National coverage


Joliet, Illinois

Michigan, Illinois and a federal agency have agreed on funding the next phase of an initiative to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes by strengthening defenses on a Chicago-area waterway, the Associated Press reported.

The two states and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will share pre-construction engineering and design costs for the $858 million project at Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois. The structure on the Des Plaines River is a choke point between the Illinois River, which is infested with the invasive carp, and Lake Michigan, according to AP.

A plan approved by the Corps in 2019 calls for installing a gantlet of technologies to deter approaching fish, including electric barriers and underwater speakers which would blast loud noises, plus an “air bubble curtain.” A specifically designed “flushing lock” would wash away carp which might be floating on the water as vessels pass through, AP reported.

The next step is developing design and engineering specifications, expected to take 3-4 years and cost about $28.8 million. Under the new agreement, the Corps will pay $18 million and Michigan $8 million. Illinois will chip in $2.5 million and serve as the “non-federal sponsor” required for such projects, according to AP.

Charlotte, North Carolina

The U.S. Army is investigating a psychological operation officer who led a group of people from North Carolina to the rally in Washington, D.C., which led up to the deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, the Associated Press reported. Commanders at Fort Bragg are reviewing Capt. Emily

Rainey’s involvement in last week’s events in the nation’s capital, but she said she acted within military regulations and no one in her group broke the law, according to AP.

Rainey said she led 100 members of Moore County Citizens for Freedom, which describes itself online as a nonpartisan network promoting conservative values, to the Washington, D.C., rally to “stand against election fraud” and support President Trump. She said she didn’t know of anyone who entered the Capitol and they were headed back to their buses hours before an emergency curfew took effect, AP reported.

This isn’t the first time Rainey’s actions have come into scrutiny. In May, the captain made headlines after she posted a video online of her pulling down caution tape at a playground which was closed due to North Carolina’s COVID-19 restrictions. Local police charged her with injury to personal property. She was let off with warnings twice before she tore down the tape around the playground, according to AP.


State capitols across the nation stepped up security Monday, deploying National Guard units, SWAT teams and extra police officers as several legislatures convened amid heightened safety concerns following last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol, the Associated Press reported.

Hours after the protections, the FBI issued bulletins warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C. ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration January 20, according to AP.

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from January 17 through January 20,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Newburyport, Massachusetts

A passerby spotted a wandering llama in a field off an interstate in Massachusetts and with the help of an animal control officer, brought it to a farm for safekeeping, according to the Associated Press.

Patrick Boddy was driving in Newburyport when he spotted the male gray-and-white llama, stopped his truck and approached it Monday, AP reported.

The llama acted “very chill,” as he walked up to him, Boddy said.

“I had my arm around the thing, kind of calming him down. It was just really gentle and friendly. I knew it must’ve been some kind of pet or something,” Boddy said, according to AP.

Eventually, Kayla Provencher, the animal control officer for Newburyport and West Newbury, was alerted and joined Boddy in the field with the llama. They called around to local farms to see if any were missing a llama, according to AP.

“I’m not sure where he came from or how he got there,” Provencher told AP, but he was hungry and drank a lot of water, indicating he was in need of some care, she said. The state does have records of barn inspections, but she said none of the local farms are missing llamas, AP reported.

Provencher does not have any leads on the wandering llama’s owner, even after posting photos of him on the animal control’s Facebook page, according to AP.

For now, the llama is being housed just across the state line in New Hampshire with farm owner Carly LeSage. She owns other livestock but has never had a llama, AP reported.

“I did a night check with him last night and had a glass of wine with him,” LeSage said. “I’m kind of a little attached to him at this point.” If no owner comes forward, LeSage said she’s considering keeping the llama herself, AP reported.


The U.S. is entering the second month of the biggest vaccination drive in history with a major expansion of the campaign, opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to distribute to a larger and more diverse pool of people, according to the Associated Press.

After a frustratingly slow rollout involving primarily health care workers and nursing home residents, states are moving on to the next phase before the first one is complete, making COVID-19 shots available to such groups as senior citizens, teachers, bus drivers, police officers and firefighters, AP reported.

Across the U.S., where the outbreak has entered its most lethal phase yet and the death toll has climbed to about 375,000, politicians and health officials have complained over the past several days that too many shots were sitting unused on the shelves because of overly rigid adherence to the federal guidelines that put an estimated 24 million health care workers and nursing home residents at the front of the line, according to AP.

About 9 million Americans have received their first shot, or 2.7 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts say as much as 85 percent of the population will have to be inoculated to achieve “herd immunity” and vanquish the outbreak, AP reported.

Many states are responding by throwing open the line to other groups and ramping up the pace of vaccinations, in some cases offering them 24-7, according to AP.