Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Vandenberg AFB plans test launch of unarmed missile

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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The Air Force plans to launch an unarmed ballistic missile Wednesday in a test of the weapon's reliability.

The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile's three warheads were scheduled to hit a water target in the Marshall Islands 4,200 miles away between 1:01 a.m. and 7:01 a.m. PDT.

The missile launch is headed by the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg.

Earlier this month, a defiant North Korea shook up the world by launching several missiles, including a failed long-range missile thought to be capable of reaching the United States.

The North Korean launch raised questions about the readiness of the U.S. missile defense system, which includes two interceptors housed in underground silos at Vandenberg in Central California and nine more at Alaska's Fort Greely.

The Minuteman III test was scheduled before the North Korea incident.

The Air Force and Army will assist in range tracking and weather surveillance during the mission.

Kennicott headed to Seward for repairs

KODIAK - The state ferry Kennicott was headed to Seward for temporary repairs, canceling two visits this week to Kodiak.

The Kennicott's Saturday night departure from Kodiak was delayed about 18 hours so the source of water filling a compartment under the engine room could be tracked down.

The Kennicott crew called in the Marine Safety Office after water was found in a hollow space in the hull, Coast Guard Lt. Patrick Lee said.

The crew regularly sounds these void areas of the 382-foot ship to make sure they are dry, Lee said. When water was found in one after they docked Saturday, they were required to call the Coast Guard.

After the water was pumped from the void area, the problem was discovered to be a leaking raw water discharge pipe, part of the saltwater cooling system.

Usually, after it's been used to cool systems in the ship, the pipe discharges the water overboard.

The Kennicott was cleared to depart for Homer on Sunday afternoon, Lee said.

The ferry was headed to Seward for temporary repairs, and then it was to head to the Panhandle on Tuesday, Alaska Marine Highway System spokesman Mike Chambers said.

After the two cancellations this week, the Kennicott is now scheduled to return to Kodiak July 28.

Washington bills U.S. $50 million for illegal immigration

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gov. Chris Gregoire sent an invoice of nearly $50 million to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday, saying the federal government needs to reimburse the state for the cost of housing criminal illegal immigrants in state prisons.

Gregoire said that it's the federal government's responsibility to incarcerate illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, but that the state has been doing it for years. From July 2004 to June 2005, Gregoire said the state paid more than $27 million to house 995 prisoners. The U.S. Department of Justice has only reimbursed the state $1.7 million, and still owes $25.3 million.

She's seeking an additional $24.4 million reimbursement for the months from July 2005 to this May.

Gregoire said that the states have been forced to pick up cuts in Medicaid and homeland security and shouldn't have to shoulder the incarceration costs.

"If we're going to continue to see nothing but cuts come our way, and accountability measures for us, then I think turnaround is fair play," Gregoire said. "They have to live up to their responsibility and we need to hold them accountable."

Justice Department spokeswoman Kathleen Blomquist said her department would respond to Gregoire once the letter was reviewed.

In her letter, Gregoire asked that the federal government repay the state by Aug. 1, or take custody of the prisoners.

"I can't put these people free on the street," she said. "Public safety is at risk here. They're holding us accountable in every respect. It's high time the states said we too are going to hold you accountable."

Gregoire, a Democrat, said she talked with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, about the immigrant incarceration issue at the Western Governors' Association meeting in Arizona last month.

"We, all three, agreed that we were going to take action," she said.

Schwarzenegger has not sent such a letter but has fought to increase federal reimbursements, said his press secretary, Margita Thompson. California state officials have lobbied the White House on the issue, and Schwarzenegger brought it up with President Bush during a visit to Silicon Valley in April, she said.

California spends more than $750 million per year on illegal immigrant incarceration costs, Schwarzenegger's office said.

Since late 2004, Napolitano has sent invoices to the federal government requesting reimbursement for her state's costs for imprisoning criminal illegal immigrants.

In a letter in May to Gonzales, she said the federal government owed Arizona more than $270 million for more than 3 1/2 years of unreimbursed immigrant jail costs.

In May, 14 governors, including Gregoire, Schwarzenegger and Napolitano, called on Congress to allot $850 million to fund the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses the states.

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Associated Press Writer Laura Kurtzman in Sacramento contributed to this report.



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