WQAD News

The Riverdale “Robotic Rams” build new hopes for University of Iowa pediatric patients

PORT BYRON, Illinois - The “Robotic Rams” is the Riverdale High School robotics team who held their third annual competition Sunday afternoon.  Although the team was focused on their robot, they were also thinking about a bigger cause that’s helping patients at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City.

For students like Riverdale sophomore Ella Fornero-Green it starts with a little curiosity.

“I did not know how to program when I came into robotics last year, but now I’m the lead programmer,” Fornero-Green says. “I was like this is really cool. I want to be apart of this and be able to code and design robots.”

Fornero-Green is on the “Robotic Rams” who are competing in their third meet this year with their own masterpiece.

“This is our robot this year,” explains Aleck Reece. “So, he can intake minerals using this rubber band drum right here that spins.”

Those minerals are yellow cubes and white whiffle balls.  The team programmed the robot to sort them.

“You get points for correctly identifying that the cube is the one you need to move and moving that,” Reece explains. “If you move either of the other two those points are taken away.”

“It’s all about the points you want to have the most points to win,” Fornero-Green adds.

But there’s more to this tournament than that winning title.

“The top of the Iowa children’s hospital list for donations is Legos,” says Fornero-Green.

After the team found out their teacher’s son was fighting cancer, they decided to put the pieces together to help.

“So, we raise money and we purchase Lego sets for children at the hospital,” comments Reece.

Giving patients a chance get a head start in their STEM career.

“Legos relates a lot to what we do,” Reece says.

Because a little curiosity is the first building block to creating opportunities for others.

“They can build and use their hands and build whatever they want with them,” says Fornero-Green.

This is the Robotic Rams third year collecting donations for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.  So far they’ve donated more than one hundred Lego sets for patients.

Arsenal Island opens up for a clock tower tour and prime eagle watching

ROCK ISLAND, IL- If you’re looking for a spot to eagle watch, take out your calendars. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced tours of their Historic Clock Tower on Arsenal Island. The tower offers a spectacular view of the Mississippi River, which is perfect for spotting bald eagles who come here during the winter.

Visitors will learn about the historic Clock Tower from a Corps Park Ranger as they climb to the top.

The tours will be on Saturdays and Sundays for  the next three weeks, starting January 26 and ending February 10. Each day will have two tours, one at 10 a.m. and another at 12 p.m.

Everything will last about an hour and a half. It does involve walking up 12 flights of stairs and briefly going outside, so wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.

The tours are free, but it’s encouraged to register in advance by calling the Visitor Center at (309) 794-5338. For more information on how to visit the Arsenal visit their website.

Quad City Rollers looking for new faces to join their team

ELDRIDGE, Iowa--

“When we found this and I got to come I thought it was crazy that I could be apart of something like this,” said Myah Ackerland.

The Quad City Rollers hosted a bootcamp on January 20, to find new faces for the 2019 season.

“A couple times a year we start a bootcamp for anyone interested in derby,” said Roxi Schlue. Schlue has been on the team for five years and was surprised when she found out the Quad Cities even had a roller derby team.

During bootcamps they work on balance, strength and teamwork.

“I came to practice and saw all these girls working together and getting a good workout in and having a lot of fun,” said Roxi.

Roxi known as "Roxi Balboa" in the rink is now captain of the QC Rollers, giving her a boost in confidence.

“In derby you have to use your voice and communicate with your team and we run this derby team together so if things need to be done you have to speak up,” said Roxi.

“They put me in skates and were like alright we're going to teach you how to fall instead of expecting me to be good they told me how to be bad,” said Myah Ackerland. Ackerland joined the team seven months ago. Over the past few months she has learned how to get back up again no matter how hard she hits.

“When I tell people I do this they are like 'oh so you beat people up on the track' we don't do that we just kinda bump each other pretty hard,” said Ackerland.

Working to become the best in the rink by their season opener on March 23. The team practices and plays at the Eldridge Community Center.

Passengers stuck on United flight in frigid cold for more than 14 hours

(CNN) — Passengers aboard a United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Hong Kong were left stuck on a runway for more than 14 hours in frigid weather with a dwindling supply of food.

The nightmarish incident began when the 3:05 p.m. flight was diverted to the Goose Bay Airport in Newfoundland, Canada, due to a medical emergency. The plane landed there at 9:31 p.m. AST, and medical personnel met the aircraft and a passenger was taken to a local hospital.

But as the flight was set to take off again, it experienced a mechanical issue.

That’s when the waiting began.

Passengers were not allowed to leave the airplane because the Goose Bay Airport did not have a customs officer on duty during the overnight hours. Saturday bled into Sunday, and still the flight remained grounded.

Sonjay Dutt, a passenger on the plane, said on Twitter that the plane’s door had broken and that they were stuck on board as the weather dipped to negative-20 degrees outside. Unable to leave for hours upon hours, he began tweeting at United for help, saying that they were running low on food.

On Sunday morning, Goose Bay officials brought on donuts and coffee from Tim Hortons, the classic Canadian fast food restaurant.

United had food delivered to the passengers and “the crew is doing everything possible to assist customers,” a United spokesperson said.

Finally, after more than 14 hours, Dutt was able to get off the plane with the rest of the passengers.

“Its been a long long long long day,” he tweeted.

Lloyd Slade, another passenger on the plane, said he was “just very tired, at this point” on Sunday. “Cabin/flight crew have been excellent and very helpful (United HQ/dispatch, not so much.)”

An alternative aircraft containing meals for the passengers was flown to Goose Bay to transport customers back to Newark.

“We apologize to our customers and our crew is doing everything possible to assist them during the delay,” the company said.

Passenger Steven Lau thanked those who brought Tim Hortons on board.

“(I) feel partly relieved to be on a new plane, but the crew is still loading bags and preparing the aircraft, so not certain when we’ll actually take off,” he said. “It’s nearing 24 hours since we originally took off from Newark, so we’re all feeling restless and frustrated. I’m just ready to be off the plane and finished with this experience.”

Lau said some passengers on the flight had decided to scrap their trips entirely in the wake of the overnight stay on the tarmac. He is planning to wait to see how United can get him there ASAP, he said.

Students seen mocking Native Americans could face expulsion

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Students at a Kentucky Catholic school who were involved in a video showing them mocking Native Americans outside the Lincoln Memorial after a Washington rally could potentially face expulsion, according to the diocese.

In a joint statement , the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School apologized and said they are investigating and will take “appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”

The Indigenous Peoples March in Washington on Friday coincided with the March for Life, which drew thousands of anti-abortion protesters, including a group from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky.

Videos circulating online show a youth staring at and standing extremely close to Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Native American man singing and playing a drum. Other students, some wearing Covington clothing and many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and sweat shirts, surrounded them, chanting, laughing and jeering.

“We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips,” the diocese statement read. “This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.”

According to the “Indian Country Today” website, Phillips is an Omaha elder and Vietnam veteran who holds an annual ceremony honoring Native American veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.

Marcus Frejo, a member of the Pawnee and Seminole tribes who is also known as Chief Quese Imc, said he had been a part of the march and was among a small group of people remaining after the rally when the boisterous students began chanting slogans such as “make America great” and then began doing the haka, a traditional Maori dance. In a phone interview, Frejo told The Associated Press he felt they were mocking the dance.

One 11-minute video of the confrontation shows the Haka dance and students loudly chanting before Phillips and Frejo approached them.

Frejo said he joined Phillips to defuse the situation, singing the anthem from the American Indian Movement with both men beating out the tempo on hand drums.

Although he feared a mob mentality that could turn ugly, Frejo said he was at peace singing despite the scorn. He briefly felt something special happen as they repeatedly sang the tune.

“They went from mocking us and laughing at us to singing with us. I heard it three times,” Frejo said. “That spirit moved through us, that drum, and it slowly started to move through some of those youths.”

Eventually a calm fell over the group of students and they broke up and walked away.

The videos prompted a torrent of outrage online. Actress and activist Alyssa Milano tweeted that the footage “brought me to tears,” while actor Chris Evans tweeted that the students’ actions were “appalling” and “shameful.”

As of Sunday morning, Covington Catholic High School’s Facebook page was not available and its Twitter feed was set to private.

Police seek volunteers to get drunk for them; many respond

KUTZTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania police department’s request for volunteers to get drunk for law and order purposes generated a predictably enthusiastic response.

The Kutztown Police Department sought three volunteers to drink hard liquor to the point of inebriation so officers could be trained how to administer field sobriety tests during traffic stops. A call for volunteers on Facebook accumulated hundreds of responses and over 1,000 shares in less than a day.

The post was soon updated with the news that the department had its volunteers for the April 4 training session.

Volunteers were required to have a clean criminal history and have a responsible party to take care of them after the training.

Participants are also required to be willing to drink hard liquor until inebriated.

BuzzFeed says it still remains confident in its story, one day after Mueller disputed it

(CNN) — “If true” are two of the most dangerous words in journalism. They were spoken hundreds of times in the coverage of BuzzFeed’s potentially explosive report.

On Thursday night BuzzFeed rocked the worlds of politics, media and law with its story, attributed to two sources, that President Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

But now there’s been a shift from “if true” to “what’s untrue.” The office of special counsel Robert Mueller said Friday evening the story contained information that is “not accurate.”

Now there is an extraordinary dispute between BuzzFeed and Mueller.

The special counsel took the extremely rare step of issuing a statement and purposefully casting doubt on BuzzFeed’s story. But BuzzFeed says the special counsel should explain what, exactly, is inaccurate.

“We really urge the special counsel to make it clear what he’s disputing,” editor in chief Ben Smith said on CNN’s “AC360” Friday night.

That’s unlikely to happen. In the meantime, BuzzFeed is exuding confidence about its original story, even as journalists at other newsrooms express doubts.

On Saturday a spokesman for the news division said, “As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate. We remain confident in what we’ve reported, and will share more as we are able.”

The story is still displayed prominently on the BuzzFeed News homepage: “President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project.”

The subheadline says “Trump received 10 personal updates from Michael Cohen and encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

BuzzFeed added a line on Friday evening noting that the special counsel’s office had “disputed aspects of” the story.

No other major news outlet has been able to match BuzzFeed’s reporting, which was attributed to “two federal law enforcement officials.”

This has spurred skepticism about the validity of the report. CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz tweeted Friday, “If Mueller has evidence that Cohen lied at the direction of the Trump, you’d think it would have come out.”

Writing in The Hill, Jonathan Turley criticized the “boom and bust pattern” of stories that sparked “imminent prosecution and impeachment” talk, “only to be followed by mitigating or conflicting evidence on each allegation.”

But Smith, speaking on “AC360,” pointed out that reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier have previously been “way out in front” on stories about Trump Tower Moscow that were later confirmed.

Smith said he knows the identities of the two sources in Thursday’s story. “We’re really confident in these specific sources,” he said.

So now BuzzFeed is going back to the sources to try to glean more information. The news outlet’s credibility is on the line in a big way, and some journalists are predicting that this episode will not end well.

BuzzFeed has its defenders too, however. Many observers see this as an unsolved mystery.

“My best guess is, in the long run, the BuzzFeed piece will prove to be right ballpark, wrong inning,” veteran investigative reporter David Cay Johnston told CNN Business.

President Trump and allies are using the controversy to tar not just BuzzFeed, but the national news media as a whole.

Toronto Star fact-checker Daniel Dale pointed out that Trump told reporters on Saturday morning that “mainstream media has truly lost its credibility,” but “then, two sentences later, lied for the 13th time that the New York Times issued a post-election apology for its coverage. The Times never apologized.”

On social media, some Trump supporters celebrated the BuzzFeed controversy by calling it “BuzzFraud.” Fox News went with “Buzzkill” in a headline. The Drudge Report went with “Buzzbleed!”

This, in turn, sparked some strong defenses.

“Those trying to tar all media today aren’t interested in improving journalism but protecting themselves,” NBC’s Chuck Todd tweeted. “There’s a lot more accountability in media these days than in our politics. We know we live in a glass house, we hope the folks we cover are as self aware.”

CNN legal and national security analyst Susan Hennessey pointed out that Cohen will have a chance to resolve the mystery sooner rather than later.

On Twitter, Hennessey predicted that “the very first question Michael Cohen will be asked in his congressional testimony is ‘Did the President ever instruct or encourage you to lie to Congress or federal investigators?'”

The Cohen hearing is scheduled to take place on February 7.

Baby Shark has taken over the world, here’s who’s responsible

(CNN) — When humans of the far future study the culture of their ancient ancestors from the year 2019, it’s going to be pretty hard to avoid the topic of “Baby Shark.”

“Baby Shark,” that wholesome children’s song that’s somehow become an anthem for toddlers, families, marquee celebrities and groups of complete strangers from Indonesia to Indiana. “Baby Shark,” that viral earworm/mom group in-joke/meme/marketing craze circling the globe in innumerable, unlimited permutations.

“Baby Shark,” doo doo doo doo doo doo.

For the second week in a row the most popular rendition of the song, produced by Korean entertainment brand Pinkfong, is sitting pretty in the Top 40 of the Billboard Top 100.

It’s not the first viral internet hit to do so, and Billboard wasn’t its first conquest — the song has already hit the UK Top 40, and was only the third song produced by a Korean artist to do so, after international mega-hitmakers Psy and BTS.

It’s been a while since we have seen a cultural moment so global, so richly interdisciplinary as this, the era of “Baby Shark.” In this moment, a multitude of psychologies, theories and human truths unfold. But not a single one of them can properly explain why “Baby Shark” has become the megalodon it is.

If we examine them together, however, maybe they can get us close to a working theory. We owe it to future generations to try.

Truth #1: Virality is unpredictable

The story of “Baby Shark” begins, as most legends do, with a cosmic mystery: The mystery of internet virality. No matter what social media marketing companies or online influencers tell you, internet virality is a mercurial animal that knows no coaxing, boosting or strategizing. It just is.

Pinkfong’s US CEO Bin Jeong knows this intimately. Pinkfong, a brand of the Korean company SmartStudy, produces what can only be described as a metric ton of online content, mainly in the form of brightly colored, well-produced YouTube videos that attract millions of views from children all over the world. Its YouTube channel has more than 1,100 video uploads that account for more than 7 BILLION views.

So when Pinkfong posted a dance version of “Baby Shark” in 2016, set to the company’s signature brand of energizing K-pop beats, everyone knew it would probably do well.

They just had no idea how well.

“We instantly saw that Baby Shark starting performing, even compared to our other best-performing videos on the channel.” Jeong tells CNN. “We saw it was going to be special.”

Sensing its potential, Jeong says the company tried to bridle the viral animal.

“We put more marketing behind it, but that’s not how or why it became so viral,” she says. “To be honest, no matter what you do, the ones that make it, make it on their own.”

Instead, the wild beast broke free. In 2017, the #BabySharkChallenge captivated social media users in Indonesia, much in the same vein as the Harlem Shake and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The meme made the song even more popular, and Korean artists like Red Velvet and BlackPink filmed themselves singing and dancing along.

All the while, the views on Pinkfong’s video ticked upward; past a billion views, and then another. The original video has nearly 2.2 billion views now, making it one of the most-watched videos in Youtube’s history.

Pinkfong had nothing to do with any of this, Jeong says. It just was.

Truth #2: ‘Baby Shark’ is kid catnip

To be fair, while internet virality and the whims of a global public are fairly mysterious concepts, the music tastes of the average toddler are not.

And boy, does “Baby Shark” hit all of their buttons.

Author and pediatrician Claudia Gold says simple songs with easy melodies, repetition, and wholesome themes help kids keep order in a new and confusing world.

“When you’re 6 months old, or 2 or 5 years old, so many things are going on that you try to make sense of,” she says. “A song can kind of harness that experience and be comforting in its repetition.”

Oh, and repeat they do. Ask any parent with young children about “Baby Shark” and their eyes glaze over, haunted by months of constant backseat singalongs and Saturday morning “Baby Shark” marathons so tedious they should be outlawed under the Geneva Convention.

“Even before children can speak, they know how to communicate for a certain melody to be played over and over again,” Gold says. “It’s a way of calming and organizing young brains.”

Still, “Baby Shark” has flourished in part because adults, no matter how reluctantly, have embraced it too.

Jeong, Pinkfong’s US CEO, says that was according to plan. A lot of Pinkfong’s content creators are parents, she explains, so they have not only a good idea of what kids like, but of what they personally can tolerate.

“When our content creators create songs, they know the pain of watching it over and over again,” she says. “They are moms, so they wanted to really create something that can be enjoyed by the entire family.”

Susan Morley, a parenting coach in Atlanta, says parents know that when it comes to childhood obsessions, their kids could do a lot worse than “Baby Shark.”

“These nursery rhymes prepare children for language,” she says. “They’re fun and they create a world-to-lyric connection, where kids can recognize real-life themes like family.”

Plus, it’s easier to stomach than more complicated obsessions like “Fortnite.” Or, God forbid, Barney.

“Even parents who hate ‘Baby Shark,’ hate it less than they hated Barney,” Morley says.

Truth #3: It takes something special to unite younger and older audiences

So kids love “Baby Shark.” That still doesn’t explain why the song, in all of its repetitive chomping glory, has showed up on late night talk shows and “The X Factor” and various social media apps.

Is it the dance component? That’s a big inter-generational draw.

“That part is so important,” says Gold, of the simple hand motions that accompany the song. “Children are making sense of the physical experience and managing big feeling and controlling themselves, according to their abilities, in a way that they can feel good about.”

For older children and young adults, it means hip hop versions, internet memes and recurring social media moments like the #BabySharkChallenge, which most recently showed up on TikTok, a video sharing app that’s still relatively new in the US and didn’t even exist when Pinkfong’s fated video published in June 2016.

If you think about it, that trajectory is really amazing. After all, it’s not like “Baby Shark” started with Pinkfong. Anecdotally, the song has been around for at least 15 years and has floated about in the folkloric way most nursery rhymes do — with slightly different endings and slightly different origins.

A video of a woman singing the German version of the song, Kleiner Hai, went viral in Europe in 2010 for many of the same reasons we’re still weathering “Baby Shark” today: It was cute. It was catchy. It was ripe for mimicry and reinvention.

Truth #4: The way we listen, watch and play is changing

The YouTube of 2010 may have inspired some important viral moments, but the YouTube of 2019 is a massive all-encompassing entertainment hub. That’s exactly why “Baby Shark” landed on the Billboard Hot 100 next to Imagine Dragons and Cardi B. It’s simple math, really: In 2013, Billboard charts began to factor YouTube views into its equations, in addition to streaming data. There are literally thousands of “Baby Shark” videos on YouTube, primed and ready for searching little fingers to find. A charting breakthrough was only a matter of time.

It’s a little terrifying to consider, if you’re a parent. Those thousands of “Baby Shark” videos are shocking in both their breadth and specificity, in their deft algorithmic delivery of a bored toddler’s every hunt-and-peck wish. There’s Baby Shark featuring Elsa from “Frozen.” Baby Shark Christmas carols. Live-action Baby Shark. CGI Baby Shark. All of them, over and over again, in a kaleidoscope of colors, characters and creators. If a child were at the helm, searching for whatever ideas pop into their impressionable minds, they could fall into an eternal “Baby Shark” viewing hole and never come out.

While some parents don’t want to admit it, that’s exactly what happens sometimes.

“As soon as a child is old enough to be on any device, they’re going to be searching,” says Morley. “Toddlers are free searching. They may not know exactly what they’re doing, but they’re pushing buttons all over and sometimes parents are too busy and distracted and disconnected to look over their shoulders. It’s uncharted territory for a lot of parents, and they find it hard to keep up.”

And it’s no secret that the more kids search, watch and replay, the more creators see the demand for that kind of content, and the more they produce.

Maybe using a nursery rhyme to examine humanity’s changing relationship with technology is treading too close to the abyss, but in the vast “Baby Shark” discourse, there’s one moment that Gold says really caught her eye. In October 2018, an adorable video of a little girl asking her Amazon Echo to play “Baby Shark” captured hearts around the world (it also, according to Google trends, coincided with a significant spike in “Baby Shark” searches).

“It’s amazing to watch,” Gold says. “What is it like for a toddler; how do they understand that you ask this box with lights on it to play a song? I don’t think any of us know how children are processing that fact.”

“And yet, there’s an interesting moment when she’s talking to the device, and she realizes it can’t understand her,” Gold continues. “And the little girl looks at her mother because she knows that her mother will be able to make it work. She’s not alone with the Echo. She can see beyond it.”

That human connection, Gold says, is how we maintain healthy relationships with the cloying, grasping powers of internet content. While billions of YouTube views and complex Billboard metrics may be the solid evidence of “Baby Shark’s” success, that human interaction — the dancing, the jokes, the remixes, the fun — is the true heartbeat of this viral animal.

If Pinkfong has anything to say about it, “Baby Shark” won’t be going away anytime soon. In December, the company launched a line of “Baby Shark”-inspired plush toys on Amazon. Within days, Jeong says, they were sold out. Now, the company is working with American manufacturers to expand their product line.

Even with all of that strategizing and growth, Jeong still recognizes that mysterious spark of magic that made all of this happen.

“If you really think about it, it’s surreal,” she says.

Yeah, we agree. We really do, doo doo doo doo doo doo.

How an engineer and a crack dealer teamed up to sell scores of unlicensed guns

(CNN) — They were an unlikely duo: An aerospace engineer with a government security clearance and a house in the suburbs, and a gun-toting crack dealer whose purported motto was “always be ready to shoot.”

But together, according to court documents, Leonard J. Laraway and Bobby Perkins, Jr. created a pipeline of illegal guns running from suburban Virginia to cities across the mid-Atlantic region.

Scores of guns linked to the men have been recovered by police in recent years, most of them from Washington, D.C., according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia. Guns sold by Perkins have been “tied to three different homicides,” including the slaying of his own cousin, federal prosecutors allege.

Other weapons were recovered from an alleged cocaine dealer, along with a bulletproof vest; from a carjacking suspect accused of committing two armed robberies in a single night; and from the glove compartment of a car — just beyond the reach of a man who lunged for it while fighting with police, according to a CNN review of court records, police reports, and interviews.

One gun, a Taurus 9 mm, ended up in the hands of 22-year-old Marcus Bryant. Bryant was convicted of using the gun to rob a Metro PCS store in northwest DC in November 2015. He can be seen wielding the weapon in a surveillance video taken from inside the store.

Unseen is the lingering trauma more than three years later for store manager Veronica Bermudez, who was two months pregnant on the day of the robbery and remains so fearful that she’s unwilling to work outside her home.

“To this day, this is a nightmare for me,” Bermudez told CNN. “I feel totally unsafe. I’ll live with that for the rest of my life.”

The prosecutions of Laraway and Perkins offer a glimpse into the world of unlicensed gun dealing, a common source of weapons used by criminals, officials say, but one that is frustratingly difficult to police. Unlicensed dealers sell weapons without conducting background checks on prospective buyers, making them a go-to source for people unable to pass those checks. The no-questions-asked nature of such sales can make the future path of the weapon difficult to predict.

Like many unlicensed dealers, Laraway seemed an unlikely suspect when he came under scrutiny by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, better known as ATF.

He earned a six-figure salary as an engineer with the Defense Contract Management Agency and was pursuing a second master’s degree at the prestigious U.S. Naval War College.

He also ran a thriving side business as a black-market gun dealer, according to authorities.

Laraway bought guns at licensed stores, snapped pictures of them, then posted them on gun sales websites with a brief description — and an inflated price.

He told authorities he would get phone calls from prospective buyers, then meet them in person to conduct a private sale in cash — without official paperwork.

He sold dozens of guns this way before finding his most reliable customer: Perkins, a young former Marine who would later admit in court to running a drug dealing conspiracy out of an apartment complex across the street from an elementary school.

Perkins sold marijuana, crack, powder cocaine, and heroin. He was known to customers and associates as “The Plug,” slang for a major drug source. Perkins was always armed, often with more than one gun at a time, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum in which they also cited his reputed slogan about always being ready to shoot.

Laraway and Perkins first met after Perkins responded to an online ad Laraway posted for a Glock pistol.

It was the beginning of a business relationship in which he would sell Perkins an estimated 200 guns over a span of a few months in 2015, according to court records.

They met in person roughly two dozen times and Laraway eventually began “fronting” Perkins guns in anticipation of future payment. To facilitate this arrangement, Laraway provided Perkins with his checking account number. In the span of a few weeks in July and August of 2015, Perkins made eight deposits into Laraway’s account totaling $37,000.

Laraway would later tell federal agents Perkins was only interested in buying handguns and that he always paid cash. He also said he knew Perkins was reselling the weapons.

As of last March, ATF agents had traced about 130 guns recovered by police for which Laraway was found to be the original purchaser, according to an affidavit by special agent Ashleigh C. Hall. According to the affidavit, Laraway said he sold approximately 106 of those guns to Perkins before they were recovered by law enforcement.

In the summer of 2015, federal authorities observed that Laraway had purchased more than 300 guns in less than two years and opened an investigation. Laraway was indicted in February 2016 for selling more than 400 firearms without a license. He pleaded guilty two months later and began cooperating against Perkins in exchange for what he hoped would be a lighter sentence than he might otherwise get.

Laraway’s wife, Yali Yin, wrote to the judge at the time seeking leniency for her husband’s “one-time mistake.”

Laraway’s defense attorney noted his client’s “highly decorated career serving the United States of America” and his genuine remorse for his conduct.

“Since his arrest, Mr. Laraway has done everything he possibly could in order to address his wrongdoing,” the lawyer wrote.

Laraway was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and continued to cooperate against Perkins.

It would be nearly two years before Perkins was charged with drug trafficking and dealing firearms without a license.

According to prosecutors, Perkins sold more than 200 handguns, “including to people he knew were convicted felons.”

“The magnitude of Perkins’ gun running is difficult to overstate,” wrote Asst. U.S. Atty. Alexander E. Blanchard.

