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Fallen Bridge: ‘Stress Test’ Preceded Collapse That Killed 6

The Stream - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 11:56

MIAMI (AP) -- An innovative pedestrian bridge being built at Florida International University was put to a “stress test” before it collapsed over traffic, killing six people and sending 10 to a hospital, authorities said.

As state and federal investigators worked to determine how and why the five-day-old span failed on Thursday, one factor may have been the stress test that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said crews were conducting on the span.

Two workers were on the 950-ton bridge when it pancaked on top of vehicles waiting at a stoplight.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted late Thursday that the cables that suspend the bridge had loosened and the engineering firm ordered that they be tightened. “They were being tightened when it collapsed,” he said on Twitter.

First responders had been racing to find survivors in the rubble of the 175-foot span using high-tech listening devices, trained sniffing dogs and search cameras before turning the scene over to police.

“This has turned from a rescue to a recovery operation,” Miami-Dade Police Det. Alvaro Zabaleta said.

The $14.2 million pedestrian bridge was supposed to open in 2019 as a safe way to cross the busy six-lane road between the university campus and the community of Sweetwater, where many students live.

At the accident scene, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said investigators will get to the bottom of “why this happened and what happened,” and if anyone did anything wrong, “we will hold them accountable.”

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt III said a team of specialists would begin its investigation Friday morning.

Rubio, who is an adjunct professor at the school, noted the pedestrian bridge was intended to be an innovative and “one-of-a-kind engineering design.”

Renderings showed a tall, off-center tower with supporting cables attached to the walkway. When the bridge collapsed, the main tower had not yet been installed, and it was unclear what builders were using as temporary supports.

An accelerated construction method was supposed to reduce risks to workers and pedestrians and minimize traffic disruption, the university said. The school has long been interested in this kind of bridge design; in 2010, it opened an Accelerated Bridge Construction Center to “provide the transportation industry with the tools needed to effectively and economically utilize the principles of ABC to enhance mobility and safety, and produce safe, environmentally friendly, long-lasting bridges.”

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The project was a collaboration between MCM Construction, a Miami-based contractor, and Figg Bridge Design, based in Tallahassee. Figg is responsible for the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay.

Figg’s statement Thursday said the company was “stunned” by the collapse and would cooperate with investigations.

“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before,” the statement said. “Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”

MCM Construction Management promised on its Facebook page to participate in “a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong.”

Robert Bea, a professor of engineering and construction management at the University of California, Berkeley, said it was too early to know exactly what happened, but the decision to use what the bridge builders called an “innovative installation” over a heavily traveled thoroughfare was risky.

“Innovations take a design firm into an area where they don’t have applicable experience, and then we have another unexpected failure on our hands,” Bea said after reviewing the bridge’s design and photos of the collapse.

The FIU community, along with Sweetwater and county officials, held a “bridge watch party” on March 10 when the span was lifted from its temporary supports, rotated 90 degrees and lowered into what was supposed to be its permanent position.

FIU President Mark Rosenberg said the bridge was supposed to be about “goodness.”

“Now we’re feeling immense sadness, uncontrollable sadness,” he said. “And our hearts go out to all those affected, their friends and their families. We’re committed to assist in all efforts necessary, and our hope is that this sadness can galvanize the entire community to stay the course, a course of goodness, of hope, of opportunity.”


Associated Press writers Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, David Fischer and Curt Anderson in Miami and Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pre-Register Now For The NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Dallas!

NRA Blog - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 11:00
Join the biggest Second Amendment celebration in the country...

On eve of trial, reexamining DOJ’s landmark suit against AT&T/Time Warner - On eve of trial, reexamining DOJ’s landmark suit against AT&T/Time Warner

American Enterprise Institute - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 10:00

In the telecommunications world, all eyes are focused on the AT&T/Time Warner trial, which begins next week before Judge Richard Leon in Washington, DC. The Justice Department’s high-profile suit has drawn attention not only because of the size of the merger — $85 billion, one of the largest in history — but also because of the unusual nature of the government’s claim. Unlike most antitrust cases, which involve mergers between competitors, this is a vertical merger, which the government rarely challenges in court. The trial will determine whether this represents merely a minor gale in antitrust case law or more significant winds of change.

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington. Via REUTERS

I discussed the case in broad strokes in a blog post last November, shortly after the Justice Department filed suit. This post will discuss the significant developments in the case since then, and specifically how discovery has sharpened the issues.

Pretrial developments

One significant development since November has been a subtle shift in the government’s theory of the case. In the initial complaint, the government argued that a post-merger AT&T would have the power to raise consumer prices. By threatening to withhold Time Warner content from rival pay television distributors, the company could increase the price those rivals pay. These increased costs would be passed along to consumers in the form of higher rates, which would then create an opportunity for AT&T to increase its own prices. But the government has seemingly abandoned this theory of consumer harm, focusing instead on the more limited claim that the merger will increase the costs of AT&T’s rivals — because, according to AT&T’s pretrial brief, the government’s own expert found that merger efficiencies are likely to reduce AT&T’s consumer prices. This narrower claim may be easier for the government to prove, although it may also reduce the stakes of the case.

On the defense side, AT&T abandoned its selective prosecution claim. In court and in the press, the company argued that its merger was being singled out by government officials because of President Trump’s animosity toward CNN, a Time Warner property. As I noted earlier, this was unlikely to be true, and this argument was always aimed more at the court of public opinion than the court of Judge Leon. The court signaled its skepticism in a series of pretrial evidentiary motions, after which AT&T dropped the claim and focused instead on the merits.

What to watch for at the trial

For the government, much rides on the credibility of its expert, whose model allegedly shows that the merger will raise rivals’ costs by 45 cents per subscriber monthly. This “Nash bargaining model” assumes each party has an anchor price, based on its next-best alternative, and that by bargaining, they will split the difference equally. Under this theory, the merger will increase the bargained-for price by increasing Time Warner’s anchor price. If a post-merger Time Warner withholds programming from a rival operator, at least some of the rival’s customers will defect to AT&T, thus making withholding a more lucrative strategy than in a premerger world — and therefore increasing the value of a post-merger Time Warner’s next-best alternative. But the model is only as good as its assumptions — such as that Time Warner can credibly threaten to withhold programming, that this would lead to defections, and that the parties will always meet in the middle — assumptions that AT&T plans to attack. Moreover, even if the model survives cross-examination, the government must show that a 45-cent increase per customer — which may or may not be passed along to consumers — is significant enough to constitute harm to competition.

Related to this will be the weight the judge puts on AT&T’s recent arbitration offers. To blunt the government’s argument that a post-merger Time Warner will threaten to withhold programming from rivals, AT&T unilaterally extended an irrevocable arbitration/no blackout offer to all Time Warner distributors. In the event of a dispute over carriage terms, the company agreed to binding baseball-style arbitration and to continue service during the arbitration, which are similar to procedures the Federal Communications Commission has used to prevent anticompetitive conduct similar to that alleged by Justice Department. The government sought to block this agreement from being offered into evidence, arguing it was “irrelevant,” but Judge Leon denied that motion.

Finally, the government will face pressure to prove its alternative theory, that a post-merger AT&T will have incentive and ability to conspire with Comcast to hobble over-the-top competition. In other contexts, courts have been skeptical of conjectured conspiracies without proof that such conduct is likely to occur.

Handicapping the merger, redux

The discovery process and pretrial briefs have sharpened the issues to be presented to the court. But they do not significantly change the legal standard. Ultimately, the government must prove that it the merger is “likely” to “substantially lessen competition.” These are standards, not rules, which allows some margin for judicial discretion. And Judge Leon presided over the settlement approving the 2011 Comcast/NBCUniversal merger, which raised similar anticompetitive concerns, meaning he is well-versed in both the government’s theory of the case and the competitive dynamics of the cable television industry.

This suggests the government may have a path to victory — but it remains an uphill battle. Any anticompetitive harm the government proves must be balanced against the procompetitive effects of the merger — including potential price reductions by AT&T, which the government appears to acknowledge. And the merger must be placed in context: Over the last half-decade, internet-based alternatives have significantly disrupted the traditional cable bundle. These competitors, which include such behemoths as Google and Netflix, have significant access to viewers’ demographics and habits, which allows them to better tailor video offerings and offer superior services to advertisers. AT&T argues that to compete against them, Time Warner (a traditional wholesaler of video content) needs similar information about its viewers, which the merger may provide. The same impulse is driving Disney’s decision to go directly to consumers later this year. Legacy companies must innovate to remain competitive in dynamic markets — which is a strong argument in favor of allowing this merger to proceed.

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Where Does God Live?

The Stream - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:00

Humanity has always searched for the secret of life, the holy grail, the source of wisdom -- the throne of God. We tell captivating stories about the search. We make blockbuster movies about it. The heart looks desperately for ultimate reality; where God lives.

We all need a god to trust. It is part of our being. We are trusting someone or something at all times. Some are looking to the mysteries of magic. Others take pilgrimages to the past. Still others are enamored with the fantasies of the future. The search is universal in its practice.

Well, there is some hope. The prophet Isaiah records the words of God:

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite..." Isaiah 57:15 (ESV)

It seems that God has two addresses. He lives beyond time and space, and He lives with those who know they need Him.

The High and Holy Place

First, let's examine the high and holy place. It doesn't mean that God delights to distance Himself from us. It means that He is by nature in another category from us. He is not the projection of our own imaginations. He is not humanity in a better state. He is distinct. He is creator, rather than creature. He is the source of life, rather than the recipient. He gives without diminishing His resources. He loves without condition. He is beyond time, and He transcends space.

Humankind did not make Him in our image. We are made in His. He is beyond the capacity of man's imagination; deeper than the speculation of the wise man; better than the best of all things. He is so high that He must descend to our level of cognition. He is so omniscient He must reveal for us to know him. He is just in every decision and merciful in every act.

With the Low and Contrite

Yet, He so wants us to know and enjoy Him that He became a human like us so we could relate. We can't and don't need to ascend to the heavens to find Hhim. We are not required to deny our humanity to please Him. He has come to us--to do for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. He has done the work necessary for our reconciliation, and then He has quickened our spirit to know both our need and His provision.

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He can be found with the person who has a contrite heart. That is the one who has been awakened to the perversion of his own heart. He or she has paused in judgment of the wickedness of others to confront the potential of evil in their own heart. The evil of Adolph Hitler is the same evil that lies in the human heart. Unless it is overcome by the power of the cross, it will manifest in ways that bring embarrassment and destruction. The contrite know this.

They also know that God loves to revive the lowly. Only He can give hope to helpless slaves of sin. He can be trusted. He has never failed to keep His promise. He is good and can't do bad!

The search reaches its goal when we realize that God has found us.

Gaining Confidence On and Off the Range

NRA Blog - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 08:05
One woman's story of how firearms training has changed her perspective and her life...

Military Photo of the Day: Homecoming from Afghanistan

The Stream - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 07:00

U.S. Army paratroopers return to Fort Bragg in North Carolina on March 9, 2018, after a deployment to Afghanistan.

The Stream has been following the wave of 82nd Airborne Division soldiers coming home from America’s longest war. We are so grateful for their safe return. Welcome home, heroes!




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Freeform Comedy Debates ‘Safe Spaces’ for Conservatives With ‘Idiotic' Beliefs

NewsBusters - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 04:24
<p>The left often claims to be the “party of tolerance,” but prove time and again that their tolerance only extends to those who agree with them. Such was the case with Wednesday’s episode of <em>Grown-ish </em>“Safe and Sound,” on Freeform which dealt with safe spaces on college campuses and whether conservatives, who supposedly believe in “idiotic polices” that “oppress” blacks and the poor, deserve a safe space of their own.</p>

Will & Grace Won't Bake MAGA Cake: Conservatives are 'Terrible People' with 'Horrible Beliefs'

NewsBusters - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 04:10
<p>If there’s one show on television that has absolutely no shame in showing its hatred towards conservatives, it’s NBC’s <em>Will & Grace. </em>Thursday’s episode, “The Beefcake & the Cake Beef” was no exception, as a baker refuses to make a MAGA cake for the president’s birthday. The episode came complete with jokes that Vice President Pence is gay, and triumphantly mocked conservatives as "terrible people" with "horrible beliefs," as well as hateful, white, racist Nazis.</p>

#MeToo Movement Infects D.C. in Latest 'Scandal'

NewsBusters - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 03:54
<p>It only took fourteen episodes of the final season, but ABC’s <em>Scandal </em>has finally covered the #MeToo movement. The latest episode has Olivia and the other Gladiators working to expose the sexual offenders within Congress, because if there is anyone qualified to expose hidden sex perverts, it’s a Hollywood show.</p>

Hypocrisy: CNN Whines Trump Hiring Too Many Friendly Journalists

NewsBusters - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 03:47
<p>The depths of CNN’s righteous indignation and hypocrisy showed no bounds Thursday night, as <em>AC 360</em> host Anderson Cooper and reporter Randi <strong>“</strong>Kush” Kaye extensively bemoaned how Trump was bringing friendly journalist into his administration. “It's a presidency that was essentially born on reality TV, and now the lines between reality and TV may be blurring even further,” Cooper opined regarding the hire of Larry Kudlow as national economic adviser. But what about Obama’s legion of journalist staff?</p>

ABC Still Worried About McCabe Losing His Pension for Misleading IG

NewsBusters - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 01:41
<p>During Wednesday’s <em>World News Tonight</em>, ABC and anchor David Muir made it clear that they cared little about how former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe mislead Inspector General investigators. Rather, they were more concerned about him losing his pension. The same was true Thursday evening when their network competitors moved on from the story while ABC was still fixated on the possibility of a lost pension after a career spanning 22-years.</p>

Jubilant Matthews: Mueller Subpoena on Trump Organization Could Lead to Trump’s Impeachment!

NewsBusters - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 01:17
<p>On Thursday, the liberal media’s mood was nothing short of ebullient with a <em>New York Times</em> scoop that Special Counsel Robert Mueller “has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia.” MSNBC’s <em>Hardball </em>host Chris Matthews was one such figure, gleefully speculating that it could “lead to Trump’s impeachment.”</p>

CNN Hypes 'Shocking Reminders of the Danger' of Teachers With Guns

NewsBusters - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 00:47
<p>On Thursday morning, CNN's <em>New Day</em> show ran a full report on the recent cases of two school teachers -- one from California and one from Virginia -- who accidentally fired their weapons inside school buildings as the report hyped the incidents as "shocking reminders of the danger" of arming teachers. The report even included the soundbite of a parent who had been leaning toward supporting arming teachers but who was having reservations.</p>

Mark Levin Hammers Adam Schiff as a ‘Shill for the Russian Government’

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 23:40
<p>During an interview you would not see on such liberal cable television channels as CNN or MSNBC, radio host Mark Levin slammed Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff (Calif.) while the conservative activist was a guest on Wednesday evening’s edition of the Fox News Channel's <em>Hannity</em> .</p>

MSNBC Covered Flynn’s Lie 18 Times as Much as McCabe’s

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 23:18
<p>NewsBusters analyzed MSNBC’s coverage of the first eight hours that followed after both the Flynn and McCabe stories broke. Within these designated periods, the network spent a total of 379 minutes (78.9 percent of the full eight hours) discussing Flynn’s alleged transgression, but only 21 minutes (4.4 percent) on McCabe’s, amounting to roughly 18 times more coverage of Flynn.</p>

Farewell, Stephen Hawking

The Stream - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 23:00

A mighty intellect searching the ends of the cosmos, trapped in a failing and unresponsive body. The poignancy of Stephen Hawking's condition explains, as much as his contributions to physics, the fact that Hawking was the most iconic scientist on Earth. He died this week at age 76.

Most of us, if put in his position, God forbid, would find it difficult to go on. Maybe impossible. But his spirit was indomitable. For this alone, he was worthy of renown. Hawking, who theorized about black holes with his partner Roger Penrose, adapted, amazingly. Many people would not recognize Penrose in the street. But everyone knew Hawking.

A Best-Selling Author

His most famous book was A Brief History of Time (1988), a phenomenal bestseller. In the acknowledgments, he noted that writing it would not have been possible without specially programmed communication equipment. "With this system," he cheerfully noted, "I can communicate better now than before I lost my voice." Thus equipped, he pointed out with satisfaction, "I have sold more books on physics than Madonna has on sex." Now that is a first class attitude.

Carl Sagan wrote the original introduction to the book. He recalled catching sight of Hawking on a visit to London in 1974, when Sagan stumbled on a special conclave of scientists, the famed Royal Society. He witnessed something awesome:

I realized that I was watching an ancient ceremony: the investiture of new fellows into the Royal Society, one of the most ancient scholarly organizations on the planet. In the front row, a young man in a wheelchair was, very slowly, signing his name in a book that bore on its earliest pages the signature of Isaac Newton… Stephen Hawking was a legend even then.

Like Newton, Hawking was the Lucasian Professor at Cambridge University. No position in science is more exalted. Yet he wrote for the most general reader. Looking again at his Brief History last night, I was struck by his easy and inviting voice. For any scientist to write that way, about the most challenging subjects, is unusual. You have to feel what your readers feel. I wondered if his own physical vulnerability had anything to do with this rare empathy.

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He wanted to know, as we all do, "Where did we come from? And why is the universe the way it is?" He concluded the book with the observation that if and when science achieves a complete unified theory, a quantum theory of gravity, human beings would then "know the mind of God."

A ‘God-Obsessed Atheist’

What he meant by that was not what most religious believers do. He was an atheist. But as a colleague who attended his lectures at Cambridge recalls, he was a "God-obsessed atheist." Hawking was known to slip into churches, accompanied by the "entourage" that piloted him and his wheelchair. He wanted to hear the sermon. He left quickly afterward.

In his later years, he stepped outside of his specialty more and more, giving satisfaction to proponents of a number of dubious causes. Those include the New Atheists, various pessimists and misanthropes, enemies of the State of Israel, and others.

In 2010, he co-wrote a book with Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design. They insisted that "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," a nonsensical claim later echoed by New Atheist cosmologist Lawrence Krauss. Oxford University mathematician John Lennox, an eloquent spokesman for Christian views, replied with a book of his own, God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? Discovery Institute physicist Bruce Gordon responded as well:

Universes do not "spontaneously create" on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking's contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons.

Indulging in philosophy, at which his efforts, as neuroscientist Michael Egnor put it, were "notoriously sophomoric, Hawking claimed a few years ago that "philosophy is dead." It makes your head hurt.

A Victim of His Own Celebrity

Recently, there was the increasing sense that he was being exploited by the media for his brilliant reputation. And, let's be honest, for his heart-tugging appearance in photographs. He called for "some form of world government" based on an argument from "Darwinian evolution." He warned of "artificial intelligence, the ravages of climate change and the threat of nuclear terrorism." He predicted that humanity must be prepared to find a home other than Earth in the coming millennium.

Hawking later whittled down this "sell by" date for getting off the planet to somewhere between 200 and 500 years. Hardly a month went by without breathless coverage of his latest gloomy pronouncement.

In the end, he seemed almost as much a victim of his own celebrity as he was of his motor neuron disease. With his death, all that is over. He cannot be exploited anymore or captured by the lures of trendy, shallow intellectual improvisation. It all burns away. And his actual achievements in science, and as a writer gifted to communicate science to his readers, are the noble remainder.

Farewell, Dr. Hawking.

Restore Americans’ freedom to buy health insurance independent of Obamacare - On eve of trial, reexamining DOJ’s landmark suit against AT&T/Time Warner

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 22:37
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The tax-reform provision repealing the penalty on those who refuse to participate in ObamaCare has freed millions of Americans to escape a system that exploits them. But while Americans can escape ObamaCare, they still can’t buy insurance in the individual market independent of ObamaCare because private insurers are prohibited from selling it. If this prohibition can be removed through the granting of state waivers by the Department of Health and Human Services, or by the passage of a new federal statute, ObamaCare will collapse into a high-risk insurance pool for the seriously ill rather than become a stepping stone to socialized medicine.

The politics of the ObamaCare debate changed dramatically when the Congressional Budget Office determined that repealing the coverage mandate would save an astonishing $338 billion over 10 years. The saving would come from undisbursed subsidies, as lifting the tax penalty would induce an estimated 4.6 million people to flee from the exchanges. The number of Americans enrolled in ObamaCare plans is projected to plummet to 7.4 million by 2021, a mere 2.2% of the population.

The repeal of the tax penalty will progressively worsen ObamaCare’s risk pool as healthy enrollees who currently pay more into the system than the expected value of their coverage exit the exchanges. Premiums will rise at an accelerating rate for those who stay in the exchanges, forcing Democrats to find new funding or watch the program implode.

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The repeal of the tax penalty will progressively worsen ObamaCare’s risk pool as healthy enrollees who currently pay more into the system than the expected value of their coverage exit the exchanges. Premiums will rise at an accelerating rate for those who stay in the exchanges, forcing Democrats to find new funding or watch the program implode.

NY Times Denigrates Trump’s Economic Adviser Pick Kudlow, ‘TV Commentator’

NewsBusters - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 22:30
<p><em>The New York Times</em> on Thursday dismissed Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s pick to head the National Economic Council (replacing Gary Cohn) in “President Picks TV Commentator as His Economic Adviser.” The conservative economist and associate director for economics and planning in President Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget was reduced to someone who Trump picked for his loyalty and Trump-style audacity.</p>

‘Multiple’ Fatalities When Bridge Collapses Onto Vehicles

The Stream - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 22:10

MIAMI (AP) -- A pedestrian bridge being built across an eight-lane highway collapsed at a Miami-area college Thursday, crushing eight vehicles under massive slabs and killing multiple people, authorities said.

Search and rescue missions were underway. Eight people were taken to hospitals. The number of fatalities was not immediately known.

“The main focus is to rescue people.” said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez. “As soon as those efforts are over, our homicide bureau will take the lead.”

The main companies behind the bridge’s construction have faced questions about their work and one of the companies was fined in 2012 when a 90-ton section of a bridge collapsed in Virginia.

In Miami, the 950-ton, 174-foot span was assembled by the side of the highway and moved into place Saturday to great fanfare. The $14.2 million bridge connected Florida International University and the city of Sweetwater. It was expected to open to foot traffic next year.

“We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge. At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information,” the school said in a statement.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to the scene. Gov. Rick Scott said he was headed there as well.

“We have a national tragedy on our hands,” Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez said.

The “accelerated bridge construction” method was supposed to reduce risks to workers and pedestrians and minimize traffic disruption, the university said.

“FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said in the statement Saturday.

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Cristina Rodriguez, a 23-year-old junior who was on spring break with other students, said she was not surprised when she heard the bridge collapsed.

“I just felt the bridge was done too quickly to believe the bridge was stable and sound to support everything that was on there,” said Rodriguez, who was not on campus Thursday but drives through the intersection almost daily.

MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm that won the bridge contract, took its website down on Thursday. But an archived version of the website featured a news release touting the project with FIGG Bridge Engineers, “a nationally acclaimed, award-winning firm based out of Tallahassee.”

The release said FIGG had designed “iconic bridges all over the country, including Boston’s famous Leonard P. Zakim Bridge and Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge.”

MCM said on twitter that it was “a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way.”

FIGG said in a statement it was “stunned by today’s tragic collapse.”

“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”

FIGG was fined in 2012 after a 90-ton section of a bridge it was building in Virginia crashed onto railroad tracks below, causing several minor injuries to workers. The citation, from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, said FIGG did not do the proper inspections of the girder that failed and had not obtained written consent from its manufacturer before modifying it, according to a story in The Virginian-Pilot.

Court documents show that MCM, or Munilla Construction Management, was accused of substandard work in a lawsuit filed earlier this month. The suit said a worker at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where the company is working on an expansion, fell and injured himself when a makeshift bridge MCM built collapsed under the worker’s weight.

The suit charged the company with employing “incompetent, inexperienced, unskilled or careless employees” at the job site.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was monitoring the situation and would offer whatever support was needed.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who spoke at a ceremony celebrating the bridge’s construction over the weekend, told CBS there were going to be a lot of questions that have to be answered about what happened.

“Right now the most important thing is going to be to save people who are hopefully still alive,” he said.

Florida International University is the second-largest university in the state, with 55,000 students. Most of its students live off-campus. The bridge was supposed to be a safe way to cross a busy street and a plaza-like public space with seating where people could gather.

In August 2017, a university student was killed crossing the road that the bridge was supposed to span.

Florida International University is also home to the National Hurricane Center.


Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Curt Anderson in Miami and Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.


Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mueller Blasts Trump Org With Subpoenas, is Reviewing Business Dealings With Russia

The Stream - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 22:06

Special counsel Robert Mueller issued subpoenas to the Trump Organization in recent weeks, asking the company to surrender a trove of documents relating to Russia and other topics at issue in the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Though the breadth of the subpoenas aren't yet clear, the development is another signal that Mueller will scrutinize President Donald Trump's private business dealings. Trump has previously suggested he would fire the special counsel if the investigation implicated his sprawling business empire.

The New York Times reports the subpoenas were delivered several weeks ago, and may be connected to a broader probe of foreign financing of political activities during the election. The Trump Organization is the holding company for the president's varied business interests.

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It's unclear what the subpoenas could indicate. Though they might suggest the company is not cooperating with the investigation, one white collar lawyer explained subpoenas are often used to memorialize agreements between both parties as to the scope of an investigation, or to overcome confidentiality provisions in contracts.

The president has repeatedly denied having commercial ventures in Russia or with Russian entities, though the Times notes Trump signed a non-binding letter of intent to proceed with a construction project in Moscow in 2015.

The development could hinder the special counsel's pursuit of an interview with Trump. The Wall Street Journal reported Mar. 9 that the president's lawyers would make him available to Mueller if he agrees to end the Trump-related portions of his investigation by a certain date. A 60-day deadline has been suggested in this connection.


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