WWII vet who got degree delayed by nearly 7 decades has died
By JOHN SEEWER
Friday, January 11
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A World War II veteran who flew planes for the Navy and received his college degree last spring nearly 70 years after he last sat in a classroom has died, his family said. He was 97.
Bob Barger died Wednesday at a Toledo retirement community where he lived, according to Newcomer Funeral Home and a family friend.
He graduated from the University of Toledo in May after a review of his transcripts from the late 1940s showed he completed enough courses to qualify for an associate’s degree — a two-year diploma not offered when he was still in school.
“It was something I never dreamed of,” he said after learning he would get his diploma. “I knew I couldn’t go back to school now.”
Barger was honored at the school’s commencement ceremony, where he received his degree to a standing ovation. The White House later paid tribute to Barger, who received a letter from President Donald Trump.
Getting the degree, he said, reminded him of all the friends and family who were a part of his life.
The university took a look at Barger’s old school records because of a friendship he struck up with Haraz Ghanbari, the school’s former director of military and veteran affairs.
Ghanbari found out that Barger never graduated from the university, even though he took a full load of classes from 1947 to 1950.
The records showed Barger completed 83 credit hours — about 20 more than what’s required for the associate’s degree.
Barger was a pilot in the Navy, enlisting after seeing an advertisement that said “join the Navy and get an education.”
He flew seaplanes for scout observation over the Gulf of Mexico and later was a flight instructor.
Barger returned home to Toledo with his wife and young daughter and studied business and advertising while working for a paper company. He remembers history was his favorite class at what was then called Toledo University.
He never gave much thought about not graduating. When Ghanbari told him that he would finally get a degree, he let out a hearty laugh. “I can’t believe this. I’m 96 years old,” said Barger, whose wife died in 2011.
Members of the university’s Student Veterans of America chapter bought him a cap and gown and the assisted living center where he lived held a big graduation party for friends and family.
Barger wore a shirt in the school’s colors that said “Alumni” for the party.
Ghanbari said he was humbled to meet Barger just over five years ago. “It was a privilege to escort him across the stage during his graduation,” he said.
Newcomer Funeral Home said there will be a visitation Jan. 18 and a funeral Jan. 19 at Messiah Lutheran Church in Toledo.
DOE plans $115M investment in uranium enrichment project
Tuesday, January 8
PIKETON, Ohio (AP) — Federal officials say they plan to invest $115 million over the next three years to reopen a uranium enrichment demonstration project in Ohio.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said Monday that the U.S. Department of Energy plans to invest in the former American Centrifuge Project in Piketon. The Ohio Republican’s release says 16 centrifuges would be installed to demonstrate the production of enriched uranium as a fuel source for advanced nuclear reactors.
The plan would require federal regulators’ approval.
Portman says that the investment, if approved, could result in 60 jobs initially. He says it’s “another milestone” in the effort to get the domestic uranium enrichment project running again in southern Ohio.
Portman says the Energy Department under former President Barack Obama made the decision in 2015 to end the project.
Detroit show has SUVs, horsepower, but electric cars are few
By TOM KRISHER
AP Auto Writer
Monday, January 14
DETROIT (AP) — Automakers have promised to start selling hordes of electric cars in the next few years, but only two will be unveiled at the big Detroit auto show that kicks off this week — and those aren’t even ready for production.
Meanwhile, there will be plenty of SUVs and high-horsepower sports cars on display as cheap gasoline helps SUV and truck sales continue their dramatic climb.
So how credible is the industry’s pledge to move toward fuel-efficient vehicles when it keeps cranking out more lucrative trucks and sport utilities?
Some environmental groups contend that companies aren’t really interested in efficiency because they’re making tons of money from the sales of less-efficient SUVs and pickup trucks. These groups also say that without government fuel economy requirements, automakers won’t make progress toward electric vehicles that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Auto executives, however, say they’re already moving to more fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs, some now coming with gas-electric hybrid power systems. Soon there will be many electric SUVs, they say.
