Replanting cacti, Muscogean heritage, Joe Exotic: News from around our 50 states (2023)


Montgomery: A corrections officers has been placed on leave after a video surfaced that appears to show him beating a distressed inmate who had climbed to the edge of a roof. The video, circulating on social media, shows a seemingly distressed inmate on the edge of a roof at a building at Elmore Correctional Facility, while a group of prison staff look at him from the ground. An officer walks across the roof and drags the inmate back from the edge, then appears to punch him several times. Officer Ell White has been placed on mandatory leave pending investigation, a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections wrote in an email. The prison system said Jimmy K. Norman, a 44-year-old inmate, “had climbed on top of the facility chapel, prompting Officer White and other correctional officers to attempt to escort Norman off the roof.” The Law Enforcement Services Division of the Alabama Department of Corrections is investigating the incident and response by staff, the prison system said. The U.S. Department of Justice has an ongoing civil lawsuit against Alabama over conditions in its prisons, saying the state is failing to protect male inmates from staff and other incarcerated men and calling the system one of the most understaffed and violent in the country, violating the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.


Anchorage: Nearly every single Alaskan got a financial windfall amounting to more than $3,000 Tuesday, the day the state began distributing payments from its investment fund that has been seeded with money from the state’s oil riches. The payments, officially called the Permanent Fund Dividend, amounted to $2,622 – the highest amount ever. Alaska lawmakers added $662 as a one-time benefit to help residents with high energy costs. A total of $1.6 billion in direct deposits began hitting bank accounts Tuesday, and physical checks will arrive later for those who opted for them. Residents use the money in various ways – buying big-screen TVs, vehicles or other goods; using it for vacations; or putting it in savings or college funds. In rural Alaska, the money can help offset the enormous costs of fuel and food, like $14 for a 12-pack of soda, $4 for a celery bunch and $3 for a small container of Greek yogurt. “We’re experiencing record high inflation that we haven’t seen since the first PFD was paid in 1982,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a video. The timing of the checks couldn’t have come at a better time for those living on the state’s vast western coast, which was devastated over the weekend by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok. Damage to homes and infrastructure was widespread along 1,000 miles of coastline.


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Phoenix: Wildfires torching areas of the state are threatening the Sonoran Desert’s iconic saguaro cacti, in turn threatening the lives of the birds and other wildlife that depend on them. To help replace the many saguaros burned in wildfires, the Tucson Audubon Society is launching a three-year restoration and replanting project that will bring approximately 14,000 saguaros to southern Arizona. According to the Tucson Audubon, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting birds and their habitats, 100 species of animals use saguaros, including bats, birds, mammals and insects, while 14 species of birds nest in saguaro cactus cavities, including elf owls, pygmy owls and desert purple martins, among others. Saguaros are like apartment buildings of wildlife activity. Bats feed on the nectar of the flowers sprouting at the top of the saguaro, while in other parts of the plant, bird species live inside cavities carved by other birds. Then, as food sources become scarce later in the summer, animals and insects will feed on the saguaro’s fruit, according to the National Park Service. The entire project will receive an initial investment of $300,000 that will be given to the organization over the next three years from the Wildlife Conservation Society. The project also will receive U.S. Forest Service grants for about $209,000 for post-burn fire recovery in areas torched during the Bighorn fire that occurred in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Bush fire that occurred in the Tonto National Forest in 2020.


Fayetteville: The owner of an alternative-meat purveyor is accused of biting a human nose after a Razorbacks football game. Beyond Meat Chief Operating Officer Doug Ramsey was arrested over the weekend after a physical altercation in a parking garage following a University of Arkansas football game. Ramsey, 53, was charged with terroristic threatening and third-degree battery Saturday, according to booking records at the Washington County Jail. He was released Sunday on $10,000 bond. According to the preliminary campus police report obtained by local Arkansas television station KNWA/Fox 24, a road rage altercation saw Ramsey punch through the back windshield of another man’s Subaru in the parking garage after the vehicle made contact with the front tire of Ramsey’s car. According to the preliminary report, once the Subaru owner got out of the vehicle, Ramsey punched him repeatedly and bit his nose, “ripping the flesh on the tip of the nose.” The man also claimed Ramsey threatened to kill him. A responding police officer found “two males with bloody faces” at the garage just outside Razorback Stadium after the game against Missouri State. Occupants of both vehicles got out to help separate the two men. Ramsey was named Beyond Meat’s COO in December after spending three decades at Tyson Foods.


San Francisco: Supervisors in the city voted Tuesday for a trial run allowing police to monitor in real time private surveillance cameras in certain circumstances, despite strong objections from civil liberties groups alarmed by the potential impact to privacy. San Francisco, like many places across the country, is struggling to balance public safety with constitutional protections. The ability to monitor in real time was requested by San Francisco Mayor London Breed and supported by merchants and residents who say police officers need more tools to combat drug dealing and retail theft that they say have marred the city’s quality of life. It is temporary and will sunset in 15 months. The vote was 7-4, with some supervisors astonished that the governing board of politically liberal San Francisco would consider granting more powers to law enforcement in a city that celebrates its activism. Others pushed back, saying they were tired of sophisticated criminal networks taking advantage of San Francisco’s lax attitude toward retail theft and other property crimes. Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a privacy advocate who successfully passed legislation in 2019 to ban the use of facial recognition software by San Francisco police and other city departments, said they worked hard to negotiate safeguards, including strict reporting requirements when live monitoring was used.


Colorado Springs: An attorney for a state lawmaker has asked El Paso County prosecutors to dismiss a felony charge that he voted outside the district he lives in and represents in 2020, citing incorrect information presented to a grand jury before his indictment. Dan Kaplan, an attorney for Democratic state Sen. Pete Lee, filed a motion to dismiss Tuesday, saying the wrong residency information was provided to prosecutors by the state Office of Attorney Registration, The Colorado Sun reports. The office told prosecutors of the mistake last week, and the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case, spokesman Howard Black said. Lee, whose website says he practiced law for 25 years, chairs the state Senate Judiciary Committee. He was indicted in August. “We believe that the erroneous information would have resulted in no indictment being issued,” said Lee, who previously denied any wrongdoing. The felony charge carries a possible penalty of one to three years in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000. Lee’s next court hearing is set for Oct. 18. Lee is not seeking a second term in November’s election after being elected to represent his El Paso County district in 2018. He previously served in the House.


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Waterbury: Two parents of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre and the daughter of the school’s slain principal testified Wednesday of the fear and pain they have suffered from being targeted with threats by those who believe the lie that the shooting was a hoax. David Wheeler, Jennifer Hensel and Erica Lafferty are among those suing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for promoting the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories on his media platforms, including his Infowars web show. The plaintiffs, who gave often emotional testimony, say Jones’ promotion of Sandy Hook conspiracy theories on his show led the them being threatened by deniers of the shooting, including some who claimed their loved ones never existed. They say they’ve endured death threats and in-person harassment, video recording by strangers and abusive comments on social media. Some families moved to avoid harassment. “There are days when grief is just so awful,” said Hensel, whose 6-year-old daughter, Avielle Richman, was among those slain. “Then you add on the idea that people think you made all this up for money or that your child didn’t exist. That compounds everything.” One of the jurors wept as Hensel testified and was comforted by another panel member.


Wilmington: A judge ruled Monday that the Port of Wilmington’s financially ailing operator must pay a ship loading company more than $28million – an amount that piles onto a string of hefty bills already weighing on a company with operations that generate thousands of jobs in the state. The ruling - a $21.5 million payment, plus interest - comes four years after Delaware privatized the port through a 50-year lease with Gulftainer, a shipping and logistics company based in the United Arab Emirates. As state officials negotiated the lease in early 2018, they also pressured Gulftainer and Murphy Marine Services – a local ship loading company already doing business at the port – to combine operations, according to court documents. The companies obliged but ultimately could not agree on a price that Gulftainer’s local subsidiary, GT USA Wilmington, should pay to take over the smaller operation. At the time, Murphy Marine wanted roughly $26 million. Gulftainer officials saw the company as far less valuable. The dispute quickly became hostile, and the next month Murphy Marine filed a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court, claiming Gulftainer’s officials had carried out “bulldogged” efforts to strip it of millions of dollars.

District of Columbia

Washington: A 44-year-old man was arrested after allegedly using paint to vandalize the Washington Monument on Tuesday evening, WUSA-TV reports. According to a statement from the United States Park Police, the man defaced an area at the base of the monument. The National Mall landmark is temporarily closed. National Park Service conservators are working on restoring the monument but say that process could take several weeks. Locals and tourists came out to the monument to see the vandalism. Reactions to the painted message were mixed. “No matter what people think and feel, they have no right to destroy historical property like this,” one woman said. “I don’t know how someone could just walk up and completely vandalize the Washington Monument, of all things,” a man said. “Not that I support this, but I understand that sometimes you got to make a statement,” one woman said. Mike Litterist of the National Park Service said crews were on site Wednesday morning to begin the cleanup process. Park Police identified the man arrested as Shaun Ray Deaton, of Bloomington, Indiana. Deaton was charged with trespassing, tampering and vandalism. Police said it was an initial criminal charge, and as the investigation continues, there may be additional charges.


Fort Lauderdale: The judge overseeing the penalty trial of school shooter Nikolas Cruz refused to step down Monday, rejecting a motion by his attorneys who accused her of being biased against their client and prejudicing the jurors who will decide if he should die for murdering 17 people four years ago. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer denied the motion, saying only that it was legally insufficient. Scherer last week chewed out lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill and her team outside the jury’s presence, accusing them of being “unprofessional” when they unexpectedly rested their case after only about 25 of the 80 witnesses they had told her and prosecutors they intended to testify had been called. The defense said in court documents filed last week that those comments and ones the judge later made to the jury were “the zenith of the cumulative disdain” they allege Scherer has shown throughout the case toward Cruz and themselves. The defense had no obligation to call all its proposed witnesses or notify the judge or prosecution when they planned to rest, legal observers have said. Prosecutors argued in court documents that Scherer’s comments didn’t rise to the level of demonstrating bias against Cruz. They cited a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says a judge’s “expressions of impatience, dissatisfaction, annoyance and even anger” against the defense are not grounds for stepping down.


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Macon: If approved by Congress after a three-year federal review wraps up this fall, mounds built by Muscogean people who were forcibly removed from their homeland 200 years ago would serve as the gateway to a new Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve, protecting 54 river-miles of floodplain where nearly 900 more sites of cultural or historic significance have been identified. Efforts to expand an existing historical park at the mounds site are in keeping with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s “Tribal Homelands Initiative,” which supports fundraising to buy land and requires federal managers to seek out Indigenous knowledge about resources. “This kind of land acquisition represents the best of what our conservation efforts should look like: collaborative, inclusive, locally led, and in support of the priorities of our country’s tribal nations,” Haaland said at last weekend’s 30th Annual Ocmulgee Indigenous Celebration. In an era when some culture warriors see government as the enemy, years of coalition-building have eliminated any significant opposition to federal management in the reliably Republican center of a long-red state. Hunting will still be allowed, even encouraged, to keep feral hogs from destroying the ecosystem. Georgia’s congressional delegation is on board, and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has been welcomed as an essential partner.


Honolulu: The Maui County Council is pushing a resolution that would allow counties to set higher minimum wages than the state, HawaiiNewsNow reports. Maui leaders endorsed the idea from council member Gabe Johnson, who pointed to variances in the cost of living from one area to another in advocating for the move. Three other county councils would have to approve before the resolution could be considered in the Legislature next year, according to the news outlet.


