W.Va. suit accuses diocese of knowingly employing pedophiles

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s attorney general has sued a local Catholic diocese and its former bishop, claiming they knowingly employed pedophiles.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the suit against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Bishop Michael Bransfield on Tuesday.
The suit alleges the diocese and Bransfield chose to cover up arguably criminal behavior and says the diocese employed admitted sexual abusers and priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse without adequate background checks.
A diocese spokesman didn’t return a voicemail message, and no one responded immediately to a voicemail left with a phone number listed for Bransfield.
Earlier this month, Catholic Church officials announced they were imposing ministerial restrictions on Bransfield after an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed adults and committed financial improprieties. He resigned last year.

New rules likely coming but not to replay

By ARNIE STAPLETON AP Pro Football Writer
DENVER (AP) — In no sport but the NFL do players, fans, coaches and general managers annually debate the rules of the game, advocating ways to make pro football better, safer, fairer.
Officiating is especially a hot topic around the league after a blown call late in the NFC championship game pretty much cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.
That capped a season which began with the long-awaited clarification of what constitutes a catch and then was marred by widespread confusion over what exactly is a legal takedown of the quarterback. While defenders learned new ways to tackle to avoid flags for even glancing blows to the helmet, they complained about O-linemen illegally blocking too far downfield in the run-pass option craze that has successfully seeped in from the college game.
Giants owner John Mara hears the cries to change the NFL’s replay review system after officials failed to flag the blatant pass interference penalty and a helmet-first hit by the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman deep in Los Angeles territory in the NFC championship match. The non-calls helped Los Angeles force overtime and eventually win the game to reach the Super Bowl, leading to widespread displeasure with the current system regarding coaches’ challenges.
Mara said last month at the NFL combine that the powerful competition committee isn’t in a rush to change the replay system.
“I just don’t sense a lot of support to use replay to call penalties. I don’t sense a lot of support for the expansion of it, either,” Mara said. “We’re early on, so that might change, but that’s my sense of where we are right now. I’m not saying it won’t change.”
The Canadian Football League has allowed pass interference, either called or uncalled, to be reviewed for the last five years. But the NFL has long been reluctant to expand replays for officiating because it would slow games even further.
Other major moves will be considered by the 32 owners at the league meetings in Phoenix beginning Sunday.
Several teams are proposing big changes to replay and overtime after a season of consistent criticism of officiating and which plays can be challenged or automatically reviewed. Any change requires a 24-vote threshold to pass.
Just like the USFL did with the 2-point conversion and other innovations back in the 1980s, the Alliance of American Football’s debut this spring has brought novel ideas, some of which could find their way into the NFL rule book. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, a staunch advocate for adding more replay reviews to the NFL, is a big fan of the AAF’s “sky judge,” an official watching from the press box level who can help call penalties from a bird’s-eye view.
“Look how tough it is for these officials, all right. I know as a coach, what’s the worst spot to watch the game from? Sideline. You see the least amount form the sideline. That’s why you put coaches in the box,” Harbaugh said. “OK. So we’ve got all this technology and the fans actually have a better view of the game from an officiating standpoint than the officials do.
“So these clear and obvious mistakes that are inevitably going to get made, it’s not just one play in a championship game; it happens every single week, because the job is so tough and moves so fast and the angles aren’t great,” Harbaugh added. “If we can put somebody up there in the box that has a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, do that. If we can add more replay, let’s do that.”
Harbaugh said the league would save face by fixing a system everyone knows is flawed.
“Because at the end of the day it’s about the credibility of the sport, and we can’t have the other leagues outpacing us in terms of use of technology to make sure games are fair and well-officiated,” Harbaugh said. “We have great officials. These guys are incredible with what they do. We’ve also put a lot of rules in place that’ve made it really tough on them. They’ve got a lot on their plate.
“So let’s add an official, let’s add two officials, let’s put one up in the box, let’s expand replay if we want. Let’s make sure that at the end of the day the fans walk out of the stadium and walk away from their TV sets knowing that was a good, hard-fought, well-officiated game and the outcome is as it should be and it was correct. The right team won the game.”
Players have their own ideas about ways to make the game better.
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said the rules already in place need to be enforced, like flagging O-linemen who block too far downfield on the run-pass option plays that have become all the rage, leading to wide-open tight ends as linebackers come up to play the run.
“You can’t have guys 4 or 5 yards downfield and (the quarterback is) still throwing the ball,” Harris said.
“They’ve got to figure out the RPO stuff, but let me suggest a better rule,” teammate Von Miller said. “You know how you can’t hit a defenseless receiver coming across the field? I feel like edge rushers should have the same protection from chippers. I feel like it’s not fair.
“I’m looking right and I’ve got a receiver that shuffles in and blindsides me while I’m focusing on this play. I actually tore my ACL in a play like that in 2013,” Miller said. “I feel like the chips should be gone. I’m dead serious about that. You see guys get blindsided all the time.”
Miller said owners are eager to protect QBs and nowadays great edge rushers are getting paid just like franchise quarterbacks.
