Disaster aid bill facing a tricky path as it heads to Senate

WASHINGTON — A battle over funding for Puerto Rico is complicating the path forward for a long-delayed disaster aid bill that’s a top political priority for some of President Donald Trump’s Republican allies as it heads to the Senate floor this week.

At stake is $13.5 billion emergency relief legislation to help southern farmers, rebuild hurricane-damaged military bases, repair water systems, and assist victims of last year’s California wildfires, among other purposes.

The measure has wide backing from both Democrats and Republicans and is perhaps most ardently backed by Trump loyalists such as David Perdue, R-Ga., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who face potentially difficult re-election fights next year.

The White House, however, isn’t pleased with the bill and is particularly opposed to efforts by Democrats to make hurricane relief to Puerto Rico more generous. Senate Republicans are supporting food aid to the devastated island and are working with top Democrats like Patrick Leahy of Vermont to try to speed passage of the measure by adding additional help for Puerto Rico.

The House passed a companion $14.2 billion version of the legislation in January, but it got tangled up in the politics of the partial government shutdown and Trump’s demands for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The measure is especially sought by lawmakers from southern states like Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, which were hit by hurricanes Michael and Florence last year. There’s money to respond to an earthquake in Alaska, California wildfires and floods in South Carolina, and for the ongoing recovery effort in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017.

And now there’s widespread flooding in Nebraska, Iowa and other Midwestern states.

In an official position paper in January, the White House said the House bill was far too generous, objecting to almost $6 billion worth of the measure. But it stopped …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

Team to probe crash of Coast Guard ship at Victoria’s Ogden Point

VICTORIA — An independent investigation will try to determine why the Canadian Coast Guard’s newest ship, the Sir John Franklin, struck the Ogden Point breakwater on Friday.

Tim Page, vice-president of government relations for Seaspan Shipyards, said an initial review found the 206-foot vessel has damage to its propeller and its rudder, and has a dent on the port side toward the stern just above the water line. Seaspan built the Sir John Franklin.

It’s not known how the incident will affect the delivery of the Sir John Franklin. The damage has to be fully assessed, said Page.

On Friday, Brian Cant, spokesman for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, which owns the breakwater and Ogden Point, checked on the breakwater with the organization’s director of infrastructure after the collision.

Damage to the breakwater above the water line is “really superficial,” he said. The collision happened about 100 metres from the lighthouse. A dive team will look at the underwater portion on Monday, he said.

The ship struck and destroyed recently installed bird nesting boxes. No birds had been using the nesting boxes, which were mounted on a piece of plywood fixed to the breakwater.

The vessel was built by Seaspan Shipyards in North Vancouver and launched in December 2017 before being brought to Victoria.

The Sir John Franklin was the first large vessel designed and built under the federal National Shipbuilding Strategy and is the first of three fisheries science vessels being built by Seaspan.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

…read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

Richmond’s ‘Topgroep uit Canada’ releases its debut album … 53 years after it was recorded

Until recently, The Centaurs were one of those classic 1960s garage-rock bands that seemed lost to time.

“All that is known about The Centaurs is that they came from The Hague,” said the liner notes to compilation of Dutch bands from the “psychedelic sixties,” Flight to Lowlands Paradise. “Their only single came out on Polydor in 1967.”

The band did live in The Hague in the ’60s, but they were actually from Richmond, B.C.

After forming in 1964, the quintet played most every type of local gig you can imagine. They opened for movies at the Lougheed Drive-In, attracted 1,400 teenagers to the Peach Bowl in Penticton and were headliners at Vancouver’s first psychedelic hotspot, The Afterthought.

But they grew frustrated at being a garage-rock band in a rhythm and blues town. So in November 1966 they moved to Europe.

In Holland they were billed as the “Topgroep uit Canada,” opened for The Troggs and had a hit single. In Germany, they were offered a residency at the Star-Club in Hamburg, where the Beatles had honed their craft.

“They said, ‘We’d like you to stay, we want you to play here like The Beatles — but we’re not going to pay you,’ ” recalls drummer John Gedak.

“We said, ‘Why?’ They said, ‘We will make you famous.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Well, we’re already famous. We have a hit record in Holland with Polydor, we’re booked there as Canada’s top band.’ ”

The band was in Europe 18 months before they got homesick and came back to Vancouver. Gedak stayed behind to play with a German band, and The Centaurs broke up.

The Centaurs smell the flowers in a 1967 shoot for Polydor Records. Standing, left to right: Ron Williams, Hugh …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

Department of Justice: Trump campaign did not coordinate with Russia in 2016

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation did not find evidence that President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller also investigated whether Trump obstructed justice, but did not come to a definitive answer, Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to Congress summarizing Mueller’s report.

But the special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice, Barr said.

Barr released a four-page summary of Mueller’s report Sunday afternoon. Mueller wrapped up his investigation on Friday, bringing to a close a probe that has shadowed Trump for nearly two years.

…read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News