Montgomery: Officials in the capital city are preparing to open a time capsule that contains letters from residents and city officials to their successors and descendants. The capsule was sealed 50 years ago, during Montgomery's 150th anniversary in 1969. It included instructions to keep the capsule closed until the city's 200th anniversary, which is this week. The City of Montgomery, the Alabama Department of Archives and History and the Montgomery County Historical Society will commemorate the bicentennial Tuesday with the opening of the capsule. In addition to letters, it contains magazines, newspapers, brochures and other materials. The capsule also holds letters from then-Gov. Albert Brewer, former Mayor Earl James and other city officials to their successors 50 years in the future.
Juneau: A new study of environmental threats to Alaska Native communities has found the greatest challenges include erosion, flooding and thawing permafrost. Alaska's Energy Desk reports that the study results issued last month found the environmental hazards continue to worsen due to climate change. The Army Corps of Engineers and researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks conducted the study for the Denali Commission's Village Infrastructure Protection Program. Officials say the three-year, $700,000 study examined 187 communities, primarily in Western Alaska areas located on or near the coast or a river. The study provides a rating system that ranks the existing danger levels from flooding, erosion and permafrost degradation. A Denali Commission official says the report may help residents determine the biggest threats facing their communities.
Phoenix: The administration of Gov. Doug Ducey has developed a pattern of delaying or withholding public records requests. The Republican governor's administration takes months or even years to release documents requested under the state's public records law - if they exist at all. Dan Barr, an attorney specializing in First Amendment issues, says that the government should be communicating policy and decisions in writing and that not doing so "strains credulity." But the governor's office says it always follows the law and doesn't document every decision in writing. Reporters have waited months for requests for comprehensive records such as government contracts or salary information for staff, which are public records. They've often been rebuffed when requesting documentation that might show the administration came to a certain policy decision.
Fayetteville: State records indicate a youth mental health treatment center broke federal rules by using chemical injections to restrain young people held in seclusion. Inspection records obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette say the Piney Ridge Treatment Center was cited for at least 13 violations of Medicaid rules prohibiting simultaneous restraint and seclusion in 30 days. The Fayetteville facility, which treats patients 7 to 17 years old, was inspected in October after a watchdog group said staff were using physical and chemical restraints excessively. In November, Piney Ridge sent the state a corrective action plan that included revisions to its policies, additional training for nurses and two months of monitoring. Piney Ridge did not provide comment to the Democrat-Gazette.
Fresno: Residents are trying to save a struggling deodar cedar tree that lies at the heart of an annual California Christmas tradition. The Fresno Bee reports homeowners Greg and Dana Pratt have hired an arborist to tend to the first tree of what today is known as Christmas Tree Lane. The tree was first decorated in 1920 by William and Mae Winning in memory of their teenage son who died from a fall. Neighbors decorated trees in front of their homes in solidarity with the grieving parents. Today, the tree is one of hundreds decorated by residents along a 2-mile stretch of Van Ness Boulevard each December. Dana Pratt says she believes the tradition embodies the spirit of Christmas.
Denver: Ten grizzly bears from a zoo in Argentina are adjusting to their new home at Colorado's Wild Animal Sanctuary. The bruins were flown from Argentina to Dallas, then driven to Keenesburg, north of Denver, in late November. After an adjustment period, sanctuary officials plan to move the bears to a 50-acre habitat near Springfield. Wild Animal Sanctuary director Pat Craig tells Colorado Public Radio the sanctuary is the next best thing to living in the wild. The bears come from the Mendoza Zoological Park in the Mendoza Province near the Chilean border. The zoo was the subject of protests for housing a polar bear that died in 2016. Craig says the grizzlies mostly lived in cages and concrete surfaces. He says one was kept in a concrete pit for almost 19 years because he once escaped.
Hartford: U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is pushing legislation aimed at what he describes as "cyber Grinches." The Connecticut Democrat says the goal of the bill, which he unveiled last week, is to try to block the use of so-called bot technology that he says allows individuals to bypass security measures to scoop up large batches of the hottest toys of the season and then resell them at inflated prices. Blumenthal says the practice is unfair and may contribute in part to the scarcity of some of the toys. Blumenthal compares the practice to ticket scalping. In 2016 Blumenthal pushed legislation to crack down on those who used the same technology to unfairly scoop up tickets.
Wilmington: City officials have moved to repeal laws that restrict the times, places and ways people can ask for money in public, in the wake of federal court decisions ruling those regulations unconstitutional. The restrictions make illegal a wide range of panhandling methods, some of which raise eyebrows over their specific nature and whether it is possible to enforce them. The city code states, for example, that it is illegal to ask for money by "stating that the donation is needed to meet a specific need, when the solicitor already has sufficient funds to meet that need and does not disclose that fact." Panhandlers are also prohibited from lying about being homeless or being from out of town and stranded. They also must receive a police permit to panhandle more than five days out of the year. The laws appear to have been enacted at least 25 years ago, and city officials say they haven't been enforced "for at least a year or so."
District of Columbia
Washington: A D.C. councilman accused of violating board ethics is fighting an attempt to have him recalled from office. News outlets report Jack Evans on Friday filed a challenge to a petition calling for his recall, alleging more than a third of the collected signatures are invalid. Elections officials have less than three weeks to decide whether to validate the signatures or block the recall. Evans' challenge filed with the district Board of Elections includes declarations from two people whose names appear on the petition but say they didn't sign it. Evans, first elected in 1991, is up for reelection next year but hasn't yet filed paperwork to run. A third-party investigation recently found he used his office to benefit private clients. Similar allegations are under federal investigation.
Orlando: White Castle has announced plans to open its first fast food restaurant in the Sunshine State since closing its Miami burger joint decades ago. The company announced last week that its new restaurant in Orlando will be among the national chain's biggest. But so-called Cravers will have to wait about 18 months before the store is built and open for business. White Castle is best known for its sliders and became even more of a household brand more than a decade ago with the release of the film "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." A White Castle restaurant operated in Miami in the 1960s. The chain now operates 375 restaurants in 13 states.
Cairo: Litigants are instructed to "All rise" when court begins, but in one south Georgia courthouse, they won't be rising by elevator. Grady County officials tell the Thomasville Times-Enterprise the courthouse's elevator needs major repairs after three people got stuck in it last month. Firefighters pried open the door and rescued the group, but officials determined the 30-foot elevator shaft must be replaced. That's a problem because a term of court is set to open on the second floor in December. County Administrator Buddy Johnson says the county has one bid of $32,400 for repairs but is seeking a second, cheaper bid. The shaft must be cut out in sections and replaced one piece at a time. For now, judges are making special accommodations for disabled people.
Honolulu: The governor plans to announce support for pay increases to help recruit and retain teachers in special education, rural schools and Hawaiian language immersion. Hawaii Public Radio reports Democratic Gov. David Ige has scheduled a public announcement Tuesday to express his support for pay differentials for the specific teacher categories. Ige's office says he is working with the Hawaii Department of Education and state Board of Education to implement strategies to address teacher shortages. The Board of Education is scheduled to meet Thursday to review proposed pay increases. The education department is seeking an annual $10,000 increase for qualified teachers. The estimated cost for 1,691 special education teachers in fiscal year 2020 is $8.4 million, with the estimate rising to $16.9 million for fiscal year 2021.
Coeur d'Alene: Gov. Brad Little is calling for a third-party review of Lake Coeur d'Alene water quality, as the Coeur d'Alene Tribe has expressed frustration with management plans. The Coeur d'Alene Press reports for the past two decades, the state and tribe have worked to track toxins and compile plans to reduce pollutants. Phil Cernera, who directs the tribe's lake management department, cited inaction and a seeming unwillingness by the state to act to clean up the lake as reasons for the tribe leaving the process. Agriculture, leaking septic systems and municipal sewer plants add phosphorus into the water. Heavy metals on the lake bottom are from mining. The toxins become part of the water column when oxygen is low. Little says a third-party assessment would help inform the state's response.
