A fine feathereds’ friend
Duke Wager, 96, of Vancouver started raising pigeons with his dad when he was 10 years old. He carried on the hobby for more than 60 years, even participating in pigeon racing for a time in his later years.
Although Wager doesn’t raise or race his own pigeons anymore, he still feeds the wild ones around his neighborhood. Wager said one of his daughters used to feed the wild birds around his home, but she passed away two years ago.
“She said, ‘Take care of my birds,’ so I do,” he said.
Wager makes sure to feed the pigeons, crows and other birds every day, especially during the winter months.
“The crow, he’s smarter than people,” Wager said. “They remember and they know you.”
Tribute to 9/11 workers takes shape in granite country
BARRE, Vt. (AP) — A tribute to thousands of rescue and recovery workers who labored in the ruins of the World Trade Center is taking shape in Vermont, where workers are chipping at and chiseling slabs of granite that will be installed this spring at the national Sept. 11 memorial.
The new area with a path flanked by stone monoliths will also honor those sickened or who died from exposure to toxins after the towers fell.
One of the six monoliths weighing between 15 and 17.5 tons was nearly complete last week at the Rock of Ages granite manufacturing company in Barre, Vermont, a small community that has a long history of quarrying and stonecutting and dubs itself the granite capital of the world.
The Associated Press last week was given access to the work in progress. In a vast industrial building, workers fine-tuned the first rough-hewn triangular monolith measuring 8 by 12 feet (2.4 by 3.6 meters). It’s composed of sloping layers of thick granite slabs that resemble a rock bed more than 3 feet tall at one end. One worker used a torch to finish the surface, while officials from New York’s Sept. 11 memorial watched in the dusty, loud space.
A stonecutter swung a sledgehammer onto the head of a maul held by another stonecutter to chop pieces off another large slab of granite for the next monolith. Large chunks of speckled rock fell to the dusty floor.
“It’s a great honor for me to do this for them,” stonecutter and fellow firefighter Andy Hebert said of the ground zero first responders. A badge remembering Sept. 11 hangs in his work space.
Granite from Canada was chosen because of the size of blocks available and because its greenish hue would play off the paving of the memorial plaza, architect Michael Arad said.
Steel salvaged from the original World Trade Center will be incorporated into the stone structures.
The new memorial is estimated to cost about $5 million and is being paid for by a variety of sources, including New York state, fundraising and private donations. It’s expected to be dedicated May 30.
The work comes as advocates for 9/11 rescue and recovery workers step up efforts to get Congress to extend a compensation program for people who developed illnesses after getting exposed to dust from the fallen towers.
Nearly 40,000 people have applied to the federal fund for people with illnesses potentially related to being at the site. More than $4.8 billion in benefits has been awarded so far.
The program, though, is set to expire at the end of 2020. After that, people who develop new illnesses would be ineligible.
“Things like the 9/11 Museum making this monument to people injured by the toxins at the World Trade Center shows that the nation has accepted this,” said Ben Chevat, executive director of 9/11 Health Watch, an organization pressing for the program to be extended. “We had to struggle to get attention for years. Now, there is an acceptance in Congress and the wider community.”
Michael O’Connell, who worked at ground zero as a New York City firefighter, retired from the department in 2009 at age 33 after he was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an immune system disorder that causes lumps in the lungs, skin, lymph nodes or other places.
The new section of the monument is “extremely important” to first responders and everyone who worked at ground zero, he said.
“To know that there’s acknowledgement of those men and women that have passed and that are still sick and dying is a tremendous win for us,” he said.
So many people took heroic actions on that day, the weeks and months that followed, he said.
“Our motto is ‘Never forget,'” O’Connell said. “And a place like that shows that we will never forget.”
Battles expected in many states over abortion-related bills
NEW YORK (AP) — On each side of the abortion debate, legislators and activists emboldened by recent political developments plan to push aggressively in many states this year for bills high on their wish lists: either seeking to impose near-total bans on abortion or guaranteeing women’s access to the procedure.
For abortion opponents, many of whom will rally Friday at the annual March for Life in Washington, there’s a surge of optimism that sweeping abortion bans might have a chance of prevailing in the reconfigured U.S. Supreme Court that includes Donald Trump’s appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Legislators in at least five states — Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida and South Carolina — are expected to consider bills that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, possibly just six weeks into a pregnancy.
Conversely, results of the midterm elections buoyed supporters of abortion rights in several states, including New York, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Mexico. Abortion-rights groups there are now hopeful that lawmakers will pass bills aimed at protecting access to abortion even if the Supreme Court eventually reversed or weakened the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. Tuesday will mark the 46th anniversary of that ruling.
“With big electoral victories in state legislatures and governorships, many states are now primed to provide the last line of defense for a woman’s ability to control her body, life and future,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health.
Here are some of the notable bills likely to be considered:
PROTECTING ABORTION ACCESS
NEW YORK: For years, Republicans who controlled the New York Senate blocked efforts to codify abortion rights in state law as a bulwark against any undermining of Roe v. Wade. However, Democrats, who have long controlled the legislature’s lower chamber, took control of the Senate in the midterms, and are expected to swiftly enact the long-sought protections. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, easily re-elected to a third term, says the legislation is among his top priorities.
In a recent speech, Cuomo said Trump’s Supreme Court nominees “don’t even pretend to be objective jurists. They’ve already announced their intention to impose their morality on the nation and roll back Roe v. Wade.”
RHODE ISLAND: Although abortion is readily available in Rhode Island, the state has never removed some decades-old laws that sought to restrict abortion rights. A bill to scrap those old laws, and reinforce the right to abortion in case Roe is reversed, has been reintroduced in the 2019 session after failing the past two years. A co-sponsor, Sen. Gayle Goldin, says chances are better this year because the midterms increased the number of abortion-rights supporters in the legislature.
MARYLAND: Democratic House Speaker Michael Busch says lawmakers will take up a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in Maryland, in case protections are overturned or weakened by the Supreme Court or federal government. Maryland passed legislation in 1991 to protect such rights, but supporters of the proposed amendment say it would be a stronger guard against any future legislative efforts to restrict abortion. If the measure wins legislative approval in the Democrat-controlled legislature, it would go before voters in a future election.
MAINE: A new Democratic governor who supports abortion rights, Janet Mills, has succeeded anti-abortion Republican Paul LePage. Mills would likely sign a recently introduced bill that would require Maine to fund some abortions that are not covered under Medicaid. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature.
NEW MEXICO: Democratic legislators — who control both chambers — are backing a bill that would remove New Mexico’s criminal ban on abortion. A 1969 statute made it a felony for an abortion provider to terminate a pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, birth defects and serious threats to a women’s health — though the law has been unenforceable since the Roe decision.
Newly inaugurated Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — who succeeded Republican Susana Martinez — favors overturning the dormant abortion ban.
RESTRICTING ABORTION ACCESS
OHIO: During eight years in office, GOP Gov. John Kasich signed more than 20 anti-abortion bills, but twice vetoed the most draconian measure to reach his desk — the so-called “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. But Kasich has now been succeeded by fellow Republican Mike DeWine, who suggests he will sign a heartbeat bill. And the proposal has finally won the endorsement of Ohio Right to Life, which previously considered it too contentious but now believes it has a chance of prevailing in court.
“With the additions of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, we believe this is the most pro-life court we have seen in generations,” said Ohio Right to Life board chairman Marshal Pitchford. “Now is the time to pursue this approach.”
KENTUCKY, MISSOURI, SOUTH CAROLINA, FLORIDA: Lawmakers in these states, where Republicans control the legislature and governor’s office, also have drafted heartbeat bills for consideration this year.
The South Carolina and Florida measures would require testing for a detectable fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion; anyone performing an abortion after a heartbeat was detected would be guilty of a felony. A similar measure has been filed in Missouri; its potential punishments include fines and suspension or withdrawal of medical licenses.
Kentucky already is entangled in three abortion-related court cases, but Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said he would be pleased if the heartbeat bill triggered additional litigation.
“I would be proud if it’s Kentucky that takes it all the way up to the Supreme Court and we challenge Roe v. Wade,” Thayer told reporters. “That would be absolutely the pinnacle of my career in the legislature.”
ARKANSAS: Like Kentucky, some of Arkansas’ previously approved anti-abortion laws remain caught up in legal fights. But two new measures were filed ahead of the 2019 session: One would toughen requirements for reporting abortion-related complications to state health officials; the other would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion if they know the woman seeks it solely because the fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio previously enacted bans on Down syndrome abortions which have been blocked in federal court. Indiana is asking the Supreme Court to review its case. North Dakota enacted a similar ban in 2013 that has not been challenged; the state’s sole abortion clinic says the issue hasn’t arisen under its policy of not performing abortions after 16 weeks into a pregnancy.
OKLAHOMA: A Republican state senator, Joseph Silk, has filed a bill that would include abortion in the state’s definition of felony homicide, potentially punishable by life in prison. Its chances of advancing are uncertain, but Oklahoma lawmakers did approve a bill two years ago that would have outlawed abortion and imposed prison sentences of up to three years on anyone performing the procedure.
That bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Mary Fallin. She has been succeeded by fellow Republican Kevin Stitt, who declined comment on Silk’s bill after it was filed.
Herrera Beutler ranking member of Appropriations Committee
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, will serve as ranking member of the Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee for the 116th Congress.
Herrera Beutler has served on the Appropriations Committee — which consists of 12 subcommittees — since 2013.
The committee oversees funding for Capitol Police, the Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, the Library of Congress and other departments within the federal government.
“It is an honor to continue serving Southwest Washington in Congress, especially now as a leader on the House Appropriations Committee that sets spending levels across the federal government,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release.
“With this new assignment, I will fight to hold the government accountable, save taxpayer dollars, and increase transparency of how those dollars are spent,” she said.
She also said she will use her leadership position to ensure the Capitol is “a safe, responsive and open place for Congress to do the people’s business, and as accessible as possible for folks from Southwest Washington and across the country to visit.”
The Appropriations Committee is Herrera Beutler’s exclusive committee, but she will serve on other subcommittees in addition to her role as ranking member.
Subcommittee assignments have not yet been doled out.
White House Redefines Who Is Essential to Get Parts of Government Moving Again
The administration is opening the government piece by piece, forcing thousands of workers to report to the job without pay in sectors that could benefit the president’s base.
Agency Ignored Constitutional Questions About Trump Hotel Lease, Report Finds
After President Trump was elected, the General Services Administration should have reviewed the legality of the lease a prime property in Washington, the agency’s inspector general said.
Pence Says U.S. Still Waiting on North Korea for ‘Concrete Steps’ to Denuclearize
The vice president’s unequivocal statement seemed to contradict President Trump’s claim last summer that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Ex-Coca-Cola, Home Depot exec aims to bring equity to Oregon cannabis
Public notice: Opportunity to comment on COR Transfer Station solid waste franchise
COR Transfer Station submitted an application for a new Metro solid waste franchise to receive putrescible (wet) solid waste and non-recoverable mixed non-putrescible (dry) waste generated within the Metro region to transport to Wasco County Landfill for disposal. COR Transfer is a locally owned and operated subsidiary of City of Roses Disposal and Recycling. To share your view, comment by 5 p.m. Feb. 8, 2019.
Public notice: Opportunity to comment on Gresham Sanitary Service solid waste franchise
Gresham Sanitary Service (dba GSS Transfer, LLC.) submitted an application to Metro for a change of authorization to its transfer station franchise to increase the amount of putrescible (wet) waste received at GSS Transfer, LLC., and transported for disposal to Wasco County Landfill, and in unusual or emergency circumstances, to Coffin Butte Landfill. To share your views, comment by 5 p.m. Feb. 8th, 2019.