Negotiators say they’ve agreed on border bill. If approved by President will avoid a Government shutdown.

The Latest: Negotiators say they’ve agreed on border bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on government negotiations over border security (all times local):
8:30 p.m.
Negotiators in Congress say they have reached an agreement in principle to fund the government and avoid another partial government shutdown.
The emerging agreement was announced by a group of lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Richard Shelby and Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, after a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill.
The talks had cratered over the weekend because of Democratic demands to limit immigrant detentions by federal authorities, but lawmakers apparently broke through that impasse Monday evening.
Now they will need the support of President Donald Trump, whose signature will be needed ahead of the deadline at midnight Friday.
If lawmakers don’t act, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed for a second time this year.
8:15 p.m.
Congressional negotiators say politically freighted talks on border security are back on track as they speed to avert a new federal shutdown this weekend.
Officials say an agreement could be in sight as early as Monday night. The talks had cratered over the weekend because of Democratic demands to limit immigrant detentions by federal authorities, but that impasse seems to be loosening.
A Friday midnight deadline is looming as negotiators strain to prevent a second partial government shutdown, for which there is virtually no support from lawmakers of either party.
If bargainers don’t reach an agreement and get President Donald Trump’s signature by then, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed for a second time this year.
4:20 p.m.
President Donald Trump is assailing Democrats over faltering border security negotiations.
Trump spoke to reporters Monday at the White House at an event attended by local sheriffs. He says construction on a border barrier is already underway, but he says of Democrats: “We’re up against people who want to allow criminals in our society.”
Border security negotiations stalled over the weekend over Democratic demands to limit the number of migrants whom federal authorities can detain. The two sides also remain separated over how much to spend on Trump’s border wall.
Republicans say Democratic demands to limit immigrant detentions are a deal breaker, eclipsing the border wall issue for now.
Trump is holding a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night and says he’s going there “to keep our country safe.”
3:55 p.m.
The top Republican negotiator for the House says talks on nettlesome border security issues are in “better shape today” and she’s optimistic that negotiations can produce a deal in time to meet a deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown.
Texas Rep. Kay Granger gave the optimistic assessment on her way into a meeting of other top negotiators that was convened after talks collapsed over the weekend over a Democratic demand to limit immigrant detentions by federal authorities.
She says the battle over capping detentions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as demanded by top Democrats was one of those issues that “pop up” in negotiations.
She says there are several remaining outstanding issues.
The deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown is midnight Friday.
3:50 p.m.
Ahead of a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, President Donald Trump’s campaign has issued a new video calling for a border wall.
The video posted Monday offers testimonials from residents of the city advocating for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. They say the wall is needed for public safety, arguing that El Paso’s border fence has helped the city.
The video concludes with the slogan “Finish the Wall,” an update on the “Build the Wall” chants that defined Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Trump’s Monday night rally is to take place just a few hundred yards from El Paso’s border fence. Trump has repeatedly exaggerated the impact of El Paso’s fencing on the city’s crime rate, as well as statistics about crime committed by people who have entered the U.S. illegally.
3:40 p.m.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Democrats to resume border security talks as Congress races to avoid another government shutdown.
McConnell complained Monday that Democrats are asking for too much from Republicans in the negotiations over President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build a wall on the Mexican border, his premier campaign promise.
In exchange for some funding for border barriers, Democrats want limits on the number of immigrants whom Immigration and Customs Enforcement can detain for illegal crossings and other violations. It’s a way to slow the Trump administration’s aggressive deportation policies.
McConnell called the detention bed limits “absurd.”
Chief budget negotiators are meeting again Monday to resume talks that sputtered over the weekend. They face Friday’s deadline to fund the government or risk another partial shutdown.
12:30 a.m.
The White House is refusing to rule out the possibility that the federal government may shut down again.
Negotiators are clashing over whether to limit the number of migrants authorities can detain, creating a new hurdle for a border security compromise that Congress can accept.
With a Friday deadline approaching, the two sides remain separated over how much to spend on President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.
Rising to the fore is a related dispute over curbing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the federal agency that Republicans see as an emblem of tough immigration policies.
People involved in the talks say Democrats have proposed limiting the number of immigrants in the country illegally and caught inside the U.S. — not at the border — that the agency can detain.

Western Pennsylvania Gas Prices Add a Nickle; Wintry Weather Curbs National Demand

Gas prices in Western Pennsylvania are five cents more expensive this week at $2.512 per gallon, according to AAA East Central’s Gas Price Report.   Only three Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states have more expensive gas price averages on the week, including Pennsylvania (+2 cents).  The rest of the region is paying less to fill-up as compared to last Monday.

With regional utilization up 2.2 percent to 74.6 and an increase in imports, the region’s gasoline stocks built by 2.3 million barrels for the week ending February 1 – the largest of any region according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.  Total stocks register at 71.3 million barrels, which is a number not seen in the region since early 2017, and should help keep fluctuation in gas prices relatively moderate in the week ahead.