Boise: The University of Idaho’s plan to build the nation’s largest research dairy and experimental farm cleared a big hurdle Tuesday. Gov. Brad Little and two other statewide-elected officials on the Idaho Land Board approved the university’s plan to use $23 million to buy roughly 640 acres of farmland in south-central Idaho, the heart of the state’s dairy industry. That would be the main focus of the school’s proposed Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. The dairy industry – Idaho’s is the third largest in the nation – faces a range of challenges with greenhouse gas emissions from animals, land and water pollution, and waste systems from dairies that can have thousands of cows that produce tons of manure. University of Idaho President Scott Green said the school hasn’t been able to do the large-scale research the industry needs to find solutions for those and other complex problems. If CAFE succeeds as envisioned, the operation would include an experimental farm and 2,000-cow research dairy in Minidoka County. Classrooms, labs and faculty offices would be constructed in Jerome County near where Interstate 84 and U.S. Route 93 intersect. A food processing pilot plant with a workforce training and education facility would be located at the College of Southern Idaho campus in Twin Falls County.


Chicago: A jury has awarded $363 million to a woman who alleged that a now-shuttered suburban Chicago plant that sterilized medical equipment exposed residents to a toxic industrial gas and gave her breast cancer. After a five-week trial, the Cook County jurors on Monday awarded Sue Kamuda $38 million in compensatory damages for the past and future loss of a normal life, emotional distress, disfigurement and shortened life expectancy, plus $325 million in punitive damages. Kamuda, 70, developed breast cancer in 2007 despite having no predisposition to it, her lawyers said. She is the first of more than 700 people seeking damages from Oak Brook-based Sterigenics to go to trial over health claims over the plant’s releases of ethylene oxide gas. Those lawsuits have been filed against Sterigenics since 2018, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published research showing people living near the plant in the DuPage County village of Willowbrook faced some of the nation’s highest cancer risks from toxic air pollution. Sterigenics, the former plant’s most recent owner, was ordered to pay Kamuda $220 million in punitive damages; parent company Sotera Health was directed to pay $100 million and Griffith Foods, the current name of the plant’s original owner, $5 million.


Indianapolis: The number of fatal overdoses last year in the city soared, eclipsing the number of people who died in shootings and other methods to become the leading cause of death in cases examined by the coroner’s office, according to new data. In its annual report examining trends among the decedents it takes in, the Marion County Coroner’s Office recorded 799 people last year died from accidental drug intoxication. The alarming statistics surpassed the number of people examined by the office who died from heart disease - long at the top of the list - blunt force trauma and firearms for the second year in a row. When accounting for people who died by suicide from an overdose or with an undetermined manner of death, the number of people climbs to 826. While the coroner’s office does not examine every death in the county, meaning some “natural” deaths are not included in the report, officials say the skyrocketing number of overdoses illustrates the worsening drug crisis in the county. “It’s unfortunate that these deaths are rising at such a significant rate,” said Alfarena McGinty, chief deputy coroner. The majority of deaths are linked to the highly lethal synthetic opioid fentanyl, the report shows, accounting for nearly 78% of the deaths. Fentanyl has increasingly been cut in other street drugs in the past few years.


Des Moines: Concerns about air quality and workplace safety at a correctional facility have led a labor union to file a grievance and the facility to conduct air quality testing. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union Council 61, which represents workers in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging unsafe working conditions at the Fort Des Moines Corrections Complex building. In the complaint, filed Aug. 29, the union alleges mold and asbestos in the building are adversely affecting the health of workers and residents. It poses an emergency health risk that officials are not taking seriously, union President Rick Eilander said. Pictures submitted to OSHA as part of the complaint show apparent mold growing on air vents and on floors and pipes. The images also show a pipe leaking a blue and yellow liquid. Eilander wrote in the complaint that the images were taken in the basement and first floor of building 65/66 of the Fort Des Moines Corrections Complex. Jerry Evans, the director of the Fifth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, said given the alleged mold is located in an unoccupied part of the building, it does not pose a direct health risk to employees or residents of the facility.


Topeka: A state law enforcement oversight board reprimanded a sheriff’s deputy who used his Taser on a 12-year-old boy with autism while the boy was handcuffed and hogtied in the deputy’s vehicle but chose not to revoke his law enforcement certification. Former Jackson County Deputy Matthew Honas was found to have used excessive force against the boy and terminated from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in March. The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training said Feb. 23 that Honas tied up the boy, who had run away from foster care, in a way that threatened his ability to breathe properly. Honas was not wearing a body camera, but the encounter was captured on his in-car camera. Honas knew the boy, identified as L.H., was autistic and had struggled with him during a previous encounter, the commission said. Honas “struggled with, shoved, elbowed, applied pressure points, carried, pulled, ‘hog-tied’ and ultimately tased L.H.,” the commission said. The commission said Honas used the Taser on the boy without warning as he was sitting in the patrol vehicle with his feet outside the vehicle. At the time, L.H. was handcuffed behind his back, with the handcuffs connected to shackles on his ankles. Among other things, Honas also refused help from other available officers, did not call a transport van, used profanity and threatened to use his Taser on the boy again, the commission said.


Frankfort: A new website highlights how archaeological sites across the state have contributed knowledge about Kentucky’s history, officials said. Discover Kentucky Archaeology, at, was launched by the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office in partnership with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, a statement from the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said. It includes information on more than 100 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites across 64 counties. The site was launched in September, which is celebrated as Kentucky Archaeology Month. Prehistoric sites include a Native American rockshelter in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and historic sites include Saltpeter Cave, a frontier-era niter mine in Carter County, the statement said. Each archaeological site includes a summary, findings, a focus on “what’s cool” and links to related materials.


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New Orleans: Three small insect-eating raptors called Mississippi kites have been released by Louisiana State University’s wildlife hospital. The release Friday in Baton Rouge was timed so that the birds, which are known for their aerobatics as they chase and grab insects while flying, can migrate to South America, where they winter in Brazil and Argentina. Two flew into nearby trees, but one – brought to the Wildlife Hospital of Louisiana in 2020 as a nestling with a broken leg – excited veterinary students by soaring for a bit before landing, Dr. Mark Mitchell, the hospital’s director, said Friday. He said it almost seemed as if a bird that had taken wing only in a flight cage was saying, “Now I know what these things on my sides are for.” The three had been living in the same flight cage and were held close to each other, then released simultaneously in hopes they would stay together over a journey of 5,000 to 9,000 miles, Mitchell said. The bird brought in as a nestling apparently had fallen from its nest in July 2020, Mitchell said in an interview. He was named Burreaux after quarterback Joe Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy while at LSU and now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals.