And the number of recovered weapons was continuing to climb, Blanchard noted at Perkins’ sentencing hearing in August. He told the judge that yet another gun had been recovered in a search executed just a day earlier, according to a transcript of the proceeding.

In court papers filed by his defense attorney, Perkins was described as a hard-working, “loving husband and father” who overcame being expelled from high school to earn his GED, join the Marines, and become a skilled electrician.

“Bobby is a good man…” his mother, a reverend, wrote in a letter to the judge. “He made some mistakes, but still he would work very hard to take care of his family.”

Perkins spoke briefly at his sentencing hearing. He told the judge he accepted responsibility for the mistakes he made, but denied being a violent person.

“I’m not a violent person,” Perkins said. “I don’t like to deal in violence.”

The judge, T.S. Ellis III, challenged that assertion before imposing his sentence. He noted the more than 200 guns he’d sold and the fact that some “were recovered in the possession of felons and were used in other crimes.”

“Maybe you didn’t shoot somebody and maybe you didn’t attack somebody, but you clearly were surrounded by instruments of violence,” Ellis said. It’s important, the judge added, “that any sentence I impose on you must stand as a beacon, as a warning to others not to engage in this conduct.”

With that, he sentenced Perkins to 12 years in federal prison.

Laraway has served his time and is already out.

In an interview with CNN, Laraway’s lawyer, Edwin Brooks, said Laraway began selling guns because he wasn’t making enough money to support his upper middle-class lifestyle. “Just like everybody else,” Brooks said, “there’s a lot of indebtedness: loans, credit cards. It was basically a financial thing.”

Though Laraway is no longer behind bars, Brooks said there is lasting damage from his conviction, including the loss of his government security clearance which prevents him from working in his chosen field. As of last fall, he was the manager of a gas station.

“The collateral consequences have been devastating,” Brooks said.

Brooks said Laraway was blindsided by the result of selling guns to Perkins.

“There’s no way for him to foresee this was going to happen,” the lawyer said.

Sportscast January 19, 2019

The first ever IWCOA Girls State Wrestling Tournament was held at Waverly-Shell Rock High School. Sisters Tateum and Sydney Park each won State Gold.  Bettendorf's Ella Schmit was a state runner up.

Orion wins the team title at the Bob Mitton Wrestling Invitational.

 

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Moline man buys 30 pizzas for QC International Airport employees

MOLINE, Illinois  --   Paul Michaels walked in to the Little Caesar' Pizza, off 41st street in Moline, on a mission.

"Well, everybody loves pizza," Michaels said. " I just decided a few days ago to do this."

Michaels decided to buy lunch for TSA employees at the Quad Cities International Airport who have not been paid due to the government shutdown.

"I'm unemployed right now," Michaels said."I'm just trying to do a good deed for people who aren't getting paid."

He reached out to Moline's Little Caesar's owner, Chuck Keown, about matching his donations.

"I got a call on Tuesday from Paul," Keown said. "He wanted to know if we would be willing to match his donations for the airport workers. so we decided yes because it is a good cause."

Together, the two loaded up 30 pizzas,crazy bread, and sauces, and headed to the airport.

"It's a boost in the morale," TSA employee Bill Rambo said. "To see that people do care, they have compassion, and they have empathy. It's hard without a paycheck.”

Michaels says he plans on bringing breakfast to the TSA workers sometime next week.

"I'm just doing it as a good cause," Michaels said. "I want to help others before I help myself.”

Clinton firefighter moved out of ICU

CLINTON, Iowa- Adam Cain, the Clinton firefighter who sustained life threatening injuries fighting a fire in grain-silo fire is out of the ICU.

Today US Representative Dave Loebsack visited Cain and his family to wish them well.

Cain has been in the hospital recovering since January 5. He recently had surgery and is breathing on his own.

Cain was injured in the same fire that took the life of Lieutenant Eric Hosette.

Cain’s family is asking people to the the community and Adam in their thoughts and prayers.

 

Police investigating suspected car bomb in Northern Ireland

(CNN) — Police in Northern Ireland said they were investigating a suspected car bombing late Saturday in Londonderry.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland tweeted: “Police are in attendance at the scene of an incident in Derry/Londonderry city centre. We would ask for patience and co-operation of the public and the business community as we carry out our initial investigations.”

Police urged residents via Twitter to stay away from the area.

Authorities did not name any suspects.

For many years, Northern Ireland has been split over the question of whether it should remain part of the United Kingdom or become part of Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s history has been marked by sectarian violence, although in recent years, its political parties have been working toward compromise and the two sides now make up a power-sharing government.

Londonderry, also known as Derry, has a population of about 240,000 in its metro area. It’s about 112 kilometers (70 miles) west of Belfast.

Bitter cold weather brings perfect temperatures for the 7th annual Icetravaganza

DAVENPORT, Iowa – Icetravaganza celebrated it’s seventh year of ice sculptures and winter fun in Davenport on Saturday.  This year’s theme is the Great American Road-Trip.

“This is perfect,” says Matthew Meadows, a local ice sculptor for the event. “Sunshine and 15-degree weather is perfect.”

Pure joy is exactly what Meadows is feeling as he puts the final touches on his masterpiece – a surfing dog representing California.

Bringing that California vibe to the Midwest weather for his sixth Icetravaganza.

“If it was sunshine and 30-degree weather these would actually crack,” Meadows says.

“Past couple years has been a challenge because of the weather trying to coordinate the right days and everything, so yeah it’s an adventure for us,” Meadows explains.

But getting the chance to inspect these pieces of art up close is enough to get art admirers to brave the temperatures.

“Especially kids they aren’t that scared of cold weather, so they’ll drag their parents,” Meadows comments.

Kids like Caroline Corcoran, who’s double guessing her ice inspecting outfit.

“I tried to dress kind of warm, but it’s kind of chilly outside still,” Corcoran says. “Probably shouldn’t have work Crocs.”

But it’s that cold weather and people like Meadows with a passion for art that keeps this event growing.

“We started out with six blocks of ice the first year and now it’s 80 blocks of ice, so now we are actually carving 24,000 pound of ice in three days,” Meadows says.

Bitter cold and ice art – the perfect combination for pure joy.

The Icetravaganza After-Party will be right outside the Freight House Farmers Market until 8PM tonight.  It costs $15 to get in on the festivities.

Trump offers the nation his shutdown deal

UPDATE: Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a prepared statement prior to the president’s address, indicating his proposal would not pass through the House of Representatives. Pelosi said the deal was only a compilation of “previously rejected initiatives” which “do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives.” She laid out Democrat’s solutions for border security, which include increased infrastructure, drug detection technology, more customs personnel, and more immigration judges.

WASHINGTON DC- President Trump delivered an address  Saturday to offer his proposed fix to the government shutdown. Trump proposed extending DACA protection in order for full border wall funding.

Trump began his address by outlining

In full detail, Trump asked for:

-$800 million for humanitarian aid

-$805 million for drug detection at ports of entry

-Over 2,750 new border agents

-75 new immigration judges

-$5.7 billion for a “strategic deployment of physical barriers.”

In turn, Trump offered Democrats three years of legislative protection for DACA participants, which would allow them to acquire work visas and prevent any deportation. He would also extend the same protection for 300,000 immigrants currently with a temporary protected status.

After his speech, Trump left without taking questions from reporters.

If accepted, this deal would immediately reopen the government. However, it doesn’t seem likely to go through. Earlier in the day Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) issued a statement via Twitter outlining his stance on the deal. Durbin wrote he can’t support the deal as reported and probably won’t pass the Senate. He instead called on Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to immediately reopen the government. Durbin stayed in line with most Democrats by saying the government must be reopened before negotiations on a border wall can commence.

Restaurant sign approved after concerns it was offensive

KEENE, N.H. (AP) — Officials in a New Hampshire city have approved a restaurant sign that initially was removed over concerns that it sounded like profanity.

The name of the Vietnamese restaurant in a public building next to City Hall in Keene is a play on words. It calls itself by the name of a soup, which is spelled P-H-O, but is pronounced “fuh,” followed by the words “Keene Great.” It’s scheduled to open March 1.

City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said in an email the sign was approved Friday and is in compliance. She said no one had submitted written permission to put up any sign until Jan. 4.

Dragon said officials decided to let the community “decide what they think of the sign and how they interpret it.”

These are the Americans killed in Syria

(CNN) — Four Americans were killed in a suicide bombing this week in Syria. They were an interpreter, an Army chief warrant officer, a Navy chief cryptologic technician and a Defense Department civilian.

Wednesday’s blast, believed to have been carried out by ISIS, occurred in the northern city of Manbij and left 14 people dead, including the Americans.

Service members were “conducting a routine patrol” at the time of the explosion, the US-led coalition Operation Inherent Resolve said.

The Pentagon identified three of those killed, while a government contractor named the fourth American victim.

The bombing, the result of a “suicide improvised explosive device,” also killed eight civilians and two fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a senior commander from the Manbij military council told CNN.

Three other US service members were injured in the attack.

The Americans killed were:

Jonathan Farmer

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, was from Boynton Beach, Florida. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

He joined the Army in 2005. Farmer served on six overseas combat tours, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, the US Army Special Operations Command said.

He was in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 and 2009, Operation New Dawn in 2010, Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012 and Operation Inherent Resolve in 2018 and 2019.

His awards included a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

Farmer is survived by his spouse, four children and his parents.

Shannon Kent

Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, was from upstate New York. She was a sailor assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66, based at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.

“She was a rock star, an outstanding chief petty officer and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community,” said Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, commanding officer of CWA-66.

Kent graduated from Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School in Pine Plains, New York, in 2001. Principal Tara Grieb remembered her as “an honor student and a wonderful person.”

“Our district is extremely proud of her and her service and we support her family 100% in their time of sorrow,” Grieb said.

Kent enlisted in the Navy in 2003. Her awards included the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal, according to the US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet.

“Chief Kent’s drive, determination and tenacity were infectious. Although she has left us way too soon, she will not be forgotten, and her legacy will live on with us,” said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collections) Denise Vola, CWA 66’s command senior enlisted leader.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Kent had followed in the steps of her father, New York State Police Col. Stephen J. Smith, when she joined the military.

“We owe her our eternal gratitude for her selfless dedication and sacrifice. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family and loved ones,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Ghadir Taher

Ghadir Taher, 27, was in Syria working with the Army as an interpreter for defense contractor Valiant Integrated Services, her family said.

The interpreter from East Point, Georgia, and her brother moved to the United States in 2001. She graduated from Tri-Cities High School and attended Georgia State University for two years before getting an associate degree through an online school.

Her brother, Ali Taher, said she had a kind heart and was used to hard work. She held multiple jobs at one point and even started her own business.

“She loved what she did. She was very passionate,” he said of his sister’s work abroad. “She said it was hard, but she was good at it and very happy doing it.”

Taher had worked for Valiant Integrated Services for less than a year, her brother said.

In a statement, a Valiant spokesman described her as “a talented and highly respected colleague loved by many.”

Scott Wirtz

Scott A. Wirtz dedicated more than a decade to serving his country.

The 42-year-old from St. Louis enlisted in the military in 1997 and served in the US Navy and as a Navy SEAL until 2005.

His awards included the SEAL Insignia, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism.

After some time away from the military, Wirtz began working with the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2017 as an operations support specialist, the agency said.

He was collaborating with troops in Syria to collect information about security and adversaries in the area. He had completed three deployments in the Middle East, it said.

Wirtz’s mother, Sandy, said her son would always talk about service with his dad, but when he wasn’t working, “He lived life to the fullest.”

When she heard about the attack, Sandy Wirtz quickly sent her son “Scottie” a text. He would usually respond immediately, she said. This time she received no response.

“At 3 p.m. that afternoon I sent another text and didn’t hear back. … I went to bed that night and didn’t think I’d be able to sleep,” she said. “At midnight we got the knock on the door. Call it a mother’s intuition, I knew it was about him.”

Scott Wirtz had spent Christmas with his parents in Missouri before traveling back to Syria before New Year’s Eve.

In a statement, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr. described Wirtz as a patriot.

“This is a stark reminder of the dangerous missions we conduct for the nation and of the threats we work hard to mitigate,” Ashley said. “As President Lincoln described on the fields at Gettysburg, this officer gave the last full measure of devotion.”

‘Missing link’ in human history confirmed after long debate

(CNN) — Early humans were still swinging from trees two million years ago, scientists have said, after confirming a set of contentious fossils represents a “missing link” in humanity’s family tree.

The fossils of Australopithecus sediba have fueled scientific debate since they were found at the Malapa Fossil Site in South Africa 10 years ago.

And now researchers have established that they are closely linked to the Homo genus, representing a bridging species between early humans and their predecessors, proving that early humans were still swinging from trees 2 million years ago.

The Malapa site, South Africa’s “Cradle of Humankind,” was famously discovered by accident by nine-year-old Matthew Berger as he chased after his dog.

That stroke of luck eventually led to this week’s finding, detailed in the journal “Paleoanthropology.”

The findings help fill a gap in humankind’s history, sliding in between the famous 3-million-year-old skeleton of “Lucy” and the “handy man” Homo habilis, which was found to be using tools between 1.5 and 2.1 million years ago.

They show that early humans of the period “spent significant time climbing in trees, perhaps for foraging and protection from predators,” according to the study in the journal “Paleoanthropology.”

“This larger picture sheds light on the lifeways of A. sediba and also on a major transition in hominin evolution,” said lead researcher Scott Williams of New York University.

‘Still so much to discover’

Two partial australopith skeletons — a male and a female – were found in 2008 at a collapsed cave in Malapa, in South Africa’s “Cradle of Humankind.”

“Australopithecus” means “southern ape,” a genus of hominins which lived between around 4 and 2 million years ago.

Their discovery set off years of debate in the scientific community, with some rejecting the idea that they were from a previously undiscovered species with close links to the homo genus and others floating the idea that they were from two different species altogether.

But the new research has laid those suggestions to rest, and outlined “numerous features” the skeletons share with fossils from the homo genus.

Australopithecus sediba’s hands and feet, for instance, show it was spending a good amount of time climbing in trees. The hands have grasping capabilities, which are more advanced than those of Homo habilis, suggesting it, too, was an early tool-user.

The researchers of the paper to highlight the remarkable story of how the fossils were found, pointing out that other dramatic clues to humanity’s history are still waiting to see the light of day.

“The first fossil of Au. Sediba was discovered by Matthew Berger, then a nine-year-old, who happened to stop and examine the rock he tripped over while following his dog Tau away from the Malapa pit,” they wrote.

“Imagine for a moment that Matthew stumbled over the rock and continued following his dog without noticing the fossil,” they added.

“If those events had occurred instead, our science would not know about Au. sediba, but those fossils would still be there, still encased in calcified clastic sediments, still waiting to be discovered.”

“The fortuitous discovery of the Malapa fossils and other similarly fortuitous recent finds should be reminders to us all that there is still so much to discover about our evolutionary past,” the authors concluded.

Illinois State University to receive $9.6M to repair arts buildings

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State University is to receive $9.6 million in state money to pay for emergency repairs to its fine arts buildings.

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph reports former Gov. Bruce Rauner released the funds. ISU media relations director Eric Jome says the money will be used for heating, air conditioning, ventilation work and plumbing repairs. Jome called the funding “a nice end-of-term infusion.”

ISU has been waiting a decade for nearly $62 million in state money to tear down the school’s Center for the Visual Arts and Centennial West and build a facility next to Centennial East, where the School of Music and other arts facilities are located. Centennial East would undergo extensive renovations under that project.

Jome says the school remains hopeful for that money to be released.

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