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Railgun derailed, Giuliani endorses, West Nile virus: News from around our 50 states

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 7/2/2021 From USA TODAY Network and wire reports


Montgomery: Because of a chance for storms Friday, the city announced that the free Stars and Stripes Forever celebration has been moved from the amphitheater to the Union Station Train Shed, with music acts and dance presentations from 6-9 p.m. "A lot of talent from the River Region on one stage Friday night," said country artist and radio host Jessie Lynn, a Prattville native known as Alabama's Singing Cowgirl. She will co-host the night with celebrity DJ and entertainer Rick Joyner. Lynn said there will be 17 music pieces in the show's first half, all of which are tributes to America. Midway through, Lynn said they will have four singalongs for the audience to participate. Stars and Stripes Forever also features dance performances by Alabama State University's BFA Dance Program and the Montgomery Ballet. Performances will close out with a set from the 10-piece group MGM Soul Collective.


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Anchorage: A Montana man was reunited with his 14-week-old border collie two days after the dog disappeared following a bear attack on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Jason Umbriaco was hospitalized after the brown bear with two cubs bit him twice Sunday, Alaska’s News Source reported. “It was just a shock. I couldn’t believe it,” Umbriaco said after being reunited with Buckley. “I had kind of given up hope, and I was sort of making preparations inside to just move forward without him, and now it’s like I’m gonna have those times back of just joy, and peace.” The attack happened in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, about 60 miles south of Anchorage, while he and Buckley were hiking. Umbriaco said the bear moved on him so fast, he didn’t have time to pull out his bear spray. He said the bear covered about 50 feet “in an instant. So then I held my arms up in sort of a defensive position and then she bit me on the forearm kind of up close to my elbow.” When the bear let go, he panicked and jumped into the adjacent Kenai River. “In almost any other circumstance and in probably this circumstance, it was a terrible option, but that was the one I had,” he said. “And then she reaches down and then bites me on the shoulder.” The bear retreated after the second bite and was last seen walking up a hill with her cubs.


Tucson: The Air Force wants to free up space for more fighter aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base in metro Las Vegas by transferring attack and rescue aircraft to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Under realignment plans announced Wednesday with an Air Force budget request, units operating A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets and HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters would be transferred to Davis-Monthan. The transfers from Nellis are intended to allow the Air Force to assign F-35A Lightning II and F-22 Raptor fighters to the Nevada base for testing and training while locating more rescue units together at Davis-Monthan, according to Air Force statements. The first phase of the proposed plan is contingent on congressional approval of retirement of 42 A-10s, including 35 at Davis-Monthan, an Air Force statement said. The Air Force said it will conduct a required environmental analysis before the moves are made and that it plans to modernize 218 of its current fleet of 281 combat-capable A-10s. The Air Force in 2019 awarded a contract for the purchase of new wings for 218 A-10s. With avionic modernizations, the aircraft will be ably to fly well into the 2030s, the Air Force said.


Little Rock: The sponsor of Arkansas’ voter ID law said he will challenge the incumbent secretary of state in next year’s Republican primary. State Rep. Mark Lowery announced he would oppose Secretary of State John Thurston for the Republican nomination. Thurston was first elected in 2018 and is seeking a new term. Lowery sponsored a 2017 law that reinstated the state’s requirement that voters show photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot. A previous voter ID law had been struck down by the state Supreme Court, but justices in 2018 upheld Lowery’s revision. Lowery also sponsored a measure enacted this year that removed the ability of people without identification to cast a ballot if they sign an affidavit affirming their identity. Lowery has served in the state House since 2013.


Avalon: A 15-year-old boy was bitten on the hand by a shark Wednesday morning while kayaking off Santa Catalina Island, authorities said. The boy, who was taking part in a Boy Scouts camp, was with his father when their kayak was bumped by what was believed to be a shark of unknown type or size, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said in a statement. “During the encounter, the boy had put his hand in the water” and was bitten, lifeguard spokesman Pono Barnes with the Fire Department said. The Boy Scouts of America said the boy was near the Emerald Bay Camp when he received a bite that was not life-threatening. A camp doctor and paramedic treated the boy and he was airlifted to a hospital in stable condition to have surgery, authorities said. It was the first shark-related injury in the nearly 100-year history of its Emerald Bay Camp, the Boy Scouts said. The Boy Scouts said a morning boat check of the waters before the incident hadn’t turned up any hazards. Water activities at the camp have now been cancelled, the organization said. Lifeguards also cleared and closed down a stretch of ocean for 24 hours.


