The latest local news

The student loan debt is $1.6 trillion and people are struggling to pay it down

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(CNN) — The student loan burden in the US is about $1.6 trillion and rising, mostly because people have barely made a dent in paying down their loans.

That’s according to a report released Thursday from credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service. While higher college enrollment rates and rising tuition costs used to the main reason for growing student loan balances, the report states that slow loan repayments have recently become the primary driver.

“Over the next few years, the combination of slow repayments and elevated, if no longer growing, levels of new borrowing will likely fuel further increases in outstanding debt,” the authors of the report write.

In recent years, the number of students enrolled in higher education has declined and the cost of attending college has stabilized relative to people’s incomes, Moody’s analysts said. But borrowers have been slow to pay back their debt, meaning student loan balances will keep growing over the years.

Over the past decade, the aggregate annual net student loan repayment rate — meaning the amount of existing balances eliminated each year — has averaged about 3%, according to the Moody’s report.

Only 51% of federal borrowers who were scheduled to start paying back their loans in 2010 to 2012 had made any progress after five years, the report said. Students who attended all types of institutions have struggled with loan payments, although people who attended for-profit or two-year institutions have had a particularly tough time. Many of them haven’t paid down their balances at all.

Why repayment has been slow

There are several reasons that people have been slow to repay their student loans.

For one, the job prospects for many graduates of for-profit, two-year and non-selective four-year schools aren’t great, making it hard to earn the income needed to pay back loans and otherwise stay afloat. Some students don’t complete their programs or receive degrees.

Another reason that Moody’s cites for slow repayment is a rise in income-driven repayment plans, which can lower monthly loan payments based on their incomes and the size of their families and make paying back those loans more affordable.

“As you can imagine, the monthly payment will be lowered to reduce their monthly obligation but at the same time that keeps the loan outstanding for much longer and the repayment rate is going to be much slower,” Nicky Dang, senior vice president/manager at Moody’s, told CNN.

Finally, more people are opting for extended repayment plans, meaning that they plan to pay back their loans on a longer schedule. Only about a quarter of balances are currently being repaid on 10-year or shorter terms, the report said.

Many people are on longer repayment plans because they cannot afford traditional loan payments, although analysts believe others are opting to pay back loans on a longer schedule by choice, Warren Kornfeld, senior vice president at Moody’s, told CNN.

Student loans affect other areas of life

Student debt was the fastest growing type of household debt in the US in the last decade, and it’s now the second largest household debt category after home mortgages, according to Moody’s.

About two in three college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2018 had student debt, according to the most recent data from the Institute for College Access and Success. Those borrowers owed an average of $29,200.

“The growth in student loans has slowed in recent years as states have invested more in public colleges, but millions of students continue to struggle with their debts,” Debbie Cochrane, executive vice president of the organization, said in a statement at the time.

The student loan debt burden, Moody’s analysts said, is “weighing on household finances and the broader economy.”

Having student loan debt affects whether a person can access other forms of household credit, including whether they are able to save for a down payment on a home, qualify for a mortgage or start a small business — all of which drive economic growth and wealth creation.

Section of River Drive to be limited to one lane each direction starting Monday until March

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DAVENPORT, Iowa — Quad City drivers will want to be aware of a traffic change that is about to occur on River Drive and last for over a month.

Weather permitting, there will be a traffic change on River Drive starting Monday, January 20th. River Drive will be down to one lane in each direction between Perry and East 3rd streets for installation of a new sewer line. Traffic will be head-to-head in the two north lanes.

 Work is estimated to be complete by Monday March 2, pending weather and subsurface conditions.

How lawyer Alan Dershowitz plans to defend Trump during the impeachment trial

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(CNN) — Alan Dershowitz, a recent addition to President Donald Trump’s legal team, said Sunday that he plans to revive an 1868 argument used during former President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial when he is arguing on behalf of Trump on the Senate floor.

Dershowitz said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would be paraphrasing former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Curtis, who served as the chief counsel during Johnson’s impeachment, in saying the framers of the Constitution intended for impeachable conduct to mean “criminal-like conduct.”

Dershowitz said he will argue that because the House charges do not include criminal conduct, there is no need for witnesses. If this reasoning prevails, he said, there would not be any reason for any further witnesses or arguments.

