Tuscaloosa: The Alabama Stone has been at the center of a mystery since its discovery in 1817, but a local man with a passion for history believes he’s unraveled its biggest question. Many have speculated about the meaning of the number 1232 scratched into the rock along with a Latin inscription, calling it everything from an enigma to a hoax. “I started looking at it and wondered why they couldn’t figure out what this number is on this stone,” Ken Willis said. “That’s been disputed now for 200 years.” The words seem to read: “HISPAN ET IND REX,” roughly translated to “King of Spain and the Indies,” echoing words carved on Spanish coins. Willis believes the stone is likely both an indication of a land claim left when explorer Hernando de Soto passed through the area in 1540 and a mileage marker, with the oft-debated number an indication of how far the spot was from Spain. Willis credited his work as a bridge inspector for the Alabama Department of Transportation with giving him insight. In modern terms, 1,232 Spanish nautical leagues is almost exactly the distance from Spain to the point on the Black Warrior River where the marker was found. “I like to have fell out of my chair,” Willis said. “I couldn’t believe it. How could I, 200 years later, come up with it? It’s only because of GPS.”
Juneau: Additional programs have launched aimed at providing pandemic aid to Tlingit and Haida tribal members and to shareholders of an Alaska Native corporation whose shareholder base is of Tlingit and Haida descent. One of the programs, from the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, is offering up to $1,000 in aid to tribal members who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The other, from Goldbelt Inc., is making available up to $2,600 per shareholder. Shareholders must be U.S. citizens and be able to show a financial impact from the pandemic to be eligible, KTOO Public Media reports. Nathan Johnson recently applied for one of the $1,000 grants. He used to work seasonal jobs in Angoon, but the pandemic hit the economy there hard, and he moved to Juneau for work opportunities. Grandparents in Angoon have been looking after his three children, whom he wants to bring to Juneau. He has been working at a restaurant and saving for an apartment for his family. He said $1,000 would be a “big help,” and submitting his application felt like a “big mountain off his shoulders.” Funding for the Tlingit and Haida program comes from a federal recovery package passed by Congress earlier this year.
Phoenix: The delivery of a report on the 2020 vote count to state Senate Republicans was delayed yet again Monday after the Donald Trump supporter hired to lead the effort and several others involved contracted COVID-19 “and are quite sick,” the Senate GOP leader said. The unprecedented partisan review from Cyber Ninjas, a small cybersecurity consultant with no election experience, has so far taken more than double the expected 60 days. The report, commissioned by Senate Republicans and funded mostly by Trump allies promoting his unsupported election fraud narrative, will not immediately be made public. Rather, two senior Republican senators will review it along with lawyers and advisers to decide whether the findings are supported by evidence. Republican Senate President Karen Fann said anything lacking sufficient backing will be removed. Election experts have been highly critical of the review, which Fann launched late last year as Trump and his allies hunted unsuccessfully for reasons to block the Jan. 6 certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. Election experts say Cyber Ninjas and its subcontracts are biased and incompetent, and they’re using bizarre, ever-changing procedures that could not produce reliable results. Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan has spread false conspiracy theories about the election.
Fayetteville: Attorneys for former reality TV star Josh Duggar have filed motions seeking to dismiss child pornography charges against him. The motions ask for the dismissal of the two charges and to suppress evidence in the case, including all statements Duggar made to investigators, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. The documents, filed Friday, allege that prosecutors failed to preserve potentially exculpatory evidence and that the two acting secretaries of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at the time of the investigation weren’t properly appointed. The motions to suppress evidence say investigators took Duggar’s cellphone before he could call his lawyer and questioned him without his lawyer present. Duggar, who appeared in TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” was indicted in April on two counts of downloading and possessing child pornography, some of which prosecutors said depicted sexual abuse of toddlers. He has pleaded not guilty. Duggar has been confined to the home of family friends who agreed to be his custodian during his release, and he is prohibited from using internet-accessible devices as he awaits trial. “19 Kids and Counting” was canceled following revelations that Duggar had molested four sisters and a babysitter. He also previously apologized for a pornography addiction and cheating on his wife.
South Lake Tahoe: An army of firefighters worked Tuesday to try to keep a huge wildfire from pushing toward Lake Tahoe, the blue alpine lake surrounded by resort communities straddling the California-Nevada state line. The Caldor Fire, growing explosively at times, has scorched about 184 square miles and destroyed at least 455 homes since breaking out Aug. 14 in the Sierra Nevada southwest of Lake Tahoe. Just 9% contained and a threat to more than 17,000 structures, the Caldor Fire has become the nation’s No. 1 priority for firefighting resources, said Chief Thom Porter, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “It is knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe basin,” he said at a Monday briefing. “We have all efforts in place to keep it out of the basin, but we do need to also be aware that is a possibility based on the way the fires have been burning.” Porter said he personally did not believe the fire would get into the basin but could be proved wrong, given the extraordinary behavior of current fires, such as the 1,142-square-mile Dixie Fire to the north in the Sierra-Cascades region. “Mother Nature has taken over and taken fires like the Dixie to places that I never thought was possible,” he said. The Dixie Fire, burning for more than a month, was 41% contained after destroying at least 1,262 buildings.
Fort Collins: Drones have become increasingly popular among outdoor hobbyists, prompting state wildlife officials to voice concerns about the stress the buzzing aircraft can cause wildlife, especially as fall hunting seasons begin and animals prepare for winter. The Federal Aviation Administration said there were 1.1 million small hobbyist drones in the U.S. in 2016, a number that is expected to triple to 3.5 million this year. Colorado Parks and Wildlife Field Services Assistant Director Heather Dugan said harassing wildlife with a drone is illegal. “The definition of harassment is causing any change in the behavior of the wildlife,” Dugan said in a news release. “So if the animal runs, if it changes direction, if it stops eating, that’s harassment. Any change in the animal is considered harassment and it’s illegal.” Use of drones is prohibited for hunting before, during or after outings in Colorado, Dugan said. “The bottom line is, if it’s related to a hunt in any way, you can’t do it,” Dugan said. “For scouting, locating, anything. If they fly before they take an animal, they’re illegal. If they use the drone to locate an animal they may have shot and wounded, they’re illegal.” Penalties for violating drone laws can range from $70 up to $125,000 if hunting purposes are involved, with equipment subject to seizure.