Denver: Students in American Indian tribes with historical ties to Colorado will receive in-state tuition at public Colorado universities starting this fall. Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Monday requiring universities to provide in-state tuition in recognition that many American Indian tribes were forced to leave Colorado and that students who belong to tribes that left weren’t getting in-state tuition at the place their tribe considered home. At one point, there were at least 48 tribes in Colorado, 46 of which are no longer in the state. The law reads that because students in these tribes might have been forced to move away from Colorado, or their “historic home place,” and because American Indians have low rates of students attending college and high rates of poverty, Colorado should provide them in-state tuition. In 2021, Colorado State University had just 141 students – less than 1% of its undergraduate population – who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native. American Indian students made up just 1.5% of the undergraduate population at the University of Colorado Boulder, whose board of regents supported the bill through the legislature.


Stonington: The Stonington Historical Society will hold its annual Independence Day parade beginning at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, beginning at the southwest corner of Wadawanuck Square. The public is encouraged to join the informal parade as it processes to Cannon Square and then back to Wadawanuck Square. Ann-Marie Houle, a local teacher and Stonington native, and Tom McCoy, a former Borough crossing guard, will serve as the Grand Marshalls of the parade. After the parade, the Declaration of Independence will be read aloud. As is a local tradition, attendees will then cast a pox on King George after the reading.


Rehoboth Beach: The Grove Park Canal Dock is finished and open to the public as a new route to reach Rehoboth Beach. Although the canal has always been an essential part of the city, the completion of this new dock allows people access to the waterway that before wasn’t possible. The new dock includes a pathway that takes visitors to the water with fresh landscaping and native plants on either side. People can ride up to the dock in private boats to briefly tie up for loading and unloading of passengers or materials, according to city spokesperson Lynne Coan. Anyone with a kayak can also launch from this dock. “It’s not meant to really double as a marina or a long-term tie up,” said Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism. “It’s a transient dock.”

District of Columbia

Washington: New Balance is taking advantage of the recent focus on D.C. statehood by releasing a shoe that embodies pride in the city, WUSA-TV reported. Designed by June Sanders, who was born in the District and raised in Prince George's County, the shoe uses the D.C. flag as its focal point, and is intended to help people "discover and celebrate" D.C. The 992DC is for sale on the DTLR website for about $200 and at store locations across D.C., Maryland and Virginia.


Daytona Beach: An exit off Interstate 95 had to be closed for 3 hours after 100 homing pigeons fell off a truck and refused to move, posing a driving hazard to motorists, officials said. A crate carrying 100 homing pigeons fell off the truck late Tuesday near Daytona Beach. Because the birds roost at night, the pigeons stayed on the road until bright lights from vehicles startled them. They flew into the air and created a hazard for drivers, according to a news release from Volusia County officials. “It’s the worst case scenario – homing pigeons that can’t find their home,” the news release said. Sheriff’s deputies, state troopers and animal service workers attempted to capture the pigeons, ultimately recovering 73 fowl. The birds weren’t banded so their owner wasn’t immediately determined, officials said. “Our job is to help animals find their way home, whether they’re covered in fur, scales, or in this case feathers,” said Volusia County Animal Control Officer Alicia Dease. “We’re hoping someone out there might have information on where these birds came from or the truck that was carrying them.”


Atlanta: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is endorsing a Democrat-turned-Republican who’s challenging Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in the state’s 2022 Republican primary. Giuliani spoke to reporters Wednesday before headlining a fundraising dinner for former state Rep. Vernon Jones in Atlanta. Jones was on the outs with his party when he shot to prominence in Republican circles as an African American Democrat who endorsed Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Jones has since switched parties and doubled down in support of Trump’s claims of election fraud, appealing to Republican voters in Georgia who might be unhappy with Kemp. Trump has repeatedly attacked Kemp but has not endorsed Jones. Giuliani said his main reason for endorsing Jones was their shared belief that Trump was cheated out of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes and the overall election. “The current governor has been a failure. I mean, he’s had his time. He put together an election that wouldn’t have passed muster in Africa, Asia, in undeveloped countries,” Giuliani said.


Kailua-Kona: The state has asked the public to comment on a proposal to install mooring buoys to address overcrowding at two popular manta ray viewing sites off the Kona Coast. The Department of Land and Natural Resources said it plans to install 13 of the buoys at Kaukalaelae Point, off Keauhou, and 12 at Makako Bay, off Keahole Point. The plan would remove and reconfigure existing moorings at the sites, which weren’t permitted and haven’t been managed or maintained by the state, West Hawaii Today reported. The moorings would protect natural resources by eliminating the use of chains and anchors that can damage coral reefs, the department said. More manta ray viewing tour boats could also use the sites if the buoys were installed. A 2015 study by Marine Science Consulting LLC found that the manta tours host up to 300 divers and snorkelers nightly with an estimated 60 operators competing for space and access at the two sites.


Sandpoint: Wildlife officials said a backcountry camper killed a moose in self defense after the animal charged him and his dog. The Department of Fish and Game said in a prepared statement that the incident happened last week when the camper was at Harrison Lake, north of Sandpoint. The moose tore apart the man’s campsite and charged the camper and his dog. The camper hid behind a tree, according to the department, but the moose didn’t stop charging. That’s when the camper shot the animal at close range, killing it. Officials with the Fish and Game Department responded to the shooting, and the U.S. Forest Service has since closed the Harrison Lake trailhead to hikers so they don’t encounter any bears that might feed on the carcass. Moose in Idaho can weigh as much as 1,100 pounds, with bulls standing nearly 6 feet high at the shoulder. State wildlife officials said hikers should make noise to avoid surprising moose or other potentially dangerous wildlife, and that if a moose puts its ears back or raises the hair on its neck, it might be about to charge. The Department of Fish and Game said people should carry bear spray when hiking or camping because it can be used to deter many animals in unsafe encounters.


Chicago: After 40 days without solid food, Rachelle Zola ended her hunger strike for slavery reparations Saturday with a few small bites of yogurt. Zola, 73, of Chicago said she lost 23 pounds and felt weak during her last two days of drinking only water, Pedialyte and bone broth. But she pronounced the experience an unqualified success, citing dozens of productive conversations with ordinary people, as well as TV, radio and print newspaper coverage of her fast for H.R. 40, a U.S. House bill that would establish a federal commission to hold hearings on slavery and discrimination and recommend remedies. “My voice is only getting stronger,” Zola said Monday. Zola, who is white, came to Chicago from Tucson, Arizona, in 2019 to meet Black and brown people and hear their stories, and embarked on the fast as a result of multiple conversations, meetings and workshops. She hoped to attract the attention of other white people, and spur the adoption of H.R. 40, a version of a reparations bill that was first introduced in Congress more than 30 years ago.


Indianapolis: Indiana’s COVID-19 precautions further eased Thursday under new executive orders issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb, even as he cited worries about the state’s lagging vaccination rate. The state’s public health emergency was extended until at least the end of July as Holcomb on Wednesday signed the 16th renewal of that order that he first issued in March 2020. Holcomb’s order said its renewal ensures Indiana can continue responding effectively to the pandemic. It also keeps the state eligible for additional Medicaid funding and other federal assistance programs. The governor pointed out that Indiana’s fully vaccinated rate of 48% ranks the state 38th in the country – and that 98.5% of new COVID-19 infections are among unvaccinated people. The coronavirus “remains a threat to the health, safety and welfare of all residents of Indiana,” the order said.


Des Moines: A federal judge in Iowa admitted wrongdoing and publicly apologized for comments ridiculing former President Donald Trump for issuing a series of pardons to well-connected Republican officials. Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt made the remarks during a phone interview with the Associated Press in December, saying: "It's not surprising a criminal like Trump pardons other criminals." In a bit of humor, he added, "But apparently to get a pardon, one has to be either a Republican, a convicted child murderer or a turkey." Pratt's remarks set off a firestorm of criticism among lawyers, who said that they were inappropriate from a federal judge. They also triggered a judicial misconduct complaint against Pratt by Lavenski Smith, chief judge of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, where Pratt has long worked at the Des Moines courthouse, this week posted online a letter dated April 16 from Pratt to Smith. Pratt said he accepted Smith's conclusion that his comments constitute "cognizable misconduct" because they veered into what could be construed as "inappropriate partisan statements." The court said it was posting the letter at Smith's direction. Pratt has been on the bench since his appointment by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1997. He has had a reduced caseload since 2012, when he assumed senior status.


Wichita: Kansas’ largest school district won’t require students and teacher to wear face masks or get a COVID-19 vaccination during the upcoming school year. The Wichita Eagle reported that the Board of Education for Wichita Public Schools reviewed the district’s reopening plan, but took no formal action. The board previously delegated COVID-19 operational decisions to the superintendent. The mask requirement in district facilities will end Tuesday.


Louisville: The Kentucky State Fair, which takes place Aug. 19-29, will offer special deals on admission as it reopens to the public, officials said. Early bird tickets are available beginning Friday for $8 per person, which includes parking, fair officials said in a statement. The price is good through Aug. 5. Admission at the gate is $10 per person, plus parking. “After a year without having a public Fair, we thought it was important to focus on accessibility so we could bring as many Kentuckians together to experience the concerts, the food and the fun unique to our annual festival,” said David S. Beck, president and CEO of Kentucky Venues. The annual event in Louisville featuring shows, exhibits and other entertainment was closed to the public last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some events were held but only participants were allowed to attend.


Morehouse Parish: A bear that gained a social media following while wandering hundreds of miles in the Midwest before reaching Louisiana has died after being hit by a vehicle, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said Wednesday. The male bear dubbed Bruno was euthanized Tuesday because there was no way he could have survived, said Maria Davidson, large carnivore program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Not only were both back legs broken, but they were paralyzed because of spinal injuries, she said: “He had been dragging himself, literally.” Biologists estimated that Bruno had been injured about a month before a homeowner in Morehouse Parish, which is on the Arkansas state line in northeastern Louisiana, called the department Tuesday, saying a bear wouldn’t leave the yard. Biologists went there. “He was in bad shape. It was rough,” Davidson said.


