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Python haul, beef theft ring, Kansa warrior statue: News from around our 50 states




Montgomery: The state Supreme Court has upheld a decision removing a probate judge from office who was accused of racist and sexually inappropriate behavior that included showing an explicit video to an employee and making inappropriate comments after George Floyd’s murder by a police officer. The justices last week unanimously upheld the 2021 decision by the Court of the Judiciary – a disciplinary panel that hears complaints against judges – to remove Randy Jinks as Talladega County probate judge. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, the panel tasked with hearing ethics complaints against judges, last year ruled that Jinks failed to uphold the integrity and independence of the court system. The initial complaint against Jinks included that he made derogatory comments about women and African Americans, including references to Floyd, whose death sparked nationwide protests. The panel ruled that there was clear and convincing evidence that Jinks had displayed inappropriate behavior that included showing an explicit video to an employee; asking an attorney if he knew of an acronym involving a racial slur; asking a Black employee if he was selling drugs after he purchased a new car; and other inappropriate comments.


Juneau: The running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce said Tuesday that she’s withdrawing from the campaign team and urging voters to support Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reelection bid instead. Edie Grunwald, who was running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Pierce, in a statement cited “recent circumstances” surrounding Pierce that led her to make her decision. The decision was announced two weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Pierce, a former Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, was sued last week by a woman who said he sexually harassed her when she worked as an assistant. The lawsuit also lists the borough as a defendant. Pierce did not immediately return a message from the Associated Press on Tuesday. On Saturday, after a candidate forum in Anchorage, he told the AP he had no plans to end his campaign. Grunwald, in her statement, said: “I support and advocate for the respectful treatment of women in politics, the workplace and the world in general. I believe my stepping down at this time is in the best interest of Alaskans and a demonstration of my support for all women, regardless of political affiliation.” Early and absentee in-person voting began Monday.


Peach Springs: Five people in a tour group have been rescued after spending more than 24 hours underground at the Grand Canyon Caverns due to an elevator malfunction, authorities said Tuesday. Coconino County Sheriff’s officials said there were no reported injuries, and nobody in the party suffered any medical issues requiring treatment on the scene Monday night. The names and ages of the tourists weren’t immediately released Tuesday, but authorities said the group included a husband and wife and a second couple with two young children and at least two people were in their 70s. Authorities said one man was able to take the emergency staircase to the surface to seek help prior to the other five people being rescued. According to its website, the Grand Canyon Caverns is tourist attraction 12 miles east of Peach Springs that allows visitors to tour inside an ancient cave, dine and stay in an underground motel. A group were taking a 30-minute tour of the caverns about noon Sunday when sheriff’s officials said they were notified about 8:30 p.m. that people were stranded at the bottom of the elevator some 21 stories below ground. After assessing the situation over the phone and with personnel from Grand Canyon Caverns, sheriff’s officials say it was determined that the stranded party could stay overnight in a hotel suite.


Fort Smith: The city will be in focus as the face of homelessness for a crew making a documentary on those living without a roof over their heads this November. In Fort Smith, homeless people live outdoors year-round, some in makeshift camps near the Arkansas River or sleeping along northside streets with day shelters and food pantries. Unhoused women and veterans are the focus of an ongoing nationwide documentary effort on film coming soon. Some of the common factors of homelessness for women involve domestic violence and divorce, said California documentary filmmaker Robert Craig. Craig said he knows Fort Smith is a destination for filming as part of “No Address,” the documentary title, because of people who are not only experiencing homelessness in the River Valley but because organizations are addressing growing needs. Craig said he has never visited Fort Smith. The heat of the summer and a winter storm added to challenges for those living without shelter in Fort Smith. Colder days are ahead. “I do know that the reason we’re going there (Fort Smith) is that there are important areas that we want to capture with encampments and the organizations that are trying to reduce homelessness and interviewing them,” Craig said. “So we are excited about that.”


Protesters walk away after disrupting a Los Angeles City Council meeting demanding the resignations of council members Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles: The City Council was forced to recess Wednesday to clear chanting protesters from its chamber, as members were poised to formally rebuke two council members and the council’s former president for their involvement in a racism scandal. A small but noisy group crowded into the main aisle of an otherwise mostly empty chamber, banged water bottles on a lectern, whooped and shouted in what appeared to be an effort to shut down the meeting. They unrolled a large sign calling the council “illegitimate.” “Justice now!” they chanted. “Shut down!” After multiple warnings to take seats, council leaders called the recess to clear the room. That led to something of a standoff in which about 20 protesters continued shouting, as police officers watched over the group. Council members earlier had left the room. Council President Paul Krekorian warned the protesters they would not deter the council’s business. “We will continue to do the work of the people of Los Angeles,” he said.


Fort Collins: A potential election worker in Larimer County reported receiving a fake phone call earlier this month spreading disinformation about working the upcoming November election. The call – which was reported to the Larimer County Clerk and Recorder’s Office on Oct. 6 – informed the potential election worker that “Larimer County requires all Election Judges to be vaccinated in order to work in the Election,” according to a notice about the call issued by the county’s election operation manager. Larimer County does not require vaccination or proof of vaccination to work during the election, according to the notice. “I said, ‘Not in my county,’ ” Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers said of her reaction to hearing of the report. The call came from a spoofed phone number, modified to look like it came from the “Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk,” according to the notice. The number comes from a Long Beach, California, area code. Myers said she called the number, but it was not a working line. A reporter also called the number and got the same result. No other similar calls have been reported to the clerk’s office, and no other election-related concerns have been reported to the clerk’s office this election cycle, Myers said.


Hartford: Newly released tax documents show Gov. Ned Lamont, a former cable television entrepreneur, earned more than $54 million last year, most of it from investment earnings. It marks a big increase in income when compared to Lamont’s previous tax documents, released in April by his reelection campaign. Those showed his adjusted gross income for the first three of his four years in office had totaled nearly $26 million. The governor is not accepting the $150,000 state salary for governors. Lamont, who files his taxes separately from his wife, Annie, a successful venture capital consultant, had sought a filing extension from the IRS and didn’t release his 2021 returns until Friday. His reelection campaign allowed reporters to review cover sheets of Lamont’s federal and state tax returns, which showed the Democrat paid $12.8 million in federal taxes and $3.7 million in state taxes for the 2021 tax year. The campaign also included a list of organizations that benefited from $1.6 million in charitable contributions distributed by the governor’s philanthropy fund. The list of groups includes the Boy Scouts of America, Council on Foreign Relations, Yale University and 4-CT, the independent, nonprofit charity Lamont helped to create during the early days of the pandemic.


Wilmington: Plans for a second library in the city have raised complaints that the money could be better spent elsewhere and that Wilmington doesn’t need a second such facility. Last month Gov. John Carney announced plans to build a new $22 million library on North Market Street, a project spearheaded by state Sen. Darius Brown. Just one month earlier, state Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha announced plans to renovate the existing library, also on North Market, a mere 5-minute walk from the proposed location of the new one. Several comments under a social media post announcing the new library claimed that the existing library is underused. Even Linda Gray, the city council member who represents the district in which both libraries would exist, has her reservations, said that the neighborhood is a food desert, that “there’s enough libraries around” and that the area has bigger needs. State Librarian Annie Norman said there are valid reasons for having the two facilities in the same area. The existing location will continue to operate much like a traditional library but with added space for activities and speaker and author events. The new library will provide meeting space, literacy programs, workforce development resources, digital technology access and computer skills training, and resources for entrepreneurship.

District of Columbia

Washington: The D.C. Public Library has extended its hours. Starting Nov. 14, branches will be open until 9 p.m. during the week, WUSA-TV reports. The extended times will provide 15 more hours of operations per week at libraries across the district. These added hours will help patrons more easily visit the library and pick up books after work, as well as give people the opportunity to attend workshops.


A Burmese python is held during a safe-capture demonstration June 16 in Miami.

Miami: A 19-year-old South Florida man captured 28 Burmese pythons during a 10-day competition that was created to increase awareness about the threats the invasive snakes pose to the state’s ecology. Matthew Concepcion was among the 1,000 participants from 32 states, Canada and Latvia who participated in the annual challenge, which removed 231 of the unwanted pythons, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a news release. For his efforts, Concepcion was awarded the $10,000 Ultimate Grand Prize courtesy of the Bergeron Everglades Foundation. Dustin Crum won a $1,500 grand prize for removing the longest python, at just over 11 feet. Earlier this year, a team of biologists hauled in the heaviest Burmese python ever captured in Florida. That female python weighed in at 215 pounds, was nearly 18 feet long and had 122 developing eggs, according to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Burmese pythons aren’t protected except by Florida’s anti-cruelty law, so participants had to document that each one was killed humanely. Concepcion told the South Florida SunSentinel he’s been hunting pythons for about five years and typically looks for them at night because that’s when they’re on the move, seeking the warmth of roads.


Atlanta: A judge on Wednesday ordered former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify before a special grand jury that’s investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies illegally tried to sway Georgia’s results in the 2020 election. Meadows, a former GOP congressman, is a key figure in the investigation. He traveled to Georgia, sat in on Trump’s phone calls with state officials, and coordinated and communicated with outside influencers who were either encouraging or discouraging the pressure campaign. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis opened the investigation last year into actions taken by Trump and others to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the state. Meadows is just one of several associates and advisers of the Republican ex-president whose testimony Willis has sought. Because Meadows doesn’t live in Georgia, Willis, a Democrat, had to use a process that involved getting a judge where he lives in South Carolina to order him to appear. First, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s overseeing the special grand jury, signed off on a petition certifying that Meadows was a “necessary and material witness.” Now, Circuit Court Judge Edward Miller in Pickens County, South Carolina, has honored McBurney’s finding and ordered Meadows to .


Honolulu: Concerns about lead contamination have led to staff shortages at a public shooting range, HawaiiNewsNow reports.


Boise: The federal government is suing a small town near Grand Teton National Park for dumping toxic waste from its sewage treatment plant into a stream that feeds several scenic rivers in the region. The lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice was filed in Idaho’s U.S. District Court on Monday. The federal government contends the city of Driggs violated the Clean Water Act by dumping effluent with too much e. coli and ammonia or otherwise violated wastewater permit rules more than 2,600 times over the past seven years. The effluent was released into Woods Creek, which flows into the Teton River, Henry’s Fork, and the Snake and Columbia Rivers on its way to the Pacific Ocean. The Teton River and Henry’s Fork are renown fly fishing locations, drawing anglers from around the world. The violations, if proven, could put the city of about 2,100 people on the hook for more than $160 million in fines. In written statement, the city of Driggs said the lawsuit was a positive development because it will allow the EPA and city officials to work together to come up with solutions. “Although it seems scary to be sued by the Department of Justice, it’s actually an opportunity to receive support and resources” from the federal government, Driggs Mayor August Christensen wrote in the statement.


John Coli, then-president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, speaks at a news conference in Chicago on Oct. 21, 2011.

Chicago: A former Teamsters union boss who was once one of the most powerful labor leaders in Chicago was sentenced Wednesday to 19 months in federal prison for extorting $325,000 from the head of a film studio in the city. The sentence comes more than three years after John Coli Sr. pleaded guilty to extortion, faced with secret recordings made by Cinespace Chicago Film Studios President Alex Pissios in which Coli could be heard threatening a union strike if Pissios didn’t pay him. In one tape, Coli tells Pissios that he would have union workers walking a picket line that would shut the studio down “within an hour” if he didn’t continue making the secret payments. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss several counts against the 63-year-old Coli in exchange for his guilty plea to receiving prohibited payments as a union official and making a false income tax return. In exchange, Coli agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and that cooperation helped build an extortion case that landed former state Sen. Thomas Cullerton in prison this year. Cullerton pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges for improperly taking more than $248,000 from the Teamsters.


Indianapolis: The Indianapolis Housing Agency, the federal agency responsible for providing housing to low-income tenants in the city, has been battling a cyberattack for the past three weeks that’s compromised their entire information technology system. The agency has not released details about the motive or identity of the individuals behind the ransomware attack, which is a type of malicious software often unknowingly downloaded onto computers through methods such as innocuous email attachments. The software prevents users from accessing computer files and systems. It can result in massive disruptions and loss of information. As the name suggests, ransomware attacks can involve demands for ransom payments in exchange for the system being restored. The ransomware attack delayed the Indianapolis Housing Agency’s ability to send out October rent payments to landlords for the federal housing choice voucher program, also known as Section 8, which 8,000 Indianapolis families depend on. Section 8 provides rental assistance to very low-income families, the elderly, and disabled individuals for housing on the private market, and the agency administers the program for Indianapolis.


Des Moines: The state dished out $238,000 in unemployment compensation to people who were either incarcerated or dead, according to a new report. Iowa Workforce Development issued the payments because agency officials were not using or checking systems designed to detect fraud, according to the review State Auditor Rob Sand released Tuesday. The annual report examined practices by the agency during the fiscal year that ended in June 2020, about three months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps more than any other government agency, Iowa Workforce Development was inundated during those months as hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs amid shutdowns ordered while the deadly virus began to sweep through the state. During a 15-week period beginning that March, 365,000 people filed unemployment claims with the state. That’s more than the 285,000 claims that the state received in all of the previous two years. Amid that crunch, the state did not run claims through a computer system to check whether applicants’ personal information matched those of inmates, according to the audit. Among other reasons, an inmate is ineligible for unemployment because a federal law requires that a recipient be “available for work.”


The Beaver Moon lunar eclipse seems to bursts from the arrow of Ad Astra, the bronze statue adorning the top of the Kansas Statehouse, in November 2021.

Topeka: People who want a selfie with the bronze statue of a Kansa warrior atop the Statehouse may soon be able to snap that photo with a replica statue closer to the ground. The second statue of Ad Astra is already made and has been sitting in storage in Salina since before the word “selfie” became part of English vocabulary. It’s waiting to be placed on a pedestal that sits empty. “The intent was always to finish the Ad Astra plaza as it was started 20 years ago,” said state Sen. Elaine Bowers, R-Concordia. “And on top of the pedestal is nothing, and the pedestal is waiting for the 8-foot statue.” The Capitol Preservation Committee is moving forward with completing the project after a Tuesday meeting and a subcommittee meeting earlier this month. The 6-foot granite pedestal is already on the plaza southwest of the Statehouse. The 8-foot bronze replica of the dome sculpture would be mounted on top of the pedestal, surrounded by bronze plaques. Three of the plaques have already been cast, with 19 more needing to be done. Former state Sen. Randall Hardy, R-Salina, has been an advocate for completing the project and said he believes the addition will be an attraction. “The statue will be a magnet to draw people to the to that part of the Statehouse grounds,” he said.


Fort Campbell: Staff are using controlled burn techniques to manage a fire that started in a training area last week. The fire started Friday near Trigg County during routine training, Fort Campbell said in a news release Tuesday. Clinton Allen, Directorate of Public Works conservation branch chief, said workers are using back fires to make a buffer. “The back burns will help keep it from getting closer to the boundary with Land Between the Lakes,” Allen said. The Forestry Section of the DPW Environmental Division annually burns about 20,000 acres to support training operations and preserve the natural environment, the post said. The fire has burned through several hundred acres in an area where controlled burns are held. Anyone across the installation’s rear training area should watch for potential hazards if they see smoke and fire and contact dispatch, range control or the fire desk at (270) 798-4122 if they’re concerned, DPW forester J.P. Hart said. The sprawling Fort Campbell Army post straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee line.


New Orleans: Police say they have arrested one of two women seen on a social media video firing guns from a moving vehicle on Interstate 10. The 20-year-old suspect surrendered Monday with her attorney present, according to a police news release. The other suspect, a 21-year-old woman, was still at large Wednesday. Police said the shootings occurred on Oct. 16. Video circulating on social media showed two women, one in the front seat, the other in the back, firing handguns from passenger-side windows. Police said conviction on the charge of illegal discharge of a firearm from a moving vehicle would bring a prison sentence of five to 10 years. Nobody was reported injured in the Oct. 16 incident. However, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reports that shootings on the interstate highway in New Orleans have increased. Interstate shootings have killed six people this year, the newspaper reported. Police said the shootings generally fall into one of three categories: road rage incidents; pre-existing feuds where shooters are targeting someone they know or someone getting caught in the crossfire.


Portland: Despite the state’s view of itself as independent, few unenrolled candidates actually win elections, The Maine Monitor reports. Good Party, a startup campaign platform company that began taking shape in 2020, hopes to change that. It is using Maine as a testing ground to see if its model succeeds and what might need to be improved, with the idea of expanding its groundwork elsewhere. While independents from across the country are featured on their site, organizers say Maine is the only state where it is conducting events and doing outreach for candidates. All of its Facebook ads have been targeted to Mainers within the last 90 days and featured Maine candidates, according to the platform’s ad library. Its goal is to elevate independent candidates outside of the traditional political campaign and money engine that has increasingly defined elections. It also aims to increase participation from unenrolled voters, a population that the Pew Research Center found in 2019 is less politically engaged than partisan voters and who make up 32% of registered voters in Maine. Some independents see promise in the tool and say unenrolled candidates need all the support they can get. It is an open question whether it will be enough to get them over the finish line.


Annapolis: An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge last week blocked a first-of-its-kind digital advertising tax on companies making more than $100 million, but the state Senate’s president called for an appeal and maintains education funding will continue. The law, which may be appealed by Maryland’s attorney general, passed the General Assembly in 2021 with the intent of collecting revenue to fund the state’s schools. “We always knew this issue would face a legal journey,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, said in a statement after the judge’s decision. “We are confident that the Attorney General will prevail in state courts on appeal.” According to court documents, a hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 6. Oral arguments are scheduled in a separate federal case about the law Nov. 29. The Democrat tied the law, which he previously deemed a tax on “big tech” companies, to funding for the state’s education system. “Maryland’s children deserve a world-class 21st-century education system that works for them and that’s funded appropriately,” said Ferguson, a former teacher. “That’s what this law is all about.” In a separate statement, Ferguson assured funding for education will continue through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, independent of the lawsuit, at least in the short term.


Malden: The state education department is investigating a complaint that claims the rights of children with disabilities in the Boston Public Schools are being violated because the district’s bus system is in “disarray,” Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said Tuesday. The complaint filed last week by Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Advocates for Children on behalf of the parents and guardians of six students with disabilities says children are being being denied an education because of chronically late or canceled buses. “The systemic disarray of the BPS transportation and special education departments deprives thousands of Boston children, many of whom are low-income students with disabilities and students of color, of what cumulatively amounts to weeks or months of learning time,” the complaint said. Riley confirmed the investigation at Tuesday’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education board meeting. “We’ve been in touch with BPS regarding their transportation challenges, particularly as it relates to students with disabilities,” he said. “We have encouraged the district to work with families and advocates to resolve this issue.” Under federal law, the department has 60 days to investigate and either issue a letter of finding or a letter of closure, he said.


Paul Bellar awaits the verdict in his trial Wednesday at the Jackson County Courthouse in Jackson, Mich.

Jackson: Three men accused of supporting terrorism in the plot to kidnap the governor were convicted of all charges Wednesday in a trial that focused on paramilitary drills and fierce contempt for government ahead of the 2020 election. Joe Morrison, his father-in-law Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar were found guilty of supplying “material support” for a terrorist act as members of a group known as the Wolverine Watchmen. They held gun training in rural Jackson County with a leader of the kidnapping scheme, Adam Fox, who was disgusted with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials and said he wanted to snatch her. The trial in state court was an offshoot of the main case in federal court, which produced mixed results: conspiracy convictions for Fox and three others but also two acquittals. Jurors in Jackson, Michigan, read and heard violent, anti-government screeds as well as support for the “boogaloo,” a civil war that might be triggered by a shocking abduction. Prosecutors said COVID-19 restrictions ordered by Whitmer turned out to be fruit to recruit more people to the Watchmen. “The facts drip out slowly,” state Assistant Attorney General Bill Rollstin told the jury, “and you begin to see – wow – there were things that happened that people knew about.”


Minneapolis: A former state House speaker is stepping down as vice chairman of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents following increased criticism over his question about whether the Morris campus is “too diverse.” Steve Sviggum has resigned his leadership position but will remain on the board until his term expires when the Legislature holds its regents election during the 2023 session, according to a statement from the University of Minnesota. Sviggum, 71, faced mounting pressure over comments he made nearly two weeks ago during a regents meeting. In talking about declining enrollment at the Morris campus, Sviggum asked acting Chancellor Janet Schrunk Ericksen whether the campus was “too diverse,” from a marketing standpoint. Currently, Morris has 1,068 students enrolled. Of those, 41% are people of color. Sviggum said that after meeting with board Chairman Ken Powell over the weekend, he came to the “realization” that he should resign as vice chairman immediately, the Star Tribune reports. “I owe that position to my colleagues who have shown disapproval in my actions,” he wrote in a letter to Powell. “I do so humbly and thoughtfully, with knowledge that the success of the University of Minnesota is the most important focus and is much more important than any one person or position.”


U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., displays a letter to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves that expresses concern over what he believes is the inadequate federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address the failing water system in Mississippi’s majority-Black capital city, Jackson, on Monday night at a town hall meeting hosted by the NAACP.

Jackson: Federal investigations into public spending on the failing water system in the majority-Black city are a test of President Joe Biden’s commitment to racial equity, one of his congressional allies told hundreds of people at a town hall meeting hosted by the NAACP. “President Biden has made a fundamental policy in his administration to talk about equity. And this is an issue of equity and fair treatment about the citizens of Jackson,” Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson said Monday night at Jackson’s New Hope Baptist Church – the same spacious sanctuary where Biden spoke during the 2020 campaign. The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it is investigating whether Mississippi state agencies have discriminated against Jackson by refusing to fund water system improvements in the city of 150,000, where more than 80% of residents are Black and about a quarter of the population lives in poverty. Thompson said the EPA civil investigation is expected to take about four months. The federal agency could withhold money from the state if it finds wrongdoing – potentially millions of dollars. If the state agencies don’t cooperate with the investigation, the EPA could refer the case to the Department of Justice.


