Environmental conservation kicks off state budget hearings

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A top Cuomo administration official says New York state’s environment is being threatened by Donald Trump’s policies.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos testified during a state budget hearing Wednesday in Albany that the Republican president’s roll backs of environmental rules are an “unprecedented assault on the environment.”
Seggos was the opening witness for the first of 13 public hearings scheduled by the Assembly and Senate on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal for the next fiscal year.
The third-term Democrat last week released a $175 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins April 1.
Among Cuomo’s environmental conservation proposals: banning plastic bags given to store customers and expanding the state’s bottle bill to include sports drinks and other containers currently not required to have a 5-cent deposit.

2 abandoned bobcat kittens get permanent home at W.Va. zoo

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — Two bobcat kittens found abandoned in West Virginia have been given a permanent home at the Oglebay Good Zoo.
The zoo in Wheeling says in a news release the two female kittens named Bobbi and Gina were found in rural Marshall County. They now are in the nursery at the zoo’s veterinary and quarantine hospital.
The zoo says it’s offering guests the chance to visit the kittens. Guests must be at least 8 years old to participate. Visits can be reserved by calling 304-243-4100.

Reynolds releases bill to restore felon voting rights

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is releasing her proposed bill that would restore voting rights for felons through an amendment to the Iowa Constitution.
The language released Tuesday would change Article 2 of the constitution to say a felon gets voting rights back after the sentence is discharged. That means they could vote after serving their prison time and any probation or parole.
It doesn’t include complete repayment of all obligations, including restitution. That’s an issue that could be a problem for some conservative lawmakers who have viewed Reynolds’ proposal with skepticism.
Reynolds says the move would bring Iowa in line with 35 other states that either never take away rights or restore them upon discharge of a sentence.
Iowa and Kentucky are the only states with a broad permanent ban on felons’ voting.

Tsitsipas reaches 1st Slam semi; Collins wins

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A post-millennial through and through, Stefanos Tsitsipas sounded as excited about doubling his YouTube channel’s followers to more than 30,000 within a few hours — “Oh, my God. Really?!” — as he was about becoming the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since 2007.
Ah, to be 20, emerging as possibly the Next Big Thing in tennis and getting the opportunity to promote your travel vlogs.
“Guys,” he urged folks watching the Australian Open on Tuesday in person or on TV, “if you haven’t subscribed, please subscribe.”
Lest anyone get the idea that Tsitsipas’ stunning victory over Roger Federer at Melbourne Park was a fluke, he followed it up by beating No. 22-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) to become the first player from Greece to reach the final four at a major tournament.
“I knew that win against Federer was important, played a huge role in my image — like, who I am,” said Tsitsipas, who eliminated the two-time defending champion in the fourth round Sunday. “But I knew that the biggest challenge was today’s match, that I can prove myself once again.”
Sure did.
Next for Tsitsipas will be 17-time major champion Rafael Nadal, who stopped the career-best run of another up-and-coming member of the sport’s new generation, 21-year-old American Frances Tiafoe, by dominating him 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Nadal saved the only two break points he faced and broke Tiafoe the first time he served in each set.
In women’s action, unseeded 25-year-old Danielle Collins of the U.S. reached her first Slam semifinal with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia. Collins was an NCAA champion at the University of Virginia who began this tournament with an 0-5 record at majors and now has strung together five victories in a row, including over 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.
Collins put aside a poor start Tuesday, including dropping a 16-minute, 28-point, 11-deuce second game to completely dominate the final set, which she opened by grabbing 20 of 23 points.
She’ll now face two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who is back in the semis at a major for the first time since she was stabbed during an attack at her home in December 2016.
“I didn’t really imagine being back,” a teary Kvitova said after defeating No. 15 Ash Barty of Australia 6-1, 6-4.
“I’m calling it my ‘second career,'” Kvitova said. “So it’s the first semifinal of the ‘second career.'”
She hadn’t been this far at any Slam since Wimbledon in 2014, and at Melbourne since 2012.
Cheered on by a loud, flag-waving contingent of Greek fans inside and outside Rod Laver Arena, Tsitsipas displayed his varied toolbox, producing 22 aces, 30 more winners than unforced errors (68-38) and a nose for getting to the net.
It was a terrific encore to what he did against his idol, the 37-year-old Federer, a result that left Tsitsipas unable to sleep.
Tsitsipas was down a break in the first and third sets before turning both around against Bautista Agut, whose own thrill-ride to the quarterfinals included victories over Andy Murray, a three-time major champion, and Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion and the runner-up to Federer at Melbourne Park a year ago.
“Well, he’s a good player, no? He’s very complete. He has a good forehand and backhand. He’s serving well,” Bautista Agut said about Tsitsipas. “I think he knows the game. He knows how to play.”
That’s why his peers voted him the 2018 Most Improved Player.
And why he’s already in the Top 20, seeded 14th in Australia.
Tsitsipas recently was asked what his goal was for this season. The reply: reaching the semifinals at a major. Well, we’re all of three weeks into 2019 and that box is checked.
So is he satisfied?
“That’s like the starting point to go deeper,” Tsitsipas replied. “That’s like the minimum, I would call it.”
No man as young as Tsitsipas had been this far at any Grand Slam tournament since Novak Djokovic at the 2007 U.S. Open or at the Australian Open since Andy Roddick in 2003.
“It all feels like a fairy tale, almost. I’m just living the dream, living what I’ve been working hard for,” said Tsitsipas, who dropped his racket, fell on his back and covered his face with his hands at match’s end. “I mean, I feel a bit emotional but not too much because I know I worked hard to get here.”
Seated in his courtside guest box were his parents — his father is his coach; his mother was a tennis player in the Soviet Union — and two siblings, along with Patrick Mouratoglou, who coaches Serena Williams and serves as a mentor to Tsitsipas.
Before introducing them, and other members of his entourage, to the audience during his post-match interview, Tsitsipas discussed his love of “cinematography, filmmaking, photography” and the way the YouTube videos he began making last year serve as a creative outlet.
Later, at his news conference, Tsitsipas expanded on what he gains from his hobby.
“When I’m desperate sometimes, when I feel down, I do these videos. I actually feel better,” he said. “It makes me realize that tennis is not the most important thing in life, that we all have some other talents that we don’t know about. It kind of makes me more relaxed.”
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
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Haley’s layup lifts West Virginia over No. 7 Kansas 65-64

By JOHN RABY, AP Sports Writer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self left his postgame news conference, saw West Virginia’s Bob Huggins down a hallway and stopped for a handshake.
“Go win the rest of them,” Self said.
Wishful thinking, perhaps. But Huggins will gladly take this one over his friend in what has become a forgettable season.
Jermaine Haley hurried up the court and hit a layup with 8.5 seconds left, completing a late rally that lifted West Virginia over No. 7 Kansas 65-64 on Saturday.
The Mountaineers (9-9, 1-5 Big 12) scored the final seven points to break a five-game losing streak.
West Virginia has fallen on hard times since being ranked No. 13 in the AP preseason poll. But three defensive stops down the stretch made a difference against the Jayhawks and gave the Mountaineers a reason to think there’s time this season to turn things around.
“It’s just a matter of being mentally tough enough to do the right things,” Huggins said. “I’m just happy to win. This isn’t where we thought we’d be.”
Haley hit all five of his field-goal tries and tied a season high with 13 points despite playing with a bandage on his injured left wrist. Huggins said he has implored Haley to drive to the basket.
The junior college transfer listened.
“I know everybody has been waiting on me to attack and get a little bit more aggressive,” Haley said. “The more minutes I play, the more comfortable I get. I’m very aware of my game and what I can do, so I think this is just another stepping stone as far as the season is going.”
Dedric Lawson and Marcus Garrett made layups 29 seconds apart to give the Jayhawks (15-3, 4-2) their largest lead at 64-58 with 2:34 left. But Kansas didn’t score again.
Wes Harris responded with a 3-pointer for West Virginia and Derek Culver’s layup cut the deficit to 64-63 with 1:26 remaining. Culver then grabbed a rebound, but threw the ball straight to Garrett with 54 seconds left.
West Virginia got another chance after Lagerald Vick’s airball. Haley rushed, drove past Quentin Grimes and made the go-ahead layup.
Self said he should have called timeout after Haley’s basket. His intention, with Kansas in a double bonus and down one point, was to drive to the basket and either score or force a foul.
Instead, Vick missed a 3-point try from the corner as time ran out, and West Virginia fans stormed the court after the Mountaineers’ fifth win over the Jayhawks in their last six meetings in Morgantown.
“You can’t get this one back,” Self said. “We’ll be OK.”
James “Beetle” Bolden added 12 points despite playing with an illness and Culver scored 12 for West Virginia.
Lawson and Garrett had 15 points apiece for Kansas, which had won three in a row. Vick scored 13.
Kansas: The Jayhawks committed 18 turnovers, including 13 in the first half, and missed several chances to put West Virginia away down the stretch. The Jayhawks got just four points from their bench.
West Virginia: It marked a good start to West Virginia’s toughest stretch of the season with four ranked opponents over six games. The Mountaineers also play at No. 3 Tennessee in the SEC/Big 12 challenge on Jan. 26, host No. 20 Oklahoma on Feb. 2 and play at No. 8 Texas Tech on Feb. 4.
Huggins earned an extra $25,000 for beating Kansas — a contract bonus that he donates to cancer research in the name of his late mother.
A little over a year ago, West Virginia was ranked No. 2. Saturday marked the first taste of a raucous home atmosphere for several new players, including Culver.
“That right there, I enjoy that,” he said “Me, being a freshman and a deer in headlights when it comes to things like that, that was fun. I’m not going to lie, that was fun.”
Kansas hosts Iowa State on Monday night before traveling to Kentucky next Saturday for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
West Virginia hosts Baylor on Monday night.
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Judge says Honolulu corruption trial to go on, despite shutdown


The Associated Press

HONOLULU — Despite the U.S. government shutdown, a federal trial on corruption-related charges must go on against a now-retired Honolulu police chief and his former deputy prosecutor wife, a judge ruled Friday.

Louis and Katherine Kealoha are scheduled to go to trial in March on allegations they orchestrated the framing of an uncle for stealing their home mailbox. Current and former officers are co-defendants.

A judge previously appointed taxpayer-funded attorneys to represent them after determining that they can’t afford to hire their own lawyers.

Earlier this week, Katherine Kealoha’s attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, filed a motion asking that the trial be postponed because she’s not being paid during the shutdown. The shutdown is impinging on her client’s right to effective counsel and prevents adequate trial preparation, Kagiwada said.

“Ms. Kealoha wants to go trial as soon as possible, but she needs to have an adequate defense,” Kagiwada said. U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi had granted an earlier request to postpone the trial to March, based on a review of Kealoha’s medical records.

Puglisi denied the latest request Friday, saying lawyers are used to a lag time in getting paid.

The case can’t become immobilized by the shutdown, Puglisi said. “The judiciary is not a political branch and we have to proceed and try to do our jobs to the best of our abilities.”

Puglisi said he will guarantee that the lawyers and defense experts will get paid eventually: “I don’t think you can get a better guarantee than a judge in federal court.”

But in denying the motion, he added, “we’ll continue to monitor the situation.”

He then closed the courtroom to have a discussion with the court-appointed attorneys about defense expert costs. He said it was appropriate to close the courtroom to other observers to prevent revealing any possible defense strategies.

The court-appointed lawyers representing the Kealohas, and one of their co-defendants, are private attorneys who agree to take on indigent clients for fees from the federal government that are less than what they could charge.

The Kealohas received attorneys for free after a judge reviewed their financial records and found their debts exceeded their assets. The four-bedroom house in the upscale Honolulu neighborhood of Hawaii Kai that the couple purchased in 2013 for $1.2 million is in foreclosure. It recently went on the market for $1.3 million.

Gov. Newsom points to California exceptionalism, challenges

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom boldly declared his state a model for the nation Monday but said its leaders have failed to rein in the soaring cost of living and stem inequalities that are making it harder for people to achieve what he called the “California dream.”
“We face serious challenges — some that have been deferred for too long,” Newsom said in his inaugural address. “We face a gulf between the rich and everyone else — and it’s not just inequality of wealth, it’s inequality of opportunity.”
Still, Newsom said it’s California that can best defend U.S. values in the face of “incompetence and corruption” in Washington. He never mentioned President Donald Trump by name, but his speech was laced with sharp rebukes of Trump’s policies, particularly on immigration.
“The future depends on us,” he said. “And we will seize this moment.”
Hours after taking the oath of office, Newsom proposed state-funded health care coverage for 138,000 young people living in the country illegally and reinstating a mandate for everyone to buy insurance or pay a fine — part of former President Barack Obama’s health care law that was eliminated by Republicans in Congress last year.
The outgoing governor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown, and other political dignitaries packed into a tent outside the Capitol in Sacramento for Newsom’s address. A church choir from Compton and a Mexican-American band energized the crowd in a display of the 51-year-old Newsom’s flashier style.
The crowd became hushed and somewhat subdued when Newsom first began his speech, but laughter soon broke out when Newsom’s 2-year-old son, Dutch, wandered on stage dragging a blanket.
Newsom held him for part of the speech and, when he put him down, the 2-year-old alternated between hiding behind the podium and evading his mother’s grasp while walking across the stage. Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, eventually carried him off stage.
Newsom praised Brown, a longtime family friend, for his fiscal restraint but signaled an unmistakable shift in priorities. He barely mentioned climate change — one of Brown’s signature issues — water or the high-speed rail line Brown has championed.
Instead, he focused on policies benefiting children and families, including early childhood education, health care and housing. He suggested California has failed to adequately care for suffering families. California is the world’s fifth-largest economy but also has the nation’s highest child poverty rate and largest homeless population.
“We have the resources to ensure a decent standard of living for all,” he said. “It’s not a question of whether we can do this, but whether we will.”
He indicated he will be more willing to invest in those pricey priorities than Brown, who focused on saving money for a future recession and warned before leaving office that Democrats would overspend.
Newsom will deliver his first budget address Thursday, offering a look at whether he can make fresh investments while keeping California’s reserves stocked, as he’s pledged.
“For eight years, California has built a foundation of rock,” he said. “Our job now is not to rest on that foundation. It is to build our house upon it.”
Democratic lawmakers praised Newsom for his focus on early childhood education, while Republicans, who are in the minority, held off on harshly criticizing the new governor. Other statewide elected officials also were sworn in Monday, including Eleni Kounalakis, the state’s first elected female lieutenant governor.
“Today California turns a page in its history,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said. “With a new governor, we have the chance to reaffirm our commitment to be bold on behalf of the people who have elected us to serve.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said Newsom was “true to his word to bring big and bold ideas to the table,” particularly his emphasis on affordable housing.
Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen said he is eager to work with Newsom on wildfire threats but is skeptical that California can afford his other proposals.
Newsom was light on specifics, but he brought a relatable touch to the speech by sharing life experiences. His parents divorced when he was young, and Newsom primarily lived with his mother, who he said worked three jobs. His father, William Newsom III, was a judge and friend of the wealthy Getty family.
Newsom pledged to launch a “Marshall plan” for affordable housing and invest in early childhood and higher education. Newsom and his wife, an actress and documentary filmmaker, have four children.
“All kids — not just the children of a governor and a filmmaker — should have a good life in California,” he said. “No one should live in constant fear of eviction or spend their whole paycheck to keep a roof overhead.”
While Brown was prone to quoting philosophers and peppering his speeches with Latin phrases, Newsom quoted labor icon Cesar Chavez and a young, unnamed immigrant woman he met in Los Angeles. He told the crowd that he will strive to bring together all Californians, from rural to urban, citizen to immigrant, Democrat to Republican.
“We will build one house for one California,” he said.
Associated Press writers Don Thompson and Jonathan J. Cooper in Sacramento contributed to this report.

Blum likely violated ethics rules, according to report

IOWA CITY (AP) — An Iowa congressman likely violated a host of ethics rules in his private business dealings, including his ownership in a company that used false claims and House resources to promote itself, according to an independent report released Monday.
The Office of Congressional Ethics launched the review into Republican Rod Blum and his internet marketing business, Tin Moon Corp., following an investigation by The Associated Press earlier this year.
Its nonpartisan board voted in July to adopt an investigative report that concluded Blum “may have violated federal law, state law, House rules, and standards of conduct” and called for further investigation.
The House Committee on Ethics on Monday released the office’s lengthy report , which had been kept confidential as required by congressional rules. Committee leaders signaled that they would not take any further action against Blum, who is leaving Congress after losing his bid for a third term to Democrat Abby Finkenauer in the Nov. 6 election.
Democrats had used the AP’s revelations and pending investigation to attack Blum during the campaign as unethical.
Blum and his longtime business partner, Ed Graham, founded Tin Moon in 2016 during Blum’s first term in Congress. It shares a Dubuque office and staff with Blum’s other software company, Digital Canal, which invested at least $130,000 for a software license to start Tin Moon, the report found. Tin Moon boasts that it is a “reputation management” company that can help businesses bury unflattering online information, such as Food and Drug Administration warning letters , below positive search results.
The report found that Blum failed to list Tin Moon as an asset and his role as a director in his financial disclosure form. Investigators also found that Blum’s ownership stake of the firm may have been worth as much as $91,000, far more than the $700 private investment that Blum later acknowledged and listed on an amended disclosure form.
The report found that Blum may have misused House resources by allowing the company to use his official congressional photo on its website and a false video testimonial of his chief of staff posing as a satisfied customer. Tin Moon also engaged in other deceptive advertising, including falsely claiming to have 11,000 customers and to have won certain awards and endorsements, the review found. Blum, who owns 70 percent of the company, either allowed the deceptive practices or failed to prevent them.
In addition, investigators said they found that Blum failed to properly disclose his ownership and transactions related to a different company, Salto de Fede, LLC, on his 2014 and 2015 filings. That company, which has since dissolved, sold six real estate properties in three separate transactions that weren’t disclosed, the report found. Blum owned a 42 percent stake in the firm and may have failed to report its investment holdings and $58,000 in income from sales.
Investigators said that Blum, his companies, Graham, his chief of staff John Ferland and other associates largely refused to cooperate with their inquiry. The report stopped short of determining whether violations occurred but said the ethics committee should investigate, including by subpoenaing testimony and records from Blum and his associates. It’s unclear whether that occurred.
Blum responded to the report in an Aug. 2 letter to the ethics committee, which was also released Monday, saying he made a “minor, unintentional oversight” in failing to disclose Tin Moon. He said he was unaware the company used his photo or Ferland’s false video and demanded they be removed when he found out. He also said he could not be held responsible for any deceptive advertising since he’s only a “passive investor” in Tin Moon and that Graham ran its operations.
The report said Blum may have participated in the false advertising, noting that YouTube user “rodblum” uploaded a false Tin Moon testimonial video in 2016.
Blum complained that the scope of the inquiry was overly broad, calling the revelations about his failure to disclose Salto de Fede the result of a “fishing expedition.”
In an April letter to investigators, Graham said that he was responsible for mistakenly using Blum’s congressional photo and that he asked Ferland to record the testimonial without Blum’s knowledge.

Cops: Driver was texting before crashing, killing woman, 75

MALONE, N.Y. (AP) — New York State Police say a 29-year-old upstate woman was texting while driving when she caused a crash that killed a 75-year-old woman last month.
Troopers say Angel Oliver, of Bombay, was arraigned Thursday in Malone Town Court on criminally negligent homicide charges.
Police say she was texting while driving on a Franklin County road Nov. 15 and ran a stop sign in the town of Dickinson, colliding with a car driven by Chloe Ann O’Neil of Parishville.
O’Neil died as a result of injuries suffered in the crash.
Oliver was released under a pretrial release program through Franklin County probation. She’s due to appear in Dickinson Town Court on Dec. 19.
Oliver is being represented by the county public defender’s office. A message left with the office wasn’t returned.

Warriors named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of Year

By JOE REEDY, AP Sports Writer
The three-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors are the fourth team to be honored as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year .
The Warriors join the 1980 U.S. hockey team, the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer squad and the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the other team honorees.
Sports Illustrated announced the winner Monday, and editor-in-chief Chris Stone said they have been thinking of some way to honor the Warriors during their run of three titles in four years. He also acknowledged that there were a couple years where Steph Curry has been in the conversation.
“There is something transcendent about the team where the sum of their parts was apparent from the beginning,” Stone said. “What they have built into a dynasty is a function of empirical success. They’re really a generational team. I don’t know if, in my lifetime, there has been a team where the pieces have blended so beautifully together.”
Stone also said that the Warriors’ honor is more about the celebration of the organization doing something unique over an extended period while the other teams were honored for what they did in a certain year.
Alexander Ovechkin, who led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title, Tiger Woods and LeBron James also received consideration, but Stone said the Warriors felt like the favorite when they repeated as NBA champions.
“In the same way they play, they seem to speak in a single voice,” Stone said. “The unity of message with the Warriors is the same way we refer to LeBron and his answering some of the hard questions. They did it forcefully, but also civilly, in a way that helps advance conversations.”
The Warriors will receive the award during a ceremony in Los Angeles on Tuesday that will air on NBCSN on Thursday.
“This is an incredible honor and one that certainly signifies our Strength in Numbers philosophy as a team and organization,” Warriors President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Bob Myers said. “Our success is due to the contributions of every single player, coach and staff member in our organization; for Sports Illustrated to recognize this unique dynamic is truly special.”
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