Boarding school stories, underwater festival, secret museum living: News from around our 50 states (2023)


Decatur: Abnormally dry weather in north Alabama may have ruined corn plantings and is damaging other crops. “The hot, dry weather has just hit the corn at the absolute worst time,” said Brady Peek, who farms approximately 1,800 acres in western Limestone County. “We’ll be lucky if we even have a corn crop. Yields are going to be significantly below average.” Ashley Ravenscraft, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville, said portions of Lawrence and Morgan counties have been characterized as “abnormally dry” since June 21. In Limestone County, 60% of the county has been in a moderate drought since June 28. From June 21 through last Monday, Decatur received only 0.24 inch of rainfall, and Moulton had 0.53 inch, Ravenscraft said. Athens, she said, had 1.78 inches of rain in that span, but she attributed the higher number to pop-up showers the past several days. Ravenscraft said the average rainfall in July is 4.49 inches. “Typically, around this time of year you’re getting some kind of rainfall from either tropical systems or your summertime storms or a weaker disturbance that will come through and produce some rain. This is typically one of our wettest months out of the year,” she said.


Sitka: A family had given up hope of finding their blind, elderly golden retriever who wandered away from their home three weeks ago, but a construction crew found Lulu in salmonberry bushes after initially confusing her for a bear. Lulu was barely alive after being found Tuesday, but she is being nursed back to health at home with her family, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reports. “She means everything,” owner Ted Kubacki said. “I have five daughters, and they’re 4 to 13 years old, so they’ve spent every day of their life with that dog.” The Kubacki family searched for weeks after Lulu wandered off June 18. “She’s just so helpless, and you kind of imagined that she can’t get real far because she can’t see,” he said. It didn’t help when the family was the subject of a terrible joke when someone claimed they found Lulu a few days into the search. “We put the kids to bed and got a text saying, ‘We found your dog,’ or ‘I have your dog,’ and we’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is incredible,’ ” he said. “Then the person texted me, ‘Just kidding.’ This happened, yeah; that was all part of this terrible story.” Once Lulu did make it back, Kubacki, a grocery store employee and sole provider for his family of seven, then worried about the veterinarian’s bill. But his fears were unfounded, as Sitka residents donated hundreds of dollars to cover Lulu’s recuperation bills.


Phoenix: An attorney with the state attorney general’s office told a judge Friday that a 2021 “personhood” law that gives all legal rights to unborn children can’t be used to bring criminal charges against abortion providers. The comment from Assistant Solicitor General Kate Sawyer came during a hearing where attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and an abortion rights group representing abortion providers were seeking an injunction blocking the law. They said abortion providers are worried that prosecutors will bring charges for crimes like assault and child abuse under the law, which U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes declined to block last year. That decision came before the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that said women have a right to seek an abortion. The battle over Arizona’s “personhood” law – one of several in Republican-led states that aim to grant all rights to fetuses – is playing out despite all abortions being halted in the state. Arizona providers stopped providing the procedure because of concerns that a pre-1901 law that bans all abortions may now be enforceable, as Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich declared June 29. That law has been blocked since 1973, but Brnovich has vowed to go to court to remove that injunction.


Little Rock: Supporters of initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana and scale back casino gambling submitted thousands of signatures Friday in the hopes of getting their proposals on the Arkansas ballot. Friday was the deadline for groups to turn in the signatures needed to qualify for the November election. Proposed constitutional amendments need at least 89,151 valid signatures from registered voters. The proposal’s ballot title and popular name will also need to be approved by the state Board of Election Commissioners. More than 192,000 signatures were submitted for the recreational marijuana proposal to allow people age 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis. Arkansas voters in 2016 voted to legalize medical marijuana in the state. More than 103,000 signatures were submitted for the other proposed amendment to repeal part of a casino gambling amendment voters approved in 2018. The proposal would remove Pope County as one of the counties where a casino is allowed. Casinos have already been set up in the three other counties spelled out in the 2018 measure. State officials will check the petitions to determine whether enough valid signatures were submitted or if the groups qualify for an additional 30 days to collect signatures.


Yosemite National Park: A wildfire threatening the largest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park more than doubled in size in a day, and firefighters were working in difficult terrain Sunday to protect the iconic trees and a small mountain town. Campers and residents near the blaze were evacuated, but the rest of the sprawling park in California remained open, though heavy smoke obscured scenic vistas and created unhealthy air quality. “Today it’s actually the smokiest that we’ve seen,” Nancy Phillipe, a Yosemite fire information spokesperson, said Sunday. “Up until this morning, the park has not been in that unhealthy category, but that is where we are now.” More than 500 mature sequoias were threatened in the famed Mariposa Grove, but there were no reports of severe damage to any named trees, including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant. A sprinkler system set up within the grove kept the tree trunks moist, and officials were hopeful that the steady spray of water along with previous prescribed burns would be enough to keep flames at bay, Phillipe said. The cause of the Washburn Fire was under investigation. It had grown to nearly 2.5 square miles by Sunday morning, with no containment. Beyond the trees, the community of Wawona, which is surrounded by parkland, was under threat, with people ordered to leave late Friday.


Denver: Gov. Jared Polis barred state agencies Wednesday from arresting or extraditing anyone seeking or providing reproductive care in Colorado, where the right to abortion was codified in state law this year. Polis issued an executive order that prohibits state agencies from cooperating with out-of-state civil or criminal investigations related to seeking, obtaining or providing reproductive health care – unless the alleged activity would be illegal in Colorado. The Democratic governor also ordered the Department of Regulatory Agencies to develop rules designed to protect licensed professional workers who could face disciplinary action or the loss of a professional license due to potential sanctions imposed by another state. Polis’ order comes as other liberal governors vow to fight out-of-state law enforcement actions following the Supreme Court’s June decision to revoke the constitutional right to abortion. Polis also directed state agencies to work to “protect people and entities who are providing, assisting, seeking, or obtaining reproductive health care in Colorado.” Colorado was the first U.S. state to decriminalize abortion in 1967, and Polis this year signed into law a bill codifying that right.


New Haven: The family of a Black man paralyzed when a police van without seat belts braked suddenly asked federal authorities Friday to file civil rights charges against the officers involved. The driver was taking Randy Cox, 36, to a police station in New Haven on June 19 for processing on a weapons charge when he braked hard to avoid a collision, police said, causing Cox to fly headfirst into the wall of the van. His family said he remains paralyzed from the chest down. Cox’s mother, two sisters and civil rights attorney Ben Crump spoke before meeting with U.S. Department of Justice officials in New Haven on Friday, arguing that Cox’s constitutional rights were violated. “You ask yourself, was it cruel and unusual punishment to put him in the back of that police transportation van with no seat belt, knowing that if you’re speeding, if you slam on the brakes, that somebody is going to be seriously injured?” Crump said. Cox’s supporters say the police mocked his cries for help and accused him of being drunk. Video shows the officers dragged him by his feet from the van and placed him in a holding cell at the police department before paramedics finally took him to a hospital. Cox remains hospitalized and unable to speak because of his breathing tube. Hundreds of protesters led by Crump, members of Cox’s family and the local NAACP staged a march Friday evening in New Haven to the city’s police headquarters.


Wilmington: A man convicted earlier this year of a felony hate crime for what authorities say was the persistent harassment of a Black female employee in Gov. John Carney’s office has been sentenced to four months in prison. Matthew Gregg will also be required to complete community service, anger management, and mental health and substance abuse counseling. The 27-year-old Hockessin man was arrested Dec. 10, 2020, on charges of harassment and terroristic threatening. According to court documents, Gregg called the receptionist in Carney’s office 160 times between Nov. 20 and Dec. 10, 2020. In those calls, Gregg targeted the woman with racist and sexist slurs, according to court documents. Gregg also threatened to kill the receptionist and throw a brick at the governor’s head, according to the Department of Justice’s sentencing memorandum. Deputy Attorney General Nicole Mozee wrote that Gregg was upset about COVID-19 mandates Carney put in place but that none of his calls to the governor’s secretary actually protested those mandates. The Department of Justice argued that not sentencing Gregg to time in prison would unduly depreciate “the severity of the offense.”

District of Columbia

Washington: Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that $2 million will be invested in order to improve the quality of school breakfast in D.C., WUSA-TV reports. Additionally, there will be an expansion of schools participating in the school breakfast program with 104 public and public charter schools across the district, according to a press release. State Superintendent Christina Grant said not every eligible food-insecure student participates in the program. “We are excited to support schools in increasing student participation in the school breakfast program, leading to increases in health and academic outcomes,” Grant said. Nearly 18 local education agencies that serve students from pre-K through 12th grade and have a population where at least 75% have eligibility for free or reduced-price meals were awarded school breakfast grant funds from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. “With this investment, we can support more families, get more students connected to the student breakfast program and build healthier classrooms and communities,” Bowser said.


Big Pine Key: They weren’t in a “Yellow Submarine,” but hundreds of people spent time below the waves Saturday for a music festival off the Florida Keys. The Beatles hit and other ocean-themed songs like the theme to “The Little Mermaid” were part of the entertainment during the Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival. The divers and snorkelers, many dressed as mermaids and sea creatures, enjoyed music played through waterproof speakers dangling from boats floating above the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The festival took place at Looe Key Reef, about 6 miles from Big Pine Key. The event at the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef raised awareness on how divers can protect the reef by not touching corals or leaving litter underwater, using mooring buoys instead of anchoring when boating, respecting dive flags, and other ways of minimizing environmental impacts. Participants swam among marine life and coral formations and described the music as ethereal, a bit muted, but emanating from all directions.


Atlanta: The state could have more than $5 billion in surplus revenue after the just-concluded budget year, following another big month for tax collections in June. The state Revenue Department announced Friday that it collected more than $33 billion in taxes in the year ended June 30, up 23% from about $27 billion the year before. Georgia planned to spend more than $54 billion in the just-ended budget year, including federal money, lottery proceeds, and other fees and taxes that state agencies collect. Lawmakers boosted that number by $4.5 billion during a midyear budget revision that included bonus payments and pay raises for state employees and teachers but will still substantially undershoot total revenue for the year. Final numbers won’t be clear until the state closes it books on the budget year, which usually happens around Labor Day. The bulging bank account could allow the state to further cut taxes or expand services. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has already extended a temporary waiver on gas taxes through the middle of August, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has been calling on Kemp to extend the gas tax holiday through the end of the year. Kemp can make that move as long as lawmakers later ratify it.


Honolulu: The governor ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff to honor former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling the assassinated ex-leader a friend of the islands. Because flags were already at half-staff honoring victims of an Independence Day parade shooting near Chicago, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the flags would be lowered in Abe’s memory from sunrise to sunset Sunday. Abe, 67, was assassinated on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech – an attack in a nation with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere. Police at the shooting scene arrested Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a former member of Japan’s navy, on suspicion of murder. “This senseless act of violence has taken the life of a true friend of Hawaii,” Ige said in a statement. “In our multiple meetings, we shared stories of our past, embraced our common culture, and continued the quest for reconciliation and partnership that has developed between the United States and Japan.” Ige’s flag order applies to the Hawaii State Capitol, state offices and agencies, and the Hawaii National Guard.


Boise: A site targeted with antisemitic vandalism last month is now slated to get a mural supporting human rights. Boise Parks and Recreation Director said the city’s Department of Arts & History would be tasked with handling the mural in a tunnel next to the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, the Idaho Press reports. The graffiti left on the site in December was part of a string of antisemitic incidents in the city in recent years, according to the newspaper.

