Huntsville: A state trust is purchasing a nearly 500-acre tract in north Alabama for $10 million to protect the habitat of a tiny fish that had endangered work on a $1.6 billion car plant. The Forever Wild Land Trust bought land where the rare spring pygmy sunfish lives near the Mazda Toyota plant being built in Limestone County, news outlets report. The fish, listed as a federally threatened species, is known to exist in only two locations in the state, including the Beaverdam Spring area near the factory. The Center for Biological Diversity and Tennessee Riverkeeper had threatened to sue to protect the sunfish and its habitat before reaching a deal to protect the fish a year ago. The land purchase was part of that agreement. The car factory is projected to begin production in 2021 with as many as 4,000 employees.


A tourist bus near Polychome Pass on the only road inside Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Photo: Mark Thiessen, AP)

Fairbanks: The National Park Service plans to limit the opening of the Denali National Park road in 2020 due to the severe collapse of a hillside, officials say. The park’s 92-mile road is expected to open only to mile 43 just before Polychrome Pass at the start of the summer season, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports. A steep, increasingly unstable section of road called Pretty Rocks consists of clay-rich soil on top of several feet of frozen ground. As temperatures rise and precipitation increases, the road portion has started moving downhill, officials say. “The last six years have been some of the warmest we’ve seen,” park geologist Denny Capps said in a statement. Travel will be prevented to popular sites including Polychrome Overlook, Toklat River Rest Stop, Stony Hill Overlook, Eielson Visitor Center and Wonder Lake areas, officials say.


Crowds outside the 1 North Ride Share pickup location at Sky Harbor Airport on Nov. 30, 2019. (Photo: Melissa Yeager/The Arizona Republic)

Phoenix: Uber and Lyft say they are prepared to leave Sky Harbor International Airport after the City Council voted 7 to 2 on Wednesday to approve an increase in ride-share fees for dropping off and picking up passengers, though neither company will say when. The new fee of $4 per trip will go into effect Feb. 1. The fee will increase by 25 cents each year, reaching $5 each way in 2024. “The city of Phoenix will be driving out ride sharing from our airport. This is what is going to happen today,” said Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who opposed the proposal. He and Councilman Jim Warring were the two “no” votes on the measure. Councilman Carlos Garcia, who voted in favor, countered that “for a long time we have been subsidizing these corporations.”


Clyde Barrow (Photo: Register file photo)

Fort Smith: A historic Dallas home connected to the criminal exploits of Clyde Barrow and the Jan. 6, 1933, shooting death of Deputy Sheriff Malcom Davis is up for demolition. But Jeff Hill has a plan to salvage the front of the house and bring it to Fort Smith. He just needs a carpenter with some tools and a few extra partners to help pay about $11,000 to haul it from Dallas. Hill, a local history enthusiast who has helped track down several Fort Smith connections to the Barrow gang, secured a donation of what is known as the McBride Home from the Wesley Rankin Foundation. “Fort Smith is a Bonnie and Clyde town,” Hill said of wanting to see it in Fort Smith. “They used the Dennis Motel on Midland as a hideout; they likely robbed the Monroe Store, which is now Arlie Muck’s downtown, for clothes after a shootout in Joplin, Mo. And they also likely robbed a Fort Smith cigar store.”


Los Angeles: Been meaning to return that overdue library book but worried about the dent that will put in your pocketbook? Worry no more, Mayor Eric Garcetti says: Beginning this spring, Los Angeles’ 73 public library branches will no longer collect fines for overdue books. “The burden of the fines placed on Angelenos is significant – for students, for families who don’t have a lot of spending money, for seniors on a fixed income,” Garcetti says. The move continues a trend that has seen public libraries in other major U.S. cities eliminate fines in an effort to make public libraries accessible to more people. LA libraries currently charge 35 cents a day for overdue books, audio books and magazines and 15 cents for children’s books. Late CDs and DVDs accrue fines of $1 a day. Libraries will still seek reimbursement for lost items.


Denver: A local radio station has canceled a scheduled program after one of the hosts said a school shooting would help break up media coverage of impeachment proceedings. Chuck Bonniwell from the show “Chuck & Julie” was complaining Tuesday about an abundance of media coverage on the impeachment of President Donald Trump. “You wish for a nice school shooting to interrupt the monotony,” Bonniwell said. His co-host and wife, Julie Hayden, immediately reprimanded him and told listeners not to call in. Radio executives immediately canceled the show. KNUS-AM gave an official statement on its website stating that the 1-4 p.m. weekday slot would now feature the Salem Network show America First hosted by Sebastian Gorka.