Chicago: A screening of WTTW's yearlong initiative on gun violence and a discussion on the topic are scheduled for Wednesday. WTTW and Leadership Greater Chicago will co-host the event on the lasting impact of gun violence. WTTW's "Firsthand: Gun Violence" follows the lives of five Chicago residents affected by violence with firearms. It's a 15-part digital series reported in partnership with The Trace, a national news organization covering gun violence. Brandis Friedman of "Chicago Tonight" will moderate the discussion, to feature two initiative participants. Reality Allah is an ex-offender now working with READI Chicago. Police Sgt. Jermaine Harris from the Austin neighborhood's 15th District advocates social justice. There are admission fees to the 6 p.m. event at Venue SIX10.
Indianapolis: Construction is moving ahead on a permanent stage at the White River State Park amphitheater downtown. Work going on now for the nearly $16 million project is scheduled for completion in June. It's being built at the same site of the temporary stage that has been built and torn down each year since the park started hosting concerts in 2004. The current work includes adding two new LED video screens, a concrete pad for 3,000 permanent seats and more restrooms. A future $13 million phase would add an artistic canopy over the permanent seating area and part of the stage. Tom Mendenhall of concert promoter Live Nation tells the Indianapolis Business Journal that the amphitheater's summer concert season could grow to 30 shows a year with the improvements.
Sioux City: After 11 years of temporary lanes and closed exit ramps, work is finally nearly complete on an Interstate 29 expansion project through the city. The Sioux City Journal reports the Iowa Department of Transportation hopes to finish work on the project by Christmas. Final construction includes pouring concrete bridge approaches, installing guardrails and painting pavement. It was 2008 when crews began the $400 million project to widen the freeway to three lanes in each direction from Sergeant Bluff through Sioux City and to the South Dakota border. Although major construction will be over, workers still will need to make unexpected repairs to a bridge damaged by fire this fall. State transportation planner Dakin Schultz acknowledged that "there are times when it seemed it would never end."
Kansas City: Discussions following vandalism at a historic site linked to abolition and the Underground Railroad may help generate support for preservation efforts there. KCUR reports the vandalism was discovered last month at a statue honoring abolitionist John Brown in Kansas City. Part of his hand and a scroll he'd been holding were missing. The statue marks the entry point to the historic Quindaro Ruins, stone foundations and caves with archaeological artifacts linked to the activity of abolitionists and the Underground Railroad. Media reports about the latest vandalism and community outrage over it are focusing attention on the site. Energy company Phillips 66 has gas lines in the area. A spokesman says the company wants to see what it can do to support preservation of the site.
Frankfort: Gov.-elect Andy Beshear's administration has announced plans for his inauguration celebration and swearing-in. Beshear and Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman will be sworn in at the state Capitol on Dec. 10. The events include an inaugural breakfast reception at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History followed by a worship service at First Christian Church. The inaugural parade at the Capitol will begin at 10 a.m. EST, and Beshear will be sworn in at 2 p.m. A grand march presenting the new governor and lieutenant governor will begin at 8 p.m., and two inaugural balls will run from 9 p.m. to midnight. A release from Beshear's transition team says all inaugural events including the balls will be free and open to the public.
Baton Rouge: The state's coastal protection agency says a coastal restoration project in southwestern Louisiana has been completed. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said in a news release last week that the marsh creation project on the eastern shore of Calcasieu Lake in Cameron Parish created or nourished 700 acres of degraded marsh. The agency, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, paid for the $12 million project. Most of the money came through a federal and state partnership designed to restore wetlands. The coastal agency says two other projects have already been completed in southwestern Louisiana this year. The agency's director, Bren Haase, says more projects are under construction or being planned in the region.
Bangor: The organizers of a popular folk music festival have decided to discontinue the event for financial reasons. The American Folk Festival took place for the 18th time this year. Organizers say it was the final edition of the yearly three-day event in Bangor, supported by public donations. Organizers said it "celebrated the roots, the richness and the variety of American culture through music, dance, traditional crafts, storytelling and food." The festival board of directors chair Nicole Gogan says the decision to discontinue the folk festival was "a financial decision" because the board saw "no clear path forward that could be responsibly taken." She said the decision to end it was "incredibly difficult." The event began in 2002 as the National Folk Festival.
Baltimore County: Anglers will soon get new warnings about fishing in polluted waterways. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland Department of the Environment is providing signs to Baltimore County that indicate fish in certain waterways could have mercury, PCBs and pesticides. The signs, in English and Spanish, will advise anglers to avoid or limit the amount of fish they eat. The county has identified 20 locations for the new signs and is looking at other possible sites. The Maryland Department of the Environment recently provided similar signs to Prince George's County to put near the Anacostia River.
Boston: State lawmakers are returning from Thanksgiving with one big leftover on their plate - what to do with a $1.1 billion surplus in tax revenue from the last fiscal year. Passing such spending bills is usually a routine matter on Beacon Hill. Legislative leaders had hoped to button down the bill before Thanksgiving but failed to meet that goal. The debate now carries on into December, when lawmakers are typically taking a break from heavy legislative lifting before returning in earnest in January. The beginning of the year also marks the start of budget negotiations on the next fiscal year's budget - in this case the 2021 fiscal year. That budget is supposed to be passed by lawmakers and signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker by the end of June.
Ann Arbor: Nearly two hours before the first sales of recreational marijuana began Sunday, the line at Arbor Wellness snaked around a city block. And Nick St. Onge was the first in line, arriving from his Clinton Township home shortly before 7 a.m. "It's a historic moment. I wanted to be one of the first ones to buy legal marijuana," he said. "To not have to worry about it anymore. I can just walk in and buy it instead of going to somebody on the street to find it. It's tested, and that's comforting." The actual first sale happened at 9:50 a.m. to legendary cannabis activist John Sinclair, a Detroit resident who racked up three marijuana-related arrests in the 1960s and landed a 10-year prison sentence for giving an undercover cop two joints. His plight attracted the attention of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who headlined a concert in Ann Arbor in 1971 to bring attention to Sinclair's arrest.
Duluth: The Diocese of Duluth says Bishop Paul Sirba has died after suffering a heart attack. He was 59. The diocese says Sirba collapsed at St. Rose Church in Proctor on Sunday morning and was rushed to a Duluth hospital, where he died about 9 a.m. Sirba has led the Catholic Diocese of Duluth for a decade. His vicar general, Rev. James Bissonnette, said in a statement that "words do not adequately express our sorrow at this sudden loss of our Shepherd." After Sirba was ordained in 1986, he served at the Church of St. Olaf in Minneapolis, the Church of St. John the Baptist in Savage, at St. John Vianney Seminary and the Church of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, both in St. Paul, and at the St. Paul Seminary. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Gulfport: A new oceanographic research ship will be named for a physician who filed one of the Deep South's first school desegregation lawsuits and led wade-ins at a federally funded public beach. The lawsuit that Gilbert R. Mason Sr. filed for his son made Biloxi's public schools the first in the state to integrate. An official at the University of Southern Mississippi's School of Ocean Science and Engineering says Mason's name was among more than 160 submitted. The ship is expected to begin studies in the Gulf of Mexico in 2023. It will be operated by a consortium led by USM and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Universities in every Gulf state, as well as Georgia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Mexico, also are part of the group.
Clayton: An alarming string of deaths inside St. Louis County's jail led to a slew of changes, and county leaders believe the changes are paying off. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports it's been nearly six months since 31-year-old Daniel Stout died from peritonitis, the last of four 2019 deaths at the St. Louis County Justice Center. County leaders cite personnel moves, disciplinary actions, and reforms designed to improve professionalism, accountability and collaboration. Other changes sought to identify and address acute health problems more quickly. Alcohol poisoning killed 51-year-old Larry Reavis in January. A month later, 29-year-old John M. Shy died from internal bleeding after screaming in pain for hours. Twenty-year-old Lamar Catchings died of a treatable form of leukemia in March after no one sought to diagnose his condition.
Libby: Gayla Benefield is dying from lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, just as her dad, mom and husband did and four of her five children are. But when she first raised concerns that the W. R. Grace and Co. vermiculite mine responsible for much of this northwestern Montana town's livelihood was killing its residents, her concern was met with anger and denial. Benefield uncovered a 1969 memo that showed 92% of long-term mine workers suffered pulmonary diseases. The company hadn't told its workers. After the news got out in November 1999, and Libby was declared a Superfund site, Benefield told the Daily Inter Lake she was probably the least-liked person in town. Two decades later, Benefield says some people have thanked her quietly.
Lincoln: A new course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will focus on the world's religions and ask students to use their newfound knowledge to propose a common worship space on campus. The Lincoln Journal Star reports the course called "When the World's Religions Came to Lincoln" will start in spring 2020. Max Mueller, an assistant professor of classics and religious studies, says only 4% of Nebraska residents identify as non-Christians, but more immigrants and refugees in Lincoln have created greater religious diversity. Mueller says despite that increase, other religious communities don't have a space on or near campus to worship, leaving them to pray together in libraries or even hallways. As students learn about religions, they will research and propose a space to university stakeholders that could serve various religions.
Las Vegas: Cigarette and cigar smokers can be common in the state, where no law prohibits a gambler from lighting up. But some longtime card dealers, bar employees, health advisers and researchers say secondhand smoke can be dangerous. Teresa Price tells the Las Vegas Sun she was a table-games dealer for 35 years and is now on medical leave. She says she thinks secondhand smoke made her sick. Much of Nevada went smoke-free in 2006, after voters approved the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act. But exceptions were made for bars, strip club, brothels and casinos. Some officials say smoking and gambling go together, and longtime state and local lawmaker Tick Segerblom calls smoking part of the Las Vegas culture. He says Nevada lets people do things they can't do in other states.
Concord: Mayors in the state's two cities that take in the most refugees say they continue to support such resettlements. Under an executive order issued by President Donald Trump, state and local governments both must consent to receive refugees. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu gave the state-level consent Friday, and communities have until Dec. 20 to opt in. Concord and Manchester have taken the bulk of the state's refugees. Concord Mayor Jim Bouley told the Concord Monitor he expects to get approval from the City Council on Dec. 9. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig says she supports accepting refugees, but her office is seeking clarity on whether she needs sign-off from the full City Council. Between July 2010 and July 2018, Concord took in 1,292 refugees. Manchester took in 1,242.
Jersey City: The billionaire owner of a golf club for millionaires has his sights set on expanding his course onto a waterfront portion of Liberty State Park used mostly by children to learn about the ecology of New York Harbor. The renewed push by Paul Fireman, owner of Liberty National Golf Club, to build three holes on undeveloped Caven Point comes at a time when state lawmakers may ban such projects from New Jersey's most visited park. The Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit large developments at the park after 40 years of attempts by developers to build everything from a hotel to an amusement park on land coveted for its panoramic views of Manhattan. But a lobbyist for the golf course who has ties to Gov. Phil Murphy asked lawmakers at a recent Senate committee hearing to consider amending the bill to take out language protecting Caven Point.
Albuquerque: A beloved snowman made of tumbleweeds is returning to the city. The snowman goes up along Interstate 40 the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, called Tumbleweed Tuesday. The Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority says the tradition goes back to 1995. The agency builds the snowman with tumbleweeds collected from arroyos in the metro area and with recycled material. Field engineer Nolan Bennett says the tumbleweeds used are bigger than the usual tumbleweeds most people have on their property. The snowman typically dons a scarf and blue cap. Last year's snowman was 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide.
New Rochelle: The Freemasons will purchase a former college for $32 million after placing the winning bid approved in a bankruptcy auction. The bid by the Trustees of the Masonic Hall and Asylum Fund for the 15.6-acre College of New Rochelle campus was approved last week. The 115-year-old school declared bankruptcy in September. The college's interim chief restructuring officer, Mark Podgainy, says he's confident the Masons will use the campus in a manner that preserves the college's legacy and "offers value to the local community." The Mason trustees operate a senior health care campus and campground in Oneida among other New York properties. The fraternal organization of Freemasons started in Europe and spread to the American colonies. George Washington and 13 other presidents were Masons.
Raleigh: Significant changes to the state's justice system for young offenders and sex-related offenses began over the weekend. No longer will 16- and 17-year-olds be automatically tried in adult court for most nonviolent or less serious felonies as the "Raise the Age" initiative takes effect. North Carolina's designation as the only state where women can't revoke sexual consent is getting eliminated. A new law also essentially cancels a 2008 court decision that said sexual assault laws don't apply to people incapacitated because they decided to take drugs or drink alcohol. The age limit in which child sexual abuse victims can sue for civil damages also is going up from 21 to 28. These are among about 30 state laws passed or amended this year that are being enforced with the new month.
Bismarck: Sanford Health has implemented visitor restrictions in the neonatal intensive care unit at its Bismarck hospital because of influenza and respiratory illnesses. The health care provider says only immediate family members of a baby in the unit are allowed to visit. And they must have no symptoms of respiratory illness. Immediate family members include parents and guardians, grandparents and siblings over 12 years old.
Celina: Immigrants from the Marshall Islands who've settled over the years in this rural area are sharing their culture and history with their neighbors. The Marshallese Culture Club plans to meet once a week in Celina, where an estimated 1,500 people from the chain of south Pacific Ocean islands now live. The leader of the club tells The Daily Standard in Celina that those taking part will learn the language, customs and traditions of the Marshallese. Carmichael Capelle says he wants to teach the history of the Marshall Islands to the longtime residents of western Ohio and to the Marshallese community in Mercer County, including the children who don't know their history or language. He says that someday he'd like to have a Marshallese class taught in area schools.
Oklahoma City: When students at Positive Tomorrows were asked what they'd want at their dream school, answers included a tree house, a library, an alarm for intruders and an area for gymnastics. Positive Tomorrows is the state's only school exclusively serving children and families experiencing homelessness, and because of high demand and inadequate space, nearly 100 children a year are turned away. But after several years of fundraising and construction, the organization has moved into a new $15 million school building. Eventually, the school will expand to serve 210 children, more than doubling current capacity, says Susan Agel, president and principal. This week marks the first time students are attending class inside the 42,000-square-foot facility, which ultimately included many of the kids' design ideas, says Gary Armbruster, principal architect and partner at MA+ Architecture.
Klamath Falls: Authorities at Crater Lake National Park say someone driving off road damaged plants and other resources, and they're asking for the public's help in finding who is responsible. The Herald and News reports park rangers believe the incident happened late Nov. 23 or early Nov. 24. According to a park Facebook post, driving off roadways and damaging resources is a federal crime punishable by up to $5,000 and/or six months' imprisonment for each offense. The park says there is a short window during summer months in which plants in the park get sunlight to grow. The rest of the year they can be buried in deep snow. The park says the staff spends time each year fixing areas damaged by visitors not staying on roads or trails.
Harrisburg: The Pennsylvania Game Commission says it is investigating a video circulated on social media showing two males apparently beating an injured deer. In a Facebook post Sunday, the commission called the conduct portrayed in the video "reprehensible and potentially a violation of the law." The two appear to kick the animal in the face repeatedly and rip off one of its antlers. Game wardens are investigating and ask anyone with information to call the Operation Game Thief hotline or the northwest region dispatch office. The commission told KDKA-TV that although the two individuals are reportedly from Brookville in Jefferson County, that doesn't mean the incident occurred there. Brookville police told WJAC-TV the events occurred outside their jurisdiction, and "proper authorities were notified."
Providence: The Rhode Island State House Christmas tree will be artificial this year. The governor's office said in a statement that the 18-foot California baby redwood replica will be more manageable than a real tree. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo says it's challenging to keep a real tree alive and thriving through the holiday season. There have been several mishaps with State House trees. In 2005 the tree turned brown and shed all its needles. In 2016 the tree was replaced for being too small, and in 2017 the tree died 10 days before Christmas. Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee caused an uproar in 2011 when he called the tree a "holiday tree." The new tree will be lit during a ceremony Wednesday.
Columbia: Winter weather preparedness week is kicking off in the Palmetto State, with officials asking residents to check supplies now. The state Emergency Management Division says even though winters are usually mild in South Carolina, the state can get big snows or ice storms. The agency says residents need to check fuel supplies to make it through long power outages and make sure their pipes are insulated so they don't freeze. Other winter survival tips include making sure chimneys are clean of debris and carbon monoxide detectors are working. Winter weather preparedness week started Sunday and runs through Saturday.
Rapid City: The city canceled its Festival of Lights Parade because of poor road conditions and high winds. The decision came after festival staff and the Rapid City Police Department discussed road and weather conditions Saturday morning. The parade was planned for Saturday evening, and much of the parade route had not been plowed yet. KELO-TV reports parade organizers will instead hold a "static parade" next Sunday at the Rushmore Mall. The television station reports that means when the mall closes at 6 p.m., the overhead lights will be shut off so people can drive a loop around the mall to see the floats lined up outside the edge of the parking lot.
Nashville: The state has the fifth-largest number of rural students in the country, but it's the seventh-lowest in terms of funding for instruction, according to a recent report on the country's rural schools by the nonpartisan Rural School and Community Trust. In Tennessee, almost 300,000 students attend a rural school - or 1 in 3 kids. The report points out that Tennessee is showing promise despite its level of funding. It highlights areas of strength, but also problem areas, for states in teaching students with rural backgrounds. For example, the report says that "22 states have decreased their state contributions for every local dollar invested in rural schools. Tennessee has seen the greatest drop ($1.68, down from $2.11 per local dollar)." This comes as more Tennessee school districts are classified as rural, the report says. And the state's rural students are more likely to face extreme poverty than their rural counterparts in other states.
El Paso: Father Harold Joseph Rahm, a Jesuit priest who graces a mural in the Segundo Barrio neighborhood for his positive influence, died Saturday, according to the El Paso Catholic Diocese. He was 100 years old. Rahm came to El Paso in 1952 and was an assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Church for 12 years. At the time, the area was riddled with gangs, and Rahm took it upon himself to talk to them and try to make an impact in their lives. He was known for cruising the streets of the Segundo Barrio on his bicycle, stopping to talk to people in the neighborhood and to reach out to gang members. He was sometimes called "the bicycle priest." In May 2015, he came all the way from his home in Brazil to El Paso at the age of 96 to be honored with the 2015 Segundo Barrio Person of the Year Award.
Salt Lake City: Parents say a substitute teacher berated their fifth grader after he said he was thankful that he's finally going to be adopted by his two dads. The boy's classmates say the teacher said that "that's nothing to be thankful for" and lectured the 30 kids in the class about her views on homosexuality. She said that "two men living together is a sin," and "homosexuality is wrong." Parent Louis van Amstel tells the Salt Lake Tribune he's grateful for three girls who asked the teacher to stop and eventually walked out of the room to get the principal. The substitute was escorted from the building. A spokesman for Alpine School District south of Salt Lake City says that "appropriate action has been taken."
Dummerston: A nonprofit has proposed a nature preserve that would protect more than 1,100 acres. The Brattleboro Reformer reports the Green Mountain Conservancy has proposed a nature preserve that would run through Dummerston, Brookline and Newfane, making it the first parcel owned by the nonprofit. The conservancy plans for the trails on the new preserve to connect to trails at the Putney Mountain Unit of Conte National Wildlife Refuge and the Black Mountain. The proposed preserve started as the Deer Run Farm, a 300-acre parcel and farmhouse, in 1985. The nonprofit received $350,000 from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to purchase the land, as well as assistance from the Vermont Land Trust. The organization plans to host an information meeting about the Deer Run Nature Preserve on Dec. 4.
Charlottesville: The University of Virginia and William & Mary are the latest schools to announce plans to become carbon neutral. The schools announced their goals Monday in a statement that said they hope to produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions. UVA and William & Mary said they will share information and collaborate. William & Mary said it's exploring an agreement that could bring as much as 60% of its electricity from solar farms. Another challenge is the use of natural gas for heating and steam production. William & Mary said it will hire a consultant to provide advice. The goals go further than power consumption. UVA hopes to expand plant-based meal offerings and switch to sustainably raised meats. UVA is in Charlottesville. William & Mary is in Williamsburg.
Mount Vernon: Wildlife rehabilitation facilities are seeing an increase in owls being hit by vehicles north of Seattle. The Skagit Valley Herald reports Sarvey in Arlington and Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on San Juan Island see an increase each fall. Wolf Hollow Education Coordinator Shona Aitken says 14 of 17 owls treated at the center this fall were hit along Highway 20 and Memorial Highway, as well as in the Big Lake, Bow, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley areas. While there's always an uptick in injured owls this time of year, she said seeing 17 since Sept. 15 is unusually high. Some of the owls have died, some were released into the wild, and some are still undergoing treatment. At Sarvey, six owls hit by vehicles in Skagit County have been received since Oct. 1. Aitken says drivers can help by being aware that owls typically hunt between dawn and dusk and aren't just found in forested areas.
Charleston: Hunting and fishing licenses for next year have gone on sale in the state. The Division of Natural Resources says in a news release that the sale started Sunday, earlier than normal, to allow for holiday gift purchases and early renewals. Gov. Jim Justice says anyone buying a sportsman or junior sportsman license before Jan. 1 will automatically be entered to win a free lifetime license or a vacation to a West Virginia state park. Winners will be announced in mid-January.
Madison: The Wisconsin Elections Commission wants the Legislature to get involved with a dispute that could result in 234,000 people being made unable to vote. The commission voted 5-1 Monday to ask that the Republican-controlled Legislature provide guidance for when voters who may have moved should be deactivated from voter rolls. The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed a lawsuit last month alleging that the commission is not removing the potential movers as quickly as it should. The lawsuit alleges they must be deactivated after 30 days after receiving notice from the state. The commission currently plans not to remove anyone until after the April 2021 election because of problems that occurred in 2017 with people deactivated even though they had not moved.
Casper: The state collected more than $1 billion in sales and use taxes in fiscal year 2019. According to an annual tax revenue report compiled by the state's Economic Analysis Division, that was nearly 12% more than the state collected the previous fiscal year. The report credits oil exploration and more active drilling rigs in eastern Wyoming for some of the growth. The Casper Star-Tribune reports that construction stemming from the energy sector delivered high returns for the state. Still, the 2019 fiscal year didn't set any tax records. Chief economist Wenlin Liu says the amount of total sales and use taxes for fiscal year 2019 was about 5% lower than that of fiscal year 2015, before the economic downturn in the state.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Liberty State Park, Christmas Tree Lane: News from around our 50 states