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    Beyond the boarded-up buildings and patchwork fences that others view as eyesores, Huron Mayor Rey Leon sees potential in this tiny central California farm town that has been mired in poverty for decades. On a dirty restaurant wall, Leon envisions a mural depicting Bracero farmworkers, like his father who came from Mexico. In a dirt lot next to a soccer field, he imagines a rose garden. On fallowed land covered with weeds outside town, he pictures a park. Leon, 45, was a reluctant and unlikely leader for one of the state's poorest cities. Huron is home to a large Latino population where mostly seasonal work leaves 2 in 5 residents in poverty and only about a quarter of adults have high school degrees. He graduated from the local high school, earned a degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and spent the bulk of his career as a clean air advocate and champion of environmental justice in nearby Fresno before returning a couple of years ago. 'I came back home not because we have the good coffee shop, not because we have the nice plaza to hang out at or the trails to walk around, but because my community deserves that, and I want to make it exist,' Leon said. He credits his success partly to his mother for spending more time with him as the youngest of seven children and to two years in better elementary schools in Napa, north of San Francisco. Leon was the only Mexican student there, living with an aunt and uncle as his parents struggled in their marriage. He returned home and discovered later he was a 'Chicano nerd' with a curiosity for learning rather than following in the path of his older brothers. Several of them ended up behind bars. Several years ago, while working with his tiny nonprofit, The LEAP Institute — short for Latino Environmental Advancement & Policy Project — to identify transportation projects to improve Huron, Leon was approached about running for mayor. He declined. But when he moved back in 2016 to be closer to his aging parents, he realized that the projects he was advocating for — building bike lanes and creating a plaza as an outdoor meeting place — could be what he would work on as a city leader. He was elected in 2016 to a two-year term and is unopposed for re-election next month. He is paid $250 per month for the position that requires attending two City Council meetings a month. Leon's father died in the past year, and Leon now lives in the small house tucked behind the bar and restaurant that his father operated for decades. His main source of income comes from running his nonprofit, which has a program that shuttles retired farmworkers to doctor's appointments in electric vehicles. Leon wants to make Huron the greenest farmworker town, where people walk and ride bikes to get around and newly planted trees capture carbon emissions, but he has realistic goals. During a tour last month, he pointed to saplings he planted in front of houses desperate for shade, new LED lights that cut city electric bills and a soccer program to keep kids from joining two gangs. Leon, like mayors in Arvin and Stockton, represents a trend of homegrown activists becoming leaders in the San Joaquin Valley, where agriculture and oil industries have long influenced politics, said Caroline Farrell, executive director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, a group that provides legal assistance to poor communities and people of color. 'It's completely new to have somebody who has this kind of a vision,' Farrell said. 'Rey is really thinking about the just transition that needs to happen in the valley if we're going to be dealing with climate change and if we're going to be dealing with water issues and extreme heat and all of this.' ___ This report is part of a series on how California's struggles with soaring housing costs, job displacement and a divide over liberal policies are affecting the November election. See full coverage at: https://apnews.com/CaliforniaataCrossroads
  • Two years ago, a federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh considered filing a racketeering lawsuit against a Roman Catholic diocese over its handling of child sex-abuse complaints, but left office before he could make the bold move. However, a colleague in Philadelphia is now taking aim at the church this month, sending grand jury subpoenas to dioceses throughout Pennsylvania as he tries to build a federal criminal case centered on child exploitation. U.S. Attorney William McSwain of Philadelphia has a head start on the work, given the sweeping state grand jury report released this summer, which found that 301 priests molested more than 1,000 children over seven decades. McSwain, a Harvard Law School graduate and former Marine sniper platoon commander, was appointed by President Trump and took office just four months ago. 'It's a courageous move, whenever prosecutors take on something that there's no precedent for, that is uncertain. You're investing resources with potentially no return. But it needs to be done,' said David Hickton, the former U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh who looked at the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in 2016. All but one of the state's eight dioceses confirmed Thursday that they have received the federal subpoenas sent last week, and largely sounded willing to comply. McSwain, among other things, wants to know if any priests took children across state lines for sex; viewed child pornography; reassigned predators; or used church funds or assets to cover up sexual misconduct. He has demanded the church turn over files from any 'Secret Archives,' along with financial, personnel and treatment records. And he expects to take testimony from church leaders. 'This is the first time I have ever heard of a federal investigation into child sexual abuse in a Catholic diocese or church. This is a monumental moment for clergy sexual victims everywhere,' said Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston-based plaintiffs' lawyer who played a major role in uncovering the scandal in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002. There's no sign so far that the Justice Department plans a national investigation aimed at the church. Still, the federal government's intervention opens a new front of legal peril for the Catholic church, given that investigations into sexual abuse by clergy members have historically been handled exclusively by state and local authorities. Church officials across the state — in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, Allentown and Harrisburg — said on Thursday they would cooperate or were working with Justice Department officials. 'This subpoena is no surprise considering the horrific misconduct detailed in the statewide grand jury report,' the Greensburg Diocese said in a statement. 'Survivors, parishioners and the public want to see proof that every diocese has taken sweeping, decisive and impactful action to make children safer. We see this as another opportunity for the Diocese of Greensburg to be transparent.' It could be months before the grand jury hears testimony because of the time it takes to review the cache of requested documents. He wants to know if any priests, bishops, seminarians or others committed any federal crimes. McSwain also demanded that bishops turn over any evidence that anyone in their ranks instructed anyone not to contact police. The subpoenas seek documents related to the dioceses' organizational charts, finances, insurance and clergy assignments. A representative for McSwain declined to comment on Wednesday, as did a Justice Department spokeswoman. Two Eastern Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania — the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh — also acknowledged they are under investigation. 'I'm thrilled at hearing this information. We have the full weight and attention of the United States federal government investigating the Roman Catholic Church,' said Shaun Dougherty, 48, of Johnstown, who told authorities he was molested by a priest as a boy in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. While the subpoenas hint at possible charges of sexual exploitation of minors and fraud, legal experts said that if federal prosecutors can show that church leaders systematically covered up for child-molesting priests in the past five years, dioceses could also be charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, the law originally passed to bring down the Mafia. The nearly 900-page Pennsylvania grand jury report found that church leaders had engaged in a systematic cover-up by shuffling accused priests around to different parishes and in some cases working to prevent police investigations. Most of the complaints were decades old, and because of the statute of limitations, only two priests were charged as a result of the investigation. Many other priests are dead. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw the state probe, declined to comment on the federal investigation. In the wake of the report's release, Shapiro said at least a dozen states opened investigations of their own and more than 1,300 accusers contacted his office on a victims' hot line. The report also led to the resignation last week of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington. He was accused of helping to protect some child-molesting priests when he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. This week, the report triggered a showdown in the state Legislature, where lawmakers facing opposition from the church declined to give child-abuse victims a two-year window to sue in cases too old to otherwise file. The difficulty of making charges stick against higher-ups in the church was illustrated when the Philadelphia district attorney's office brought a landmark cover-up case in 2011 against Monsignor William Lynn, a longtime aide to two Philadelphia cardinals. Lynn, first U.S. church official ever prosecuted for the alleged cover-up of child molestation by priests, was arrested on child-endangerment charges. At trial, he said he had merely followed orders from above. A jury convicted him in 2012. He spent three years in and out of prison as his conviction was twice overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He is awaiting a third trial. ___ Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia and Marc Levy in Harrisburg also contributed to this report
  • A Georgia man accused of murdering his girlfriend two years ago is now out of jail after a shell casing led police to a very different suspect.  >> Read more trending news  Daniel Hall, then 22, was arrested in the 2016 shooting death of Kendra Roberts, 27, in Bibb County. Police say Roberts was found shot to death on the side of the road near Macon.  Hall spent two years in jail accused of Roberts’ murder. A man arrested in Clarkson days after the killing has now been charged with her murder. Police arrested Sterling Bell in Clarkston's Milam Park in 2016 for having a loaded gun in a public park. At the time, they did not connect him to Roberts’ murder, though he was arrested on an outstanding warrant.  Bell's gun was taken into storage while he was in jail. He never returned to pick up the weapon.  >> Trending: Disturbing video shows mom dunking baby's head under water Clarkson police recently went to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives to fire some 50 stored guns to see if any shell casings had the unique markings of casings found around crime scenes.  Police were able to link shell casings from Bell's gun to Roberts' murder. Bell was arrested Saturday. “Most people would think it is petty crime, or a petty offense, but it led to the capture of a potential murderer,' Clarkston police Sgt. Jason Elliot said.  According to federal documents, Bell has been treated by Veteran's Affairs and has a history of PTSD and homicidal and suicidal thoughts. He was charged with firing a gun in Pine Lake in 2015 and for shoplifting this year.  >> Trending: California surgeon, girlfriend charged with rape in 5 more drugging and assault cases Hall is now out of jail on bond. The D.A.'s office says his case has been postponed indefinitely, but is still under investigation. 
  • More than 30 people in Florida have sought medical attention after suffering a painful bite from a stinging caterpillar, known as the puss caterpillar, according to the Florida Poison Information Center. >> Read more trending news The center in Tampa said the victims were all attacked in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Polk counties. If a stinging caterpillar lands on you, use a piece of paper to remove the insect, instead of brushing it away. Although the sting may be painful, it isn't deadly. Some victims may need to visit an emergency room to be treated for the pain. The caterpillars, which tend to live in oak trees, are fuzzy, but they have a venomous spine that can burrow into skin. >> Related: Florida woman warns others after ‘excruciating' burn from venomous caterpillar If you are stung by one of these creatures, contact FPIC at 800-222-1222 to receive first aid tips and to learn how to remove the venomous spine without visiting a doctor.
  • A tractor-trailer hauling 2,500 piglets overturned Wednesday night on Interstate 75 in Huber Heights, Ohio, on an exit ramp, spilling some of the animals on the freeway. >> Read more trending news  Some of the piglets escaped, but most remained inside the trailer, authorities said. some of the animals were injured or killed in the crash, but it was not known how many, Sgt. Dallas Root of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Dayton Post said. “We’re going to get a secondary truck here to unload it,” Root said, and then the piglets will be transferred to the second trailer. The sergeant said alcohol and drugs were not suspected in the crash. “I would say speed could have something to do with it,” Root said. >> Related: Driver of piglets loses license in U.S. 35 crash The freeway was shut down at one point after the accident and again when a second truck arrived to transport the surviving animals.
  • Missing relatives and worries that looters are just outside the door. Dirty clothes. Hours-long lines for gasoline, insurance adjusters, food and water. No power, no air conditioning, no schools, no information and little real improvement in sight. Daily life is a series of fears and frustrations, both large and small, for thousands of people living on the edge, more than a week after Hurricane Michael flattened thousands of square miles in the hurricane zone of the Florida Panhandle. Erin Maxwell waited in line for fuel for more than an hour Thursday at a gasoline station that never opened. 'I'm tired and want to go to sleep. I don't want to wait in another line,' said Maxwell, eyes closed and her head tilted back on the seat. Meanwhile, husband Mickey Calhoun fretted over the fate of his mother, Anita Newsome, 74. The retired sheriff's deputy was last seen when officers took her to a hospital the day before Michael made landfall, her son said. 'We can't find her or get word anywhere,' said an exasperated Calhoun, 54, wearing stained khaki pants and a dingy towel draped around his neck. A few miles away, 70-year-old Ed Kirkpatrick and his 72-year-old wife, Sandra Sheffield, huddle together in a splintered mobile home surrounded by fallen pine trees. A noisy generator powers the old box fan blowing warm air across their den. They're both afraid to leave because of widespread reports of looting. The man, a diabetic who has a big scar down the middle of his chest from heart surgery, needs medical attention and ice to refrigerate his insulin, said Sheffield, who has a pacemaker. But getting out in traffic takes hours and precious fuel, she said, and looters could show up at any time. 'I don't want to go anywhere because I know I'm safe here,' said Sheffield, burying her head in a twisted towel to cry. Michael slammed into Florida's Panhandle with 155 mph winds on Oct. 10 and retained hurricane-force winds deep into southern Georgia, also affecting the Carolinas and Virginia. Florida authorities on Thursday say the storm killed 24 people in the state, bringing the overall death toll to at least 34. With power still out in much of the Panhandle and thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged by Michael, almost nothing is normal. Even simple tasks are difficult or impossible. Driving times are doubled or tripled because roads are clogged with police and fire vehicles, utility trucks, returning residents and people seeking help. Lines are long outside a discount store where more than two dozen insurance, financial services and cellphone companies have set up in a temporary village of open-sided tents erected on asphalt. Unseasonably warm temperatures in the 80s are adding to the misery because so few people can cool down with air conditioning. Bottled water is plentiful at roadside aid stations; ice is another matter. Spotty cellphone service leaves those most vulnerable with little information to help them get by. Residents in Panama City eagerly ask for information about what happened about 20 miles away in devastated Mexico Beach, and for tips on finding pharmacies, coin-operated laundries and stores that might sell batteries to power flashlights with fading beams. Kelli Ladik is living with four daughters and her husband in a camper parked outside their bayside home, which has severe water damage from rain that poured in when the roof failed. Ladik is so, so tired of the grime. 'We need running water more than anything. To be able to shower after a full day of cleaning would be great,' said Ladik. Her kids, three of whom are school age, are all out of class and it's unclear when classes might resume. Some school buildings are heavily damaged and leaders are still trying to account for all the teachers, administrators and others who are needed to get the system running again. Watching friends and loved ones suffer is the hardest part for Nancy Bartice, who used to live near Ed Kirkpatrick and his wife. Feeling helpless to assist the couple, Bartice was trying to get to nearby Panama City Beach to get them gasoline and, perhaps, a better place to stay. Who knows how long the 16-mile journey could take. 'They have been the most blessed couple,' said Bartice, fighting away tears. 'They helped me in a lot of bad situations, and I want to do the same in return.' ___ Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, and Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report. ___ For the latest on Hurricane Michael, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes .
  • An Arizona man who fell to the bottom of an old abandoned gold mine shaft, broke both his legs, fought off a trio of rattlesnakes and went two days without food or water before a friend heard his cries for help is lucky to be alive, said the head of a rescue team. 'He is a very fortunate individual,' Operations Commander Roger Yensen of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Mountain Rescue Posse said Thursday of 62-year-old John Waddell. Waddell owns the land where the shaft is located north of Phoenix and was using a rope to lower himself into it on Monday when he lost control and fell at least 50 feet (15 meters) to the rocky ground. He had a cellphone but no service. One of his friends, Terry Schrader, had known Waddell was going to attempt a descent and the pair had agreed that he would go look for Waddell if he didn't hear from him. On Wednesday, Schrader ventured by the shaft outside the town of Aguila. 'As I pulled out my truck I could hear him hollering, 'Help, help!'' Schrader told FOX10 Phoenix . Schrader had to drive out of the area to get a good enough signal to call the authorities. Fifteen members of the posse overseen by the office's Search and Rescue Team rushed with specialized equipment to the property. One rescuer rappelled into the shaft and assessed Waddell's injuries, determining that he had possible ankle and leg fractures as well as friction burns to his hands. He was alert, but dehydrated and was given IV fluids. Yesen said it took about three hours to lift Waddell the 100 feet (31 meters) to safety. He was then airlifted to the hospital in Phoenix, about 90 miles (144 kilometers) away. Waddell was in good condition Thursday at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix, said hospital spokeswoman Alexis Kramer-Ainza. She said Waddell was undergoing surgery for two broken legs. Sheriff Paul Penzone said he had no doubt that the posse, working with his office's Search and Rescue Team, saved Waddell's life. 'Our men and women train year-round for this type of event,' he said, 'and we are all grateful for this positive outcome.
  • Students in Potter, Neb., were served kangaroo meat mixed with beef in chili at school last week without their knowledge, and the district superintendent is hopping mad about it, according to news reports. >> Read more trending news  It happened at a junior and senior high school in the Potter-Dix public school district, News Channel Nebraska reported. Head cafeteria cook Kevin Frei told Potter-Dix Schools Superintendent Mike Williams that he served the Roo meat “because of its nutritional value as a very lean meat,” according to the news station. “If a family wants to eat exotic foods, they can do so on their own time – not at school,” Williams said in a statement. “If we were to have food or ingredients that are out of the ordinary, they should be listed on the menu so that students and families are aware of what they would be being served,” he said. “We will no way be serving food of this nature again. Period.” Williams apologized in the statement and said that school officials don’t believe kangaroo meat is “unhealthy or dangerous” -- otherwise the U.S. Department of Agriculture would not approve it for sale -- but he said Roo meat will not be part of the school district’s meal plan. >> Trending: Watch: Vicious kangaroo attack injures girl, stuns family at Alabama park Kangaroo meat is mostly produced in Australia from wild animals, which are killed as part of a wildlife population management program, according to the Australian government.
  • Federal safety investigators have been unable to conduct a full examination of the limousine involved in a crash that killed 20 people nearly two weeks ago in upstate New York because local prosecutors are probing it as part of their case against the limo company's operator. While a National Transportation Safety Board spokesman says it is working cooperatively with local officials, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday that investigators have privately expressed frustration over their inability to fully examine the limousine. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive conversations. The limo remains in the possession of New York State Police after the limousine company's operator was charged four days after the crash with criminally negligent homicide. A state police spokesman said it could be several more weeks before the NTSB is granted hands-on access to the limo. The NTSB would get in line behind state investigators and the lawyer for the limo company's operator. 'The vehicle is the most important piece of evidence that will help ultimately determine the cause of the crash, and the extent of any criminal wrongdoing,' spokesman Beau Duffy said in a statement. 'If the NTSB were allowed to handle evidence before it has been fully examined and processed by the state police and the defense, it would jeopardize the criminal case.' NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said investigators were able to look inside the limousine briefly and have not conducted a full examination. But he stressed that the agency is working closely with state police. 'We anticipate getting everything we need in a timely fashion,' Weiss said. 'They have a criminal investigation to do. We have to accommodate that.' The federal agency is charged by Congress to conduct independent probes and can make urgent safety recommendations to address specific issues discovered during an investigation. The NTSB expects to release a preliminary report on the wreck in the next several weeks, Weiss said. The district attorney in Schoharie County did not immediately return a call from the AP seeking comment on Thursday. The limousine loaded with 18 people on their way to a birthday party for one of the occupants ran a stop sign and crashed at the bottom of a hill in the town of Schoharie. Everyone in the limo died, including four sisters, along with two pedestrians. Prosecutors allege the limousine company's operator, Nauman Hussain, allowed an improperly licensed driver to operate an 'unserviceable' vehicle. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge and has declined to comment on the crash. ___ Klepper reported from Albany, N.Y. Associated Press writer Mary Esch in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.
  • A lawyer for a longtime Adidas employee urged jurors Thursday to use common sense and evidence to conclude college basketball coaches like Bill Self at Kansas and Rick Pitino at Louisville knew shoe companies were paying money to families of elite athletes to steer them to their schools. Attorney Michael Schachter, representing Adidas sports marketing manager James 'Jim' Gatto, cited testimony and evidence that emerged during the fraud conspiracy trial of Gatto, aspiring sports agent Christopher Dawkins and Merl Code, a former Adidas consultant. 'Ladies and gentlemen, what help do you think a coach thought Jim Gatto was going to provide in persuading a kid to go to their college?' he asked. 'Jim works for a shoe company. He is not a guidance counselor. Kids don't turn to him for assistance in where they should go to college.' Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Diskant, who has portrayed the schools and sometimes their coaches as victims of the defendants, said in a closing statement that coaches were not 'running rampant.' 'Nothing can be further from the truth,' the prosecutor said, highlighting protocols in place at schools to ensure compliance with NCAA rules. He said the defendants hid payments from coaches, knowing they would be fired if they facilitated payouts to players' families. 'Does that mean that some of the coaches didn't break the rules? No, it's possible they did,' Diskant said. The prosecutor noted that there was no mention of money in two voice messages Gatto left for Pitino. He also cited evidence that Dawkins, speaking of a financial payout, told the Bowen family: 'I would never tell Rick anything like this because I don't want to put him in jeopardy.' Schachter told jurors that the government's star witness — former Adidas consultant Thomas 'T.J.' Gassnola — lied when he testified that he was concealing from universities the fact that cash was being paid to the families of top recruits. He cited Gassnola's testimony about a North Carolina State assistant coach. Gassnola, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges and cooperated with prosecutors, told jurors that he delivered cash in 2015 to Coach Orlando Early, who planned to give it to a personal trainer for highly touted point guard Dennis Smith Jr. so it could be relayed to the athlete's family. Schachter said evidence shows that Self 'knew of and asked for a payment to be made to Silvio De Sousa's handler.' The lawyer added: 'More than that, Coach Self requested just that kind of help that Mr. Gassnola arranged as a condition for Coach Self to permit Adidas to continue their sponsorship agreement with the University of Kansas.' Schachter also cited a conversation his client had in late May 2017 with Pitino, saying it occurred just after Code told Gatto that he needed money for the family of Louisville recruit Brian Bowen Jr. because the University of Oregon, a Nike school, had made an 'astronomical offer' to recruit him. Schachter said Gatto wanted to be sure Pitino wanted Bowen before he spent his employer's money. 'Why, precisely, would Louisville's head coach think that a shoe company representative wants to speak with him about a player?' Schachter asked. 'Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that the only explanation that makes any sense is that Coach Pitino knows exactly why Jim is calling to discuss a player.' Bowen committed to Louisville on June 1, 2017, though he never played for the school. He now plays professionally in Australia. Pitino, a legendary coach, was never accused of a crime but was fired amid the investigation's fallout. North Carolina State announced last year that Early and the school's head coach were leaving the program months before the corruption case became public. Smith played one year at NC State. He now plays for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. De Sousa is a sophomore at Kansas. The jury is likely to start deliberations Monday. ___ Associated Press Writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.