01-30-2023  7:45 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Oregon BIPOC Caucus Calls for Action to Support Victims of Gun Violence

The Legislative Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus has released the following statement in response to the tragedy at Half Moon Bay, CA that left seven dead and one person wounded, all of whom were people of color

Democrats Voice Priorities for Coming Year in the Capitol

Highlights from the Democrats 2023 legislative agenda. 

Colorado Lawmakers Look to AI to Detect Wildfires Earlier

A historic drought and recent heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight in the American West and scientists say warming weather will continue to make fires more frequent and destructive.

Justices Weigh Effort to Balance Washington State's Tax Code

Washington is one of nine states without an income tax, and its heavy reliance on sales and fuel taxes to pay for schools, roads and other public expenses falls disproportionately on low-income residents.

NEWS BRIEFS

Oregon State Celebrates Black History Month With a Series of Events

Free events highlight the achievements and perseverance of Black and African American communities from the past to the present. ...

Word is Bond Announces Second Annual In My Shoes Walking-tour Project for Black History Month

Tours run February 4 through February 25, 2023 in King, New Columbia, Vancouver, Woodlawn, Goose Hollow, Montavilla, Parkrose, and...

Oregon Graduation Rate Rises With Gains Made In Every Student Group

Class of 2022 graduation rate is second highest In Oregon’s history ...

City Council Approves 13 to Independent District Commission

The commission will lead the effort to establish four new geographic districts for Portland’s next city council. ...

Incorporating Mindfulness Into Social Justice Classes Topic of Feb. 8 Oregon State Science Pub

The free event, which can be attended in person or viewed online, will feature a presentation by Kathryn McIntosh. She will discuss...

Name of Seattle officer in crash that killed woman released

SEATTLE (AP) — Police have released the name of a Seattle police officer who was responding to a medical call when his patrol SUV hit and killed 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula last week in a city crosswalk. Seattle Police Department Detective and spokesperson Judinna Gulpan confirmed...

Kidnap suspect released day he arrived at Nevada prison

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody in October 2021 by Nevada prison officials on the same day he was transferred to the state’s custody to serve a kidnapping sentence, authorities said...

Knight, Illinois State take down Southern Illinois 72-66

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Seneca Knight scored 24 points and Kendall Lewis secured the victory with a jump shot with 37 seconds remaining as Illinois State took down Southern Illinois 72-66 on Sunday. Knight shot 6 for 8, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range, and 9 of 10 from the free...

Deen scores 21 to lead Bradley to 83-76 victory over UIC

CHICAGO (AP) — Duke Deen had 21 points to lead Bradley to an 83-76 win over Illinois-Chicago on Sunday. Deen shot 5 for 10 from the floor (4 for 6 from 3-point range) and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line for the Braves (15-8, 8-4 Missouri Valley Conference). Malevy Leons added 19...

OPINION

It's Time to Irrigate the Fallow Ground of Minority Media Ownership

In 2023, one aspect of civil rights and racial justice that barely remains addressed is racial inclusion in media ownership. ...

A Letter to Residents of N. and N.E. Portland from Commissioner Susheela Jayapal

Susheela Jayapal, Multnomah County Commissioner for District 2, North and Northeast Portland, reviews her first four-year term and looks forward to her second term ...

Are Black Individuals Like Kanye West, Van Jones, and Stephen A. Smith ‘Perpetrating a Fraud,’ or is Self-Hate a Primary Motivator for Anti-Blackness

“So, you have two types of Negro. The old type and the new type. Most of you know the old type. When you read about him in history during slavery he was called ‘Uncle Tom.’ He was the House Negro.”-Malcolm X ...

We Need Not Forgive

We need not forgive racial injustices in America’s past, and we must never forget them. But as a nation, we can reconcile. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Trustees picked by DeSantis may change progressive college

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — “Your education. Your way. Be original. Be you.” That's how New College of Florida describes its approach to higher education in an admission brochure. The state school of fewer than 1,000 students nestled along Sarasota Bay has long been known for its...

State of emergency declared over Atlanta 'Cop City' protest

ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency Thursday, giving him the option of calling in the Georgia National Guard in response to a violent protest in downtown Atlanta over the killing by authorities of an environmental activist said to have shot a state trooper. ...

Jury rejects lawsuit filed by family of teen killed by cop

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal jury has found that a white Ohio police officer did not violate a Black teenager's civil rights when he shot and killed the boy while responding to a reported armed robbery. Jurors reached their verdict Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by Tyre King’s...

ENTERTAINMENT

New this week: Shania, 'Princess Power' and Pamela Anderson

Here’s a collection curated by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists of what’s arriving on TV, streaming services and music and video game platforms this week. MOVIES — If you haven’t managed to catch “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” yet, the...

Review: Making of 'The Way We Were' is a rich, gossipy tale

“The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen” by Robert Hofler (Citadel) Most people seem to like their screen romances a little on the sad side. When the American Film Institute listed its top romantic...

Amina Luqman-Dawson’s 'Freewater' wins John Newbery Medal

NEW YORK (AP) — For years, Amina Luqman-Dawson made time to write a children's book she calls her "little quiet project," a historical adventure about a community of escaped slaves that she completed while raising a son and working as a policy consultant and researcher on education and domestic...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Florida GOP leaders want to get rid of gun permits

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Saying gun owners don't need a government permission slip to protect their God-given...

Dems urge Biden to halt aid to Peru over protest crackdown

MIAMI (AP) — A group of House Democrats is urging the Biden administration to suspend all U.S. security...

Trump investigations: Georgia prosecutor ups anticipation

ATLANTA (AP) — Former President Donald Trump and his allies have been put on notice by a prosecutor, but the...

Turkey favors approving Finland's NATO bid before Sweden's

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey could greenlight Finland’s membership in NATO before that of Sweden, if the...

Germany pledges 2 million for Brazil environment, Amazon

SAO PAULO (AP) — German development minister Svenja Schulze announced Monday that her government will make 204...

Dolphins, humans both benefit from fishing collaboration

A fishing community in southern Brazil has an unusual ally: wild dolphins. Accounts of people and...

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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MLK Breakfast 2023

Photos from The Skanner Foundation's 37th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast.