U.S. Briefs: Freshwater for the French Quarter
A drought and high tides combined to allow seawater to flow north into New Orleans
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New Orleans residents can drink from the tap again after city officials lifted a drinking water advisory in place since the summer. But saltwater intrusion into water treatment facilities could affect some parts of the state well into November. More than 1.2 million residents throughout southeastern Louisiana were warned as early as June that their water could be contaminated after saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico flowed over an underwater barrier in the lower Mississippi River. A drought caused low water levels along the river and combined with high tides to allow seawater to flow north. President Joe Biden on Sept. 27 approved an emergency declaration for Louisiana and gave the state access to federal support. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an additional 25 feet of underwater barrier to stop the saltwater intrusion and began barging freshwater from an upstream location. New Orleans officials lifted drinking water advisories on Oct. 12, when saltwater no longer threatened the water supply. —Lauren Canterberry
Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott defied National Hockey League rules by wrapping part of his stick’s blade with rainbow-colored “pride tape” before the team’s Oct. 21 home opener against the Anaheim Ducks. The NHL responded not by fining, suspending, or otherwise penalizing Dermott. Instead, it rescinded the ban. Prompted in part by several Christian players’ decision not to wear pro-LGBTQ warmup jerseys on their teams’ Pride nights, the NHL had prohibited players from wearing “specialty” jerseys or using “pride tape” on their sticks. While players are now free to use “pride tape,” the NHL still bans teams from requiring players to don specialty jerseys for themed nights. —Ray Hacke
The last prison ship in the United States is set to close this month. Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, anchored off New York City’s South Bronx area, is a five-story jail barge. At full capacity, it housed 800 inmates. The ship opened in 1992 and was just one of several floating jails that operated in the 1980s and ’90s to ease overcrowding at the city’s main jail complex on Rikers Island. All other prison ships closed in the mid-1990s, but the Vernon C. Bain reopened soon after—first as a juvenile detention center, and then again as an adult facility. Former detainees describe conditions aboard as inhumane, with rust and mold on the walls and packed, suffocatingly hot dormitories. Inmates currently housed there will move to Rikers Island. —Elizabeth Russell
A teenage “squeegee boy” who shot and killed a motorist was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Oct. 23. The shooting happened on July 7, 2022, at a busy intersection near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where teens wash the windows of stopped cars in hopes of getting tips. Timothy Reynolds, a Baltimore resident, engineer, and father of three, confronted a group of squeegee boys with a baseball bat. A lawyer for the Reynolds family said the squeegee boys had damaged Reynolds’ car. Tavon Scott, then 14, left the group arguing with Reynolds, retrieved a gun from a nearby backpack, put on a ski mask, and returned to shoot Reynolds in the back multiple times. Scott, who was tried as an adult, was acquitted of first- and second-degree murder charges but convicted on charges of voluntary manslaughter as well as two handgun charges. The shooting prompted a public outcry. In response, Baltimore City officials banned squeegee activity at six intersections, including the one where Reynolds was killed, and launched outreach efforts to help squeegee boys find employment. —Emma Freire
High school graduates won’t have to prove mastery of reading, writing, and math until at least 2029. The state Legislature first approved the controversial suspension of standardized tests in 2021, and the state Board of Education voted unanimously Oct. 19 to extend it. State education officials said standardized tests harm minority students, those with learning disabilities, and nonnative English speakers. They also contend scores don’t equate to success in college. Test proponents and Republican legislators said extra instruction for students with low academic skills helps them succeed after high school. They also noted the state board hasn’t provided a plan to improve proficiency of basic education skills. The Oregon Department of Education recommended new graduation requirements without standardized testing a year ago, but the Legislature has not acted on the recommendation. —Todd Vician
The executive director of a St. Charles nonprofit stole about $11 million from a program intended to provide meals to low-income children, according to a federal indictment filed Oct. 26. The indictment accuses Connie Bobo, 44, of fraudulently claiming to have served at least 3 million meals to children through New Heights Community Resource Center between February 2019 and March 2022. Instead, she allegedly used the money from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to buy herself a $1 million home and a $2.2 million commercial real estate investment. She bought herself luxury goods, bought homes for relatives, and gave about $1.4 million to her romantic partner, authorities said. A grand jury indicted her on three counts of wire fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, and two counts of obstruction of an official proceeding. “We will aggressively pursue those who … exploited loopholes created by a global pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming. —Sharon Dierberger
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