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National Politics

    Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech Tuesday, saying he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons to the joint session of the Legislature. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, noted that the state House of Representatives, where the speech was given, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons, The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported . 'There is no specific threat to me. There is no specific threat we know of, period,' Habib said. 'It's about the policy.' The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and in the Senate, where Habib is the presiding officer; he extended that ban to cover concealed weapons as well. Habib, who is blind, said he was concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable. Other statewide elected officials, from the nine Washington Supreme Court justices to the commissioner of public lands, attended. In an emailed response, the office of the chief House clerk, Bernard Dean, called Habib's decision regrettable. 'Washington state law is clear: Properly licensed concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the galleries,' the statement said. 'Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action.' Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint legislative session for Inslee's speech in Habib's absence. Inslee, who is mulling a possible 2020 Democratic presidential bid, highlighted climate as his top issue in his annual address to lawmakers, who started their 105-day legislative session this week. ___ Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com
  • The White House says Ivanka Trump will take part in the nomination process for a new head of the World Bank. The senior adviser was asked to participate by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because she has worked with World Bank leaders on a variety of projects. The White House said she is not a contender for the post. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank, announced last week that he is resigning. With Kim's exit, President Donald Trump will have the opportunity to nominate his own choice to fill the position. The leaders at the 189-nation World Bank have all been Americans. But other countries have complained about this pattern. Kim's permanent successor will be decided by the World Bank's board of directors.
  • President Donald Trump's pick to become the next attorney general said Tuesday that he would 'not go after' marijuana companies in states where cannabis is legal, even though he personally believes the drug should be outlawed. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, William Barr said he would not use limited government resources to target cannabis businesses that are complying with state laws. Businesses in the marijuana industry relied on Obama-era guidance that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal, but those guidelines were rescinded by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year. Pointing to the growing marijuana industry and investments in cannabis companies, Barr said he didn't want to 'upset settled expectations.' 'To the extent that people are complying with the state laws, distribution and production and so forth, we're not going to go after that,' Barr said. Despite his affirmation that he would not target cannabis businesses, Barr said he would personally support a federal law that 'prohibits marijuana everywhere.' The largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth during former President Barack Obama's administration allowed the marijuana industry to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar market that helps fund some state government programs. Days after California's broad marijuana legalization went into effect, Sessions rescinded the Justice Department's guidance — known as the Cole Memo — and decried it as allowing a 'safe harbor' for marijuana by allowing states to flout federal law. Since the guidance was rescinded, there has been concern about the future of the growing cannabis industry. Despite medical and so-called recreational cannabis legalization in dozens of states, federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. But Barr said the current system is 'untenable' and 'almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law.' He called for members of Congress to come up with a way to handle marijuana enforcement across the U.S. 'I think it's incumbent on the Congress to make a decision as to whether we are going to have a federal system,' he said. 'Because this is breeding disrespect for the federal law.' ___ Michael Balsamo is a member of AP's marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 . Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: www.apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana
  • The Trump administration is considering ways to expand U.S. homeland and overseas defenses against a potential missile attack, possibly adding a layer of satellites in space to detect and track hostile targets. Details on how far the administration intends to press this in a largely supportive Congress are expected to be revealed when the Pentagon releases results of a missile defense review as early as Thursday. The release was postponed last year for unexplained reasons, though it came as President Donald Trump was trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. A review might have complicated the talks. The Trump approach is expected to include emphasis on stopping missiles either before they are launched or in the first few minutes of flight when their booster engines are still burning. Congress already has directed the Pentagon to push harder on this 'boost-phase' approach, which might include the use of drones armed with lasers. Any expansion of the scope and cost of missile defenses would compete with other defense priorities, including the billions of extra dollars the Trump administration has committed to spending on a new generation of nuclear weapons. An expansion also would have important implications for American diplomacy, given longstanding Russian hostility to even the most rudimentary U.S. missile defenses and China's worry that longer-range U.S. missile defenses in Asia could undermine Chinese national security. Senior administration officials have signaled their interest in developing and deploying more effective means of detecting and tracking missiles with a constellation of satellites in space that can, for example, use advanced sensors to follow the full path of a hostile missile so that an anti-missile weapon can be directed into its flight path. Space-based sensor networks would allow the U.S. to deal with more sophisticated threats such as hypersonic missiles. 'I think that makes a lot of sense,' said Frank Rose, a former Pentagon and State Department official and now a senior fellow for security and strategy at the Brookings Institution. 'This could make a real improvement in our missile defense capabilities.' Current U.S. missile defense weapons are based on land and aboard ships. Republican presidents starting with Ronald Reagan, who proposed a 'Star Wars' system of anti-missile weapons in space, have been more enthusiastic about missile defense than Democrats. In recent years, however, both parties have argued that better defenses are needed, if only against emerging nuclear powers such as North Korea. Trump's detailed views on this are not well-known. The national security strategy he unveiled in December 2017 called 'enhanced' missile defense a priority, but it also said it was not intended to disrupt strategic relationships with Russia or China, whose missile arsenals the U.S. sees as the greatest potential threat. John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said last year that a space-based layer of missile-tracking sensors would not mark a big shift in American policy or as a security threat to others like Russia or China. 'It watches, it detects what others are doing. I don't regard it as a provocative act to observe the missile flights of missiles that are potentially threatening to the United States,' Rood said in September. 'I don't think having a sensor capability is a sea change for the United States,' he added, without stating directly that the Trump administration will pursue this. Such a system is different than the more provocative idea of putting missile interceptors aboard satellites in space, which is not expected to be part of the Trump strategy. Congress has ordered the Pentagon to study it and some senior Pentagon officials have said recently that space-based interceptors are feasible and affordable. However, Rood in September strongly suggested that that Pentagon is not ready to move ahead with that. 'Those are bridges yet to be crossed, some time away,' he said. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said he expects the missile defense review to endorse an expanded role for missile defenses to counter certain Russian and Chinese missiles, especially those that could threaten U.S. allies in Asia and Europe. 'This is likely to stimulate them to accelerate offensive missile programs, like hypersonic vehicles, that can evade our missile defense,' Kimball said.
  • Amid increasing tensions with Beijing, the Pentagon on Tuesday released a new report that lays out U.S. concerns about China's growing military might, underscoring worries about a possible attack against Taiwan. Speaking to reporters, a senior defense intelligence official said the key concern is that as China upgrades its military equipment and technology and reforms how it trains and develops troops, it becomes more confident in its ability to wage a regional conflict. And Beijing's leaders have made it clear that reasserting sovereignty over Taiwan is their top priority. The official added, however, that although China could easily fire missiles at Taiwan, it doesn't yet have the military capability to successfully invade the self-governing island, which split from mainland China amid civil war in 1949. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to provide more detail on intelligence findings in the report, which was written by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Its release comes just a week after Chinese President Xi Jinping called on his People's Liberation Army to better prepare for combat. China has warned the U.S. against further upgrading military ties with Taiwan and has threatened to use force against the island to assert its claim of sovereignty. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has taken incremental moves to bolster ties with the island, including renewed arms sales and upgraded contacts between officials. U.S.-China tensions have become increasingly frayed on the military and economic fronts over the past year. Trump imposed tariff increases of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Xi responded by imposing penalties on $110 billion of American goods. And last year the Pentagon disinvited China to a major, multinational Pacific exercise, citing Beijing's militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea. The ongoing rise of China, in fact, has triggered greater U.S. military attention on the Indo-Pacific region over the last several years. And last year's release of the U.S. National Defense Strategy emphasized the importance of great power competition with Russia and China. And it asserted that China's rapidly expanding military and Russia's increasing aggression are threatening America's military advantage around the world. Just after taking over as the acting defense secretary, Pat Shanahan told his military service leaders on Jan. 2 that their focus should be 'China, China, China.' The DIA report talks broadly about the steps China is taking to modernize its military and expand its operations around the globe. The worry, said the defense intelligence official, is that China will reach the point where leaders will decide that using military force for a regional conflict such as Taiwan is more imminent. 'Beijing's longstanding interest to eventually compel Taiwan's reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China's military modernization,' the report says. 'Beijing's anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the PLA to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection.' Over time, the report said, the PLA is 'likely to grow even more technologically advanced, with equipment comparable to that of other modern militaries.' That would include advanced fighter aircraft, ships, missile systems and space and cyberspace capabilities. Cyberthreats from China have long been a major U.S. concern, stretching from massive data breaches and the theft of trade secrets to Beijing's campaign to improve its ability to conduct cyberattacks. The U.S. official said China has been working very hard on developing ways to combine cyberattack capabilities with other kinetic weapons that can be used in combat. Still, the official said Beijing will face a significant challenge as it tries to bring generational change to its military. Until now, China has mainly done tightly controlled regional operations and some counterpiracy missions. It will be more difficult, the official said, to create a joint force capable of conducting large, complex combat operations far abroad.
  • It's back to school for Karen Pence, Vice President Mike Pence's wife. Mrs. Pence began teaching art to elementary students at Immanuel Christian School in Northern Virginia on Tuesday. Mrs. Pence accepted the job in December and was to have rebooted her teaching career on Monday. But classes were canceled after a heavy weekend snowfall across the Washington region. Her office says she'll teach twice a week until May. Mrs. Pence was a teacher for 25 years, including 12 teaching art at Immanuel Christian School, before then-U.S. Rep. Mike Pence was elected Indiana's governor. Mrs. Pence's immediate predecessor, Jill Biden, wife of former Vice President Joe Biden, taught English twice a week at a Northern Virginia community college during his two terms.
  • Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8, appearing as one of the new Democratic majority's first witnesses as they seek to provide more stringent oversight of President Donald Trump. In a letter sent to Whitaker Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says he is 'happy to have reached an agreement for you to appear' on that date. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec confirmed that Whitaker would appear. Nadler said last year that Whitaker, a close ally of Trump who has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, would be one of his first witnesses once he became chairman. Since then, Trump has nominated former attorney general William Barr for the permanent job — meaning Whitaker could potentially be out of office by the time the hearing commences. Barr was testifying before the Senate on Tuesday as Nadler made the announcement. It was unclear how soon Barr would be confirmed, but senators said it could happen as soon as next week. Whitaker took the job in November after Trump pushed out Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump had repeatedly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which is examining ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump calls the probe a 'witch hunt.' Nadler has criticized Whitaker for not recusing himself from the Mueller probe as Sessions did. He said last month that Whitaker's decision appeared to be 'to satisfy President Trump and not to protect the integrity of the department or its ongoing work.' Beyond the criticism about his comments on the Russia probe, critics have raised questions about Whitaker's involvement with a company that was accused of misleading consumers. In addition, he has faced scrutiny over whether he violated federal law because a campaign committee set up for his failed 2014 U.S. Senate bid accepted $8,800 in donations this year, while Whitaker was serving as a top Justice Department lawyer.
  • When her paychecks dried up because of the partial government shutdown, Cheryl Inzunza Blum sought out a side job that has become a popular option in the current economy: She rented out a room on Airbnb. Other government workers are driving for Uber, relying on word-of-mouth and social networks to find handyman work and looking for traditional temp gigs to help pay the bills during the longest shutdown in U.S. history. The hundreds of thousands of out-of-work government employees have more options than in past shutdowns given the rise of the so-called 'gig economy' that has made an entire workforce out of people doing home vacation rentals and driving for companies like Uber, Lyft and Postmates. Blum decided to capitalize on the busy winter travel season in Arizona to help make ends meet after she stopped getting paid for her government contract work as a lawyer in immigration court in Tucson. She says she has no choice but to continue to work unpaid because she has clients who are depending on her, some of whom are detained or have court hearings. But she also has bills: her Arizona state bar dues, malpractice insurance and a more than $500 phone bill for the past two months because she uses her phone so heavily for work. Blum bills the government for her work, but the office that pays her hasn't processed any paychecks to her since before the shutdown began. So she's been tapping every source she can to keep herself afloat — even her high school- and college-aged children — and is even thinking about driving for Uber and Lyft as well. 'So after working in court all day I'm going to go home and get the room super clean because they're arriving this evening,' she said of her Airbnb renters. 'I have a young man who's visiting town to do some biking, and he's going to come tomorrow and stay a week,' she added. 'I'm thrilled because that means immediate money. Once they check in, the next day there's some money in my account.' The shutdown is occurring against the backdrop of a strong economy that has millions of open jobs, along with ample opportunities to pick up Uber and Lyft shifts. The Labor Department reported that employers posted 6.9 million jobs in November, the latest figures available. That's not far from the record high of 7.3 million reached in August. Roughly 8,700 Uber driver positions are advertised nationwide on the SnagAJob website, while Lyft advertises about 3,000. But the gig economy doesn't pay all that well — something the furloughed government workers are finding out. Pay for such workers has declined over the past two years, and they are earning a growing share of their income elsewhere, a recent study found. Most Americans who earn income through online platforms do so for only a few months each year, according to the study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute. Chris George, 48, of Hemet, California, is furloughed from his job as a forestry technician supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture forest service. He's been driving for Lyft but has only been averaging about $10 for every hour he drives. Paying for gas then eats into whatever money he has made. He just got word that he'll be getting $450 in weekly unemployment benefits, but hadn't received any money as of Monday. In the meantime, he's taking handyman or other odd jobs wherever he can. 'I've just been doing side jobs when they come along,' he said Monday. 'I had two last week, and I don't know what this week's going to bring.' George Jankowski is among those hunting around for cash. He's getting a $100 weekly unemployment check, but that's barely enough to pay for food and gas, he said. On Monday, he made $30 helping a friend move out of a third-floor apartment in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Jankowski is furloughed from a USDA call center and does not expect to get back pay because his job is part-time and hourly. Jankowski, an Air Force veteran, calls the situation 'grueling.' 'It's embarrassing to ask for money to pay bills or ask to borrow money to, you know, eat,' he said. Some employers were looking at the shutdown as a way to recruit, at least temporarily. Missy Koefod of the Atlanta-based cocktail-mixer manufacturer 18.21 Bitters said the company needs temporary help in the kitchen, retail store and getting ready for a trade show, and decided to put out the word to furloughed federal workers on social media that they were hiring. 'I can't imagine not getting paid for a couple of weeks,' Koefod said. American Labor Services, a staffing agency that employs 500 people a week in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, sent out an appeal to furloughed federal workers on Monday, asking them to get in touch for clerical or light-industrial work. 'Some might not realize that they could get something temporary, it could last for a short period,' said Ben Kaplan, the company's president and CEO. Israel Diaz sought out an Uber job and applied to be a security guard after he was furloughed from his Treasury Department job in Kansas City. He said federal work has become increasingly demoralizing and that he and many of his co-workers are considering quitting. 'In the old days, you work for the federal government, you get benefits, great,' said Diaz, a Republican and Marine Corps veteran. 'Now, it's not even worth it.' ___ Associated Press writers Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Chris Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.
  • In a legal defeat for the Trump Administration, a federal judge in New York ruled on Tuesday that efforts by the Commerce Department to add a question on U.S. citizenship to the 2020 census was ‘unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons’ – not because of the substance of the question – but for how officials circumvented normal procedures to approve the query. In a 277 page decision issued on Tuesday morning, Judge Jesse Furman repeatedly rebuked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, saying his decision to add a question on citizenship was ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ “Secretary Ross acted without observing procedures required by law, including a statute requiring that he notify Congress of the subjects planned for any census at least three years in advance,” Furman wrote in his ruling, describing Ross’s actions as ‘egregious,’ and some of his explanations as ‘materially inaccurate.’ Judge Furman finds that Secretary of Commerce Ross lied to Congress about why the Trump Administration added a citizenship question to the census. pic.twitter.com/7ekMD7PMYN — Sam Bagenstos (@sbagen) January 15, 2019 “The Court’s Opinion is, to put it mildly, long,” the judge acknowledged. “But that is for good reasons,” as he ruled that Secretary Ross violated and ignored a series of laws which govern changes to the census questionnaire. “He failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices — a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations,” the judge wrote. Ross has so far avoided a court-ordered deposition about his decisions; Democrats in the House have indicated they would still like to question Ross about how the citizenship question was dealt with. “Putting a citizenship question on the census is a cynical and sinister attempt to suppress participation and undercount immigrants short changing fair apportionment of resources and political representation,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). The issue of counting everyone – illegal immigrants included – is a sensitive political matter, because the census determines not only the apportionment of Congress, but also the level of aid which can come from the federal government for a variety of federal programs. A federal court blocks @RealDonaldTrump’s administration from adding a citizenship question on the #2020Census! As a member of Congress who has led the charge against the question, I applaud this ruling. It’s the right decision and will help ensure a more accurate census count. — Grace Meng (@RepGraceMeng) January 15, 2019 A federal court striking down the citizenship question on the census confirms what we knew all along – adding the question was politically motivated, unlawful, and done to chill participation. — Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 15, 2019 “It is important to conduct a census which is comprehensive and accurate,” said Rep. Albio Sires (D-NY). “This citizenship question brings together @realDonaldTrump’s anti-immigrant agenda and his attempts to undermine representative democracy and has no business in the #2020Census,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
  • Republican Greg Abbott began a second term as Texas governor Tuesday by promising lower taxes and a school funding overhaul but without mentioning a national policy dispute that weighs heavily on his state: President Donald Trump's demand for a border wall. Texas shares 1,200 miles of border with Mexico and stands to be affected more if Trump receives the $5.7 billion he is demanding to build a barrier and end the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history. Abbott has said walls are effective but hasn't been an outspoken cheerleader of Trump's demands during the shutdown He didn't wade into the debate at all during his inauguration ceremony, where some onlookers on the Texas Capitol plaza chanted 'Build a Wall!' Virtually all Texas Republicans have stood by the president throughout the shutdown. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz both accompanied Trump to the Texas border last week , as did Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who went so far to suggest that Texas could oversee construction of a wall if given the money. Abbott didn't join Trump, with aides to the governor saying there were scheduling conflicts. But Abbott has also not taken a clear position on Trump's demands for a wall in recent interviews, and he isn't casting the border as a priority for Texas at a time when the president is calling the situation 250 miles south of the state Capitol a crisis. Abbott, who four years ago vowed that 'I will secure our border' during his first inauguration address, never mentioned it in his second one Tuesday. 'Together, we will pay our teachers more. We will provide a better education for our students. We will make our schools safer,' Abbott said. 'We will tackle skyrocketing property taxes. We will help Texans recover from storms that have ravaged our communities. We will do all this and more.' Inauguration speeches traditionally lean more toward long-range visions than current events. But some use the occasion to mix both. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, chided the Trump administration following his swearing-in last week but did so without saying the president's name. Abbott sidestepping the debate is the most visible example of the Texas Legislature suddenly taking the spotlight off border security after GOP lawmakers spent years campaigning on the issue. Some Republicans say Texas has already done its part, having spent $1.6 billion on state trooper patrols, border cameras, spy planes and other security measures since Abbott took office in 2015. The governor has also deployed the National Guard signed one of the nation's toughest 'sanctuary city' bans in 2017. Democrats, meanwhile, believe Republicans are course-correcting on the heels of the GOP's worst election in Texas in a generation, when Democrats picked up 12 seats in the Texas House behind Beto O'Rourke's near-upset of Cruz. Abbott fared better than most and won re-election by double-digits, but some polls showed him doing slightly worse among Hispanic voters than in 2014. Texas currently has about 100 miles of barriers along the border with Mexico, which includes walls and fencing. Asked about the wall in an interview with Corpus Christi television station KIII last week as Trump was in Texas, Abbott said 'it's helpful whenever the president comes down' but did not weigh in on the current impasse. 'It's a fact that we have a porous border, it's a fact that we have already a wall in place in certain areas, it's a fact that fencing can work,' Abbott said Thursday. 'But it's also a fact that we have lost hundreds of Border Patrol agents who had been in the state of Texas who are now elsewhere that make Texas more vulnerable. So there are a lot of resources that Texas needs, and we're gonna make sure that we keep our state secure.' Judy Jackman, of Amarillo, tried leading a chant of 'Build a Wall!' in the crowd before the inauguration began Tuesday. She said she was a little disappointed that Abbott didn't mention a wall in his address but said those around her still supported him. 'I think it will be a big topic,' she said. 'I don't know why it wasn't today.' ___ Associated Press Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report. ___ Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

News

  • A day after travelers waited nearly 90 minutes in snail-speed security lines at the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's mayor is concerned about the waits that could result when the city hosts the 2019 Super Bowl. The ongoing partial government shutdown is 'uncharted territory' amid planning for one of the world's biggest sporting events, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday. 'Obviously, we are in uncharted territory with the shutdown that's gone on this long, and we are preparing as best we can from our vantage point,' Bottoms said. The mayor and others at a Tuesday news conference said two years of planning have them well-prepared to protect the public. 'Our goal is for our officers to be visible, for the public to feel safe, be safe, and be able to position ourselves so that we can react immediately to whatever scenario we are confronted with,' Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said. 'I think that with anything you can go in with a spirit of confidence if you have prepared, and we have prepared well.' But the government shutdown is a wild card that arose relatively late in that planning process. 'Certainly there are factors that we don't control such as what's happening with our federal government shutdown and with the long TSA lines,' Bottoms said. 'We are continuing to encourage people to get to the airport very early.' The expected crush of travelers is significantly more than normal. On a typical day, 60,000 to 80,000 passengers are screened at Atlanta's airport before departing, airport statistics show. On Feb. 4, the day Bottoms calls 'Mass Exodus Monday,' about 110,000 passengers are expected to be departing from Atlanta's airport one day after the Super Bowl. The partial government shutdown has meant missed paychecks for Transportation Security Administration screeners at airports nationwide. TSA workers have been calling in sick at a rate that's been more than double what it normally is, the agency has said. That's led to a shortage of screeners at some airports across the country. No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday. The TSA had a national absence rate of nearly 7 percent Monday, compared to 2.5 percent on a comparable day a year ago, the agency reported Tuesday after getting complete numbers on the absences. A chaotic scene unfolded at Atlanta's airport on Monday, the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time. Mondays are typically busy for the airport as Atlanta business travelers depart for the work week, and some security lanes went unstaffed as lines backed up. Atlanta passengers led the nation Monday in terms of longest screening delays: The 'maximum standard wait time' was 88 minutes, the TSA reported. Passengers who went through TSA PreCheck — an expedited screening program which is typically faster than regular lines — waited 55 minutes, statistics showed.
  • Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech Tuesday, saying he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons to the joint session of the Legislature. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, noted that the state House of Representatives, where the speech was given, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons, The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported . 'There is no specific threat to me. There is no specific threat we know of, period,' Habib said. 'It's about the policy.' The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and in the Senate, where Habib is the presiding officer; he extended that ban to cover concealed weapons as well. Habib, who is blind, said he was concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable. Other statewide elected officials, from the nine Washington Supreme Court justices to the commissioner of public lands, attended. In an emailed response, the office of the chief House clerk, Bernard Dean, called Habib's decision regrettable. 'Washington state law is clear: Properly licensed concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the galleries,' the statement said. 'Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action.' Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint legislative session for Inslee's speech in Habib's absence. Inslee, who is mulling a possible 2020 Democratic presidential bid, highlighted climate as his top issue in his annual address to lawmakers, who started their 105-day legislative session this week. ___ Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com
  • The White House says Ivanka Trump will take part in the nomination process for a new head of the World Bank. The senior adviser was asked to participate by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because she has worked with World Bank leaders on a variety of projects. The White House said she is not a contender for the post. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank, announced last week that he is resigning. With Kim's exit, President Donald Trump will have the opportunity to nominate his own choice to fill the position. The leaders at the 189-nation World Bank have all been Americans. But other countries have complained about this pattern. Kim's permanent successor will be decided by the World Bank's board of directors.
  • President Donald Trump's pick to become the next attorney general said Tuesday that he would 'not go after' marijuana companies in states where cannabis is legal, even though he personally believes the drug should be outlawed. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, William Barr said he would not use limited government resources to target cannabis businesses that are complying with state laws. Businesses in the marijuana industry relied on Obama-era guidance that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal, but those guidelines were rescinded by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year. Pointing to the growing marijuana industry and investments in cannabis companies, Barr said he didn't want to 'upset settled expectations.' 'To the extent that people are complying with the state laws, distribution and production and so forth, we're not going to go after that,' Barr said. Despite his affirmation that he would not target cannabis businesses, Barr said he would personally support a federal law that 'prohibits marijuana everywhere.' The largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth during former President Barack Obama's administration allowed the marijuana industry to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar market that helps fund some state government programs. Days after California's broad marijuana legalization went into effect, Sessions rescinded the Justice Department's guidance — known as the Cole Memo — and decried it as allowing a 'safe harbor' for marijuana by allowing states to flout federal law. Since the guidance was rescinded, there has been concern about the future of the growing cannabis industry. Despite medical and so-called recreational cannabis legalization in dozens of states, federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. But Barr said the current system is 'untenable' and 'almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law.' He called for members of Congress to come up with a way to handle marijuana enforcement across the U.S. 'I think it's incumbent on the Congress to make a decision as to whether we are going to have a federal system,' he said. 'Because this is breeding disrespect for the federal law.' ___ Michael Balsamo is a member of AP's marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 . Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: www.apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana
  • The partial government shutdown continues and many federal workers haven't been paid in weeks, so a local church stepped in to help its members who have been impacted. [READ MORE: Government shutdown becomes longest in U.S. history] Church members at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were able to raise enough money to give fellow members affected by the government shutdown nearly $300 each in cash. Pastor Jamal Bryant, who joined the church in December, said he felt he and his congregation had a responsibility to help those in need. He said 30 people went to the altar Sunday seeking aide. [READ MORE: Jamal Bryant named as new senior pastor of New Birth] “When the government shuts down is when the church needs to be wide open,” Bryant said. Channel 2's Tom Jones has the full interview with Pastor Bryant on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m. TRENDING STORIES: Police: Officer attacked with own Taser after dangerous suspect resists arrest Former Kasim Reed aide collapses in court as judge sentences her to prison Passengers arrive hours early at Atlanta airport after massive security lines