“We’ve got a lot of star pass rushers. All it takes is one of those plays and boom, that could be it for one of those guys,” Miller said. “This league is all about protecting the quarterbacks. How come they get protection and we don’t?”
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and AP Sports Writer Mike Marot contributed.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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Early reveal UConn women not top seed; Baylor No. 1 overall

Everyone got an early look at the women’s NCAA Tournament bracket, revealing that UConn isn’t a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2006.
The accidental early release of the 64-team bracket by ESPN just provided a couple of extra hours for the 11-time national champion Huskies to get fired up about their unusual position.
“If you are going to do that, we’re going to do everything we can to prove everyone wrong,” UConn senior Napheesa Collier said.
The Huskies (31-2) are still playing in the same Albany Regional they would have as a No. 1, and have the same expected potential regional final matchup against Louisville (29-3), the top seed instead.
There was no surprise with perennial Big 12 champion Baylor (31-1) being the No. 1 overall seed. The Lady Bears, who are playing in the Greensboro Regional, have the nation’s longest winning streak at 23 games and were the unanimous No. 1 team in the last Associated Press women’s basketball poll of the season that was released Monday.
The other NCAA No. 1 seeds are defending national champion Notre Dame (30-3) in the Chicago Regional and SEC champion Mississippi State (30-2), the national runner-up each of the past two seasons, in the Portland Regional.
“I feel like for the first time in a long time that every region got as close as it can to the S-curve, and that does my heart good for women’s basketball,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
“Not just our region, but if you look at the top 6-8 teams that could win this whole thing, below them they tried as best they could to cover geography but also cover the S-curve,” Mulkey said. “Usually when you look at a bracket, you go, ‘Who got the toughest region?’ I don’t know that anybody got one any tougher than any others.”
Here are some things to know about the women’s NCAA Tournament that starts Friday:
The last time UConn had multiple regular-season losses was 2012-13, when the Huskies won the first of four consecutive national titles. After that, they lost only one regular-season game the next five seasons before their two losses this year — both on the road, at NCAA No. 1 seeds Baylor and Louisville.
“We did lose two games, so I’m surprised we’re a number two. I thought we would be a four or five,” coach Geno Auriemma joked. “I mean, we’re not in one of those conferences that perennially wins women’s basketball national basketball championships, so we can’t be expected to lose two games and not be dropped. I’m just happy they kept us at two.”
While Baylor will have to go to North Carolina for the Sweet 16, readily assuming that the Lady Bears win two games at home, there could be some real local flavor in Greensboro with third-seeded North Carolina State and fourth-seeded South Carolina also in that bracket.
Baylor has won 37 consecutive home games.
Notre Dame would go to Chicago, with that regional’s semifinal and final games only about 90 miles from the South Bend campus. Second-seeded Oregon could draw some huge crowds to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Portland if the Ducks advance.
The selection committee on Sunday announced eight teams being considered for the final at-large berths. Five of those teams got in the field.
Princeton later won the Ivy League tournament championship and an automatic berth.
Tennessee still has perfect attendance in the women’s NCAA Tournament that started in 1982. The Lady Vols got in as a No. 11 seed and joined fellow SEC team Auburn, Indiana and Central Florida as the last four in.
Among the last teams left out were Arkansas, Ohio and TCU. The NCAA said that James Madison was the final team left out.
NCAA Tournament first-timers Abilene Christian, Bethune-Cookman and Towson will make their debuts playing past national champions on their home courts.
Southland Conference tournament champion Abilene Christian (23-9) stays in Texas to play Baylor. Towson (20-12) of the Colonial Athletic Association is a No. 15 seed at UConn. MEAC tournament winner Bethune-Cookman (21-10) is a No. 16 seed headed to play at Notre Dame.
The Summit League was known by a different name the last time the league had an at-large women’s team.
South Dakota State (26-6) got in the NCAA for the ninth time in 11 years with the Summit’s automatic berth after winning the conference tournament.
South Dakota (28-5) is the only the second team from the league to get an at-large bid. The last was Northern Illinois in 1994, when it was the Mid-Continent Conference.
Buffalo and Central Michigan both made it to the Sweet 16 last season as No. 11 seeds out of the Mid-American Conference.
The Bulls and Chippewas are back in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think that us getting in was a fluke in their eyes, and then when we went out and went to the Sweet 16, they said, ‘We’ve got to take these people seriously’,” Buffalo coach Felicia Leggett-Jack said, referring to last year’s MAC run.
MAC tournament champ Buffalo (23-9) is the No. 10 seed in the Albany Regional. Central Michigan (25-7) is the No. 8 in the Chicago Regional.
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Spurs extend streak to 9 straight, beat Warriors 111-105

By RAUL DOMINGUEZ Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonia Spurs aren’t concerned with making statements. They just want to pile up as many victories as they can late in the season.
DeMar DeRozan had 26 points and nine rebounds, LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points and 13 rebounds and Spurs beat the Golden State Warriors 111-105 on Monday night for their ninth straight win.
“We’re just trying to get wins, man, that’s all,” Spurs forward Rudy Gay said. “We’ve had wins, we’ve had big wins, we’ve had some bad losses, (too). It just feels good to win the games we think we should.”
San Antonio won its 11th straight at home and moved into fifth in the Western Conference following the Thunder’s loss to Miami. The Spurs also clinched a winning record for the 22nd straight season.
Stephen Curry had 25 points after a slow start and Kevin Durant added 24 for the Warriors, who entered the game having won two straight. Golden State dropped into a tie with Denver for first place in the West with matching 47-22 records.
“That’s the hottest team in the league and obviously really well-coached,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They were executing and I thought they outexecuted us, outcoached us. They deserved to win.”
San Antonio’s winning streak is second only to Golden State’s 11 straight wins earlier this season. Remarkably, the Spurs’ longest winning streak since 2016 comes directly after they went 1-7 for their worst Rodeo Road Trip ever.
San Antonio has beaten Golden State, Denver, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Portland and Detroit during its streak. All of those clubs are among the top six teams in their conference.
“Guys are playing better,” Aldridge said of the turnaround. “We’re trying to be better defensively. Communication has been better and it’s just winning time. I think everyone senses that.”
Golden State was without DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Iguodala, who both sat with injuries, but remained within two possessions in the final minute.
The Warriors had to rally in the second half after a sluggish start.
Curry and Klay Thompson opened the game a combined 0 for 11, but the Warriors’ defense allowed them to tie the game at 25 when Curry threw in a 61-footer to close the first quarter.
Curry finished 9 for 25 from the field and Thompson finished with 14 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Thompson said the “Splash Brothers” struggles were their own rather than anything the Spurs did defensively.
“Just missed shots,” Thompson said. “That’s all it is. Shots that we normally hit, too. Yeah, they’re a smart disciplined team but it’s not like we weren’t getting to our spots and getting good looks. Just didn’t go in.”
After trailing by 11 in the third quarter, the Warriors’ offense awoke to silence the sold-out crowd with a 16-5 run to forge a 75-all tie. The run included a shakedown, step-back 3-pointer by Curry and a pair of quick passes from Curry to Draymond Green to Shaun Livingston for an emphatic dunk. Curry had eight points in the run.
“Every time we made a run, they countered and they made a run,” Green said.
DeRozan scored 10 points in the final quarter, including a pair of pull-up jumpers over Thompson, to seal the victory.
Gay added 17 points for San Antonio and Derrick White had 12.
Warriors: Cousins sat the game out with a sore right foot and Iguodala missed the game following dental work. … Andrew Bogut started the game after signing with the team March 6 after playing this season in Australia. Bogut spent four seasons with Golden State before rejoining the team as a free agent. … The Warriors have won at least 23 road games in six straight seasons. They lost for the fifth time in 24 games away from home. … Golden State defeated San Antonio by 39 points in their previous meeting, Feb. 6 at Oracle Arena. It was the largest winning margin over the Spurs in franchise history.
Spurs: Aldridge has 18,854 career points, moving past Glen Rice for 69th all-time in league history. Rice had 18,338 career points over 15 seasons beginning in 1989. … DeRozan is the first Spurs guard to make 300 free throws in a season since Manu Ginobili in 2011. .. The Spurs won 13 straight in 2016.
Bogut picked up a foul on an illegal screen 9 seconds into the game.
“That was a welcome to the league, for sure,” Bogut said. “Just like, we know you set some hard screens so we’re just going to blow one early.”
Bogut finished with seven points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes as he reunited with Curry, Thompson and Green. His points included an alley-oop dunk from Curry.
“It was fun,” Curry said. “It’s been what three years (since he last played with Bogut). I came in transition and besides probably (Damian Jones) early in the year, I haven’t thrown a lob like that to somebody. It just felt like second nature at that point. He went up and finished it.”
Warriors: At Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Spurs: Host Miami on Wednesday night.
More AP NBA: www.apnews.com/NBA and www.twitter.com/AP_Sports

Capitals’ signing of Snively is evidence of Ovechkin effect

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Joe Snively cheered for the Washington Capitals growing up and played his youth hockey at their practice facility as part of the Little Caps program.
Soon, he could be playing for the big Capitals.
Snively on Monday signed a two-year, entry-level deal with his hometown team that begins next season. The 23-year-old college free agent who grew up in Herndon, Virginia, and played at Yale became the latest local product to sign an NHL contract and is more evidence of the Alex Ovechkin effect on the growth of youth hockey in the Washington area.
“It’s pretty cool for this area, for fans and for kids,” Ovechkin said Monday. “They see the progress that hockey did in the United States and, obviously, in D.C., and it’s pretty cool.”
Producing NHL-caliber talent is now becoming the norm in the decade and a half since Ovechkin entered the league in 2005 and ushered in a new generation of Capitals success. Snively joins 2009 Penguins draft pick Nick Petersen, 2010 Canadiens first-rounder Jarred Tinordi and Minnesota’s Sam Anas as Little Caps alumni to sign an NHL contract.
