Founder of megachurch quits following misconduct allegations

SOUTH BARRINGTON, Ill. (AP) — The founder of a Chicago-area evangelical church that grew to become one of the largest in the nation is stepping down, calling allegations that he touched and made lewd comments to female congregants a distraction.

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  • Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Commentator loses 2nd job after Parkland survivor tweet

 

NEW YORK (AP) — A conservative commentator who tweeted about using "a hot poker" to sexually assault a 17-year-old survivor of the Florida high school shooting has lost a second St. Louis broadcast job.

  • Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gradual deployment of US troops to Mexico border underway

 

ROMA, Texas (AP) — The deployment of National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border at President Donald Trump's request was underway Tuesday with a gradual ramp-up of troops under orders to help curb illegal immigration.

  • Written by By JOHN L. MONE and PAUL J. WEBER , Associated Press

FEMA faulted for failed contracts to deliver hurricane aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts for hurricane supplies without adequately researching whether winning bidders could deliver what they promised, according to a new investigation by Democrats on a Senate oversight committee.

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FILE - In this Dec. 21, 2017, file photo, two year old Yeinelis Oliveras González accompanies her father, Luis Oliveras, while eating dinner, in Morovis, Puerto Rico. The light blue glow cast by a tarp that covers half their roof, a donation from a church, has already dissipated. The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts to deliver hurricane supplies without adequately researching whether winning bidders could deliver what they promised, according to a new investigation by Democrats on a Senate oversight committee.(AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)


The investigation followed disclosures by The Associated Press in November that a newly created Florida company with an unproven record had won more than $30 million in FEMA contracts to provide 500,000 tarps and 60,000 rolls of plastic sheeting for repairs after Hurricane Maria damaged tens of thousands of homes in Puerto Rico. That vendor, Bronze Star LLC of St. Cloud, Florida, never delivered those urgently needed supplies.

The report from Democrats on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs described failures by the Trump administration that prevented timely delivery of tarps and sheeting to hurricane victims after the summer's storms. It focused on the Bronze Star contract and another awarded to Global Computers and Networks LLC of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania.

Bronze Star was formed less than two months before bidding on FEMA's tarp and sheeting contracts. Global Computers registered as a federal government contractor in September, about one month before it won its FEMA contract.

FEMA, an agency under the Homeland Security Department, had awarded Global Computers a $33.9 million contract to provide 500,000 tarps but canceled the deal about five weeks later because of the company's failure to provide any tarps. FEMA also terminated Bronze Star's contracts without paying any money after about four weeks. 

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FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2017, file photo, homes in the Cantera area are covered with FEMA tarps, where buildings from the Hato Rey area stand in the background in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts to deliver hurricane supplies without adequately researching whether winning bidders could deliver what they promised, according to a new investigation by Democrats on a Senate oversight committee. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)


The report said FEMA officials were required to determine that a bidding company was capable of fulfilling a contract, and FEMA was permitted under federal rules to rank a proposal from a company with demonstrated successful past performance higher than one with no experience offering a lower price.

"Once again we've seen massive contracts awarded to individuals and companies that would seem to have no capacity to deliver," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement. She called the contracts "a failure to safeguard tax dollars and a failure to deliver desperately needed goods and services."

The Homeland Security Department's inspector general is still investigating the contracts.

The head of Global Computers, Dominique Pereira, told the AP late Monday that the company has been cooperating with federal investigators but declined further comment. Phone calls to Bronze Star's offices in Florida went unanswered throughout the day Monday.

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FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2017, file photo, homes stand covered with FEMA tarps in the Cantera area, as the banking zone stands in the background in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts to deliver hurricane supplies without adequately researching whether winning bidders could deliver what they promised, according to a new investigation by Democrats on a Senate oversight committee. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)


One of Bronze Star's owners, Kayon Jones, told the AP previously that manufacturers he contacted before bidding on the contracts assured him they could provide the tarps but later said they could not meet the government's requirements. Jones said supplying the materials was problematic because most of the raw materials came out of Houston, which was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. He said he sought a waiver from FEMA to allow him to order tarps from a Chinese manufacturer and for more time, but FEMA denied the request.

Jones, who served in the Navy from 1997 to 2000, said he picked the Bronze Star name because he has another company with the word star in it. Neither he nor his brother, who is the firm's co-owner and also is a veteran, earned the Bronze Star military commendation.

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Follow Associated Press investigative reporter Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck

  • Written by By MICHAEL BIESECKER , Associated Press

Free-range parenting laws letting kids roam could catch on

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — After Utah passed the country's first law legalizing so-called free-range parenting, groups in states from New York to Texas are pushing for similar steps to bolster the idea that supporters say is an antidote for anxiety-plagued parents and overscheduled kids.

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  • Written by By LINDSAY WHITEHURST , Associated Press