“Every one of our SUVs has hybrids somewhere in the future, hybrids or electrified vehicles of some sort,” says Craig Patterson, Ford’s SUV marketing manager.
Patterson will help show off a new version of the Ford Explorer big SUV at the auto show starting Monday, and it will have an optional hybrid power system. It is Ford’s first hybrid SUV in six years, and the company also has plans for a fully electric SUV based on the Mustang sometime next year. Seven battery-powered vehicles are planned for the U.S. by 2022, even a hybrid pickup truck.
General Motors plans a Cadillac electric vehicle in 2021, and more than 20 that run on batteries or hydrogen in four years. Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, wants to increase the number of electric models from six to over 50 by 2025. Other brands such as Audi, BMW and Porsche and Jaguar are rolling out electric vehicles.
But in December, almost 72 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were SUVs and trucks, up from 49 percent at the end of 2012. Because of the shift, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors are canceling some or all of their sedan lines. At the same time, they are hedging their bets by planning electrics and hybrids to give people fuel-efficient SUV options should gas prices rise from the current national average of around $2.24 per gallon.
Design work on the Explorer and other vehicles being introduced at the North American International Auto Show began more than three years ago, when automakers thought their new vehicle fleet had to average about 36 miles per gallon by 2025 under U.S. fuel economy standards. That’s about 10 mpg more than the current standards.
But the Trump administration has proposed freezing those standards at 2020 levels, a move that will spark a court challenge and a fight with California, which can set its own gas mileage and greenhouse gas standards. A decision on freezing the standards at around 30 mpg is expected later this year.
Simon Mui, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council who works on clean vehicles, said if the standards are frozen, years of improved efficiency will come to a halt.
“I tend to treat these automaker promises to roll out electric vehicles kind of like New Year’s resolutions,” he said. “There’s often a gap between what they promise and what they actually deliver.”
The government requirements are needed to make sure each automaker does their part, Mui said. Stable requirements bring down technology costs, and consumers benefit from using less fuel, he said.
But auto executives say they’ve been working to squeeze more efficiency out of the internal combustion engine, to the point where there isn’t much else they can do except add electric power.
Ford’s Patterson says even though gas is cheap, the company will sell the higher performance of hybrids, with gas engines boosted by instant electric power for acceleration. Consumers, he says, will be willing to pay for that. Also, due to technology breakthroughs, Patterson says hybrids no longer cost much more than standard engines.
Ford plans to keep working as if the government won’t freeze fuel economy standards because it doesn’t know what will happen. “You have to meet it at some point, and you’re going to have to build (for) California,” he said.
Still, selling hybrid and electric vehicles is tough in an era of cheap gas. In the U.S., fully electric vehicles amounted to less than 1 percent of new vehicle registrations through August last year. Yet globally, Navigant Research predicts huge growth in the next seven years, from just over 1 million sales this year to 6.5 million by 2025. The surge is expected because of government incentives in China.
Even so, automakers could get stuck with slow-selling electrics in the U.S. because of concerns over their limited range, and because it will take three to five years for battery and other costs to fall to about the same as gasoline engines, said Asutosh Padhi, senior partner and co-leader of the automotive unit at the McKinsey management consulting firm. U.S. consumers always want more utility and performance for less or the same price, he said.
Another problem is a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles is starting to expire for some automakers, Padhi said.
“It’s yet another headwind for electric vehicles in the near-term, until the performance picks up, until we get to cost parity,” he said.
US aviation system is starting to show strains from shutdown
By DAVID KOENIG
AP Airlines Writer
Saturday, January 12
The partial government shutdown is starting to strain the national aviation system, with unpaid security screeners staying home, air-traffic controllers suing the government and safety inspectors off the job.
Miami International Airport is providing the most visible evidence yet that the shutdown is at least making air travel less convenient.
