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    Companies seeking tax credits from Wisconsin's troubled job-creation agency would face less scrutiny under a provision Republicans included in a package of lame-duck legislation designed to weaken newly elected Democrats. The measure awaiting GOP Gov. Scott Walker's signature would loosen the reins on an agency he created, which has marred by allegations of failing to recover loans from some companies and handing out $126 million without a formal review. Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who ousted Walker in last month's election, would be blocked from overseeing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for nine months under another provision in the lame-duck package. It's one of several components in the legislation that would reduce the powers of Evers and the incoming Democratic attorney general. Current law requires the WEDC to annually verify payroll and employment data from tax credit recipients to make sure they're creating enough jobs to qualify. State auditors found last year that the agency isn't living up to that requirement and was accepting information recipients submitted as accurate and complete. The lame-duck legislation would erase those annual verification requirements. The agency instead would be required to have a third party verify a sampling of the information. Recipients also would have to send a signed statement to WEDC attesting to the accuracy of the information they submit. WEDC's chief executive officer, Mark Hogan, told reporters Monday that the agency can't possibly verify information about the tens of thousands of employees that work for the 300 or so credit recipients. The agency has been verifying data samples for years and the lame-duck bill simply codifies that practice into law, he said. 'You're never going to be able to independently verify over 200,000 employees,' Hogan said. 'It's a process that cannot work. The only solution was to change the statutes to codify what we're doing.' Hogan said changing the law has been his 'top priority' for three years. He tried to get lawmakers to pass the changes before the Legislature adjourned its two-year session this past spring, but legislators told him then it was too late. WEDC is a quasi-governmental agency Walker created in 2011 that hands out grants, loans and tax credits to businesses and other organizations. A May 2017 audit found the agency didn't require recipients to supply enough detailed information to determine how many jobs were created or retained as a result of the agency's award. WEDC officials played a key role in persuading Foxconn Technology Group to build a huge flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant. The agency administers an unprecedented $3 billion state incentives package that Walker and Republican lawmakers created for the manufacturer. Walker has promised that if Foxconn doesn't create jobs it won't receive state tax credits. 'Under Republican control, the WEDC has been plagued by scandals, mismanagement and under-performance,' Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said in a statement. 'The last thing that agency needs is less accountability measures.' The WEDC provisions are tucked into a wide-ranging package of legislation that also restricts early in-person voting to the two weeks before an election, prevents Evers from withdrawing from a multistate lawsuit challenging federal health care reform laws and eliminates the state Justice Department's solicitor general office. Walker has signaled his general support. His spokesman, Tom Evenson, said Monday that the governor was still reviewing the measures. ___ Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1 ___ This story has been corrected to reflect that Shilling is the minority leader, not the majority leader.
  • Even as President Donald Trump again denounced the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any ties to his campaign as a ‘witch hunt,’ federal prosecutors on Monday reached a plea bargain agreement with a Russian woman accused of illegal political activity in the U.S., and the Special Counsel’s office prepared to reveal details of alleged lies by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The federal judge overseeing Manafort’s case suddenly scheduled a status hearing for Tuesday afternoon, as Robert Mueller’s office is expected to publicly file a redacted version of a report on what lies the government claims that Manafort told investigators, even after agreeing to cooperate with the Russia investigation. As he did with earlier procedural actions in a Washington federal courtroom, Manafort waived his right to be at the Tuesday hearing, again saying the time involved in being transported from prison to the D.C. courthouse was not worth the effort. List of things happening this week, so far: Manafort sentencing hearing – Tuesday Butina plea hearing – Wednesday Cohen sentencing hearing – Wednesday And the list will likely grow. — Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) December 10, 2018 While Manafort suddenly had a Tuesday court hearing scheduled, there were new developments on Monday in the case of 29 year old Maria Butina, who has been jailed since July, charged with illegal political activity in the United States, amid questions related to her ties to the National Rifle Association and the GOP. It was not immediately apparent what was involved in Butina’s change of heart, as a federal judge set a plea hearing for Wednesday afternoon, several hours after the scheduled sentencing in New York for former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Democrats continued Monday to raise questions about Butina and the NRA, as well as the broader issue of whether Russian money was funneled through the NRA and into the 2016 campaign for President. “Maria Butina is set to plead guilty based on her efforts to influence American politics through the NRA,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). “There is still a lot we don’t know about the NRA’s campaign spending and connections to the Kremlin.” “Another bad day for Individual-1 and his inner circle,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Dear @NRA: Now I know why you refused to answer the letter I wrote with other Members of Congress in March about Russian efforts to influence you. Will the Maria Butina plea expose what you are hiding in your clenched fist? Oh, and I have 3 words for you: January is coming. https://t.co/TPbshZtXDJ — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 10, 2018 Back in 2015, Butina happened to appear at a Q&A session with then candidate Donald Trump, and asked him a question about U.S. relations with Russia. The Butina case was not brought by Mueller, but instead by the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. – but it still could have an overall impact on the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign.
  • As House control is about to switch, it serves as a reminder about Democrats: They like government. And governing. While tea party Republicans swept to power to stop things -- repeal Obamacare, roll back environmental regulations and decrease the size and scope of government -- Democrats are marching into the majority to build things back up. And after spending eight downcast years in the minority, they can't wait to get started. Just ask Rep. Peter DeFazio. He's waited 32 years for his chance to become chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and has a highway and transit rebuilding plan at the ready. 'We've got a lot of corked-up energy,' DeFazio said. Democrats are set to take over the majority on Jan. 3, after capturing 39 Republican-held seats in the November election. But the post-election transition is already playing out in the Capitol, and highlighting a fundamental difference between the two parties, core to their political identities. Democrats say the goal is not necessarily a return to big government or to quickly start impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump — but to reassert Congress' ability to govern, which they say diminished under Republicans. The incoming chairman of the Rules Committee has drafted a new rules package — the first vote on Day One. It would require most bills to go to committees before a vote, a time-consuming process that shifts attention to the nuts-and-bolts of legislating. The first bill, H.R. 1, an ethics package, is well under way. And star freshman Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez already organized some two dozen co-sponsors for her 'Green New Deal' infrastructure plan. 'We really do want to restore the Democracy, make it work for people,' said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., who is leading the effort on H.R. 1. 'A lot of the tea party people arrived in Washington a few years ago with this mission of tearing government down,' Sarbanes told AP in an interview. 'You have Democrats arriving in this class who very much want to fix it, repair it, strengthen it, restore it.' The Senate will still be Republican-controlled next year, with Trump holding the veto pen in the White House, so it remains to be seen how much — if any — of the Democratic agenda will be passed into law. But Democrats are pressing ahead, starting their agenda on the premise that Americans have grown cynical of Washington, a finding backed up by polling. Trust in government is low and the sentiment is bipartisan, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 115,000 midterm voters nationwide conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 19 percent of midterm voters overall said they trust the government to do what is right at least most of the time. An overwhelming majority — 81 percent — said they trust government 'only some of the time' or never. Democrats say before they start tackling the big issues — lowering health care costs, rebuilding infrastructure — they have to earn back Americans' trust in government. The first bill tries to take this on with new ethics requirements and disclosure of big money in politics. Lawmakers would no longer be able to double-dip serving on corporate boards or fly first class, and political groups would have to disclose donors. Congress would make it easier to vote with online registrations and in a nod to President Donald Trump's reluctance to make public his tax returns, all presidents would have to do so. 'If we are going to accomplish the bold, aspirational things that everybody wants in America, what we've heard from our constituents about, we have to have a government they can trust,' said Rep.-elect Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, at a press conference announcing the legislation. 'This is the first step to building a government they can trust.' In some ways, the Democrats of the 2018 class share common ground with the tea party Republicans ushered in after the 2010 wave. Both elections attracted newcomers who were running in reaction to the president in the White House. Plenty of Democrats say they were motivated after Trump won the election much the way tea party Republicans came to fight then-President Barack Obama. But Republicans relinquish control after eight years in the House majority having failed to accomplish many top goals, including a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, in part because they ran into trouble with the thorny task of governing. Republicans pushed the GOP tax cuts to law, but scaled back other plans. They were forced two weeks ago to abandon another round of tax cuts as rank-and-file Republicans resisted. GOP leaders declined to force them into line. George Washington University professor Sarah Binder, an expert on Congress, says while we often think about House GOP majority as the 'caucus of No,' even those in the conservative Freedom Caucus came to realize 'you need to legislate in order to get there.' 'Their attitude may be government is too big and too involved, but in order to retrench government, to pare back what they see as this intrusion in to individual lives, you need government to function,' she said. Democrats may run into their own trouble in their majority with splits between their liberal and centrist wings, including those like billionaire donor Tom Steyer who put a priority put on impeaching Trump. 'They haven't even started in the majority yet and what I see more is the very same kind of nothing-is-ever-good-enough-caucus forming on the Democratic side that stymied Republicans for years,' said Doug Heye, a former top aide to House GOP leadership. 'Certainly they come at it from a different lens, but some of the behavior is similar.' Many from the incoming freshmen class, including 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, come from unconventional legislative backgrounds, much the way the tea party freshmen arrived from the ranks of pizza shop owners and car dealers who had never before been elected to office. She was waiting tables and tending bar before winning a surprise primary against a 10-term Democratic leader in New York. But Ocasio-Cortez — already known around Capitol Hill by her initials AOC — has already convened a televised town hall on her sweeping 'Green New Deal' to invest in renewable energies and fight climate change. She organized an army of supporters backing her, including many who showed up Monday to protest on Capitol Hill. Other newcomers arrive with resumes as military veterans, CIA officers, local-elected officials and alumni from the Obama administration, and built-in comfort zones with the legislative process. 'My constituents want us to legislate,' said Rep.-elect Tom Malinowski at the unveiling of H.R. 1. 'They want us to come here and get things done.' __ Follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro
  • Democrats who have opposed Nancy Pelosi's effort to become speaker next year want her to commit to limiting how long lawmakers could serve as House party leaders or committee chairs, people familiar with the discussions said Monday. Should Pelosi, D-Calif., and her foes reach agreement, it could move her toward the support she'll need when the new House convenes Jan. 3 and votes on its new speaker. So far, she's encountered a small bloc of Democrats saying they oppose her, in part because they want Pelosi and other long-serving leaders to step aside and give younger lawmakers room to advance. Negotiations were still underway and it was unclear when an agreement might be reached, said several Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. A spokesman for Pelosi, who currently is House minority leader, declined to comment. Pelosi led Democrats to an Election Day triumph last month, gaining at least 39 House seats (with several races still unresolved) and winning control of the chamber. Pelosi has led House Democrats since 2003, mostly in the minority, and wants to regain the speaker's post she held from 2007 until January 2011 as the first woman to hold that job. As Pelosi tries nailing down the last votes she will need to assure her election, she has resisted explicitly saying how long she would serve. She says that would diminish her clout by making her a lame duck. But she stopped short of opposing term limits for committee chairman when questioned last week by reporters. She said she's 'always been sympathetic' to the idea and said 'that's a debate' for House Democrats to decide. A term-limit deal could run into opposition by senior Democrats and some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom are from safe Democratic districts and can accrue years of seniority. The changes would have to be approved by a vote of House Democrats, and then by the full House. Assuming all House members vote for a specific candidate and all Republicans oppose her, Pelosi will need 218 votes to become speaker. If Democrats have 234 seats — the number they've won so far — she could lose no more than 16 Democrats and still prevail. Sixteen Democrats signed a letter last month opposing her, but she's been making deals with some opponents to win their support. Participants say Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., who signed that letter, has been a leader in talks with Pelosi. House Republicans currently limit committee chairs to three consecutive two-year terms, though GOP lawmakers can vote to grant waivers. There are no limits on party leaders.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are searching the electronic devices of travelers more often, and did not always follow proper protocol, a new watchdog report has found. The report made public Monday found there were 29,000 devices searched at a port of entry out of 397 million travelers to the U.S. in budget year 2017, up from 18,400 the year before from 390 million travelers. Customs and Border Protection officials note it is less than 1 percent of all travelers. Officers are allowed under law to look through devices of travelers who are referred for a secondary inspection. During the primary inspection, travel documents and passports are reviewed. If a secondary inspection is needed, officers may search devices like phones, thumb drives and computers to determine admissibility into the country, and also to identify potential law violations. For example, in March 2018, officers found images and videos of terrorist-related materials, and in another search, graphic and violent images including child pornography. Neither person was admitted into the United States, according to the report. But the Office of the Inspector General for Homeland Security found some searches were not properly documented, and data not properly secured. Some of the devices searched were not taken offline, in violation of procedures that say officers can search the physical device but not what's on a traveler's cloud network. Homeland Security is the department that oversees the nation's borders. In addition, in some cases, under a pilot program, officers can do an 'advanced' search which means a specially trained officer downloads information. But the system wasn't maintained properly — software licensing wasn't renewed — and some information copied to thumb drives was not deleted when it should have been. The watchdog recommended better documentation of searches, better disabling of data connections before searches, equipment is renewed and up-to-date data is immediately deleted from thumb drives and develop a system to evaluate whether the pilot program works. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said they agreed with the recommendations, and have already taken steps to address them including ensuring the device is in airplane mode when officers search. They are also developing a review process.
  • The Trump administration imposed sanctions Monday on three senior North Korean officials for human rights abuses in the isolated country. U.S. officials said the sanctions are intended to call attention to 'brutal' censorship and human rights abuses as well as the death last year of American captive Otto Warmbier. The Treasury Department said the officials have important roles in government agencies previously placed under sanctions. It was not clear what role any had in the treatment of the 22-year-old student from Ohio who died in June 2017 shortly after he was released from 17 months of captivity in North Korea. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said North Korea was committing 'flagrant and egregious abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms.' Those designated include Jong Kyong Thaek, Minister of State Security; Choe Ryong Hae, head of the Organization and Guidance Department; and Pak Kwang Ho, Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department. The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets the officials may have and make it illegal for any U.S. entity to conduct financial transactions with them. The State Department said in a report published Monday that Pyongyang 'continues to censor the media and commit serious human rights violations and abuses.' 'There is no independent domestic media in the country, and all media are strictly censored,' the report said. 'No content that deviates from the official government line is tolerated.' The two countries are seeking to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Trump and Kim Jong Un held a historic summit in June, but since then progress has seemed to stall. A second summit is expected next year.
  • Italy's right-wing interior minister says former Trump administration adviser Steve Bannon has interesting ideas but that he doesn't understand Europe's complexities. Matteo Salvini met over the summer with Bannon, who is reported to be planning a political consulting strategy to advance far-right parties in Europe. The Guardian newspaper has reported that the effort could be illegal in many EU countries. Salvini told reporters Monday that 'the destiny of Europe is in the hands of Europeans, no one else.' Salvini says he shares some positions with Bannon, but not all. He said of the former Trump adviser: 'He's stimulating. But I believe Europe has so much diversity and originality that sometimes the other side of the Atlantic doesn't get it.
  • Seeking to stir support for a federal criminal justice bill, Sen. Rand Paul on Monday called on voters in the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to prod him to hold a vote on the measure. Paul said during an appearance at the Louisville Urban League that the measure would pass overwhelmingly if it received a Senate vote during Congress' lame-duck session. But McConnell has refused to bring the legislation forward in a standoff that's dividing the Republican majority. 'We need the help of one person — the one person who has the power to allow this vote,' Paul said, a reference to McConnell, his fellow Kentucky Republican. 'And I'm not saying he's stopping it. But there is one person — he's from Louisville, he's fairly well-known. And he has the power to allow or disallow this vote. And I'm asking those in Louisville to call Sen. McConnell and say, 'Please let us have this vote.'' Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, a social justice organization, immediately picked up on Paul's plea for constituents to reach out to the Senate leader's office. 'Everybody call Sen. McConnell's office,' she said. 'Ask him to allow them to vote' on the measure. McConnell's office didn't immediately comment on Paul's remarks. Kentucky's senior senator has pointed to time constraints as Congress wraps up its work for the year and divisions among Senate Republicans as reasons the measure hasn't been voted on. At an event last week, McConnell said the measure has bipartisan support but that within the Senate GOP membership, it is 'extremely divisive.' He indicated he didn't have the time to get it through the Senate this year but expressed confidence that the measure would pass next year, given its broad support. Paul said the preference among the bill's supporters is to vote on it this month and not wait until next year. 'A lot of us who are for (the) criminal justice (bill) don't want to push it to January because we kind of have a carefully worked out compromise between Republicans and Democrats, and it's not always that often that we can get together and all agree on something,' he told reporters. Another possible option would be to try to attach the criminal justice provisions to a federal spending bill, Paul said. 'Those rumors are floating about and I think there's a possibility that it could be done,' he said. The criminal justice issue also stirred a recent tweet from President Donald Trump. The bill is a project of Trump's son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, and would be the biggest sentencing overhaul in decades. 'Hopefully Mitch McConnell will ask for a VOTE on Criminal Justice Reform,' Trump tweeted. 'It is extremely popular and has strong bipartisan support. It will also help a lot of people, save taxpayer dollars, and keep our communities safe. Go for it Mitch!' The measure would reduce mandatory prison terms for certain drug crimes and give judges in some cases more discretion on punishments. It would allow about 2,600 federal prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to petition for a reduced penalty. Roughly 90 percent of prison inmates are held in state facilities and would not be affected by the legislation. Senate opponents have said support for the measure has been exaggerated, and they also warn that Republicans would be blamed if a criminal is released and then reoffends. Paul said he supports tough punishment for violent criminals but said many people don't deserve long jail sentences for drug dependency. He also said lawmakers need to fix the 'great racial disparity' in terms of who gets locked up for drug crimes.
  • The U.S. this week will begin withdrawing many of the active duty troops sent to the border with Mexico by President Donald Trump just before the midterm election in response to a caravan of Central American migrants, U.S. officials said Monday. About 2,200 of the active duty troops will be pulled out before the holidays, the officials said, shrinking an unusual domestic deployment that was viewed by critics as a political stunt and a waste of military resources. That will leave about 3,000 active duty troops in Texas, Arizona and California, mainly comprised of military police and helicopter transport crews who are assisting border patrol agents. There also will still be about 2,300 members of the National Guard who were sent to the border region as part of a separate deployment that started in April. The active duty troops, numbering about 5,200 as of Monday, were initially scheduled to stay until Dec. 15. Late last month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis extended the mission to the end of January at the request of the Department of Homeland Security. It's unclear if it will be extended again. The U.S. forces have installed vast amounts of razor wire and provided transportation and protection for the Border Patrol. The troops are not there to directly deal with the Central American migrants, many of whom eventually made their way to Tijuana, just south of California. One of the officials said that some of the military police and helicopter crews will stay in the border region so they can quickly respond if they are needed by border agents. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans not yet made public. Active duty troops began arriving at the border in early November for an initial 45-day deployment, in response to the caravan, which at one point numbered about 7,000 people, including many families with children. On Monday, Col. Rob Manning said there are currently 2,200 active duty troops in Texas; 1,350 in Arizona; and 1,650 in California. 'Some units have completed their mission and they have already started to partially redeploy. Other units have been identified to rotate home and will be returning home over the next several weeks,' Manning said. He declined to say how low the number of troops will go in coming weeks or provide details on any changes. He added, 'the numbers of troops that we have will be commensurate with the support' that Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection request. Headquarters forces for U.S. Army North will remain in Texas, and the troops in California and Arizona include engineers, military police, logisticians, aviation personnel and medical personnel. The bulk of the active duty troops in California are Marines based at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, so many can easily move back and forth from the border to their home base. A report to Congress last month estimated the cost of the military deployment to the border at $210 million, including $72 million for the active-duty troops and $138 million so far for the National Guard forces. The Guard troops have been performing their separate border mission since April. There have been no updated estimates released. ___ AP National Security writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.
  • A woman accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government has likely taken a plea deal, prosecutors indicated Monday in a court filing that said her case has been 'resolved.' The information was included in a filing in the case against Maria Butina. Federal prosecutors and Butina's lawyer filed a joint motion asking to change her plea. A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutors have alleged Butina, 30, gathered intelligence on American officials and political organizations and worked to develop relationships with American politicians through her contacts with the National Rifle Association. They have charged that her work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Butina, who was arrested in July, was charged with conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia. Her lawyer has argued that Butina is a student interested in American politics and better U.S.-Russian relations. The documents did not provide details about the resolution. However, for several weeks, prosecutors and Butina's lawyer have indicated in court papers that they were negotiating and may have been nearing a plea deal. The charges against Butina were brought by federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., and her case is unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

News

  • The 2018 college football bowl season kicks off with the fourth annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. The game will feature champions from the Mid-Eastern Athletic and the Southwestern Athletic conference. In a rematch of the first Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, the North Carolina A&T Aggies will go head-to-head with the Alcorn State Braves.  Starting at 11 a.m., Channel 2 WSB-TV presents a live half-hour program, “The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Countdown.”  Channel 2 Anchors Fred Blankenship and Carol Sbarge host the pregame show for this event. Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein will breakdown the strategies of both teams, the players, coaches and each team’s strengths and weaknesses.  Following the countdown will be a special edition of Channel 2 Action News at 11:30 a.m. with weather, gameday traffic, and news of the day. At noon, the battle for the championship begins. In addition to the game, organizers will host the first annual “A Celebration of Service.” The service project will bring together “The Divine 9” Greek letter organizations to collect food donations that benefit Hosea Helps. Other attractions include a special fan experience and the ultimate HBCU Greek homecoming tailgate. MATCHUP Alcorn State (9-3, 6-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) vs. North Carolina A&T (9-2, 6-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). TIME/LOCATION Saturday at Noon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Pregame coverage starts at 11 a.m., followed by the game at Noon. TOP PLAYERS Alcorn State QB Noah Johnson has thrown for 2,079 yards and 15 touchdowns while also running for 960 yards and nine touchdowns. North Carolina A&T is led by veteran QB Lamar Raynard and a running game that's averaging close to 200 yards on the ground per game. NOTABLE The Braves are back in the Celebration Bowl for the first time since the inaugural game in 2015. Alcorn State is led by coach Fred McNair, the older brother of the late Steve McNair, who was a star quarterback for Alcorn State and in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. The Aggies are back in the Celebration Bowl for the third time in four seasons. North Carolina A&T beat Grambling 21-14 last year to give the MEAC a 2-1 edge in the game over the SWAC. LAST TIME North Carolina A&T 41, Alcorn State 34. (Dec. 19, 2015) BOWL HISTORY The Braves are in the Celebration Bowl for the second time. The Aggies are in the Celebration Bowl for the third time.
  • Companies seeking tax credits from Wisconsin's troubled job-creation agency would face less scrutiny under a provision Republicans included in a package of lame-duck legislation designed to weaken newly elected Democrats. The measure awaiting GOP Gov. Scott Walker's signature would loosen the reins on an agency he created, which has marred by allegations of failing to recover loans from some companies and handing out $126 million without a formal review. Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who ousted Walker in last month's election, would be blocked from overseeing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for nine months under another provision in the lame-duck package. It's one of several components in the legislation that would reduce the powers of Evers and the incoming Democratic attorney general. Current law requires the WEDC to annually verify payroll and employment data from tax credit recipients to make sure they're creating enough jobs to qualify. State auditors found last year that the agency isn't living up to that requirement and was accepting information recipients submitted as accurate and complete. The lame-duck legislation would erase those annual verification requirements. The agency instead would be required to have a third party verify a sampling of the information. Recipients also would have to send a signed statement to WEDC attesting to the accuracy of the information they submit. WEDC's chief executive officer, Mark Hogan, told reporters Monday that the agency can't possibly verify information about the tens of thousands of employees that work for the 300 or so credit recipients. The agency has been verifying data samples for years and the lame-duck bill simply codifies that practice into law, he said. 'You're never going to be able to independently verify over 200,000 employees,' Hogan said. 'It's a process that cannot work. The only solution was to change the statutes to codify what we're doing.' Hogan said changing the law has been his 'top priority' for three years. He tried to get lawmakers to pass the changes before the Legislature adjourned its two-year session this past spring, but legislators told him then it was too late. WEDC is a quasi-governmental agency Walker created in 2011 that hands out grants, loans and tax credits to businesses and other organizations. A May 2017 audit found the agency didn't require recipients to supply enough detailed information to determine how many jobs were created or retained as a result of the agency's award. WEDC officials played a key role in persuading Foxconn Technology Group to build a huge flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant. The agency administers an unprecedented $3 billion state incentives package that Walker and Republican lawmakers created for the manufacturer. Walker has promised that if Foxconn doesn't create jobs it won't receive state tax credits. 'Under Republican control, the WEDC has been plagued by scandals, mismanagement and under-performance,' Senate Majority Leader Jennifer Shilling said in a statement. 'The last thing that agency needs is less accountability measures.' The WEDC provisions are tucked into a wide-ranging package of legislation that also restricts early in-person voting to the two weeks before an election, prevents Evers from withdrawing from a multistate lawsuit challenging federal health care reform laws and eliminates the state Justice Department's solicitor general office. Walker has signaled his general support. His spokesman, Tom Evenson, said Monday that the governor was still reviewing the measures. ___ Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1
  • Channel 2 Action News has learned that investigators say there are currently more than 70,000 gang members across the state of Georgia. Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne was on hand Monday for the second meeting of the Georgia Anti-Gang Network. Officials told Winne that not only are they battling against inmates who are in gangs, but also corrections officers.  “Across the state, how many investigations do you have going on involving the corruption of corrections officers by gangs?” Winne asked Georgia Department of Correction Director Clay Nix.  “Numerous,” Nix answered.  Nix said Georgia’s prison system is not only battling against inmates who are in gangs, but also corrections officers, who are recruited after hiring. TRENDING STORIES: State government will delay opening Tuesday due to weather LIVE UPDATES: Atlanta United's championship parade and rally Search for missing Colorado mother intensifies; FBI assisting with investigation “Also, they reach out to other gang members who have no criminal record and encourage them to come to work for us,” Nix said.   “That’s happened?” Winne asked Nix.  “It has. Several times in the past,” Nix said.  Nix showed Winne pictures of a haul of suspected gang-related contraband that consisted of 61 homemade weapons, cellphones, suspected cocaine, suspected meth and marijuana.  “They control the contraband trade, which is very lucrative,” Nix said. The items were seized at the Macon state prison just hours before a meeting of the Georgia Anti-gang Network at state corrections headquarters, headed by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “Criminal street gangs represent America’s greatest public safety threat,” Cobb County District Attorney Mike Carlson said.  “And in Georgia?” Winne asked Carlson.  “Georgia as well,” Carlson said.  “And in metro Atlanta?” Winne asked.  “Absolutely,” Carlson said.  “The most frightening thing you've heard today?” Winne asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.  “The use of social media, the recruitment of young local neighborhood gangs as young as 9 and 13 years old,” Carr said.  The commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision said there are currently more than 13,000 gang members under active supervision across the state.  “We'll never be able to have parity in numbers with the 70,000-plus gang members in Georgia. But what we are able to do is finely tune the force packages we use to go after each one of these sets,” said Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine.  Christine said a grand jury recently indicted dozens affiliated with the Ghostface Gangsters.  “It involves multiple jurisdictions and multiple counties,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gilluly said.  “You've got a great group of folks that are focused on this issue, that aren't putting their heads in the sand and saying, 'We're going to protect the people of Georgia,'” Carr said.  Nix told Winne that without going into too many specifics, gang-related corruption cases pending against current or former corrections officers across the state range from charges up to and including homicide.
  • A five-game losing streak has assured the Atlanta Falcons of their first losing season since 2014, and the usually upbeat coach Dan Quinn said he's alarmed by the ugly results and looking for fixes. Quinn said all players and coaches are in the spotlight after Sunday's 34-20 loss at Green Bay locked in the losing season for the Falcons (4-9). It is a bitter reality for an Atlanta team only two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The Falcons would have to win two of their last three just to match their last losing record, a 6-10 finish in 2014. Quinn has turned up the heat on his team as Atlanta prepares for a visit from Arizona on Sunday. 'Some of you may have questions regarding the program and staff and players,' Quinn said. 'As we're sitting here in week 15, we have four wins. So you better believe we're evaluating everything and doing anything to get it right.' Quinn complained about 'self-inflicted wounds,' including 13 penalties and two turnovers in the loss to the Packers. 'I thought our toughness was right but our focus is not,' he said. He said the errors and lack of focus are not new concerns. 'It hasn't been to the level that we needed to for a while,' he said. '... To have some of these inconsistencies show up over a period of time has definitely been something that has been at the forefront of my mind.' Quinn doesn't have an answer to why the focus has become an issue, saying, he 'can't tell you the amount of sleep' he has lost 'on that question alone.' Matt Ryan's second-quarter pass for Austin Hooper was intercepted by Bashaud Breeland and returned 22 yards for a touchdown. The Falcons also botched a shotgun snap in the red zone that was recovered by Green Bay. Quinn said those were among the mistakes 'that made me think lack of focus.' It was a mixed weekend for team owner Arthur Blank, who also owns the MLS Atlanta United. One day after watching Atlanta United win the MLS Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Blank was in Green Bay for another Falcons loss. Blank gave Quinn a postgame hug one week after saying he still has confidence in the coach and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Quinn is 36-30 in his fourth season in Atlanta, including a 3-2 postseason mark. For the second straight week, Quinn tweaked his starting offensive line, inserting Ty Sambrailo at right tackle ahead of Ryan Schraeder. Zane Beadles made his second straight start at right guard. 'I've been waiting for the opportunity to go out and show what I can do,' Sambrailo said Monday. 'The opportunity came and I felt I did all right.' The line helped produce a much-needed boost in the running game . Atlanta ran for 107 yards, only its third 100-yard game of the season. Rookie Ito Smith had 11 carries for 60 yards as he continued to have a more prominent role. Tevin Coleman ran for 45 yards on 10 carries. There were other personnel moves. Rookie Isaiah Oliver shared time with cornerback Robert Alford. Brian Hill played at running back and fullback while fullback Ricky Ortiz was inactive. Defensive end Steven Means also returned to the playing rotation. More changes could come. 'Nobody is OK with this record,' Quinn said. NOTES: Quinn second-guessed himself for allowing Matt Bryant to attempt a 53-yard field goal into the wind in the first quarter. Bryant's kick was short. 'That would be one I'd like to have over,' Quinn said. ... Quinn said TE Austin Hooper avoided serious injury when he left the game with an apparent knee injury. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • The Latest on the effects of a wintry storm crossing the U.S. Southeast (all times local): 3:05 p.m. An overturned truck full of pigs is adding to traffic delays as western North Carolina digs out from a snow storm. The North Carolina Department of Transportation said the livestock truck overturned on Interstate 40 westbound near the Tennessee line. The westbound lanes were closed temporarily Monday so the pigs could be corralled, but at least one lane was reopened by midafternoon. Highway Patrol First Sgt. Mike Baker said that about 100 pigs were aboard the truck, and some died in the crash. Local farmers were helping to gather the rest. The Transportation Department posted a photo on Twitter of pigs wandering along a snowy shoulder next to a trooper's cruiser. Baker said it's not clear if weather played a role in the crash, and it may have had more to do with speed. He said the road was clear of snow and ice at the time. He said the driver suffered serious injuries. ___ 3:05 p.m. The North Carolina National Guard is out helping residents recover from a snowstorm, including relocating a baby from a snowed-in house. National Guard Lt. Col. Matthew DeVivo said the National Guard helped out a family Sunday after it lost power and couldn't drive due to heavy snowfall in Caldwell County. The National Guard posted a photo of a soldier carrying the baby down a snowy road swaddled in extra blankets. DeVivo said the baby is OK, and the family was taken to stay with relatives. Guard members also aided an ambulance stuck in the snow in Burke County, helping an elderly patient get to the hospital. The patient's condition Monday wasn't clear. ___ 1:30 p.m. Residents of southern West Virginia are digging out from a storm that dumped up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow. Forecasters had been uncertain about the storm's track and many residents were caught off guard by the high snow amounts. Forecasts initially had the storm avoiding most of the state and moving across the Southeast. Instead, the National Weather Service says the state became part of the storm's northern edge. More than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow fell across the far southern areas of the state. Schools were closed in at least 10 counties Monday. In places about an hour to the north such as Charleston and Huntington, no snow fell. ___ 12:35 p.m. Authorities in North Carolina are reporting a third snowstorm-related death after a truck driver died while working to free his rig that got stuck on an interstate. Yadkin County Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal says the driver had gotten stuck along Interstate 77 during the height of the storm Sunday and was shoveling out. Vestal said that shortly after shoveling, the man experienced chest pains and was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. Vestal said the death appears to be due to a heart attack and he considers it a storm-related death. The state emergency operations center attributes two other deaths to the storm. One man died Sunday when a tree fell on him in Mecklenburg County, while an ailing woman died in Haywood County when her oxygen was cut off due to power outages. ___ 11:45 a.m. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the worst of the wintery storm has passed most of the state but residents — particularly motorists — should keep watch for dangerous conditions. Cooper said at a news conference Monday that snow and ice that fell since the weekend could result in slick road conditions Tuesday morning as temperatures fall and moisture refreezes. The state emergency operations center attributes two deaths to the storm. One man died Sunday when a tree fell on him in Mecklenburg County, while an ailing woman died in Haywood County when her oxygen was cut off due to power outages. The governor says 144,000 utilities customers were still without power. ____ 7:20 a.m. A lingering storm keeps dumping immobilizing snow, sleet or freezing rain across five southern states, leaving dangerously icy roads and hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. Authorities urged people to stay home on Monday in areas where driving is dangerous. Accidents on snow-covered interstates caused major delays on Sunday, hundreds of flights were canceled and drivers in North Carolina and Virginia got stuck in snow or lost control on icy patches. But the commuters' nightmare provided pre-winter thrills for kids and the young at heart, who were able to go sledding and build snowmen in places that don't often see so much of the white stuff. The National Weather Service said a 'prolonged period of snow' began late Saturday and would last until Monday in the region, with the heaviest snow in northwest North Carolina and southern Virginia. Some areas of North Carolina and Virginia saw more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow by Sunday afternoon.
  • U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 32 people at a demonstration Monday that was organized by a Quaker group on the border with Mexico, authorities said. Demonstrators were calling for an end to detaining and deporting immigrants and showing support for migrants in a caravan of Central American asylum seekers. A photographer for The Associated Press saw about a dozen people being handcuffed after they were told by agents to back away from a wall that the Border Patrol calls 'an enforcement zone.' The American Friends Service Committee, which organized the demonstration, said 30 people were stopped by agents in riot gear and taken into custody while they tried to move forward to offer a ceremonial blessing near the wall. Border Patrol spokesman Theron Francisco said 31 people were arrested for trespassing and one was arrested for assaulting an officer. More than 300 people, many the leaders of churches, mosques, synagogues and indigenous communities, participated in the demonstration at San Diego's Border Field State Park, which borders Tijuana, Mexico. The rally held on a beach divided by the border wall was the second confrontation for Border Patrol agents since a caravan of more than 6,000 migrants, predominantly Hondurans, reached Tijuana last month. A confrontation with rock-throwers from Mexico led to U.S. agents firing tear gas into Mexico on Nov. 25 and a five-hour closure of the nation's busiest border crossing. Thousands of migrants are living in crowded tent cities in Tijuana after undertaking a grueling journey from Central America to the U.S. border. Many face waiting weeks or months in Mexico while they apply for asylum. The U.S. is processing up to about 100 claims a day at the San Diego crossing, which is creating a backlog. The demonstration Monday was meant to launch a national week of action called 'Love Knows No Borders: A moral call for migrant justice,' which falls between Human Rights Day on Monday, and International Migrants' Day on Dec. 18, the group said. 'Showing up to welcome and bless children, mothers and fathers seeking asylum from very difficult and dehumanizing circumstances is the right and humane thing to do,' said Bishop Minerva G. Carcano, from the San Francisco Area United Methodist Church. 'How we act in these moments determines who we will become as a nation.' The group also is calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.