Portland: The state of Maine and a fishing group are appealing a federal judge’s decision that new rules intended to protect rare whales must stand. The judge earlier this month denied a request from fishermen to stop federal regulators from placing the new restrictions on lobster fishing. The rules are intended to protect North Atlantic right whales, which number less than 340. Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association said this week that they’re appealing that decision. Lobstermen have long contended the new rules are based on flawed data and are too punitive to the fishing industry. The fishermen sued the National Marine Fisheries Service in the lawsuit. The fishing group is “escalating its fight to save Maine’s lobstering heritage from a plan that the agency itself admits is not needed for the species to survive,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the lobstermen’s association. The whales are vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear and have declined in population in recent years. The state and the fishermen have appealed their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.


Princess Anne: A historic inn where President George Washington reportedly once stayed is on the market. The historic Washington Inn & Tavern, the centerpiece of the Eastern Shore town of Princess Anne, is said to have housed the late president, said Town Manager Clayton Anderson. Built in 1744, before America’s independence from Great Britain and during the reign of King George II, the structure is brimming with history. Now, the town of Princess Anne has put the famed Washington Inn & Tavern up for sale, with a current listing of $1.25 million. Situated in the the Somerset County seat, the two-story colonial structure is located in an area prioritized for economic and community development. Throughout the years, the inn has served as a catalyst for business growth in a district committed to historic preservation, community growth and economic expansion, according to Anderson. The inn was purchased by the town in 2013 after it was found to be in a state of disrepair. Through a public-private partnership among Princess Anne, the state of Maryland and investors, the building underwent significant renovations. Restored to its full glory, it later reopened in 2016. Established public-private agreements require the town to sell the property by 2023, according to a news release this August.


Salem: A man will be sentenced to 18 months of probation after pleading guilty to vandalizing the “Bewitched” statue by dousing the tourist attraction with red paint over the summer. The 32-year-old resident was originally sentenced to a year in jail, but a Salem district court judge suspended the sentence on conditions the man repay the cost of repairing the damage inflicted on the bronze statue, The Salem News reports. The statue depicts actor Elizabeth Montgomery – as lead character Samantha Stephens in the 1960s sitcom – sitting on a broomstick in front of a crescent moon. In June, a prosecutor said the man was “going through a rough time and wanted to do something to get arrested” and was held on bail. His attorney said he had been living in a shelter for two weeks since his marriage ended and had been looking for a new job. He was also charged with disorderly conduct, which will be dismissed after 30 days. The statue was erected in the city famous for the 1692 witch trials in 2005, despite protests from some who said it trivializes the tragedy of the trials.


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Detroit: The city sued the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday over population estimates from last year that show it lost an additional 7,100 residents, opening another front against the agency in a battle over how Detroit’s people have been counted in the past two years. Mayor Mike Duggan told reporters that the city wants the Census Bureau to reveal how it produced its population loss estimates for Detroit. Duggan claimed the bureau was going against its own policy by refusing to divulge to Detroit the way the estimates for the city were calculated and not allowing challenges this year. The lawsuit appears to be the first litigation to challenge population results since the release of 2020 census data, which traditionally has formed the foundation of the annual population estimates. The Census Bureau’s refusal this year to consider evidence that the 2021 population estimates were wrong perpetuates racial inequality and threatens the city’s reputation, Detroit said in its lawsuit. “The Bureau’s failure to consider evidence of its inaccurate 2021 estimate costs the City and its residents millions of dollars of funding to which they are entitled while threatening the City’s historic turnaround by advancing the narrative that Detroit is losing population,” the lawsuit said.


Minneapolis: A federal grand jury has indicted a man accused of threatening to kill a U.S. senator. Brendon Daugherty was being held in the Sherburne County Jail, in Elk River, on charges of threatening to murder a U.S. official and interstate transmission of a threat. Court records do not identify the senator other than to say it was not someone who represented Minnesota. According to the indictment, Daugherty left two threatening voicemail messages at the senator’s field office in June. Field office staff contacted U.S. Capitol Police. FBI agents spoke with Daugherty at his Coon Rapids home Sept. 2. He told the agents that he made the calls because the senator was “doing a bunch of stupid (expletive) with gun control” and that he wants politicians to “feel a little bit pressured,” the Star Tribune reports. According to court records, the 35-year-old Daugherty was convicted in October 2018 of two felony counts for threatening to burn down a Pearl Vision store in Maple Grove and harm the employees. Daugherty was angry that he owed $80 for replacement glasses, according to charges.


Philadelphia: The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has been awarded a $5.8million grant for the construction of an Advanced Workforce Training Center. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced that the department’s Economic Development Administration is awarding the $5.8 million grant to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians for the construction of the Advanced Workforce Training Center. The grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan’s Indigenous Communities Program, a press release said. “Workforce development is a primary focus for our Tribe,” Chief Cyrus Ben said in the press release. “We have undertaken many projects to help our community members prepare to face a challenging and ever-evolving job market. This Workforce Training Center is a key component of our strategy to increase the skills of our Tribal members, whether they choose a career on or outside of our Tribal lands.” Anna Denson, project manager of economic development, said the planning process took more than a year. “As of today, our National Center for construction education and research offers HVAC, electrical and industrial maintenance to tribal employees with very little room, but the goal is to expand with the new center,” Denson said.


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Hartville: A small hamlet in the Ozarks has found itself in the middle of everything. Officials from the nation’s capital unveiled a marker Wednesday designating a spot in tiny Wright County as the center of population in the United States. Dignitaries from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau officially debuted the red granite marker in Hartville. With a population of 594 residents in 2020, the county seat is located 14.6 miles from the actual spot calculated following the 2020 census. Bypassed by interstate highways and railroads, Hartville doesn’t have a big tax base or large industry. The local school, a nursing home, the gas station and the Dollar General store are the largest employers. The nation’s population center is calculated every 10 years after the once-a-decade census shows where people are living. The heart of America has been located in Missouri since 1980. Previously located in Plato, in the neighboring county, it moved only 11.8 miles southwest from 2010 to 2020. It is the smallest distance shift in 100 years and second-smallest in U.S. history. To calculate the center of the U.S., the Census Bureau figures out which spot would be “the balance point” if the 50 states sat on an imaginary, flat surface with weights of identical size – each representing the location of one person – placed on it.


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Bozeman: The state’s fishing economy has proven resilient amid the impacts of drought, but a new study suggests 35% of its cold water habitats could become unsuitable for trout by 2080, costing the state an estimated $192 million in annual revenue. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the University of Montana contributed to the new study titled “Socioeconomic resilience to climatic extremes in a freshwater fishery,” which ran in the journal Science Advances this month, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports. “Trout fisheries have enormous cultural, economic and ecological importance in Montana and worldwide, yet even Montana’s resilient trout fisheries could be vulnerable to future climate change,” Timothy Cline, a USGS scientist and the paper’s lead author, said in a news release. The authors used Montana FWP’s recreation monitoring data to analyze how climate change affected 3,100 miles of the state’s rivers between 1983 and 2017. They found that the concentration of anglers doubled overall within that 34-year time period, and severe drought conditions, which drive stream flows down and water temperatures up, significantly affected how that fishing pressure was distributed across the landscape.


Lincoln: Regents at the University of Nebraska are poised to consider allowing beer sales permanently for Husker events at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. The NU Board of Regents plans to vote on the exemption next week.


Tonopah: A sprawling southern Nevada county that embraced misinformation about electronic voting machines is set to conduct its midterm election this fall using hand-counted paper ballots, a county official confirmed Tuesday. “This is very locked in,” said newly appointed Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf, a 2020 election denier, of his plans to implement the old-fashioned process in a county with roughly 33,000 active registered voters. Nye, the largest county by area in Nevada and the third-largest in the United States, has been at the forefront of the Republican Party’s push to ditch electronic voting – an ongoing effort fueled by ex-President Donald Trump’s false claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 presidential election. Now, less than 50 days before the midterm election, the rural county remains committed to that disinformation campaign despite warnings from experts who say counting ballots by hand could invite more error and fraud. All active registered voters will still receive a mail-in ballot for the general election, Kampf, the county’s top voting official, said in a presentation Tuesday to Nye’s five-member Board of Commissioners. But at the polls, according to Kampf, those casting their votes in person this fall will now fill out paper ballots instead of using a touch screen, although one voting machine will be available at every voting site for people with disabilities and “special needs.”

New Hampshire

Concord: The state is using $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support homeless shelters this winter. The funds, approved earlier this month by the Executive Council and the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, will provide one-time grants to support shelter providers, including short-term cold weather shelters, to address pandemic-related increased costs and anticipated demand as the winter months approach. In a request for the funds, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette wrote that the state contracts with 19 shelter providers for 791 emergency shelter beds, but the health department does not fund temporary cold weather shelters. She wrote that preliminary data for the 2022 Point-in-Time count for New Hampshire shows 1,605 people experiencing homelessness, an increase of 7.6% from 2021. The federal funds will provide $4 million in grants to the existing shelters under contract with the department and $1 million to each county, municipality, nonprofit or coalition to assist with cold weather shelters.

New Jersey

Ridgewood: Will students make it to class more alert and on time if high school starts 45 minutes later? The school district’s parents and teachers were more skeptical than students about any positive outcomes of a later school day start in a 24-page report by K-12 Insights that was presented to the Ridgewood Board of Education on Monday. The report analyzed the results of a district survey distributed in May to parents, students, teachers and community members seeking input about a proposed move of the high school start time from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. The later starting time is the subject of a nationwide educational debate. Multiple studies indicate it’s not video games, computers and cellphones that keep adolescents up late at night – it’s a temporary, puberty-induced shift in teen circadian rhythms that causes them to be “dazed and confused” in the mornings but dissipates in their early 20s. California has taken the lead and introduced a statewide mandate this fall to start high school classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and middle school no earlier than 8 a.m. New Jersey has introduced a similar bill. So far, only a few districts, including Tenafly, Princeton and South Orange/Maplewood, have adopted the later start time.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: A politician and Trump supporter who was removed and barred from elected office for his role in the U.S. Capitol riot Jan. 6, 2021, is attempting to appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court. Cowboys for Trump co-founder and former county commissioner Couy Griffin on Tuesday notified the high court of his intent to appeal. The ruling against Griffin this month from a Santa Fe-based District Court was the first to remove or bar an elected official from office in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol building that disrupted Congress as it was trying to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory. Griffin was previously convicted in federal court of a misdemeanor for entering the Capitol grounds Jan. 6, without going inside the building. He was sentenced to 14 days and given credit for time served. Griffin has invoked free speech guarantees in his defense and said his banishment from public office disenfranchises his political constituents in Otero County. He was barred from office under provisions of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds that anyone who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution can be barred from office for engaging in insurrection or rebellion. The provisions were put in place shortly after the Civil War.

New York

New York: An inmate who jumped into the East River from a jail barge has died, the city Department of Correction announced Wednesday. Gregory Acevedo, 48, was pronounced dead about 11 p.m. Tuesday, 11 hours after he climbed a fence at the Vernon C. Bain Center and jumped into the water, officials said. “Mr. Acevedo’s tragic passing is an immense loss,” Correction Commissioner Louis A. Molina said in a statement. Acevedo had been in custody on a robbery charge since Feb. 27. Police officers pulled him from the water after his jump Tuesday and took him to a hospital, where efforts to revive him failed. He was the 15th person to die this year who was a New York City jail inmate or who had just been released. “Once again, their system failed,” Acevedo’s attorney, Warren Silverman, told the New York Post. “I mean, he shouldn’t have been able to get to any position where he could have harmed himself, and clearly they dropped the ball, as usual.” The state attorney general’s office and the city Department of Investigation conduct separate investigations. The city medical examiner’s office will determine the cause. The Bain Center is a 625-foot barge that was supposed to be temporary when it opened as a jail in 1992. It is docked in the East River near Rikers Island, the city’s main jail complex.

North Carolina

Raleigh: The state has made one more pitch to host the 2027 World University Games, as the committee evaluating North Carolina’s bid visited the region Tuesday. A panel of the International University Sports Federation visited the Executive Mansion, where Gov. Roy Cooper presented its members with an official bid book. The other finalist is Chungcheong province, South Korea. A final announcement is expected in November. North Carolina’s proposal would cover the “University Hub” region designated as including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary and Greensboro. There are more than 130 colleges, universities and community college statewide. The summer World University Games attracts 7,000 athletes from ages 18 to 25 from more than 150 countries and 600 universities. The nearly two-week event features 15 required sports, including swimming, track and field and basketball, as well as optional sports proposed by the local host city. The state has set aside $25 million to support the games if North Carolina is named the host.

North Dakota

McHenry: A driver charged with fatally striking a teenager allegedly told investigators he purposely hit the teen with his SUV after they had a political argument, according to court documents. Cayler Ellingson, 18, was struck and killed following a street dance in McHenry early Sunday. The driver accused of striking Ellingson in an alley, Shannon Brandt, 41, is charged in Foster County with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death. Jail records from Stutsman County, where Brandt was being held, show he posted $50,000 bond Tuesday and was released. His attorney did not immediately return a call for comment. Brandt told investigators he left the scene after striking Ellingson, returned briefly, called 911 and then left again, according to a probable cause affidavit. The court document said Brandt told investigators he had been drinking alcohol before striking Ellingson, thought the teen was calling people to do him harm after they argued, and felt threatened. Ellingson was rushed to a hospital in Carrington, where he was pronounced dead. Investigators arrested Brandt at his home in Glenfield later Sunday. Officials said he consented to a chemical breath test that showed his blood alcohol content was above 0.08%, the legal limit to drive.


Replanting cacti, Muscogean heritage, Joe Exotic: News from around our 50 states (8)

Columbus: A conservative podcaster who embraces ex-President Donald Trump’s discredited claims of a stolen 2020 election is eligible to run for Ohio secretary of state this fall, the state’s high court ruled Tuesday. Terpeshore “Tore” Maras, who calls President Joe Biden “resident not president” and embraces aspects of the QAnon conspiracy in her “Tore Says” podcast, will appear on ballots as an independent. She faces Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Democratic challenger Chelsea Clark. The Ohio Supreme Court split 4-2 in its ruling, with Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, joining the court’s three Democrats, Justices Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer dissenting, and Justice Sharon Kennedy not participating. The decision marks the latest twist in Maras’ roller-coaster bid to seek the office overseeing Ohio elections. She previously met the deadline to run as a Republican candidate for the ballot back in February but fell short of the required valid signatures. LaRose’s office later cleared her to run as an independent, but a Republican official – acting in his capacity as an Ohio voter – filed a challenge, asserting a number of her signatures were invalid. A judge ruled in the official’s favor, and LaRose’s office upheld that decision and invalidated her candidacy.


Replanting cacti, Muscogean heritage, Joe Exotic: News from around our 50 states (9)

Wynnewood: Joe Exotic is suing a songwriter who revealed in media interviews that Exotic was lip-syncing the catchy tune “I Saw a Tiger” in a music video seen in the Netflix documentary about his life. He accuses songwriter Vince Johnson of copyright infringement for releasing an album in 2020 featuring that song and four others. The former zookeeper was convicted at trial in 2019 of hiring two men to kill his chief critic, Carole Baskin, and of crimes involving his animals. He became well-known worldwide a year later after Netflix released “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” He was ordered in January to serve 21 years in federal prison after an appeals court threw out his original sentence. He claims he is innocent and is seeking a new trial on newly discovered evidence and other grounds. His attorney, John M. Phillips, filed the lawsuit Monday seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and a permanent ban on further “unauthorized use” of his songs. In the lawsuit, he goes by the name Joseph Maldonado. In interviews, Johnson said he began writing songs for the zookeeper in 2013. He said a bandmate, Danny Clinton, who died in 2019, was the singer. “I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs,” he told Vanity Fair for an article about his involvement.


Portland: Thousands of families who expected their children to start tuition-free, state-provided preschool this month remain in limbo because of staffing shortages that caused delays getting contracts to nearly 250 involved preschools. The Early Learning Division, which has overseen the Preschool Promise program since its 2016 inception, took over contracting duties from the Oregon Department of Education this year and has struggled to get contracts inked. It has yet to send paperwork to most of the 248 preschools in the program that serves families living at or below 200% of the federal poverty line, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports. Many facilities new to the program or those expanding services are hesitant to accept children enrolled in Preschool Promise until they have a signed contract and payment for the care is assured, the newspaper reports. The agency now says the preschools chosen to serve an estimated 6,381 children must open no later than Oct. 30. It could not say when all contracts would be signed. The total number of children marks an expected increase of more than 2,000 slots from last year. “It’s super hard on families,” said Molly Day, director of Early Learning Multnomah, one of 16 regional hubs that helps coordinate Preschool Promise enrollment.


Middletown: A prosecutor announced charges in juvenile court Tuesday against 10 students in connection with alleged hazing of high school football players that prompted cancellation of the team’s season. Dauphin County prosecutors said two Middletown players will face attempted sexual assault charges, and eight others face other counts in connection with hazing that authorities said targeted at least six players from ages 14 to 17. “This investigation did not involve just hazing or ‘boys will be boys’ conduct,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gettle said in a news release from the office of District Attorney Fran Chardo. “Rather, two of these individuals committed repeated sexual assaults and encouraged others to participate under the guise of hazing.” Superintendent Chelton Hunter earlier said that team members had been in the high school turf room used for heat acclimation practice sessions when an Aug. 11 cellphone video showed “a group of students restraining two of their teammates and using a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment” to poke their buttock areas. The players remained fully clothed, and no penetration appeared to have occurred, he said, calling the video difficult to watch and the acts “completely unacceptable, offensive, and highly inappropriate.”

Rhode Island

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Woonsocket: Former Mayor Susan Menard, whose body was found Monday in her home, was “a strong leader” who was especially good to the city’s senior citizens, the current mayor recalled Wednesday. “She certainly had her own style, but the people of the city of Woonsocket certainly liked and enjoyed her leadership, electing her to seven terms,” Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said in an interview. The Woonsocket police went to Menard’s residence Monday after a neighbor called and said he hadn’t seen Menard or the man who also lived in the house for “a couple of weeks,” police said. Officers forced their way in through a rear window and found two bodies in separate rooms, Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas F. Oates III said Tuesday, but they were decomposed, and the medical examiner needed to identify the remains. The state Medical Examiners office said Wednesday morning that it had identified one of them as Menard. The identity of the second person, described as a man in his 70s, has not yet been confirmed, and the causes of death for both are still being investigated, the office said. The police saw no evidence that a crime had been committed, Oates said. “She was and is the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history,” Baldelli-Hunt said, noting that Menard was also the city’s first woman to be elected mayor and first female City Council president.

South Carolina

Columbia: Seven mothers have given up their babies in South Carolina so far in 2022, more than any year since the state passed its safe haven law more than two decades ago. The babies were all given up at hospitals, according to data from the Department of Social Services obtained by The State newspaper. Daniel’s Law allows babies younger than 2 months old to be turned over to the state at safe places like hospitals, fire stations, police departments or churches if someone is there. Before 2022, the most babies given up in a year was six, in 2016 and 2019. Four babies have been adopted, while the last three are currently in the Family Court system, DSS spokesperson Danielle Jones said. The agency isn’t guessing why 2022 has been the busiest year for Daniel’s Law. The babies turned over to the state have been twins in Anderson County, a boy in Greenville County, a girl in Spartanburg County, a boy in Dorchester County, a boy in Greenwood County and a girl in Lexington County. The General Assembly passed Daniel’s Law in 2001 after a newborn boy was found abandoned at an old dump in Allendale County, alive but covered in fire ant bites, by a mother who never told her parents she was pregnant or went to the doctor and who gave birth in her bathroom.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem is facing a lawsuit after her office refused to release expense records on five out-of-state trips this year to a liberal watchdog group. American Oversight, an organization that files open records requests and litigation against Republican officials, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Noem, who is in the midst of a reelection campaign and eyeing a bid for the GOP’s 2024 presidential ticket. It alleges that the governor’s office did not follow the state’s open records law by claiming that releasing the records would create a threat to the governor’s safety. In May, the organization had requested expense records, including lodging and travel, for 2022 trips Noem had taken to a Las Vegas hunting convention, a pair of Republican Party events in Wyoming and New York, the Conservative Political Action Conference, and a campaign event for Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Lee in Utah. American Oversight also said that South Dakota’s Department of Labor and Regulation has not responded to its records request for legal expenses associated with negotiating a $200,000 settlement agreement with a former state employee, Sherry Bren. She had filed an age discrimination complaint after she was pressured to retire by Marcia Hultman, Noem’s labor secretary. Hultman began asking for Bren’s retirement in the weeks after Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, completed her real estate appraiser licensure – a process in which Noem took a hands-on role.


Nashville: Vanderbilt University will be the host campus for the Clinton Global Initiative University annual meeting in 2023, the Clinton Foundation said Tuesday. Chelsea Clinton, the foundation’s vice chair, made the announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative’s two-day meeting of international dignitaries in New York. The initiative aims to create partnerships among political, business and philanthropic leaders. According to a news release, next year’s gathering at Vanderbilt will allow students to collaborate with leaders, innovators and experts on solving “humanity’s most pressing problems,” ranging from social to economic to environmental challenges. “Our university and the Clinton Foundation share the beliefs that collaboration brings out the best in humanity and that diverse perspectives and open dialogue are needed to drive innovation and discovery,” Daniel Diermeier, chancellor of Vanderbilt University, said in a statement. More than 11,000 students have participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University program, coming from 163 counties and all 50 states. Previous hosts include the University of Chicago, Howard University, and member schools of the American Association of Community Colleges.


Replanting cacti, Muscogean heritage, Joe Exotic: News from around our 50 states (11)

San Antonio: Alarmed parents converged on a high school Tuesday after a classroom shooting report that ultimately proved to be false. The siege at Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio began about 1 p.m. Tuesday after police received a call of a possible shooting in progress at the school, according to a police statement. The school was placed on lockdown as police entered and began clearing the campus but found no evidence of an active threat or shooting. “Our department and San Antonio Police Department established there was no shooting, but then we had to do a methodical search room by room with our strike teams,” said Chief Johnny Reyes of the San Antonio Independent School District police. “We went to the place where they said the shooting had occurred, and we were able to quickly establish that no shooting had happened.” Instead, some students were found to have had an altercation, but they denied having or displaying a weapon at any point, Reyes said. But frightened students already had made alarming telephone calls to their parents, who descended en masse on the school where 29 school district officers and 58 city police officers were on hand. One man shoved his fist through a window in an effort to gain entry to the school, lacerating his arm. Others were handcuffed and detained after physically struggling with officers.


Salt Lake City: A family has reached a $3 million settlement with the city in a lawsuit filed after officers shot a 13-year-old boy with autism, leaving him badly wounded after responding to his mother’s 911 call for help when he had a breakdown. The September 2020 shooting drew widespread scrutiny and was one of several around the U.S. in recent years that have fueled questions how police respond to calls involving people with mental illness. The boy, Linden Cameron, now 15, survived but suffered life-changing injuries and emotional trauma that still “haunt him and his family,” said family attorney Nathan Morris in a statement Tuesday announcing the settlement. Cameron’s family accepted the settlement to avoid more emotional trauma that would have come over years spent waiting for the lawsuit to reach trial, Morris said. A separate probe by prosecutors to determine if criminal charges will be filed against the officer is ongoing and could have delayed the family’s lawsuit even longer, he said. “There are mixed emotions by the family,” Morris said. “It is a huge relief to be done with this case, but at the same time we would liked to take this case forward to shine light on some of the issues.” After the shooting, Salt Lake City began providing training for police, fire and dispatch officers about how to best engage with people who have sensory needs like Cameron. That training will continue, said Salt Lake City spokesman Andrew Wittenberg.


Burlington: Mandatory testing for lead in drinking water – and repairs to keep that water safe – has been completed at 98% of the state’s schools and child care centers, the Vermont Health Department said Wednesday. The state passed a law in 2019 requiring schools and child care facilities to test their drinking and cooking water for lead, a highly toxic metal. Roughly 1 in 5 taps had elevated lead levels out of the more than 15,000 taps tested between June 2019 and December 2021. Lead exposure can slow children’s growth, impair development and learning, and cause behavioral problems. Lead was more frequently found in water fixtures, rather than plumbing, which made fixes both easier and less expensive. The state provided funding to reimburse schools and child care centers for remediation costs, 90% of which cost less than $500. “We take very seriously our responsibility to protect and promote the health and safety of children in early care and education programs,” said Commissioner Sean Brown of the Agency of Human Services’ Child Development Division. “Collaborative efforts like this help ensure that children in Vermont have positive, safe learning environments in which they can grow and develop.”


Martinsville: A marker has been dedicated in front of the old Henry County Courthouse recognizing the Martinsville Seven, a group of Black men executed in 1951 over an alleged rape. “Here in 1949, six all-white, all-male juries convicted seven Black men of the rape of a white woman. All seven men were sentenced to death. On appeal, NAACP attorneys submitted the first petition to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that capital punishment had been disproportionately applied against African Americans in violation of the 14th Amendment. Despite international attention and petitions for clemency, the Commonwealth of Virginia executed the men in Feb. 1951, the most executions for a rape in U.S. history,” the marker says. The old Henry County Courthouse is now the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center and Museum, inside which a display recounts the day in 1949 when Ruby Floyd told police she had been raped. Francis Grayson, Frank Hairston Jr., Howard Hairston, James Hairston, Joe Hampton, Booker Millner and John Taylor were arrested and confessed. The defense argued the encounter was consensual, and the confessions were coerced, but all seven men were found guilty and sentenced to death. The NAACP failed in its appeal, and over just four days, the seven were put to death by the electric chair in Richmond.


Seattle: Next year voters will decide whether the city should set up a public developer to create affordable housing. The Seattle Times reports the City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday to allow King County Elections to put the proposed Initiative 135 on the ballot of a special election to be held Feb. 14, 2023. If I-135 passes, it would create a public development authority, called the Seattle Social Housing Developer, to construct homes and take over existing properties using government and philanthropic funding to create renter-governed housing. Those who favor the initiative say housing would be protected from rental market forces in one of the nation’s most expensive cities.

West Virginia

Charleston: Walmart and CVS Pharmacy have settled with the state of West Virginia for a combined total of $147 million in a lawsuit over the companies’ roles in contributing to the oversupply of prescription drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the country’s most impacted state, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Tuesday. Walmart and CVS were two lawsuits that were part of a larger trial that was pushed back to June of next year along with Kroger and Walgreens. Morrisey recently announced a settlement with Rite Aid for up to $30 million to resolve similar litigation. The lawsuits allege the pharmacies’ contributions to the oversupply of prescription opioids in the state have caused “significant losses through their past and ongoing medical treatment costs, including for minors born addicted to opioids, rehabilitation costs, naloxone costs, medical examiner expenses, self-funded state insurance costs and other forms of losses to address opioid-related afflictions and loss of lives.” It brings the total settlements by the state in opioid lawsuits to $875 million, including $296 million with manufacturers, $400 million with wholesalers and $177.5 million involving pharmacies.


Madison: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels has called on Gov. Tony Evers to halt all paroles in the state, even though a governor can’t unilaterally order them to stop, and some paroles are mandated by law. Michels has been hitting Evers as being soft on crime, accusing the Democrat in a letter Monday of sympathizing with and coddling “brutal, convicted criminals.” Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback said it would be illegal to do as Michels wants and called the request “an uninformed stunt to score political points by someone who has no regard or appreciation for the laws of our state.” Michels and Evers are knotted in a tight contest in the battleground state that polls show is about even. Michaels, who is endorsed by ex-President Donald Trump and is the co-owner of the state’s largest construction company, has been attacking Evers over his parole policies and his response to violent protests in Kenosha two years ago that followed the shooting of Black man Jacob Blake by a white police officer. Wisconsin’s parole commission, which operates independently of the governor, has granted about 460 discretionary paroles not required by law, something that both Republican and Democratic governors before Evers also routinely granted.


Jackson: Rockslides have seemingly been ramping up in the Tetons, mountain guides say, and scientists are pointing to climate change as a likely culprit, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports. The anecdotal increase in rockfall in the mountain range comes as warmer temperatures take their toll on glaciers, which long covered the Tetons. Simeon Caskey, head of the physical science branch at Grand Teton National Park, told the newspaper that so-called weathering is behind much of the rockfall, with shifting water and ice leading to changes in the geologic structure of the area. “We’ve seen from some studies in the Alps that rockfall is happening more frequently at higher elevations as a result of climate change and increased temperatures and increased extreme rainfall events,” he said, calling that European mountain range an “appropriate analogue for what’s happening in the Tetons.”

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

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