Facing double the usual number of absences among unpaid TSA screeners, the Miami airport will close one of its concourses most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday to make sure TSA can adequately staff the remaining security checkpoints.
Meanwhile, the national union representing air traffic controllers — who are also working without pay during the shutdown, entering its 22nd day Saturday — sued the government, claiming they are illegally being denied pay.
And aviation-safety inspectors are still off the job, deemed not to be essential enough to keep working during the shutdown.
Here is a roundup of recent developments in the partial government shutdown’s impact on air travel.
The Transportation Security Administration said that 5.1 percent of screeners were absent on Thursday, up from 3.3 percent on the same date last year. The TSA has 51,000 transportation-security officers, who have continued to work because they are deemed essential employees.
Screeners represent just 6 percent of government workers who didn’t get paychecks Friday because of the shutdown. Airline-industry officials worry that they are particularly likely to stop showing up because their relatively low pay means they could quickly struggle to pay bills without money coming in.
Screeners start around $24,000 a year, and most earn between $26,000 and $35,000, according to TSA.
The agency has very few tools to deal with a severe shortage. It has a team of non-essential employees who are trained to screen air travelers, but that is only a stopgap designed to cover for shortages at one or two airports during a natural disaster.
January is a relatively light travel period, but industry officials worry what will happen if the shutdown lingers and more TSA employees leave for jobs that include a paycheck.
“TSA only has what it has,” said Christopher Bidwell, the vice president for security at the trade group Airports Council International-North America, “and although they have advised us that they are continuing to hire and train, we are very concerned about a prolonged government shutdown.”
Miami International, the nation’s 25th-busiest airport, plans to close off Concourse G at 1 p.m. for the next three days and shift a dozen flights a day to other terminals.
“Our wait times have been normal and operations have been smooth so far, but the partial closure is being done in an abundance of caution,” airport spokesman Greg Chin said Friday.
Other major airports surveyed by The Associated Press said they had no immediate plans to close terminals or take other drastic measures.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS
About 10,000 air traffic controllers under the Federal Aviation Administration continue to work without pay. On Friday, their union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington and asked for an order that its members get paid.
Union President Paul Rinaldi said there is already a shortage of controllers, and if current controllers decide to retire — about 1,900 are eligible — the government could be forced to restrict air traffic, creating flight delays. There is no indication that is happening yet.
About 3,300 aviation safety inspectors under the FAA are not working — since 2013, they have not been considered essential employees who must stay on the job during government shutdowns. They oversee and certify inspections done by employees of airlines and aircraft-repair shops.
“Our inspectors are the oversight, they are the regulatory side of the house for the FAA,” said Mike Perrone, president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union. Their work is not getting done, he said.
An FAA spokesman said earlier this week that the agency is recalling inspectors and focusing resources on overseeing airline operations. He declined to say how many inspectors are working, but union officials believe it’s about 100.
“A hundred out of 3,300 is probably not real good odds,” said Stephen Carl, an FAA inspector in Florida. “Please put us back on the job right now. Aviation is not being overseen.”
Carl said ongoing investigations have been put on hold by the shutdown.
Jeffrey Price, an aviation-security consultant and a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, expects more TSA agents will fail to show up, creating longer lines and creating a potential target for terrorists at airports.
“As the lines slow down and the crowds grow larger, it puts more and more passengers at risk from an attack,” Price said. He added, “The screeners who do come to work will be forced to make up the slack, which erodes their effectiveness even more.”
TSA officials said despite fewer numbers, screeners aren’t getting lax about their work.
“Security standards have NOT and will NOT be compromised,” tweeted TSA spokesman Michael Bilello.
Longer lines would alienate travelers and could push more airports to replace government employees with privately contracted screening agents. Airports in San Francisco and Kansas City already do that, with approval from the Transportation Department.
In 2016 — when TSA was understaffed at many airports, creating lines long enough to make many travelers miss their flights — other airports explored hiring contractors. Most dropped the idea after TSA’s performance improved.