This week’s average prices: Western Pennsylvania Average               $2.512
Average price during the week of February 4, 2019                               $2.463
Average price during the week of February 12, 2018                             $2.881

The average price of unleaded self-serve gasoline in various areas:      

$2.464      Altoona
$2.486      Beaver
$2.558      Bradford
$2.541      Brookville
$2.334      Butler
$2.592      Clarion
$2.540      Du Bois
$2.560      Erie
$2.434      Greensburg
$2.568      Indiana
$2.555      Jeannette
$2.568      Kittanning
$2.421      Latrobe
$2.590      Meadville
$2.515      Mercer
$2.390      New Castle
$2.563      New Kensington
$2.522      Pittsburgh
$2.503      Sharon
$2.506      Uniontown
$2.599      Warren
$2.447      Washington

On the National Front
On the week, the national gas price average is two cents more expensive, landing at $2.28.  At the start of the workweek, nearly half of all state averages also saw jumps – some at or more than a dime increase.

Frigid temperatures across much of the country have contributed toward a half a million barrel per day drop in demand to measure at 9 million barrels – a level consistent with a year ago according to the EIA.  At the same time, gasoline stocks saw a nominal 513,000-barrel increase for a total of 257.8 million barrels.  While demand is mostly flat year-over-year, total stocks sit at a 124-million-barrel surplus.

Crude oil has remained relatively cheap since the beginning of the year, moving between $51- $55 per barrel.  At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, WTI increased eight cents to settle at $52.72.  Oil prices were volatile last week, following the release of new data from the EIA showing that at the end of the previous week, total domestic crude oil inventories rose less than expected – a build of only 1.3 million barrels to total 447.2 million.

Motorists can find current gas prices nationwide, statewide, and countywide at


Youth smoking decline stalls, and vaping may be to blame

Youth smoking decline stalls, and vaping may be to blame
By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Cigarette smoking rates have stopped falling among U.S. kids, and health officials believe youth vaping is responsible.
For decades, the percentage of high school and middle school students who smoked cigarettes had been declining fairly steadily. For the past three years, it has flattened, according to new numbers released Monday.
There may be several reasons, but a recent boom in vaping is the most likely explanation, said Brian King of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We were making progress, and now you have the introduction of a product that is heavily popular among youth that has completely erased that progress,” King said.
The CDC findings come from a national survey conducted last spring of more than 20,000 middle and high school students. It asked if they had used any tobacco products in the previous month. Some of the findings had been released before, including the boom in vaping.
Experts attribute the vaping increase to the exploding popularity of newer versions of e-cigarettes, like those by Juul Labs Inc. of San Francisco. The products resemble computer flash drives, can be recharged in USB ports and can be used discreetly — including in school bathrooms and even in classrooms.
According to the new CDC data, about 8 percent of high schoolers said they had recently smoked cigarettes in 2018, and about 2 percent of middle schoolers did. Those findings were about the same seen in similar surveys in 2016 and 2017.
It also found that about 2 in 5 high school students who used a vaping or tobacco product used more than one kind, and that the most common combination was e-cigarettes and cigarettes. Also, about 28 percent of high school e-cigarette users said they vaped 20 or more days in the previous month — nearly a 40 percent jump from the previous year.
Smoking, the nation’s leading cause of preventable illness, is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans the sale of e-cigarettes and tobacco products to those under 18.
E-cigarettes are generally considered better than cigarettes for adults who are already addicted to nicotine. But health officials have worried for years that electronic cigarettes could lead kids to switch to smoking traditional cigarettes.
“I think the writing is on the wall,” with research increasingly suggesting e-cigarettes are becoming a gateway to regular cigarettes, said Megan Roberts, an Ohio State University researcher.
There is, however, some split of opinion among health researchers. Some had linked e-cigarettes to an unusually large drop in teen smoking a few years ago, and they say it’s not clear to what extent the decline in smoking has stalled or to what degree vaping is to blame.
Cigarette smoking is still declining in some states. And another large survey found that smoking has continued to drop among 12th graders, though not in younger school kids.
“It’s not clear yet what’s going on and it’s best to not jump to any conclusions,” said David Levy, a Georgetown University researcher.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

As Democratic field expands, Biden waits on the sidelines

As Democratic field expands, Biden waits on the sidelines
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden will headline his first public event in about three weeks on Saturday— in Munich, Germany, nearly 5,000 miles from Iowa, site of the 2020 presidential campaign’s first contest.
As he weighs whether to jump into the race, Biden has been conspicuously absent from early voting states, making him an outlier among Democrats eyeing the White House. Nine Democrats have announced full-fledged campaigns, two have launched exploratory committees and several others are blanketing Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as they decide whether to launch a campaign. A half-dozen made the rounds this past weekend alone.
In a wide-open race, Biden’s take-it-slow approach has given other candidates a head-start in fundraising, scooping up top-tier staff and perfecting their pitch to voters. It’s also given them a chance to chip away at what would be a central argument of a Biden campaign: that he is the only candidate who can defeat President Donald Trump in 2020.
Biden has said he’ll only run if he doesn’t believe Democrats have other viable options, and he’s privately raised doubts about the electability of some of his potential rivals, according to a person with knowledge of those conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about private discussions.
But some voters who have seen those candidates up close in recent weeks disagree.
“I like Joe. He’s a good man, and I like his character,” said Audrey Wolf, a 72-year-old retired teacher and devout Democratic caucusgoer from Mason City. “But I will say, I’m just really open to the new faces out there.”
Nick Maybanks, a 42-year-old Democratic voter from Cedar Rapids, said Biden’s wavering on whether to launch a campaign “puts him a couple of paces back.”
“While these others are here, I’m wondering if he would be committed to it,” Maybanks, a county prosecutor, said of Biden as he and his family gathered to hear New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker address Iowa voters.
The former vice president initially expected to make his decision by now. But he blew through a self-imposed January deadline without a campaign announcement, and some longtime allies say they simply don’t know when, or if, he’ll enter the race.
“He’s prepared, but he’s also doing his due diligence,” said Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus who has spoken to Biden in the past two weeks.
But for now, he doesn’t have plans to visit any of the early states. He heads to Michigan on Tuesday to deliver a eulogy at a funeral for Democratic Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress. On Saturday, he’ll speak at a high-profile national security summit in Germany.
Biden advisers say he can afford to get a later start. After eight years as vice president, he’s well-known to most voters and has deep ties to Democratic activists in the early primary states. His tight-knit group of senior advisers is ready to swiftly stand up a campaign operation if Biden gives them the go-ahead.
The former vice president would also bring a more moderate track record to a campaign that is so far being defined by liberal candidates pushing big government programs, like a Green New Deal to tackle climate change and “Medicare-for-all.” Biden hasn’t endorsed either concept.
Biden may also be the closest thing Democrats have to a front-runner in 2020, given his long history in politics. A recent CNN poll found about 6 in 10 Democrats said Biden should run, and 44 percent said they would be very likely to support him if he did — more than said this for any other potential Democratic candidate.
But the prospect of a Biden candidacy has not scared off other candidates.
California Sen. Kamala Harris has set the pace for the field, drawing an eye-popping 20,000 people to her campaign launch last month. Her early start has also helped her campaign bank crucial information on voters, including boosting its email list by 20 percent on Harris’ first day as a candidate, according to a campaign aide.
Lesser-known candidates are using the winter to start making introductions to voters. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s team sought to maximize media attention by announcing an exploratory committee during a week in mid-January when no other major campaign announcements were planned. She followed that up with quick trips to each of the early voting states, including a three-day swing through South Carolina that wrapped up Sunday.
Although she’s only formed an exploratory committee at this point, Gillibrand has already hired 40 staffers.
Some Democratic strategists say the former vice president is letting valuable time slip away.
“You can’t get time back,” said Dan Pfeiffer, who advised Barack Obama’s two successful presidential campaigns. “The Iowa caucus, which is the most complicated election in the country, is a year away, and the candidates that wait very well may regret it.”
Obama is said to have made similar points to the many prospective candidates he’s met with so far, according to people with knowledge of the conversations. While the former president hasn’t recommended a specific timetable to candidates, he has emphasized the importance of investing early in the kind of ground operations in Iowa and elsewhere that helped catapult him to the nomination in 2008.
While most Democratic White House hopefuls have made their intentions clear by now, a handful of others share Biden’s slower strategy.
Beto O’Rourke, who shot to Democratic stardom with his narrow defeat in last year’s Texas Senate race, says he’ll make a decision before the end of the month. O’Rourke will headline a march in his hometown of El Paso on Monday night, about a mile away from where Trump will be holding a re-election campaign rally.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also plans to make a decision in February. The billionaire made a campaign-style stop in New Hampshire last month and headlined a climate change event last week in Florida, another crucial primary state.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn’t said when he’ll decide whether to launch a second presidential campaign. But he’s kept making high-profile appearances, including delivering a rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union address last week.
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Follow Julie Pace at and Tom Beaumont at

Pennsylvania’s Lt. Governor Begins His Statewide Marijuana Listening Tour

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s statewide marijuana listening tour is starting in central Pennsylvania as he aims to take Pennsylvania’s pulse on whether to legalize the drug. Fetterman’s scheduled to appear Monday evening at the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg and then Tuesday evening at the Newport Public Library in Perry County. Gov. Tom Wolf says it’s important to explore the subject, now that states along Pennsylvania’s borders are moving toward legalizing marijuana.

Aliquippa Man Sought On Drug Charges


Investigation Continues Into Drug Trafficking In Aliquippa


Local Newspaper Drops Syndicated Cartoon After Vulgar Message To President Trump

At least one newspaper says it has dropped the syndicated cartoon “Non Sequitur” after a vulgar message to President Donald Trump appeared in it. The Butler Eagle in Pennsylvania reported Sunday that a “shot at President Donald Trump” will cost cartoonist Wiley Miller “his place in the Eagle’s Sunday comics.”  A scribbled message in one panel of that day’s cartoon appears to begin with “We fondly say go …” followed by the message to Trump. Miller appeared to acknowledge the message in a tweet that said “some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg. … Can you find it?”

Aliquippa Man Has Hearing This Morning On Drug Charges