Rose Pitts



SAN MATEO COUNTY – A boy was hospitalized with puncture wounds following a mountain lion attack Tuesday night in unincorporated San Mateo County, authorities said.

The attack was reported around 6:50 p.m. in the 1000 block of Tunitas Creek Road, said Sgt. Javier Acosta, a spokesperson for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

“He is expected to be fine,” Acosta said.

The boy was on a hike with a family member when the attack occurred, Acosta said.

Deputies searched the area for the mountain lion but did not find it. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has since taken over the investigation, Acosta said.

A Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson did not immediately return a message seeking additional information.

Check back for updates.


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Goodbye Mark Jackson. Adios Steve Nash. Night-night to Madison Square Garden.

Next up is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

While the NBA world is waiting to crown LeBron James the scoring champion, the four-time MVP flashed his other elite skill Tuesday by collecting 11 assists and beating the Knicks at his favorite arena Tuesday, 129-123.

It required overtime because Jalen Brunson carried the Knicks on his back, but the Lakers dominated the final five minutes and James finished with an impressive 28-point triple-double.

James is now 88 points below Jabbar for the most in NBA history, a mark of highest distinction he should surpass within two weeks. He reached another milestone Tuesday by cracking the top-4 in all-time assists.

James started the evening in sixth and passed both Jackson and Nash with his 10,338th assist. The rest of the list will be tough to catch for James — No. 3 Chris Paul (11,246 assists and still active), No. 2 Jason Kidd (12,091) and the untouchable No. 1 John Stockton (15,806).

Of course, Tuesday’s game went down to the wire. A tradition for the Knicks (27-25) this season.

Brunson was the hero in regulation, connecting on the game-tying runner with 24 seconds left and drawing a charge on Anthony Davis on the ensuing possession. It set up a potential Knicks game-winner with four seconds left, but Julius Randle shrunk in a big moment and couldn’t even get up a shot.

Randle struggled all evening, failing to provide Brunson with much cover. Interestingly, coach Tom Thibodeau benched RJ Barrett for much of the fourth quarter and all of overtime as the Knicks lost their second straight.

Earlier in the contest, Brunson drew a charge on a bulldozing James in the paint. He’s not the quickest and can’t jump very high, but Brunson, who entered the night second in the NBA in charges drawn, is more than willing to put his body on the line.

Although the official excuse was a sore foot, James sat out Monday’s game in Brooklyn to ensure his availability and preparedness for MSG. It was his first game back at the Garden in three years, with an injury and suspension ruining his previous two opportunities.

His presence brought out the crowds and excitement, providing a big event that has been largely missing from the Garden this season. James’ pregame warmups were a spectacle just because of the cameras and crush of spectators.

James long ago labeled MSG his favorite court the visit, and, at age 38, it’s no guarantee he’ll come back.

“The Garden’s always been that way,” Thibodeau said. “I’ve experienced it both ways. Obviously being an assistant here in the 90′s and then coming back and coming in with opposing teams it’s the most unique building in the league. Players love playing here. There’s no other fan base that’s like it. There’s no other building that’s like it. So we understand it.”

The energy and atmosphere was ramped up because of James and the Lakers (24-28) with Knicks owner James Dolan filling his baseline row with celebrities — Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, actor Ben Stiller and former Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist.

Spike Lee was also in attendance but predictably not next to Dolan.

They witnessed James swishing but also dishing.



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It’s inevitable that LeBron James will break the record. But how will he embrace the man he passes on the NBA’s all-time scoring list? That’s up for debate and will be interesting to watch.

James, as he stated before the season, has no relationship with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He delivered that statement coldly in sunglasses. The reason for the distance was left unsaid, but it’s believed the issue is Jabbar’s public criticism of James’ ‘big balls’ celebration and his diminishing of COVID-19 into a meme.

In other words, Jabbar didn’t kiss the ring.

My understanding is Jabbar, 75, plans to be on hand in Los Angeles when James will likely set the record – either Feb. 7 against the Thunder or Feb. 9 against the Bucks. It’s worth watching just for the ceremonial passing of the torch.

Then the NBA gets the entire All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City to celebrate James.


The closest Thibodeau got to a championship as a head coach was always thwarted by LeBron James.

Thibodeau’s Bulls were thrice eliminated by James in the playoffs during his five seasons on the sideline.

Patrick Ewing’s Knicks could probably relate.

“That’s the way the league is,” Thibodeau said. “If you love competition, you love that aspect of it. It should bring out the best in you. And everyone has to go through something. When you look at his career, while I was in Boston (as an assistant coach) we had good success against LeBron. He went to Miami. Then when I was in Chicago, and that was who we had to go through. I think every team, you have to go through certain teams. That’s what makes the game so good is when you have two good teams battling it out.”

Thibodeau was actually part of the Bulls contingent to meet with James during the 2010 free agency, when the four-time MVP instead chose the Heat. Thibodeau was impressed by James’ preparation, with the backdrop of their meeting being Thibodeau’s defense as a Celtics assistant eliminating James’ Cavaliers in the prior playoffs.

” I had just gotten the Chicago job and he had a ton of questions about that series,” Thibodeau said. “And they were really good questions. You could tell that he had already been going through it. They were very pointed questions.”


Knicks wing Quentin Grimes was selected for the Rising Stars Challenge – which has been renamed the Jordan Rising Stars – at All-Star weekend.

Grimes, a second-year player, came into Tuesday averaging 10.3 points in 30 minutes, but his biggest contribution to the Knicks has been perimeter defense.

This year’s Rising Stars Challenge has a new wrinkle beyond the name change. It

“I think it’s my first time ever going to an all-star game in general so I’m definitely going to take it in, soak it in,” Grimes said. “And treat the game like it’s a regular game.”



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Observations and other notes of interest from Tuesday night’s 100-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers:

– If there truly is outside trade interest in Kyle Lowry, the Heat have to listen, right?

– Because this is becoming a nightly talking point.

– The problem is there is no definitive alternative in place.

– It’s almost as if the Heat have to hope for another Goran Dragic buyout.

– Because at least that didn’t put the Heat at a deficit.

– This time there were no points, no assists, no rebounds from Lowry in the first half.

– Yes, a slight awakening in the second half.

– But this hasn’t been a case of a point guard making a team better.

– And it’s been over a week since the late heroics against the Pelicans.

– For all the bluster about other teams looking at Lowry ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline (if there is anything to that bluster), it’s as if the Heat, too, have to be looking at point guards.

– Because when Gabe Vincent was called for his fifth foul with 4:19 to play, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra instead subbed in Victor Oladipo.

– Not his high-priced point guard.

– The Heat again were mostly healthy and almost whole.

– The only unavailable players were those who remained behind in Miami for the trip: Omer Yurtyseven (ankle), Nikola Jovic (back) and Duncan Robinson (finger), as well as two-way player Jamal Cain, who is in the G League.

– Jimmy Butler (quad contusion) and Vincent (ankle inflammation) had been listed as questionable earlier in the day but were available.

– So it again was the Heat’s preferred starting five of Butler, Bam Adebayo, Caleb Martin, Tyler Herro and Lowry.

– Adebayo moved within one appearance of Dragic for 10th on the Heat all-time list.

– Oladipo and Orlando Robinson again entered together as the Heat’s first two substitutes.

– Vincent followed.

– With Max Strus making it nine deep.

– That had Haywood Highsmith, Dewayne Dedmon and Udonis Haslem out of the mix.

– Dedmon yet to play since his Jan. 12 one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.

– Butler’s second 3-point attempt was the 1,800th of his career.

– Butler’s fourth free throw moved him past Buck Williams for 79th on the NBA all-time list, with his fifth moving him past Bernard King for 78th.

– Butler’s third free-throw attempt moved him past Billy Cunningham for 99th on the NBA all-time list.

– Herro’s fourth assist tied Josh Richardson for 18th on the Heat all-time list.

– With the Cavaliers entering No. 5 in the East and the Heat at No. 6, Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the significance was heeded.

– “We talk all the time about having empathy for our opponents and understanding what their mindframe may be,” he said pregame. “So any time a team is in position, where they’re chasing you with an opportunity to catch you, there is a different mindset, especially from a team that’s as proven as that one that’s across the locker room from us.”

– Bickerstaff added, “The Heat have that toughness, that grit, that competitiveness that teams strive for. And whenever they’re in that position, you know it’s going to mean that much more to ‘em and they’re going to go out and try to get it done.”

– He also warned to be careful not to count the Heat out.

– “These guys,” he said, “have the ability in them to step it up when needed most.”



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With the Feb. 9 trade deadline just around the corner, Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas has some big decisions to make.

Should the Bulls stay the course and hope the team shows the kind of urgency coach Billy Donovan has been pleading for the last month, or should Karnišovas shake things up with a deal or two like he did two years ago?

What Karnišovas does could be a turning point for the future of the Bulls, who aren’t much better record-wise in 2023 than they were when he unofficially ended the rebuild with a pair of deadline deals that brought in five new players, including current Bulls Nikola Vučević and Javonte Green.

At the time of the 2021 deadline, the Bulls were 19-24 and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, in line for a play-in spot. They wound up missing the postseason and added DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball in the offseason in an attempt to change the narrative.

Going into Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the United Center, the Bulls were 23-26 and 10th in the East. DeRozan has played at an All-Star level once again, but the possibility of Ball missing the entire season is real, and the Bulls lack a true point guard to fill the void other than reserve Goran Dragić.

So while the Bulls have more talent than they did in ‘21, the record speaks for itself.

Asked before Tuesday’s game whether the Bulls’ goals have changed, Donovan pointed to the number of teams packed together in playoff contention in both conferences.

“I don’t think anything has necessarily changed,” he said. “There obviously is a lot of basketball to play, there are a lot of teams condensed. Our consistency has been a challenge this year. But like I said going into the year, some of the things that happened for us last year, we were on the side of good fortune in a lot of the situations.”

Donovan pointed to last year’s win over the Clippers at the United Center as an example of a game they pulled out of their sleeve.

“Some of those games worked out for us,” he said. “This year they have not. I understand the result orientation of this business. Either you win or lose. I get that. But also, even last year in a lot of those wins, I was kind of (saying), ‘Pump the brakes,’ on some win streaks, just based on what I was seeing.

“There have been some times we’ve played good ball and we have not won. And that happens. You want to continually put yourself in position to win games. But I also think an improvement from last year to this year is we’ve played much, much better against the elite teams in both the West and the East. That’s been a positive sign.”

That bodes well if the Bulls get into the playoffs, knowing they are 7-3 against the top four teams in the East: the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. The flip side is the Bulls have played worse against sub-.500 teams, including Thursday’s devastating collapse against the Charlotte Hornets, who came in with the second-worst record in the East.

Vučević, an unrestricted free agent after the season, will be coveted by many teams this summer for his rebounding and ability to be a go-to guy in most offenses. If the Bulls can’t re-sign him, they have to consider what they can get now.

He was having a career year in Orlando in 2020-21, averaging 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 48% from the field and 40.6% on 3s, when Karnišovas made the big move to bring him to Chicago.

The most important part of the deal was having Vučević under control for two more seasons, giving the Bulls a front-line center to complement Zach LaVine. Forward Al-Farouq Aminu also came to the Bulls, who gave up 2017 lottery pick Wendell Carter Jr., an expiring contract in Otto Porter Jr. and their first-round picks in 2021 and ‘23, with top-four protection in ‘23.

Vučević has had to sacrifice his game quite a bit in Chicago and has done so without complaint, knowing LaVine and DeRozan would be the main scoring options the last two seasons. His contributions often are overlooked because he seldom gets a chance to shoot in the final seconds of close games.

