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People pack meeting of panel eyeing expansion of whale tanks

 In this Nov. 30, 2006, file photo people watch through the glass as a killer whale passes by while swimming in a display tank at SeaWorld in San Diego.  (AP Photo/Chris Park, File)

MICHAEL R. BLOOD, Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Protesters and supporters filled a meeting room Thursday where a California commission was considering a vast expansion to the tanks that SeaWorld uses to hold killer whales in San Diego.

The commission that regulates land and water use along the California coast took up the issue of the $100 million expansion, which animal rights activists fear would pave the way for breeding more of the animals in captivity — something they say is cruel no matter the size of the tanks.

The 500 people who packed the meeting room included SeaWorld supporters wearing blue and white shirts and holding signs saying, "Educate, Inspire, Conserve," and critics waving signs saying "Vote no on SeaWorld Tanks" and "SeaWorld hurts Orcas."

Some groaned or snickered as staff testimony began.

Outside, hundreds of people who couldn't get into the meeting room stood behind rope lines and watched the session on oversized screens.

SeaWorld San Diego President John Reilly told commission members they would hear numerous inaccurate statements from critics but asserted the project would provide a better living environment for the whales and open new windows for researchers.

No one is more passionate about caring for killer whales than SeaWorld, he said.

Matt Bruce of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the renovations would do nothing to improve conditions for the killer whales.

"We feel these newer tanks will just be more prisons for these orcas," Bruce said. "These orcas are robbed of everything that is natural to them."

The staff of the commission has recommended approving the expansion under nine conditions that include forbidding SeaWorld from housing recently captured orcas in San Diego.

SeaWorld says it has not collected any orcas in the wild in more than three decades, its animals are well treated and park shows help generate support for conservation.

Under the proposal, SeaWorld would demolish portions of a 1995 facility that included a 1.7-million gallon pool and replace it with a 5.2-million gallon tank and 450,000-gallon pool.

The Orlando, Florida-based company has said the orca population at the San Diego facility — which currently numbers 11 — would not significantly increase due to the "Blue World" project it wants to open in 2018, even though the capacity of the tanks would jump.

The panel said it had received some 200,000 emails and 50,000 postcards weighing in on the project.

Attendance at the California park has declined since the release of the population documentary "Blackfish" in 2013, which suggests SeaWorld's treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. The company's stock price also has dropped over the past two years.

The testimony from each side depicted sharply different conditions for the whales — one caring and nurturing, the other harsh and heartless.

John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer in California and Texas who has written a book about his experiences and appeared in the "Blackfish" film, said whales are heavily medicated and family structures that define life in the wild are broken.

The whales gnaw the edges of their pools, breaking or wearing teeth, and inbreeding has created "hybrid orcas who have no true social identity," he said.

But SeaWorld veterinarian Hendrik Nollens disputed what he called "outlandish accusations" from critics of the park. The whales are enriched and stimulated, he said, not stressed or depressed.

"We care for these animals as if they were family," Nollens told the panel. "We have nothing but the whales' best interest at heart."

Airlines post better on-time rate but get more complaints

WASHINGTON (AP) — More flights are arriving on time but consumer complaints about the airlines have risen sharply.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that the nation's leading carriers posted an on-time rate of 80.3 percent in August. That was better than the 78.1 percent mark in July and 77.7 percent the previous August.

Delta Air Lines had the best on-time rate, 85.5 percent, followed by Alaska Airlines at 82.9 percent.

Spirit Airlines rated last, with an on-time rate of 63.7 percent. JetBlue Airways was next to last at 74 percent. The government counts a flight as on time if it arrives within 14 minutes of schedule.

Complaints most frequently concern delayed flights, but baggage or ticketing problems, customer service and fares are also included.

Two domestic flights in August were stuck on the tarmac longer than three hours, which could trigger violations of federal rules. One was a Delta flight delayed at Orlando, Florida, and the other was a PSA Airlines flight held up at Charlotte, North Carolina. PSA operates US Airways Express flights.

Consumers filed 1,633 complaints about U.S. airlines with the government, up from 1,107 a year earlier. Spirit had the highest complaint rate by a wide margin. Consumers were nearly twice as likely to complain about Spirit as about Frontier Airlines, the carrier with the second-worst record. Both airlines advertise low fares but charge more fees than most other carriers.

Many more travelers complain directly to the airlines, so the government report does not fully capture consumer displeasure. The CEO of Frontier Airlines estimated that his company gets 30 complaints for every one filed with the government.

License suspended for nurse accused of reusing syringes

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. (AP) — A nurse accused of reusing syringes while giving flu shots to 67 patients at a pharmaceutical company voluntarily surrendered her license, New Jersey officials said Thursday.

The state Attorney General's office said the nurse's license is temporarily suspended and she isn't able to practice pending a further ruling from the state's board of nursing.

The board said in a consent order that it was informed the nurse "administered an inadequate amount of the flu vaccine" to patients at Otsuka Pharmaceutical in West Windsor using two single-use syringes. If proven, the board said the allegations would demonstrate that she engaged in acts of gross negligence, malpractice or incompetence.

"Such conduct evidences that (the nurse) is a clear and imminent danger to the public warranting a temporary suspension of her license to practice nursing in the state," the order states.

Officials say the risk of infection is low. Syringes that hold the vaccine — not needles — were reused.

The incidents happened Sept. 30 when the TotalWellness contractor administered vaccines to 67 workers, officials said.

TotalWellness said the nurse was an independent contractor and that the company is working with officials to notify patients and provide resources for potential medical risks. Health officials recommended testing for hepatitis B and C and HIV.

"We take full responsibility for this incident and are working diligently with the New Jersey Department of Health to resolve this matter as swiftly as possible," TotalWellness president and founder Alan Kohll said in a statement. "Our sincerest apologies go out to all those affected by this terrible event."

The Associated Press is not identifying the nurse because she has not been charged with a crime.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical said in a statement it was alarmed at the breach and that employee health is its top concern.

Court: Hot yoga's sequence of poses can't be copyrighted

SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The founder of a popular form of yoga that is performed in a room heated to more than 100 degrees lost a court appeal Thursday to copyright a sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the sequence used in hot yoga classes is a process intended to improve people's health, so copyright law does not cover it. A copyright on the yoga sequence would be akin to giving a surgeon the exclusive right to perform a complicated surgery, the court said.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Bikram Choudhury, considered the founder of Bikram yoga. The classes take place in a room that is more than 100 degrees and are supposed to provide health and fitness benefits. Choudhury has said he extended the careers of Kareem Abdul Jabbar and John McEnroe, among other professional athletes, according to the 9th Circuit decision.

The court rejected Choudhury's arguments that he was entitled to copyright protection because his arrangement of the poses constituted a compilation. A call to Choudhury's attorneys was not immediately returned.

"Though Choudhury emphasizes the aesthetic attributes of the Sequence's 'graceful flow,' at bottom, the Sequence is an idea, process, or system designed to improve health," Judge Kim Wardlaw said. "Copyright protects only the expression of this idea — the words and pictures used to describe the Sequence — and not the idea of the Sequence itself."

Choudhury sued the Evolation Yoga studio in 2011, accusing it of copyright infringement for using his sequence in its classes. The studio was founded by Mark Drost and Zefea Samson in New York after they completed a Bikram yoga teacher-training course developed by Choudhury.

The 9th Circuit upheld a lower court decision in favor of Evolation Yoga. Eric Maier, an attorney for the studio, said his clients should be commended for "standing up" to Choudhury.

In Oregon visit, Obama will find grief but also resentment

In this Oct. 3, 2015, file photo, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin speaks during a news conference, in Roseburg, Ore. When President Barack Obama arrives in Roseburg Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, he will find a timber town still in mourning over the shooting that killed eight community college students and a teacher. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press

ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) — When President Barack Obama arrives here Friday, he will find a timber town still in mourning over the shooting that killed eight community college students and a teacher. But he will also find another deeply held emotion — seething anger over his calls for new gun restrictions.

Only a week after a gunman strode into a writing class and opened fire on classmates, many people in the region known as Oregon's Bible Belt are quick to reaffirm their opposition to stricter gun laws. At least one parent of a shooting survivor says his family will not meet with the president, although his daughter said she hopes to. And gun-rights supporters plan to protest during Obama's visit.

"He's not wanted here. He's coming here purely to push his garbage, and we don't want it," said Michelle Finn, who is helping to organize the protests planned for intersections near the small airport where Obama's helicopter is expected to touch down.

Staunchly conservative Douglas County is bristling with gun owners who use their weapons for hunting, target shooting and protecting themselves. A commonly held opinion in this area is that the solution to mass killings is more people carrying guns, not fewer.

A single unarmed security guard was on patrol the day of the shooting. For months prior to the attack, faculty and staff had debated whether to arm campus security officers, but they could not overcome their divisions on the issue.

"The fact that the college didn't permit guards to carry guns, there was no one there to stop this man," said Craig Schlesinger, pastor at the Garden Valley Church.

Schlesinger is among the clergy who have been comforting the families of those slain last Thursday by Christopher Harper-Mercer, who had six guns within him on campus and eight more at the apartment he shared with his mother.

Nine other people were wounded, some seriously. The gunman fatally shot himself in front of his victims after he was shot by police.

Sheriff John Hanlin has become a symbol of the region's rejection of tighter gun control. After 20 children and six adults were killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Hanlin sent Vice President Joe Biden a letter saying he would never comply with any gun-control law from the Obama administration.

Hanlin, a visible figure at news conferences following the Roseburg killings, has said now is not the time for a debate about gun control.

Immediately after the shooting, Obama said he intended to politicize the Roseburg attack to put pressure on Congress to adopt gun restrictions — a statement that infuriated much of this town of 22,000 people about 180 miles south of Portland.

Some families are divided, even those directly affected by the rampage.

Stacy Boylan, father of shooting survivor Ana Boylan, told Fox News that his family would not attend an event with the president because of Obama's views on guns.

But Ana Boylan told The Associated Press she would indeed meet Obama if she has a chance to do so in private.

"I do have a few questions and I'd like to see him," Boylan said. Her mother, Deanna Boylan, said her daughter wants to ask the questions in private, not in a news story.

Trying to tamp down suggestions that Obama would receive a cold reception, Douglas County commissioners released a statement Thursday welcoming him.

"Regardless of our differences with the president on policy issues, we await the president's arrival and look forward to his show of support" for a grieving community that is enduring "immeasurable" heartache, said Susan Morgan, chairwoman of the commission.

Roseburg leaders also sought to reassure Obama that he is welcome, saying in a statement earlier in the week they would "extend him every courtesy."

The president has never been popular in this corner of southern Oregon. Barely a third of the county voted for him in the last election.

He will not be the first national leader to confront resistance to gun control in Roseburg.

In 1968, while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Robert F. Kennedy told a hostile crowd that it was too easy for people who should not own a gun to buy one.

"Does that make any sense that you should put rifles and guns in the hands of people who have long criminal records, of people who are insane, or of people who are mentally incompetent or people who are so young they don't know how to handle rifles or guns?" Kennedy said. He lost the Oregon primary the next day and was fatally shot in Los Angeles less than two weeks later.

The White House says Obama will meet privately with victims' families. His official schedule shows no indication that he will appear in public and talk about gun control, as RFK did 47 years ago.

Laurie Nielsen, 55, is among those who think Obama should stay away. The way she sees it, the president is coming to exploit the Roseburg shootings for his own political advantage.

"I don't think he belongs here. Not at this time," Nielsen said. "It's really none of his business to be here."


Associated Press Writer Gosia Wozniacka in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this story.

Men suspected in armed car jacking in custody
By KTVL Staff/KTVL.com

EAGLE POINT, Ore.-- Two men are in custody in connection to an early morning armed car jacking in the 100 block of Riley Road outside of Eagle Point on Thursday, according to a press release from both Jackson County Sheriff's Office and Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

The two men have been identified as Jeremiah James Haynes, 37, of Crescent City, California and Eduardo Luis Ramos, 26, of Crescent City, California.

Both Haynes and Ramos have been arrested on charges of robbery in the first degree (two counts each); Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle; Attempting to elude a police officer; Unlawful use of a weapon; and Felon in possession of a firearm.

Ramos was also lodged on a misdemeanor warrant from Lane County on an original charge of giving false information to police. Both are being held for parole violations out of Del Norte County, California.

Deputies responded to shots fired outside of Eagle Point at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday. Two suspects fled in separate vehicles- one of which was a black Ford Focus stolen from the property.

The Ford Focus was found around 6:30 a.m. abandoned on a driveway in the 17000 block of Highway 62. The driver was taken into custody by Jackson County Sheriff's Office when he was found in the area.

The driver of a Jeep SUV led deputies on a pursuit for 100 miles until the Jeep ran out of gas west of Diamond Lake on Highway 138. The driver then fled on foot.

Using a K9 patrol, Douglas County Sheriff's Office took the driver into custody along the North Umpqua River bank and transferred him to Jackson County Police Custody.

Three Years in the Making: Oregon's Newest Sobering Center
Leaders in Josephine County came out for a groundbreaking ceremony for the newest sobering center.(KTVL/Aaron Nilsson)
By Aaron Nilsson/KTVL.com
GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Three years in the making...

Groundbreaking in Grants Pass for the newest sobering center in southern Oregon.

State Representative, Duane Stark, helped secure $500,000 to go towards start-up costs for the facility.

Stark said this is vital to the community and part of the mental health spectrum.

"There's nothing in between, so when people are in their hour of need and we have no other place to put them other than a hospital or jail bed, well, this provides something where we can get them plugged in, get them sobered up so they're not a danger to themselves or others and then we can connect them to services if they need that," Stark said.

"Once they're done getting sober, we would actually help them address their other needs. We would refer them to the other five treatment programs in Josephine County, send them to the Gospel Rescue Mission, work with all the other entities that actually help folks that have substance use disorder problems," Rick Jones, with Choices Counseling Center, said.

Oregon Health Authority will evaluate the center and, if everything works out, more centers will open up statewide in other counties.

The center should open January 2016.

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