Out West Roundup: Refugees thank adoptive North Dakota city by feeding hungry

Author: Associated Press - December 8, 2017 - Updated: December 22, 2017

In this Nov. 16, 2017, photo residents of Fargo, North Dakota, pick up food, personal hygiene items and laundry soap at a food pantry run by students of the Legacy Children's Foundation. The pantry is the first student-run operation in the city and served about 150 children and 125 adults in its first week of operation. The students order food, stock shelves, follow a budget and recruit others for food drives. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)In this Nov. 16, 2017, photo residents of Fargo, North Dakota, pick up food, personal hygiene items and laundry soap at a food pantry run by students of the Legacy Children’s Foundation. The pantry is the first student-run operation in the city and served about 150 children and 125 adults in its first week of operation. The students order food, stock shelves, follow a budget and recruit others for food drives. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)

North Dakota

Refugees thank adoptive North Dakota city by feeding hungry

FARGO, North Dakota — Maria Modi’s journey from South Sudan to a new life in Fargo included a stop at a refugee camp in Cairo. She and her seven siblings know what it is like to be hungry.

“My mother and father work 12-hour shifts and still sometimes we don’t get enough food at home to last us a week,” said Modi, a Fargo North High School senior who plans to study music and theater in college next year.

She and a group of other students, most from poor refugee families, spent the Thursday before Thanksgiving handing out turkey and cranberries to the hungry of Fargo, which welcomed their arrival from places such as Nepal, Sudan and Liberia. The students recently opened a food pantry as part of a nonprofit that helps them earn diplomas while finding out what they’re good at doing.

Fargo takes in more refugees than most American cities, as a proportion of its population. In the past decade, the Lutheran Social Services program has resettled an average of 450 refugees per year in North Dakota, about 70 percent of whom ended up in Fargo, the state’s biggest city.

In its first two weeks in operation, the pantry served about 150 children and 125 adults. They gave away 1,500 pounds of groceries as well as personal hygiene items and laundry detergent. They are focusing on providing protein-rich foods to families whose diets are overloaded with carbohydrates such as ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese.

“We’re doing something for people who might not have a Thanksgiving otherwise,” Saintal said. “It’s something that we should be thankful for.”


New Mexico

Democrat Tim Keller takes helm as Albuquerque’s new mayor

ALBUQUERQUE — Democrat Tim Keller took over as mayor of New Mexico’s largest city last week amid rising crime and a struggling economy.

The former New Mexico state auditor promised to immediately make changes to Albuquerque’s troubled police department.

“We will support our law enforcement, get them the resources they need and bring trust back between our law enforcement and citizens,” Keller said in a speech at his inauguration ceremony at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Keller has already made appointments including tapping former Rio Rancho Police Chief Mike Geier as Albuquerque’s interim chief and civil rights lawyer Oriana Sandoval as deputy city attorney. Keller said Sandoval will focus on immigrants and refugees in the city.

Keller replaces Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, who did not seek re-election after eight years in office.

The Albuquerque-born Keller is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He takes over a city experiencing one of the largest number of homicides in decades and a rising violent crime rate.

The city also is under a federal court order to revamp its police department following more than 40 police shootings since 2010.

Fake image of church supporting Alabama candidate Roy Moore goes viral

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — A Las Cruces Baptist church has gained notoriety for a doctored image of its sign that has gone viral.

In a meme posted on Twitter, the Temple Baptist Church’s sign is altered to read, “Please vote for Moore he is a man of god,” believed to be a reference to Roy Moore, the U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama accused of sexual misconduct.

Moore has denied the allegations.

By last week, the meme had been retweeted thousands of times, leading angry Twitter users to call out the church for what seemed be an endorsement for Moore.

The church has also received disgruntled calls as far away as Florida and California, said the Rev. Max Perkins.

“Some are very boisterous and had their opinions set before we could explain we had nothing to do with it,” he said. “We, as a church, don’t try to impose political views on anybody else.

The church’s marquee has been a subject in previous memes – images on social media intended to be humorous – over the years.

He is not sure where the viral meme came from, but believes it was created using a meme generator where anyone can type a message and overlay it on a real photo of the church’s marquee.

When the Moore meme went viral, the church’s real sign displayed Thanksgiving messages.



Cheyenne homeless shelter to open for daytime hours, relax alcohol policy

CHEYENNE – People living in homeless situations will soon have another option for daytime shelter in Cheyenne.

The COMEA House shelter currently provides nighttime services that include programming to help people work toward self-sustainability. But in coming weeks, staff will open its doors during the day, said Executive Director Robin Bocanegra.

It wasn’t an easy decision, she said. The shelter has long held its zero-tolerance policy for alcohol. If someone seeking shelter has been drinking, they turn the person away. With daytime services, however, the board determined they must have some leniency, she said.

“We don’t want to completely abandon that policy, because we have so many people that come to us to work on their recovery, and we want to honor that,” Bocanegra said. “So we decided that with the issues downtown, people who are downtown getting into trouble, maybe if we offer them a place during the daytime to get out of the cold, get something to eat, connect with some resources, maybe some would start coming to us. And over time, maybe we can develop a relationship and get them to sober living.”

Bocanegra said the policy will revolve around behavior. If someone has been drinking, but refrains from aggressive or abusive behavior, she said they’ll be allowed to stay at the shelter during the day. Those who want to stay past 4 p.m. for dinner and a bed must be sober, however.

“As long as they behave themselves, can engage in conversation and are willing to meet with case workers, they’re welcome to come here,” Bocanegra said.

There’s no new staff being brought on for security, but Bocanegra said she’s sure she can rely on the Cheyenne Police Department in the event of an incident. And in work she’s done at homeless shelters where there wasn’t a strict no-alcohol policy, Bocanegra said there weren’t really problems.

It’s not 100 percent clear how everything will work at COMEA with expanded hours, but Bocanegra said it’s worth a shot.

“We may find out this is a bad idea,” she said.

During the day, many homeless people in Cheyenne head to the Laramie County Library, just blocks away from COMEA’s location on West Lincolnway. Carey Hartmann, Laramie County Library’s executive director, said they don’t have negative issues with that population coming to the facility. However, she said the library isn’t set up to serve many of the particular needs homeless people might be able to have met at a shelter. Providing daytime hours at COMEA, she said, would be a good thing for the city.

“I think it’s a great positive, and I think it will help transition the homeless into a more positive environment,” Hartmann said.



Nebraska sued for refusing to name execution drugs suppliers

OMAHA — The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Nebraska’s prison system last week, accusing it of violating state public records laws by refusing to identify its suppliers of lethal injection drugs.

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services denied a Nov. 10 public records request by The Associated Press, and the Omaha World-Herald reported that its request also was denied.

The department argues that the records are protected by attorney-client privilege and that the supplier is part of its “execution team,” whose identities are confidential.

“This lawsuit lays out Nebraska’s shady history of backroom deals and attempts to circumvent federal law to obtain lethal injection drugs,” ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said.

The department notified inmate Jose Sandoval on Nov. 9 that it intends to execute him using four drugs. An execution date hasn’t been scheduled. Sandoval, 38, was one of three men sentenced to death on five counts of first-degree murder for the September 2002 deaths of five people in a botched bank robbery in Norfolk.

Nebraska’s death penalty has been roiled by controversy in recent years. In 2013, the state’s batch of sodium thiopental — then required for Nebraska lethal injections — expired. State officials failed several times to replace the drug, including in early 2015 when it paid $54,000 for the drug to a dealer based in India but never received it because the federal government blocked the shipment over questions about the drug’s legality.

The Legislature abolished the state’s death penalty in May 2015 over Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto, but capital punishment was reinstated last year by Nebraska voters in a referendum funded, in part, by $300,000 of Ricketts’ own money.

Nebraska hasn’t executed an inmate since 1997, when it used the electric chair, and has never carried one out with lethal injection drugs.



Student kicked off Kansas basketball team in anthem flap

WICHITA — A Muslim student athlete who refused to observe the national anthem for religious reasons at a basketball game in Kansas has been kicked off the team following altercations with a team supporter, who accused him of disrespecting the American flag, and a coach.

The case has ignited concerns over whether Garden City Community College violated the First Amendment rights of 19-year-old Rasool Samir, who continued shooting balls after his teammates returned to the locker room during the anthem at a Nov. 1 game against Sterling College.

Samir withdrew from classes after losing his athletic scholarship and has since returned home to Philadelphia, said Lauren Bonds, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. The ACLU contends Samir did not participate in the anthem because he believes his Muslim faith prohibits acts of reverence to anything but God.

The college’s attorney, Randall Grisell, said Samir’s dismissal stems from a violation of team rules and had “nothing to do with his conduct during the national anthem, as far as the protest or any stance that he might have taken.”

Samir was confronted on the court by longtime fan Jim Howard, who said he told the player to “respect the flag or leave.” Both sides agree that a security guard eventually intervened and escorted Samir to the locker room, where head coach Brady Trenkle told Samir to return to his dorm.

Instead, the college contends, Samir followed the team onto the floor and yelled at the coach, threatening to fight him, and responded with an obscenity when Trenkle told him to leave.

Howard, the 74-year-old fan who confronted Samir, said he has been attending ball games at the school for 32 years.

“I just told him to respect the flag or leave — that I had the right to listen to my national anthem and respect the flag without him out there playing. And if he couldn’t handle that then he should leave and get off the court,” Howard told the AP in a phone interview.

Associated Press

Associated Press