Hartford: State lawmakers on Wednesday approved a long-awaited $1.8 billion settlement agreement reached between Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and the state’s hospital association that will trigger the withdrawal of legal claims that potentially exposed the state to as much as $4 billion in liability. Both Democrats and Republicans noted the seven-year deal marks a new chapter in the state’s relationship with the hospitals, which was rocky under former Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s tenure. Lawmakers returned to the state Capitol for a special session Wednesday to vote on the hospital agreement, as well as as second bill that attempts to address concerns raised by restaurant owners facing class-action lawsuits over state wage and hour rules. Among other things, the bill repeals a regulation that governs when restaurant workers are paid the “tip wage,” which is lower than the minimum wage. The state labor commissioner must adopt new regulations.


Scenes from the 2019 Hummers Parade in Middletown. (Photo: Jerry Habraken, The News Journal)

Middletown: The town has approved guidelines that would allow the annual Hummer’s Parade to continue on New Year’s Day despite last year’s controversy over a float that portrayed migrant children in cages. News outlets report city officials approved the guidelines Wednesday. The guidelines say Middletown “does not, either by express or implied means endorse, adopt, condemn nor condone any particular expression of free speech by any parade applicant or participant. The Town cannot, and will not, attempt to unlawfully regulate the exercise of free speech.” The city’s website says the event modeled after Philadelphia’s Mummer’s Parade is not affiliated with the town and is “haphazardly thrown together” by residents, making fun of each year’s events. The 2019 parade caused officials and community activists to cry foul, saying spoofing the humanitarian crisis at the border was mean-spirited and considered to be “punching down.”

District of Columbia

Washington: Two brothers want the rest of the country to experience mumbo sauce, a condiment unique to the D.C. area that can be sweet, tangy or spicy, WUSA-TV reports. The sauce, usually dark orange or red, is best known for being sold in D.C.’s Chinese carry-out restaurants, despite it being started in the black community years ago. Andrew and Nyles Burton created their own version of the district’s quintessential sauce in their family’s kitchen and named their sauce “Uncle Dell’s Mambo Sauce,” selling it through their company, Andy Factory. Chicago and D.C both lay claim to mumbo sauce. The company Select Brands was first to market it, but many D.C. residents disagree with the Windy City’s ownership of the name. Andrew Burton says the Midwestern version is “more like a barbecue sauce.” But Select Brands retains a trademark for “mumbo sauce,” hence the spelling of the brothers’ product as “mambo sauce.”


Ellen DeGeneres talks to Mary Katherine Backstrom on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." (Photo: Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.)

Fort Myers: A woman caught up in what she calls the magic of Christmas accidentally hugged a stranger at a gas station parking lot, and now the video is going viral. Mary Katherine Backstrom says she was feeling the holiday cheer, so she bought a soda for the woman in line in front of her. She left the store and saw a stranger cleaning her windshield. Delighted, she hugged the man and excitedly told him, “This is my favorite part of humanity. I love Christmas so much. Thank you for doing this.” Turns out it wasn’t her car. His car just looked like hers. The two had a good laugh, and the popular mommy blogger recounted the incident in an online video that has more than 78 million views. She appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Tuesday and was presented with an oversized check for $20,000. The 35-year-old says she’s not sure what she and her husband will do with the money but will likely use it to fuel some random acts of kindness.


Woodbine: A decision that could have determined whether a Camden County site meets environmental requirements to launch rockets was put on hold at the request of officials. The Federal Aviation Administration delayed an environmental impact statement for the proposed spaceport. It was originally scheduled for release Monday, but the county decided to amend its license application, causing an indefinite hold as the new application materials are reviewed, FAA environmental specialist Stacey Zee told news outlets. The environmental assessment is more than a year overdue from its original FAA deadline, The Brunswick News reports. Camden County has spent more than $7 million over the past 4 years to establish the spaceport at an old, abandoned industrial site near the Georgia coast.


Honolulu: Hawaii chain Zippy’s Restaurants has signed a deal to continue serving Dave’s Ice Cream in all of its 24 locations, officials say. Zippy’s says the contract with Honolulu-based Dave’s takes effect immediately, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. The arrangement will result in annual servings of at least 23,500 gallons of vanilla and 16,000 gallons of chocolate ice cream from Dave’s as dessert and in milkshakes, Zippy’s says. The bankruptcy last month of national food and beverage firm Dean Foods caused concern at Dave’s, owner Dave Leong said. The 37-year-old company in Honolulu’s Pearl City area distributed its desserts under a wholesale arrangement with Dallas-based Dean Foods subsidiary Meadow Gold Dairies-Hawaii. Meadow Gold plans to supply its Hawaii customers from a Utah plant beginning next month, cutting off a third of Dave’s business, or more than $1 million annually.


Coeur d’Alene: Public land managers say the number of eagles flocking to northern Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene has unexpectedly dropped. Bureau of Land Management biologist Carrie Hugo counted 223 eagles last week, The Spokesman-Review reports. Last year Hugo counted 367 eagles. BLM spokeswoman Suzanne Endsley says the decline may be related to the conclusion of kokanee salmon spawning. She says next week’s count will determine if the eagles have moved on from the area, perhaps because they are focusing on other food sources like Lake Pend Oreille.


Chicago: The City Council on Wednesday rejected an effort to delay marijuana sales until July 1. The ordinance was defeated by 10 votes, a day after a council committee approved a delay amid complaints that minorities were being left out of ownership of Chicago marijuana businesses. “This has been percolating for months, yet we are told to wait our turn,” said Alderman Leslie Hairston, who is black. “The only people who benefit from this deal are white people. We get thrown in jail, and they get thrown in the bank.” Marijuana sales become legal in Illinois on Jan. 1. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had opposed any delay in Chicago, saying concerns over diversity could be addressed without a postponement. Alderman Jason Ervin said African Americans have “zero representation” among owners of 11 medical marijuana dispensaries that would quickly make the transition to recreational sales Jan. 1.


One of the posts on Rep. Andre Carson's Twitter page that explains the articles of impeachment with Legos. (Photo: Rep. Andre Carson)

Indianapolis: A member of the state’s congressional delegation is using Legos to explain the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Democratic Rep. Andre Carson’s Twitter feed has been peppered with pictures of a Lego figurine that bears a striking resemblance to Trump. In an attempt to demonstrate the charges against the president, Carson used Lego bricks to give detailed breakdowns of both articles of impeachment by having the toys act out what Trump is accused of doing. Carson says he had the help of a staffer who was part of a Lego fan club. Together, they wanted to create something that was easy to digest for citizens following the story. Comic book-style text bubbles help explain the action, and it ends with a re-creation of Wednesday’s impeachment vote with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the podium.


Matt Stokes and Drifter, whom he calls his emotional support coyote. (Photo: Matt Stokes via AP)

Waterloo: A man is trying to regain custody of a young coyote he says has become his emotional support animal. “This animal is a dog in a coyote’s body,” Matthew Stokes says of Drifter, a youngster who Stokes says was left by a coyote family that had dug a den this past spring in his backyard on the outskirts of Waterloo. Drifter was an orphaned pup “looking for a pack. I became his pack,” Stokes says. He told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier he was suffering at the time from a bone infection in a foot and was in danger of losing it, but Drifter kept him going. The pup was corralled by a neighbor while roaming the area in October and placed with a wildlife rehab agency. “This is not an emotional support animal. This is a wild coyote,” says Tracy Belle, director of WildThunder Wildlife and Animal Rehabilitation and Sanctuary. Drifter is young and seems docile, Belle says, but his adult behavior and predatory instincts have yet to kick in.


Shawnee: Getting stopped by police was joyful this week for some residents of this Kansas City suburb. KMBC-TV reports Officer Ryanne Stevens was among the elves doling out $100 bills on Wednesday in Shawnee. After pulling over a van for a minor traffic infraction, she learned that the driver’s wife has multiple sclerosis. She explained that a Secret Santa had donated cash and that she thought the man “might be a good recipient of that money.” Another unsuspecting driver hugged Stevens, telling her, “Thank you so much, God bless you.” This is the fifth year the Secret Santa has donated $10,000 for Shawnee police to hand out. “I think it’s awesome,” Stevens said. “I think we have a really good community that we live in that’s very supportive of us and what we do.”


Prestonsburg: At least 15 horses have been fatally shot at a strip mine site in eastern Kentucky, authorities say. The horses were found on a site along U.S. 23 near the Floyd-Pike County line, WYMT-TV reports. A $500 reward is being offered for information on the shootings. Tonya Conn with Dumas Rescue, an animal rescue group, says the dead horses were scattered over a large area, and it appears they were hunted. “Seeing them gunned down is … beyond horrific,” Conn says. Authorities say some of the horses were young, and some were pregnant. “It looked like a battlefield for just horses,” says Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt, who notes that the animals appear to have been feeding at the time, as one “had grass in its mouth.” He says the person responsible could face animal cruelty charges at a minimum.


