Auburn: A $3 million grant will help fund climate change education at Auburn University. The school announced recently that money from the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship will be used to teach students how to study the changing climate. Faculty members will work with about 85 graduate students to create an interdisciplinary team working over a five-year period. Students will examine both natural systems and man-made infrastructure. Associate professor Karen McNeal says understanding vulnerabilities, resiliency and recovery time is crucial as natural disasters become worse. The grant is the first such award in the state of Alabama. Auburn’s Department of Geosciences recently began offering a doctoral program related to climate change.
Fairbanks: U.S. Census Bureau workers in the Last Frontier will still approach properties and homes where signs warning against trespassing are posted, officials say. The federal agency says workers canvassing communities to obtain resident information for the 2020 census are not bound by the warnings, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports. “The Census Bureau is allowed to disregard trespassing signs because we are by law required to give everyone the opportunity to respond to the census,” the bureau said in a statement. Census employees have been canvassing Alaska for about two months. The count in remote populations of the state is scheduled to begin in January, officials said. Census workers are required to approach all properties but will comply with owners’ requests to leave, says Jeff Bottorff, an Alaska area census manager.
Phoenix: Seven years ago, the state started a program through which bars could get employees trained to stop a potential sexual assault before it happens. Now, researchers at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University are planning to study whether the Arizona Safer Bars Alliance initiative is making a significant impact. With a $3 million National Institutes of Health grant, researchers will conduct a five-year study focused on 56 bars and breweries located within a mile of each of the state’s three major public universities. “If we see things generally aren’t changing or there’s a negative trend for some reason, it gives us reason to think we may need to adjust something,” says Dr. Elise Lopez, a leader of the study and director of the UA Consortium on Gender-Based Violence. Lopez and the team hope to begin surveying bars and similar businesses in six-month increments beginning in January.
Little Rock: John Walker, a lawmaker and civil rights attorney who represented black students in a long-running court fight over the desegregation of Little Rock area schools, has died. He was 82. Walker, a Democrat, had represented a Little Rock district in the state House since 2011. He’d been involved in some of the state’s most high-profile discrimination and civil rights cases, including the desegregation case, which stemmed from a 1982 lawsuit the Little Rock school district filed against the state and neighboring districts over racial disparities that remained decades after the 1957 integration of Central High School. “What he did in this state made a difference for everyone in this state,” state Sen. Joyce Elliott, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus. “I don’t think everyone will realize the full measure of that for quite some time.”
Santa Ana: A man who admitted stealing a ring-tailed lemur from a Southern California zoo has been sentenced to three months in federal prison. Aquinas Kasbar of Newport Beach on Monday was also ordered to pay more than $8,000 in restitution to the Santa Ana Zoo. The 19-year-old pleaded guilty in July to one misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking an endangered species. In a plea agreement, Kasbar acknowledged he broke into the zoo, cut a hole in an enclosure and took 32-year-old Isaac, the oldest captive ring-tailed lemur in North America. The animal was placed in a container with no ventilation and later abandoned at a hotel with notes identifying it as having been taken from the zoo. It was returned unharmed. Ring-tailed lemurs are native to Madagascar and among the 25 most endangered primates.
Pueblo: A company that builds energy-efficient modular homes aimed at providing more affordable housing plans to open a factory in southern Colorado. IndieDwell announced Monday that it will spend $13 million to convert an existing warehouse in Pueblo into a factory that will employ up to 200 workers at full capacity. The company, which also has a factory in Boise, Idaho, announced plans to expand in September after raising $5.5 million in an initial round of financing. The Pueblo Chieftain reports it makes homes in three sizes ranging from 320 square feet to 960 square feet. Pueblo plans to give the company about $1.7 million from its economic development fund because of the jobs it will create. City councilors are scheduled to vote on that Nov. 11.
Hartford: The state is receiving a seven-year, $25.8 million federal grant to help increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont says the funding from the U.S. Department of Education will allow three community colleges to work with local school districts on making students aware of college, beginning in the seventh grade. Activities such as tutoring, mentoring, academic preparation and financial education will be funded, as well as college scholarships. Manchester Community College will work with East Hartford Public Schools; Naugatuck Valley Community College will pair with Waterbury Public Schools; and Middlesex Community College will collaborate with Meriden Public Schools.