Donovan pointed out Tuesday he has staggered Vučević with the second unit at times, as he traditionally has done with DeRozan and LaVine. That shows the trust he has in Vučević but also may say something about the lack of offense the Bulls have gotten from backup Andre Drummond.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in the group because of the character of the group and how good of guys they are and the relationships they have,” Donovan said. “And I do see a group that really, really wants to win.”

But every NBA coach can say that about his team. The Bulls certainly are a good bunch and have the talent to win consistently, as they’ve shown against some of the elite teams. But they haven’t shown enough of it, and the clock is ticking toward the trade deadline.

Karnišovas is under the spotlight now, and we’ll soon see whether he’ll roll the dice on this group.



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This fight to the finish was different.

This wasn’t playing down to the level of the lottery-bound Charlotte Hornets and losing Sunday at the start of this four-game trip.

This was a game with meaning, against an opponent dominant on its home court, an opponent one spot ahead in the Eastern Conference standings, a moment to make a statement.

So the Miami Heat stepped up to the challenge Tuesday night with a 100-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

With a balanced approach through the lineup and late moments that mattered from Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the Heat showed what they can be on their grittiest of nights, particularly on a night when the 3-pointers also are falling.

Butler led the Heat with 23 points, supported by 18 from Tyler Herro and double-doubles from Adebayo and Caleb Martin. Adebayo finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, Martin with 18 and 18.

Boosting the effort was the Heat’s 14-of-31 3-point shooting.

The Heat’s trip continues with a Thursday night game against the New York Knicks and a Saturday night game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat went down 11 early, trailed 26-24 at the end of the first quarter, before moving to a 55-52 halftime lead. They then moved ahead by nine in the third, before going into the fourth tied 79-79.

The Heat later tied it 85-85 with 6:35 to play on a Herro four-point play, with a Gabe Vincent 3-pointer later putting the Heat up 92-87 with 4:41 to play.

The Cavaliers later would push back ahead, before two baskets by Adebayo and one by Butler put the Heat up 98-93 with 1:23 left.

Later, with 8.7 seconds left, a Darius Garland 3-pointer drew the Cavaliers within 99-97.

Butler then was fouled with 7.3 seconds left, making just the second for a 100-97 Heat lead.

Without a timeout, Cleveland then played in transition, with Donovan Mitchell off on a tying 3-point attempt just before the buzzer.

2. Not waiting: While he typically waits to get into the flow of the offense, Butler this time had 11 of the Heat’s first 18 points, taking his first break while already 4 of 6 from the field.

Included in Butler’s early offense was a 3-pointer and drawing a foul on a 3-point attempt. He was up to 14 points on just six shots at halftime.

While the shots from the field eventually stopped falling, the parade to the foul line proved to be enough.

3. Martin can: After a recent reluctance to launch his 3-point shot, which he said was created by his quadriceps strain, Martin converted his first four 3-point attempts, including one he banked in.

The aggression continued on the boards, with Martin up to eight rebounds by halftime.

4. Alternative approach: On a night the feathery jumper was off, Adebayo played more in attack mode, including taking the ball directly at Cavaliers shot-blocking center Jarrett Allen for a second-period dunk.

Scoreless in the first period, Adebayo scored 12 in the second and maintained the aggression from there.

5. Mindful approach: Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff expressed caution pregame when asked about the approach to a Heat team that led the NBA last season in 3-point percentage but entered near the bottom of the league.

He proved prescient.

“You know what guys are capable of,” he said. “And you know which guys over there are capable of making shots. So you have to treat them with the same level of respect. But you do have to take into account what’s happening now.”

The Heat then opened 12 of 24 on 3-pointers.



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SAN JOSE – A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a South Bay-based “drug organization dispatcher” to seven years in prison for narcotics trafficking, according to prosecutors.

Raul Jimenez-Verduzco, 24, of San Jose and Milpitas, pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams, or one pound, of methamphetamine, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

As part of a plea agreement, Jimenez-Verduzco admitted that from October 2020 to October 2021 he worked with a drug-trafficking organization to dole out 198 pounds of methamphetamine, 40 pounds of cocaine and 10 pounds of heroin, according to prosecutors. The drugs were valued at $495,000, $540,000 and $63,000, respectively.

Prosecutors said Jimenez-Verduzco acted principally as a dispatcher who took phone orders from the organization and contacted couriers to deliver the drugs to customers.

Jimenez-Verduzco also admitted in his plea agreement that he handled other tasks for the organization, including storing drug shipments at his apartment, picking up money from customers and delivering drugs to customers, according to prosecutors.

One of those deliveries – three ounces of pure methamphetamine and one ounce of heroin – was made to an undercover agent on Oct. 20, 2020. He also dropped off 44 pounds of methamphetamine to a man in Santa Clara on Aug. 18, 2021. The methamphetamine in the latter case was seized and determined to be 96 percent pure.

Jimenez-Verduzco was arrested after a traffic stop on Oct. 21, 2021. Prosecutors said he had $4,000 in cash and that one pound of methamphetamine was found inside a backpack on the front passenger seat and another 19 pounds were found in a cardboard box in the trunk.


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By Jamie Stengle | Associated Press

DALLAS — Two monkeys taken from the Dallas Zoo were found Tuesday in a nearby abandoned home after a mysterious disappearance the day before, police said. No arrests have been made.

Dallas police said that they found the two emperor tamarin monkeys after getting a tip. Police said they then went to the empty home in Lancaster, located just south of Dallas, and found the monkeys safe in a closet.

The monkeys have been returned to the zoo.

The monkeys were found missing and their enclosure was cut on Monday. It was the latest in a string of odd events at the zoo, including other cut fences, the escape of a small leopard and the suspicious death of an endangered vulture.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

DALLAS (AP) — When police said two small monkeys were taken from the Dallas Zoo this week and a cut was found in their enclosure, it deepened a growing mystery that has included other cut fences, the escape of a small leopard and the suspicious death of an endangered vulture.

Police said Tuesday that they’re still working to determine whether or not the incidents over the last few weeks are related. Police, who haven’t made any arrests in any of the incidents, released a photo and video Tuesday of a man they want to talk to about the missing monkeys. The photo shows the man eating Doritos chips while walking, and in the video clip he is walking down a path.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, officials were investigating after 12 squirrel monkeys were taken from a zoo there on Sunday and considering whether there could be a connection.
Here’s what is known so far about the incidents:


The zoo closed Jan. 13 after workers arriving that morning found that the clouded leopard, named Nova, was missing. After a search that included police, the leopard weighing 20-25 pounds (9-11 kilograms) was found later that day near her habitat.

Police said a cutting tool was intentionally used to make the opening in her enclosure. A similar gash also was found in an enclosure for langur monkeys, though none got out or appeared harmed, police said.

On Jan. 21, an endangered lappet-faced vulture named Pin was found dead by arriving workers. Gregg Hudson, the zoo’s president and CEO, called the death “very suspicious” and said the vulture had “a wound,” but declined to give further details.

Hudson said in a news conference following Pin’s death that the vulture enclosure didn’t appear to be tampered with.

On Monday police said two emperor tamarin monkeys were believed to have been taken after someone cut an opening in their enclosure. The zoo said the monkeys — which have long whiskers that look like a mustache — would most likely stay near their habitat, but that a search of zoo grounds failed to find them.


Lynn Cuny, founder and president of Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas, said she wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out the monkeys were taken to be sold. Depending on the buyer, she said, a monkey like the ones taken could be sold for “several thousands” of dollars.

“Primates are high-dollar animals in the wildlife pet trade in this country,” Cuny said. “Everybody that wants one wants one for all the wrong reasons — there’s never any good reason to have any wild animal as a pet.”

She said the monkeys could be in danger in a variety of ways, from an improper diet to exposure to cold. Temperatures in Dallas dipped into the 20s on Tuesday during a winter storm.
“Hopefully the animals will be found and protected, but this is a terrible thing,” she said.


Pin’s death has been hard on the staff, a zoo official said.

The vulture was “a beloved member of the bird department,” according to Harrison Edell, the zoo’s executive vice president for animal care and conservation.

Speaking at a news conference, Edell said Pin was at least 35 years old and had been at the zoo for 33 years. “A lot of our teams have worked closely with him for all of that time,” Edell said.

Pin, one of four lappet-faced vultures at the zoo, was said to have sired 11 offspring, and his first grandchild hatched in early 2020.

Edell said Pin’s death was not only a personal loss but also a loss for the species, which “could potentially go extinct in our lifetime.”


Hudson, the zoo’s CEO, said in a news conference following Pin’s death that normal operating procedures included over 100 cameras to monitor public, staff and exhibit areas, and that number had been increased. Overnight presence of security and staff was also raised.

Where possible, he said, zoo officials limited the ability of animals to go outside overnight.

After Nova went missing, officials said they had reviewed surveillance video but not what it showed.

The zoo was closed Tuesday and Wednesday due to the storm.


The 12 squirrel monkeys were discovered missing Sunday from their enclosure at a zoo in the state’s southeast.

Their habitat at Zoosiana in Broussard, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Baton Rouge, had been “compromised” and some damage was done to get in, city Police Chief Vance Olivier said Tuesday. He declined to provide further details on the damage, citing the ongoing investigation.

He said police did not have any suspects yet but were still searching through video files.

Zoosiana said in a Facebook post that the remaining monkeys have been assessed and appear unharmed.


In 2004, a 340-pound (154-kilogram) gorilla named Jabari jumped over a wall and went on a 40-minute rampage that injured three people before police shot and killed the animal.

Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report from Austin, Texas.


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By Becky Bohrer and Patrick Whittle | Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took an unusually strong step Tuesday and blocked a proposed mine heralded by backers as the most significant undeveloped copper and gold resource in the world because of concerns about its environmental impact on a rich Alaska aquatic ecosystem that supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

The move, cheered by Alaska Native tribes and environmentalists and condemned by some state officials and mining interests, deals a heavy blow to the proposed Pebble Mine. The intended site is in a remote area of southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage.

It’s accessible only by helicopter and snowmobile in winter, developer Pebble Limited Partnership said in a permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As proposed, it called for a mining rate of up to 73 million tons a year.

An appeal by the Pebble partnership of a separate rejection of a key federal permit is unresolved.

In a statement, Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively called the EPA’s action “unlawful” and political and said litigation was likely. Shively has cast the project as key to the Biden administration’s push to reach green energy goals and make the U.S. less dependent on foreign nations for such minerals.

The Pebble Limited Partnership is owned Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

The Pebble deposit is near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, which supports a bounty of salmon “unrivaled anywhere in North America,” according to the EPA.

Tuesday’s announcement marks only the 14th time in the roughly 50-year history of the federal Clean Water Act that the EPA has flexed its powers to bar or restrict activities over their potential impact on waters, including fisheries. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said his agency’s use of its so-called veto authority in this case “underscores the true irreplaceable and invaluable natural wonder that is Bristol Bay.”

The veto is a victory for the environment, economy and tribes of Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, which have fought the proposal for more than a decade, said Joel Reynolds, western director and senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The mine would have jeopardized the region’s salmon fishery, which brings 15,000 jobs to the area and supplies about half the world’s sockeye salmon, Reynolds said. The 2022 harvest was more than 60 million fish, state officials reported last year.

“It’s a victory for science over politics. For biodiversity over extinction. For democracy over corporate power,” Reynolds said.

The EPA, citing an analysis by the Army Corps of Engineers, said discharges of dredged or fill material to build and operate the proposed mine site would result in a loss of about 100 miles (160 kilometers) of stream habitat, as well as wetlands.

The Pebble partnership has maintained the project can coexist with salmon. The partnership’s website says the deposit is at the upper reaches of three “very small tributaries” and expresses confidence any impacts on the fishery “in the unlikely event of an incident” would be “minimal.”

Republican Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the EPA’s veto was a dangerous precedent that could affect future development in the state, while state Attorney General Treg Taylor called the agency’s action “legally indefensible.”

“Alarmingly, it lays the foundation to stop any development project, mining or non-mining, in any area of Alaska with wetlands and fish-bearing streams,” Dunleavy said.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she opposed the mine but that the EPA’s veto shouldn’t be allowed to jeopardize future mining operations in the state.

“This determination must not serve as precedent to target any other project in our state and must be the only time EPA ever uses its veto authority under the Clean Water Act in Alaska,” Murkowski said in a statement.

Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell called the EPA’s action “the final nail in the coffin for the Pebble Mine” and the culmination of a hard fought battle.

“Now, we will have a thriving Bristol Bay salmon run for generations to come,” she said.

Tribes in the Bristol Bay region in 2010 petitioned the EPA to protect the area under the federal Clean Water Act. Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said that to call the EPA announcement “welcome news is an understatement.”


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By Sally Ho and Garance Burke | Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — The Justice Department has been scrutinizing a controversial artificial intelligence tool used by a Pittsburgh-area child protective services agency following concerns that the tool could lead to discrimination against families with disabilities, The Associated Press has learned.

The interest from federal civil rights attorneys comes after an AP investigation revealed potential bias and transparency issues surrounding the increasing use of algorithms within the troubled child welfare system in the U.S. While some see such opaque tools as a promising way to help overwhelmed social workers predict which children may face harm, others say their reliance on historical data risks automating past inequalities.

Several civil rights complaints were filed in the fall about the Allegheny Family Screening Tool, which is used to help social workers decide which families to investigate, AP has learned. The pioneering AI program is designed to assess a family’s risk level when they are reported for child welfare concerns in Allegheny County.

Two sources said that attorneys in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division cited the AP investigation when urging them to submit formal complaints detailing their concerns about how the algorithm could harden bias against people with disabilities, including families with mental health issues.

A third person told AP that the same group of federal civil rights attorneys also spoke with them in November as part of a broad conversation about how algorithmic tools could potentially exacerbate disparities, including for people with disabilities. That conversation explored the design and construction of Allegheny’s influential algorithm, though the full scope of the Justice Department’s interest is unknown.

All three sources spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity, saying the Justice Department asked them not to discuss the confidential conversations. Two said they also feared professional retaliation.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment.

Algorithms use pools of information to turn data points into predictions, whether that’s for online shopping, identifying crime hotspots or hiring workers. Many agencies in the U.S. are considering adopting such tools as part of their work with children and families.

Though there’s been widespread debate over the moral consequences of using artificial intelligence in child protective services, the Justice Department’s interest in the Allegheny algorithm marks a significant turn toward possible legal implications.

Robin Frank, a veteran family law attorney in Pittsburgh and vocal critic of the Allegheny algorithm, said she also filed a complaint with the Justice Department in October on behalf of a client with an intellectual disability who is fighting to get his daughter back from foster care. The AP obtained a copy of the complaint, which raised concerns about how the Allegheny Family Screening Tool assesses a family’s risk.

“I think it’s important for people to be aware of what their rights are and to the extent that we don’t have a lot of information when there seemingly are valid questions about the algorithm, it’s important to have some oversight,” Frank said.

Mark Bertolet, spokesman for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, said by email that the agency had not heard from the Justice Department and declined interview requests.

“We are not aware of any concerns about the inclusion of these variables from research groups’ past evaluation or community feedback on the (Allegheny Family Screening Tool),” the county said, describing previous studies and outreach regarding the tool.

Child protective services workers can face critiques from all sides. They are assigned blame for both over-surveillance and not supporting enough the families who land in their view. The system has long been criticized for disproportionately separating Black, poor, disabled and marginalized families and for insufficiently addressing – let alone eradicating – child abuse and deaths.

Supporters see algorithms as a data-driven solution to make the system both more thorough and efficient, saying child welfare officials should use all tools at their disposal to make sure children aren’t maltreated.

Critics worry that delegating some of that critical work to AI tools powered by data collected largely from people who are poor can bake in discrimination against families based on race, income, disabilities or other external characteristics.

The AP’s previous story highlighted data points used by the algorithm that can be interpreted as proxies for race. Now, federal civil rights attorneys have been considering the tool’s potential impacts on people with disabilities.

The Allegheny Family Screening Tool was specifically designed to predict the risk that a child will be placed in foster care in the two years after the family is investigated. The county said its algorithm has used data points tied to disabilities in children, parents and other members of local households because they can help predict the risk that a child will be removed from their home after a maltreatment report. The county added that it has updated its algorithm several times and has sometimes removed disabilities-related data points.

Using a trove of detailed personal data and birth, Medicaid, substance abuse, mental health, jail and probation records, among other government data sets, the Allegheny tool’s statistical calculations help social workers decide which families should be investigated for neglect – a nuanced term that can include everything from inadequate housing to poor hygiene, but is a different category from physical or sexual abuse, which is investigated separately in Pennsylvania and is not subject to the algorithm.

The algorithm-generated risk score on its own doesn’t determine what happens in the case. A child welfare investigation can result in vulnerable families receiving more support and services, but it can also lead to the removal of children for foster care and ultimately, the termination of parental rights.

The county has said that algorithms provide a scientific check on call center workers’ personal biases. County officials further underscored that hotline workers determine what happens with a family’s case and can always override the tool’s recommendations. The tool is also only applied to the beginning of a family’s potential involvement with the child-welfare process; a different social worker conducts the investigations afterward.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, which can include a wide spectrum of conditions, from diabetes, cancer and hearing loss to intellectual disabilities and mental and behavioral health diagnosis like ADHD, depression and schizophrenia.

The National Council on Disability has noted that a high rate of parents with disabilities receive public benefits including food stamps, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income, a Social Security Administration program that provides monthly payments to adults and children with a disability.

Allegheny’s algorithm, in use since 2016, has at times drawn from data related to Supplemental Security Income as well as diagnoses for mental, behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia or mood disorders, AP found.

The county said that when the disabilities data is included, it “is predictive of the outcomes” and “it should come as no surprise that parents with disabilities … may also have a need for additional supports and services.” The county added that there are other risk assessment programs that use data about mental health and other conditions that may affect a parent’s ability to care for a child.

Emily Putnam-Hornstein and Rhema Vaithianathan, the two developers of Allegheny’s algorithm and other tools like it, deferred to Allegheny County’s answers about the algorithm’s inner workings. They said in an email that they were unaware of any Justice Department scrutiny relating to the algorithm.

The AP obtained records showing hundreds of specific variables that are used to calculate the risk scores for families who are reported to child protective services, including the public data that powers the Allegheny algorithm and similar tools deployed in child welfare systems elsewhere in the U.S.

The AP’s analysis of Allegheny’s algorithm and those inspired by it in Los Angeles County, California, Douglas County, Colorado, and in Oregon reveals a range of controversial data points that have measured people with low incomes and other disadvantaged demographics, at times measuring families on race, zip code, disabilities and their use of public welfare benefits.

Since the AP’s investigation published, Oregon dropped its algorithm due to racial equity concerns and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy emphasized that parents and social workers needed more transparency about how government agencies were deploying algorithms as part of the nation’s first “AI Bill of Rights.”

The Justice Department has shown a broad interest in investigating algorithms in recent years, said Christy Lopez, a Georgetown University law professor who previously led some of the Justice Department’s civil rights division litigation and investigations.

In a keynote about a year ago, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke warned that AI technologies had “serious implications for the rights of people with disabilities,” and her division more recently issued guidance to employers saying using AI tools in hiring could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.


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