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Wheaton: A former suburban Chicago man sought for 22 years after fleeing the country to avoid trial on a charge of concealing a homicide has been captured and returned to DuPage County, prosecutors said Friday. Romulo Mendoza, 46, was arrested last month trying to reenter the U.S. on the southern border, the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office said without specifying the location. He appeared Thursday before a judge, who set his bond at $1 million. On Feb. 4, 2000, Mendoza and two roommates, Carmelino Gomez and Pedro Garcia, were allegedly drinking alcohol in their Bensenville home and began arguing over an electricity bill. Gomez grabbed Garcia from behind and put his arm around his neck, killing him, authorities said at the time. Gomez and Mendoza allegedly then loaded the body in a car and dumped it at a rural location, where a passerby discovered it the next day. The two were arrested two days later. After posting $2,000 bond on May 31, 2000, Mendoza failed to appear for his next court date. Gomez pleaded guilty in September 2000 to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison.


Indianapolis: A federal judge has allowed an Indiana law largely banning a second-trimester abortion procedure to take effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Judge Sarah Evans Barker’s order signed Thursday lifted the injunction she issued in 2019 blocking the state law against the dilation and evacuation abortions. The law took effect immediately, according to the state attorney general’s office, and is the first tightening of Indiana’s anti-abortion laws since the Supreme Court decision. Indiana could have more sweeping abortion restrictions by next month, as the Republican-dominated Legislature is scheduled to begin a special legislative session on July 25. Barker granted a request from the Indiana attorney general’s office to lift her order, writing that the Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning the 1973 landmark ruling that made abortion legal nationwide removed the “linchpin holdings” for her analysis. The Republican-backed legislation prohibits doctors from performing what it calls “dismemberment abortion” except to prevent serious health risk or save the woman’s life. A doctor violating the law could face a felony charge, punishable by up to six years in prison.


Des Moines: Two police officers are taking the unusual move of suing six people who participated in a 2020 protest in Des Moines after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, accusing them of assault. All six people were arrested during the July 1, 2020, protest, and five already pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of assault on a police officer and/or interference with official acts. One of them, Indira Sheumaker, was later elected to the Des Moines City Council. The lawsuit, first reported by Axios Des Moines, was filed by Peter Wilson and Jeffrey George as individuals and not as representatives of the Des Moines Police Department. They are seeking an unspecified amount for actual and punitive damages. It will likely be met with skepticism by the court, said Robert Bloom, a professor at Boston College Law School, who noted that the claims of assault and battery appear to be applying criminal complaints to a civil action. Experts also note that Iowa is among several states that have adopted what’s known as the “fireman’s rule,” which holds that firefighting and policing are inherently dangerous jobs and generally bars emergency responders from suing or collecting damages for injuries that occur in the course of their duties.


Topeka: A gubernatorial drought declaration covers the entire state, and for the first time, the 2022 annual Kansas Water Authority report acknowledged the role of climate change while recommending mitigation and adaptation strategies. Internationally, climate scientists warn of a “code red for humanity.” As farmers harvest a drought-ravaged wheat crop after a heat wave killed cattle, discussion of what governments can do to help remain divided over the role of climate change. Bipartisan support exists for adapting to persistent droughts, water shortages and wildfires, but there is less appetite to make mitigating climate change central to the government response. In Topeka, the Legislature authorized a special water committee to meet in the coming months. The move comes after an overhaul of the state government’s approach to water issues was watered down. The Kansas wheat harvest is more than halfway done, USDA reports show, putting it ahead of schedule. Wheat farmers expect a largely drought-induced drop in yield of 100 million bushels, equating to more than $1 billion in lost production. An abnormally dry winter and spring meant much of the state’s what crop did not get the precipitation it needed. More recent rains in May and June came too late for most fields to make a difference.


Barbourville: A school district has banned middle and high school students from using backpacks, saying the move is meant to address safety concerns. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Knox County Schools will implement the policy when students return to school in August. School spokesperson Frank Shelton says the policy will prevent students from using a bag to conceal items. “That is one less method that a student has to bring something into the building,” Shelton said. “With school safety on the minds of many due to recent school and public gathering shootings, we hope that our students and families see this as one more measure we are taking to protect students.” The policy will not apply to elementary school students.


New Orleans: The state can now enforce its ban on almost all abortions under a judge’s order issued Friday amid a flurry of court challenges to state “trigger” laws crafted to take effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision came the same day President Joe Biden issued an executive order to protect access to abortion in states where it is still legal and mitigate the potential penalties women seeking the procedure may face after the high court’s ruling June 24. Days after the Supreme Court decision, Louisiana District Judge Robin Giarrusso issued a temporary restraining order banning enforcement of the state legislation in response to a lawsuit filed by a north Louisiana abortion clinic and others. State District Judge Ethel Julien said Friday that she did not have the authority to extend the restraining order because she had concluded the suit should not have been filed in her court. She said the suit’s claims that provisions in the law are unconstitutionally vague and inconsistent are matters involving legislation and therefore should be heard in state court in the capital, Baton Rouge. The ruling was a victory for Attorney General Jeff Landry and lawyers for the state, who argued that the lawsuit had been improperly filed in New Orleans.


Portland: The federal government hasn’t done enough to protect a rare species of whale from lethal entanglement in lobster fishing gear, and new rules are needed to protect the species from extinction, a judge has ruled. The government has violated both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act by failing to protect the North Atlantic right whale, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled Friday. The whales number less than 340 in the world and have been declining rapidly in population in recent years. Boasberg’s ruling was a victory for conservation groups that have long sought to save the whale and a new challenge for lobster fishermen who have fought back against tightening restrictions on where and how they can fish. Boasberg ruled that the court’s findings “do not dictate that it must immediately shutter the American lobster fishery” but instead said the parties must propose potential remedies to the threat faced by whales. The ruling “may seem a severe result for the lobster industry” and the government, but no one “operates free from the strict requirements imposed by the MMPA and ESA,” Boasberg wrote. Environmental groups celebrated the ruling, while some members of the fishing industry took a more measured approach.


Frederick: The U.S. Army says it is making progress in the long-running effort to address groundwater contamination at part of Fort Detrick that was used as a test site for the Army’s biological warfare program. The Army has been studying the groundwater problems on and around the “Area B” portion of the Maryland base for over a decade. Joseph Gortva, chief of Fort Detrick’s Environmental Management Division, recently told the Frederick News-Post he is “cautiously optimistic” the Army will complete field work at the site within the next two years. It will likely take another year or two beyond that for officials to finish a report summarizing what they’ve learned, the newspaper reports. Then the Army would move to the “feasibility study” phase of the cleanup. That would involve evaluating potential methods of addressing the contamination. The cleanup process for the site’s groundwater has been in the “remedial investigation” phase since 2010, the newspaper reports. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated the Area B groundwater as a Superfund site. Most drinking water wells near Fort Detrick have been closed, according to the newspaper.


Boarding school stories, underwater festival, secret museum living: News from around our 50 states (1)

Nantucket: A fire ripped through a historic landmark on Nantucket on Saturday morning, leaving the centuries-old structure heavily damaged. Firefighters battled the blaze that tore through the Veranda House inn, which dates back to the late 17th century. The inn is located in downtown Nantucket. Multiple firefighters from around the Cape Cod area headed to the island to help battle the flames, the Yarmouth Fire Department said on Facebook. Firefighters were still working to suppress the fire as of noon Saturday, Nantucket police tweeted. People were urged to avoid the area. Massachusetts State Police sent troopers to assist Nantucket authorities with the investigation, David Procopio, a state police spokesperson, told The Boston Globe. Photos and videos posted online showed smoke billowing into the sky above the downtown area. About 185 customers were without power because of the fire at about 8:45 a.m., according to National Grid. All but seven had their power restored by 11 a.m. The inn, which was built in the late 1600s, boasts 18 rooms and suites, according to its website.

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Sturgis: Production of baby formula has resumed at the Abbott Nutrition factory whose February shutdown over contamination contributed to a national shortage, a company spokesman said. Damage from severe thunderstorms including flooding had forced the Sturgis plant to halt operations in mid-June, just two weeks after restarting production with additional sanitizing and safety protocols. Production of EleCare, a specialty formula for infants with severe food allergies and digestive problems, was restored at Sturgis following a July 1 reboot, said Abbott spokesman John Koval. “We are working to restart Similac production as soon as we can. We’ll provide more information when we have it,” he said via email. Abbott recalled several leading brands of formula in February, including Similac. That squeezed supplies already been strained by supply chain disruptions and stockpiling during COVID-19 shutdowns. The shortage was most dire for children with allergies, digestive problems and metabolic disorders who rely on specialty formulas. President Joe Biden’s administration has since eased import rules for foreign manufacturers, airlifted formula from Europe and invoked federal emergency rules to prioritize U.S. production.


Duluth: A program that allows people to cross into remote areas of Canada without reporting to border officials is expected to resume in the coming days. The Canada Border Services Agency told Minnesota Public Radio News that it has notified stakeholders that the program will restart soon and that the reopening date will be posted on its website once it has been confirmed. Resuming the program that was suspended in May 2020 as COVID-19 took hold will provide an economic boost to resorts and businesses in northern Minnesota, including those that offer canoe trips into Quetico Provincial Park. The park’s website said that the program was set to resume Friday and that the Canadian border agency would begin to accept applications in the coming weeks. The suspension of the remote permits for more than two years has had “a huge impact on us and the Boundary Waters,” said Mike Prom, co-owner of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Gunflint Trail. It will likely be a few weeks before canoeists begin crossing the border into Quetico, Prom said, since it typically takes about three weeks to receive the permits in the mail. He said travelers may also be able to drive to the border to get permits.


Jackson: A man has been indicted on a murder charge a year after a former legislator was shot to death while she was doing yard work in a rural area where her sister-in-law had died. Republican former state Rep. Ashley Henley, 40, was killed in June 2021 outside the burned-out mobile home where her sister-in-law, Kristina Michelle Jones, was found dead in December 2020. Henley and other relatives contended Yalobusha County authorities were doing too little to examine possible criminal charges in Jones’ death. Relatives erected a homemade sign at the site with photos of Jones under the phrase “I was murdered.” Yalobusha County coroner Ronnie Stark said Henley had been mowing grass at the home site before she was killed. A man who had lived near Jones, Billy Lamar Brooks, was indicted in February on a charge of maliciously setting fire to the home of Jones and Terry Henley. Court records show that on June 30, a grand jury filed a new indictment against Brooks to add a murder charge in the death of Ashley Henley. The Associated Press reached Brooks’ attorney, Bradley Peeples, by phone Saturday, and he declined to comment on the case. Court records show Brooks made a court appearance Thursday, and Circuit Judge Smith Murphey set his bond at $250,000.


St. Louis: The city’s Board of Aldermen has given initial approval to creating a $1 million fund to help St. Louis women get abortions in other states in the wake of a near-total state abortion ban that went into effect June 24. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the measure passed Friday would allocate federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for transportation, child care and other logistical help for women who travel to states where abortion remains legal. A vote on final passage is set for this week. Alderman Joe Vaccaro opposed the plan and called it a political stunt that will tie up some of the city’s pandemic aid funds in a lengthy court fight. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt already has said he will sue to try to block the measure and one proposed in Kansas City to use city employee health insurance to help with employee travel for out-of-state abortions. Schmitt, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt, said the St. Louis ordinance would violate a state law barring public money from being used to perform or assist an abortion not needed to save the life of the mother. Supporters say the money would only be used to provide access to abortion.