“(Curtis) argued successfully to the Senate that criminal-like conduct is required. That argument prevailed. I will be making that argument as a lawyer on behalf of the President’s defense team against impeachment. That’s my role. It’s very clear. I have done it before,” Dershowitz, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, said.

Dershowitz’s argument hinges on the consideration by the Senate that neither of those charges qualify as “criminal-like conduct.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the two articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate last week, charging the President with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate trial is slated to begin on Tuesday, where Republicans and Democrats are expected to battle over a resolution setting the rules for the trial and shortly after start opening arguments.

Dershowitz also argued on ABC’s “This Week” that both obstruction of Congress and abuse of power are not within the constitutional criteria for impeachment as set forth by the founders. The Constitution says presidents can be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” but it does not define “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

In his testimony to Congress in December, Harvard Law School constitutional law professor Noah Feldman said the phrase means “abuse of the office of the presidency for personal advantage or to corrupt the electoral process or to subvert the national security of the United States.” Under this opposing definition, the President’s conduct does not have to be criminal to be impeachable.

Dershowitz on Sunday made it clear that he would not be involved in the day-to-day with the legal team — noting that he will just be there to argue the specific issue of constitutional criteria for impeachment, making “what could be the most important argument on the floor.”

The President was especially fixated on having controversial defense attorney Dershowitz on the legal team. But Dershowitz has been telling his own associates he didn’t want to participate in the President’s trial, a source who is familiar with these conversations told CNN. White House officials have applied a lot of pressure over the last several weeks to convince Dershowitz to join the team, sources familiar with the attorney’s appointment said.

On Sunday, Dershowitz told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that he didn’t think his past clients — notable names like Jeffrey Epstein, former President Bill Clinton or O.J. Simpson — would affect his ability to make a persuasive argument to the Senate.

“I have defended some of the most controversial people in American history … I am very proud of my role as a defense lawyer. I did nothing wrong in any of those cases,” Dershowitz s

River Action putting on 6-month-long series of environmental films and documentaries

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DAVENPORT, Iowa — River Action has announced the slate of films making up its 2020 Environmental Film Series.

The series consists of 6 films and documentaries shown over the course of 6 months about environmental challenges, conservation, and other topics related to environmentalism.

The films are being shown on select Sundays from at 4 p.m. in the Figge Art Museum in Davenport from January to May. Admission for adults is $5, while the student price is lower at $2. A $20 season pass granted admission to all 6 screenings is also available for $20.

The film series schedule is as follows:

For move trailers, information, and tickets, visit If you have any questions, River Action recommends that you give them a call at (563) 322-2969.

Annual Icestravaganza crowds brave the cold for alien-themed sculptures

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DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Cold and icy conditions didn't stop people from visiting Davenport's Freight House to experience...more ice.

The 8th annual Icestravaganza was held at Davenport's Freight House beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 19th and lasting until 4 p.m. This year, sculptures followed the theme of "Aliens and are 51", so the sculptors turned 24,000 pounds of solid ice blocks into flying saucers, little green men, and other extraterrestrial designs.

Other than the sculptures, the winter festivities included games, crafts, and story readings courtesy of the Davenport Public Library. Attendees also got to meet the Quad City Storm's mascot, Radar, and practice a hockey trick shot.

As fitting as the weekend's cold weather is for a winter festival, the extremely low temperatures and icy roads could have been a huge dampener on Icestravaganza's attendance, but according to Downtown Davenport Partnership Events Director Jason Gilliland, the crowds were still quite strong and he was happy with the turnout.

Following the festivities' end at 4 p.m., a 21-and-over afterparty was help from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon completes fiery emergency escape test ahead of first astronaut mission

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(CNN) — After months of anticipation, SpaceX’s new crew-worthy spacecraft, Crew Dragon, reached its last major milestone in a years-long testing program. The success paves the way for astronauts to begin using the spacecraft for rides to the International Space Station this year.

The capsule was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:30 am ET on Sunday. About 84 seconds after liftoff, Crew Dragon intentionally ejected itself from the rocket to simulate how it would carry passengers to safety if something goes awry during launch.

Sunday’s launch came after bad weather on Saturday forced a 24-hour delay.

SpaceX CEO and chief engineer Elon Musk on Twitter called the in-flight abort test a “risky mission” that’s “pushing the envelope in so many ways.”

SpaceX’s test appeared to go exactly as intended Sunday. The Falcon 9 rocket shut off its engines after climbing more than 10 miles above ground at supersonic speeds. At the same time, the Crew Dragon capsule detached itself and fired up its own set of engines for a about ten seconds to thrust the vehicle up and away from the rocket.

Crew Dragon then used onboard thrusters to orient the vehicle as it fell back toward Earth. Two sets of parachutes slowed its descent before it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are designed to be reusable, and the one used Sunday already made three trips to space. But for the purposes of the test, the rocket was intentionally destroyed after Crew Dragon executed its emergency abort, erupting into a ball of fire mid-air. Recovery crews will work to recover as much of the debris form the vehicle as possible.

A successful emergency abort test will mark a significant win for SpaceX. There is still some testing left to do, such as additional checks on the vehicle’s parachute design, Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, said during a press briefing Friday. But officials can now work to finish the long-awaited verification process that will deem Crew Dragon ready for its first mission with astronauts on board.

The next step will be for SpaceX and NASA to closely review the data collected by the in-flight abort test, including information collected by two sensor-clad test dummies that rode aboard Crew Dragon Sunday. They’ll help determine what type of G-forces astronauts would experience during such a launch abort

NASA asked the private sector to develop crew-worthy spacecraft to replace the Space Shuttle program after it was retired in 2011. SpaceX was allotted $2.6 billion and Boeing was awarded $4.2 billion in 2014, and the space agency initially predicted their vehicles would be ready to fly astronauts by 2017. But development of both spacecrafts took years longer than expected. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia billions of dollars for American astronauts to ride aboard Russia’s Soyuz capsules.

Though the US space agency paid the companies to develop their vehicles, Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are privately owned and operated. So, unlike previous human spaceflight programs, NASA will essentially be a customer for the companies during their missions.

Boeing suffered a setback when its Starliner spacecraft malfunctioned during an orbital test flight in December, and it’s not clear when the vehicle will be ready for crewed missions.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, however, appears to be on track for a crewed mission in the near future now that it’s completed the emergency abort test. Final certification could happen in the coming weeks.

The capsule has already demonstrated it can fly into orbit and autonomously dock with the International Space Station: It completed an uncrewed demonstration mission in March 2019.

And it previously conducted a ground test of its emergency abort system, which saw Crew Dragon blast itself off a launch pad to simulate how it could fly crew away from a malfunctioning rocket if something goes wrong in the minutes before takeoff.

The company suffered a significant setback shortly thereafter, however, when a Crew Dragon capsule exploded during a ground test of the vehicle’s emergency abort engines. SpaceX worked for the past nine months to address that issue and to finetune Crew Dragon’s parachute design.

Lueders said that system has so far performed “very well” during additional tests.

Boeing will not conduct a test analogous to SpaceX’s in-flight abort test. Lueders said Friday that each company is allowed to design their own testing programs, and “each of them have their pros.”

“As long as it’s meeting our overall strategy, we allow the flexibility for each of the providers to propose what [testing] makes sense for their systems,” she said.

Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management, said during a press conference earlier in the week that demonstrating Crew Dragon’s ability to escape a rocket during a mid-air emergency was important to SpaceX — particularly after an emergency abort of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft saved the lives of two astronauts after a rocket malfunctioned in 2018.

The next major milestone for Crew Dragon is DM-2, the codename for the first test mission that will allow astronauts on board.

It will mark NASA’s first human spaceflight mission in nearly a decade and the first-ever crewed mission for SpaceX in its 18-year history.

Two NASA astronauts are selected to be Crew Dragon’s first passengers: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both of whom are former military test pilots and veterans of space shuttle missions.

USDA proposes allowing ‘more flexibility’ in school lunches

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(CNN) — The US Department of Agriculture on Friday announced two new proposals that would give school nutrition professionals “more flexibility” in what they serve to students.

The Washington Post reports the proposals would allow schools to reduce the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfast, and would let schools sell more burgers, pizza and french fries.

The move appears to be the latest attempt by the Trump administration to roll back federal nutrition standards that were championed by former first lady Michelle Obama. The USDA’s school lunch announcement came the same day as Obama’s birthday.

A news release from the agency provided few specifics about the proposed changes, but says the agency would allow schools to offer “more vegetable varieties,” “customize meal patterns” and “adjust fruit servings.” About 30 million students get school meals every day.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement, “Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals. We listened and now we’re getting to work.”

Colin Schwartz, deputy director of legislative affairs for Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Post that the rules “would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, french fries and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day.”

The proposals would allow schools to offer potatoes as a vegetable every day, according to the Post. They would allow schools to reduce the amount of fruit included in breakfasts served outside of the cafeteria from one cup to a half cup, according to the Post. The rest of the calories could be replaced with pastries and granola bars, the newspaper reports.

CNN has reached out to USDA for more specifics on the proposed changes.

THIS WEEK: Republicans look to cut Iowa income tax this year

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa's Governor is calling for another cut in income taxes in the state, just two years after lawmakers approved the biggest income tax cut in state history.

"I'm proposing to cut income taxes by an additional 10% for almost every Iowan, with lower-income Iowans receiving as much as a 25% cut," said Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during her Condition of the State address before lawmakers in Des Moines.

It comes as Iowa is seeing a strong economy, despite farmers dealing with falling commodity prices and issues associated with international trade that weren't resolved until the start of 2020.

"Our state is in a very good fiscal state," said Iowa State Sen. Chris Cournoyer, a Republican from LeClaire.

"We have a balanced budget, we have full cash reserves, and we're looking at an estimated $490 million surplus for the current fiscal year," said Sen. Cournoyer during WQAD's "News 8 This Week with Jim Mertens".

State Sen. Chris Cournoyer also talks about health care in Iowa, her top priorities, and abortion legislation in the NEWS 8 THIS WEEK EXTRA found at the WQAD Jim Mertens Facebook page.

Under the governor's plan, Iowa will try to reduce property taxes as well in an effort to ease the tax burden on residents and to attract more people to live in the state.

But the governor is also proposing a one cent increase in the sales tax to help pay for those cuts in income and property taxes.

"Well, the Devil's in the details," said Sen. Cournoyer.

"I think a discussion on continually easing the tax burden on Iowans is always on the forefront of the Republican's minds," she said.

Sen. Cournoyer says her top 2020 priority is dependable state funding of Iowa schools.

She also says as vice chair of the Senate's Education Committee she also hopes to deal with behavioral issues in schools including the controversial "room clearing" tactic where teachers clear a classroom of students if one student becomes uncontrollable.

"Schools should be a safe place for students and teachers alike."

Sportscast January 18, 2020

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Illinois holds off in state rival Northwestern 75-71.

Rock Island needs overtime to beat Lincoln 54-53 in a battle of top 10 ranked teams.

45th Geneseo Wrestling Invitational has several local grapplers going for gold.

Iowa stays perfect this season in wrestling as they beat Nebraska 26-6.

Bitter cold brings “booms” and low wind chills

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The snow has finally come to an end, but the strong winds will continue with us for the rest of the night. Those gusty winds combined with falling temperatures in the single digits below zero tonight into Sunday morning will create low wind chill values. A Wind Chill Advisory is in place for the entire Quad Cities region until noon Sunday.

A quick recap of snowfall totals across the region shows many locations picked up between 2 and 6 inches of snow. Most of this fell during the early evening Friday before a layer of ice formed thanks to freezing rain. This icy layer actually saved us from blowing and drifting snow as the strong winds moved in this afternoon. Our neighbors to the north though were not as lucky. Road conditions continue to remain poor north of the Quad Cities where a little more light snow fell this afternoon. Those conditions will slowly improve by Sunday morning.

The Arctic front that moved through early this afternoon brought a dramatic temperature change with it as we went from 30s to now the single digits in just a matter of hours. We've already received a couple reports of loud booms, likely frost quakes. Water that is in the ground has rapidly frozen and expanded with these much colder temperatures. That expansion is what causes the loud "boom" that you hear. We will likely get a few more reports of these tonight.

Wind chill values will likely dip close to if not exceed 25 degrees below zero tonight into Sunday morning. We won't see much improvement during the day either as strong winds continue and highs are limited to the single digits above zero. This will keep wind chills in the 10 to 15 degree below zero range for much of the day. If you are going to be outside, make sure and cover any exposed skin. Frostbite can occur in less than 30 minutes with these conditions present. These low wind chill values will stick around through at least Monday afternoon before the winds really begin to ease up. Tuesday will also see huge improvements as we get rid of the strong winds.

Some warmth will begin to return by Wednesday of next week as the Arctic air mass modifies some. Of course, we'll have a brand new weather system to track around this time as well. Look for a rain and snow mix to return as early as Wednesday evening.

Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke

A 14-year-old girl was kidnapped by three men and used Snapchat to alert her friends, police say

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(CNN) — A 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped in Northern California used Snapchat to share her location with her friends, who then called 911, police said.

The girl met Albert Thomas Vasquez, 55, in Capitola on Tuesday, the San Jose Police Department said in statement.

Vasquez gave the girl drugs and she became incapacitated, police said. He called two other men — 34-year-old Antonio Quirino Salvador and 31-year-old Hediberto Gonzalez Avarenga — to help move the girl in their vehicle.

Vasquez then sexually assaulted the girl in the vehicle, police said. The men drove the girl to a motel in San Jose, where they carried her to a room on the second floor and Vasquez sexually assaulted her again, police said.

While in the hotel, the girl used the Snapchat app on her phone to tell her friends that she had been kidnapped, but didn’t know where she was, police said. Her friends determined her location through the app and called 911.

Once police arrived, they found Vasquez leaving the motel room with the girl inside. He was arrested on charges of kidnapping to commit rape, digital penetration with a child under 14 with force, false imprisonment, lewd act with a child and rape by intoxication or controlled substance.

The two other men — Salvador and Avarenga — were arrested Wednesday on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy, police said.

Snapchat is a social media app that allows users to communicate with others through instant pictures and videos. Friends on the app can choose to share their locations with one another if the app is open, according to Snapchat developers.

CNN has not been able to determine whether the men have attorneys.

Crowds turn out for the 4th annual Women’s March, and 2020 election issues are front and center

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(CNN) — Donning their iconic pink knit pussyhats, women and their allies are gathering Saturday across the United States for the fourth annual Women’s March.

In Washington, where the main event is being held, participants — many toting tough-worded signs — gathered in Freedom Plaza and planned to march around the White House in a symbolic blitz of President Donald Trump, whose election and inauguration prompted the first Women’s March in January 2017.

“We are so angry and channeling that rage into empowering our communities, into coming out and engaging our communities in a powerful way so that this administration can come to an end,” Isa Noyola, a Women’s March board member, told CNN.

“Our communities,” she said, “our powerful women deserve so much more.”

In New York, marchers gathered in Columbus Circle and listened to speeches and performers who echoed the Women’s March organization’s broad swath of principles, like protecting reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, immigrant rights and environmental justice, among others.

Among the speakers there was Evelyn Yang, the wife of presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Yang this week told CNN she was sexually assaulted by her OB-GYN while she was pregnant with their first child.

“You might have heard that I’m standing here today also as a survivor of sexual assault,” she told the crowd. “There are far too many of us.”

Yang described discovering that other women had also been assaulted and the doctor got a plea deal that allowed him to register as the lowest-level sex offender. The doctor’s attorney has denied Yang’s allegations in legal filings.

“I wish I could say this was an isolated case, a freak example of injustice, but unfortunately it is not,” she said. “Far too many women in our society are harmed and hurt and then betrayed and betrayed again by the institutions that are meant to protect us.”

Marches were held in other cities, too, like in Syracuse, New York, where Melanie Nappa participated. She told CNN that she was at the march in part because of her daughters, one of whom will be able to vote for the first time this year. They carried signs with messages like, “Public cervix announcement: no uterus, no opinion.”

“The Trump administration,” Nappa said, “in its attempts to restrict and roll back safeguards for women and marginalized populations requires engagement and social activism.”

The Women’s March organization has suffered from growing pains since its first show of force in 2017.

Controversy and allegations of anti-Semitism surrounding its founders eventually led to three of them stepping down from the board last year. They had denied the allegations. The Women’s March then appointed 17 new leaders to the board.

4 killed, 1 wounded in Utah shooting

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(CNN) — Four people were shot to death at a residence in Grantsville, Utah, according to police.

A fifth person also was shot Friday night and is in the hospital. The suspected shooter is in custody.

Investigators are confident there was only one shooter and there is no further danger to the community, said police Cpl. Rhonda Fields.

Fields could not immediately release the ages or names of the victims or suspect. She would not say whether any of those involved were related to each other. Fields says they are still working to notify the family members of the victims.

Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted his condolences to the victims’ families. “Our hearts are broken by the horrible news coming out of Grantsville tonight,” he said. “We mourn over the loss of innocent lives.”

Grantsville, a town of about 11,000 people, is about 35 miles southwest of Salt Lake City in Tooele County.

Virginia House Republican leader to hate groups: ‘You are not welcome here’

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(CNN) — The Virginia House Republican leader said anyone spreading “white supremacist garbage” is not welcome in Richmond after a state of emergency was declared because of threats surrounding a gun rights rally planned for Monday.

“Any group that comes to Richmond to spread white supremacist garbage, or any other form of hate, violence, or civil unrest isn’t welcome here,” Todd Gilbert said Saturday in a statement.

Federal authorities arrested a number of suspected neo-Nazis around the country this week out of concern that they were planning violent acts at Monday’s gun rights rally in Richmond, a senior FBI official said Friday. Seven men accused of belonging to a white supremacist group called The Base were arrested this week in separate raids in Delaware, Georgia, Maryland and Wisconsin, according to authorities.

“House Republicans reject any attempt by any group to infuse any kind of twisted or extreme worldview into this fundamentally democratic exercise,” Gilbert’s statement continued. “So there’s no mistake, this is my message to any group that would subvert this event: you are not welcome here.”

“While we and our Democratic colleagues may have differences, we are all Virginians and we will stand united in opposition to any threats of violence or civil unrest from any quarter,” Gilbert said. Gilbert represents the 15th district in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency this week after law enforcement learned of the threats and that out-of-state militia groups and hate groups are expected to attend the rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Firearms and other weapons have been banned on state Capitol grounds.

The threats, which are considered credible by law enforcement, come from mainstream channels and alternative dark web ones used by violent groups and white nationalists from outside of Virginia, according to Northam. The governor added “the conversations are fueled by misinformation and conspiracy theories.”

Northam said the state of emergency will be in place from Friday evening to Tuesday evening. The firearm ban includes open and concealed firearms and other weapons like sticks, bats and chains, according to the emergency declaration order.

A Richmond Circuit Court Judge denied the application for a temporary injunction of Northam’s executive order banning guns at Monday’s rally, which was filed by Gun Owners of America Inc., the Virginia Citizens Defense League, and three private individuals.

House Democrats make their case for removing Trump from office

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(CNN) — House Democrats on Saturday released their argument for why President Donald Trump should be removed from office by the Senate in the upcoming impeachment trial.

The Democrats filed to the Senate their trial brief, a summary explaining why the House passed two articles of impeachment last month charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“President Trump’s conduct is the Framers’ worst nightmare,” the managers wrote in the brief.

“President Donald J. Trump used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain, and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress’s investigation into his misconduct,” the managers wrote in the brief. “The Constitution provides a remedy when the President commits such serious abuses of his office: impeachment and removal. The Senate must use that remedy now to safeguard the 2020 U.S. election, protect our constitutional form of government, and eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security.”

The brief is the first of multiple filings that both the House and the President’s lawyers will submit in the coming days ahead of the substantive start of the trial on Tuesday. The President’s response to the articles of impeachment, which is separate from the response to the trial brief itself, is due at 6 p.m. EST on Saturday.

The legal filings are the paper version of the arguments that will play out on the Senate floor starting next week, as the chamber is transformed from legislative body to courtroom. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is presiding over the proceedings, and the Senate is being adjusted for the trial, including adding the ability to play audio and video, normally forbidden in the chamber.

House Democrats charge that Trump abused his office by withholding $400 million in security aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine while pressuring Kiev to open investigations into the President’s political rivals. Then, they say, he obstructed the congressional investigation of his misconduct with an unprecedented blockade of House subpoenas to Trump administration agencies and officials.

The President’s legal team is expected to file a brief Saturday evening charging that the impeachment articles are “constitutionally invalid on their face,” according to sources close to the legal team. The sources said the response will argue that the abuse of power article alleges no violation of law and said does “lasting damage to the separation of powers,” and that Trump was within his rights to ignore invalid requests from Congress during the impeachment inquiry.

The Senate will return Tuesday by passing a resolution outlining the rules of the impeachment trial, which is expected to be approved only with Republican votes.

The text of the resolution has not been released. But it’s expected to punt the question of calling witnesses until after opening arguments and senators’ questions, while including an opportunity to vote on whether the Senate should have witnesses. Senate GOP leaders are also considering condensing the number of days for opening arguments, according to sources familiar with the matter, splitting the 24 hours given to each side into two, 12-hour days instead of four, six-hour days that were used during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial.

House Democratic aides said they would be watching for any deviation from the Clinton precedent, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he’s following, including the number of days for arguments. By shortening the number of days for arguments, it helps Senate Republicans speed up the trial with the President’s State of the Union address looming on February 4.

A Senate GOP aide argued that Senate Republicans have “every right to make this shorter rather than longer.

“There are only two counts and not exactly a mountain of evidence. Certainly, not the evidence that was compiled in Watergate and ’98,” the aide said.

But a fight over logistics of the trial is just an opener for the larger fight over whether there will be witnesses in the trial. Senate Democrats have called for four witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and they’ve pointed to the new documents provided to the House by indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas as evidence the trial should have witnesses and additional documents.

A source involved in discussions said that the Senate is expected to have at least one closed session Tuesday while senators debate the rules. When that happens, everyone has to leave the chamber, including the House managers and the President’s defense team, the source said. The Senate goes into closed session during the impeachment trial because senators are jurors and are not allowed to speak during the trial.

The seven House impeachment managers, led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, are returning to Washington Sunday to prepare for the trial, according to Democratic aides. The managers will do a walk-through of the Senate chamber on Monday.

The aides said much of the paperwork, arguments and other materials for the trial have already been drafted by staff who have been working on the preparations over the past month. They plan to continue to “refine it” over the weekend, one of the sources said.

The President’s legal team will respond to the House’s brief by 12 p.m., ET Monday. The House will then have the chance to counter to the President’s trial brief by 12 p.m., ET on Tuesday. Separately, the House has a deadline of 12 p.m., ET on Monday to respond to the President’s answer to the impeachment articles that’s due Saturday evening.

Plane skids on taxiway at Quad City International Airport due to poor conditions

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MOLINE, Illinois -- Passengers aboard Delta flight 4241 were in for a shock Saturday afternoon when the plane slid on the taxiway.

According to Quad City International Airport, the plane was taxiing on the tarmac just after 1 p.m. The flight was carrying dozens of passengers and crew headed for Detroit, Michigan.

The airport says that it had accurately reported poor conditions on the taxiways, while the runways were clear and in good condition.

Metrolink responded to the scene to transfer passengers from the aircraft back to the terminal. No injuries were reported.

The airport says it is continuously clearing ice from last night’s storm. High winds are also being reported. This may lead to additional delays so the airport is urging passengers or those waiting for arrivals to contact their airline directly for more information.

Just after 1 pm, an outbound Delta flight slid while taxiing. No injuries were reported. The airport accurately reported poor conditions on the taxiways. MetroLink responded to transfer passengers to the terminal. Runways remain in good condition.

— qcairport (@qcairport) January 18, 2020

Scientists seek rare species survivors amid Australia flames

WQAD News -

This December 2019 photo provided by Guy Ballard shows a male brush-tailed rock wallaby eating supplementary food researchers provided in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park in New South Wales, Australia.

Much of Australia is still ablaze in an unprecedented wildfire season that has already charred an area the size of Kentucky.

Scientists fear that some of Australia’s unique and colorful endangered species may not recover.

Now they are looking for surviving representatives of rare species including the kangaroo-like brush-tailed rock wallabies, and helping threatened creatures get enough food and water in recently scorched forests.

Koalas are not now in imminent danger of extinction, but scientists worry that the iconic marsupial’s habitat has been greatly reduced by wildfires.

FILE – This early January 2020 photo provided by Dana Mitchell from the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park shows a rescued koala injured in a bushfire in Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

More than one billion animals have been killed in the Australian bushfires, according to one estimate.

University of Sydney professor Christopher Dickman told NPR that “there’s nothing quite to compare with the devastation that’s going on over such a large area so quickly.”

Scientists say climate change is making massive wildfires more common.

This 2017 photo provided by David Stowe shows a female regent honeyeater in Capertee National Park, New South Wales, Australia.


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