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Puerto Rico debt adjustment plan not ‘realistic’ in April: official

SAN JUAN (Reuters) – The executive director of Puerto Rico’s federally created financial oversight board said on Monday that a plan to restructure the U.S. commonwealth’s core government debt likely cannot be done by the end of April.

An attorney for the board last week told a U.S. judge who is hearing Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy cases that a draft plan was expected next month, according to local media reports.

But on Monday, the oversight board’s executive director, Natalie Jaresko, said the attorney meant to say that the plan could be filed with the court “at best” in April.

“I don’t think it’s highly realistic to do this by the end of April,” Jaresko said, adding that board’s goal is to seek court confirmation of a plan before year end.

Negotiations are ongoing with creditors over a plan of adjustment for roughly $13 billion of general obligation debt and almost $50 billion in unfunded pension obligations, although the board has asked the court to void more than $6 billion of GO bonds issued in 2012 and 2014.

“We’re trying not to do a cramdown, but I don’t know where that’s going to end up in the end,” Jaresko said, referring to a process where an adjustment plan could be imposed on certain creditors.

She took questions from the media following a meeting on Monday with members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees U.S. territories and which has raised concerns over the 2016 federal Promesa law that created the oversight board.

“I think the Promesa law is working right now,” Jaresko said, adding that she cannot predict whether Congress would seek to revise it.

A committee spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The privatization of Puerto Rico’s bankrupt power utility, PREPA, is “moving forward,” but its pace “needs to improve,” Jaresko warned.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced in January 2018 his plans to privatize PREPA, a process that was expected to take 18 months. It was not until earlier this year, however, that the government selected companies to bid on taking over the distribution and transmission of power on the island. The utility, which filed for bankruptcy in the summer of 2017, continues to negotiate with its creditors to restructure roughly $9 billion in debt.

Puerto Rico has won court approval for restructurings of debt from its Government Development Bank and Sales Tax Financing Corporation known as COFINA.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago and Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Three Arrested For Distributing Methamphetamine from South Bend Residence

On March 13th during the early morning hours, a narcotics related search warrant was served upon a residence located in the 300 block of Quincy Street. The warrant service was the result of a two month long narcotics investigation conducted by the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office was assisted with the service of the warrant by the South Bend and Raymond Police departments along with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

As a result of the investigation, a female identified as Amanda R. Williams, age 43 and a male subject identified as Karson C. Isaksen, age 18, were arrested at the scene without incident. A third male subject, identified as Tegan A. Tipler, age 18 was arrested later away from the scene. A search of the residence and property pursuant the warrant revealed digital scales commonly used to weigh narcotics, suspected methamphetamine and articles of drug paraphernalia.

During the two month long investigation, utilizing confidential informants, the Sheriff’s Office was able to conduct methamphetamine purchases from Williams, Isaksen and Tipler from the Quincy street address. Information obtained through investigative efforts points to Isaksen and Tipler distributing methamphetamine for Williams in her absence or at her request.

Amanda Williams was transported to the Pacific County Jail and booked on 4 counts of Delivery of a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver. She is being held on $75,000.00 bail. Karson Isaksen was transported to the Pacific County Jail and booked on 1 count of Delivery of a Controlled Substance, Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Dangerous Weapon. He is being held on $50,000.00 bail. Teagan Tipler was later arrested and transported to the Pacific County Jail and booked for Delivery of a Controlled Substance. He is being held on a $10,000.00 bail.

Mom charged in killing of LA-area girl found in duffel bag

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A woman was arrested on suspicion of murder after the body of her 9-year-old daughter was found in a duffel bag along a suburban horse trail near Los Angeles, authorities said Monday.

Taquesta Graham, 28, is expected to be charged with murder on Wednesday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.

Prosecutors last week charged Graham’s boyfriend, Emiel Hunt, with murder in the killing of Trinity Love Jones.

The dead girl was found March 5 at the bottom of an embankment in the suburb of Hacienda Heights. She was wearing pants with a panda pattern and a pink shirt that said, “Future Princess Hero.”

There were no obvious signs of trauma on her body. Authorities have not revealed a cause of death or motive.

Graham was extradited from Texas to California last week and was initially held on an unrelated warrant. Graham was in custody Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Hunt, 38, has a previous child abuse conviction from 2005 in San Diego County, according to prosecutors. His arraignment is scheduled for April 16.

Friends and family members described Trinity as a joyful and talented girl who did well in school. A memorial near where her body was found featured stuffed animals, heart-shaped balloons, dozens of votive candles and notes expressing love for Trinity and one that said “Rest in heaven, Princess.”

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Three dead, one missing in devastating floods across U.S. Midwest

(Reuters) – At least one person was missing on Monday after devastating floods across the U.S. Midwest that killed three others and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in what Nebraska’s governor called a disaster of historic proportions.

As floodwaters began to recede in much of the area inundated by the aftermath of a storm dubbed a “bomb cyclone,” Nebraska officials were taking in the damage in a state where 64 of the 93 counties have declared emergencies.

“This is clearly the most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history,” in terms of sheer size, Governor Pete Ricketts told reporters on an afternoon briefing call.

State officials said on the call that 290 people had been rescued by the Nebraska State Patrol, National Guard troops, and urban search and rescue teams.

Damage to the state’s livestock sector was estimated at about $400 million, while the full impact on the spring planting season was not yet clear, said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

The state’s highway system suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, said Kyle Schneweis, director of the state Department of Transportation, with more than 200 miles of roadways needing repair or replacement. Some 540 miles of highways remained closed, he said, down from 1,500 at the peak of flooding.

The three known fatalities included an 80-year-old woman who perished at her Columbus, Nebraska, home, despite attempts to rescue her from rising floodwaters, said Colonel John Bolduc of the Nebraska State Patrol.

Bolduc said a young man from Norfolk, Nebraska, was swept away and killed after driving his car into moving water, and a Columbus man died when the tractor he was using to help free a stranded driver overturned.

One person was missing and presumed dead following the collapse of the Spencer Dam along Niobrara River in southwest Nebraska, Buldoc said.

VICE PRESIDENT TO VISIT

The Missouri River, the longest in North America, has flooded much of Nebraska between Omaha and Kansas City at the Missouri state line.

The river was expected to crest at 47.5 feet (14.48 m) on Tuesday, breaking the previous record, set in 2011, by more than a foot, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said in the latest bulletin on its web page.

Ricketts said he had requested emergency assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and been in contact with the Trump administration.

Vice President Mike Pence would travel to Nebraska on Tuesday to survey the damage, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Twitter. Ricketts and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds have both declared states of emergency

The Missouri River’s overflowing banks cut off roads leading to the Cooper nuclear plant, near Brownville, Nebraska, forcing operators to fly in staff and supplies by helicopter. The plant continued to operate safely, its operator said.

Water also covered one-third of that state’s Offutt Air Force Base, near Bellevue, home to the U.S. Strategic Command.

At least 30 buildings were flooded by up to eight feet of water and 30 more structures damaged on the base, the Omaha World-Herald reported, citing a base spokeswoman.

The National Weather Service reported some of the region’s larger rivers were running at record high levels, causing levee breaks. Some small towns and communities have been cut off by floods while others were short of fresh drinking water.

Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital, were barely visible as high water surrounded homes, cars and trees, according to photos released to Reuters by state authorities. Elsewhere in the state, one highway near Waterloo was submerged, and piles of debris and damaged roads were visible in Niobrara.

Floodwater climbed up the sides of buildings at Camp Ashland, an Army National Guard facility in Ashland, Nebraska.

Warmer temperatures will speed the pace of snow melt across the region and add to already swollen rivers, the NWS said, possibly forcing more evacuations in communities along the Missouri River on the Nebraska and Iowa border, as well as along the Elkhorn and Platte rivers in Nebraska.

“There could be issues across portions of Nebraska and Kansas for the next seven days,” NWS meteorologist Jim Hayes said.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)

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Texas petrochemical storage fire rages, may burn for two days

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – A fire at a Houston-area petrochemical storage site continued to rage late on Monday and is expected to burn for up to two more days, officials said, sending thick black smoke into the air for miles around.

Firefighters were making progress seeking to contain the blaze at Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC), with the number of giant storage tanks on fire reduced to six from seven earlier, said ITC spokeswoman Alice Richardson.

The blaze at a site along the Houston Ship Channel in Deer Park, Texas, began Sunday when a leak from a tank containing volatile naphtha ignited and spread to others in the same complex, the company said. The tanks hold tens of thousands of barrels of products used to boost gasoline octane, make solvents and plastics.

The blaze has not disrupted nearby refineries or shipping at the country’s busiest petrochemical port, authorities said. The Houston Ship Channel is home to nine U.S. oil refineries that process 2.3 million barrels per day (bpd), or 12 percent of the national total.

ITC, which is owned by Japan’s Mitsui & Co, reported no injuries among its staff. Nearby residents were encouraged to remain indoors by the city of Deer Park, which lifted a shelter-in-place order for all residents imposed earlier on Monday.The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had “not detected any immediate health concerns at ground level” around the plant as of midday Monday. The state was also seeking to bring in a specialized aircraft to monitor emissions at higher altitudes.

The burning tanks held naphtha and xylene, fuels used in gasoline and plastics and toluene – a volatile liquid used to make nail polish remover and paint thinner. Other tanks held base oils commonly used as machine lubricants.

Firefighters were seeking to drain naphtha from one of the tanks to deprive the fire of fuel.

“It’s going to be probably two days,” said Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which coordinates firefighting departments from Houston Ship Channel plants.

“It’s going to have to burn out at the tank,” he said at a briefing.

The fire had little effect on the price for regular gasoline delivered on Monday on the Colonial pipeline, which sends fuel from the U.S. Gulf Coast to eastern states.

The naphtha storage tank ignited first from a leak in a pipe, and flames spread to nearby tanks, ITC reported to a Texas regulator on Monday. Its report did not say what caused the leak to catch fire.

School officials in Deer Park, population 32,000, and nearby La Porte, Texas, with about 34,000 residents, suspended classes on Monday and told employees not to report to work.

Tanks containing naphtha and xylene, petrochemicals used to make gasoline and were burning early Monday, ITC officials said.

The six tanks still burning are surrounded by nine other storage tanks within a spill containment dike. Firefighters used a foam fire retardant on nearby tanks to try to limit the fire from spreading.

Ships continued to transit the 50-mile-long channel, which is part of the Port of Houston linking refineries and chemical plants in Houston and Texas City, with the Gulf of Mexico.

“There has been no affect on vessel traffic other than at the two terminals,” said J.J. Plunkett, port agent at the Houston Pilots, whose members guide ships in and out of the channel. Ship access to docks at the ITC and Vopak terminals was restricted by the U.S. Coast Guard, he said.

Air emissions tests detected the presence of a volatile organic compound six miles away from the facility. Levels were below those considered hazardous, ITC said.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Additional reporting by Rich McKay and Gary McWilliams; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and G Crosse)

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NYPD backtracks, says officer wasn’t killed in 1999 shooting

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department says confusion surrounding a long-awaited arrest led officials to wrongly declare that an off-duty officer had been killed in a 1999 shooting in the Bronx.

A police spokeswoman said Monday that Officer Vincent Ling survived and has since retired. Commissioner James O’Neill tweeted Sunday that Ling had been killed.

Sgt. Jessica McRorie said in a statement that a misreading of the attempted murder charge on suspect Lester Pearson’s arrest warrant “led to the confusion about (Ling’s) death.”

Pearson was arrested Friday in Jacksonville, Florida. The New York Daily News heralded the development on its front page with the headline: “COP KILLER CAUGHT.”

It wasn’t clear if Pearson had a lawyer. Prosecutors said charging documents weren’t in a database because the case is old.

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Tweets could doom judge’s nomination to Kansas appeals court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s nomination of a trial judge to Kansas’ second-highest court appeared doomed Monday after two key Republican legislators decried past social media posts criticizing President Donald Trump and expressing support for gun control and abortion rights.

Senate President Susan Wagle predicted that Judge Jeffry Jack’s appointment to the Kansas Court of Appeals will not be confirmed by her GOP-dominated chamber. She and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Wilborn said the nomination should be withdrawn.

Even Kelly’s chief spokeswoman, Ashley All, called the tweets and retweets on a Jack’s feed “troubling” and said the governor’s office did not know about them, despite its vetting of potential appeals court nominees. Jack has been a district judge in Labette County in southeast Kansas since 2005 and served before that as a Republican in the Kansas House.

The judge’s Twitter page, showing his picture, includes political retweets with vulgar language, a September 2017 tweet referring to Trump as “Fruit Loops” and another saying, “I am so embarrassed that he is our President.” His postings show support for National Football League players who have kneeled in protest during the national anthem.

“He’s obviously politically biased, and he just isn’t the type of personality that you want on the bench, determining judicial questions,” said Wagle, a Wichita Republican.

All said the governor’s office was looking into Jack’s tweets and retweets. Jack was in court Monday and did not immediately return a telephone message to his office seeking comment.

Kelly picked Jack to replace longtime appeals court Judge Patrick McAnany, who retired the day the Democratic governor took office in January. She said Jack’s legislative experience was an important factor in choosing him over two other finalists and said he would bring qualities including “impartiality” to the bench.

The quickly-emerging problems with Jack’s nomination were particularly embarrassing for Kelly because she took the extra step — not required by law — of appointing a panel of lawyers and non-lawyers to screen applications, interview candidates in public and name three finalists.

Questions about Jack’s social media posts also came a day after the Kansas Department of Transportation said an employee who had used an official Twitter account to criticize Trump no longer worked at the agency.

All said she could not say why the governor’s office did not know about Jack’s feed on Twitter, which still could be viewed online Monday evening.

Some of Jack’s tweets criticized Republican legislators, including Wagle. One July 2017 tweet speculated that Wagle, who is now considering a U.S. Senate bid, might seek higher office and suggested she might be “failing upward.” He described another GOP senator with a vulgar acronym in a June 2017 tweet.

“It just flies in the face of everything you want a sitting judge to be,” said Wilborn, a McPherson Republican. “I would have thought that she (Kelly) would have vetted this candidate a little more closely and the prudent thing for her to do to continue to be credible is to withdraw that nomination.”

Sen. Vic Miller, of Topeka, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said he found Jack’s social media posts “deeply troubling.”

Asked whether Jack should withdraw as the nominee, Miller said: “If these are genuine, and he asked me for advice, I would advise him to do that.”

___

Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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Alan Krueger, economic adviser to Obama and Clinton, takes own life at 58

By Gabriella Borter

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Alan Krueger, a prominent Princeton University economics professor who advised U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, took his own life over the weekend, his family said in a statement on Monday. He was 58.

The statement did not elaborate about the circumstances of Krueger’s death, nor did the university when confirming it earlier in the day.

Krueger served in the last two Democratic administrations – as chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor during the Clinton era and as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers for Obama.

“It is with tremendous sadness we share that Professor Alan B. Krueger, beloved husband, father, son, brother, and Princeton professor of economics took his own life over the weekend,” his family said in the statement furnished by the university. “The family requests the time and space to grieve and remember him.”

He had taught economics at Princeton since 1987. Last week, Krueger delivered a lecture at Stanford University in California on income distribution and labor market regulation titled “Why is Basic Universal Income So Controversial?”

“Alan was recognized as a true leader in his field, known and admired for both his research and teaching,” Princeton said in a statement.

An avid music fan, Krueger posted about Bruce Springsteen and other rock stars on Twitter and wove David Bowie into his lectures. He made this passion the subject of his latest research in his forthcoming book on economics and the music industry, due to be released in June.

Krueger received numerous awards, including the Kershaw Prize from the Association for Public Policy and Management in 1997 for distinguished contributions to public policy analysis by someone under the age of 40.

He is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two children.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, Dan Grebler and Bill Berkrot)

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U.S. floods kill three, cut off towns as rivers rise

(Reuters) – Floodwaters continued to rise in the U.S. Midwest on Monday and were not expected to crest for another 24 hours, forecasters said, after killing three people in Nebraska and Iowa and inundating a U.S. Air Force base.

The Missouri River, the longest in North America, has flooded much of Nebraska between Omaha and Kansas City at the Missouri state line. It was expected to crest at 47.5 feet (14.48 m) on Tuesday, breaking the previous record, set in 2011, by more than a foot, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in the latest bulletin on its web page.

“This really is the most devastating flooding we’ve probably ever had in our state’s history, from the standpoint of how widespread it is,” Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said in a Twitter post on Monday.

“In 2011, it took 108 days for water to subside, and this year the water is 4-5 feet higher,” Ricketts said in another tweet. “NEMA and teams across the state are working around the clock to provide relief.”

Ricketts and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds have both declared states of emergency, and U.S. President Donald Trump said the White House had reached out to state and local officials in devastated areas.

On Monday the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, citing sheriffs’ officials, reported that an 80-year-old woman had become the latest confirmed fatality of the disaster. Betty Hamernik died in her home near Columbus, Nebraska, after becoming trapped by rising floodwaters from the Loup River.

Other casualties identified by local authorities are 50-year-old James Wilke, who was swept away while trying to use his tractor to free a trapped car near Columbus, and a man whose car was caught up in fast-moving water in Iowa..

At least two people are missing in Nebraska, the World-Herald reported.

NUCLEAR PLANT CUT OFF

More than 600 Nebraska residents were evacuated and taken to American Red Cross-operated shelters, NEMA said on Sunday.

The Missouri River’s overflowing banks have cut off roads leading to the Cooper nuclear plant, near Brownville, Nebraska, forcing operators to fly in staff and supplies by helicopter. The nuclear plant continued to operate safely and was at full power, its operator said.

Water also covered one-third of that state’s Offutt Air Force Base, near Bellevue, home to the U.S. Strategic Command.

At least 30 buildings had been flooded by up to 8 feet of water and 30 more structures had been damaged on the base, the Omaha World-Herald reported, citing a base spokeswoman. Base officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The National Weather Service reported some of the region’s larger rivers were running at record high levels, causing levee breaks. Some small towns and communities have been cut off by floods while others found themselves short of fresh drinking water.

Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital, were barely visible as high water surrounded homes, cars and trees, according to photos released to Reuters by state authorities. Elsewhere in the state, one highway near Waterloo was submerged, and piles of debris and damaged roads were visible in Niobrara.

Floodwater climbed up the sides of buildings at Camp Ashland, an Army National Guard facility in Ashland, Nebraska.

Warmer temperatures will speed the pace of snow melt across the region and contribute water to already swollen rivers, the NWS said, possibly forcing more evacuations in communities along the Missouri River on the Nebraska and Iowa border, as well as along the Elkhorn and Platte rivers in Nebraska.

“There could be issues across portions of Nebraska and Kansas for the next seven days,” NWS meteorologist Jim Hayes said.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)

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