Bristol: A woman who had a package stolen from her front step discovered the culprit was a black bear. Kristin Levine, of Bristol, posted home surveillance video on Facebook on Monday showing the bear sauntering across her driveway with the Amazon package in its mouth. “Yea so if anyone sees an Amazon package in the Chippens Hill area with my name on it…feel free to bring it back?” Levine wrote in her post. She told NBC Connecticut she received an alert from her security system about five minutes after Amazon dropped off the package and was “taken aback because I wasn’t expecting anyone else in my driveway.” The bear, she said, ended up dropping off the parcel in a neighbor’s yard. It was apparently not interested in the contents: several rolls of toilet paper, she said. “It was hysterical, like I said. I knew nothing in there was going to be irreplaceable, so it was a fun afternoon for sure,” Levine said. Her post on Facebook received numerous comments, including from people comparing the ursine porch pirate to the bear from the Charmin toilet paper commercials.
Georgetown: The Indian River School District Board of Education voted “no confidence” in Gov. John Carney’s mask mandate Monday night and voted to submit a petition asking for the emergency order to be reconsidered or revised. The no-confidence vote is a largely symbolic action. Indian River students will still have to wear masks this year. “We are trying to work within the rules that are set in front of us, and we’re speaking out as a board,” Board President Rodney Layfield said. “I think this was what we could do to exercise ... what little local control we have within our district.” The decision seemed to appease the 125 or so people who came to the meeting for the district that serves nearly 10,600 students. They cheered at the no-confidence vote, which came after many took the opportunity to comment in opposition to the mask requirement. The board twice extended the comment period to accommodate speakers. Carney announced Aug. 10 that everyone kindergarten-age and older in public and private schools and child care centers must wear face coverings indoors, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. The mandate is based on Aug. 5 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but Indian River board member Charles Hattier said that “the governor is not following good science.”
District of Columbia
Washington: As refugees fleeing Afghanistan relocate to the U.S. capital region, a restaurant specializing in Afghan cuisine is trying to help those in need, WUSA-TV reports. Lapis, a Michelin-recognized bistro in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, put out a call for donations on its Instagram page, asking anyone who wants to donate supplies to drop them off at the restaurant. “The outpour of love and support is just astonishing,” co-owner Fatima Popal said. “We are truly, truly humbled by not only the donations but the people who are coming through here.” She said many of the volunteers who are spending time in the basement of her family’s business donated items themselves. “We did it because we needed to do something, and we couldn’t sit idle,” Popal said. She said the support has been so overwhelming that keeping track of the number of volunteers and donated items has been hard. A neighbor even donated extra space to help store the donations, which will be delivered to families with the help of resettlement agencies. “It feels really good to me to be a part of the community and support the work they’re doing for our new community that’s immigrating here,” volunteer Miranda Beebe said. “I just knew it was a way we can all pull together and make sure the America we want them to know be represented that way.”
Orlando: Walt Disney World will now require union employees as well as non-union and salaried workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to keep their jobs at the theme park. The deal was reached Monday with a union coalition, shortly after the Pfizer vaccine earned full Food and Drug Administration approval. It requires the workers to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 22 to remain employed, although they can request exemptions for medical or religious reasons, a union statement said. Any employee who doesn’t comply or request an exemption will be “separated from the company with a ‘yes’ rehire status,” according to the Service Trades Council Union. Before layoffs and furloughs due to the pandemic, the coalition covered about 43,000 of 77,000 Disney World workers. Disney announced last month that all non-union hourly and salaried employees would be required to receive the vaccine within 60 days. The company also asked all employees who were working from home to show proof of vaccination before returning to work. The company will hold on-site inoculation events for employees over the next several weeks, the union statement said.
Stone Mountain: The board that oversees a park near Atlanta voted Monday for a new logo that excludes the park’s giant mountainside carving of Confederate leaders. It’s another change by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to address criticism of the park’s Confederate legacy and shore up its finances. The board voted in May to relocate Confederate flags from a busy walking trail up the side of the mountain and create a museum exhibit that acknowledges the site’s connection to the Ku Klux Klan. The previous logo included a picture of the famous carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. The new logo includes an image of a lake inside the park and a side of the mountain where the carving isn’t visible. Critics have called on the board to remove the colossal sculpture from the mountain’s northern face. Completed in 1972, it measures 190 feet across and 90 feet tall. It is the largest Confederate monument ever crafted and has special protection in Georgia law. Work on the Stone Mountain sculpture languished until the state bought the mountain in 1958 for a park. Finishing the monument gained renewed urgency amid resistance from Georgia and other Southern states to the civil rights movement and efforts to end segregation. Today, the site markets itself as a family theme park.
Honolulu: The governor is asking visitors and residents to reduce travel to the islands to essential business only as the state struggles to control COVID-19. Gov. David Ige said Monday that he wants to curtail travel to Hawaii through the end of October. “It is a risky time to be traveling right now,” he said. He said restaurant capacity has been restricted, and there’s limited access to rental cars. Ige stopped short of a mandate, saying it’s a different time now than last year, when strict travel rules that required quarantining essentially shut down Hawaii’s tourism industry. “Last year in March, when I first asked for visitors to postpone travel to the islands, we saw a 60% reduction in the traffic to Hawaii,” Ige said. “And then, certainly, ordering the mandatory quarantine of all incoming visitors reduced travel to the islands by 99.5%, essentially 100% of travelers.” Things are different now with vaccines available and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying fully vaccinated people can travel domestically. Ige said he supports Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s announcement to restrict indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25. Blangiardi said the rules taking effect Wednesday would apply to weddings and other events.
