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  • New leader of Jesse Jackson’s civil rights organization steps down less than 3 months on the job
    on April 17, 2024 at 1:18 am

    CHICAGO (AP) — A Dallas pastor who took over leadership of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s longtime civil rights organization resigned Tuesday after less than three months on the job. The Rev. Frederick Haynes III told The Associated Press that he submitted a letter with his resignation as head of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition, effective immediately. “After a time of prayer and consultation, I felt it was best to step down as president and CEO of Rainbow PUSH,” he said by phone from Texas. “I am forever honored that the Rev. Jackson graciously considered me worthy of following him as president of the organization that he founded.” Haynes, 63, said he felt it was “necessary” to move on in light of “challenges that continue to exist,” but declined to elaborate further. Neither Jackson nor other representatives of the organization immediately had comment. Jackson announced in July that he would step down from the organization he founded more than 50 years ago, and he introduced Haynes as his successor. Haynes, the pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, was formally installed as president and CEO in a February ceremony in that city. He planned to lead Rainbow PUSH, which advocates for social justice and political activism, from Texas. Haynes said that even though the formal takeover was in February, he hit the ground running over the summer and hoped he could collaborate with Rainbow PUSH and Jackson in the future. “He remains one of my heroes. He remains one of the great leaders of all time,” Haynes said. Jackson — who was pivotal in the modern Civil Rights Movement — has faced numerous health issues in recent years and has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Still, the 82-year-old two-time presidential candidate hasn’t shied away from the public eye. Jackson appeared at a packed Chicago City Council meeting in January to support a controversial resolution for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • OJ Simpson was chilling with a beer on a couch before Easter, lawyer says. 2 weeks later he was dead
    on April 17, 2024 at 1:18 am

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — O.J. Simpson’s last robust discussion with his longtime lawyer was just before Easter, at the country club home Simpson leased southwest of the Las Vegas Strip. “He was awake, alert and chilling,” attorney Malcom LaVergne recalled Tuesday. “He’s on the couch … drinking a beer and watching TV. And so that was the last time we had effective back-and-forth conversations. He’s usually the one who keeps me up on the news … so we were just catching up on the news then.” About a week later, on April 5, a doctor said Simpson was “transitioning,” as LaVergne described it. The last time LaVergne visited, last week, Simpson only had strength to ask for water and to choose to watch a TV golf tournament instead of a tennis match. “Of course he chose golf,” LaVergne told The Associated Press in an interview. “He was an absolute golf fanatic.” Simpson died April 10, after being diagnosed last year with prostate cancer. He was 76. A post the following day from Simpson’s family on X, formerly Twitter, said Simpson “succumbed to his battle with cancer” while “surrounded by his children and grandchildren.” However, LaVergne said Tuesday just one person was with Simpson when he died, identified by the attorney only as “a close family member.” He declined to say who it was. “You have to remember that they’ve shared O.J. with the world their entire lives,” the attorney said of Simpson’s surviving adult children of his first marriage — Arnelle Simpson, now 55, and Jason Simpson, 53 — and the children Simpson had with ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson before she was killed in 1994: Sydney Simpson, 38, and Justin Simpson, 35. The family social media post asked “during this time of transition” for “privacy and grace.” “At first they shared good O.J. But still he was famous,” LaVergne said. “And then, in 1994 on, they kind of had to share bad boy O.J. with the world. But at the end of the day, these children just lost a father. And they have the added burden that he is one of the most famous people on the planet, and who is polarizing and who is surrounded by controversy.” LaVergne, who is handling Simpson’s estate, shared details of his final meetings with the former football hero, movie actor, sportscaster, television pitchman and celebrity murder defendant who he has represented since 2009. He deflected a question about any possible deathbed confession by Simpson as an attempt to steer “from somber to the sensationalism and the amusement.” He said Simpson’s body won’t be studied for the effects of chronic brain trauma from possible effects of blows to the head during his 11 years as a running back in the NFL. “Mr. Simpson, to my understanding, had expressed his wishes to his children,” LaVergne said. “And so they are going to act upon those wishes.” Simpson wanted to be cremated, the attorney said, and — pending a decision from his family — there was no immediate plan for a public memorial. “There’s only been tentative discussions of a celebration of life (or) ceremony,” LaVergne said. The attorney filed Simpson’s last will and testament in Nevada state court two days after his death, naming Simpson’s four children as the only beneficiaries of his estate. He said details of a family trust are yet to be filed. The attorney would not put a value on the estate, but said Simpson did not own a home in states where he had lived — including Nevada, California and Florida. He said accounts were still being tallied. Simpson famously was acquitted of criminal charges alleging he stabbed his ex-wife and her friend, Ronald Goldman, to death in 1994 in Los Angeles. Those proceedings in California in 1996 became known as the “trial of the century.” Simpson was found liable for the deaths in 1997 by a California civil court jury. In Las Vegas, Simpson went to prison in 2008 for nine years after being found guilty of armed robbery in a 2007 encounter at a casino-hotel with two collectibles dealers. He lived a golf-and-country club lifestyle since his release from prison in October 2017, sometimes offering social media posts about sports and golf. His last message was Feb. 11: wearing a San Francisco 49ers jersey and predicting his old team would defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII. The Chiefs won. LaVergne acknowledged that Simpson died without paying the families of Simpson’s slain ex-wife and Goldman the bulk of a $33.5 million judgment they were awarded in the 1997 civil liability case. Attorney David Cook, representing the Goldman family, said Tuesday that he thought the judgment owed today, including unpaid interest, is more than $114 million. LaVergne said last week the Goldmans wouldn’t get a penny of Simpson’s assets, and then backtracked. He said Tuesday he believed the amount owed was more than $200 million. He said Simpson’s assets won’t amount to that. “They’re going to be invited to view my homework,” he said of the Goldman and Brown families. “I want to show them what I have with the caveat that if they believe something else is out there … they’re going to have to use their own attorneys, their own resources, to try and chase down that pot of gold.” ____ Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Arkansas lawmakers question governor’s staff about purchase of $19,000 lectern cited by audit
    on April 17, 2024 at 1:18 am

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday pointedly questioned Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ staff about the $19,000 purchase of a lectern that an audit says potentially violated laws on purchasing, property and government records. During a nearly three-hour hearing before the committee that requested the audit, the first-term Republican governor’s top aides faced skepticism from even some GOP lawmakers over the purchase of the lectern that has drawn national attention. “I don’t think the lectern’s worth $19,000 or $11,500,” Republican Sen. John Payton said. “But I do think the lesson learned could be worth far more than that if we would just accept the fact that it was bad judgement and it was carelessness.” The audit released Monday said the governor’s office potentially violated Arkansas laws on purchasing, state property and the handling of government records. Sanders’ office has disputed the audit’s findings, calling it deeply flawed. Judd Deere, Sanders’ deputy chief of staff, characterized the audit as a waste of taxpayer resources and said there was no mistake in the office’s handling of the purchase. Deere appeared alongside Cortney Kennedy, Sanders’ chief legal counsel. “This is not a mistake,” Deere told the panel. “The podium was a legitimate purchase.” The blue and wood-paneled lectern was bought in June with a state credit card for $19,029.25 from an events company in Virginia. The Republican Party of Arkansas reimbursed the state for the purchase on Sept. 14, and Sanders’ office has called the use of the state credit card an accounting error. Sanders’ office said it received the lectern in August. The total cost included $11,575 for the lectern, $2,500 for a “consulting fee,” and $2,200 for the road case. The cost also included shipping, delivery and a credit card processing fee. Republican Sen. Mark Johnson defended Sanders, though he said he would have recommended she have the state GOP pay for the lectern from the outset. “This particular procedure should not be politicized,” he said. Sanders, a Republican who served as press secretary for former President Donald Trump, has dismissed questions about the lectern as a “manufactured controversy,” and the item has not been seen at her public events. “We can all agree that $19,000 was spent on an item, and no one has really seen it,” Republican Rep. Julie Mayberry said, calling the lectern “a complete waste of money if no one is using it.” Sanders intends to start using the lectern now that the audit is completed and hadn’t because she didn’t want it to be a distraction, Deere said. Deere initially told Mayberry that the lectern had been available for any media outlet to view, even though Sanders’ office has denied requests by multiple media outlets. The only known media picture of the lectern before Tuesday had been a photo the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran on its front page last year after Sanders’ office allowed the paper to see it. When The Associated Press asked to see the lectern last year, the governor’s office sent an official photo of it instead. Asked about those requests, Deere later said it hadn’t been available for outlets to view since the audit began. The AP and other outlets were able to view and take photos of the lectern at the Capitol after Tuesday’s hearing. Deere said the governor doesn’t plan on again using the three out-of-state vendors involved in the lectern’s purchase. Auditors said the vendors did not respond to repeated requests for answers to questions about the lectern’s purchase. The legislative audit said Sanders’ office potentially violated state law by paying for the lectern before it was delivered and not following steps laid out in Arkansas law for agencies to dispose of state property. Sanders’ office has argued that the purchasing and property laws the audit cites don’t apply to the governor and other constitutional officers. Two officials from Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office, which issued a nonbinding legal opinion days before the audit making the same conclusion, also appeared before the panel. The audit also said Sanders’ office potentially illegally tampered with public records when the words “to be reimbursed” were added to the original invoice for the lectern only after the state GOP paid for it in September. Sanders has disputed the finding and called such notes a common bookkeeping practice. Democratic Rep. Tippi McCullough, the House minority leader, asked Deere why Sanders posted a video shortly after the audit was released Monday that featured the lectern, a snippet of a Jay-Z song and the words “Come and Take It.” “It kind of felt like spiking the football before we’d been through the whole process,” McCullough said. Deere said the video was shot by a member of Sanders’ staff on his own time and that no taxpayer money was used to produce the video. “It’s a tongue-in-cheek video, that’s all it is,” he said. Legislative Auditor Roger Norman told the panel auditors are in the early stages of a second audit that was requested last year into travel and security records that were retroactively made secret under changes to the state’s open-records law that Sanders signed last year. Norman did not say when that audit is expected to be completed. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Trump to meet with Polish president Duda as NATO leaders call for additional support for Ukraine
    on April 17, 2024 at 12:19 am

    NEW YORK (AP) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday in New York. The planned dinner meeting, confirmed by a person familiar with the matter, comes as European leaders prepare for the possibility that Trump might win the November election and return to the White House. Leaders of NATO countries are especially concerned given Trump’s long history of critical comments about the key western alliance, even after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine, is a NATO member. Duda, a right-wing populist whose term ends in 2025, has encouraged the United States to send additional funding to Ukraine to combat Russian aggression. Trump has spoken out against such funding, but in a possible shift late last week, the Republican presidential candidate said he may support additional funding if it was in the form of a loan. Trump is in New York this week for the beginning of his criminal hush money trial, which has dramatically limited his campaign movements. He is now the first former president in U.S. history to stand criminal trial. Republicans in Washington, meanwhile, are fighting amongst themselves over a massive foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other allies. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement has been especially critical of the Ukraine funding, a position in line with the GOP’s softening stance on Russia since Trump’s rise in U.S. politics. Trump has long praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling his invasion of Ukraine “smart” and “savvy.” In February, he sent shockwaves across the globe after recounting during a rally that he had told NATO members who didn’t spend enough on defense that he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to them. He reiterated that threat days later. Such a move would undermine Article 5, which states that an armed attack against one NATO member or more shall be considered an attack against all members. Another NATO member and key proponent of supporting Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, met with Trump at the former president’s Florida estate earlier in the month ahead of a visit with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Russia’s European allies have courted Trump as well. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, an autocrat who has maintained the closest relationship with Russia among all European Union countries, met privately with Trump last month. ___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Plumbing problem at Glen Canyon Dam brings new threat to Colorado River system
    on April 17, 2024 at 12:18 am

    ATLANTA (AP) — Plumbing problems at the dam holding back the second-largest reservoir in the U.S. are spurring concerns about future water delivery issues to Southwestern states supplied by the Colorado River. Federal officials recently reported damage to four tubes known as “river outlet works” at Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah-Arizona border. The dam is responsible for generating hydropower and releasing water stored in Lake Powell downstream to California, Arizona, Nevada and eventually Mexico. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the major dams in the Colorado River system, is evaluating issues related to Glen Canyon Dam when Lake Powell reaches low levels. Those issues include problems with the four tubes such as sedimentation and cavitation — when tiny air bubbles develop while water passes through plumbing. Cavitation can cause tears in metal and other mechanical damage. The Colorado River provides water to seven U.S. states, nearly 30 Native American tribes and two states in Mexico. Years of overuse by farms and cities, and stubborn drought worsened by climate change has meant that much less water flows today through the 1,450-mile (roughly 2,336-kilometer) river than in previous decades. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which store water and are used for recreation and power generation, serve as barometers of the Colorado River’s health. In recent years, they have fallen to historic lows then recovered somewhat thanks to above-average recent winter precipitation and water conservation. The structural problems at Glen Canyon Dam, first reported by the Arizona Daily Star, could complicate how federal officials manage the river in years to come when hydrologists and others predict Lake Powell will fall below current levels. The damaged tubes sit below much larger ones known as penstocks that normally carry the reservoir’s water. The smaller tubes that make up the “river outlet works” allow water releases at lower reservoir levels. Lake Powell currently sits at about 32% capacity. Brenda Burman, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, a 336-mile (541-kilometer) canal system that delivers Colorado River water to Arizona’s cities, raised the issue at a meeting last month related to the river. “We received some difficult news from the Bureau of Reclamation,” Burman said, adding that CAP would be working with Reclamation to investigate the problems in coming months. JB Hamby, chairman of the Colorado River Board of California, said the dam’s design leaves open the possibility that huge amounts of water could be stranded in Lake Powell under low elevations. He said an engineering solution would be the best way forward because other options could involve additional water cuts to states. Doug MacEachern, communications administrator at the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said his agency was working with Reclamation to see “what, if any, technical fixes might exist.” If federal officials can’t repair the tubes, MacEachern said his agency expected Reclamation to not place the burden of more water cuts solely on Arizona, California and Nevada, which make up the river’s so-called Lower Basin. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming form its Upper Basin. Separately, states and tribes that rely on the Colorado River are working on a long-term deal to share the dwindling resource after current rules and guidelines governing how its water is divvied up expire in 2026. Environmental groups for years have cautioned that water levels at Lake Powell could reach a point where Glen Canyon dam can no longer be used for hydropower or release water downstream. “What’s at risk?” said Kyle Roerink, executive director of environmental advocacy group Great Basin Water Network, of the recent discovery at Glen Canyon Dam. “The water supply for 25 million people and major agricultural producers.” ___ The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy. The AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment Brought to you by www.srnnews.com