Milton: First State-based brewery Dogfish Head has teamed up for a third time with iconic jam band the Grateful Dead on a new beer. This time it’s a hazy IPA named after the 1970 acoustic ballad “Ripple.” The American Beauty Hazy Ripple IPA is being released next month in collaboration with Warner Music Artist Services. It’s an unfiltered India Pale Ale that boasts tropical fruit and juicy citrus notes. The beer will be available in 45 states and will come in six packs of 12-ounce cans. “Ripple” is a song from the band’s landmark album “American Beauty.”
District of Columbia
Washington: The National Park Service has withdrawn a proposal that critics complained was designed to stifle protests near the White House and on the National Mall. In a statement, the park service says it received more than 140,000 comments on its proposed changes, which included opening the door to charging protest organizers for such services as erecting and taking down barricades, trash removal, and repairing harm to the grounds where the protest occurred. Each year, the agency issues about 750 permits for “First Amendment activities.” Critics said charging the organizers of those events would have made it harder for people to exercise their constitutional rights. The proposed rule also would have restricted how much of the sidewalk outside the White House is accessible to protesters.
Tallahassee: Gov. Ron DeSantis wants his state to set up a system that will require employers to verify the immigration status of job applicants. But it’s unclear if that effort will get any traction among lawmakers, especially since a similar effort failed in the most recent legislative session this year. DeSantis announced he’d make another push for so-called E-Verify legislation during the 2020 legislative session while speaking to reporters at an annual press event Tuesday in the Capitol. Appearing at the same event, Senate President Bill Galvano later said he’d approach the legislation cautiously. A proposal already introduced in the state Senate is sure to garner scrutiny, particularly among agriculture, construction, tourism interests and other industries that rely on immigrant labor.
Atlanta: A man’s fight to save a downtown building where the first country hit song is believed to have been recorded has gotten it another chance at survival. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Fulton County Superior Court Judge Paige Reese Whitaker granted Kyle Kessler a temporary restraining order Friday. A lawsuit to keep the building from being torn down had been dismissed last week. Whitaker says further review of the proposal to demolish the building is warranted. A developer plans to build a 21-story Margaritaville-themed hotel and restaurant near where the building currently stands. Part of the building was knocked down in August before crews learned a different judge had issued a temporary restraining order. Fiddlin’ John Carson likely recorded “Little Log Cabin in the Lane” in the building in 1923.
Honolulu: Government researchers say social media posts indicate the public is often getting too close to Hawaiian monk seals, a critically endangered species protected by federal and state law. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends staying 50 feet away from monk seals resting on a shoreline. But researchers studying more than 2,000 posts uploaded to Instagram from October 2014 to September 2015 say about 22% showed people within 10 feet of a seal. NOAA researcher Mark Sullivan tells the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that’s way too close. The study found 18% of the posts showed a monk seal responding to some type of disturbance by looking, moving away, or mouthing or barking. The study examined posts with the hashtag #monkseal.
Boise: Backers of a proposed ballot initiative to raise $170 million for K-12 public schools by increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations have started collecting signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot. Reclaim Idaho spokesman Jeremy Gugino said Monday that the group started the effort over the weekend after the Idaho attorney general’s office approved ballot language, and the secretary of state’s office late Friday gave the OK to start collecting signatures. The secretary of state’s office says the group must now collect 55,000 signatures from registered voters by April 30, 2020. The initiative calls for raising the tax rate by about 3 percentage points to just under 10% on individuals making more than $250,000. The tax rate for corporations would increase by about 1 percentage point to 8%.
Chicago: The state is providing almost $3 million in state funds to help crime victims deal with their trauma. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority announced Friday that $2.8 million in grants will be distributed to trauma recovery centers across the state. They say research shows the centers provide much-needed services to people in underserved communities who face barriers to getting help. Jason Stamps is acting executive director of the ICJIA. He says the centers “provide essential services to victims from underserved, marginalized communities who are often hesitant to seek help.” The centers provide outreach, crisis intervention, individual and group therapy and other treatment. Hospitals and community organizations are encouraged to apply for the grants.
South Haven: Some people build little library boxes to encourage reading. An 8-year-old Indiana boy has made a “blessing box” to collect food. The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports that Jeremiah “Jay” Dawson used birthday money to put the box in his family’s front yard in South Haven in Porter County. It serves as a neighborhood food pantry. South Haven firefighters recently honored Jay by donating food and presenting him with a $60 gift card to buy materials for his next box. They visited his house in firetrucks.“I just wanted to help other people,” Jay says.
Des Moines: A new specialty license plate with white lettering over a black background is now the state’s most popular. Des Moines television station KCCI reports that the Iowa Department of Transportation has issued more than 46,000 “Blackout” plates since July 1. That makes it the state’s most popular specialty license plate, surpassing the University of Iowa plate that 30,088 plates in circulation. Iowa DOT officials say approximately 30% of the Blackout plates are personalized. In September, the Blackout plates were so popular that some counties ran out of them. The new plates cost $35 for a non-personalized, alpha-numeric plate and an additional $25 for a personalized plate. DOT officials say the plates have generated nearly $2 million in revenue for road and bridge projects.
Lawrence: Prosecutors are dropping all charges against a University of Kansas student accused of falsely reporting a rape, saying they feared publicity surrounding the case could discourage sexual assault victims from coming forward. Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said in a statement Monday that the three felony counts of making a false report were dropped after much discussion. His office believed in the merits of the case, he said, but the “cost to our community and the negative impact on survivors of sexual violence cannot be ignored,” reports The Kansas City Star. Cheryl Pilate and Branden Bell, attorneys for the woman, said that although they were pleased their client could “finally put this nightmare behind her,” they were “disappointed that the DA’s office continues to promote the fiction that this case was supported by the facts.”
Frankfort: The number of college and university students receiving undergraduate degrees and certificates is continuing to climb in the state, but preliminary enrollment figures are falling. The state Council on Postsecondary Education says the continuing increase in degrees and credentials despite enrollment challenges indicates a strong commitment on Kentucky campuses to college completion. Council President Aaron Thompson says higher education leaders can claim success when students who are enrolled complete their programs and have the skills needed to succeed. Public and independent colleges and universities conferred a record 76,380 degrees and credentials last school year, up nearly 5% from the previous year and 39 from 10 years ago.
Baton Rouge: A legislative audit says the Department of Public Safety and Corrections is failing to properly track inmate release dates, leading to many errors including miscalculating parole eligibility. The Advocate reports the audit says the department has an inadequate review process for sentencing calculations. Auditors say 40 sentence computations were tested, and five had inaccurate information, leading to incorrect release dates, missed rehabilitation program credits or incorrect parole eligibility classifications. Twenty-one of those tested lacked a reviewer signature. Department Secretary James LeBlanc says there isn’t enough supervisory staff to sign off on the 60,000 processed computations. He says the department is working on a new procedure to have experienced staff conduct secondary reviews.
Camden: The Maine Press Association is auctioning off a signed copy of Stephen King’s latest book, “The Institute.” The association holds a yearly auction among its members to help fund a scholarship for students in Maine seeking a career in print journalism. Bangor Daily News reports the association decided to host an open auction for the book on eBay. The books inscription reads, “Read your local newspaper, and support journalism!” The auction ends at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Annapolis: The state’s Department of Agriculture has issued a quarantine in an attempt to contain the spotted lanternfly in Cecil and Harford counties. The Baltimore Sun reports the quarantine, announced Monday, restricts movement within the quarantine zone of regulated articles, such as construction waste or plants, that may contain the insect in any of its stages. Spotted lanternflies feed on more than 70 types of plants and crops, including grapes and apples as well as oak and pine trees. Because lanternflies attach to many surfaces, they easily travel from place to place. The speckled, four-winged insect is native to China, Vietnam and parts of India. After it was detected in Berks County, Pennsylvania, the insect has spread to other parts of that state and to parts of Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey.
Boston: An art museum is highlighting how contemporary artists are responding to global migration. The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston says its latest exhibit, “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art,” comes as the world is experiencing historic levels of migration, immigration and displacement. It says the United Nations estimates 1 out of every 7 people is an international or internal migrant. The exhibit’s works represent a range of artistic responses, from personal accounts to poetic meditations, as well as a range of mediums, including sculpture, installation, painting and video. The 20 artists featured hail from more than a dozen countries, including Colombia, Cuba, France, India, Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, South Korea and the United Kingdom. The exhibit runs through January.
Fowlerville: A mid-Michigan auto shop has replaced a Halloween display depicting a scowling President Donald Trump holding the severed head of former President Barack Obama by a black rope. Quality Coatings owner Dave Huff removed the rope and Obama mask Friday outside the business in Fowlerville, about 66 miles northwest of Detroit, following criticism on social media. He added yellow tape reading: “PC-POLICE.” Huff says he’s not racist, and “no race ever went into this thing.” The newspaper reports the original display was put up three weeks ago. A machete smeared with what appeared to be red paint was tucked into the Trump figure’s midsection. The Trump figure’s foot also was on a head representing 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
St. Paul: The state’s legislative auditor says “troubling dysfunction” at the Department of Human Services resulted in $29 million in overpayments to two tribes for opioid treatment programs. The auditor’s office said in a report Tuesday that the agency lacked authority to make the payments, no one at the department takes responsibility for the decision, and no one can provide a rationale for making them. The report says the dysfunction has caused serious financial and legal problems for the state and the White Earth and Leech Lake Band tribes. And it says those problems will be difficult to resolve. Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead says the report confirms her assumption that her agency is at fault. She says it lacked internal controls to catch the problem and did not provide correct advice to the tribes.
Natchez: A veteran’s cemetery says a bronze marker was stolen from the entrance of the memorial. The Natchez Democrat reports the plaque was noticeably missing Thursday from the Natchez National Cemetery and was reported stolen. Robert C. Winkler, assistant director of the Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Association, says the marker was posted at the entrance across from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plaque. He says the bolts holding the marker were pulled from the wall. Winkler says the cemetery was established in 1866, and the stolen plaque, which reads “Natchez National Cemetery,” was posted in 1930. He says the plaque is about 18 inches wide and 24 inches tall and weighs about 30 to 50 pounds.
St. Louis: Issues preventing Missouri regulators from renewing the license for the state’s only abortion clinic are “imminently fixable,” the state’s health director said Tuesday. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams testified during the second day of a state administrative hearing that will decide if the state can revoke Planned Parenthood’s abortion license for its St. Louis clinic. The state moved to revoke the license in June, citing concerns about a series of “failed abortions” and a lack of cooperation from some of the doctors involved in the procedures, who refused to talk to investigators. Williams testified that two of the doctors have since relented and have been deposed, and the information they provided was helpful in learning what happened with four instances where abortions went wrong.
Libby: A grizzly bear that attacked a wildlife biologist last year was recently trapped and relocated after it was caught trying to get into a barn south of Libby. Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional spokesman Dillon Tabish says the bear was relocated because this was the first time it had gone after food in a populated area. The 460-pound bear was captured Oct. 11, radio-collared and released in the Cabinet Mountains. Tabish tells The Western News the May 2018 encounter with grizzly researcher Amber Kornak didn’t count as a strike against the bear because it acted naturally in defending itself. The bear cracked her skull and clawed her back and arm before she was able to deploy her pepper spray. Tabish says if the bear shows up again around residences to access food, it could face euthanasia.
Lincoln: Authorities are making an aggressive new push to remove contraband from the state’s largest prisons, but the task is more difficult than it seems. Nebraska’s crackdown is the latest example of states trying to clamp down on drugs, weapons and cellphones that have become prevalent in prisons. Prison experts say the age-old problem has worsened thanks to new technology that makes smuggling easier, persistent staffing shortages that make it nearly impossible to catch everything, and a few correctional workers and visitors who go to extreme lengths to sneak illegal items inside. Authorities in Nebraska have enlisted help from state and local police and even the National Guard, but they admit they have probably missed some illicit items.
Reno: The state’s health insurance exchange has announced plans focusing on enrollee retention following its split from the federal website. The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange has switched back to a state-based exchange following its split from Healthcare.gov. The state exchange says its first enrollment period is set for Nov. 1, with hopes to retain enrollee numbers after last year’s 7,000-count decrease. Officials say the exchange is now contracting with third-party vendor GetInsured to operate its own website for the first time since its launch with then-contractor Xerox in 2013. Officials say there were an assortment of glitches leading to the decision to fire Xerox and switch to Healthcare.gov, but the federal site became too expensive. Officials say they are now saving millions.
Concord: Gov. Chris Sununu, who earlier this year signed legislation that expands protections for juvenile victims of sex trafficking, is supportive of a bill that enhances penalties for people who exploit trafficked children. Sununu said the House bill increases the maximum sentence from seven years to 15 years for anyone convicted of paying for sex with a minor or paying to watch a sexually explicit “performance” involving a minor. In a letter Monday to the chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, which is considering the bill, Sununu said New Hampshire was one of the first states to criminalize human trafficking. He said as a result, service providers across the state have been able to assist survivors of sex and labor trafficking to rebuild their lives.
Hoboken: On the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the governor committed the state to a far-reaching plan to deal with climate change and protect itself from future storms. Democrat Phil Murphy signed an executive order Tuesday in Hoboken, a city just outside New York that was inundated with flooding during Sandy. The order establishes a statewide climate change resiliency strategy involving 16 state agencies. Led by an official in the Department of Environmental Protection, the group will write a report on how best to deal with rising sea levels, warming seas and stronger and more frequent storms. It is to be delivered to the governor by Sept. 1, 2020. “Today’s executive order outlines a bold and comprehensive set of actions to ensure that our communities and infrastructure are more resilient against future storms,” Murphy said in a statement.
Santa Fe: State education officials want public schools to become more attuned to the culture and linguistics of a heavily Hispanic and Native American population as they outline priorities for the next school year. Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart on Tuesday told a panel of state lawmakers that his agency hopes to better equip teachers to inspire children from households where an indigenous or foreign language is spoken. He says teaching tribal languages in the classroom can help Navajo children communicate with elders. He also notes that textbooks have to be created from scratch to teach some indigenous languages that aren’t widely spoken. Lawmakers recently increased spending on teacher salaries, at-risk students and incentives to extend annual classroom hours by up to 20%.
New York: Move over, Rocky – there’s a new stairway to climb. A set of outdoor steps in the Bronx has become a tourist attraction in recent weeks since the release of the movie “Joker.” The stairs are between two buildings on Shakespeare Avenue, about a half-mile from Yankee Stadium. In the movie, lead actor Joaquin Phoenix dances as he goes down the steps, wearing a bright red suit and clown makeup. These days, neighborhood residents using the steps are being joined by tourists trying to recreate the scene. The visitors have been taking selfies, and some have even shown up in costume. The stairway joins the ranks of well-known movie settings, like that of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art seen in “Rocky.”
Raleigh: Judges on Monday blocked the state’s congressional map from being used in the 2020 elections, ruling that voters had a strong likelihood of winning a lawsuit that argued Republicans unlawfully manipulated district lines for partisan gain. The panel of three Superior Court judges issued a preliminary injunction preventing elections under the district lines, starting with the March 3 primary. The judges halted the use of these districts less than two months after they struck down state House and Senate districts. There they found extreme political manipulation of the lines similar to what voters suing over the congressional map also say occurred. The judges gave no date by which a new map must be drawn but suggested lawmakers could redraw them on their own quickly to ensure congressional primaries be held as scheduled.
Bismarck: State health officials say three people have been diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis in the past couple of months. The North Dakota Department of Health said Saturday that two of those cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing. Meningococcal meningitis is rare in North Dakota and across the nation. Before this year, the last cases reported in North Dakota were in 2014. Meningococcal meningitis is a severe infection of the bloodstream and the thin lining covering the brain and spinal cord caused by bacteria. The bacteria are spread by sharing saliva or spit, and it usually takes close contact such as coughing or kissing or lengthy contact to spread the bacteria. Symptoms include fever along with a severe headache, stiff neck or a rash.
Columbus: Only a small percentage of the state’s licensed drivers and identification card holders have opted to get a new federally compliant ID needed in the future for boarding planes and entering federal facilities. The Columbus Dispatch reports about 14% of the state’s licensed drivers and identification card holders so far have obtained the new compliant IDs that require more documentation than Ohio’s standard ones. Ohio has issued about 1.3 million compliant IDs since it began offering them July 2, 2018. That leaves about 8.1 million licensed drivers and state ID holders who haven’t opted for them. Travelers beginning in October 2020 will need the updated IDs or other compliant identification such as passports to board planes.
Shawnee: The state’s attorney general is beginning casino gambling negotiations with more than two dozen tribal nations, but the sides remain locked in a stalemate over whether the existing gaming compacts automatically renew at the end of the year. Attorney General Mike Hunter described Monday’s two-hour, closed-door meeting at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Grand Casino Hotel & Resort as “positive and constructive” but offered few details about the stalemate. Oklahoma’s new Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has taken the position that the 15-year gaming compacts expire at the end of the year and wants to renegotiate the terms to give the state a larger share of casino revenue. The 35 tribal nations with gaming compacts are unified in their position that the agreements automatically renew after Jan. 1.