St. Louis: Relatives of the gunman who killed a student and a teacher during a school shooting had long been concerned about his mental health and worked with police to take a gun away from him – possibly the same gun used in the attack, Police Commissioner Michael Sack said Wednesday. Police and the FBI are working to determine what prompted 19-year-old Orlando Harris to force his way into Central Visual and Performing Arts High School on Monday and start shooting. Sack said the the carnage could have been far worse. The gunman was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and an estimated 600 rounds of ammunition. Fifteen-year-old Alexzandria Bell and 61-year-old teacher Jean Kuczka died in the shooting. Four students suffered gunshot or graze wounds, two had bruises, and one had a broken ankle – apparently from jumping out of the three-story building. Sack said all are recovering, as is a police officer who suffered cuts from broken glass. Police believe Harris, who was killed by responding officers, had intended targets. They have not said if any of the victims were among them. Harris’ mother was “heartbroken” by the shooting, Sack said. She and other relatives had long dealt with Harris’ mental health issues and even had him committed at times, Sack said at a news conference.


Great Falls: Montana Shakespeare in the Parks will return for a 50th anniversary season with a winter production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) – Revised,” after postponing last winter’s tour of this same production. The free performances will be staged in 29 communities in Montana and Wyoming through Nov. 20, including a date in Great Falls on Nov. 14, at the Mansfield Theater at The Civic Center. The fast-paced comedy features three actors touching on all 37 plays by the famed playwright in just 90 minutes, and is an outreach program of Montana State University’s College of Arts and Architecture. “Though we were all disappointed to have to postpone last year’s winter tour, what we missed the most was all of you,” said Kevin Asselin, executive artistic director, in a statement. “Shakespeare has always been about the community for us, and that still holds true in our 50th season! This winter’s production is beyond phenomenal, but what will make it special is getting to share it with our friends, family, and community. We invite everyone to come out for our final tour of the 2022 season!” For more information, visit


Lincoln: An investigation into the theft this summer of several semitrailers loaded with frozen beef from Nebraska has led to arrests and uncovered a multimillion-dollar theft ring targeting meatpacking plants in six Midwestern states, federal authorities said. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported Tuesday that the discovery of the Miami-based theft ring began in June with a Nebraska investigation into the theft of several semitrailers loaded with nearly $1 million in frozen beef from areas near Grand Island and Lincoln. The investigation, led by the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office in Nebraska and Homeland Security’s Major Crimes Task Force in Omaha, determined that the theft ring was targeting beef and pork packaging plants in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. On Oct. 20, investigators arrested three Miami men on suspicion of transporting stolen goods and money laundering. They face charges in federal court in Florida. Information on whether the men have attorneys representing them in the case could not immediately be found Wednesday. Investigators said they have identified approximately 45 thefts that occurred across the six Midwest states totaling $9 million in losses.


Las Vegas: Prosecutors said they won’t seek the death penalty against a former Las Vegas-area politician who pleaded not guilty Wednesday to killing a veteran investigative journalist who wrote articles critical of him and his managerial conduct. “Not guilty, your honor,” Robert Telles, a Democrat who has been stripped of his elected position, responded during his arraignment on an indictment in the Sept. 2 stabbing death of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German. Telles, 45, appeared with his new lawyer, Ryan Helmick, who Telles hired to replace deputy public defenders initially named to his case at taxpayer expense following a declaration by Telles that he was unable to afford a lawyer. The Review-Journal last week reported that Telles and his wife were making $20,500 per month before his arrest and that he owns five rental houses in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Local property records show the couple also owns a Las Vegas home with a taxable value of more than $320,000. A trial date was not immediately set. Telles’ next court date is Nov. 2 before Clark County District Court Judge Mark Denton. Helmick declined outside court to comment.

New Hampshire

Concord: Massachusetts has agreed to pay about $3.5 million to New Hampshire to settle a yearslong dispute over lost property taxes caused by infrastructure in New Hampshire that helps to prevent Merrimack River flooding that primarily benefits Massachusetts, authorities said Wednesday. Some of the 15 flood control facilities constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers date to the 1940s, according to a statement from the office of New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella. The states in 1957 entered into an agreement to ensure that Massachusetts paid affected New Hampshire communties some of the lost property tax revenue. But since 2014, the states have been unable to agree on the precise amount. Massachusetts has now agreed to pay the full amount owed to New Hampshire dating to 2014, Formella’s office said. The states have also agreed to come up with a formula to determine future reimbursements. “After eight years of impasse, I am pleased that our two great states have been able to reach agreement on this settlement payment to compensate New Hampshire citizens for almost a decade of lost revenue,” Formella said.

New Jersey

Trenton: Another toll increase is on the horizon, marking the third time in four years that New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway usage fees are going up. On Jan. 1, 2023, tolls will rise 3%, the same rate they increased last year. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority board unanimously approved the measure as part of the 2023 budget Tuesday. The increase comes as revenues came in above agency projections across the board for the first nine months of the year. The Turnpike Authority collected more than $1.82 billion in revenue during that time, up 6% compared to what it budgeted. The number of vehicles traversing the two highways also rose 1.3% in September 2022 when compared to the same month last year. Commercial vehicle transactions reached the third-highest number amount ever recorded, according to board documents. The budget is designed to provide “enough funding for operating expenses budgeted at approximately $714 million to operate and maintain the Turnpike and Parkway during a time inflation levels not seen in 40 years, and growth,” according to budget documents. Tom Feeney, a Turnpike spokesman, noted the toll increase is less than half that of the inflation rate.

New Mexico

A lesser prairie chicken is seen amid the bird’s annual mating ritual near Milnesand, N.M., on April 8, 2021.

Albuquerque: An environmental group is suing U.S. wildlife managers, saying they have failed to protect a rare grouse found in areas that include one of the country’s most prolific areas for oil and gas development. A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Center for Biological Diversity says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is nearly five months late in releasing a final rule outlining protections for the lesser prairie chicken. Once listed as a threatened species, the prarie chicken’s habitat spans parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas – including a portion of the oil-rich Permian Basin that straddles the New Mexico-Texas state line. Environmentalists have been pushing to reinstate federal protections for years. They consider the species severely threatened, citing lost and fragmented habitat as the result of oil and gas development, livestock grazing, farming and the building of roads and power lines. The Fish and Wildlife Service in 2021 proposed listing the southern population in New Mexico and the southern reaches of the Texas Panhandle as endangered and those birds in the northern part of the species’ range as threatened. The agency had a deadline of June 1.

New York

New York: New York City sanitation workers who were fired for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 should be reinstated and given back pay, a state judge ruled in a decision released Tuesday. Sitting in Staten Island, state Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio held that the city’s health commissioner overstepped his authority and violated the workers’ due process and equal protection rights when he barred the workers from their jobs. Porzio also cited Mayor Eric Adams’s lifting of the vaccine mandate for some private employees earlier this year – notably, athletes and entertainers – as evidence that the public worker mandate was arbitrary and unreasonable. “There is nothing in the record to support the rationality of keeping a vaccination mandate for public employees while vacating the mandate for private sector employees or creating a carveout for certain professions, like artists, athletes or performers,” Porzio wrote. “This is clearly and arbitrary and capricious action because we are dealing with identical unvaccinated people being treated differently by the same administrative agency.” The city’s law department said Tuesday it had appealed Porzio’s ruling.

North Carolina

Winston-Salem: A former nurse at a hospital has been charged in the deaths of two patients after officials said he injected them with lethal doses of insulin. Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill announced at a news conference Tuesday that Johnathan Howard Hayes, a registered nurse, was charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, news outlets report. Hayes worked at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. Hayes was ordered held without bond at a first appearance Wednesday, police said. His case was referred to the public defender’s office, but one hasn’t been assigned yet, according to the clerk of the court’s office. The 47-year-old Winston-Salem man, described by O’Neill as a “rogue nurse,” is accused of administering a near-fatal dose of insulin to Pamela Little on Dec. 1, 2021, O’Neill said. Little survived. On Jan. 5, Hayes administered a lethal dose of insulin to patient Gwen Crawford, who died three days later, O’Neill said. On Jan. 22, Hayes gave another lethal dose of insulin to Vickie Lingerfelt, who died five days later, he said.

North Dakota

Fargo: North Dakota State University is facing drastic budget cuts, the school’s new president said Tuesday. David Cook wrote in a campuswide email that significant reductions will be necessary due to decreasing enrollments over the past several years. He describes the cuts as “incredibly difficult.” The north Fargo campus is facing a $10.5 million budget shortfall for the next biennium. Cook said he has asked the school’s deans to help with “rightsizing and reorganizing the academic enterprise” and creating new programs to meet workforce needs. The school is also looking at new strategies to retain students, he said. The email does not mention layoffs, KFGO radio reports. Cook said most of the NDSU’s money comes from tuition and state revenue, both of which are dependent on student numbers. Enrollment at the university is at a 15-year low. “Please understand that I know NDSU has been living through numerous years of budget cuts, and I appreciate how difficult it has been,” Cook said. “My goal is for us to transform our operations strategically so that we can set NDSU up for future success.”


Columbus: Ohio law does not permit voters to return absentee ballots at their precincts on Election Day, the state’s elections chief is cautioning amid a misinformation campaign around the security of voting machines that’s urging them to do so. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said those voters who heed advice from a prominent national group of Republican election deniers and hold onto their paper ballots until Nov. 8 must deliver them to their county board of elections office. Poll workers at precinct-level voting locations cannot accept them, he said. “This is why it’s dangerous for people who don’t know what they’re talking about to be dispensing bad elections-related advice to people,” he said in an Associated Press interview Tuesday. “Because if someone is telling voters to take their absentee ballot to their polling location on Election Day, they’re effectively instructing them how to disenfranchise themselves.” LaRose said that possibility has caused concern among county election officials.


Crews work on an excavation at Oaklawn Cemetery searching for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre on Wednesday in Tulsa, Okla.

Tulsa: The process of re-exhuming of some of the 19 bodies exhumed a year ago for testing in an effort to identify victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, then reburied in an Oklahoma cemetery, began Wednesday to gather more DNA from the remains. The latest exhumations of bodies that were taken from Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, will be followed by another excavation for additional remains. Of the 19 bodies previously exhumed, 14 fit the criteria for additional DNA analysis, but just two of the 14 had enough usable DNA recovered to begin sequencing by Intermountain Forensics of Salt Lake City. Danny Hellwig, director of laboratory development for Intermountain, said Wednesday that the DNA recovered from the remains had degraded during the more than 100 years they were buried. “These samples are very … degraded,” Hellwig said. “There are samples that are very light right now on DNA, some that are semi viable, some that are just on the threshold” of being viable.” Hellwig said work to develop a genealogy profile for the two remains with enough viable DNA is expected to start in about a week and couple be completed within a few weeks, but efforts to identify the remains could take years.


Salem: A waiting and vetting period would be baked into gun purchases if a measure on the November statewide ballot passes. If voters approve the measure Nov. 8, buying a gun would first involve the potential purchaser obtaining a permit, which requires a number of steps supporters of the initiative say would save lives. The measure also bans large capacity gun magazines. The ballot measure is aimed at saving lives from suicide – in Oregon, 82% of gun deaths are suicides – mass shootings and other gun violence. The gun safety initiative gained momentum after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, with more volunteers joining the effort, which was led by interfaith leaders. “We’re making a strong, strong push and the coalition is just growing by the day,” the Rev. Mark Knutson, one of the chief petitioners, said over the phone last week. “Everybody’s working hard in the next three weeks.” He said volunteers are canvassing door-to-door, erecting lawn signs and reaching out to voters by phone. The measure would require a permit to purchase any gun. To qualify for a permit, valid for five years, an applicant would need to complete an approved firearm safety course, pay a fee, provide personal information, submit to fingerprinting and photographing, and pass a criminal background check.


Harrisburg: Republicans in the state House introduced a measure Wednesday to impeach Philadelphia’s Democratic district attorney, saying they may add session days to get the job done before the two-year legislative term expires next month. Rep. Martina White, the only House Republican who currently represents the city, sponsored the 22-page resolution aimed at removing District Attorney Larry Krasner a year after he was overwhelmingly reelected. White and about two dozen other House Republicans announced the move at a Capitol news conference. White accused Krasner of “dereliction of duty and despicable behavior” and running an office with a “staggering amount of dysfunction.” She said Krasner is “responsible for the rise of crime across our city.” Krasner tweeted just before the news conference that those seeking his removal “don’t allege I’ve committed a crime.” He wrote: “They just don’t think Philly has a right to govern itself,” saying the move is “devastating to democracy, and it shows how far toward fascism the Republican Party is creeping.” “These Republicans divest from communities and then grandstand about crime for political gain,” he said.

Rhode Island

Providence: The city’s $10 million reparations budget cleared a major hurdle Tuesday night, receiving its first vote of approval from the City Council. The budget is set to fund more than 20 efforts related to home ownership and financial literacy, workforce training, media, community organizations, small business and more. The finance committee opted to remove three investments to establish a home repair fund, expand Mayor Jorge Elorza’s guaranteed income program and create a legal defense fund for renters facing evictions. Instead, council members moved to reallocate the more than $1.7 million that would have been spent on those categories to a “United Way COVID-19 Equity Fund.” Next step toward reparationsDetails on how those funds would be spent was not provided, though the intent would be to secure additional funding for the city’s reparations program. However, any proposed expenditures regarding that fund would require a public hearing followed by council approval. The council was highly supportive of the budget, with all members voting in favor except Councilmen Michael Correia, Nicholas Narducci and James Taylor, and Councilwoman Kat Kerwin, who were each absent.

South Carolina

Columbia: The University of South Carolina has announced a new branding mark to go along with its iconic tree-and-gates academic logo. University officials said Wednesday that the school it is simplifying its branding marks while also introducing a new spirit mark for USC. The brand update becomes effective on Jan. 4, 2023, but some changes will take place immediately. The school will maintain and replace signs in phases. The university said the updated brand standards will include these guidelines: The iconic tree-and-gates will remain as the official academic logo. It becomes the official mark for academic branding. The university will introduce a new block-letter USC spirit mark that embraces the university’s unrivaled spirit and includes 1801, the year of its founding. The spirit mark will provide versatility in promoting the university in non-academic settings. The university will be referred to as the University of South Carolina, USC, South Carolina or Carolina in editorial and marketing materials. Athletics logos, including the “Block C” logo, will not be changed. “It’s great that the change announced today has been extremely well received across the board, especially by alumni who are really embracing the news,” said Jeff Stensland, assistant vice president of Institutional Relations and Public Affairs.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: The state has seen a rapid rise in people registering to use medical marijuana in recent months, as many obtain their patient cards through temporary consultation sites rather than their regular medical providers, a state health official told lawmakers Tuesday. Chris Qualm, who administers the state’s medical pot program, told a legislative oversight committee that there are now more than 4,000 people registered to use the drug. That’s a rapid rise from this summer, when the state tracked several hundred people registering each month. Many of those cardholders are getting certified to use medical marijuana at so-called pop-up clinics where physicians certify they have a medical condition that qualifies them for medical pot use. The quick consultations – sometimes lasting as little as five minutes – prompted some members of the legislative committee to voice concern that the process was not thorough enough. Advocates for medical marijuana access said patients were turning to the temporary consultation sites because established health care systems have not embraced the drug. “The problem is not pop-up clinics,” said Melissa Mentele, who organized the 2020 ballot initiative that legalized medical cannabis. “It’s our health systems refusing to participate in the program.”


Memphis: A former officer has been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for giving police information and equipment to civilians who robbed drug dealers in the city, prosecutors said. Former Memphis Police Officer Sam Blue, 63, pleaded guilty in January 2020 to conspiracy to violate civil rights by using force, violence and intimidation, and conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce. Blue was sentenced to the prison sentence, plus three years of probation, on Tuesday, the U.S. attorney’s office said. From 2014 to 2018, Blue conspired with others to rob drug dealers. Blue gave robbers home addresses for targets. He also provided robbers with an official Memphis Police Department badge and a car dashboard blue light. In 2018, several men put on fake police uniforms and used a blue police dashboard light to stop Eric Cain near his apartment, prosecutors said. Attackers handcuffed, kidnapped and tortured Cain, demanding to know where he kept his drugs and money. Cain escaped and spent a week in the hospital.


Attorney Benjamin Crump, third from right, addresses the media alongside 17-year-old Erik Cantu’s family during a press conference held to update the public about his current medical condition in front of the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio on Tuesday. Cantu was shot multiple times by former San Antonio police Officer James Brennand on Oct. 2.

San Antonio: A teen shot by a police officer three weeks ago as he put his car in reverse while eating a hamburger is still hospitalized, and his condition remains “very touch and go,” his father said Tuesday in the family’s first public comments since the shooting. “He is getting slightly better, his wounds are healing, but the wounds that he’s endured, they are great; there’s a lot of them,” Eric Cantu said at a news conference. Family attorney Ben Crump – who has taken on some of the nation’s most high-profile police killings of Black people – said the family has been told that the now-fired officer who shot 17-year-old Erik Cantu racially profiled him while searching for a Hispanic suspect. Cantu was shot on Oct. 2 by Officer James Brennand in a McDonald’s parking lot. After the shooting, the 27-year-old rookie officer was fired and charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public official. Police said Brennand violated his training and police procedures after approaching the car. Police have said Brennand was responding to an unrelated disturbance when he saw Cantu inside a car he believed had evaded him the day before during an attempted traffic stop. Brennand said he suspected the car was stolen.


St. George: St. George has hosted at least one IRONMAN triathlon event every year since 2010, so local motorists have gotten used to navigating road closures and other obstacles presented on race day. But this year, with the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships set to take place over the course of two full days, the event could come with more challenges than usual. The 70.3-mile race – half the distance of the traditional triathlon – covers wide swaths of Washington County, starting with a 1.2-mile swim through Sand Hollow Reservoir, followed by a 56-mile bike ride that crosses through Hurricane, Washington, St. George, Ivins and Snow Canyon State Park before finishing with a 13.1-mile run through central St. George. The official races start at 7:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and while the top professionals can finish in under four hours, many participants can take the better part of the day to complete the grueling task. The race is expected to bring more than $20 million in direct economic impact to the area, and local governments have gathered a favorable reputation with race organizers for their willingness to plan around the event.


Burlington: Ski resorts across the state have begun announcing their opening days and taking reservations for those wanting a chance at the untouched powder. Weather conditions could influence opening day plans, but many resorts say they would refund reserved lift tickets due to unfavorable conditions. Season passes have already gone on sale, but for those day-trippers ready to reserve the first lift tickets, the early bird gets the berm. Jay Peak Resort expects to begin its season Nov. 25, as does Killington Ski Resort. Mad River Glen in Waitsfield.Ski season at Mad River Glen in Waitsfield is expected to open Dec. 10, but Stark’s Pub should open Nov. 25. Mount Snow Ski Resort in Somerset plans to open Nov. 11. Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow is projected to open Nov. 19. Opening day for Saskadena Six in South Pomfret is planned for Dec. 14, weather permitting, and Ski Quechee in Hartford is looking to Dec. 21. Smugglers’ Notch in Jeffersonville plans to kick things off Nov. 25; Stowe Mountain Resort is starting Nov. 18 and Stratton Mountain on Nov. 19.


Traffic drives around the monument of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill atop his remains in the middle of a traffic circle on Arthur Ashe Boulevard on Jan. 6, 2022, in Richmond, Va.

Richmond: A judge has sided with city officials in a lawsuit over whether Richmond can remove a final Confederate monument and the remains of a rebel general interred beneath it. Circuit Court Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. said in a ruling Tuesday that city officials – not the descendants of A.P. Hill – get to decide where the statue goes next, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and TV station WRIC report. The city plans to give the statue to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, which the plaintiffs found objectionable. The plaintiffs, who were indirect descendants of Hill, did not oppose the removal of the general’s remains to a cemetery in Culpeper, near where Hill was born. But they argued that the ownership of the statue should be transferred to them. They hoped to move it to a battlefield, also in Culpeper, according to the news outlets. “We’re gratified by Judge Cheek’s ruling,” Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement.


Seattle: Big ships entering and leaving Puget Sound will be asked to slow down to reduce underwater noise this fall in an effort to help the Pacific Northwest’s critically endangered orca whales. Washington state is importing the voluntary slowdown from British Columbia for container ships, tankers, freighters, cruise ships and car carriers coming from the Canadian province, Northwest News Network reports. The optional slowdown is scheduled to run from Oct. 24 to Dec. 22 and covers the shipping lanes from Admiralty Inlet by Port Townsend south to Kingston and Mukilteo. “When large vessels slow their speed they reduce the amount of underwater noise they create, and less underwater noise means better habitat for the endangered Southern Resident killer whales,” said Rachel Aronson, the program director of Quiet Sound, which is a relatively new, government-funded outfit that organized the slowdown trial. Aronson said most vessels would need to reduce speed by 30% to 50% over 20 nautical miles. She estimated that participating might add between 10 minutes to an hour of ships’ travel time, depending on their usual speed. Aronson said the time period and geographic area for the trial slowdown were chosen because the orcas travel into inland Puget Sound during that time to chase salmon runs.

West Virginia

Beaver: Federal officials are investigating complaints about conditions at a jail, according to a published report. The Register-Herald reports the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security denied its request to tour the Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County citing a federal probe of the facility. “The federal government is in the process of investigating the facility, and the integrity of that investigation is of the utmost importance to the WV Department of Homeland Security,” said Morgan Switzer, deputy general counsel for the state agency said in an email to the newspaper. The jail in Beaver has been the “subject of many questions and concerns” since March, Switzer said. The state agency hasn’t answered questions about which federal agency is investigating and when the investigation began, the newspaper reports. A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against the jail last month on behalf of current and former inmates who have described conditions at the facility as inhumane. The complaint references a lack of access to water and food, as well as overcrowded conditions and fights that were allowed to continue until someone was injured. A state investigation of conditions at the jail earlier this year found no evidence of inhumane treatment.


Madison: A man who stole the head from the state Capitol statue of Hans Christian Heg during a night of protests in 2020 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft on Wednesday and was sentenced to a year of probation. Rodney A. Clendening, 36, of Beloit, was originally charged with felony theft, but the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor as part of a plea agreement that resulted in the probation imposed by Dane County Circuit Judge John Hyland. The Wisconsin State Journal reports Clendening turned over the head of the statue to his attorney. Heg was an abolitionist and Union Army colonel during the Civil War. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said that because of that gesture, he agreed to reduce the charge. Damage to the statue was estimated at the time at more than $50,000. It has since been restored, reinstalled and rededicated at on the state Capitol grounds. Protests in Madison over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police began in late May 2020. Protests the night of June 23 were in response to the arrest earlier in the day of local activist Devonere Johnson. He has since been convicted in federal court of extortion involving a Madison business.


Cheyenne: A movement in the state aims to create an alert system for missing Indigenous adults, reports. What would be called the Ashanti alert system would function similarly to existing Amber Alerts, which inform the public of missing children.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

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