Yellowstone National Park: It could take three to five years to replace roads damaged by flooding last month in Yellowstone National Park, but temporary fixes are expected to be in place within months, park Superintendent Cam Sholly said Friday. Sholly spoke after surveying damaged areas of the nation’s first national park with U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The flooding prompted the evacuation of more than 10,000 people from the park and prompted its temporary closure. Parts of Yellowstone and two of its five entrances remain closed. Haaland also met with Gov. Greg Gianforte to tour flood damage in Gardiner, Montana. The town is a gateway to Yellowstone and dependent on its tourism but was cut off when the road into the park washed out in flooding that began June 12. A temporary road from Gardiner to the park headquarters in Mammoth Hot Springs has been built for essential travel and some guided tours. It potentially could be opened to visitors before winter, park officials said. A similar temporary fix is planned for washed out roadway at the park’s northeast gate near Cooke City, Montana. Federal officials have offered $50 million in emergency funding for the work.


Kearney: Republicans fired their longtime party chairman at a tumultuous state convention that highlighted divisions within the party driven by activists who support ex-President Donald Trump and want to take the party further to the right. After convention delegates voted to remove Chairman Dan Welch on Saturday, most of the other state party leaders resigned, including Executive Director Taylor Gage, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Republicans were sharply divided during this spring’s gubernatorial primary battle between two conservative candidates: the eventual winner, Jim Pillen, and businessman Charles Herbster, who was endorsed by Trump. The race to replace Gov. Pete Ricketts, who couldn’t run because of term limits, became more controversial after eight young women accused Herbster of groping them. Herbster denied the allegations, describing them as a politically motivated attack. He filed a defamation lawsuit against one of his accusers, state Sen. Julie Slama, who responded with a lawsuit of her own accusing Herbster of sexual battery. Herbster has refused to endorse Pillen, who is still expected to win in November over Democratic state Sen. Carol Blood because the state strongly favors Republicans.


Carson City: A couple was found secretly keeping a cache of weapons and living with their two kids at a children’s museum where they worked, authorities said. A janitor at the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada was arrested late last week, KRNV-TV in Reno reports. The 41-year-old man has been charged with child neglect and endangerment and possession of a suppressor and a short-barrel rifle. Authorities discovered the arsenal in a storage room, they said. A police report listed an AK-47 rifle, three handguns, a pistol, ammunition, knives and a Taser that could have been reached by a child. The stash also included drug paraphernalia like a bong and a used marijuana joint. Officials realized the family was living in the museum after the man’s 2-year-old child was spotted walking nearby unsupervised, the Carson City Sheriff’s Office said. It was not the first time police interacted with the man over his child being left alone. But this time, the toddler’s older sister gave deputies the museum as their address. Authorities, along with a museum board member, then walked through the property and saw signs people had been living there. Sleeping bags, mattresses, clothes and food were among the items found in areas off-limits to visitors, the sheriff’s office said.

New Hampshire

Portsmouth: Joseph Raymond Goulet, a veteran who landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day, has died. The New Hampshire resident died July 4. He was 99. Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to parents who emigrated from Canada, Goulet voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, according to an obituary. His math and organizational skills led him to the Army Service Forces – now the Army Quartermaster Corps. When Army officials realized that Goulet spoke and read French fluently, he was sent to the Army’s 1st Infantry Division to use those language skills to connect with local French leaders and help open routes to the Army’s objectives inland following the invasion. On June 6, 1944, he landed with the first wave of the 1st Infantry Division at Omaha Beach but never ended up having to use his French language skills. During the rapid advance toward Germany, Goulet drove trucks loaded with fuel, ammunition and other needed supplies to the advancing front lines. He became part of what became known as the “Red-Ball Express,” which ran truck convoys nonstop regardless of the enemy, the weather or other obstacles. After the war, he worked at several jobs in the electrical supply industry before retiring and relocating permanently to New Hampshire.

New Jersey

Trenton: The New Jersey Economic Developmental Authority announced Friday that it will allocate $17.5 million in grants to 30 nonprofits across the state to support restaurants and families through the latest phase of its Sustain and Serve NJ program. The program, launched in December 2020, offers grant funding to nonprofit organizations who purchase meals from New Jersey restaurants that have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizations then distribute these meals at no cost to those in need to help address food insecurity across the state. The program has allocated $52.5 million over three phases to eligible organizations that have purchased more than 3.5 million meals from more than 400 restaurants from every county in New Jersey, according to the press release. Gov. Phil Murphy allocated $10 million from the federal American Rescue Plan and about $7.5 million from the state to fund Phase 3 of the program. To be eligible for the Phase 3 grant, applicants must be a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) nonprofit organization that demonstrates the capacity to purchase at least 1,500 meals meals in bulk costing at least $25,000 from New Jersey restaurants. They also must demonstrate increased costs during the pandemic, among other criteria to be eligible for the funding.

New Mexico

Farmington: Months after the withdrawal of legislation that proposed the Navajo Nation recognize marriage equality through repealing and amending tribal laws, a new bill is bringing back that recommendation. The legislation seeks to end the ban on same-sex marriage under the Diné Marriage Act and repeal the section of the Navajo Nation Council resolution from 2005 that forbids couples of the same gender from marrying on tribal land or having their marriage recognized. The bill also proposes to amend other provisions in tribal law to conform with the repeal, including those that address spousal rights to property and employee benefits under the tribal government. Delegate Eugene Tso recently introduced the legislation. It is now eligible for consideration by four standing committees, then the Navajo Nation Council. Tso sponsored the previous bill but abruptly withdrew his sponsorship in April, citing the need to retool the legislation amid mixed reaction from delegates and the public. In an interview July 1, Tso said he wants the bill to go to the council at the summer session.

New York

Albany: Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo improperly used state resources for a book he received $5.1 million to write, according to a report by a law firm. New York’s soon-to-be-disbanded ethics commission, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, voted Thursday to make the report public. It had sought the investigation by the law firm to learn more about how the book deal was approved and the role played by the commission itself. The report says the ethics commission failed to assert itself as a watchdog agency against the governor and should have asked for more information from Cuomo’s office. Cuomo had already written 70,000 words of what was expected to be an 80,000-word book before he submitted a request seeking approval by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics for the book in 2020. That meant Cuomo wrote and publicized the book at a time when it interfered with his responsibilities as a governor leading the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said. In December, the commission ordered Cuomo to turn over money from his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Cuomo has filed a lawsuit accusing the commission of violating his rights and showing bias against him.

North Carolina

Raleigh: The state Supreme Court will accelerate appeals over the constitutionality of a law that gave adults with child sexual abuse claims another two years to seek civil damages. A majority of justices agreed last week to hear the case of three former Gaston County student-athletes who are suing a coach who was convicted of crimes against team members, as well as the county school board, rather than let the intermediate-level Court of Appeals rule first. A divided panel of three trial judges dismissed the lawsuit last December, ruling unconstitutional a portion of the law that revived for two years only – 2020 and 2021 – the ability of someone otherwise too late to sue for child sexual abuse claims. Before the 2019 law called the SAFE Act, such abuse victims effectively had until age 21 to file such a lawsuit. The plaintiffs appealed. In a 4-3 decision announced Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided the case should bypass the Court of Appeals. The court’s registered Democrats composed the majority. Chief Justice Paul Newby, writing a dissent for the three Republican justices, said they would have allowed Court of Appeals review first and lamented that multiple bypass motions have been allowed by the court over the past few months in other cases.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Dozens of teachers from around the state got a cultural education from American Indian tribes last week. More than 250 educators attended the North Dakota Indian Education Summit on Thursday and Friday at the Capitol in Bismarck, where they participated in breakout sessions and took in cultural presentations, such as Native American dancing in traditional regalia. Some of the breakout sessions included teaching Indigenous culture successfully in today’s schools and implementing Native American topics into schools’ curriculum. “I think it’s important that we learn about the diversity of our students and have a better understanding of where they’re coming from and gain the knowledge they have so much to give back to us as educators,” said teacher Tami Hauglie. One of the summit’s objectives is to unify the education system in North Dakota to bring different cultures together, organizers said. Courtney Davis Souvannasacd, an outreach coordinator with the National Resource Center on Native American Aging at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, told KFYR-TV it wasn’t until later in her life that she was exposed to cultural ceremonies. “And so I still I have a lot to learn,” she said. “And I’m just happy that my children are able to experience that new environment that is open, welcoming, and inclusive of that where I try to chip away at obstacles or barriers that might be in the way, and it’s not always easy.”

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Cincinnati: A former Cincinnati City Council member was convicted Friday of federal charges of bribery and attempted extortion but was acquitted on four other counts. Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld, 37, had maintained his innocence against allegations that he agreed to accept $40,000 in payments to his political action committee to “deliver the votes” in the City Council for a proposed downtown real estate development. He had been considered a top contender to run for mayor before he was indicted in November 2020. “We’re obviously very disappointed; that’s about all I can say right now,” Charlie Rittgers, Sittenfeld’s attorney, said as he left the courthouse. “P.G., well he’s crushed. He’s crushed.” It’s not yet known if Sittenfeld will appeal the verdict or what type of sentence he’s facing. The jury got the case Wednesday afternoon and deliberated more than 12 hours over three days before reaching its mixed verdict. Sittenfeld was found guilty of single counts of bribery and attempted extortion but was acquitted of two counts of honest services wire fraud and single counts of attempted bribery and extortion. Sittenfeld dipped his head and slumped forward in his seat after hearing the verdict, while his wife and at least one other woman in the packed courtroom started to cry.


Anadarko: Native American tribal elders who were once students at federal Indian boarding schools testified Saturday about the hardships they endured, including beatings, whippings, sexual assaults, forced haircuts and painful nicknames. “I still feel that pain,” said 84-year-old Donald Neconie, a former U.S. Marine and member of the Kiowa Tribe who once attended the Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, about 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. “I will never, ever forgive this school for what they did to me. It may be good now. But it wasn’t back then.” As the elders spoke, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, herself a Laguna Pueblo from New Mexico and the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history, listened quietly. The event at the Riverside Indian School, which still operates today but with a vastly different mission, was the first stop on a yearlong nationwide tour to hear about the painful experiences of Native Americans who were sent to the government-backed boarding schools. Although most closed their doors long ago, and none still exist to strip students of their identities, some still function as schools, albeit with drastically different missions that celebrate the cultural backgrounds of their Native students. Among them is Riverside, one of oldest, which opened in 1871.


Salem: Backers of a proposed initiative that would require people to secure permits to buy firearms say concern about recent mass shootings have buoyed their effort, and they have enough signatures to place it on the November ballot. The Rev. Mark Knutson, a chief petitioner of the initiative, delivered signatures Friday afternoon to the Oregon secretary of state’s office in Salem, accompanied by students and other volunteers. Election officials, who work under Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, will verify that the signatures are from registered voters. Proponents of the measure say they’ve seen surging interest in the possible November ballot question following recent mass shootings, and they hope the move to put the gun issue before voters catches fire in other states. “Let’s go across the nation and go from grief and despair and mourning,” Knutson said. “We just need to take action. If people are afraid, if neighbors are being shot, if our children are in fear – if we don’t take action, what are we doing?” The initiative supporters needed to deliver at least 112,080 registered voters’ signatures by the Friday deadline to get on the ballot, Knutson said. Proponents say they delivered 161,545 signatures. It would ban large-capacity magazines over 10 rounds – except for current owners, law enforcement and the military – and require a permit to purchase any gun. The state police would create a firearms database.


Harrisburg: Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday rejected three bills passed by the Republican-majority Legislature, vetoing measures regarding transgender athletes in school sports and poll watchers. He also struck down the Human Services Code, blowing a hole in the state budget as lawmakers were trying to finish the annual flurry of votes that accompany the annual spending plan. Wolf had previously warned he would strike down the bill to prohibit transgender athletes from playing sports that align with their gender identity. In his veto message, he said the bill would have “a devastating impact on a vulnerable population already at greater risk of bullying and depression.” He also vetoed a bill – sponsored by Franklin County Sen. Doug Mastriano, the GOP’s nominee for governor – to let all registered voters of Pennsylvania serve as poll watchers in any precinct in the state. “This bill does nothing to increase access to voting,” he wrote. “Instead, this bill undermines the integrity of our election process and encourages voter intimidation.” Wolf’s third veto was based on a provision in the Human Service Code that would have prohibited a state agency from contracting with a vendor of financial management services.

Rhode Island

Providence: A national women’s rights organization is fighting back against the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling through federal court in the state. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust has filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island to recognize the Equal Rights Amendment as a valid and enforceable 28th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, thus affirming women’s equal rights under the law. “We hope that the little state of Rhode Island will make the biggest decision in the history of women’s rights. The timing has never been more urgent,” said Wendy Murphy, a longtime ERA strategist who works with the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust. The lawsuit is one of three the organization filed after the Supreme Court’s draft ruling overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked. The group, named for Stanton, a leading women’s rights activist in the 1800s, filed similar lawsuits in Michigan and New York, all with the aim of getting the courts to establish equal protection under the law regardless of sex. “The goal of the lawsuit is to get the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution,” said Murphy, a co-director of the Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Project at New England Law.

South Carolina

Greenville: Pastor John Gray of Relentless Church was hospitalized Thursday night with a saddle pulmonary embolism, according an Instagram post by Gray’s wife, Aventer Gray. “My family and I stand in need of a miracle,” Aventer Gray wrote in her post. A saddle pulmonary embolism is a rare type of blockage of an artery in the lungs that can be life-threatening, according to the National Library of Medicine. “To place this in perspective,” Aventer Gray posted, “the doctor said that people have come into the hospital dead with this exact scenario (John) walked in with.” Along with the embolism, Aventer Gray wrote that more blood clots were also found in her husband’s lungs. She wrote that he will need to undergo two types of surgery due to the pressure on his heart. John Gray came to Greenville in 2018 from Houston, Texas, where he served as an associate pastor under megachurch leader Joel Osteen. Gray took over the Redemption Church congregation and buildings and rebranded the church as Relentless Church when Redemption pastor Ron Carpenter announced he was moving his ministry to California. The post sparked an outpouring of support from members of Gray’s congregation, other faith leaders and celebrities alike.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Skateboarders and their fans dropped into downtown Sioux Falls for the national skateboard festival Innoskate over the weekend. Innoskate, created in 2013 by USA Skateboarding and the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, celebrates the intersection of invention and creativity in skate culture, according to the Smithsonian. Crowdgoers were treated to panels during Saturday’s activities on Native American skateboarding culture on the Pine Ridge Reservation, what diversity and inclusion looks like in skateboarding, and discussions about skateboarding in the Olympics. There were also trick competitions and skateboard workshops. “Pine Ridge is literally the mecca of skateboarding,” said Kyle Mesteth, 36, who founded the Ground Control Skate Park on the reservation. “You could just travel within an hour and hit four skate parks.” Mesteth spoke about how important skateboarding has become on the reservation and how he has watched it grow since he started skateboarding in the mid-1990s. One of the first skateparks on the reservation, the Toby Eagle Bull Memorial Wounded Knee Skate Park, opened in 2011. “We see a very bright future for our skaters because of the skate park,” he said. “We see results because of it.”


Memphis: The city’s hospitality and tourism industry experienced a bounce-back last year, with the hotel occupancy rate and total visitors returning to near pre-pandemic figures, according to Memphis Tourism’s annual report. The nonprofit organization often touts 2019 as a record year for the local industry. Then in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered that promising trajectory for hospitality and tourism due to restrictions that decreased national and international visitation. In addition to the usual tourist draws like Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum, 2021 also saw the return of a scaled-back Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. While COVID-19 restrictions remained in place for large parts of 2021, the availability of vaccines and loosening of local restrictions, along with other factors, saw the optimism from the end of 2019 return for those in hospitality and tourism. “Everybody saw the dramatic impact and how important the visitor economy is to a community,” Memphis Tourism CEO Kevin Kane said. “Everybody is really anxious to get that back as soon as they can.” More than 4.1 million hotel rooms were sold in Shelby County, or about 93% of the total hotel demand from 2019. Memphis outpaced the national average by about 5%.


Uvalde: The mayor on Friday disputed a new report that alleges authorities missed chances to quickly end the massacre at an elementary school, again reflecting the lack of definitive answers about the slow law enforcement response to one of the deadliest classroom shootings in U.S. history. Mayor Don McLaughlin said that no Uvalde police officer saw the gunman outside Robb Elementary School before he went inside and that none of them had an opportunity to fire on the shooter. His comments contradict a critique of the decision-making by law enforcement that was released last week by tactical response experts at Texas State University. The differing accounts and public rebuke of the report reiterated how, more than six weeks after the May 24 shooting, questions remain about how and why police armed with rifles and bulletproof shields waited more than an hour before confronting the gunman in a fourth grade classroom where 21 people were killed, including 19 children. It also widened a rift between Uvalde officials and the state, particularly the Texas Department of Public Safety, which had troopers on the scene and has directed much of the blame to the local school district police chief.

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Boarding school stories, underwater festival, secret museum living: News from around our 50 states (3)

St. George: The city, already a draw for outdoors enthusiasts, is opening a new trail this week, and officials say they expect it could help fight crime, too. The Temple Springs Trail, which will connect 700 East to Red Hills Parkway along the cliffside on the north end of the central part of the city, is set for an official opening Wednesday. The trail is open to pedestrians and cyclists and adds to the city’s growing network of multiuse trails. This particular trail was not initially in the city master plan but was later approved by the City Council after it was picked as a potential location, said Joe Nelson, the city’s parks and planning landscape architect. The project was brought to the city’s attention by the St. George Police Department, which had dealt with crime and homelessness in the area, Nelson said. “It was a kind of magnet for homeless camps and just kind of crime,” Nelson said. “It was a kind of a hot spot for that. The police had a really hard time getting into the site to surveil it, and so they were the ones that actually said, ‘Hey, we need to clean up this site and put a trail through it so we can have eyes on the site.’ ” A grand opening will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Parking will be available east of the water tank in two parking lots, and biking is also encouraged.


Burlington: A 21-year-old man died after he was shot in the head, police said Friday, as the city contends with an increase in gun violence in recent years. The shooting took place about 7:40 p.m. Thursday in the Old North End neighborhood. No suspects were in custody, but police said they believed that the parties knew each other and that the shooting was not random. Police identified the victim as Hussein Mubarak, of Burlington. After the shooting, police were told the suspect may have fled north into a wooded area. A search by police that included dogs and a drone was unsuccessful. In a statement, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the shooting death was the first homicide in the city in more than two years. “Yet it is one of many recent gunfire incidents, part of a very disturbing trend that has dramatically increased since 2020,” Weinberger said. Last month, Weinberger, city police and the county prosecutor said reducing gunfire episodes in Vermont’s largest city was a top priority. At the time, city officials said there had been nearly 40 instances of gunfire in the city since the beginning of 2020. Previously, the city averaged about two a year.


Bristol: The state’s first casino has opened for business in a temporary space inside a former shopping mall. The Bristol Casino will be open 24/7, offering 870 slots, 21 tables and a sportsbook. A line of customers wrapped around the building as they waited for Friday’s grand opening, TV station WDBJ reports. “We had to come and save my sister from spending all her money,” Christiansburg resident Cheryl Hubbard told the station. “And spend all of his,” she joked, pointing to her husband. In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly approved legislation to allow developers to build large casino resorts in five cities – Norfolk, Bristol, Portsmouth, Danville and Richmond – in what supporters billed as a way to boost struggling economies. Potential operators had to first clear a voter referendum. That happened in every city but Richmond, which rejected the initiative last year. But city officials have mounted an effort to bring the issue back a second time. Bristol voters overwhelmingly approved their referendum, and the project got its license earlier this year. Developers eventually plan to open a $400 million resort and Hard Rock casino, with a hotel, restaurants, bars and lounges, and a concert venue. The full-scale project is expected to open in 2024 and employ 1,200 people.


Seattle: The state Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished a King County District Court judge for implying in court that a defendant would be raped in prison if he didn’t change his behavior. The Seattle Times reports Judge Virginia Amato, who was elected in November 2018, presided over the arraignment of a man charged with misdemeanor domestic violence assault and resisting arrest last August, according to the stipulation, agreement and order of admonishment signed June 24 by the commission’s executive director, J. Reiko Callner. Before imposing conditions of release, Amato noted the man’s alleged crimes happened while he was on probation, the order says. The man had no felony convictions and could not be sent to prison for misdemeanors, yet Amato is quoted in the order as telling him he was setting himself up “to be Bubba’s new best girlfriend at the state penitentiary.” “That may hopefully give you a graphic image to think about … and if you think I’m kidding, I’m not,” she reportedly said. A confidential complaint was filed in October with the commission, which is responsible for reviewing and acting on complaints of judicial misconduct, and Amato was served with a statement of allegations in December, the order says.

West Virginia

Huntington: Recovery Point West Virginia held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the Point Cafe, Huntington’s newest community resource center. The Point Cafe opened after a few years of planning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reginald Jones, Recovery Point’s executive director, said officials originally applied for a grant in 2019 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to fund the cafe at a different location, but a “year of unavailability” led to the project coming to fruition later than expected. Now that the cafe is open, Jones said the location will be a safe space and a free, therapeutic environment for anyone seeking recovery to find resources, make connections and join support groups. The cafe will offer a variety of workshops and classes, including art and yoga. He said the cafe will also be a resource for the greater community of Huntington by holding cooking, financial literacy and computer courses; conducting barista training; and offering resume-building assistance, among other services. “The idea came to us as an organization, Recovery Point, from looking at what the needs are of the community and trying to find a niche to fill those gaps,” Jones said.


Madison: A divided state Supreme Court ruled Friday that parents suing the Madison School District over its gender identity policies must disclose their names to opposing attorneys, but they don’t have to be revealed to the district or be made public. The 4-3 ruling comes after a Dane County Circuit Court judge in 2020 temporarily suspended portions of the district’s guidance on gender identity that a group of unnamed parents and a conservative law firm sued to overturn. The case centers on a policy the district adopted in 2018 that calls for district personnel to call students by their preferred names and pronouns but not to disclose students’ gender identities to anyone outside, including their parents. Some parents sued in 2020, alleging the policy violates their right to parent their children as they see fit and their right to religious freedom. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, both conservative law firms, are representing the parents. The firm’s attorneys asked Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington to allow them to proceed without revealing the parents’ names out of fear they would be subject to retaliation and harassment.


Cheyenne: Energy companies bid more than $22 million to secure drilling rights on about 110 square miles of public lands in the West late last month, during the first onshore oil and natural gas lease sales since President Joe Biden took office. Leases on about 90 square miles went unsold in the U.S. Bureau Land Management online auctions that included parcels of federal lands in seven states. Oil and gas produced from the leases will be subject to a royalty rate of 18.75%. That’s up from 12.5% and the first royalty increase since the 1920s. Most of those sold were in Wyoming, where companies paid more than $13 million for parcels totaling about 105 square miles. The auctions came as federal officials try to balance efforts to fight climate change against pressure to bring down high gas prices. Critics of the leasing program pointed to unsold parcels in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Nevada as further evidence oil companies have enough leases and drilling permits already stockpiled to last them for years. But with several prior lease sales still tied up in court challenges from environmentalists, some companies had concerns going into the sale that they might not be able to drill on leases they acquired, said Ryan McConnaughey, vice president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Boarding school stories, underwater festival: News from around our 50 states



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