Portland: The Eagle Creek Trail has two new bridges, but it could still be months before it reopens to the public. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the U.S. Forest Service installed two new footbridges on the fire-ravaged hiking trail last week, replacing bridges that burned as the Eagle Creek fire tore through the Columbia River Gorge in 2017. Helicopter pilots airlifted the Fern Creek Bridge and High Bridge onto the trail, where crews will now work to install them. The same process was used to install the Tish Creek Bridge before the wildfire in 2017. While the new bridges make the Eagle Creek Trail safer to hike, it will remain closed due to threat of rock fall and landslides, according to the Forest Service, especially as seasonal rain and snow approach.
Harrisburg: The state will provide millions of dollars in grants to protect houses of worship and other potentially targeted community organizations from hate crimes, a program inspired by the deadly mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue a year ago. Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said Tuesday that the Democrat will sign the bill, now that it’s passed the Legislature. The bill creates a five-year, $5 million grant program to be administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Grants can range from $5,000 to $150,000, and eligible applicants are tax-exempt nonprofits that the FBI included within a bias motivation category for hate crimes in 2017. The money can be used for anything that enhances an organization’s safety.
Providence: A new housing development in Providence will provide homes for five families and address affordability, climate change and workforce development. Officials broke ground Monday on the Sheridan Small Homes project, which will create compact, affordable, zero-emission homes developed by One Neighborhood Builders. One Neighborhood Builders Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins says the homes will cost $289,200 each to develop and will be sold to income-qualified buyers for about $150,000 each. The Providence Journal reports that the homes will be built with trainees from Building Futures Rhode Island, an organization that trains low-income people for skilled careers. Hawkins says the homes will the outfitted with solar panels that will produce more electricity than the homes use, meaning residents will be able to sell electricity back to the grid.
Charleston: A plantation site long known for attracting tourists to the area is introducing something new – a Chinese lantern festival. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is often known for its moss-draped oaks and camellias. Now, the Post and Courier reports, it also will be adorned with cherry blossom trees, a sprawling dragon display and mythical creatures called qilins. The festival is running during what are typically the slower months of the year for Magnolia, mid-November through mid-March. The exhibit, called “Lights of Magnolia: Reflections of a Cultural Exchange,” will be the first in a three-year partnership between Magnolia and the Zigong Lantern Group, a China-based company that has designed and created lantern displays in more than 200 cities around the world.
Pierre: Gov. Kristi Noem is requesting a presidential disaster declaration for the damage caused by tornadoes and floods that struck southeastern South Dakota in September. In a letter to President Donald Trump, Noem wrote that storms, tornadoes and floods damaged homes and businesses, as well as public infrastructure such as parks, roads, highways, bridges and electrical systems. The request for Sept. 9-26 includes at least $17 million in requested federal assistance. During that period, three tornadoes struck Sioux Falls, and flooding hit Madison and Mitchell. Noem told Trump this is South Dakota’s fifth major disaster declaration request since May 20. She says recovery from other disasters continues and local resources are limited. Noem says many roads have not yet been repaired or are still closed.
Nashville: Former Vice President Al Gore will speak at Vanderbilt University on climate change as part of a worldwide event called “24 Hours of Reality: Truth in Action.” According to the school, the presentation in Nashville will be one of thousands happening around the world Nov. 20. The worldwide event is led by Gore and The Climate Reality Project, which he founded and chairs. Gore has written best-selling books on climate change and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.” His climate work was the subject of the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won two Oscars in 2006. Gore’s event comes as Vanderbilt is boosting its sustainability efforts with a commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
El Paso: U.S. immigration authorities are testing a program to speed up reviews of asylum claims at a Texas Border Patrol station, offering a glimpse of how the Trump administration may enforce its partial asylum ban. The pilot project, called the Prompt Asylum Case Review system, began Oct. 7 in El Paso, with a goal of having a decision by an immigration judge within 10 days, according to a senior Department of Homeland Security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the program have not been made public. Mexicans are exempt. The rollout has not been publicly announced, leading to complaints by attorneys that they have no access to clients and are left in the dark.