“When the Caps started to become successful, you could just see the amount of people in the local rinks, it started to increase,” Snively said. “More kids wanted to play hockey. It became a hockey city. It’s been really cool to witness and be a local (from) Northern Virginia and just see how the hockey community’s just gotten so much bigger.”
Snively met Ovechkin at the dentist more than a decade ago and got a pair of gloves signed. He could now become the first Washington-area native from the Ovechkin era to play for the Capitals, similarly to how Jeff Halpern was the local product of a previous generation of players.
The skilled, 5-foot-9 forward’s decision came down to five teams expressing serious interest after going undrafted and developing into Yale’s leading scorer in each of the past four seasons. His dream to play for the Capitals weighed in as much as the business and hockey factors.
“Signing with the Capitals, my hometown team, and the possibility of playing in the NHL for them was for sure a big plus for me,” said Snively, who could join Hershey of the American Hockey League for the rest of the season on a tryout agreement. “You grow up watching the Caps, you dream of playing for them. It felt really great to sign a contract with the Capitals, but my goal is to play in an NHL game with them and I’ve still got a lot of work to do before that.”
Snively put in a lot of work to get to this point. Little Caps executive director Doug Plocki said Snively always had a good mix of skill and work ethic to stand out during his four years with the program.
This season, Snively had 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points in 33 games to become a sought-after prospect. After Ovechkin became one of hockey’s best players and the Capitals won the Stanley Cup last year, Snively’s signing is another milestone for kids in the area.
“It really puts an exclamation point on the dream that a lot of these kids in this area have,” Ploki said. “If you work hard and you do the right things, you could end up playing for the club that’s right in your backyard. It’s a massive, massive thing for players in this area. Kids that come and play for the Little Caps get excited because they get to put on the Capitals jersey and play their games in that jersey. So to see a kid come from that and be able to put it on for real is pretty extraordinary and very exciting.”
Putting on that Little Caps jersey became tougher over the years. While there has been a boom in youth hockey participation in the Washington area, the Little Caps, with their fixed amount of teams and roster spots, became more competitive and the talent level has risen.
Snively is a byproduct of that. After four years with the Little Caps, Snively went on to the United States Hockey League and then Division I college hockey.
And while the Ovechkin effect is a commonly used term around the Capitals, Snively’s favorite player growing up was Nicklas Backstrom, the playmaking Swedish center who also deserves some credit for a burgeoning pipeline of talent coming from the Washington area.
“The overall numbers of players playing youth hockey and number of coaches that want to get involved in it is amazing and that’s what it’s all about,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “(This area is) so fortunate to have such generational talents as a guy like Ovechkin and Backstrom and others. It’s pretty neat to see it all kind of come full-circle.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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Kang, Gonzalez win starting jobs in Pirates’ infield

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Jung Ho Kang and Erik Gonzalez have won starting jobs in the infield with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
General manager Neal Huntington said Monday that Kang has beaten out Colin Moran at third base and Erik Gonzalez has won the shortstop competition over Kevin Newman.
“It was not an easy decision because all four guys, in their own way, had legitimate claims to be the regular,” Huntington said.
Kang is just 5 for 28 (.185) with 13 strikeouts this spring but all five hits have been solo home runs. Moran was 6 for 28 (.214) with a double and a homer through the weekend.
Moran, however, had committed four errors while Kang had two.
“The power has been real,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Kang. “It’s spring training, but it’s five homers. We don’t have anybody else that’s hit five homers.”
Kang missed the entire 2017 season and the beginning of 2018 because he was unable to secure a work visa to travel from his native South Korea following a third DUI arrest. He then underwent wrist surgery last year before returning to the Pirates for the final three games of the season.
The Pirates beat the Rays 4-2 on Monday behind a strong start from Nick Kingham, who made his final bid for the fifth starter job. Kingham retired his first 11 batters, struck out five and allowed two hits over five scoreless innings.
Charlie Morton allowed two runs over five innings for Tampa Bay against his former team.
Looking to bolster their ailing rotation, the Yankees signed left-hander Gio Gonzalez to a minor league contract. The two-time All-Star was 10-11 with a 4.21 ERA last season for Washington and Milwaukee, which acquired him on Aug. 31.
Luke Voit, trying to beat out Greg Bird for New York’ first base job, hit his fourth homer of the spring. Aaron Judge hit a two-run triple. Judge has four doubles, a triple, six homers and 14 RBIs.
In his next-to-last tuneup for opening day, Masahiro Tanaka allowed one run and two hits in five innings, giving up a homer to Nick Markakis.
Ross Stripling will begin the season in the starting rotation for Los Angeles, with ace Clayton Kershaw unlikely to be on the active roster.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced Kershaw won’t start on opening day because of the left shoulder inflammation that’s slowed him at spring training, ending his streak of pitching eight straight openers. Kershaw is scheduled to throw live batting practice Wednesday, but there are no plans in place after that.
Increasingly, it appears left-hander Rich Hill will get the ball against the Arizona Diamondbacks on opening day.
Rougned Odor had three hits and Shin-Soo Choo added two for Texas. Mike Minor tossed 3 1/3 shutout innings.
Brad Miller homered for Los Angeles, and Stripling gave up two runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Mitch Haniger hit a tying, two-run homer in the seventh inning and David Freitas homered in the eighth to give the Mariners their second straight exhibition win over the Giants in Tokyo. Dee Gordon and Omar Narvaez each had two hits. Felix Hernandez allowed five runs in four innings in his final regular-season tuneup.
Teoscar Hernandez homered in the first inning and Clayton Richard pitched six solid innings for Toronto. Richard allowed two runs and three hits while striking out six. Dalton Pompey added three hits.
Daniel Norris allowed three runs in three innings for Detroit. Gordon Beckham had a solo homer in the first.
Caleb Smith struck out seven in five innings of one-run ball for Miami. Peter O’Brien had two hits and five RBIs, and Austin Dean had three hits.
Patrick Corbin allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings, striking out five. Ryan Zimmerman singled and scored for Washington, which had just three hits.
Dwight Smith Jr. homered and had three hits to lift Baltimore. Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar each tripled, and Chance Sisco had two hits. Andrew Cashner opened with five innings of one-run ball.
Nick Castellanos hit a first-inning home run for the Tigers, who were held to just three hits. Jordan Zimmermann pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing five runs and five hits.
Eddie Rosario hit a two-run home run for the Twins. Jose Berrios pitched 4 2/3 innings and limited the defending World Series champions to a run, three hits, and three walks while striking out four.
Nathan Eovaldi pitched four innings of two-run ball for Boston. J.D. Martinez was 2 for 2.
Dakota Hudson firmed up his bid for a rotation spot by striking out eight over five scoreless innings. The 2016 first-round pick allowed four hits and walked one, dropping his spring ERA to 1.72. Paul Goldschmidt hit his first homer with St. Louis, and Tyler O’Neill went deep for the fifth time.
With Bryce Harper getting a day off, Philadelphia had just six hits.
Spencer Kieboom homered and had two hits and three RBIs for the Nationals, and his brother, Carter Kieboom, also had two hits. Joe Ross allowed two hits in three innings.
Jeurys Familia struck out two during a perfect first inning, and Kyle Dowdy followed with three scoreless innings. Michael Conforto hit a two-run homer. Mets aces Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard squared off in an intrasquad game and combined to strike out 24 batters. New York used them on the back fields instead of against Washington to avoid giving the NL East rivals any extra looks.
Tyler Beede struck out three in two innings, allowing two runs and four hits for San Francisco. Steven Duggar had two hits and Donovan Solano drove in two.
Yonder Alonso hit his fourth home run of the spring and Adam Engel had two hits for the White Sox. Manny Banuelos allowed two runs and three hits over 4 1/3 innings.
San Diego pulled rookie and possible opening day starter Chris Paddack was scratched hours before the game and will instead pitch in a minor league game Tuesday. Robbie Erlin pitched instead and delivered two scoreless innings. Wil Myers hit his first homer of the spring and Josh Naylor hit his second.
Trevor Bauer struck out nine over 5 2/3 innings but also allowed three runs and four hits, including two home runs. Eric Stamets had two of Cleveland’s three hits.
Trevor Story homered and Ryan McMahon had a homer and a double. Kyle Freeland allowed two runs and seven hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Tyler Mahle allowed four runs in four innings for the Reds. He’s expected to take the season-opening roster spot left open by Alex Wood, sidelined with a back ailment. Scott Schebler homered and had two hits to lift his average to .429.
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More evacuations in Midwest as floodwaters head downstream

By JIM SALTER Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Residents in parts of southwestern Iowa were forced out of their homes Sunday as a torrent of Missouri River water flowed over and through levees, putting them in a situation similar to hundreds of people in neighboring Nebraska who have been displaced by the late-winter flood.
Heavy rainfall and snowmelt have led to dangerously high water in creeks and rivers across several Midwestern states, with the Missouri River hitting record-high levels in many areas. At least two deaths were blamed on flooding, and two other men have been missing for days.
While river depths were starting to level off in parts of Nebraska on Sunday, the water is so high in many places that serious flooding is expected to remain for several days. And downstream communities in Kansas and Missouri were bracing for likely flooding.
In Iowa, the Missouri River reached 30.2 feet (9.2 meters) Sunday in Fremont County in the state’s far southwestern corner, 2 feet (0.6 meter) above the record set in 2011. People in the towns of Bartlett and Thurman were being evacuated as levees were breached and overtopped.
County Emergency Management Director Mike Crecelius said it wasn’t just the amount of the water, it was the swiftness of the current that created a danger.
“This wasn’t a gradual rise,” Crecelius said. “It’s flowing fast and it’s open country — there’s nothing there to slow it down.”
Thurman has about 200 residents. About 50 people live in Bartlett.
Lucinda Parker of Iowa Homeland Security & Emergency Management said nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated at eight Iowa locations since flooding began late last week. Most were staying with friends or family. Seven shelters set up for flood victims held just a couple dozen people Saturday night.
In Nebraska, the Missouri River flooded Offutt Air Force Base, with about one-third of it under water on Sunday. Spokeswoman Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake told the Omaha World-Herald that 60 buildings, mostly on the south end of the base, have been damaged, including about 30 completely inundated with as much as 8 feet (2.4 meters) of water.
Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, where floodwaters reached record levels at 17 locations. The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency highlighted some remarkably high crests. The Missouri River was expected to reach 41 feet (12.5 meters) in Plattsmouth on Sunday — 4 feet (1.22 meters) above the record set in 2011. The Elkhorn River got to 24.6 feet (7.5 meters) Saturday in Waterloo, breaking the 1962 record by 5 1/2 feet (1.68 meters).
In hard-hit Sarpy County, Nebraska, up to 500 homes have been damaged, including some cabins along a lake, said Greg London of the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office. The damage followed breaches of levees along the Platte River on Thursday and Saturday, and a Missouri River levee break on Thursday. The two rivers converge there.
London said many of the damaged homes are wet up to the roof line and likely ruined.
“This area’s had flooding before but not of this magnitude,” London said. “This is unprecedented.”
Nearly 300 people have been rescued from high water across the state.
At least two people have died in the floodwaters. Aleido Rojas Galan, 52, of Norfolk, Nebraska, was swept away Friday night in southwestern Iowa, when the vehicle he was in went around a barricade. Two others in the vehicle survived — one by clinging to a tree. On Thursday, Columbus, Nebraska, farmer James Wilke, 50, died when a bridge collapsed as he used a tractor to try and reach stranded motorists.
Two men remain missing. A Norfolk man was seen on top of his flooded car late Thursday before being swept away. Water also swept away a man after a dam collapse.
Downstream in St. Joseph, Missouri, home to 76,000 people, volunteers were helping to fill sandbags to help secure a levee protecting an industrial area. Calls were out for even more volunteers in hopes of filling 150,000 sandbags by Tuesday, when the Missouri River is expected to climb to 27 feet (8.2 meters) — 10 feet (3 meters) above technical flood stage.
Flooding was causing problems for passenger train service between Kansas City, Missouri, and St. Louis. Amtrak said Sunday that its Missouri River Runner service between the state’s two largest cities was experiencing delays up to five hours because of flooding and rail congestion. All Missouri River Runner trains will be canceled Monday. The service typically travels twice daily between the two metropolitan areas.
The rising Mississippi River also was creating concern. The Mississippi was already at major flood level along the Iowa-Illinois border, closing roads and highways and swamping thousands of acres of farmland. Moderate Mississippi River flooding was expected at several Missouri cities, including St. Louis.
Flooding has also been reported in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, officials said residents who evacuated their homes could return now that floodwaters have receded there.
AP reporter Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Beto O’Rourke says he raised $6.1M online in 1st 24 hours

By DINO HAZELL Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke raised more than $6 million online during the first 24 hours after he announced his White House bid, the highest first-day number reported by any candidate, his campaign said Monday.
The “record-breaking” $6.1 million came “without a dime” from political action committees, corporations or special interests, O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans tweeted.
The $6.1 million is just above what Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders reported for his first day as a candidate.
O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, jumped into the 2020 presidential race on Thursday after months of speculation, shaking up the already packed Democratic field and pledging to win over voters from across the political spectrum.
O’Rourke raised an eye-popping $80 million in grassroots donations last year in his failed U.S. Senate race in Texas against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, all while largely avoiding money from PACs. His early fundraising numbers in the presidential contest will be seen as an initial signal of whether his popularity during the Senate campaign will carry over to his White House bid.
The new figures set O’Rourke and Sanders apart from the rest of the Democratic field in launch-day fundraising. California Sen. Kamala Harris reported raising $1.5 million in the 24 hours after she launched her campaign in January. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar reported raising $1 million in the 48 hours after launching her campaign in February.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said three days after starting his presidential campaign this month that he had raised more than $1 million, a notable haul for a governor less widely known than many of his competitors in a field dominated by senators.
Sanders has set the pace for 2020 grassroots donations. Aided by the $6 million he pulled in on his first day as a candidate, he took in more than $10 million in the first week, overwhelmingly from small donors.
O’Rourke, asked last week if he thought he would top Sanders, said only, “We’ll see.”

Warren embraces underdog role as she faces 2020 challenges

BOSTON (AP) — Elizabeth Warren has spent much of the last decade as a leader of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing.
But three and a half months into her presidential campaign, the Massachusetts senator is facing tough questions about fundraising and electability, along with lingering skepticism about her past claim to Native American identity. The longtime liberal superstar is embracing an uncomfortable role in the crowded 2020 contest: the underdog.
“This is the race I want to run,” Warren insisted in an interview with The Associated Press.
With the 69-year-old Democrat in the middle of the pack in early polling, her Boston-based senior advisers are implementing an aggressive — if risky — strategy that calls on Warren to forgo traditional high-dollar fundraising events and devote the saved time to interactions with rank-and-file voters. Advisers say she’ll also focus on seizing opportunities to stake bold new policy positions in real time, as she did recently by calling for the breakup of big technology companies like Amazon, which allow her to shape the debate and showcase her policy bona fides.
Her success or failure will help determine the direction of the Democratic Party in 2020 and, more specifically, whether Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders can maintain his early place at the head of the presidential primary pack. While Warren has sometimes sought to distinguish herself from Sanders, describing herself as a capitalist while Sanders runs as a democratic socialist, the New England senators appeal to the same progressive, populist wing of their party that is an increasingly dominant force in the age of President Donald Trump.
So far, Sanders has bested Warren in the few objective measures that exist: fundraising and polling. And while the first votes won’t be cast for another 10 months or so, former Warren allies in her neighboring state of New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary, see cause for concern.
“I just don’t know if she would go over nationally,” said former New Hampshire state Rep. Daniel Hansberry, who was among 27 current and former state lawmakers who signed a 2015 letter urging Warren to seek the presidency. “In the Northeast and on the West Coast I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she got a huge vote. But I don’t know if she’s too progressive for other parts of the country.”
Another signatory, former New Hampshire state Rep. Frank Heffron, said he’d be satisfied if Warren ultimately won the election, but said “it’s very unlikely” he’ll support her in the primary.
New Hampshire voter Kerry Query, a 54-year-old administrative assistant who voted for Hillary Clinton over Sanders in the 2016 primary, said she’s undecided this year but prefers Sanders over Warren so far.
“I don’t think she could get enough people behind her,” Query said. “If she got elected in the primary, there’s no way she could win.”
No one has an easy path to the Democratic presidential nomination, but few who expected to be in the top tier opened their campaigns with the same kind of stumbles as Warren.
Laying the groundwork for her 2020 run, Warren released the results of a DNA test in October that showed “strong evidence” of Native American ancestry, albeit at least six generations back. The move backfired, emboldening her critics — especially Trump, who regularly calls Warren “Pocahontas” — who have long charged that Warren exaggerated her ethnic heritage for personal gain.
Warren privately apologized to the head of the Cherokee Nation in early February. But just a few days later, reports surfaced that Warren had claimed Native American heritage on a 1986 Texas State Bar registration form.
“A large swath of the American people were introduced to her through what I like to call the DNA debacle,” said Democratic strategist Symone Sanders, who worked for Bernie Sanders during part of his 2016 campaign. She lauded Warren’s early campaign for having “meat on the bones” that rivals lack but warned that the Native American issue would continue to be a challenge.
Warren allies also acknowledge her early fundraising, a strength in her Senate campaigns, has been lackluster as a presidential candidate.
A federal filing reveals that she raised at least $300,000 on the day she launched her campaign. While not a complete picture, Sanders raised nearly $6 million the first day he was in the race and California Sen. Kamala Harris raised $1.5 million.
In the AP interview, Warren cast her fundraising challenges, including her move to eschew all high-dollar fundraising events, as a positive.
“I know that the way I’ve decided to run my campaign means that I’m leaving millions of dollars on the table,” she said.
“This is a chance to help repair our democracy. It shouldn’t just be about going out and raising a bunch of money and coming back and doing a bunch of TV ads,” she continued. “This is about meeting people in person. Talking with them about the things that touch their lives every day, about their hopes to make this country work not just for the rich and the powerful, but to make it work for them.”
Warren is plowing ahead with an energetic approach designed to win over primary voters one event at a time.
She has made a significant time and organizational investment in the first four states on the presidential primary calendar — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. She has hired 65 campaign staffers for the first four states already, a number expected to grow in the coming weeks.
She’s also courting voters in other regions, launching a Southern tour on Sunday with stops in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. In all, she held 33 events across 11 states and Puerto Rico since launching on Dec. 31. Twenty-six of those events were in the early voting states, including 11 separate town halls or house parties in Iowa and 10 in New Hampshire, according to her campaign.
“There used to be an old adage back in the days when I was managing New Hampshire. It was ‘organize, organize, organize’ and get hot at the end,” said Democratic operative Mark Longabaugh, who previously worked for Sanders. “So I think they’re pursuing a version of that strategy with the modern communications techniques that we have now.”
Warren is hardly the only 2020 contender showering time and attention on key states.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has strong teams on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Others, such as Harris, are in the process of strengthening their early-state presence. And both Sanders and newcomer Beto O’Rourke are expected to aggressively court early-state voters.
Warren backers like Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III argue that she has proven doubters wrong since she first challenged Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown in 2012.
“It’s a matter, candidly, of the fact that we’re almost a year away from the election,” Kennedy said, “much like in Sen. Warren’s first race where there was a bunch of hand-wringing and bunch of concerns about whether she was going to be up for the task of taking on a very popular Republican incumbent.”
Kennedy continued: “I kept telling people: ‘Just wait. Wait and watch.'”

Be Kind, Please Rewind: Oregon Blockbuster is last on Earth

By GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated Press
BEND, Ore. (AP) — There are challenges that come with running the last Blockbuster Video on the planet.
The computer system must be rebooted using floppy disks that only the general manager — a solid member of Gen X — knows how to use. The dot-matrix printer broke, so employees write out membership cards by hand. And the store’s business transactions are backed up on a reel-to-reel tape that can’t be replaced because Radio Shack went out of business.
Yet none of that has kept this humble franchise in an Oregon strip mall from thriving as the advent of on-demand movie streaming laid waste all around it. When a Blockbuster in Australia shuts its doors for the last time on March 31, the Bend store will be the only one left on Earth.
“It’s pure stubbornness, for one. We didn’t want to give in,” said general manager Sandi Harding, who has worked at the franchise for 15 years and receives a lot of the credit for keeping it alive well past its expiration date. “We did everything we could to cut costs and keep ourselves relevant.”
The store was once one of five Blockbusters owned by the same couple, Ken and Debbie Tisher, in three central Oregon towns. But by last year, the Bend franchise was the last local Blockbuster standing.
A tight budget meant no money to update the surviving store. That’s paying off now with a nostalgia factor that stops first-time visitors of a certain age in their tracks: the popcorn ceilings, low fluorescent lighting, wire metal video racks and the ubiquitous yellow-and-blue ticket stub logo that was a cultural touchstone for a generation.
“Most people, I think, when they think about renting videos — if they’re the right age — they don’t remember the movie that they went to pick, but they remember who they went with and that freedom of walking the aisles,” said Zeke Kamm, a local resident who is making a documentary about the store called “The Last Blockbuster” with a friend.
“In a lot of towns, the Blockbuster was the only place that was open past nine o’clock, and a lot of them stayed open until midnight, so kids who weren’t hoodlums would come here and look at movies and fall in love with movies.”
The Bend store had eight years under its belt as a local video store before it converted to a Blockbuster in 2000, a time when this high desert city was still a sleepy community with a small-town feel to match.
Customers kept coming back, drawn by special touches like staff recommendations, a “wish list” for videos to add to the rental selection and even home delivery for a few special customers who couldn’t drive in. Dozens of local teens have worked there over the years.
Then, in 2010, Blockbuster declared bankruptcy, and by 2014, all corporate-owned stores had shuttered. That left locally owned franchises to fend for themselves, and one by one, they closed.
When stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, shut down last summer — barely outlasting a Redmond, Oregon, store — Bend’s Blockbuster was the only U.S. location left.
Tourists started stopping by to snap selfies, and business picked up. Harding ordered up blue-and-yellow sweat shirts, T-shirts, cups, magnets, bumper stickers, hats and stocking caps from local vendors emblazoned with the words “The Last Blockbuster in America,” and they flew off the shelves.
Then, this month, she got a phone call: The world’s only other Blockbuster, in Perth, Australia, would soon close its doors. A new T-shirt order went out — this time with the slogan “The Last Blockbuster on the Planet” — and the store is already getting a new wave of selfie-snapping visitors from as far away as Europe and Asia.
On a recent weekday, Michael Trovato of Melbourne, Australia, stopped by while visiting his twin sister in Bend.
After posing for a photo, Trovato said he misses a time when choosing a movie meant browsing hundreds of titles and asking a video clerk for insight instead of letting a movie-streaming service recommend one for him based on a computer algorithim.
“I miss quite a bit being able to walk into a Blockbuster or CD store and have that social experience and see people looking at stuff and talking to people,” Trovato said. “It’s something you don’t get from the slick presentation of a music service or, you know, from the Internet.”
The Bend store doesn’t seem to be in danger of closing anytime soon.
Its newfound fame has been a shot in the arm, and customers stream in to buy $40 sweat shirts, $20 T-shirts and even $15 yellow-and-blue beanies hand-knit by Harding herself. The store pays Dish Network for the right to use the Blockbuster logo and has several years left on its lease.
People regularly send the store boxes of old VHS tapes and DVDs. They also donate Blockbuster memorabilia: a corporate jean jacket, key chains and old membership cards.
Employees always send a thank-you note, store manager Dan Montgomery said.
Recently, Harding has noticed another type of customer that’s giving her hope: a new generation of kids dragged in by their nostalgic parents who later leave happy, holding stacks of rented movies and piles of candy.
Jerry Gilless and his wife, Elizabeth, brought their two kids, John, 3, and Ellen, 5, and watched with a smile as the siblings bounced from row to row, grabbing “Peter Pan” and “The Lion King” and surveying dinosaur cartoons.
“How could we not stop? It’s the last one,” said Gilless, of their detour to the store while on vacation from Memphis, Tennessee. “They need to see that not everything’s on the iPad.”
Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus