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The Latest Political Headlines

    The country's last undecided congressional election was marred by falsified signatures, disappearing documents and blank ballots that were filled in by people hired by the Republican candidate, North Carolina elections officials said. The state elections board could decide as early as Tuesday whether possibly criminal ballot fraud was unfortunate but tolerable, or whether to order a new election in the 9th congressional district. A political operative hired by Republican Mark Harris led 'a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme' in last year's general election in rural Bladen and Robeson counties, which are part of the congressional district, state elections director Kim Strach said Monday. The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., was called to testify Monday, but his attorney refused to put him on the stand without legal protection against prosecution for events he described. The board refused. The first of what could be a days-long hearing produced Dowless' workers testifying that they sometimes filled in votes on unfinished, unsealed mail-in ballots. But there was scant evidence that Harris knew about it or even benefited. Harris narrowly leads Democrat Dan McCready in unofficial results. But the race wasn't certified in November after rumors of Dowless' operating focusing on mail-in ballots. The elections board is expected to either declare a winner or order a new election after the hearing. Dowless was hired to produce votes for Harris and Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVickers, but his methods last year included paying people to visit potential voters who had received absentee ballots and getting them to hand over those ballots, whether completed or not, Dowless worker Lisa Britt testified. It's illegal in North Carolina for anyone other than a guardian or close family member to handle a voter's ballot because of the risk that it could be altered before being counted. While Dowless and Harris' main campaign consultant were in constant contact, she didn't have any indication Harris knew about the operation, Britt said. 'I think Mr. Harris was completely clueless as to what was going on,' Britt said. Britt testified she collected about three dozen sometimes unfinished ballots and handed them to Dowless, who kept them at his home and office for days or longer before they were turned in, said Britt, whose mother was formerly married to Dowless. While the congressional and sheriff's races were almost always marked by voters who turned in unsealed ballots, Britt said she would fill in down-ballot local races — favoring Republicans — to prevent local elections board workers from suspecting Dowless' activities. In one case, Britt said she picked up the completed ballot of an elderly black woman. A week later, she was told to return the woman's ballot after a local black empowerment group complained to Dowless that she was a voter they'd recruited. Britt said she could not explain why Dowless still have the ballot in his possession rather than turning it in to the local elections board. Dowless paid local people like Britt $125 for every 50 mail-in ballots they collected in Bladen and Robeson counties and turned in to him, Strach said. The operation's scope allowed Dowless to collect nearly $84,000 in consulting fees over five months leading into last year's general election, said Strach, adding that in addition to reviewing financial and phone records, investigators questioned 142 voters in the south-central North Carolina counties. Four of the five members on the elections board — composed of three Democrats and two Republicans — would need to agree a new election is necessary. If that doesn't happen, McCready's lawyers said state officials should send their findings to the Democrat-dominated U.S. House and let it decide whether Harris should be seated — arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the House authority over the elections and qualifications of its members. ___ Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio .
  • Elizabeth Warren gave a nod to the first two Native Americans elected to Congress. Sen. Jeff Merkley got a moment on-camera with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And virtually all of the Democrats who would be president have reached out to freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham in early-voting South Carolina. Think of it as dancing with the freshman stars, 2020 edition. Democrats hoping to defeat President Donald Trump are engaged in a furious courtship of congressional newcomers, a sign of the energy the freshmen bring to a party looking for a new generation of leaders, direction and know-how. For the political suitors, there's credibility to be gained from the younger, more diverse and social media-savvy members of the biggest new class since Watergate. The freshmen, meanwhile, are finding mentors among the presidential dreamers, as well as aligned interests in their ranks on such issues as climate, health care and more. But there is risk, too, for the belles of the early Democratic primary ball. Only weeks after their Washington debuts, the freshmen lawmakers are still developing from candidates into lawmakers and representatives, building voting records and raising money for their own re-election bids. And some have discovered the downside of their fame, having been embroiled in controversy due to their statements and proposals. 'If you are newly elected and you take your eye out the district and you're staring at the shiny bright object of a presidential campaign, you are making it harder to get re-elected,' said former Rep. Steve Israel, the House Democrats' chief campaign strategist for four years. The attention may be flattering, Israel said, but his advice is to do the sometimes grueling constituent casework. 'Keep your feet on the ground of your district, and not in the silver clouds of a presidential campaign.' But the presidential candidates are calling. And name-dropping in public. Some, such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his own $110 million contribution to the midterm Democrats, have raised and spent big money that helped elect the newcomers. But as of yet, the 2020 candidates are making few if any explicit requests for commitments of support. New York's Ocasio-Cortez is a close ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders, but she hasn't announced which presidential candidate she's backing now. Still, her dance card is fast filling up. Every presidential candidate except Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has signed on to the so-called Green New Deal, a moonshot she is championing to combat climate change. Merkley of Oregon was there when Ocasio-Cortez headlined the GND unveiling in Washington at an unusually well-attended event for a statement-making resolution that won't become law. And a day after formally launching her presidential campaign, Warren gave Ocasio-Cortez a big nod in Iowa, home of the first presidential nominating caucus. 'It is terrific to see Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez come in and put a tremendous amount of energy behind this,' Warren said in Davenport. The House freshmen also are playing a role in Warren's struggle to move past her claim of Native American ancestry early in her career. Last fall before the historic midterm elections, Warren released a DNA test showing 'high confidence' in her distant Native American ancestry, a move intended to put the issue behind her. But that caused significant unhappiness among some supporters. Trump kept the issue alive by repeatedly mocking Warren as 'Pocahontas.' Warren apologized twice over two weeks this year leading to her presidential announcement Feb. 9. Within days, she was back in Washington making an unannounced visit to a major Native American conference. Freshman Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, one of two Native Americans elected to Congress, introduced her. Warren noted that she and Haaland are working on legislation together on Native American issues. 'That 'Thank you' is especially heart-felt for my friend and colleague, Congresswoman Deb Haaland,' Warren said in prepared remarks for the National Indian Women Honor Luncheon, where she introduced Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, the chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts. The campaign said Warren was there to support her friend. 'I also want to acknowledge another friend who made history this past year, Congresswoman Sharice Davids,' a Kansan and Native American. Davids, she added, is 'another barrier-breaking woman whose leadership is a deep inspiration to us all.' Sanders, the 2016 phenomenon who has not yet said he is running again, this month reached out to soothe Rep. Ilhan Omar after she tweeted that members of Congress support Israel because they are paid to do so. Omar 'unequivocally' apologized, but it wasn't the first time the Minnesota Democrat had sparked charges of anti-Semitism. The controversy continued simmering the rest of last week. 'I talked to Ilhan last night to give her my personal support. We will stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters,' Sanders said Thursday on a conference call hosted by Jim Zogby, co-chair of the DNC's Ethnic Council. The remark was first reported by Jewish Insider and confirmed with Sanders' office by The Associated Press. Virtually every candidate has paid a visit to freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham. His victory over Katie Arrington, a Trump-supported Republican, flipped a House seat in a district the president won by nearly 13 percentage points in 2016. Even before the November elections, many potential Democratic White House hopefuls reached out, such as New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker. Former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Cunningham and campaigned with him. So did Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. The parade of potentials has continued in the months since, though Cunningham has received no formal request for an endorsement, his spokeswoman said. Cunningham is widely viewed as aligned with former Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke, in part because a key aide who helped Cunningham pull off his upset has signed up as O'Rourke's state director. Similarly, freshmen Rep. Chris Pappas in first-in-the-nation New Hampshire says he's played something that sounds like a tour guide exceptionally early in the cycle. It helps that he is co-owner of the Puritan Backroom, a restaurant famous for chicken tenders that's been in his family for more than a century and is a frequent stop for presidential candidates of both parties. 'I've seen a few candidates,' Pappas said in a phone call. 'They want to get a sense of what's on people's minds.' ___ AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace and writers Elana Schor in Washington and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report. ___ Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com//APLaurieKellman
  • A Justice Department official says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave his position in the middle of next month. The official was not authorized to discuss the move by name and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday night. The White House is expected to name a replacement for Rosenstein this week. Rosenstein's departure had been expected with the confirmation of William Barr as attorney general last week. Rosenstein has been on the job for nearly two years. He oversaw special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. Barr now oversees the remaining work in Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign and decide how much Congress and the public know about its conclusion.
  • President Donald Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone has apologized to the judge presiding over his criminal case for an Instagram post featuring a photo of her with what appears to be the crosshairs of a gun. Stone and his lawyers filed a notice Monday night saying Stone recognized 'the photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted.' Earlier Monday, Stone posted a photo of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson with what appeared to be crosshairs near her head. Stone later said that the picture had been 'misinterpreted' and that any suggestion he intended to threaten Jackson was 'categorically false.' Stone is charged with lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering related to discussions he had during the 2016 election about WikiLeaks. He has denied guilt.
  • Four days after the announcement of a series of executive actions to fund his signature border wall, President Donald Trump’s administration still needs to fill in the details on his plans to shift over $6.6 billion from the Pentagon and Treasury Department into funding border security, as members of Congress continue to wonder if the move will dig into their local military base construction projects. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers and their staffs were awaiting guidance on where the Pentagon would look for money in the $3.6 billion sought by the President in his emergency declaration from military construction projects, which was already the subject of new lawsuits. “Congress has not enacted any emergency legislation even remotely related to border wall construction, and thus the President’s reallocation of funds is unlawful,” read a suit filed against the President and Pentagon by several environmental groups. In a letter to the Acting Secretary of Defense, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked for a breakdown of which projects would be put on hold – as under the ‘national emergency’ law used by the President, the Pentagon would make those decisions – not the Congress. Congress approved $10.3 billion for military construction in Fiscal Year 2019 – the $3.6 billion sought by the President would be more than one-third of that amount – which has drawn expressions of concern from lawmakers. As Kaine noted in his letter, the move to shift money from military construction comes at a time when the Pentagon already was having to deal with hurricane damage at two major domestic bases – Camp Lejeune for the Marines in North Carolina, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Tyndall was seriously damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018 – and despite support for rebuilding the base, Congress has not yet acted on extra money for the Pentagon – or on broader hurricane relief for those hit in Florida and Georgia. During the partial government shutdown, Democrats in the House approved a bill which had $12.1 billion in disaster aid, both for hurricanes and wildfires – but that bill does not seem to be on the agenda in the U.S. Senate at this point. @DrNealDunnFL2 Dr Dunn, we are hearing here in the Panhandle that Trump is going after Tyndall rebuilding money for his wall. Please don’t let this happen! No Tyndall would be catastrophic to our area. Please help! — Billy Shears (@BillyShears9) February 14, 2019 The Commandant of the Marine Corps said over the weekend that he needs $3.5 billion just for repairs at Camp LeJeune from damage caused by Hurricane Florence in September of 2018 – which is equal to the figure of how much in military construction the President wants to shift into a border wall. Earlier this month, Air Force officials said they planned to spend $3 billion to rebuild Tyndall, which was flattened by Hurricane Michael in October of last year. House Democrats say they plan to hold a hearing as soon as next week to get a better idea on what military construction projects the Pentagon wants to scrap – in order to move money to the wall. Also still unclear is the legal underpinnings for two other moves announced last week by the White House, where the President would move money from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund, as well as money from a Pentagon anti-drug account – into a border wall.
  • California and 15 other states filed a lawsuit Monday against President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released a statement Monday saying the suit alleges the Trump administration's action violates the Constitution. 'President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt,' Becerra said. 'He knows there is no border crisis, he knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court.' Joining California in filing the lawsuit are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. All the states involved in the lawsuit have Democratic attorneys general. Trump declared a national emergency to fulfill his promise of completing the wall. The move allows the president to bypass Congress to use money from the Pentagon and other budgets. The states say diversion of military funding to wall-building will hurt their economies and deprive their military bases of needed upgrades. They say taking away funds from counter-drug efforts for the wall will also cause damage. California and New Mexico, the two Mexican border states in the lawsuit, say the wall will harm wildlife. California has repeatedly challenged Trump in court. 'President Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up 'national emergency' in order to seize power and undermine the Constitution,' said California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement. 'This 'emergency' is a national disgrace.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said Monday she's not a democratic socialist, a not-so-veiled distinction setting her apart from New Hampshire voters' favorite 2016 primary candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders, a potential rival for the party's 2020 nomination, has described himself as a democratic socialist, and the Vermont independent didn't abandon the politically fraught label for his previous campaign. During her inaugural trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, Harris was asked by a reporter whether she would have to tilt her politics leftward — in the direction of democratic socialism — to win this state's first-in-the-nation primary. Sanders handily defeated Hillary Clinton when they competed for the state's delegates three years ago. 'The people of New Hampshire will tell me what's required to compete in New Hampshire, but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist,' Harris, a Democratic senator from California, said in response to the question, posed as she toured Gibson's Bookstore in Concord ahead of a Portsmouth town hall. 'I believe that what voters do want is they want to know that whoever is going to lead, understands that in America today, not everyone has an equal opportunity and access to a path to success, and that has been building up over decades and we've got to correct course,' Harris said. Sanders has yet to announce whether he will pursue the 2020 nomination.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren is planning to unveil a universal child care plan that would guarantee American families access to child care. The Massachusetts Democrat, a 2020 presidential candidate, would use part of the revenue from her proposed tax on the ultra-wealthy to fund her child care plan. A person familiar with the plan outlined it ahead of its release Tuesday on condition of anonymity. Warren's plan would set up a federal program to guarantee child care from birth until children's entry into school. Families with income less than 200 percent of the poverty line would get free access. Other families would pay no more than 7 percent of their income. Her plan would guarantee compensation for child care program workers at rates comparable to public school teachers in their areas.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump addressing the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local): 7:30 p.m. Venezuela's embattled president, Nicolas Maduro, is rejecting President Donald Trump's call for a new day in Venezuela and comparing the tone of the American president's speech in Miami to that of a Nazi. Trump said Monday that the U.S. stands behind opposition leader Juan Guaido and condemns Maduro and his government's socialist policies. Trump pleaded with Venezuela's military to support Guaido and warned of dire consequences for standing with Maduro. Maduro responded to Trump in comments broadcast on state television. He accused the U.S. president of speaking in an 'almost Nazi style' and lashed out at Trump for thinking he can deliver orders to Venezuela's military. Maduro said, 'Who is the commander of the armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?' and added, 'They think they're the owners of the country.' ___ 5:20 p.m. President Donald Trump says the United States seeks a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela but 'all options are open.' Trump spoke on Monday in Miami about the monthslong political crisis in Venezuela and the dangers of socialism. The U.S. is supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido (gwy-DOH') as the rightful Venezuelan leader over President Nicolas Maduro. Trump says he is asking every member of the Maduro regime to end this 'nightmare' of poverty and death. He says, 'Let your people go. Set your country free.' The Venezuelan military has largely remained loyal to Maduro. Trump says Guaido's government will not seek retribution against them, but if they continue to support Maduro, they will 'lose everything.' South Florida is home to the largest number of Venezuelans in the United States. ___ 5:10 p.m. President Donald Trump says socialism has ravaged Venezuela to the point that even the world's largest oil reserves cannot keep the lights on in the country. Trump spoke on Monday in Miami about the political crisis in Venezuela and the dangers of socialism. Trump welcomed onto the stage the mother of Oscar Perez, a Venezuelan police officer who flew a helicopter over the capital and launched grenades at the Supreme Court building. He and several comrades died in a gun battle with police after months on the lam. The president says the U.S. is 'profoundly grateful to every dissident and every exile.' He says what happened in Venezuela 'will never happen to us.' Trump says a 'new day is coming in Latin America.' ___ 12:25 p.m. President Donald Trump will seek on Monday to rally support among the largest Venezuelan community in the U.S. for opposition leader Juan Guaido (gwy-DOH'), saying Venezuela's 'current path toward democracy is irreversible.' That's according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who says that Trump will use his Miami speech to express 'strong support' for Guaido and condemn President Nicolas Maduro's government and its socialist policies. As the monthslong political crisis continues, Trump is to make a public case to Venezuela's military to support Guaido's government. The Venezuelan military has largely remained loyal to Maduro. Sanders says Trump would warn the Venezuelan military that the U.S. 'knows where military officials and their families have money hidden throughout the world.
  • Protesters around the U.S. spent Presidents Day rallying against President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration as at least a dozen states planned a lawsuit to block Trump's latest ploy to fund his long-promised border wall. 'Trump is the national emergency!' chanted a group of hundreds lined up Monday at the White House fence while Trump was out of town in Florida. Some held up large letters spelling out 'stop power grab.' In downtown Fort Worth, Texas, a small group carried signs with messages including 'no wall! #FakeTrumpEmergency.' California and 15 other states, including Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, filed a lawsuit Monday against President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released a statement Monday saying the suit alleges the Trump administration's action violates the Constitution. Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser, both Democrats, said in a statement that the wall project could divert tens of millions of dollars from military construction projects in Colorado. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, decried the president's actions at a peaceful rally attended by a few hundred people outside Los Angeles City Hall. Police kept the crowd separate from a handful of pro-Trump counter-protesters who waved flags and wore red 'Make America Great Again' hats. A large crowd also gathered outside the Federal Building in San Francisco. One demonstrator carried a sign that read: 'Step 1: Declare a national emergency. Step 2: Play golf. Step 3: Watch SNL.' A crowd of more than 100 protesters gathered in frigid weather at the state Capitol in Denver roared with approval when Weiser told them his office was joining the multistate lawsuit, Denverite reported . 'There is zero real-world basis for the emergency declaration, and there will be no wall,' New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a statement. Organized by the liberal group MoveOn and others, Monday's demonstrations took the occasion of the Presidents Day holiday to assail Trump's proclamation as undemocratic and anti-immigrant. Kelly Quirk, of the progressive group Soma Action, told a gathering of dozens in Newark, New Jersey, that 'democracy demands' saying 'no more' to Trump. 'There are plenty of real emergencies to invest our tax dollars in,' said Quirk. In New York City, hundreds of people at a Manhattan park chanted 'No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here' as several of them held up letters spelling out, 'IMPEACH.' There were some counter-protesters, including in Washington, where there was a brief scuffle in the crowd. Trump's declaration Friday shifts billions of dollars from military construction to the border. The move came after Congress didn't approve as much as Trump wanted for the wall, which the Republican considers a national security necessity. His emergency proclamation calls the border 'a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics.' Illegal border crossings have declined from a high of 1.6 million in 2000. But 50,000 families are now entering illegally each month, straining the U.S. asylum system and border facilities. Trump's critics have argued he undercut his own rationale for the emergency declaration by saying he 'didn't need to do this' but wanted to get the wall built faster than he otherwise could. In announcing the move, he said he anticipated the legal challenges. 'President Trump declared a national emergency in order to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on his border wall obsession,' Manar Waheed of the American Civil Liberties Union told protesters rallying in a Washington park before heading to the nearby White House fence. The ACLU has announced its intention to sue Trump over the issue. Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy, said the president had undertaken to 'steal money that we desperately need to build a country of our dreams so that he can build a monument to racism along the border.' At one point during the rally, a counter-protester walked through the crowd toting a sign saying 'finish the wall' on one side and 'protect the poor' on the other. Another man snatched his sign from him, sparking a short scuffle. ___ Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A skyride malfunctioned Monday night at SeaWorld San Diego, initially stranding nine adults and seven children – including an infant. Here are the latest updates: Update 11:26 a.m. PST: Rescue workers have saved all 16 people who were trapped on the Bayside Skyride at SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Fire Department tweeted late Monday. >> See the tweet here Original story: A rescue is underway at SeaWorld San Diego after a skyride malfunctioned Monday night, initially stranding nine adults and seven children – including an infant. >> See a photo from the scene here >> Read more trending news  As of 10:30 p.m. PST, crews had rescued 14 people from the Bayside Skyride, which stalled when heavy winds 'tripped a circuit breaker' more than three hours earlier, KSWB reported. Two people were still trapped on the ride's gondolas, the San Diego Fire Department said. >> See the tweet here KSWB said some of the gondolas were over Mission Bay when the ride stopped working. Those trapped were 'lowered by harnesses & rescued by [San Diego Lifeguards] boats,' the Fire Department tweeted. Read more here.
  • A University of Central Florida employee suffered burns Monday after a chemical reaction, according to Orange County Fire Rescue officials. Firefighters were called to 3512 Perseus Loop Lane near the Facilities Operations building on UCF's campus around 3 p.m.  The 29-year-old who was the only person in the building at the time, and was transporting the chemicals when a static discharge sparked a fire.  He was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center with burns to his face, arms and chest according to responding firefighters.  A university spokeswoman said the incident happened in a building on campus that is designed to handle chemicals and no students were involved in the incident or ever in any danger.  The worker's name was not released. Mike Jachles with OCFR said he was conscious and alert when he was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center.
  • Four days after the announcement of a series of executive actions to fund his signature border wall, President Donald Trump’s administration still needs to fill in the details on his plans to shift over $6.6 billion from the Pentagon and Treasury Department into funding border security, as members of Congress continue to wonder if the move will dig into their local military base construction projects. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers and their staffs were awaiting guidance on where the Pentagon would look for money in the $3.6 billion sought by the President in his emergency declaration from military construction projects, which was already the subject of new lawsuits. “Congress has not enacted any emergency legislation even remotely related to border wall construction, and thus the President’s reallocation of funds is unlawful,” read a suit filed against the President and Pentagon by several environmental groups. In a letter to the Acting Secretary of Defense, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked for a breakdown of which projects would be put on hold – as under the ‘national emergency’ law used by the President, the Pentagon would make those decisions – not the Congress. Congress approved $10.3 billion for military construction in Fiscal Year 2019 – the $3.6 billion sought by the President would be more than one-third of that amount – which has drawn expressions of concern from lawmakers. As Kaine noted in his letter, the move to shift money from military construction comes at a time when the Pentagon already was having to deal with hurricane damage at two major domestic bases – Camp Lejeune for the Marines in North Carolina, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Tyndall was seriously damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018 – and despite support for rebuilding the base, Congress has not yet acted on extra money for the Pentagon – or on broader hurricane relief for those hit in Florida and Georgia. During the partial government shutdown, Democrats in the House approved a bill which had $12.1 billion in disaster aid, both for hurricanes and wildfires – but that bill does not seem to be on the agenda in the U.S. Senate at this point. @DrNealDunnFL2 Dr Dunn, we are hearing here in the Panhandle that Trump is going after Tyndall rebuilding money for his wall. Please don’t let this happen! No Tyndall would be catastrophic to our area. Please help! — Billy Shears (@BillyShears9) February 14, 2019 The Commandant of the Marine Corps said over the weekend that he needs $3.5 billion just for repairs at Camp LeJeune from damage caused by Hurricane Florence in September of 2018 – which is equal to the figure of how much in military construction the President wants to shift into a border wall. Earlier this month, Air Force officials said they planned to spend $3 billion to rebuild Tyndall, which was flattened by Hurricane Michael in October of last year. House Democrats say they plan to hold a hearing as soon as next week to get a better idea on what military construction projects the Pentagon wants to scrap – in order to move money to the wall. Also still unclear is the legal underpinnings for two other moves announced last week by the White House, where the President would move money from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund, as well as money from a Pentagon anti-drug account – into a border wall.
  • Following two accidents in recent months, the Orlando Fire Department has announced new roadway safety procedures. The changes include shutting down two additional lanes of traffic on major highways and other roads, as well as placing cones between the crash and the responding unit, and requesting additional backup from the Orlando Police Department following an accident. This will include accidents on major roads such as I-4, State Road 408 and State Road 417. An additional fire suppression unit will also head to the scene, and be angled in a way to alert drivers of an upcoming accident. It comes after an accident Sunday on I-4, when a car slammed into a fire truck, injuring four firefighters and two others. Also, on December 21st, 2018, a vehicle rear ended a fire engine on State Road 408, causing minor injuries to the driver and three Orlando firefighters. The changes are set to take effect immediately. 
  • It's Star Wars movie season once again, and the latest installment in the series has finally finished filming. Director J.J. Abrams made the announcement on Twitter saying: ' It feels impossible, but today(Friday) wrapped photography on Episode IX. There is no adequate way to thank this truly magical crew and cast. I'm forever indebted to you all.'  To celebrate the occasion, he posted a picture of stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac embracing each other on the final day of filming.  Now that the filming is out of the way, the fun part is getting everything else done before the December 20th deadline, when it is released in theaters. So far there has been no official title, trailer, or teaser of any kind, but of course, we can expect that to come out as we get closer.