08-12-2022  11:14 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Lottery Misses Mark on Minorities’ Fair Share

The Oregon Lottery’s most recent advertising slogan is “Together, we do good things”. But when we look at where the profits are coming from and where any potential benefit from lottery profits flow to, is this really true? 

Court Sides With Governor Kate Brown Over Early Prison Releases

Two attorneys took particular issue with Brown’s decision to allow 73 people convicted of murder, assault, rape and manslaughter while they were younger than 18 to apply for early release.

Ballot Measure to Overhaul City Government Promises Minority Representation While Facing Controversy

The Portland Charter Commission aims to bring city in line with how other major U.S. cities do local governance. 

White Woman Calls Police on Black Man Standing at His Home

“If you guys have a lease, I’d just like to see the lease,”

NEWS BRIEFS

Seattle Hospital to Refuse Some Patients Due to Capacity

The hospital is caring for some 560 inpatients, more than 130% of its licensed capacity of 413 patients. ...

West Seattle Bridge to Reopen After Yearslong Closure

The 40-year-old bridge is among the city’s most important, previously allowing 100,000 drivers and 20,000 transit users to move...

Jefferson Alumni Invites Community to Block Party

This inaugural event is open to the public and will have tons of entertainment in tow, including a live DJ and music, a rib contest,...

Oregon Approved to Issue an Additional $46 Million in Pandemic EBT Food Assistance to 80,000 Young Children

The additional food benefits will be issued to families’ existing EBT cards in Fall 2022, with the exact dates yet to be...

Free Vaccination Events Provide Required Back-to-School Immunizations

On or before the first day of instruction, all K-12 students in Washington state must be up to date on vaccinations required for...

Idaho Supreme Court won't block strict abortion bans

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's strict abortion bans will be allowed to take effect while legal challenges over the laws play out in court, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled Friday. The ruling means potential relatives of an embryo or fetus can now sue abortion providers over procedures...

Inslee issues directive outlining monkeypox virus response

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a directive to the Washington State Department of Health outlining additional steps to address the rise in monkeypox cases. In his Friday directive to state health officials, Inslee called the disease an “evolving...

OPINION

No One Ever Told You About Black August?

Black America lives in a series of deserts. Many of us live in food deserts, financial deserts, employment deserts, and most of us live in information deserts. ...

Betsy Johnson Fails to Condemn Confederate Flags at Her Rally

The majority of Oregonians, including our rural communities, value inclusion and unity, not racism and bigotry. ...

Monkeypox, Covid, and Your Vote

We must start a voter registration drive right here where we live. This effort must become as important to us as putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. ...

Speaking of Reparations

To many Americans, “reparations” is a dirty word when applied to Black folks. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Kansas district rejects strategic plan urging diversity

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas school district's board rejected a proposed strategic plan after some members questioned its emphasis on diversity and students' mental health. The Derby Board of Education voted 4-3 this week to reject a plan presented after months of work by parents,...

Two years on, foundations stand by issuing bonds in pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) — When the Ford Foundation took the unprecedented step in June 2020 of issuing jumi billion in debt to help stabilize other nonprofits, it delighted investors and inspired several other large foundations to follow suit. Two years later, the foundations all stand by...

Cuomo: Taxpayers should pay sexual harassment legal bills

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants taxpayers to foot his legal bills as he defends himself against a workplace sexual harassment claim — and he's suing the state's attorney general over it. Cuomo filed the suit against Attorney General Letitia James on...

ENTERTAINMENT

Review: Post Malone concert doc is all flash, no substance

NEW YORK (AP) — There's a moment in Post Malone’s new concert film when its star confesses to how surreal his life has become: “Sometimes I feel like I’m not a real person.” Fans will get no clarity on that astounding statement after watching Amazon's “Post Malone:...

Jerry Hall, Rupert Murdoch reach agreement on divorce

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Model and actor Jerry Hall and media mogul Rupert Murdoch have agreed to the terms of their pending divorce, her attorney said Thursday. Hall filed a request in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday to dismiss her original petition for divorce from Murdoch,...

Planet Drum unites global percussionists in common rhythm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Grammy-winning group of the world’s top percussionists has reunited after 15 years on a new record that aims to bring the world together in rhythm and dance. Planet Drum’s new record “In The Groove,” out now, features drummers from very different...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Amazon's Ring, MGM to launch show from viral doorbell videos

NEW YORK (AP) — Two Amazon-owned companies — Ring and Hollywood studio MGM — are teaming to create a TV show...

Gunman in Montenegro kills 10, then shot dead by passerby

CETINJE, Montenegro (AP) — A man went on a shooting rampage in the streets of this western Montenegro city...

Voter groups object to proposed Nevada hand-counting rules

RENO, Nev. (AP) — As officials in some parts of rural Nevada vow to bypass voting machines in favor of hand...

Portugal: EU eyes Iberia-Italy pipeline to get gas to Europe

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — European authorities are considering a liquefied natural gas pipeline from Spain to...

South Korea to pardon Samsung's Lee, other corporate giants

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung's de-facto leader secured a pardon Friday of his conviction for bribing a...

Oil shipments from Russia resume to Czechia

PRAGUE (AP) — Oil shipments from Russia through a critical pipeline to Czechia resumed Friday after more than a...

Lawrence Messina and Vicki Smith the Associated Press


President Obama with Linda Davis at a 2010 memorial service for miners lost at Upper Big Branch
 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The new owners of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 men were killed in an explosion agreed Tuesday to pay a record $210 million to cover fines, compensate victims' grieving families and improve underground safety.

It is the biggest settlement ever reached in a U.S. mine disaster.

Under the deal, Alpha Natural Resources - which acquired the mine's owner, Massey Energy, earlier this year - will not be charged with any crimes in the April 2010 blast at the Upper Big Branch mine as long as the company abides by the settlement, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said. But the agreement does not prevent individual employees from being prosecuted.

"No individuals are off the hook," Goodwin said, adding that federal prosecutors are still investigating.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, meanwhile, was expected to brief the victims' families and the media Tuesday on its final report on the cause of the disaster, the nation's deadliest mining accident in 40 years. Federal investigators have blamed the blast on a combination of methane gas, a buildup of explosive coal dust and broken or malfunctioning equipment.

Criminal charges in the disaster have been brought against only one person so far: the mine's security chief at the time of the blast, Hughie Elbert Stover. A federal jury convicted him last month of lying to investigators and trying to destroy mine records. He is awaiting sentencing in February.

The settlement includes $46.5 million in criminal restitution to the miners' families, $128 million for cutting-edge mine-safety improvements, research and training, and $35 million in penalties for years of safety violations at Upper Big Branch and other mines operated by Massey.

Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield said the company cooperated fully with authorities and believes the agreement represents "the best path forward for everyone."

"We're particularly pleased that a substantial portion of the settlement is going towards furthering miner safety, which has always been Alpha's guiding principle," Crutchfield said. "We're mindful that the Justice Department investigation arose from a terrible tragedy which took the lives of 29 miners. Our thoughts will always be with the fallen miners and our sympathies with their families."

The $46.5 million in restitution aims to guarantee that the families of the 29 dead miners and two co-workers who survived the explosion each receive $1.5 million. Eighteen families of deceased miners have filed wrongful-death lawsuits, and eight of those already have settled with Massey. Nine other employees have sued, claiming emotional distress because of the explosion.

Those who accept the payout still can pursue lawsuits over the disaster, but the $1.5 million would be deducted from any future settlement or jury award.

For the families, the deal is about half of what Massey initially offered. Within a month of the blast, the daughter of one dead miner told The Associated Press that Massey was offering $3 million to each of the families.

One victim's mother was furious that a deal had been struck.

"I have no intentions of settling with these people that have killed my son," said Patty Quarles, whose son Gary Wayne was among the victims. "They need to be put in jail."

Virginia-based Alpha will invest $48 million in a mine safety research trust and spend an additional $80 million to improve safety at all of its underground mines with the latest technology and equipment. The upgrades include sufficient workers and gear to coat mines with crushed limestone to dilute the coal dust created during mining.

The cutting-edge improvements also include digital sensors that continuously monitor air flow and methane levels; meters to measure coal dust levels; and emergency oxygen equipment, similar to what firefighters rely on, that would give miners an uninterrupted supply of air while trying to escape from an underground accident.

"This in several ways is a revolutionary resolution," Goodwin said. "We wanted it to be something constructive and forward-looking."

The settlement will also fund a West Virginia laboratory capable of testing technology under conditions that would be too dangerous to allow in actual mines.

In addition, Alpha agreed to review all its underground mines and correct any problems within 90 days.

Preliminary reports on the disaster by state and federal investigators have said that poorly maintained cutting machines caused a spark that ignited a small amount of naturally occurring methane and a huge buildup of coal dust. Malfunctioning water sprayers allowed what could have been a small flare-up to become an epic blast that traveled seven miles of underground corridors, doubling back on itself and killing men instantly.

The United Mine Workers union said last month that conditions were so dangerous that Massey executives and managers should be prosecuted for "industrial homicide."

A disappointed and angry Clay Mullins, whose brother Rex died in the mine, said he was frustrated that all the money Alpha will spend under the settlement "basically benefits them and MSHA. It doesn't help the families."

Mullins said he and his family want to see criminal charges brought against executives at Massey, not just against low- and mid-level managers.

"It was an act of murder," he said. "They murdered 29 men, and I'm not satisfied one bit."

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Vicki Smith contributed to this story from Beckley, W.Va.

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