New Orleans: City officials are fast-tracking work on a broken sewer line that briefly had them considering dumping sewage into the Mississippi River. The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board adopted an emergency declaration Wednesday to fix a valve on the line in the Gentilly neighborhood. The declaration will speed bidding and repairs on the valve, currently held open by a hydraulic jack and wooden wedges, the Times Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reports. Crews discovered the problem Dec. 2 and tried for hours to get the broken valve open. As sewage backed up, the agency considered dumping it in the river to prevent it from spilling onto streets or causing an even more serious blowout. Wednesday’s meeting came days after two explosions involving the city’s sewage and water systems.


Augusta: Fourteen nonprofit groups are receiving grants to help make sure difficult-to-count communities in the state are included in the 2020 census. The grants are from the Maine Census Outreach Fund 2020, a funding effort supported by the Maine Philanthropy Center. The grants range from $5,000 to $15,000 and will help pay for work such as community events, phone banking, adult education programs and other efforts. Organizers of the funding effort say the extra work will help make sure everyone is counted. That includes communities that often go undercounted, such as tribal groups, rural residents and young children. Groups receiving grants include Maine Access Immigrant Network, Maine Children’s Alliance and Maine Equal Justice. Organizers say one of the reasons the count is important is that the census plays a role in determining federal funding.


Annapolis: As counties and universities in the state face increasing pressure to end their partnerships with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Cecil County’s is recently “operational,” according to an ICE spokeswoman. Cecil is one of three Maryland counties – with Frederick and Harford – that currently have what are known as 287(g) agreements with the federal agency. Through these agreements, ICE trains and authorizes police officers at local detention centers to screen inmates for breaking immigration laws. Two Cecil County officers completed a four-week training in September, ICE spokeswoman Kate Pote says. Though the 287(g) training programs do not come with federal funds, other programs with the immigration agency – to house inmates and train ICE employees – have brought in millions in revenue to a few Maryland localities and universities.


In 1692, the Salem witch trials resulted in the conviction and hanging of 19 people. A 20th was pressed to death. (Photo: Alamy)

Salem: The mayor says President Donald Trump needs to “learn some history” after he claimed those accused in the city’s infamous 17th-century witch trials received more due process than he has during impeachment proceedings. Democratic Mayor Kim Driscoll wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that the trials in 1692 included “powerless, innocent victims” who were “hanged or pressed to death” on scant evidence. Twenty people suspected of witchcraft were killed in Salem during a frenzy stoked by superstition, fear of disease and strangers, and jealousy. The allegations against Trump, in contrast, are against a powerful world leader and come with “ample evidence” and “admissions of wrongdoing,” Driscoll says. “This situation is much different than the plight of the witch trial victims, who were convicted using spectral evidence + then brutally hanged or pressed to death. A dubious legal process that bears no relation to televised impeachment.”


Morenci: The American Civil Liberties Union is defending 14 Amish families in a dispute with a county health department over outhouses and plumbing. The Lenawee County Health Department has filed lawsuits asking a judge to order property owners to comply with county waste disposal rules or face demolition. In response Wednesday, lawyers for the families said their way of living is not a threat, and they accused the county of violating religious freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. “The county is persecuting this Amish community because of their deeply held religious beliefs that have safely guided their way of life for generations,” said Phil Mayor, an ACLU attorney. In counterclaims against the county, lawyers for the families said they adhere to “simple living” and avoid modern technology.


St. Paul: The state Department of Health will use a $3.3 million federal grant to minimize lead hazards in older homes across the state’s southeastern region. Southeastern Minnesota has higher rates of elevated lead levels in children compared to other parts of the state, according to health officials. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant will help low-income families rehabilitate older homes that still have lead-based paint. “Lead-based paint in older homes remains the single greatest cause of elevated lead levels in Minnesota children,” says Stephanie Yendell, the health department’s lead poisoning prevention program supervisor. The health department will partner with the cities of Rochester and Winona, as well as community organizations in a dozen counties. The grant will allow for lead abatement in 151 homes, 31 in Rochester.


Pascagoula: A wrongful death lawsuit claims a diabetic inmate, jailed for allegedly violating her own protection order, died while pleading for insulin from authorities and medical personnel who largely ignored her. The woman’s daughter, Kayla Rush, is suing Jackson County, the sheriff’s office, sheriff, jailers and the then-contracted health care provider, The Sun Herald of Biloxi reports. She’s seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for negligence, pain and failure to provide Cindy Michelle Arnold, 38, with standard medical care. “People who are in jail are even more vulnerable because they don’t have access their own medicine,” says Rush’s attorney, Christopher Klotz. Arnold was found dead in September 2018, just two days after being arrested and charged with violating her protective order against her former common-law husband. Authorities say she called her ex and invited him to her home, where they got into a dispute.


A Turkey Day-themed message on a MoDOT road sign east of Columbia. (Photo: Missouri Department of Transportation)

Jefferson City: A lawmaker wants to put the brakes on transportation officials’ use of playful messages on electronic signs along state highways, such as “Santa’s Coming Have You Been A Good Driver” and “Treat the Road Like a Cat Video … Share It.” “Those signs are hideously expensive, and (the Missouri Department of Transportation) has a lot of incredibly detailed information they could share,” says Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon. “But rather than sharing that information with people, they make puns about Santa Claus.” Under a bill he introduced last week, the department would be allowed to use the signs only to convey information about traffic conditions, weather or emergency alerts. Jon Nelson, assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer, says he displays that sort of information whenever needed, but when the roads are clear, the department can “take the opportunity to let people know about simple things they can do to make Missouri a safer place to drive.”


Jeannette Rankin, R-Mont., was the first woman elected to Congress. (Photo: FILE PHOTO)

Missoula: President Donald Trump has signed a bill into law to name a post office in the city in honor of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress. Rankin was born near Missoula on June 11, 1880. She studied at the University of Montana, graduating in 1902 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology, and was a social worker before becoming involved in the women’s suffrage movement. Rankin’s advocacy work was instrumental in granting women the right to vote in Montana in 1914 and was significant in initiating legislation that eventually became the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting voting rights to women, according to a state House bill passed earlier this year to name a piece of Interstate 90 in Montana in her honor. Rankin, a Republican, voted against the United States entering World War I and World War II, saying she could not vote for war.


North Platte: A truck maintenance shop will be the first new building erected at the city’s airport as part of the relocation of Nebraska National Guard units, the state adjutant general says. Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac said Wednesday that the guard expects to begin construction of the garage during the 2021-2022 federal fiscal year, and a new readiness center will follow by the late 2020s. The center will replace the North Platte armory that’s been in service since 1956, The North Platte Telegraph reports. The armory and the old garage behind the armory have have served the guard well, Bohac said, but “they’re not as well-organized as they could be in terms of training.” The new airport complex will meet post-9/11 standards calling for a minimum 40-acre campus with greater distance between the front gate and the facilities, he said.


Reno: The state wants a federal judge to declare illegal what it calls the U.S. government’s “secret plutonium smuggling operation” and order the removal of weapons-grade material already shipped to a security site north of Las Vegas over the state’s objections. The latest filing in a yearlong legal battle asks U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Reno to reject the government’s motion to dismiss the state’s lawsuit. Nevada is challenging the Energy Department’s covert shipment of the highly radioactive material from South Carolina last year. The department insists the issue is moot because it already has promised that no more plutonium will be brought to Nevada. The federal government says that the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 gives the U.S. sole responsibility for regulation of radioactive material and that the Supreme Court has said states have “no role” in its transportation, handling and disposal.

New Hampshire

Bradford: A logger has been ordered to pay $10,000 for repeated violations of the state’s forestry laws. Officials said in a joint statement Tuesday that this is the first civil penalty imposed on a logger in Bradford under the state’s Enhanced Penalty Timber Law. Under the 2011 bill, the state’s Forest Protection Bureau and attorney general can seek financial penalties for repeated logging violations in a seven-year period, New Hampshire Public Radio reports. Fines are calculated on a point system, where each conviction can earn up to three points. The money collected from civil penalties is placed in a fund for forest protection. Officials say Michael Carter has pleaded guilty to nine forestry-related offenses over a span of two years.

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy looks toward the crowd as he signs legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a state driver's license at the Snyder Academy in Elizabeth, N.J., on Wednesday. (Photo: Mitsu Yasukawa/

Elizabeth: Immigrants in the Garden State without formal legal status will be allowed to get driver’s licenses after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Thursday, capping years of pressure from activists and supporters. The bill signing came three days after the state Assembly and Senate, both controlled by Democrats, passed the measure that had been stalled despite months of demonstrations across the state. State officials have said they expect it to be at least a year before the actual licenses are issued. Hundreds of immigrants who likely will benefit from the new law cheered and watched Murphy at Snyder Academy in Elizabeth, where nearly two years ago a coalition of organizations launched the Let’s Drive NJ campaign that aimed to get support for the controversial measure.

New Mexico

Las Cruces: A suspected robber who face-planted into a Pizza Hut door before fleeing has been arrested thanks to the DNA evidence he left behind, police said. Markell Deshaun Barnes, 19, was taken into custody last week in Albuquerque after a forensic laboratory matched his DNA, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports. According to police, officers had swabbed the door for possible DNA evidence from the June 2019 robbery of a Pizza Hut in Las Cruces. Investigators took the DNA after reviewing surveillance images and seeing the 19-year-old face-planting into a locked door. Barnes is suspected in another Las Cruces robbery that same day at a gas station. He has been charged with one third-degree felony count of attempted armed robbery and one fourth-degree felony count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

New York

Albany: The governor has proposed a ban on single-use food and beverage containers made from polystyrene foam. The ban on the containers commonly known as Styrofoam would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022, and would also include packing peanuts, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Environmental groups have sought foam bans amid rising public awareness of throwaway plastic that accumulates in the oceans. States including Maine and Vermont joined dozens of communities this year from Berkeley, California, to New York City that have already passed their own bans. “From take-out containers to packing peanuts, this material is everywhere, and it will continue to pollute our waters and harm our wildlife for generations to come if we do not act,” Cuomo said. Democratic state Sen. Todd Kaminsky said he’s confident the Democratic-led Legislature would welcome the bill.

North Carolina

Winston-Salem: Rainy weather has delayed plans to change the exit numbers on the Business Interstate 40 Improvements Project, officials say. The N.C. Department of Transportation had scheduled to begin making the changes Tuesday and continue through Friday, but an update from the department said the weather forced the delay. When weather permits, workers will close one lane in either direction of the highway so they can safely change the exit numbers to show those for U.S. 421. The name of the corridor will also change from Business Interstate 40 to Salem Parkway. Drivers will not see double exit number signs, N.C. Department of Transportation Resident Engineer Larry Shaver said. Because the work won’t take place in one night, drivers will likely see new U.S. 421 exit signs directly followed by the Business 40 exit signs being replaced.

North Dakota

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announces Wednesday in Fargo that the LulzBot brand of 3D printers, left, will be manufactured in the state by Fargo Additive Manufacturing Equipment 3D, or FAME 3D. (Photo: David Kolpack/AP)

Fargo: A popular but cash-poor 3D printer business in Colorado is relocating to North Dakota. Gov. Doug Burgum announced Wednesday that the LulzBot brand of 3D printers will be manufactured by Fargo Additive Manufacturing Equipment 3D, or FAME 3D. The company plans to bring 13 employees from Colorado and hire an additional 50 workers for the Fargo plant. FAME 3D last month bought out Aleph Objects Inc., the Loveland, Colorado, company that was making the printers. Before its financial problems, it employed more than 100 people, most of whom were laid off. FAME 3D spokesman Ron Bergan said 10,000 LulzBot printers were made a year ago. The LulzBot TAZ Workhorse and TAZ Pro sell for about $5,000, and the Mini 2 costs about $1,500, Bergan said. “For years I’ve been saying everyone is going to have a 3D printer in their home,” Bergan said.


Columbus: High-speed internet would spread to about 1 million unserved or underserved Ohioans along rural routes and highways previously off-limits to private development under a strategic plan released Thursday. If approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the aggressive blueprint for expanding and improving broadband access across the state also would give extra points to local governments’ applications for related federal grants. The improvements are vital because Ohio’s lack of connectivity is putting the state at a disadvantage, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement. The plan emerged from a fact-finding effort by DeWine’s administration, which identified a number of causes in September for the problem being so stubborn, particularly in Appalachia. Besides access to roadway rights, it found outdated tax codes, missed funding opportunities, bureaucratic red tape and faulty service maps.


Oklahoma City: Education advocates are fighting to keep four-day school weeks as the state school board proposes new restrictions that could threaten the shortened schedules. Supporters of the shortened weeks say the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s rules would force most districts to restore five-day schedules, The Oklahoman reports. Of the state’s 525 public school districts, 113 operate four days a week. The department created a list of rules in response to state legislation passed this year that set the minimum length of a school year to 165 days instead of 180 days or 1,080 hours. Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 441 to make it more difficult for schools to operate on shorter schedules. Some Republicans have said four-day school weeks will tarnish the state’s reputation and diminish students’ education. Districts will be exempt from the bill if they meet the department’s requirements.


At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Anita Green was the first openly transgender delegate from Montana. (Photo: Steve Elfers, Steve Elfers-USA TODAY Network)

Portland: A transgender woman from the state is suing Miss USA pageants, saying its rule that limits competition to “natural born female” is a form of gender discrimination. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Anita Green of Clackamas, Oregon, holds the title of 2019 Miss Earth Elite Oregon and competed in the 2018 Miss Montana contest. She applied to participate in the Miss United States of America pageant last year, but her application was rejected. This policy is discriminatory because it denied her the full and equal advantages and privileges of the defendant’s services in violation of Oregon’s public accommodations law, the lawsuit says. The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon. Though the Nevada-based pageant is a private business, the suit contends that the way it operates requires it to follow Oregon public accommodation law.


The Erie Coke Corp. plant in Erie, Pa., turned away employees who showed up for work Thursday morning. (Photo: Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP)

Erie: A coke plant in northwestern Pennsylvania abruptly shut down Thursday morning amid mounting regulatory pressure over its environmental record. Erie Coke Corp. employed more than 130 people at the plant, which uses coal to produce foundry coke, a key ingredient in the steelmaking process. Workers who showed up at the plant to begin their shifts were turned away. “We just got here, and they said we don’t have a job,” employee Justin Pastuha, who stood at the entrance to the plant Thursday morning with about a dozen other workers, told the Erie Times-News. Erie Coke said in a statement later Thursday that it was “discontinuing operations.” The company blamed the city of Erie’s recent decision to block Erie Coke from discharging its wastewater through the municipal sewer system.

Rhode Island

Providence: State Senate leaders say they won’t support legalizing recreational marijuana if Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo chooses to propose it next year. Legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use will have a negative impact on the state’s youth, and education is already suffering, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio says. Raimondo has said she’s likely to propose legalizing recreational marijuana in her upcoming 2020 budget. The General Assembly denied her attempts to propose legislation in the last budget, but six new medical marijuana dispensaries were authorized in the state. Ruggerio says he supports legalizing medical marijuana, which lawmakers approved in 2007, but believes stronger regulation is needed for the program. Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, also a Democrat says he’s wary of how legalization could affect worker safety and federal work requirements for defense contracts and how impaired drivers will be tested.

South Carolina

Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller (Photo: SABRINA SCHAEFFER/Staff)

Greenville: Police Chief Ken Miller has been placed on administrative leave following the outcome of a state investigation. Mayor Knox White confirmed Thursday afternoon that Miller was put on leave while City Manager John McDonough evaluates the case. Knox said McDonough informed City Council members via text message Thursday. McDonough did not immediately return calls for comment. City spokeswoman Leslie Flether later confirmed via email that both Miller and interim Capt. Jason Rampey have been placed on paid administrative leave. Deputy Chief Howie Thompson has been made the acting police chief, Fletcher said. City leaders are weighing exactly how to handle evidence from a State Law Enforcement Division investigation that suggests Miller worked to get a wealthy businessman’s public-intoxication charge dropped.

South Dakota

Pierre: A new insect pest is appearing in Christmas greenery, state agricultural officials said Wednesday. The pest is known as the elongate hemlock scale. South Dakota’s state forester Greg Josten said the Asian insect was detected by the state’s forest health team in wreaths last Christmas. The insect was found on wreaths made of fir that were shipped in from the southern U.S., Josten said. The insect has appeared on similar greenery this year. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture has put a stop order on the sale of the material. But wreath material does not have to be destroyed until after the holidays. The insect will infest hemlock, fir and spruce trees and suck sap from the foliage, causing the foliage to become discolored and drop. The pest has not been found on Christmas trees in South Dakota.


Tree houses designed by "Treehouse Master" Pete Nelson are under construction at Treehouse Grove, at the Norton Creek Resort in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Treehouse Grove is expected to open in March 2020. (Photo: Submitted by Joseph Ayres)

Gatlinburg: People looking for an escape high in the Smoky Mountains will soon be able to vacation even higher when eight rentals designed and constructed in the trees by “Treehouse Master” Pete Nelson open next spring. Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek will be part of Gatlinburg’s relatively new Norton Creek Resort, whose executive vice president, Joseph Ayres, says it is still “relatively small.” The resort currently has just four or five rental homes available, and about a year and a half ago, Ayres started looking for ways to grow and set the resort apart in an area where cabin rentals are essentially around every corner. Nelson landed on eight fascinating designs, which are under construction and will feature essential amenities, plus access to acres of wilderness. He has built some of the world’s most jaw-dropping tree houses, many of which were documented on his Animal Planet show “Treehouse Masters.”


Temple: A small police department’s silence about what prompted an officer to fatally shoot a man in the head nearly three weeks ago deviates from how some other recent police shootings in the state were handled, and law enforcement experts warn it risks stirring public mistrust. Officer Carmen DeCruz has been on paid leave since the Dec. 2 shooting of 28-year-old Michael Dean in Temple, about 70 miles northeast of Austin. The department has released no information other than the names and that blood was found in Dean’s car. A preliminary autopsy released by the county found Dean was killed by a shot to the head and classified his death a homicide. Beyond that, there has been been no official account of the shooting, leaving open questions about how the two men came into contact and what led DeCruz to open fire.


Friends and family commemorate the Dixie High School graduating class at the DSU Burns Arena in St. George, Utah, on May 23, 2019. (Photo: Chris Caldwell / The Spectrum & Daily News)

Salt Lake City: A new report says the state’s high school graduation rate has increased for the seventh consecutive year. The state Board of Education released data Monday stating that 43,500 students graduated from district and charter high schools, representing about 90% who entered as freshmen four years earlier. The overall graduation rate increased by 0.4% since last year and is up by more than 3% in the past five years, board officials said. Monticello High School was one of 14 schools to have a 100% graduate rate, meaning each of its 300 seniors enrolled graduated, officials said. Last year, there were 10. Some of the overall gains could be attributed to increased graduation rates among some of the larger demographic groups including students with disabilities, board spokesman Mark Peterson said.


Montpelier: Three public drinking water systems have levels of a class of toxic chemicals above the state standard, the Department of Environmental Conservation says. The department says the three systems exceeding PFAS levels are Fiddlehead Condominiums in Fayston, the Killington Mountain School and the Mount Holly Elementary School. Each water system has notified its users that the levels are above Vermont’s 20 parts per trillion standard and issued a “Do Not Drink” notice. The department says the condominiums system serves 60 users, the Killington school serves 125 users, and the Mount Holly School serves 120 users. PFAS were used in a host of materials, including firefighting foam and nonstick cookware, but are now raising health concerns.


Richmond: The state is going to replace nearly 10,000 highway lights with LED lights that use less energy and increase visibility, according to Gov. Ralph Northam. Northam on Wednesday announced a new contract with Trane to replace more than 9,600 lights on Virginia roads, rest areas and weigh stations. He said the upgrade will result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and save the state $4.6 million by 2036. The new lights are expected use reduce energy consumption by 50% and will start being installed in the spring of 2020.


A Washington State University student throws packages away in the parking lot of the Pullman, Wash., police station. He reportedly took them from under a Christmas tree in the station lobby shortly after his release from jail, where he was held on suspicion of underage drinking. (Photo: Pullman Police Dept. via AP)

Pullman: Police say a man who had just been released from jail helped himself to some presents under a Christmas tree in the police department’s lobby – only to find out they were fake. News outlets report video from the Pullman Police Department shows a 20-year-old Washington State University student after he had been held on suspicion of underage drinking walk up to the tree and take several packages. But as he walks outside, the video shows him realize the packages were just there for show and were in fact empty. Video then shows the man tossing the empty boxes across the parking lot in frustration. The person who picked him up went after the fake presents and put them outside the police department’s door. Police say no charges are being sought.

West Virginia

Lewisburg: The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine says it is looking for patients for its free annual osteopathic clinic. The medical school has opened registration for its Student Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Clinic, which provides free osteopathic evaluations and other treatments to people who live in Lewisburg and surrounding areas. The school says procedures are performed by students under the supervision of physicians. The program runs on Wednesdays between Jan. 8 and Feb. 5 and then from Feb. 12 to March 11 at the school’s Clinical Evaluation Center in Lewisburg. Potential patients must have a written referral from a doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner before scheduling an appointment with the clinic.


Milwaukee: The state’s residents could be facing their largest property tax increase in 10 years, a report by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum finds. “School property taxes across Wisconsin are rising by more than $220 million on December 2019 tax bills, which suggests – when combined with increases in county and technical college district levies – that Wisconsin residents could see their largest property tax increase in a decade,” the report says. School districts across the state are collectively raising K-12 schools’ portion of the property tax levy by 4.5%, a result of state budget changes and referendums approved by individual districts’ voters to exceed state revenue limits, the report finds. School districts levied $5.21 billion in 2019-20 property taxes compared with $4.99 billion in 2018-19, the report says.


The Junction Butte wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park on March 21. (Photo: National Park Service via AP)

Yellowstone National Park: A pair of wolf pups were fatally hit by a vehicle after the animals became used to humans and started hanging around a road near their den, park officials say. The pups were hit at about sunset Tuesday on the road between Tower Junction and the park’s northeast entrance. The animals were from the Junction Butte pack, a group of wolves that ranges between the Lamar Valley and Tower Junction and is frequently seen by visitors. Park officials say in recent months some hikers had violated a requirement to stay 100 yards from wolves and approached the pups to take their photo. After becoming accustomed to people, the pups began coming close to visitors along the road prior to being killed. Yellowstone had about 80 wolves living in nine packs, according to the latest population count.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

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