Some airports are trying to help the unpaid federal employees.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport organized an event with credit unions, utilities and nonprofit organizations that can help federal employees obtain short-term loans and assistance, said spokesman Perry Cooper.
Tampa International Airport is working with different agencies to set up a food pantry, get bus passes and work with utilities to help hundreds of federal employees who may be struggling to pay bills.
Pittsburgh International Airport delivered lunches to TSA workers and air traffic controllers on Friday and plans to do it every Friday until the shutdown ends.
David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter
AP Business Writer Cathy Bussewitz in New York contributed to this report.
Congress to face same question: When will shutdown end?
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Monday, January 14
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress returns to Washington for its first full week of legislative business since control of the House reverted to Democrats, but lawmakers will be confronted with the same lingering question: When will the partial government shutdown end?
One Republican senator says he’s offered President Donald Trump a possible solution, though it may just be wishful thinking.
Sen. Lindsey Graham is encouraging Trump to reopen government for several weeks to continue negotiating with Democrats over the border wall Trump wants to build on the U.S.-Mexico border. If there’s no deal at the end of that time, Graham says Trump would be free to take the more dramatic step of declaring a national emergency to build it.
But the South Carolina Republican says Trump still wants a deal on funding for the wall before agreeing to reopen shuttered government departments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, insists Trump reopen the government first.
Their weeks-old standoff led to the partial government shutdown, now on day 24 without a clear end in sight.
Trump insisted on Twitter Monday that he wanted to deal, declaring: “I’ve been waiting all weekend. Democrats must get to work now. Border must be secured!”
Targeting Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump also argued that the shutdown “has become their, and the Democrats, fault!” Trump weeks ago asserted that he would “own” the shutdown and polls show that he is taking most of the blame.
Graham, who has publicly pushed Trump to use his authority to declare a national emergency to build the wall, is suggesting a short-term fix.
“Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option, and I think we’re almost there, I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal,” Graham said. “If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off.
“See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers. That’s my recommendation,” added Graham, who has publicly pushed Trump to use his authority to declare a national emergency to build the wall. Such a step would allow Trump to bypass Congress and tap various pots of unspent federal money, including for military construction and disaster relief as well as from assets seized by law enforcement, to pay for the wall.
Trump has kept Washington on edge over whether he would resort to such a declaration, citing what he says is a “crisis” of drug smuggling and the trafficking of women and children at the border. The president initially sounded as though such a move was imminent, but then pulled back. He has said several times since he first mentioned the idea in public this month that he prefers a legislative solution.
A key question is how much more time is Trump willing to give lawmakers. Graham, who spoke with Trump by telephone on Sunday morning, said the legislative path “is just about shut off” and blamed intransigence by Pelosi.
The speaker’s office had no immediate comment.
Democrats oppose an emergency declaration but may be powerless to block it. Some Republicans are wary, too, fearing how a future Democratic president might use that authority. Such a move, should Trump ultimately go that route, would almost certainly be challenged in the courts.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., called Graham’s idea to reopen the government a “great place to start.”
“I do think if we reopen the government, if the president ends this shutdown crisis, we have folks who can negotiate a responsible, modern investment in technology that will actually make us safer,” Coons said.
Trump says technology is nice, but that the border can’t be secured without a wall.
The White House has been laying the groundwork for an emergency declaration, which is feared by lawmakers in both parties.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said he’d “hate to see” a declaration issued because the wall wouldn’t get built, presumably because of legal challenges. Democrats voted in the past for border security and should again, he said.
“I actually want to see this wall get built,” Johnson said. “I want to keep pressure on Democrats to actually come to the negotiating table in good faith and fund what they have supported in the past.”
Graham favors a declaration and said the time for talk is running out.
“It’s the last option, not the first option, but we’re pretty close to that being the only option,” he said.
Graham and Coons spoke on “Fox News Sunday” and Johnson appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown