New York, Jul 14 (AP/UNB) — On the anniversary of a 1977 blackout that left most of New York City without power, a massive power outage on a hot Saturday night in Manhattan preemptively brought the curtain down on Broadway shows and packed streets with people wielding cellphones as flashlights amid a cacophony of sirens and horns from stalled traffic.
Underground, the scene was similarly in disarray as the blackout affecting 73,000 customers for more than three hours hit the subway system. Con Edison CEO John McAvoy said a problem at a substation caused the 6:47 p.m. power failure, which stretched 30 blocks from Times Square to 72nd Street and Broadway and spread to Rockefeller Center. Electricity was restored to customers and businesses in midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side by around midnight, according to a statement from the utility.
McAvoy said the exact cause of the blackout would not be known until an investigation is completed.
The outage affected the entire subway system, closing four Manhattan stations to the public — Columbus Circle, Rockefeller Center, Hudson Yards and Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street. But Metropolitan Transportation Agency spokesman Maxwell Young said train operators were able to manually change the signals and bring at least one car into stations so passengers could disembark.
New York City's Emergency Management Department said the A, C, D, E, F, M, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 trains had resumed running in both directions by around 2 a.m. Sunday, following service disruptions from the blackout. Multiple street lanes between the Hudson River and Fifth Avenue had also reopened by 1:30 a.m.
The temperature was in the low 80s as the sun set just before 8:30 p.m., treating those who had streamed into the street to one of the city's famed "Manhattanhenge" sunsets. While hot, the temperature didn't reach the highs of Manhattan in July, which often challenges the city's power grid.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised emergency officials for their response to the blackout and said no injuries were reported, but called the outage "unacceptable."
"You just can't have a power outage of this magnitude in this city" Cuomo said. "It is too dangerous, the potential for public safety risk and chaos is too high, we just can't have a system that does that, it's that simple at the end of the day."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was campaigning on the presidential trail in Iowa when the power outage struck. His press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, tweeted just before 10 p.m. that de Blasio cut short his Iowa visit and was headed back to the city.
The mayor commended New Yorkers for handling the blackout "with that trademark NYC grit and toughness" in a tweet.
For hours before the power flicked back on, doormen stood with flashlights in the darkened entrances of upscale apartment buildings along Central Park West, directing residents up flights of stairs, with all elevators out. Police and deployed troopers directed traffic at intersections, while people in the neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen took it upon themselves to direct traffic as stoplights and walking signals went dark.
In the theater district, marquees darkened just before evening performances were set to begin. Most Broadway musicals and plays canceled their Saturday evening shows, though some cast members staged impromptu performances in the street.
Jennifer Lopez's concert at Madison Square Garden was cut short in the middle of her fourth song of the night, although officials at Penn Station below used backup generators to keep the lights on. Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts were all evacuated. Lopez later tweeted that she would reschedule the stop on her "It's My Party" tour for Monday night at the same venue.
Sacramento, Jul 13 (AP/UNB) — Officials began to clean up a massive oil spill Friday that dumped nearly 800,000 gallons of oil and water into a California canyon, making it larger — if less devastating — than the state's last two major oil spills.
The newly revealed spill has been flowing off and on since May and has again stopped, Chevron spokeswoman Veronica Flores-Paniagua said. She and California officials said the spill is not near any waterway and has not significantly affected wildlife. The last flow was Tuesday.
Chevron reported that 794,000 gallons (about 3 million liters) of oil and water have leaked out of the ground where it uses steam injection to extract oil in the large Cymric Oil Field about 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of Bakersfield. The steam softens the thick crude so it can flow more readily and is a different process from fracking, which breaks up underground layers of rock.
The state has issued Chevron a notice of violation ordering it to stop steam injections around the spill. The company also increased its production of oil from wells in the area. Both actions are intended to relieve underground pressure that may be forcing the mix of oil and water to the surface.
Chevron will pay for the cleanup, though the state will oversee the process, said Steve Gonzalez, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.
The cleanup and the investigation into what caused the oil flow were somewhat delayed as officials ensured there are no dangerous fumes or sinkholes that could trap workers or heavy equipment, he said.
"At this point, they have it dammed off and they're sucking it out, sucking the oil out," Gonzalez said.
Environmental groups said the Chevron spill is another sign of weakened regulations under an embattled California agency. Gov. Gavin Newsom this week fired the head of the state's oil and gas division over a recent increase in hydraulic fracturing permits and amid a conflict-of-interest investigation of other division employees.
The Last Chance Alliance, which opposes California's oil and gas industry, said the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources adopted weaker restrictions on steam injection earlier this year, "making these operations even more dangerous."
The group said state regulators and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year approved an exemption that removed protections from an aquifer in the Cymric Oil Field at the request of Chevron and other oil companies.
"California's industry-friendly oil regulator continues to provide about as much protection as a screen door on a submarine," Hollin Kretzmann, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity and member of the Last Chance Alliance, said in a statement.
Neither Chevron nor division spokesman Don Drysdale commented on the criticism.
About 70% of the fluid is water, Chevron said, meaning about 240,000 gallons (908,472 liters) of the mixture is oil.
The spill, which was first reported by KQED News, comes after a judge earlier this year fined Plains All American Pipeline nearly $3.35 million for causing what had been the worst California coastal spill in 25 years.
A corroded pipeline spilled 140,000 gallons (529,942 liters) of crude oil in 2015 onto Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, tarring popular beaches for miles, killing wildlife and harming tourism and fishing.
In 2007, the container ship Cosco Busan leaked nearly 54,000 gallons (204,406 liters) of heavy fuel oil into San Francisco Bay after the ship hit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in thick fog.
The state's worst spill was the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that leaked at least 80,000 barrels of crude oil into the Santa Barbara Channel. Each barrel is 42 gallons (159 liters).
But the effect of this year's Chevron spill on birds and wildlife appears minimal, Gonzalez said. Chevron said the spill flowed into a dry stream bed, and Gonzalez noted that it is unlikely to rain anytime soon.
"There's no active waterway that it's nearby, so that's the good news," he said.
Washington, Jul 13 (AP/UNB) — The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said efforts to deport families with orders to leave the country will continue after an upcoming national sweep that President Donald Trump said would start Sunday.
Matthew Albence, the agency's acting director, said targets were on an "accelerated docket" of immigration court cases for predominantly Central Americans who recently arrived at the U.S. border in unprecedented numbers. Similar operations occurred in 2016 under President Barack Obama and in 2017 under Trump.
"This family operation is nothing new," Albence told The Associated Press. "It's part of our day-to-day operations. We're trying to surge some additional resources to deal with this glut of cases that came out of the accelerated docket, but after this operation is over, these cases are still going to be viable cases that we'll be out there investigating and pursuing."
The operation will target people with final deportation orders on 10 major court dockets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami. Albence said that doesn't mean arrests will be limited to certain areas. Authorities will go where their investigations lead, even if it's five states away from where the case is filed.
Trump said authorities were "focused on criminals as much as we can before we do anything else."
"It starts on Sunday and they're going to take people out and they're going to bring them back to their countries or they're going to take criminals out, put them in prison, or put them in prison in the countries they came from."
The operation further inflamed the political debate over immigration as Trump appeals to his base with a pledge to crack down on migrants and Democrats cast the president and his administration as inhumane for going after families.
The Obama-era family operation in 2016 resulted in about 10% of those targeted being arrested, and the2017 effort had a lower arrest rate, Albence said. Other operations that have targeted people with criminal arrest records have yielded arrests rates of about 30%, aided by access to law enforcement databases.
"If you have an individual that's been arrested for a criminal violation, you're going to have much more of an investigative footprint," Albence said.
Administration officials have said they are targeting about 2,000 people, which would yield about 200 arrests based on previous crackdowns. Trump has said on Twitter that his agents plan to arrest millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
It is highly unusual to announce an enforcement sting before it begins. The president postponed the effort once before after a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but immigration officials said it was also due in part to law enforcement concerns over officer safety because details had leaked.
But they're pressing ahead with this one, even though the president and other administration officials have discussed the long-planned family operation for months.
"Nothing to be secret about," Trump said. "If the word gets out, it gets out because hundreds of people know about it."
The operation will target entire families that have been ordered removed, but some family may be separated if some members are in the country legally. Albence gave a hypothetical example of a father and child in the U.S. illegally but a mother who isn't
"If the mother wants to return voluntarily on her own with the family, she'll have an opportunity to do so," he said.
Families may be temporarily housed in hotels until they can be transferred to a detention center or deported. Marriott said it would not allow ICE to use its hotels for holding immigrants.
If ICE runs out of space, it may be forced to separate some family members, Albence said. The government has limited space in its family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania.
"If hotels or other places do not want to allow us to utilize that, it's almost forcing us into a situation where we're going to have to take one of the parents and put them in custody and separate them from the rest of their families," he said.
Meanwhile, activists ramped up efforts to prepare by bolstering know-your-rights pocket guides, circulating information about hotlines and planning public demonstrations. Vigils outside of detention centers and hundreds of other locations nationwide were set for Friday evening, to be followed by protests Saturday in Miami and Chicago.
Washington, July 12 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. edged closer to crisis Friday with NATO ally Turkey, which began receiving components of a Russian-made air defense system in defiance of Trump administration warnings that the deal would mean economic sanctions and no access to America's most advanced fighter jet.
The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced it received the first shipment of the S-400 system, although it is not yet fully in place or ready for use. For months, Washington urged Turkey to buy the American-made Patriot air defense system instead and has insisted that buying from Russia would result in economic and military penalties. Turkey has said it was not offered favorable terms on the Patriot.
Among the U.S. penalties would be cutting Turkey out of the multi-national F-35 production program, depriving the Turks of the sophisticated stealth aircraft and the economic benefit of helping to build them.
The U.S. concern is that the S-400 could be used to gather data on the capabilities of the F-35, and that the information could end up in Russian hands. But more than technology is at stake. Turkey has long been a key to the defense of NATO's southeastern flank, and some believe its willingness to buy key weaponry from Russia — long identified as NATO's main adversary — suggests the possibility that its alliance status is in jeopardy.
President Donald Trump recently expressed sympathy toward Turkey's decision to complete the Russia deal, although President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been told that the S-400 is incompatible with NATO air defense systems and is seen by alliance officials as a threat to the F-35.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats alike expressed dismay at the Turks' move.
"By accepting delivery of the S-400 from Russia, President Erdogan has chosen a perilous partnership with Putin at the expense of Turkey's security, economic prosperity and the integrity of the NATO alliance," the top members of the Senate committees on Foreign Relations and Armed Services said in a joint statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long complained that NATO is designed to target Russia. Some see the Russian sale as an attempt to drive a wedge between NATO allies.
In their joint statement, the Senate committee leaders also called the Turkish action "a troubling signal of strategic alignment with Putin's Russia" and a threat to the F-35 program.
Derek Chollet, a senior defense official in the Obama administration, said Turkey's decision to begin taking delivery of the S-400 was not a surprise.
"It is a major problem for NATO - at best it will limit Turkey's role in the alliance, and at worst things could spin out of control," Chollet said. "Because our shared interests are so compelling I believe Turkey's place in the alliance will endure, but this will do lasting harm - starting with no F-35s, U.S. sanctions, and broader intelligence concerns."
Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper said after Turkey's announcement that he was aware of the development and would discuss it later in the day with his counterpart, Hulusi Akar. The Pentagon and State Department did not immediately comment more directly on what actions the U.S. would take against Turkey.
U.S. officials have previously warned that sanctions would be imposed under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act if Turkey went ahead with the S-400 purchase. Sanctions would mark a new low in the already-tense relations between Turkey and the U.S. Last year the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a Turkish currency crisis.
The prospect of a further rupture in Turkey's relations with Washington also raises a delicate issue rarely mentioned in public: the status of American nuclear weapons stored at Turkey's Incirlik air base. Turkey has had a nuclear role in NATO for decades, but this new split is likely to cause some in Washington to question the wisdom of keeping those nuclear bombs at Incirlik. Locations of U.S. nuclear weapons abroad are not publicly acknowledged by the U.S. as a matter of policy.
Turkey has refused to bow to U.S. pressure, insisting that choosing which defense equipment to purchase is a matter of national sovereignty.
There is a bipartisan consensus in Congress that Turkey should not be allowed to remain in the F-35 program if it refused to back out of the Russia deal.
Four senators — two Democrats and two Republicans — issued a joint statement Friday expressing disappointment that Turkey has chosen to buy a Russian-made system designed to "target and destroy" the F-35.
"Turkey is trying to play both sides, but we will not allow sensitive U.S. military technology in the F-35 to be at risk," the senators said. "Turkey cannot have both Russian and American defense equipment sitting side by side."
Columbus, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) — The Ohio hospital system where excessive painkiller doses were given to dozens of patients who died fired 23 nurses, pharmacists and managers Thursday and said it is changing leadership, a sign that professional fallout from the scandal has expanded far beyond the intensive care doctor accused of ordering the drugs.
The announcement by the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System comes five weeks after that doctor, William Husel, pleaded not guilty to murder charges in 25 of the deaths, marking one of the biggest cases of its kind against an American health care professional.
The newly fired employees include five physician, nursing and pharmacy management team members, President and CEO Ed Lamb said in a statement.
Mount Carmel said the other 18 fired were among the nurses and pharmacists who had been on administrative leave during its internal review.
One employee remains on administrative leave, and 11 are being given the chance to return to work if they complete additional training, Lamb said. Mount Carmel didn't specify whether those employees are nurses and pharmacists who administered or approved the excessive doses.
Authorities have said the nurses and pharmacists involved aren't being prosecuted, though dozens have been reported to their respective professional boards for review and potential disciplinary action.
Lamb also said that he is resigning this month and that Mount Carmel's chief clinical officer is retiring in September, paving the way for new leadership that could "facilitate healing and help restore the trust of the community."
Mount Carmel fired Husel in December and concluded he had ordered potentially fatal doses for 29 patients who died over the past few years, including five who might have received the drugs when there still was a chance of improving their conditions with treatment.
The hospital system said six more patients got doses that were excessive but likely not the cause of their deaths.
His lawyer in the criminal case has said Husel was providing comfort care to dying patients, not trying to kill them.
Husel, 43, was charged with murder only in cases involving 500 to 2000 micrograms of the powerful painkiller fentanyl, amounts far larger than typical doses.
Mount Carmel has tightened its drug policies and access and publicly apologized, noting it should have expedited its investigation. It acknowledged that Husel wasn't removed from patient care until four weeks after a concern about him was raised last fall, and that three patients died during those weeks after getting excessive doses he ordered.
The hospital system has resolved some of the related wrongful death lawsuits, reaching nearly $4.5 million in settlements so far.
"We are deeply sorry for the additional grief and frustration this has caused and are working to provide reasonable settlements with affected families," Lamb said in the statement Thursday.
Twenty-two lawsuits remain pending.
In new filings this week, Husel's lawyer in the civil cases again argued they should be put on hold because of the criminal case.
A court magistrate previously declined to halt the lawsuits but did block the plaintiffs' lawyers from pursuing a sworn statement from Husel. Lawyer Gregory Foliano argues that isn't enough to protect Husel's right to a fair trial, in part because plaintiffs still can seek information from other Mount Carmel employees.
The hospital also wants the lawsuits put on hold and has filed objections to the magistrate's decision.