Bath: The U.S. Navy pulled the plug, for now, on a futuristic weapon that fires projectiles at up to seven times the speed of sound using electricity. The Navy spent more than a decade developing the electromagnetic railgun and once considered putting them on the stealthy new Zumwalt-class destroyers built at Maine’s Bath Iron Works. But the Defense Department is turning its attention to hypersonic missiles to keep up with China and Russia, and the Navy cut funding for railgun research from its latest budget proposal. “The railgun is, for the moment, dead,” said Matthew Caris, a defense analyst at Avascent Group, a consulting firm. The Navy’s decision to pause research at year’s end frees up resources for hypersonic missiles, directed-energy systems like lasers and electronic warfare systems, said Lt. Courtney Callaghan, a Navy spokesperson.


Annapolis: Federal and state authorities are offering more than $20,000 in rewards in the fatal shooting of the Texas mother of a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman candidate as she sat outside a Maryland hotel. Michelle Cummings, 57, of Houston was killed early Tuesday outside the Graduate Hotel in Annapolis, where she was dropping her son off at the academy, city police said. Cummings was the mother of Midshipman Candidate Leonard Cummings III, a plebe, or incoming freshman, and football prospect, according to the Naval Academy. Induction for the incoming class began Tuesday, kicking off basic midshipman training called Plebe Summer. Investigators believe that Cummings was struck by a stray bullet while she was on the hotel’s patio, said Annapolis Police Chief Edward Jackson. Two people were sitting in an SUV on a nearby street when shots rang out and Cummings was struck at least once, Jackson said at a news conference Wednesday.


Amesbury: A mixed-media painting attributed to Pablo Picasso has been sold after spending 50 years in a closet in a house in Maine. John McInnis Auctioneers, based in Massachusetts, confirmed that the painting entitled “Le Tricorne” sold on Saturday, the Boston Globe reported. The 16-by-16-inch painting is signed and dated in the year 1919. It is believed to be a study for the stage curtain Picasso painted for a ballet of the same name that debuted that year in London, according to the New York Historical Society. That curtain has been on display at the historical society in New York City since 2015. The website reported the sale price of the painting was $150,000, plus a 24% buyer’s premium. Neither the buyer nor the seller was named, but the seller gave a statement on the website saying the painting was found in a closet of a home his father inherited from a female relative who studied art in Europe in the 1920s. The buyer will have at least 120 days to authenticate the painting with The Claude Picasso Administration, which is managed by the artist’s son.


Lansing: About $5 million in cash and college scholarships will be given away in lottery-style drawings aimed at raising Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday. The incentive program features a $2 million jackpot, a $1 million prize and 30 daily drawings of $50,000 for residents ages 18 and older who have gotten at least one shot. Vaccinated residents ages 12 to 17 are eligible for one of nine four-year prepaid tuition contracts valued at $55,000. The MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes is being launched after several states, including Ohio, offered millions of dollars to boost vaccinations – with mixed results. Nearly 62% of Michigan residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose, ranking it near the middle among states, as infections have plummeted. Whitmer and state health officials want 70% vaccinated, which would require about 678,000 additional people to get a shot.


Minnetonka: A juvenile has died in a collision involving two Jet Skis on Lake Minnetonka’s Upper East Lake, according to Hennepin County sheriff’s officials. The sheriff’s water patrol responded to a call shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday and found one person unresponsive. According to authorities, boaters on the lake had pulled the young person from the water and started CPR before the water patrol arrived. The victim was taken to the patrol’s headquarters in Spring Park where an ambulance was waiting. Officials said the person operating the other Jet Ski was not seriously injured. The juvenile who died has not yet been identified.


Ocean Springs: A centuries-old live oak tree that survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 faces removal because arborists said it could fall onto a playground that sits in its shade. The oak in Fort Maurepas Park in the city of Ocean Springs took another pounding from Hurricane Zeta last year. It now leans west, with limbs extending over the playground. The Ocean Springs Board of Alderman voted June 15 to take the tree down after an arborist who inspected it in November said the root system is failing, the Sun Herald reported. Residents invited another arborist to inspect the tree Monday, the newspaper reported. Several residents, Alderman Rickey Authement and Mayor-Elect Kenny Holloway attended. But the second arborist’s conclusion largely matched the original arborist’s. He recommended removing the tree, estimated to be at least 200 years old, because of liability involving the playground.


Branson: Health officials working to boost lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates in Missouri are growing anxious as the Fourth of July weekend approaches, creating ripe conditions for the fast-spreading delta variant to send hospital numbers climbing. “We are just kind of keeping an eye to see what is going to happen,” Lisa Marshall, the health director for Taney County, which includes the tourist town of Branson. “We’ve seen that these numbers can jump pretty quickly.”Missouri is second only to Nevada for having the worst diagnosis rate over the past week. And its seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 576.14 new cases per day on June 15 to 891.71 new cases per day on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. State data showed hospitalizations are up sharply, increasing by 38% from 637 on the last day of May to 882 on Wednesday. And the situation is even worse in southwest Missouri, where hospitalizations jumped from 134 to 317 over the same period.


Helena: Gov. Greg Gianforte declared a statewide drought emergency Thursday as more than 92% of Montana faces abnormally dry conditions. “Every region of the state faces severe to extreme drought conditions, and the situation is getting worse. These alarming drought conditions are devastating our ag producers, challenging our tourism industry, and could bring a severe wildfire season,” Gianforte said in a statement. The declaration directs the state departments of agriculture, livestock, natural resources and conservation to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to secure federal funding to address the fallout from the drought. The order also suspends some regulations for motor vehicles providing drought-related support. A report released by the state Wednesday predicted drought conditions will worsen in the next two months. Drought metrics are significantly worse than they were the same time last year, when just under half of the state confronted similar dryness. Nearly 20% of the state is in extreme drought, up from 14% a week ago, according to figures released Thursday.


Lincoln: Nebraska plans to stop reporting coronavirus numbers online after Wednesday. The state Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that it plans to retire the online dashboard that it has used to report statistics on the coronavirus pandemic for more than a year. The current state virus emergency was also set to expire on Wednesday, and along with that, Nebraska is eliminating the last few social distancing guidelines that remained in place. State officials said data on the pandemic will still be available through public records requests, and they said statistics on the spread of the coronavirus are available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of its final update Wednesday, the state had reported 224,488 virus cases and 2,261 deaths linked to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.


Carson City: Nevada’s minimum wage increased by 75 cents on Thursday to $8.75 an hour for employees who get health benefits and $9.75 an hour for those who do not. The state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature in 2019 passed a law gradually increasing to the state’s minimum wage to $11 for those with health benefits and $12 for those without by 2024. The first increase was last year.The increase will also raise daily overtime rates starting July 1, except for workers exempt from overtime rules. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have been pushing to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The federal minimum is $7.25 and has not been raised since 2009.

New Hampshire

Plainfield: A house that was the setting for a monthslong armed standoff in 2007 between a couple and U.S. marshals over tax evasion is back on the market. The 7,500-square-foot former home of Ed and Elaine Brown in Plainfield is listed for $1.59 million, the Valley News reported. The current owners bought the home in 2019 for $315,000 and put in new windows, a redesigned kitchen, hardwood floors, four fireplaces and a steam room, among the upgrades. “Some of the first steps that they took was essentially bringing it back up to livable conditions,” said Lochrane Gary, a real estate agent listing the home. “They did everything from the ground up.” The Browns were convicted of failing to pay taxes on $1.9 million of income. They declined to appear in court and retreated to the fortress-like home. U.S. marshals arrived; a standoff went on for nearly eight months as anti-tax crusaders and militia groups rallied to the Browns’ cause. The marshals eventually arrested the Browns. Elaine Brown apologized for her actions and was released last year after serving more than 12 years in prison. Ed Brown is expected to serve another 16 years.

New Jersey

Atlantic City: New Jersey’s yearlong coronavirus-inspired ban on smoking in Atlantic City casinos will end Sunday, just in time for the Fourth of July holiday. Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that an order he signed ending a public health emergency contained a “sunset” provision winding down the smoking ban within 30 days, which is Sunday. Although acknowledging gamblers will be free to light up again starting Sunday, the Democratic governor indicated he would look favorably on a measure lawmakers are considering to permanently end smoking in New Jersey’s casinos. “I would be very constructive on that,” he said at a coronavirus briefing, stopping short of saying he would sign the legislation. The governor’s remarks came two hours after dozens of casino workers and anti-smoking advocates rallied on the Atlantic City boardwalk to call for a permanent smoking ban. Casinos are exempted from a state law banning most indoor smoking, and an Atlantic City law limits smoking to no more than 25% of the casino floor.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: New Mexico business owners are hopeful as Thursday marked the end of the state’s limits on occupancy rates and other restrictions that the governor had imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. And although the state also ended its color-coded risk system for counties, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials said the campaign to get more people vaccinated will continue. The Democratic governor had set a goal of getting 60% of residents fully vaccinated two weeks before the reopening. That mark was missed but she still opted to lift the restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activities as scheduled. The state now reports about 62% of eligible resident are vaccinated. With the restrictions lifted, all businesses across the state can operate at 100% capacity and all limitations on mass gatherings are gone. Businesses and local governments may still adopt and require additional precautions at their discretion, state officials said.

New York

New York City: Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Jennifer Hudson will headline an August concert in Central Park, marking the city’s comeback from the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It is going to be a great moment for the city, marking our rebirth, marking our comeback, and it’s going to be one of the greatest Central Park concerts in history,” the mayor said at a virtual news briefing. De Blasio announced last month that producer Clive Davis would recruit an all-star lineup for a Central Park concert in August. No exact date has been announced. More performers will be announced in the coming weeks, de Blasio said. The concert will come 30 years after Simon’s memorable Aug. 15, 1991 Central Park concert, which was recorded and released as a live album and concert film. Springsteen’s return to Broadway last weekend was itself a step in the city’s recovery from the pandemic. “He is beloved in New York City in an extraordinary way even though he happens to come from New Jersey – no one’s perfect,” de Blasio said.

North Carolina

Raleigh: A venomous snake has been captured two days after it was spotted on the loose in a neighborhood of North Carolina’s capital. The Raleigh Police Department sent out a notice late Wednesday announcing that the zebra cobra was found and safely removed from a northwest Raleigh neighborhood. Police didn’t give more details about how or where it was caught. An animal control officer was called Monday to a home where a snake was spotted on a porch, police said. But by the time the officer arrived, the snake had slithered away. Then they learned that a zebra cobra was missing from a home in the area. Officials warned anyone who saw the snake to stay away and call 911, saying it could spit and bite if cornered. WNCN-TV reports that animal control and Raleigh police used wooden boards with special glue on them to trap the snake. It was then moved from the board into a red bucket. Venomous snakes are legal to own in North Carolina, but they must be kept in an escape-proof, bite-proof enclosures and owners must notify law enforcement if one escapes.

North Dakota

Bismarck: An environmental group wary about the sale of North Dakota’s largest coal-fired power plant by a nonprofit Minnesota electric cooperative wants officials in that state to review the deal, saying ratepayers are being left in the dark. Bismarck-based Rainbow Energy Center LLC said it reached an agreement Wednesday to acquire the Coal Creek Station in west-central North Dakota from Maple Grove, Minnesota-based Great River Energy. The acquisition also includes the purchase of associated transmission lines that run from central North Dakota to Minnesota by an affiliate of Rainbow Energy. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “This smells like a backroom deal that benefits the North Dakota coal lobby, not regular Minnesotans,” Margaret Levin, director of the Minnesota chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “It also sounds like Minnesota customers may remain on the hook for paying for power from this economic loser of a plant for years to come.” Rainbow Energy said the deal still requires state approval of permit transfers and the green light by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates utilities, power generators and pipelines. The Sierra Club, a San Francisco-based group that wants to curb the use of fossil fuels, wants to extend the review to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the state attorney general.


Sandusky: A longtime school resource officer who used a stun gun on two high school students during a self-defense training class has been fired. Perkins Township trustees voted 3-0 on Monday to dismiss Tonya Corbin, who was a resource officer at Perkins High School. She had been on unpaid leave since June 15. Corbin was teaching a self-defense class for female students at the school on May 19 when she brought a stun gun to the class and used it on two students, ages 17 and 18, authorities said. Corbin initially denied using the stun gun, saying she had allowed the students to use it themselves. The two students and a teacher at the school disputed that claim, and Corbin admitted to deploying the stun gun, authorities said. The self-defense class had been provided to students in the past, but this was the first time Corbin was leading it, officials have said.


Oklahoma City: A voter-approved expansion of Medicaid took effect Thursday in Oklahoma after a decade of Republican resistance in a state that has become emblematic of the political struggle to extend the federal health insurance program in conservative strongholds. Oklahoma moved ahead with its expansion at a time when Democrats in Washington and across the states are pressing to complete the work of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, recently upheld by the Supreme Court for the third time in a decade. So far, 38 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, and expansion in a dozen mostly Southern states might be the biggest piece of unfinished business. More than 123,000 low-income people already have been approved for Medicaid coverage in Oklahoma, a state where nearly 15% of the population has been uninsured – the highest rate in the nation behind Texas, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. State Medicaid officials said they expect that number to increase to more than 200,000 as more people get approved.


Salem: Firefighters on Wednesday tried to contain a wildfire that burned 10,000 acres near the farming community of Dufur, Oregon. Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to the fire, allowing the state fire marshal to mobilize firefighters and equipment to help local firefighters. Some 40 personnel, 12 fire engines engines and other resources were on the scene, authorities said. The fire was burning in wheat and brush in the sparsely populated area of north-central Oregon. Firefighters from the Portland area were among those assisting the effort to extinguish the blaze, which ignited Tuesday. The FBI, meanwhile, on Wednesday offered a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest, and conviction of those responsible for setting a fire on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation on June 21. The fire burned approximately 42 acres of brush and grass alongside Highway 3 near the reservation fish hatchery in central Oregon. Warm Springs emergency crews battled the blaze. The FBI and the Warm Springs Police Department want anyone with information about the fire to contact them.


Harrisburg: A Republican-crafted bill to ban COVID-19 “vaccine passports” in some cases and to restrict the health secretary’s actions during health emergencies was vetoed Thursday by Gov. Tom Wolf. The measure split both legislative chambers along party lines last month, and Wolf had said he would veto the proposal. With millions of Pennsylvanians still unvaccinated, many seemingly intent on remaining so, legislative Republicans wanted to prevent what they viewed as stigmatizing policies that require proof of vaccination in violation of health privacy. The bill would have kept colleges and universities that receive state money from mandating proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter buildings, attend class in person or undertake any activity. State and local governmental entities would have been similarly restricted, and governments would not have been allowed to include coronavirus vaccine status on ID cards. It also would have kept the health secretary from ordering closures or directing people who have not been exposed to a contagion to physically distance, wear a mask, quarantine or restrict their travel. The Wolf administration believes the bill, if passed, would have applied to all cases, not just during the current pandemic.

Rhode Island

East Greenwich: Capt. Regan Keenan was among six Rhode Island National Guard members who were given awards Wednesday for their roles in the Guard's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Rhode Island. The Guard has played an important role in the state's fight against COVID-19. It has run test sites, administered vaccinations and set up field hospitals during the pandemic. At the peak, the Guard had just under 1,000 members activated for COVID-19 response, according to Capt. Mark A. Inzce, a Guard spokesman. The Guard has administered more than 360,000 doses, representing more than 180,000 complete vaccinations, Inzce said. The other recipients were Col. David Ashley, Maj. Joanne Barrett and Staff Sgt. Nicole Mackay of the Air Guard, and Lt. Col. Matthew Edwards and Staff Sgt. Jessica Godena of the Army Guard.

South Carolina

Hilton Head Island: For the first time in 23 years, it won’t cost drivers anything to take the quickest way to the heart of Hilton Head Island. Tolls on the Cross Island Parkway were dropped Thursday after South Carolina made its final bond payment on the $81 million road that opened in 1998. The toll booths will remain up until the Department of Transportation can start a $14 million project to remove them and make other improvements in the coming months. For now, signs are in place reminding drivers to slow in the area. The 7-mile expressway veers off from the only road to the island just after it crosses the Intracoastal Waterway, allowing drivers to avoid a 12-mile route full of stoplights and suburban sprawl. The toll was $1.25 for a passenger car before it was dropped. The state now has only one toll road – the Southern Connector which connects Interstate 385 to Interstate 85 south of Greenville. That freeway is about 30 years from having its bonds paid off and dropping the tolls.

South Dakota

Aberdeen: A federal judge who charged three members of the U.S. Marshals Service with contempt of court over a COVID-19 vaccination dispute removed himself from the case after assigning an in-state attorney to prosecute the proceedings. The chain of events began when state and federal prosecutors declined to handle the case. A retired attorney whom U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann tried to appoint opted out over debate on whether he needed to restart his practice. Kormann than assigned Thomas Fritz, of Rapid City, and recused himself. Kornmann stated in an order filed Tuesday that it’s likely the other federal judges in South Dakota will decline the case as well. If so, the chief judge for the 8th U.S. CIrcuit Court of Appeals will appoint a replacement judge.


Nashville: Transportation officials will briefly shut down a section of the interstate in Nashville with a view of the July Fourth fireworks to prevent onlookers from putting themselves in danger. A news release from the Tennessee Department of Transportation said traffic will be diverted from the eastern portion of the downtown loop to the western portion to avoid illegal pedestrian use of the highway, stopped vehicles and a slowdown of traffic. Vehicles will not be allowed to enter Interstate 24 between Interstate 65 and Interstate 40 from 9 p.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday.


Austin: Two mosquito trap samples collected in the cities of Granger and Taylor have tested positive for West Nile virus. The positive sample in Granger was taken from a trap site near N. Colorado Street, according to a news release on Thursday from the Williamson County and Cities Health District. The last time a positive sample was collected at this location was June 2, the release said. It said the positive sample in Taylor was taken from a trap site near Murphy Park on Veteran's Drive. This is the first time a positive sample has been collected at this location. The city of Taylor will spray insecticide in a 1-mile vicinity of the positive sample along the street right-of-way and in public parks on Friday and Saturday nights. The chemical used is a pyrethrin-based insecticide, the release said. Pyrethrin is a chemical that can be found in chrysanthemums. Taylor and Granger will do enhanced monitoring and testing, and increase public outreach and education, the release said. It said a West Nile infection might include fever, headache, and body aches, a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph nodes. Those 50 and older and/or with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for severe symptoms, which might include stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, vision loss, paralysis, and in rare cases, death, the release said.


Salt Lake City: Gov. Spencer Cox and other local leaders urged state residents to forgo using personal fireworks this summer as the state faces a historic drought. Cox and more than 30 Utah city mayors and council members called on people to instead celebrate July Fourth and Pioneer Day – a holiday only celebrated in Utah every July 24 – at public celebrations sponsored by Utah communities. “With this year’s extremely dry conditions, all it takes is one spark to set off a life-threatening blaze,” Cox said. “We love our great nation and state, but there are much better ways to celebrate our independence and heritage than personal fireworks this year. Please celebrate safely!” Several Utah cities are banning people from setting off their own fireworks this year during the record drought, but many Republicans are against a statewide prohibition. Fireworks are banned on all state and unincorporated business lands, but Cox, a Republican, has said he does not have the legal authority to enact a statewide ban. Salt Lake City issued a fireworks ban and open burning ban last week, which prohibits people from starting any fires outside.


Montpelier: A number of walk-in clinics issuing COVID-19 vaccines, including some at Fourth of July celebrations, will be available throughout the weekend, Gov. Phil Scott said. “Even with our state’s high vaccination rate, we still need as many Vermonters as possible to protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated,” Scott said in a statement. More than 452,000 of Vermont residents, or 82.1% , have already received at least one dose of vaccine. Venues include a skate park, a church, and a flea market. On Sunday, the holiday, eight pop-up clinics are scheduled throughout the state. The Barton Fairgrounds, the Stowe Independence Day Celebration, and the Champlain Valley Expo are among the clinic sites. Most pharmacies in Vermont are offering walk-in vaccinations, as well.


Alexandria: Acting U.S. Attorney For the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh announced Thursday the creation of a civil rights unit within the office’s criminal division. Prosecutors assigned to the unit will investigate hate crimes, bias-related incidents, and alleged law enforcement misconduct, among other crimes.“Every individual has the right to enjoy their lives free from violence or discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, or any other protected basis,” Parekh said in a written statement. The unit’s creation builds on the establishment last year of a civil rights unit that focused primarily on civil matters related to the rights of military service members and those with disabilities. Parekh said the unit’s creation is also in line with mandates from Attorney General Merrick Garland to respond more vigorously to allegations of hate crimes and other bias-related incidents. The Eastern District of Virginia is headquartered in Alexandria and has offices in Richmond, Newport News and Norfolk.


Spokane: The rolling blackouts that cut electricity for tens of thousands of Spokane residents amid this week’s record-breaking heat wave mostly hit the same power customers repeatedly because of strains on equipment that couldn’t handle the blistering temperatures, utility officials said. And there was plenty of power available for customers in Spokane despite increased demand. That’s in contrast to the blackouts imposed in Texas last winter amid freezing temperatures, when there wasn’t enough electricity to meet the demand, and during a hot spell in California last summer. In Spokane, Avita Utilities officials blamed lack of transmission capacity combined with heat strain on equipment for their decision to impose the blackouts as the city’s 217,000 people endured sweltering heat that hit a record of 109 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday. Some people in the city never had their power cut while those unlucky enough to live in neighborhoods with equipment affected by the heat were targeted with blackouts that hit some repeatedly, said Heather Rosentrater, Avista’s senior vice president for energy delivery. “We haven’t been able to spread where those outages are occurring across different customers,” she said.

West Virginia

Carrollton: A covered bridge that’s on the National Register of Historic Places might soon be restored to repair damage caused by a fire in 2017. The Carrollton Covered Bridge in Barbour County had much of its outer covering destroyed in the fire, which was determined to be arson, the state Transportation Department said. The basic structure was left mostly intact. The state reopened the bridge to traffic after minor repairs were made following the fire, and it was decided last fall that the Division of Highways could do the restoration work. Tiger Diversified LLC in Upshur County was awarded a contract in May for the timber for the project. The state received a bid of $400,000 last week for the scaffolding and rigging system, the Transportation Department said. Restoration work could begin quickly if the bid is accepted, District 7 Engineer Brian Cooper said in a news release. The 140-foot-long bridge was built in 1856 and crosses the Buckhannon River near Carrollton.


Madison: Wisconsin environmental officials have given the city of Waukesha final approval to withdraw water from Lake Michigan. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday it issued final approval for the withdraw on Wednesday. The city is expected to start pulling water from the lake in 2023. The city asked regulators in 2010 for permission to divert up to 8.2 million gallons from the lake daily for public use because city wells are contaminated with radium and return treated wastewater to the lake. The request triggered a lengthy review process under the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement between eight Great Lakes states that controls the use of lake water. The Compact Council approved the request in 2016.


Casper: A Wyoming man killed himself after authorities began searching his property for a woman missing since 2017. Authorities started searching the Sublette County property of Darrell “Pete” Petry on June 19, seeking evidence related to the disappearance of Vanessa “Nessy” Orren, 61, of LaBarge. Petry left the property on the second day of the search and was later found dead, Sublette County sheriff’s officials said in a statement Wednesday. Investigators determined Petry died by suicide. Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Travis Bingham declined to release more details because the case was still under investigation, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. “He wasn’t under arrest at the time,” Bingham said. “He was still free to come and go.” Orren’s disappearance was still being investigated and anyone with information should call investigators at (307) 367-4378, sheriff’s officials said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Railgun derailed, Giuliani endorses, West Nile virus: News from around our 50 states



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