Salt Lake City: A recent report shows the state has seen considerable growth in its television and film productions since 2015. Statistics from the Utah Film Commission show money spent by TV and film production crews in Utah has more than doubled over that time, totaling about $87 million. Commission Director Virginia Pearce credited the increase to a strategy by state officials to court bigger production companies and promote scouting locations for TV series that provide more jobs and long-term economic investment. The state’s production incentive program offers up to a 25% tax credit for in-state productions, considered conservative by industry standards. Utah’s tree-lined suburbs and sweeping landscapes of red bluffs, deserts and lakes have increasingly dotted the silver screen in recent years, serving as the backdrop for several popular movies and TV shows including “Hereditary,” “Westworld” and the Disney Channel series “Andi Mack.”
Ascutney: The Vermont Agency of Transportation is asking the public for ideas for a permanent memorial to a local farmer who took his life after his farm was seized to make way for the construction of Interstate 91. A maple tree that has stood on what was once Romaine Tenney’s farm is dying and will be removed. Officials say the tree is a reminder of the impact the construction of the interstate system had on Vermont. Tenney refused to sell his farm as the interstate was being built. It was taken through eminent domain. After his farm was seized in 1964, he barricaded himself inside his farmhouse and burned it and his barns to the ground with him inside. A meeting was held Tuesday at the Ascutney fire station.
Alexandria: A federal judge has ordered the state to stop asking marriage applicants to identify themselves by race. The order issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Rossie Alston in Alexandria comes in response to a lawsuit filed by three couples challenging the requirement. Their lawyer, Victor Glasberg, said the requirement was a vestige of the state’s Jim Crow era. Alston had already ruled in favor of the couples earlier this month, but he was asked to clarify his ruling. State officials had argued that they could comply with the ruling by keeping the question in place but allowing couples to decline providing an answer. That was the solution Attorney General Mark Herring put forward after the lawsuit was filed. Alston’s most recent ruling clarifies that the question must be struck entirely.
Seattle: Seven of the nine City Council seats are up for grabs in next month’s election, and Amazon sees a big opportunity to reshape the politics of its liberal hometown. The online retail giant has made unprecedented donations totaling $1.5 million to a political action committee that’s supporting a slate of candidates perceived to be friendlier to business. Among the company’s top targets is socialist council member Kshama Sawant, a fierce critic of Amazon. But the company’s big-money push into Seattle politics could backfire, as critics rally to support more liberal candidates. Many in Seattle aren’t happy with the council, but they also don’t like a company headed by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, trying to influence their vote.
Morgantown: Country singer Kathy Mattea will be coaching music students at West Virginia University. The university says in a news release that the Cross Lanes native has been named a distinguished artist in residence in the School of Music for the 2019-20 academic year. The statement says the two-time Grammy Award winner will visit the Morgantown campus to give class lectures, offer one-on-one-mentoring, and lead master classes with the WVU Bluegrass and Old-Time Bands. Mattea’s first residency is being held this week and will culminate in a public master class with voice students at the university’s Museum Education Center on Thursday. The event is free and open to the public with limited seating. She’s scheduled to return to the university in March for a second residency visit.
Stevens Point: A historic theater in downtown Stevens Point appears headed for the wrecking ball. A nonprofit has been running a $3.5 million campaign to turn the vacant Fox Theater into a makerspace and community arts center. But that organization, CREATE Portage County, announced it could not meet the requirements or a city timeline for renovations. The group says demolition “appears inevitable at this point.” Wisconsin Public Radio reports the announcement comes after months of negotiations between the group and the city. In July, a city inspector issued an order to raze the century-old building. Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza says the central Wisconsin city is “losing an icon.” The Fox opened in 1894 as the Grand Opera House and has hosted vaudeville. The building has been vacant since the mid-1980s.
Jackson: State wildlife officials say a plan to shift bison and elk feeding for the first time in more than a century has not triggered much public reaction as the deadline closes in. The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports a park deputy manager has reported receiving five public comments so far but expects agencies to submit comments around the deadline. Comments are due to the refuge by Wednesday. Wildlife officials say the plan was released at the end of September and intended to scale back elk and bison feeding days by 50%, making the animals more reliant on native vegetation. Officials say that involves feeding the elk later and ending the alfalfa handouts earlier to draw fewer elk to feedgrounds on the National Elk Refuge north of Jackson.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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