Boise: The Idaho Supreme Court has rejected a new law designed to make it harder for voters to get initiatives on the ballot, saying the legislation was so restrictive that it violated a fundamental right under the state’s constitution. The ruling issued Monday was a win for Reclaim Idaho, a group that successfully sponsored a Medicaid expansion initiative three years ago and is now working to qualify an initiative for the ballot that aims to increase public education funding. Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said in a statement that members of the House Republican Caucus were disappointed by the ruling. He said the law would have increased voter involvement, “especially in the corners of the state too often forgotten by some.” Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville said the ruling means thousands of Idaho residents are “breathing sighs of relief.” Passed earlier this year, the new law required signature-gatherers to get 6% of registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts within a short time span. Opponents said it made Idaho’s initiative process the toughest in the nation, rendering such efforts virtually impossible to achieve. But supporters said the law would protect people with less popular political opinions from being overrun by the majority.
Chicago: A gunshot detection system that has cost the city tens of millions of dollars and is touted as a critical component of the police department’s effort to combat gun violence rarely produces evidence of gun-related crime, Chicago’s watchdog agency concluded. In a scathing report released Tuesday, the Office of Inspector General’s Public Safety section said the police department data it examined “does not support a conclusion that ShotSpotter is an effective tool in developing evidence of gun-related crime.” And, the office concluded, if the department has information that shows ShotSpotter plays a key role in developing such evidence, its “record-keeping practices are obstructing a meaningful analysis of the effectiveness of the technology.” The inspector general’s office found that between Jan. 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021, just over 50,000 ShotSpotter alerts were confirmed as probable gunshots, but actual evidence of a gun-related crime was found in only about 4,500 instances, or roughly 9%. The report is the latest blow to a system that has come under scrutiny, particularly in Chicago, after it set in motion the fatal police shooting of a 13-year-old boy last March. And an Associated Press review released last week found serious flaws in the use of ShotSpotter as evidentiary support for prosecutors.
Indianapolis: A study by Early Learning Indiana sheds light on which areas across the state are lacking accessibility and availability of quality early childhood care and education. Only 25% of children in the state have access to high-quality preschool, it finds. The Closing the Gap report uses new methodology to analyze availability, accessibility and quality of early learning opportunities in each of Indiana’s 92 counties and highlights some disparities between the state’s urban centers and rural communities. Early Learning Indiana President and CEO Maureen Weber said it’s important for all Hoosiers, regardless of socioeconomic status, to have access to and take advantage of early learning opportunities. “We know that access to high-quality early learning services is truly foundational to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond,” Weber said, “and also has great bearing on family self-sufficiency and community resiliency.” The goal of the study was to provide decision-makers with more than just an overall capacity count, Weber said – Early Learning Indiana wanted them to understand the nature of those seats, both their accessibility and availability.
Indianola: The Indianola School Board has tabled discussions about dumping the district’s Indian mascot to focus its attention on fighting the spread of coronavirus in school buildings. The board decided at a meeting Monday to postpone acting on any mascot changes until after the November election, in which at least three board seats will be decided at the polls. “This is not our priority,” school board member Carolyn Langenwalter said. “I’m not disagreeing that we should talk about it, but I think it’s something we delay until we get through the pandemic.” The board’s decision comes as schools, cities and athletic teams across the country are changing or reconsidering mascots considered to be culturally insensitive. Last year, the city of Indianola voted to remove Native American imagery from its city logo, including from police cars, badges and patches.
Topeka: People who oppose mask requirements or restrictions on public gatherings imposed by counties can challenge them in court and obtain a ruling within 10 days – at least for now – because of a decision Tuesday by the state’s highest court. The Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling could discourage counties from imposing mask mandates to deal with the two-month surge in coronavirus cases tied to the more contagious delta variant. It also could cause school boards to hesitate as well, though most of them are not directly affected. The court granted a stay allowing enforcement of the pandemic-inspired law until it can rule on Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that declared the law unconstitutional. The GOP-led Legislature passed the law in March to restrict the power of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and county officials during emergencies. The Supreme Court’s order, signed by Chief Justice Marla Luckert, didn’t explain why it granted the stay, though it could indicate that the justices feel Schmidt’s appeal has merit. The state’s COVID-19 cases have been surging at levels not seen since late January, when vaccines still weren’t widely available, with 1,208 new cases per day for the seven-day period that ended Monday. Hospitals also have been stressed for weeks.
Frankfort: The state is seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and intensive care units as cases are driven up by the fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday. More than 20 Kentucky hospitals are confronting critical staffing shortages, and some hospitals are converting space to treat the influx of ICU patients, the governor said. “Our hospitalizations have been doubling just about every two weeks,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. “And folks, that means we are getting really close to every single bed across the entire commonwealth that we can staff being full.” Some hospitals have begun delaying elective surgeries. Beshear presented grim statistics to show the severity of the surge. The state had 2,596 new COVID-19 cases – a pandemic high for any Monday in Kentucky – and 17 more virus-related deaths. More than 1,890 virus patients were reported hospitalized in Kentucky, including 529 in intensive care units, he said. A record 301 Kentucky virus patients were on ventilators. The surge comes as the Republican-dominated Legislature assumes considerably more control over the commonwealth’s response to COVID-19 after the state Supreme Court on Saturday cleared the way for laws limiting the governor’s emergency powers to take effect.
New Orleans: The state is considering which of three areas will become the first site dominated by a river delta in a federally sponsored network to protect, study and teach about estuaries. Nine virtual town hall meetings – three each about the Atchafalaya, Barataria and Pontchartrain basins – have been scheduled in September to tell people statewide about the program and hear their thoughts. Louisiana is among seven coastal states that are not part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System guided and largely paid for by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s the only Gulf Coast state without such a reserve, though variety is more important than state-by-state inclusion. And Louisiana’s will be unique, said Joelle Gore, stewardship division chief of NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management. There’s a small delta in Alaska’s 372,000-acre Kachemak Bay reserve, and Alabama’s Weeks Bay reserve is within the extensive Mississippi River delta region, she said Friday. But “the dominance of that system in Louisiana is unlike any other,” she said. Estuaries are brackish bodies of water usually found where rivers meet the sea.
Belfast: A 25-foot inflatable duck named Joy disappeared over the weekend, as mysteriously as it arrived, after bringing days of delight to a seaside community. The rubber ducky was removed from the harbor sometime Saturday, likely because of concerns about Tropical Storm Henri, Belfast Harbor Master Katherine Given told the Bangor Daily News. Despite the weather concerns, Given said, people were upset to see the duck leave the harbor. The duck’s arrival there two weekends ago remains a mystery. But Given said she received an anonymous letter from someone claiming to be responsible. “JOY simply is fowl play. In this day in age of such bitter divisiveness in our country, we wanted to put forth a reminder of our commonalities instead of our differences,” the letter said. “Nothing embodies childhood more than being in a warm bath with your rubber ducky – the joy of not having a care in the world other than having to remember to wash behind our ears.” Will the ducky return? That’s not known – but the letter alluded to the duck landing somewhere else after Belfast.
Annapolis: More than 200,000 residents have gained health insurance coverage during a coronavirus special enrollment period. Maryland Health Connection announced Tuesday that a total of 201,141 people had enrolled since March 2020. The 17-month special enrollment period in response to the pandemic was one of the longest of any state in the country. It was extended several times as the emergency continued and ended Aug. 15. Maryland Health Connection is administered by the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. More than 1.3 million Marylanders are currently covered through Maryland Health Connection – about 1.2 million in Medicaid and more than 165,000 in private coverage, with nearly 80% qualifying for financial help. That’s up 12% compared to before the pandemic. The next opportunity for Marylanders to enroll in private health insurance through Maryland Health Connection will begin Nov. 1 for the 2022 coverage year.
Malden: The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education overwhelmingly approved a measure Tuesday that gives Education Commissioner Jeff Riley the authority to issue a universal mask mandate for K-12 schools. Riley is expected to formally issue an indoor mandate this week and has previously said it would last through Oct. 1, or for about the first month of the new school year. A mandate would mark a shift for the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker, which had previously left face covering decisions up to individual districts. “Ultimately, we believe that vaccinations will be the most important factor in bringing this pandemic to an end,” Riley said. “We know that a return this fall to full-time, in-person instruction is crucial. And after the challenges of last year, it will be incredibly important for this year to get off on a strong start.” He also said it is possible masks “may be required intermittently throughout the year based on the trajectory of the virus.” Students with certain medical conditions or behavioral needs would be exempt from the requirement. Students under age 5 would also be exempted. Under Riley’s plan, middle and high schools would be allowed to lift the mask mandate after Oct. 1 if at least 80% of staff and students were fully vaccinated.
Ann Arbor: Hundreds of students at the University of Michigan could be couch surfing when the new school year begins Monday. A developer admits that The One, a new apartment complex in Ann Arbor, is behind schedule and won’t be ready until September, MLive.com reports. Students have been offered a hotel room or cash stipend until their apartments are completed, said Damian VanMatre, vice president of development at Trinitas Ventures, based in Lafayette, Indiana. Students also can break their lease, he said. “Unfortunately, construction was shut down for months in 2020 due to the pandemic, and when construction restarted the general contractor struggled to recover from the delays due to material and product availability along with labor shortages – the same challenges faced by other contractors throughout the United States,” VanMatre said. Some students are complaining that they’ve been offered hotel rooms miles away in Livonia and Canton Township. “The timing overall has created immense mental anguish and stress for students during a notoriously difficult time in every student’s life,” said a letter by students.
Falcon Heights: About 150 vendors will be missing when the Minnesota State Fair returns this week from a one-year layoff due to the pandemic. Many pulled out due to COVID-19 fears, staffing shortages and product supply chain issues. That’s double the number of vendors that usually drop out compared with other recent years, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. “Yes, we did lose 150 vendors, but that’s over the past year,” fair spokeswoman Danielle Dullinger said, adding that only one was a food vendor. “I know a lot of state agencies are not able to come this year.” Those agencies include the Office of Higher Education, the Department of Education and the Department of Health. The Department of Natural Resources won’t open its building, but outdoor activities – including the popular fish pond, raptor demonstrations and performances on the outdoor stage – are still planned. On the bright side, Dullinger said, the fair will be adding 61 new vendors to the mix when it returns Thursday. Last week, fair officials announced that they would urge but not require fairgoers to wear masks and be vaccinated before entering. The decision ultimately did cause seven vendors to cancel, Dullinger said. One of those was Education Minnesota, with the teachers union citing “health and safety concerns.”
Jackson: More than 1,000 out-of-state medical workers began to deploy to 50 hospitals across the state Tuesday to help with staffing shortages amid an unrelenting surge of COVID-19 cases. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said 808 nurses, three certified nurse anesthetists, 22 nurse practitioners, 193 respiratory therapists and 20 paramedics were hired under 60-day contracts that could be extended if needed. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts to four companies of the 19 that submitted bids when the state sought medical workers earlier this month. Reeves said the contract employees are being deployed within nine business days from when the state Health Department asked MEMA to seek the help. “That, in my view, is an impressive feat,” Reeves said during a news conference Tuesday. Mississippi will pay $80 million for the contracts, and Reeves said he expects the federal government to reimburse the state for the entire expense. The Army and the Air Force are also each deploying medical contingents to work in Mississippi, with 43 people from each branch. The Health Department on Tuesday reported 3,291 new cases of COVID-19 and 111 new deaths, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to at least 8,158 deaths and nearly 417,000 cases.
Columbia: Civil rights leaders on Monday warned state lawmakers that attempts to ban critical race theory in schools could scare educators away from teaching about the Holocaust. Rabbis, teachers and others testified during an informational Joint Committee on Education hearing about critical race theory, a framework for examining the effects race and racism have on institutions. Dee Dee Simon, a member of the state’s Holocaust Education and Awareness Commission, said the board is worried that limits on how educators teach about race “would obstruct and/or hinder Holocaust education in the classroom.” “Would it make it illegal to tell students the truth, based on facts, that the Nazis were systematically unfair to the Jewish people?” she asked. “Would it make it illegal to say that the Nazis legislated the persecution of the Jews and that these were race laws?” Of 425 Missouri school districts, three said they used critical race theory or the New York Times’ 1619 Project in curricula, according to a July survey by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Missouri’s GOP-controlled Legislature is not in session, and no bills to ban critical race theory are pending. But Republican lawmakers filed long-shot proposals this year in a show of opposition to the theory.
Missoula: U.S. Minerals Inc., accused of exposing employees to elevated levels of arsenic at its Anaconda facility, admitted Monday to violating the Clean Air Act, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In addition, the corporation has agreed to settle a related civil case regarding violations brought by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. U.S. Minerals pleaded guilty to one count of negligent endangerment, a misdemeanor, under the Clean Air Act as charged in a criminal information. The corporation faces a maximum penalty of five years of probation and a fine as determined through statute. Under the terms of a plea agreement in the criminal case, the government and U.S. Minerals will jointly recommend to the court that the company be placed on probation for five years and pay a $393,200 fine. The agreement recommends probationary conditions in which U.S. Minerals will implement a nationwide environmental health and safety plan that applies to all of its facilities throughout the United States and a medical monitoring program for current and former employees who have been exposed to elevated levels of arsenic during their work at the Anaconda plant, which has ceased operations.
Ralston: Students and staff at the middle school and high schools in an Omaha suburb are now required to wear masks following new cases of COVID-19 in the district, officials announced. Ralston Public Schools announced the change Sunday, saying the policy applies to staff members and students from seventh through 12th grades, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Masking will be required through Sept. 16, when district officials will review the policy. Masks will be available at the schools for students who do not have them. Superintendent Mark Adler said in a letter to parents that the decision was made after three cases were identified in one classroom at the secondary level. The Ralston district was already requiring students in preschool through sixth grade, staff and visitors to wear masks. “It has been our goal from the beginning of this pandemic to find a way to keep our students in school,” Adler wrote. “Implementing this additional intervention will help us mitigate the spread and not keep students at home or close a classroom or school.” The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has sharply risen over the past two weeks from more than 374 new cases per day Aug. 7 to nearly 728 new cases per day Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Carson City: It’s all aboard the Virginia & Truckee Railway this weekend – with masks mandatory – for the first time in 18 months on the historic Engine No. 18 and passenger cars offering round-trip rides from Carson City to Virginia City. The V&T Railway typically operates in the summer months and during the December holiday season with a special schedule and Santa Clause on the Polar Express. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced its closure before the 2020 summer season began. Service returns Saturday with an opening ceremony at Eastgate Depot in Carson City. It will run Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 31, followed by the return of the Polar Express this winter. “We’re very fortunate that our loyal supporters have been patient and persistent in supporting us through this last season,” V&T Commission Chairman David Peterson said Friday. “We can’t wait to get going again.” The train offers scenic views of the Virginia Mountain range on the way to the historic mining town, along with abandoned mine shafts, old mill sites and sometimes free-roaming mustangs. Ticket prices range from $55 for adults to $35 for children ages 2 to 15. Masks are required aboard the train and inside Eastgate Depot.
Hancock: The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire is expanding beyond Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail got its start more than 20 years ago and now includes two dozen markers that shed light on the city’s Black history. Now a statewide organization, the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire plans to unveil markers this fall in Hancock, Milford, Warner and several other communities. The first unveiling is set for Sept. 18 in Hancock. The marker will describe Jack, a once-enslaved African man who gained his freedom and lived there in the late 1700s and early 1800s. It also will describe the Due family, free people of color who lived around the same time. The marker is at the site of their former home on property now owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. After the unveiling at 9:30 a.m., a noon celebratory program with music and food is scheduled at the Hancock Congregational Church. Preregistration for the Sept. 18 event in Hancock is required, and space is limited.
Branchburg: Hazing will be met with harsher penalties under a new law named after Tim Piazza, a New Jersey native and Penn State student who died in 2017. Gov. Phil Murphy signed Timothy J. Piazza’s Law on Tuesday at Raritan Valley Community College, not far from where Piazza, who died when he was a 19-year-old sophomore studying engineering, grew up. Pennsylvania also enacted tougher anti-hazing laws in 2018 that permit fraternity houses to be confiscated when severe hazing occurs. “The safety of our students is our top priority, and we must do all that we can to protect them from cruel and dangerous hazing rituals,” said Murphy, a Democrat. “With today’s bill signing, we honor Tim Piazza’s life and make our strongest effort yet to root out hazing to prevent similar tragedies.” The measure requires all public and private middle and high schools, as well as colleges and universities, to draw up anti-hazing policies, along with penalties for violations that could include withholding of a diploma, suspension or expulsion. The new law also establishes that hazing resulting in serious injury or death will be considered a third-degree crime, up from fourth-degree. A conviction will carry a prison sentence of up to five years, a fine as high as $15,000 or both, vs. up to 18 months, a $10,000 fine or both.
Los Alamos: Drone pilots beware. Authorities at one of the nation’s top nuclear weapons laboratories issued a warning Monday that airspace over Los Alamos National Laboratory is off limits. The birthplace of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos lab reported that recent unauthorized drone flights have been detected in restricted airspace in the area. Officials said anyone who flies a drone over the lab likely will lose it. “We can detect and track a UAS (unmanned aircraft system), and if it poses a threat, we have the ability to disrupt control of the system, seize or exercise control, confiscate or use reasonable force to disable, damage or destroy the UAS,” said Unica Viramontes, senior director of lab security. The lab would not release any specifics about how the system works, citing security protocols. They also would not say how many unauthorized flights have occurred in recent months. Lab officials warned of the potential for “collateral interceptions” of normal commercial or hobbyist drone flights, saying pilots should stay well outside the lab’s restricted airspace and the additional no-drone zone designated by the Federal Aviation Administration. According to the FAA, drones are prohibited from flying over sites designated as national security sensitive facilities.
New York: Dorothy Parker died in 1967, but it was not until last year that her ashes found a final resting place. Now, at a memorial ceremony at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, her headstone has been unveiled at the family plot where ashes of the writer, humorist and civil rights supporter are buried, the New York Post reports. Born in 1893 in New York, Parker wrote poems, short stories, and theater and literary reviews for magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. She was famous for one-liners such as, “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue,” and “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” She died without leaving instructions on what to do with her remains but left her estate, along with the right to collect future royalties, to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom she’d never met. When King was assassinated, her estate transferred to the NAACP, which laid her ashes to rest in a garden outside its Baltimore headquarters in 1988. Before that, her remains had been held for years at a crematorium and in an attorney’s filing cabinet. Parker’s relatives attended Monday’s memorial, where those gathered read from Parker’s work and some poured gin, her beverage of choice, on the grave. The headstone is carved with words from a poem Parker wrote in 1925: “Leave for her a red young rose; Go your way, and save your pity; She is happy, for she knows that her dust is very pretty.”
Raleigh: Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed legislation Monday that would slightly rework the state panel that recommends whether charter schools can open or should be shuttered. Currently, two of the 11 voting members of the Charter Schools Advisory Board are chosen by the State Board of Education. The governor picks nearly all voting positions on the State Board of Education. The bill would have given the education board just one spot to fill, while the superintendent of public instruction or her designate would receive another voting position. Currently the superintendent or her designate is a nonvoting member to the advisory board, which also recommends rules on how charter schools should operate or be monitored. “The State Board of Education is constitutionally and statutorily charged with administering children’s education in state public schools, including charter schools,” Cooper wrote in his veto message. “It is critical that the board have both of their appointments to the (charter schools) board to carry out its constitutional duties.” Both the House and Senate approved the bill by what would be veto-proof majorities, so an override is possible. But Cooper, a Democrat, has been known to consolidate his support before override attempts by Republican legislative leaders.
Bismarck: State wildlife managers are encouraging hunters to take advantage of electronic map tools that can help them identify private land before they venture onto it. Map resources, mobile apps and printable maps can be found on the Game and Fish Department’s website, at gf.nd.gov. “Each have different strengths, such as some require cell service, while others can work offline; others offer the ability to determine who posted the land or a point of contact,” said Brian Hosek, business operations manager. “And you can still pull down that print material for those who do not prefer to use these technologies.” The Legislature passed a law this year making electronic posting equal to physical posting and penalties, as well as defining a fence. It also allows only lawful hunters and anglers to access fenced, unposted land, for hunting and fishing activities only, the Bismarck Tribune reports. About 7,000 landowners have posted 3.75 million acres – about 8.3% of North Dakota’s land area. Penalties for violating the new law include a $250 noncriminal offense for hunters, anglers and others trespassing on posted land, along with misdemeanors for more serious trespassing scenarios, such as property damage or refusing to leave.
Toledo: A piece of metal that flew off the world’s second-tallest roller coaster and hit a woman in the head while she stood in line came from the back of the ride’s train and was about the size of a fist, an amusement ride safety official said Monday. It’s not known yet what caused the accident a week ago on the 420-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster at Cedar Point, said David Miran, head of Ohio’s amusement ride safety division. Authorities and amusement park officials have not released the condition of the victim, who is a 44-year-old woman from Swartz Creek, Michigan, according to an accident report released by the state. She could be heard screaming on body camera footage released by police. She was treated at a hospital near the park in Sandusky before being moved to a hospital in Toledo. The metal L-shaped bracket that hit the woman Aug. 15 was attached to the back of the train and hovers above the track, Miran said. It’s part of the sensor system that tells the coaster’s computer where the train is on the track, he said. The coaster train was nearing the end of the ride where it slows down when the metal plate broke, park officials said. It’s not clear how far the piece flew before hitting the woman, Miran said.
Oklahoma City: State Attorney General John O’Connor has filed more petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court asking justices to overturn last year’s ruling that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation still exists. One petition was filed in the case of former Tulsa police Officer Shannon Kepler, whose state manslaughter conviction was reversed because he is a member of the Muscogee Nation, and the crime occurred on the tribe’s reservation. Other petitions challenge reversals of convictions of first-degree murder and child abuse. “As a result of the McGirt decision, many convictions were vacated, and some were dismissed,” a spokesman for O’Connor said. “We are appealing these cases to try to reinstate these convictions and re-apprehend these criminals.” The state now has at least five petitions pending before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking reversal of the McGirt decision, which has reshaped criminal jurisdiction in most of eastern Oklahoma. In all five cases at issue in the petitions, U.S. attorneys offices in Oklahoma have filed federal charges. In Kepler’s case, federal prosecutors in Tulsa have already tried and obtained convictions. In the case of convicted murderer Jordan Batice Mitchell, federal prosecutors in Tulsa secured a plea deal for second-degree murder in Indian Country.
Salem: Two new laws aimed at expanding voter access are under fire from a conservative group that argues the changes will make state elections less secure. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports people affiliated with the group Oregonians for Fair Elections have filed referendum petitions that, if successful, would ask voters to approve or reject the new laws next year. To do that, they’d need to collect 74,680 valid signatures in opposition to each bill by Sept. 24, a tight timeline that could be hard to meet as the state struggles with a resurgence of COVID-19. The first, House Bill 2681, ensured that voters cannot be labeled “inactive” – and so ineligible to automatically receive a ballot – for the sole reason of not voting. It’s an extension of other steps Oregon has taken in recent years. The second bill targeted for reversal, House Bill 3291, implemented a change, already in practice in other vote-by-mail states, that will allow mailed ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and reach officials within a week of the election. Ballots in Oregon have traditionally only been accepted if they are received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Harrisburg: Inmates in state prisons will be counted in their home districts and not where their prisons are located after a divided vote Tuesday by the five-member panel redrawing legislative district maps this year. The Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission voted 3-2 for the policy change that was introduced by House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia. “We cannot wait another 10 years. The time to correct this injustice is now,” she said. The vote changes the long-standing policy of counting inmates toward state House and Senate districts where their state prisons are located. The House and Senate Republican leaders voted against the change, while McClinton was joined by the Senate Democratic floor leader and by the commission’s chair, former University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. Appointed by the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court as the commission’s swing vote, Nordenberg said that for months he “did not think I would be where I am today” but had kept an open mind. “When a system holds and counts a person in one place but forces him or her to vote in another, it does create a basic issue of fairness,” he said. But counting inmates in their prison’s legislative districts “distorts the reapportionment process.”
Providence: The state’s largest health care organization announced Tuesday that it is amending its visitor policy at hospitals and ambulatory care centers in response to an increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Lifespan is now limiting the number of visitors per patient, along with the number of family members or escorts during an emergency intake. Patients in most settings will be allowed a single visitor at a time, up to a limit of two throughout the duration of their stay. Some visitor policies remain unchanged, including exceptions for end-of-life care patients, with two visitors for pediatric patients. Masks are required. Lifespan said it “understands this is difficult for patients and their loved ones, but such measures are necessary to help protect their health and safety as well as that of our health care workers and the general public during the ongoing pandemic.” Lifespan operates Rhode Island, Hasbro Children’s, Miriam, Bradley and Newport hospitals.
Columbia: A noncommissioned Army officer depicted in a viral video accosting and shoving a man has been convicted of third-degree assault. A magistrate judge found Fort Jackson Army Sgt. Jonathan Pentland guilty of the misdemeanor Monday after a two-day trial, news outlets report. He will have to choose between 30 days in jail or a fine of $1,087. Pentland was suspended from his post prior to the trial. Pentland, 42, is white, and the man shoved is Black. The video of part of their confrontation became a racial flashpoint when it was posted to Facebook in April after Pentland screamed: “You’re in the wrong neighborhood.” But race was never mentioned during Pentland’s trial in Columbia. Pentland testified that he was trying to protect his family from a man acting strangely. The man he shoved, 22-year-old Deandre Williams, said he was trying to avoid a confrontation. “As a young man, if I go on a walk, I shouldn’t feel any form of pressure,” Williams said after the verdict. Prosecutor Paul Walton said Pentland broke the law three times: when he shoved Williams before the video started, again as Williams took an awkward step toward Pentland’s wife, and then when he slapped Williams’ phone out of his hand. “His pride is hurt,” Walton said of Pentland. “He’s a drill sergeant, and he’s used to people doing what he says.”
Sioux Falls: Even as coronavirus numbers climb, lawmakers have tried to pressure Gov. Kristi Noem to call a special session to pass a ban on employers requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. Several Republicans in the state House of Representatives have circulated drafts of bills that would stop employers from mandating vaccinations, stepping up pressure on Noem to call a special session for them to approve the bills. But she has resisted those calls, saying there is not widespread support for a special session. The issue has Noem, who has carved out a nationwide following for her hands-off approach to the virus, being pushed from the right to intervene on the state’s largest employer, Sanford Health. House Speaker Spencer Gosch said late Friday that he wanted the governor to call a special session as he released a draft of a bill that would make COVID-19 vaccination status “strictly confidential medical information” that would be off-limits to employers. The state’s largest employer, Sanford Health, plans to require all employees to get a shot by Nov. 1. Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury cast Noem’s resistance to the idea as keeping with her conservative approach to the pandemic and argued that government should not be dictating whether employers require vaccinations for their workers.
Nashville: The state surpassed 1 million coronavirus infections Tuesday as COVID-19 conquers the state again, filling hospitals and spreading rapidly among the unvaccinated and school-age children. The Tennessee Department of Health is currently reporting nearly 6,400 new infections per day. Dr. William Schaffner, an expert on infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he never initially expected Tennessee to reach 1 million infections. But coronavirus has proven a “nasty, resistant virus,” and he underestimated how resistant politicians, community leaders and the general public would be to necessary efforts to slow and stop the virus. “It was a sobering realization that we have had so many people infected and, as a consequence, so many people having to suffer hospitalization, severe disease and loss of life,” Schaffner said. “Much of that could have been prevented.” Almost all of Tennessee’s recent infections are among those who have chosen to remain unvaccinated or are too young to be eligible. Ninety percent of all new infections in May, June and July were among unvaccinated populations, according to a recent virus report from the Tennessee Department of Health. Only 41% of residents are fully inoculated – the ninth-lowest rate of all U.S. states, federal data shows.
Austin: Republican legislators brought back their voting bill Monday with no changes as some Democrats returned to the state Capitol for the first time since ending their holdout, making it clear that the bill is on track to become law after their 38-day walkout. Dozens of people showed up to testify before lawmakers to seize their last chance for public input on the bill that would tighten voting rules in ways the GOP says will ensure election integrity and that Democrats say amounts to voter suppression for disabled people and minorities. Senate Bill 1 would make mail voting a stricter process, increase liberties for poll watchers, and prohibit 24-hour and drive-thru voting, two ways Harris County – which includes Houston and where 44% of the nearly 5 million residents are Latino and 20% are Black – expanded options for voters and also offered protections against the coronavirus. Candis Houston, who lives in Houston, said she arrived in Austin on Sunday night so she could show up early Monday to testify. She joined about 70 other people who arrived at the Capitol as the sun was rising. “I had ancestors that died and marched for the privilege for us to vote, and anytime I can participate, I am going to be there,” said Houston, who is Black. “We should be encouraging people to vote and not limiting them.”
Salt Lake City: Researchers are planning to use ground-penetrating radar at the site of a former Indigenous boarding school in southern Utah where tribal leaders say there may be unmarked graves. Tribal leaders and historians say there may be at least a dozen Paiute children buried in unmarked graves on school grounds near Panguitch, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Corrina Bow, chairwoman for the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, said boarding school officials would take children as young as 6 and force them to work at a farm on the property. “We were informed that there were bodies buried over there,” Bow said. “But we are not sure until someone comes in and verifies it.” Utah State University, which leases the site from the state, plans to survey and map the grounds before conducting radar scanning. The school’s anthropology department also said it would be willing to excavate the site if the tribe wanted. The recent discovery of children’s remains buried at the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school has magnified interest in the troubling legacy in both Canada and the United States. In June, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that the United States will investigate its past oversight of Native American boarding schools.
Montpelier: The state’s high vaccination rate against COVID-19 gives it great latitude in coping with the surge in coronavirus cases caused by the delta variant, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday. Scott said he felt people should wear masks in crowded indoor settings among unfamiliar people, but he is not going to issue a formal recommendation or reimpose the state of emergency that would him authorize him to order mask usage. “We are asking Vermonters to use common sense, to be vigilant, to get your vaccinations and continue to use your head and assess your own situation and do the right thing,” Scott said. The rate of growth in new cases of COVID-19 has been slowing, and state experts predict they could begin falling again within the next few weeks. If things change, Scott said, he would be willing to change as well. “Am I concerned about what I am seeing? Of course I am,” Scott said during his weekly virus briefing. “We are ready to pivot, we are ready to do whatever is necessary to keep Vermonters safe when we have to.” But he said he didn’t believe additional recommendations are needed at this time.
King George: Dozens of headstones from a historic African American cemetery in the nation’s capital that were used as erosion control along the Virginia shoreline of the Potomac River are being relocated to a memorial garden in Maryland. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser attended a ceremony in Caledon State Park in King George on Monday to mark the transfer of the first 55 headstones from Virginia to Maryland, officials said. The grave markers will be part of a memorial garden at National Harmony Memorial Park in Prince George’s County honoring the 37,000 people buried at the original cemetery. The Columbian Harmony Cemetery was established in 1859 and was the most prominent burial site for African Americans in Washington, but it was moved in the 1960s to make room for development. Remains were moved to a memorial garden in Maryland, but the gravestones were sold or given away, officials said. Prominent people buried at the original cemetery include Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave who became a seamstress and trusted confidante of first lady Mary Todd Lincoln; Osborne Perry Anderson, the only African American survivor of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry; Mary Ann Shadd Cary, America’s first African American female newspaper editor; and Philip Reid, a foundry worker who helped build of the Statue of Freedom at the U.S. Capitol, officials said.
Kennewick: Staff at a jail in south-central Washington have come up with an inexpensive but effective way to encourage inmates to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Since the first of the month, the Benton County Jail has been giving away one of its most popular commissary items – ramen noodles – to inmates who sign up for their first COVID-19 shot, the Olympian reports. By Monday, the jail had given out 900 packets of noodle soup to 90 inmates, said Scott Souza, chief of corrections for the Benton County Corrections Department. It’s advertised to inmates around the jail with fliers featuring a larger-than-life photo of the seasoned, wavy noodles and a headline that says: “SOUPS FOR SHOTS.” “To encourage and support COVID vaccination efforts, the Benton County Department of Corrections will be providing each inmate that starts their vaccination series with 10 FREE RAMEN NOODLE SOUPS!!!” say posters around the jail in Kennewick. “We’re doing everything we can do to incentivize vaccination, and we are getting outstanding response,” Souza said. Any inmate, no matter how long their stay, is eligible for the program if they have not yet been immunized. The Benton County jail has shared information about the program with other jails in the state, Souza said.
Lewisburg: Gov. Jim Justice won’t be moonlighting as the coach of a boys high school basketball team where he already is the girls coach. The Greenbrier County Board of Education on Monday rejected a motion to hire Justice as the boys coach at Greenbrier East High School. News outlets report the board voted 3-2 to toss a recommendation from county schools Superintendent Jeff Bryant to hire Justice. The Republican governor said during one of his regularly scheduled news conferences on the coronavirus pandemic that the board’s vote “came down with just that ugliness of personal preference or political preference. ... Frankly, the board of education in Greenbrier County made a decision that will ultimately hurt not me but the kids.” The board is looking to replace former NBA player Bimbo Coles, who resigned in July. Much of the debate involved whether Justice could give enough attention to both the boys and girls teams while also being governor, along with paying attention to his family’s businesses. Board member Rick Parker, who voted against Justice’s hiring, had said he planned to base his vote on those concerns. Justice’s second term as governor runs through 2024. Justice served as the boys coach from 2010 to 2017, his first year as governor. He has coached the girls team since 2000, winning a state championship in 2012.
Madison: University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson pushed back Tuesday against Republican lawmakers who claim campuses need their permission to implement COVID-19 policies. Thompson insisted university leaders don’t need legislative approval to manage the schools – a major break from his party’s stance against pandemic protocols. A key Republican lawmaker promised to pursue a lawsuit. But Thompson, a former GOP governor who served as health secretary under President George W. Bush, said he would not cede control of the system to fellow Republicans who run the Legislature. “I’m not going to be intimidated,” he told reporters during a briefing. “Even though I don’t want to pick a fight with the Legislature, I’m going to stand my ground. I’ve kept politics out of (running UW), and everyone agrees with that. I’m still a strong Republican. I just put my Republican bonafides aside when I run the university. I’ve got the right and the authority and the responsibility to do what’s necessary to keep the universities open.” Thompson has called for UW campuses to hold at least 75% of their classes in person this fall. The schools have implemented a range of protocols in recent weeks to meet that goal, including mask and coronavirus testing mandates. The system hasn’t required vaccinations. Thompson instead has created incentives for shots such as tuition remission. He said Tuesday, though, that he may have to “do an audible at the line” if infections keep climbing.
Gillette: A judge who writes thrillers in his free time is putting out his third novel this fall after receiving a strong reception for the first two. The last nine months have moved quickly for Paul Phillips, the Gillette News Record reports. A Circuit Court judge by day, he has a lot on his docket from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But he’s also been writing a series of thrillers under the pen name James Chandler. His first book, “Misjudged,” was published Nov. 10. He spent about four years working on it before he got it published. His second novel, “One and Done,” came out in February. And the just-finished “False Evidence” is scheduled to be released Oct. 12. All three books center on Sam Johnstone, a veteran who takes a job at a law firm in a small Wyoming town hoping for a fresh start. The audiobook version of his first novel was just released last week, read by James Anderson Foster, an award-winning narrator. He said he’s been “pleasantly surprised” by the reception his books have received. Combined, his first two books have more than 8,600 reviews on Amazon. The first book has more than 5,500 reviews and an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars, while the second book has about 3,200 reviews and a 4.4 rating.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Disappeared ducky, ramen rewards: News from around our 50 states