Black lung fund endangered
COEBURN, Va. — Former coal miner John Robinson’s bills for black lung treatments run $4,000 a month, but the federal fund he depends on to help cover them is being drained of money because of inaction by Congress and the Trump administration. Amid the turmoil of the government shutdown this winter, a tax on coal that helps pay for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was cut sharply Jan. 1 and never restored, potentially saving coal operators hundreds of millions of dollars a year. With cash trickling into the fund at less than half its usual rate, budget officials estimate that by the middle of 2020 there won’t be enough money to fully cover the fund’s benefit payments. As a surge of black lung disease scars miners’ lungs at younger ages than ever, Robinson worries not only about cuts to his benefits, but that younger miners won’t get any coverage. “Coal miners sort of been put on the back burner, thrown to the side,” Robinson said recently, sitting at his kitchen table in the small Virginia town of Coeburn, near the Kentucky border. “They just ain’t being done right.”
Cyclone floods kill hundreds
CHIMANIMANI, Zimbabwe — Aid workers rushed to rescue victims clinging to trees and crammed on rooftops Tuesday after a cyclone unleashed devastating floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. More than 350 people were confirmed dead, hundreds were missing and thousands more were at risk. In Mozambique, the rapidly rising floodwaters created “an inland ocean,” endangering tens of thousands of families, aid workers said as they scrambled to rescue survivors and airdrop, food, water and blankets to survivors of Cyclone Idai. “This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s recent history,” said Jamie LeSueur, head of response efforts for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said late Tuesday more than 200 people had been confirmed dead in his country. Earlier he said the death toll could reach 1,000. At least 400,000 people were left homeless.
New era dawns for Hollywood
NEW YORK — The Fox Studio backlot, first built in 1926 on a Culver City ranch in Los Angeles, was enormous. Before much of it was sold off in the 1960s, it was four times the size of its current, and still huge, 53 acres. Shirley Temple’s bungalow still sits on the lot, as does the piano where John Williams composed, among other things, the score to “Star Wars.” A waiter in the commissary might tell you where Marilyn Monroe once regularly sat. When the Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox is completed at 12:02 a.m. Wednesday, the storied lot — the birthplace of CinemaScope, “The Sound of Music” and “Titanic” — will no longer house one of the six major studios. It will become the headquarters for Rupert Murdoch’s new Fox Corp., (he is keeping Fox News and Fox Broadcasting) and Fox’s film operations, now a Disney label, will stay on for now as renters under a seven-year lease agreement. The history of Hollywood is littered with changes of studio ownership; even Fox Film Corporation founder William Fox, amid the Depression, lost control of the studio that still bears his name. But the demise of 20th Century Fox as a standalone studio is an epochal event in Hollywood, one that casts long shadows over a movie industry grappling with new digital competitors from Silicon Valley and facing the possibility of further contraction. After more than eight decades of supremacy, the Big Six are down one. “It’s a sad day for students of film history and I think it’s potentially a sad day for audiences too,” said Tom Rothman, former chairman of Fox and the current chief of Sony Pictures. “There will just be less diversity in the marketplace.”
Ash teacher is back at work
BOUNTIFUL, Utah — Utah officials say a teacher who asked a student to wipe an ash cross off his forehead on Ash Wenesday has returned to work. Davis County School District says fourth-grade teacher Moana Patterson is back in the classroom after gave 9-year-old Catholic student William McLeod a wet wipe to clean off the cross. She has said she did not know it was a religious symbol. The district apologized to the family, saying it recognizes Ash Wednesday as one of the holiest days of the year in the Catholic faith. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Patterson had been placed on administrative leave.
Chimp born at Carolina zoo
ASHEBORO, N.C. — A baby chimpanzee has been born at the North Carolina Zoo, adding to a trickle of such births at U.S. zoos. The zoo announced that the healthy baby was born Monday to a chimp named Gerre (Zha’-ree), and started nursing quickly. The baby’s gender hasn’t been determined. The announcement said there have been only two other successful chimpanzee births in the past two years at Association of Zoos and Aquariums zoos. Since 2010, three have been born at the North Carolina Zoo. Gerre is around 20 years old and came to North Carolina in 2012 from the Dallas Zoo.
San Francisco may ban e-cigs
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco is trying to crack down on electronic cigarettes that critics say aggressively target kids, with an official on Tuesday proposed what’s believed to be the first U.S. ban on their sale until the federal government regulates vaping products. City Attorney Dennis Herrera said San Francisco, Chicago and New York sent a joint letter demanding that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration evaluate the effect of e-cigarettes on public health. Herrera said the review should have been done before e-cigarettes entered the market. The FDA released proposed guidelines last week giving companies until 2021 to submit applications for the evaluation. “The result is that millions of children are already addicted to e-cigarettes and millions more will follow if we don’t act,” he said Tuesday.
Stranded man found dead
PHOENIX — A man who likely died from exposure while stranded in Arizona might have survived if he had not rejected rescue efforts because he was afraid of being arrested. Ryan Long, 38, died several days after authorities found his friend, Reelaiah Ahasteen, 35, in another location in snowy and muddy conditions. The two had left Meteor Crater, a popular tourist site east of Flagstaff, on March 7 when their vehicle got stuck, authorities said, citing information from Ahasteen’s mother. She tried to locate them and then notified authorities when she couldn’t. A deputy was able to contact Long on his cellphone, but he refused to give any details about his location. “There were some general statements that he did not want or need our help and then he hung up,” sheriff’s spokesman Rex Gilliland said. Deputies said they later learned that Long believed he might have an arrest warrant and wanted to avoid law enforcement.
Soap star died of heart disease
LOS ANGELES — “The Young and the Restless” star Kristoff St. John died of heart disease, with excessive drinking at the time of his death a contributing factor, according to a coroner’s report released Tuesday. Investigators listed “hypertrophic heart disease” as the cause of the 52-year-old’s death on Feb. 4 at his home in Los Angeles. “Hypertrophic” means the heart muscle has become abnormally thick, making blood-pumping difficult. Heavy alcohol use along with a congenital artery problem contributed to St. John’s death, the report said. Three days earlier, St. John had been released from a mental health hospital where he had been admitted for alcohol abuse and threatening self-harm, according to the report. It also listed a history of mental-health and alcohol problems. He last spoke to someone about 24 hours before paramedics declared him dead in his apartment on a Sunday morning, the report states. For 27 years, St. John played struggling alcoholic and ladies’ man Neil Winters on the CBS soap opera, “The Young and the Restless.” He was nominated for 11 daytime Emmys, winning twice, for outstanding younger actor in a drama series, in 1992 and supporting actor in 2008.
Still wants protester names
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s largest school district has asked the state’s education commissioner to withdraw his request for names of teachers who used sick days to protest at the state Capitol, but the commissioner says he will not back down. Commissioner Wayne Lewis told Jefferson County’s Board of Education on Tuesday he still wants the names but won’t punish the teachers if school remains in session. Lewis last week wouldn’t rule out disciplining teachers who used sick days to close multiple school districts so they could protest. Lawmakers were considering proposals that would change who manages the teachers’ pension fund and indirectly support private schools with tax credits. At least 10 school districts closed because of too many teacher absences. Jefferson County, one of the largest districts in the country, closed six times in two weeks.
Support for legal pot is high
LOS ANGELES — A growing majority of Americans say marijuana should be legal, underscoring a national shift as more states embrace cannabis for medical or recreational use. Support for legal marijuana hit 61 percent in 2018, up from 57 percent two years ago, according to the General Social Survey, a widely respected trend survey that has been measuring support for legal marijuana since the 1970s. An analysis of the survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the General Social Survey staff finds that increased backing of legalization cut across all age groups and political parties. The 2018 poll is the first in which a majority of Republicans support legalizing marijuana — 54 percent, up from 45 percent in 2016. Among Democrats, 76 percent now favor legalization. The rising support mirrors the evolving legal landscape across the country. Most Americans now live in places where marijuana is legal in some form, with 10 states allowing recreational usage and more than 30 allowing medicinal use.
Jury: Roundup a major factor
SAN FRANCISCO — Roundup weed killer was a substantial factor in a California man’s cancer, a jury determined Tuesday in the first phase of a trial that attorneys said could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits. The unanimous verdict by the six-person jury in federal court in San Francisco came in a lawsuit filed against Roundup’s manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto. Edwin Hardeman, 70, was the second plaintiff to go to trial out of thousands around the country who claim the weed killer causes cancer. Monsanto says studies have established that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is safe. A San Francisco jury in August awarded another man $289 million after determining Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A judge later slashed the award to $78 million, and Monsanto has appealed. Hardeman’s trial is before a different judge and may be more significant. U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed Hardeman’s case and two others “bellwether trials.” The outcome of such cases can help attorneys decide whether to keep fighting similar lawsuits or settle them. Legal experts said a jury verdict in favor of Hardeman and the other test plaintiffs would give their attorneys a strong bargaining position in any settlement talks for the remaining cases before Chhabria.
Searchers recover black box
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Searchers have recovered the cockpit voice recorder and found other parts of an air ambulance that disappeared in Alaska with three people on board in January, the owners of the aircraft said Tuesday. A landing gear and engine of the King Air 200 also were located in the same waters of Frederick Sound, Guardian Flight said in an initial release. The company later said an underwater search team located additional aircraft parts on Tuesday, including the tail assembly, fragmented fuselage, propeller blades and wing fragments. Searchers estimate they found as much as 90 percent of the plane scattered over a large debris field in the waters of Frederick Sound.
Nominee to lead FAA named
President Donald Trump has tapped a former Delta Air Lines executive to lead the Federal Aviation Administration as the regulator deals with questions about its approval of a Boeing airliner involved in two deadly crashes within five months. The White House said Tuesday that Trump will nominate Stephen Dickson to head the FAA. The agency has been led by an acting administrator since January 2018. Separately, the Transportation Department confirmed that its watchdog agency will examine how the FAA certified the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, the now-grounded plane involved in two fatal accidents within five months.
Jay-Z, the Killers at Woodstock 50
NEW YORK — Jay-Z, Dead & Company and the Killers will headline one of the 50th anniversary shows commemorating the groundbreaking Woodstock festival this summer. Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang announced Tuesday that Miley Cyrus, Santana, Imagine Dragons, Robert Plant, the Black Keys and Chance the Rapper will also perform at Woodstock 50, which will take place Aug. 16-18 in Watkins Glen, New York, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) northwest of the original site. The event is separate from an anniversary concert planned at the site of the original festival in 1969. Lang made the announcement at a press conference at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York City alongside Common and John Fogerty, who performed at the original Woodstock. Both Fogerty and Common will perform this summer.