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Three Big Things
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Jacksonville harbor deepening project receives $17.5 million in federal funding

Jacksonville harbor deepening project receives $17.5 million in federal funding

The years-long push to deepen the Jacksonville harbor appears to be making progress.   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is putting $17.5 million toward the project in its work plan, marking the first federal dollars committed to the project.   JAXPORT board chairman Jim Citrano explains why that's so significant.   'Since this is the first federal dollars going into the project, it pretty much ensures that the federal government believes in the project, has confidence in it, and will continue to fund it,' says Citrano.   The $17.5 million is designated for the initial phase of the project, which will ultimately deepen the shipping channel to 47 feet.   That additional depth is required to accommodate today's larger ships from Asia.   Citrano says, 'The whole Eastern coast of the United States, particularly in the Southeast, below Norfolk, is going to start to receive shipping traffic from the Pacific Rim that hasn't been able to come here before.'   According to a release from the Jacksonville Port Authority, JAXPORT has recorded an average of 21 percent year-over-year growth in Asian cargo volumes during each of the past five years. With this initial funding, Citrano says the project can begin later this year or early 2018.

JSO: Two taken into custody, following SWAT standoff on the Westside

JSO: Two taken into custody, following SWAT standoff on the Westside

A suspect wanted for attempted murder and robbery is in custody, following an hours-long SWAT standoff on the Westside.   The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says they were trying to serve a warrant at around 11:00 am, at the Quality Inn on Commonwealth Avenue, after getting information the suspect was at the hotel.   But when officers tried to make contact with the suspect, he barricaded himself in a room, prompting the SWAT team to respond.   'We did have information, we believe, there was a second individual in the room, so we took that into consideration with everything that was going on,' says Christian Hancock, Public Information Officer with JSO.   Eventually, SWAT was able to breach the door and both the suspect and a female in the room were taken into custody, without any further issues.   We're told the two will be questioned and interviewed.   At this point in the time, neither of their names have been released. JSO says it’s not clear if the woman will face any charges or if she was a bystander. 

Appeals court deals blow to Trump administration travel ban

Appeals court deals blow to Trump administration travel ban

President Donald Trump's revised travel ban 'speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination,' a federal appeals court said Thursday in ruling against the ban that targets six Muslim-majority countries. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that blocks the Republican administration from temporarily suspending new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit is the first appeals court to rule on the revised travel ban, which Trump's administration had hoped would avoid the legal problems that the first version encountered. In all, ten of the thirteen judges who heard the case voted against the Trump administration. The Supreme Court almost certainly would step into the case if asked. The justices almost always have the final say when a lower court strikes down a federal law or presidential action. Trump could try to persuade the Supreme Court to allow the policy to take effect, even while the justices weigh whether to hear the case, by arguing that the court orders blocking the ban make the country less safe. If the administration does ask the court to step in, the justices' first vote could signal the court's ultimate decision. A central question in the case before the 4th Circuit was whether courts should consider Trump's past statements about wanting to bar Muslims from entering the country as evidence that the policy was primarily motivated by the religion. Trump's administration argued the court should not look beyond the text of the executive order, which doesn't mention religion. The countries were not chosen because they are predominantly Muslim but because they present terrorism risks, the administration said. The government's 'asserted national security interest ... appears to be a post hoc, secondary justification for an executive action rooted in religious animus and intended to bar Muslims from this country,' wrote the chief judge of the circuit, Roger L. Gregory. 'Congress granted the president broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute,' Gregory wrote. 'It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation.' The first travel ban in January triggered chaos and protests across the country as travelers were stopped from boarding international flights and detained at airports for hours. Trump tweaked the order after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate the ban. The new version made it clear the 90-day ban covering those six countries doesn't apply to those who already have valid visas. It got rid of language that would give priority to religious minorities and removed Iraq from the list of banned countries. Critics said the changes don't erase the legal problems with the ban. The Maryland case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center on behalf of organizations as well as people who live in the U.S. and fear the executive order will prevent them from being reunited with family members from the banned countries. 'President Trump's Muslim ban violates the Constitution, as this decision strongly reaffirms,' said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, who argued the case. 'The Constitution's prohibition on actions disfavoring or condemning any religion is a fundamental protection for all of us, and we can all be glad that the court today rejected the government's request to set that principle aside.' ___ Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin Richer in Richmond, Virginia, and Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.

The years-long push to deepen the Jacksonville harbor appears to be making progress.   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is putting $17.5 million toward the project in its work plan, marking the first federal dollars committed to the project.   JAXPORT board chairman Jim Citrano explains why that's so significant.   'Since this is the first federal dollars going into the project, it pretty much ensures that the federal government believes in the project, has confidence in it, and will continue to fund it,' says Citrano.   The $17.5 million is designated for the initial phase of the project, which will ultimately deepen the shipping channel to 47 feet.   That additional depth is required to accommodate today's larger ships from Asia.   Citrano says, 'The whole Eastern coast of the United States, particularly in the Southeast, below Norfolk, is going to start to receive shipping traffic from the Pacific Rim that hasn't been able to come here before.'   According to a release from the Jacksonville Port Authority, JAXPORT has recorded an average of 21 percent year-over-year growth in Asian cargo volumes during each of the past five years. With this initial funding, Citrano says the project can begin later this year or early 2018.
A suspect wanted for attempted murder and robbery is in custody, following an hours-long SWAT standoff on the Westside.   The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says they were trying to serve a warrant at around 11:00 am, at the Quality Inn on Commonwealth Avenue, after getting information the suspect was at the hotel.   But when officers tried to make contact with the suspect, he barricaded himself in a room, prompting the SWAT team to respond.   'We did have information, we believe, there was a second individual in the room, so we took that into consideration with everything that was going on,' says Christian Hancock, Public Information Officer with JSO.   Eventually, SWAT was able to breach the door and both the suspect and a female in the room were taken into custody, without any further issues.   We're told the two will be questioned and interviewed.   At this point in the time, neither of their names have been released. JSO says it’s not clear if the woman will face any charges or if she was a bystander. 
Warm ocean waters could fuel an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, while storm-suppressing El Nino conditions are expected to be scarce, U.S. government forecasters said Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast calls for 11 to 17 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes. Two to four hurricanes are expected to be 'major' with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. Forecasters expect warmer-than-average waters across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker-than-average wind shear and a weak or nonexistent El Nino, said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. El Nino is the natural warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide and tends to reduce hurricane activity in the Atlantic. Warm waters feed a hurricane's strength, while strong wind shear can starve it and pull a storm apart. While climate models show considerable uncertainty, 'there's a potential for a lot of Atlantic storm activity this year,' Friedman said. The long-term season averages are 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three major ones. Tropical storms have sustained winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph), and hurricanes have winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph). A new weather satellite will help forecasters see developing storms in greater detail, especially when it moves later this year into a permanent position over the East Coast with a view over the continental U.S. and tropical waters where hurricanes form, Freidman said. 'Its 'lightning mapper' allows us to see lightning in the clouds like we've never seen before,' he said. High-resolution hurricane model upgrades also are expected to provide 'much improved' forecast guidance this year, said Mary Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service. Officials urged coastal residents to make evacuation plans and stock up on emergency supplies long before any tropical weather advisory is posted. The National Hurricane Center in Miami is adding advisories highlighting specific storm hazards: Storm surge watches and warnings will be issued when U.S. communities are at risk for life-threatening flooding. The 'uncertainty cone' showing a storm's projected path will be updated to show how far damaging winds can reach. An experimental 'time of arrival' graphic will show people when tropical storm-force winds are expected to start hitting their areas. 'Key data will be available earlier than ever to make informed decisions,' said Robert Fenton, acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The six-month Atlantic storm season officially starts June 1. A rare April tropical storm formed this year over the open ocean: Arlene, which was no threat to land. The next tropical storm will be named Bret. The 2016 hurricane season also started early with a January hurricane. It was the first above-normal season since 2012, with 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Five storms made landfall in the U.S. last year, including hurricanes Hermine and Matthew.
Firefighters are picking up where they left off before storms rolled into the area this week.  The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge says Wednesday was a slow day operationally on the fire because thunderstorms restricted firefighting efforts.  In the latest update from fire officials, the West Mims Fire is still 65% contained and has burned over 152,000 acres.  The storms from Tuesday and Wednesday, provided only a lull in fire activity. The entire fire received at least one inch and a half of rain on Wednesday.  According to the incident fire behavior analyst, the fire is still burning deep underground.  Peat and large trees can retain heat from the existing fire or new lightning strikes, and a few inches of rain will bit put the fire out.  The fire activity could increase with the return of dry air and temperatures in the 90’s expected this upcoming weekend.  But for now, fire officials say the West Mims Fire is quiet. 
We’ve turned clear, breezy, and much less humid following a true soaker on Wednesday.  NE Florida saw 100% rain coverage with 2-6’’ of rain.  Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says three-day totals were as much as 8-10’’ of rain in isolated spots. “The entire month of May averages about 2.6 inches so there are a number of spots that had at least their average May rainfall yesterday and in some cases far more than that, especially when you combine those three-day totals”, said Buresh.  Temps will become the story today and Friday. With lower humidity it’s going to feel quite comfortable with afternoon temps in the mid-80’s today, and upper 80’s on Friday.  Overnight temps are expected to fall below 60.  Listen for a big warm-up for Memorial Day Weekend in the Mike Buresh weather podcast. 
The CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project is speaking to Action News Jax about the results of a government investigation into the organization. Sen. Chuck Grassley started looking into the charity after investigations revealed lavish spending. The new Wounded Warrior Project's CEO Michael Linnington wanted to discuss the changes they've made and talk about a few findings in Grassley's report that he disagrees with. But beyond that, he said he's ready for the organization to put this behind them and move forward with helping veterans. Jacksonville National Cemetery needs help laying flags on graves 'It was what I needed,' said Army veteran William Tatakamotonga. 'It was something I'd never be able to do on my own.' It's veterans like Tatakamotonga that Linnington is focused on following a year-long investigation by Grassley. 'Opening our books to the Senator's investigative team and really explaining to them what we do and how we can improve,' Linnington said. Grassley's nearly 500-page report was released Wednesday. In the report, Grassley credits Wounded Warrior Project for working with him and changes the organization made following reports of lavish spending and questions about how money was spent on veterans. 'We made it a point to be more transparent and accountable this year,' Linnington said. But Grassley said more needs to be done, including better informing the public of its goals. Grassley pointed out an ad that said the organization spent $65.4 million dollars on long-term support programs. Grassley said that money was just transferred to a trust and not spent on veterans. Middleburg woman arrested for 'making out' with 14-year-old boy 'The senator's report does not agree with the fact that that is a program expense. We think it is,' Grassley said. But regardless, Linnington said they're focused on improving and moving past the investigation and getting back to the veterans they serve. 'Our logo speaks to what our mission is. It's about honoring and empowering our nation's wounded warriors,' Linnington said. Grassley released the following statement: 'It's good news that the Wounded Warrior Project used negative findings to try to turn itself around. Some high profile charities do the opposite when confronted with problems. They hunker down instead of embracing their responsibilities to the people who are meant to benefit from their charitable mission, the donating public and the taxpayers. It's the taxpayers who forgo revenue to the federal Treasury to make tax-exempt organizations possible. The Wounded Warrior Project is right to recognize why it exists and what it needs to do to restore the public's trust.' Click here to read Grassley's report. Wounded Warrior Project released the following statement addressing the report's findings: 'We appreciate Senator Grassley and his team working together with us on this comprehensive memo, and we share in his optimism about Wounded Warrior Project's future in service to those who have given so much for our country.'Throughout the process, our team has had multiple conversations with Senator Grassley's staff, including in-person meetings, and provided detailed written information. As noted in the memo, we've been forthcoming and transparent in providing information about Wounded Warrior Project, how donor dollars are invested, and how we deliver programs to those we serve. 'Over the last year, as the report outlines, we've made significant changes to ensure that we are focused on running the most efficient, effective organization possible. We've brought in new leadership at the CEO level, consolidated positions on the executive team, made alterations and new appointments to the Board of Directors, updated our travel and expense policies, and adjusted our programs and services to focus on mental health care, long-term support, and areas that allow warriors to connect with their communities. 'We respectfully disagree with the memo's assessment of the Long Term Support Trust. Currently no government program exists that allows severely wounded warriors to continue to live in familiar settings and receive care should they lose their caregiver. The Trust dedicates funds for the future to ensure care will continue so they can maintain their independence, instead of being placed in a nursing home or other institution. We remain firmly committed to serving the long term needs of those most critically injured, and we follow all IRS and accounting rules in reporting on this program. 'We also respectfully disagree with the memo's conclusion on the percent of donor funds spent on program services for warriors. As the memo itself makes clear, we calculate this percentage based on accounting rules and IRS requirements. We are confident that we are putting donor dollars to good use serving warriors, family members, and caregivers. 'We look forward to another impactful year of helping our wounded warriors and families. We're humbled to be recognized as a top charity operating with transparency by the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator and GuideStar.
Federal appeals court keeps Trump travel and refugee order on hold

In another legal setback for President Donald Trump, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals refused on Thursday to lift an injunction against his revised travel and refugee order, preventing the White House from suspending new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries, as this decision took another step on the way to a likely showdown on the matter at the U.S. Supreme Court.

As in earlier rulings, the judges cited the President’s own words calling for a “Muslim ban,” ruling that the order was basically an effort to target “Muslims for exclusion from the United States.”

“These statements, taken together, provide direct [More]

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