice Castles. In years past, some locations occasionally have had to cut their seasons short due to warmer winters. The attraction, which moved last year from neighboring Lincoln, draws tens of thousands of visitors each season.
Jersey City: Hundreds of protesters turned out Saturday as part of an effort to save one of Liberty State Park’s waterfront vistas from a billionaire developer bent on expanding a prestigious golf club into the natural preserve. Chants of “Whose park? Our park” reverberated along the edge of the state park overlooking the Statue of Liberty as demonstrators gathered to fight a proposed three-hole expansion of the exclusive Liberty National Golf Club at Caven Point – a protected peninsula of the adjacent state park in Jersey City – and back a bill before the Legislature that would ban further development in the area. The peninsula is a prime habitat for migrating birds and has marshland and a sandy beach, where fish, crabs, seahorses and other marine life are found in local waters.
Santa Fe: A nonpartisan group says targeted mailings that encourage voter registration are going out to 1 in 8 state residents. The nonprofit, Washington-based Voter Participation Center says it will attempt to reach more than 248,000 people in New Mexico by mail in January as part of a new national campaign to reach populations that are statistically underrepresented in elections. The effort seeks to narrow the gap between those eligible to vote and those who are registered to vote – a gap that is especially pronounced among Latinos, says center founder and president Page Gardner. New Mexico has the highest percentage of Latino residents of any state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, estimated at well above 40% of the population. Young adults and single, unmarried women are another focus of the drive intended to increase overall voting.
New York: The city will install 100 new security cameras in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in an effort to prevent anti-Semitic attacks, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday. Fear has gripped the city’s Orthodox Jewish community since the the fatal Dec. 10 attack at a kosher grocery store across the Hudson River in Jersey City and the Dec. 29 stabbings at a Hanukkah celebration in suburban Monsey. The new cameras will be installed in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park, where Hasidic Jewish residents have reported attacks ranging from someone pulling off a wig or hat to more violent assaults. “An attack on the Jewish community is an attack on all New Yorkers,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a statement. Police officials say anti-Semitic crimes in New York City jumped 21% in 2019 compared with 2018.
Charlotte: The FBI is asking for the public’s help in catching a so-called bad wig bandit who’s been robbing banks in the state. The FBI said in a statement Thursday that the suspect wore a different wig during each heist in the Charlotte area. One wig was blonde. Another was black. The third was red. The FBI says he robbed a BB&T in Huntersville on Dec. 13. He then robbed two banks Jan. 7. The first was a New Horizon Bank in Belmont. The second was a Wells Fargo in Gastonia.
Bismarck: A man who allegedly told a neighbor he had a bomb and indicated he would harm anyone who tried to enter his condominium died after he was shot by tactical officers in an exchange of gunfire, police said. Authorities identified the man Friday as Cody Carnes, 30, of Bismarck. Officers responded to the residence after getting a call from a neighbor about 10 p.m. Thursday. The neighbor reported noisy sawing and hammering coming from Carnes’ residence and said Carnes stated that he had a bomb. Two other calls were made earlier in the evening, including one from a caller who said Carnes stated he had weapons and would use them if anyone tried to enter his home. Another call came from a delivery employee who said Carnes displayed a handgun and said he had several more firearms. West Dakota SWAT officers tried to get the man to surrender, but he refused.
Columbus: There’s limited evidence that expanding the electronic monitoring of inmates in the state would reduce the rates at which ex-offenders commit new crimes or that it would enhance public safety, according to a new report. In addition, creating a system that would allow real-time monitoring of inmates in the hopes of placing them near crimes would still do nothing to prevent such crimes from happening, though it could help aid investigators and parole officers, according to the report released last week. Such a system is known as “crime scene correlation technology.” “The daily operations required for such a system are exceedingly complex and would require careful planning and consistent oversight,” according to the report, which was given to a state task force looking at all aspects of supervising inmates upon release. “Additionally, the costs associated with developing and operating such an initiative would be substantial and recurring.”
Norman: A woman has pleaded guilty to spray-painting racist, anti-gay and anti-Semitic graffiti on Democratic Party offices and other properties in central Oklahoma in 2019. Allison Christine Johnson, 46, of Norman, pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony charge of malicious injury to property, three misdemeanor counts of malicious injury to property, and one misdemeanor count of malicious intimidation or harassment as part of a plea deal. “My actions do not reflect how I really feel,” Johnson told District Judge Michael Tupperman. “It was out of character.” In exchange for her plea, the charges will be dismissed if Johnson completes a mental health program. The graffiti included racial slurs and swatiskas outside the state Democratic Party headquarters in Oklahoma City and a Chickasaw Nation office. Similar graffiti was found at the Cleveland County Democratic Party headquarters and an elementary school in Norman.
Coos Bay: Federal authorities suggested the environmental impact of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal and pipeline in southern Oregon would be minimal, saying the contentious project wouldn’t jeopardize protected species or adversely change their critical habitat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said its review shows that the effects of the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas terminal and a 230-mile feeder pipeline along Coos Bay would be short-term or on a small scale, dispersed broadly across 250 miles. The biological study done by NOAA scientists reviewed 17 species listed under the Endangered Species Act and their critical habitats, including whales, sea turtles, salmon and other fish species. In November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s staff in its final environmental analysis concluded that the contentious project would likely have an adverse affect on wildlife, including 18 federally listed or proposed threatened and endangered species.
West Manchester Township: Shiloh Water Authority has started the process to remove fluoride from the township’s water supply. Shiloh is one of the last water companies in York County to add fluoride. According to a database by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the others are Hanover Municipal Water Works, Red Lion Municipal Authority and the West Manheim branch of the York Water Company. Adams County is one of 19 counties in Pennsylvania that does not have a supplier that adds fluoride or purchases fluoridated water. Franklin has three authorities, and Lebanon has two that add fluoride to their community’s water. Chairman James Bentzel says Shiloh started to add fluoride to the water in the mid-1960s. In the past few years, some of its customers requested that the company stop.
Providence: A fund has been created to accept donations to support public education in the state. Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green announced Friday that the nonprofit Rhode Island Foundation established the Fund for Rhode Island Public Education to accept donations from individuals, corporations and foundations interested in improving public education statewide. The Rhode Island Foundation will manage and distribute the money according to the education department’s priorities and the donor’s intent. Donors could invest professional learning opportunities for educators, advanced coursework for students and upgrades to school facilities, for example, the department said. The fund launched with a $20,000 commitment from the Rhode Island Commodores, a nonprofit that promotes economic development.
Eastover: Officials at McEntire Joint National Guard Base are warning neighbors that nighttime training scheduled for the next several days may create a lot of noise. The training will run Monday through Thursday at the air base east of Columbia. The South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing is hosting jets from the 4th Fighter Wing stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina for the exercise, 169th Fighter Wing commander Col. Akshai Gandhi said. The base in Richland County has a large airfield and provides realistic training for a number of military units, Gandhi said in a statement. Base officials will do everything they can to minimize noise from the nighttime training and appreciate the understanding of their neighbors, Gandhi said.
Aberdeen: A federal judge has ruled that a new state law that requires ballot petition circulators to register and be included in a directory is unconstitutional. The organization SD Voice, a grassroots ballot question committee, filed the lawsuit in federal court. There was a one-day trial in Aberdeen last month. The law required petition circulators to apply with the secretary of state for an identification number, provide personal information and be included in a directory. Attorneys for the state say the law is aimed at preventing fraud. In a written ruling Thursday, Judge Charles Kornmann declared the measure a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Memphis: A new pilot program starts this month with the goal of helping youth in Memphis and Shelby County lead healthier lives. The Craigmont High School Healthy Habits Program is a new curriculum designed to educate ninth graders participating in the school’s Lifetime Wellness classes about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. The comprehensive program will present a three-component approach that details the 8-5-2-1-0 (8 hours or more of sleep, 5 fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour or more of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks every day) recipe that incorporates proper nutrition and adequate exercise into daily activities. Students in the program will also participate in FitnessGram, an evidence-based fitness evaluation program.
Houston: Shriners Hospital for Children in the Texas Medical Center will close in 2021 to consolidate area care at its larger Galveston hospital. The decision, made last fall, was driven by a desire to build one premier hospital, according to the Houston Chronicle. It was not based on financial concerns. Though the closure will end Shriners’ 100-year presence in Houston, it will mean all four specialty care departments – acute burns, orthopedic conditions, spinal injuries, and cleft lip and palate abnormalities – will be provided in Galveston. “This will make more efficient use of resources and enable us to provide our patients who need more than one type of care to receive it all in one place,” said Mel Bower, director of marketing at the Shriners national offices in Tampa. “It makes more strategic sense.”
Salt Lake City: Rare salt formations have been documented for the first time on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, and they could yield insights about salt structures found on Mars before they disappear for good. They’re showing up now in part because water levels at the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi have been lowered by drought and water diversion, exposing more shoreline. That means there are more places where water can bubble up to the surface from warm, sulfate-rich springs. When it hits the cold air, a mineral called Glauber’s salt, or mirabilite, separates out. The tiny crystals have built up over the past several months, eventually creating flat terraces stacked atop one another like the travertine rimstone and dam terraces at Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs. From above, though, the cascading terraces are like an enormous piece of lace laid over the sandy earth. There are now four mounds at the Great Salt Lake beach, growing up to 3 feet tall.
Montpelier: The governor has reaffirmed the state’s commitment to accepting refugees from across the world and says he would like to return the number of people arriving in the state to the levels before President Donald Trump took office. In a letter to the president and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Republican Gov. Phil Scott said the state has welcomed almost 8,000 refugees since 1989, and before Trump took office, it was accepting about 325 to 350 a year. In fiscal 2019, Vermont took in 115 refugees, said Amila Merdzanovic, of the Vermont office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “Vermont’s refugee communities have made countless contributions to our state,” said Scott’s letter to the president. “Refugees help ensure a healthy sized and diverse student population. They help employers fill open positions, contributing to the community and local economy, and pay federal, state and local taxes.”
Richmond: Lawmakers voted Friday to ban firearms at the state Capitol, the first in what’s expected to be many contentious gun votes in coming weeks. Newly empowered Democrats who made up a majority of a special rules committee voted to ban guns at the Capitol and a legislative office building despite bitter protests from Republicans, saying the move was needed to protect public safety. “Our focus here is to keep everybody safe,” said House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. “These are policies and rules that should have passed a long, long time ago.” Public officials have expressed concerns about planned Jan. 20 rallies that are set to draw huge crowds of pro-gun and gun-control advocates. Gun advocates from around Virginia and even out of state have pledged to turn out in force to highlight their resistance to proposed gun-control measures.
Seattle: Wolf advocates seeking to halt the state Department Fish and Wildlife from shooting wolves to protect livestock have suffered another legal setback. The Capital Press reports King County Superior Court Judge John McHale on Friday dismissed claims that Fish and Wildlife’s lethal-control policy violates the State Environmental Policy Act. McHale’s ruling mirrored one in November by a Thurston County judge presiding over a similar lawsuit. Fish and Wildlife wolf policy lead Donny Martorello said that the department prefers to develop wolf policy outside courtrooms and that this decision lets it continue to do that. Jonathon Bashford, an attorney for the wolf advocates who brought the lawsuit, said they are reviewing the ruling and exploring their options.
Charleston: The governor says a technology company has agreed to open a research facility in the state to look into using coal to make carbon-based products. Gov. Jim Justice gave additional details about the agreement with Ramaco Carbon on Thursday after mentioning the research center in his State of the State speech. “We absolutely need to continue doing all we can to harness the power of coal in every way possible, and having this facility to test new ways to convert this dynamic resource is a great opportunity for all,” the Republican governor said. Ramaco Carbon has received more than $5 million in federal grants to support its research, Justice said in a news release. One of the projects the company is working on revolves around using coal as a precursor to manufacture carbon fiber for the automotive industry.
Milwaukee: High winds, towering waves and flooding have caused millions of dollars in damage to Port Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, the port’s director said Sunday. Wild weather Saturday forced the port to prohibit public access to Jones Island and caused flooding on all major roadways at the port. Winds gusted up to 50 mph, and waves reached 6 to 8 feet high. Port Director Adam Schlicht called it “an unprecedented event at Port Milwaukee” and said the port’s international docks, which are closed for the season, sustained “significant damage.” Floodwaters were receding Sunday, he said. The inner harbor is expected to reopen early Monday. The wind and water stripped off dock wall material and pushed it inland, and frozen floodwaters covered railroad tracks in a foot of ice, Schlicht said. Water levels on the Great Lakes have been at or near all-time highs for much of the past year, the City of Milwaukee said.
Jackson: An annual elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park doesn’t draw in and concentrate large numbers of grizzly bears, scientists have concluded. The November to December hunt probably takes place too late in the year for grizzly bears to seek out animal remains that hunters leave behind, according to researchers with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. Many grizzly bears have denned up for winter hibernation by the time a significant number of elk remains have accumulated, study team leader Frank van Manen wrote recently in the academic journal Ursus. The park holds the hunt to control elk numbers. Most national parks don’t allow hunting, but the law establishing Grand Teton decades ago provides for the hunt.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports