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Business Headlines

    Mexican mining and rail conglomerate Grupo Mexico said Tuesday that it has reached an agreement to buy Florida East Coast Railway Holdings Corp. for $2.1 billion. Grupo Mexico Transportes said it will acquire 100 percent of the company's shares and assume its debt, pending approval of the deal by regulatory authorities. The transaction will be financed by $350 million in Grupo Mexico funds and $1.75 billion in debt. Florida East Coast Railways operates a 351-mile freight system along Florida's Atlantic coast from Jacksonville to Miami. The railroad was founded in 1885 by Henry Flagler, a Standard Oil tycoon who developed resorts and communities on the state's coast. The Jacksonville-based company finished construction of an overseas railway to Key West in 1912, but the line was heavily damaged by a hurricane in 1935. Florida's government bought the rail line to Key West and converted it into a highway. The company was purchased in the 1930s by heirs of the du Pont family. In 2007, it was purchased by Fortress Investment Group.
  • Fake coupons for low-cost grocery store ALDI have been making the rounds again on Facebook and could give computers viruses. >> Read more trending news WSYR reported that Facebook user Melissa Sheriff noticed a post that claimed to offer a $100 off coupon at ALDI stores, and it seemed too good to be true. 'Next thing I know everyone is sharing it,' Sheriff said. 'People are sharing it on each other's pages and messaging the coupon to each other and tagging each other in posts saying, ‘Great deal, great deal, you have to print out this coupon.'' Related: If you see this Publix coupon, it's a fake Related: Kroger warns shoppers of fake '$60 off' coupon Aaron Sumida, vice president of ALDI’s Tully division, issued the following statement in response to the scam: We understand the confusion that some customers have experienced with digital coupon scams affecting ALDI and other retailers. On Friday, we shared a post on our Facebook page to let our customers know that ALDI doesn't issue electronic coupons or gift cards. These offers weren't authorized or distributed by ALDI and will not be honored at ALDI locations. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this situation may cause our customers. ALDI also addressed the scam in a Facebook post Friday. “There’s a fake ALDI coupon making its way around the internet…again. We don’t offer electronic coupons and they won’t be accepted at our stores. We’re working on fixing the situation, so if you’d like to help us out and spread the news, feel free to share this post. We’re sorry for the confusion,” the company said. ALDI is not the only retailer being used in fake coupon scams. Kroger and Publix grocery stores have also been victims of coupons claiming to offer $60 and $75 off of purchases.
  • In an alternate universe, Ron Sheble would retire in his mid-60s and move to Arizona to hike the desert with his wife, living off savings and stock options from his years in corporate finance. But life works out in funny ways. Since 2013, the 59-year-old Lincolnshire, Illinois, resident has co-owned and operated Advanced Vehicle Technology Services, Inc., a company that converts fleet vehicles — think delivery trucks and police cars — to run on natural gas or propane. Sheble and co-owner David Hagopian, both of whom were laid off from the same corporation, knew little about alternative fuels to begin with. But after kicking in their own savings to start up the business, toiling through a year and a half in the red and growing annual revenue to more than a half-million dollars, neither is ready to return to a desk job. “We’re going to stick with it,” Sheble says. “The bleeding has stopped.” Starting a business is difficult at any age, but entrepreneurs like Sheble and Hagopian, both north of 50 when they set out, have specific constraints to consider. Chief among them is time: Older entrepreneurs have fewer productive years ahead to make up for the lean times that virtually all new businesses experience as they gain footing. People in their 50s also have different financial priorities than younger people. Their children are going to college and (yikes!) grad school; they generally have to spend more on health care; and they’re thinking harder about retirement. “Really, the math has to work out for these people,” says Michele Markey, vice president of Kauffman FastTrac Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri, a nonprofit provider of entrepreneurial training. In the first few years, new business owners can experiment and figure out whether they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, says Eleanor Dillon, an Arizona State University assistant professor of economics and co-author of a study on self-employment dynamics published in February by the National Bureau of Economic Research. If you’re an aspiring older entrepreneur, ask yourself these questions to decide if starting your own business is the right move: How does a business fit with my other financial goals? You should have a focused objective for your business and project how it’ll fit with your other financial priorities, Markey says. For example, how long will it take you to break even on your initial investment? Until then, your business is costing you the returns you could have made putting your money in a retirement account or some other investment. How am I going to pay for this? Along the same lines, you should determine if you intend to fund your business from your savings or seek outside funding, either equity investors or debt. It’s difficult to get financing to start a business from traditional banks, but there are a few options for startup funding in the alternative financing market. Should I start a side gig? Having an income while you develop your business will relieve some pressure, and it doesn’t hurt to hold on to health insurance if your employer offers it. If you’re under 65, the eligibility age for Medicare, you can buy individual insurance, but you’ll likely pay more on your own versus with an employer plan, and you’ll get less generous benefits. What’s my endgame? If you’re an older business owner, your commitment to the business shouldn’t be as open-ended as a younger person’s might be, Markey says. Do you want the business to just provide income, or do you want to leave something behind after you no longer can or want to run it? Your endgame matters because it will influence how you invest in the business and operate it. How do I learn more? Sure, tons of books and websites are devoted to business, but nothing beats sharing ideas with like-minded people. A good place to start is your local Small Business Administration small business development center. Also talk with people who would be your target customers to get feedback on your product or service. “Getting out and moving around amongst people gives the idea life,” Markey says. Sheble adds: “Know that it’s going to take time. Unfortunately it’s going to take years” to ramp up a business. Still, he’s nowhere close to hanging it up — there are more mechanics to hire, more contracts to book. And his take-home this year is only about half what he made in his last corporate job. Sheble expects to “be working a lot more years,” so Arizona will have to wait a bit, he says. In the meantime, he’s still building his resume, four decades into his working life. He’s also having fun. “Most of the time,” Sheble quips. “Let’s use the 80/20 rule and call it 80% of the time.” Andrew L. Wang is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: awang@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @andrew_L_wang. This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today. The article Clock Ticks Louder for Older Aspiring Entrepreneurs originally appeared on NerdWallet.
  • Notable events in the dispute over the Dakota Access oil pipeline. ___ Dec. 2014 — Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners applies to the federal government to build the 1,200-mile Dakota Access pipeline to carry North Dakota oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Illinois. The pipeline is projected to cost $3.8 billion and carry half a million barrels of oil daily. The proposed route skirts the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's reservation and crosses under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota that serves as the tribe's drinking water source. March 2016 — Iowa regulators approve the pipeline, making it the fourth and final state to grant permission. April 2016 — Opponents establish a camp at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers in southern North Dakota for peaceful protest. Camps in the area would later swell to thousands of people. July 2016 — The Army Corps of Engineers grants pipeline permits at more than 200 water crossings. The Standing Rock Sioux sues. The Cheyenne River, Oglala and Yankton Sioux tribes later join the lawsuit as plaintiffs. Aug. 10 — North Dakota authorities make the first arrests of protesters. The total has since surpassed 750, including actress Shailene Woodley and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Sept. 9 — U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg denies an attempt by the Standing Rock Sioux to halt pipeline construction. The same day, the Army, the Department of Justice and the Interior Department declare that construction bordering or under Lake Oahe won't go forward pending further review. Nov. 20, 21 — Authorities use tear gas, rubber bullets and water sprays on protesters who they say assaulted officers with rocks and burning logs at a blockaded bridge, in one of the most violent clashes of the protest. At least 17 protesters are taken to hospitals. One officer was injured when struck in the head with a rock. Dec. 4 — Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy declines to allow the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe in part because she says alternate routes need to be considered. Energy Transfer Partners calls the decision politically motivated and accuses President Barack Obama's administration of delaying the matter until he leaves office. Jan. 18, 2017 — The Army Corps launches a full environmental study of the pipeline's disputed Lake Oahe crossing that could take up to two years to complete. Boasberg, the federal judge, rejects an ETP request to stop the study. Jan. 24 — President Donald Trump signs executive actions to advance the construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. Feb. 8 — The Army forgoes further study and grants an easement necessary to complete the pipeline and the company immediately begins drilling under Lake Oahe. The two tribes challenge the move in court two days later. Feb. 13 — A federal judge in Washington denies the tribes' request for an emergency order halting construction of the pipeline, saying he'll consider it more fully at a Feb. 27 hearing. Feb. 22-23 — Authorities clear out the last remaining holdouts in the main protest camps in southern North Dakota in advance of spring flooding season. March 7 — Boasberg again declines to temporarily stop construction. The tribes appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. March 10 — Pipeline opponents rally in Washington, D.C., demonstrating outside the White House and Trump's Washington hotel. March 18 — The appeals court refuses to grant an emergency order stopping oil from flowing through the pipeline. March 20 — ETP announces 'coordinated physical attacks' along the pipeline. Authorities in South Dakota and Iowa confirm people apparently used a torch to burn holes through empty sections of the pipeline at aboveground shut-off valve sites. March 27 — ETP says it has pumped oil into the disputed section of pipe under Lake Oahe and is preparing to put the full line into service.
  • Shareholders of telecommunications companies Consolidated Communications and FairPoint Communications voted on Tuesday to approve a proposed merger. Consolidated announced in December it was buying FairPoint for $1.5 billion, assuming its debt and offering dividends to stockholders. Shareholder voting took place Tuesday at Consolidated in Illinois and at FairPoint in North Carolina. FairPoint, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a telephone and internet provider that serves homes, businesses and public institutions. The lion's share of FairPoint's business is in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The two companies emphasized that shareholders resoundingly approved of the merger. Consolidated officials said the merger will enable 'long-term growth' for the company. 'Today our shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of the merger bringing together two companies to create one strong, leading, business and broadband provider serving 24 states,' said Bob Udell, president and chief executive officer at Consolidated Communications. Consolidated said 98 percent of its shareholders who voted were in support of the merger, accounting for more than 70 percent of the company's outstanding stock. FairPoint reported that approximately 96 percent of shareholders who voted approved, representing nearly 75 percent of the company's outstanding stock. Consolidated, based in Mattoon, Illinois, provides business and broadband communications in 11 states. A merger with FairPoint would significantly broaden its portfolio. FairPoint has a fiber-based Ethernet network with about 18,000 miles of fiber wires in northern New England and is a major player in telecommunications in the region. There remain regulatory hurdles for the two companies to clear before the merger can be finalized. FairPoint officials said they expect the transaction to be complete by the middle of the year. Public utilities commissions in the northern New England states will hold hearings in April and May on the merger. FairPoint officials said the companies are 'securing the necessary state and federal regulatory approvals' to close the deal.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with President Donald Trump the first full week of April, a senior State Department official said Tuesday. The first in-person encounter between the leaders comes after Trump sharply criticized China during the presidential campaign. But he is now seeking Beijing's help in pressuring North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile programs. Trump and Xi also are likely to discuss the U.S. president's threats to counter what he claims are unfair Chinese trade practices. Trump has promised to raise import taxes on Chinese goods and declare Beijing a currency manipulator. It's unclear if Trump will follow on either threat while seeking China's cooperation on North Korea. Though the White House hasn't formally announced Xi's visit, the leaders are expected to gather at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida — where Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in February. The State Department official confirmed the timing of Xi's trip while discussing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's upcoming travel plans. Tillerson had planned to skip a meeting of NATO foreign ministers scheduled for April 5-6 so he could attend Xi's meeting with Trump, the official said. The NATO gathering in Brussels was rescheduled for Friday so Tillerson could attend, said the official, who briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity even though Trump has criticized media for using anonymous sources. Under Trump, regular opportunities for journalists to question Tillerson or other State Department officials in public have been significantly curtailed. The agency held no televised briefings, a State Department mainstay for decades under administrations of both parties, for six weeks after Trump's inauguration. They resumed in March under a new format: Two televised briefings per week and two over-the-phone briefings. Now the televised briefings have again been canceled, due to staffing changes. Instead, they're only holding telephone briefings, restricted to one topic per day as chosen by the State Department. Those calls are held on 'background,' meaning journalists can question senior officials but are prohibited from naming them in any stories, and the State Department has declined requests to conduct the calls on the record. The State Department has said typical, on-the-record briefings may resume soon.
  • Being a mom is hard work; being in debt makes it even more difficult. And tackling that debt while juggling other family responsibilities can feel impossible. Where do you start? How long will it take? What do you tell the kids? Plenty of moms have been in this position, each with her own journey toward debt relief, from getting a personal loan to selling the family home. We asked three mothers — and one new mom who’s a certified financial planner — to share what they know about paying down debt. First, everyone has a different starting point For some, like Cherie Lowe, a mom of two girls who runs the personal finance blog Queen of Free, a smaller change made a difference. She and her husband paid off almost $127,500 in debt over four years — starting with $100 a month. “The first thing we did was adjusting my husband’s withholding,” Lowe says. “We didn’t get a tax refund, but it allowed us to have an extra hundred dollars that we weren’t already living on to help us pay off our debt.” Big changes, however, can bring immediate relief. Laura Dobbins, who runs the personal finance blog My Shiny Nickels, didn’t imagine that her house would be the first thing to go. But selling her dream home — which had a $400,000 mortgage — and moving with her husband and four children into a smaller place was the first change she made. It reduced her overall debt by $30,000 in the first year. “We don’t regret it a single day at all,” Dobbins says. Julie Mayfield, who writes the personal finance blog The Family CEO, was a stay-at-home mom with two kids when she decided to get her family’s finances in order. The first step she and her husband took toward paying off $47,000 was making debt payment her job. “We approached it from a place of intention,” she says. “What do we want to spend money on, and what are we spending money on that isn’t important? That worked for me better than to just be penny-pinching all the time.” The best lessons learned along the way For Dobbins, the key is finding what motivates you. She gives herself small wins to head off burnout, by tackling debts from smallest balance to largest rather than according to interest rate. “If your largest-interest-rate debt is $25,000, you’re going to get three years in and be like, ‘What am I doing again?’” Mayfield found ways to reassess over time. “If you can refinance your mortgage or get rid of private mortgage insurance, or cars, or rent, the big stuff comes first,” Mayfield says. “After that, I think it’s helpful to focus on the consistent things, the things that come up every month — the cable bill or eating out — because that’s going to be where you get the most results from your efforts.” Realize there will be unexpected expenses. “We were prepared for there to be uncontrollable variables as much as we could be,” says Kelli Grant, a personal finance reporter and certified financial planner who recently had her first child with her husband, a freelancer. But certain challenges still took them by surprise. “Our little guy grew super fast, so we were perpetually looking for larger clothes and larger shoes.” If you’re an expectant mom who’s worried about getting in debt, Grant stresses planning for your newborn’s expenses. “Babies have hospital bills, too,” she says. “My son had his own bills from being there. Insurance counts him as a separate person with his own limits and deductibles.” Kids can handle the truth Dobbins enlisted her children’s support on the same philosophy that she and her husband held themselves to: “We can do anything for a year.” Honesty and attitude are key, she says. “When we moved, they knew that that’s why they were moving, and they obviously were not thrilled,” Dobbins says. “We tried to be positive about it ourselves.” And over time, being transparent with her children has served them well, Dobbins says. “The kids are super aware of money now,” she says. “They have this mentality about where money goes.” Lowe started paying down her family’s debt in 2008, during the housing market crash — news that her eldest daughter heard about, too. “The headline was something like, ‘Trouble on Wall Street Means Trouble on Main Street,’” Lowe says. “We live on Main Street, so she was asking, ‘Why is there trouble?’” Lowe and her husband decided that they had to be as honest with their kids as possible. “We told her, ‘We borrowed more than what we should have, we’re going to pay it all back, and that means we’re going to make some changes in the way we live our lives,’” she says. And she was sure to answer any questions her daughters asked about the family’s money situation. Grant plans to let her son know how the family finances are handled. For now, she’s thinking of the future. “College costs obviously are a big one,” she says. “My husband and I thought about that right upfront. I’m still paying off my own undergraduate student loans, so I’m juggling that with my other financial goals. But we made it a priority to put aside money every month for his college savings.” Unconventional savings are optional Lowe recommends holding off on more unusual penny-pinching strategies until you’ve done the essentials. For herself, once the groundwork was laid, she found creative ways to further cut costs. “We didn’t have [cable] TV at all for a while. The only thing we had at all was a VCR and a DVD player. My husband built our own antenna out of a two-by-four and hangers,” Lowe says. Some changes happened accidentally. “Our microwave quit working while we were trying to get out of debt and I decided to wait 30 days before buying one. And then we never replaced it,” Lowe says. Mayfield doesn’t recommend outside-the-box saving strategies. “I didn’t sell my plasma,” she says. “We didn’t do anything that crazy.” Grant found that her priorities changed in ways she didn’t anticipate. “Coffee was never something that I enjoyed before having a baby, but now that we’re routinely awake at 5 a.m., we put aside money for coffee shipments,” she says. No matter what your financial situation, there’s a positive way forward. Check out this guide to paying off debt to find out where you can get started. Veronica Ramirez is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: vramirez@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @veraudrey. The article Outsmart Debt Like a Mom originally appeared on NerdWallet.
  • Convenience store magnate Christy Mihos, who built and sold a chain of markets bearing his name, twice ran unsuccessfully for governor and endured a nasty divorce and bankruptcy, has died at age 67. He died Saturday in hospice care in Stuart, Florida, after a battle with cancer, his sister, Marlene Bucuvalas, told the Cape Cod Times. His death was confirmed Tuesday by the Haisley Funeral Home in Fort Pierce, Florida, which is handling arrangements. Mihos, who was born in Brockton, turned his father's grocery store into a chain of nearly 150 stores across New England called Christy's Markets. He and his brother eventually sold the chain for millions of dollars. He was appointed to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board in 1999 and crusaded against mismanagement and cost overruns in the multibillion-dollar Big Dig highway project. He and another board member, Jordan Levy, were fired by acting Republican Gov. Jane Swift but took their case all the way to the state's highest court and were reinstated. Mihos, who lived in a waterfront home in Yarmouth, later wrote a book about the Big Dig. He mounted failed runs for governor as an independent in 2006 and as a Republican in 2010. His later life was marred by a sordid divorce and bankruptcy. His wife, Andrea Mihos, accused him of assaulting her and squandering millions of dollars on his political ambitions and on prostitutes. He even spent a week in jail for failing to pay her nearly $80,000. He is survived by two children, his sister and a brother. A funeral is scheduled at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church in Fort Pierce, Florida, on Thursday, followed by burial.
  • By Bill Brown Learn more about Bill on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor The mortgage interest deduction and the state and local property tax deduction are probably the best-known tax incentives for homeownership and real estate investment. That’s no surprise. Roughly 9 out of 10 home buyers borrow money to buy a home, meaning they likely pay some form of mortgage interest. And property taxes are a near-universal expense for homeowners. Both deductions are crucial to making homeownership possible for the average buyer. But there are other real estate-related tax incentives that might not be as familiar. Capital gains exclusion All homeowners hope their property will appreciate. The flip side is that anyone selling an asset that has gone up in value may get hit with a tax bill for the profit, also known as the capital gain. Thankfully, homeowners have some help in their corner. An individual selling his or her principal home can qualify for an exclusion of up to $250,000 in capital gains, and married people who file jointly may qualify for an exclusion of up to $500,000. There’s no need to report gains up to these limits on a tax return. To take the exclusion, sellers must pass the IRS’ ownership and use test, but it’s fairly straightforward. Essentially, they must own the property and have used it as a primary residence for a total of two out of the five years preceding the sale. Even if owners currently rent the property and depreciate it — as we’ll discuss shortly — they might still meet the use and ownership test and qualify for the exclusion. And even if sellers haven’t lived in the home during the past five years, they might qualify for a partial exclusion. That’s a big help, as well as a recognition of the fact that millions of Americans depend on their home to build wealth throughout their lives. 1031 like-kind exchanges The “1031 like-kind exchange” sounds like it’s ripped right from an accountancy textbook, but it’s actually fairly easy to understand. Let’s say a person owns a single-family, detached rental home as part of an investment portfolio. If the home appreciates, the owner will likely owe capital gains taxes in the event of a sale — unless he or she uses the proceeds to buy a condominium in a market with higher rents. Because the single-family home and the condo are both investment properties, tax law treats them as “like kind.” And because this transaction is a “like-kind exchange,” the owner won’t pay capital gains tax until he or she sells the new property. This gives investors an incentive to put any realized gains back into the economy rather than pocketing them. And it’s a big deal: Major real estate investors and mom-and-pop investors alike can benefit. Depreciation on rental property Homeowners who rent a portion or all of their property might be able to “depreciate” that asset, which means deducting some of the cost of the property each year on their tax return. That could result in a significant income tax deduction. If you do earn money on the sale of your home after depreciation is taken into account, you’ll generally owe tax on the depreciated portion at the 25% “depreciation recapture” rate. Any other gains will be taxed as capital gains. Changes may be coming For more than a century, the United States has recognized the benefits of homeownership and real estate investment. It strengthens communities and helps individuals grow nest eggs for themselves. However, Congress is considering tax reform proposals that could have sweeping implications for real estate incentives. That’s something to keep an eye on. Everyone’s tax situation is unique. Before you count on any of these incentives, you may want to talk with a tax professional. But if you’re ready to take the plunge into homeownership or real estate investment, tax benefits — some obvious and others perhaps less so — are out there. Bill Brown is the incoming president of the National Association of Realtors. The article Deductions Aren’t the Only Way to Save on Real Estate Taxes originally appeared on NerdWallet.
  • American Indian tribes fighting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline said Tuesday that the pumping of oil into the pipe under their water source is a blow, but it doesn't end their legal battle. Industry groups say the imminent flow of oil through the pipeline is good news for energy and infrastructure. The comments come after Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners said Monday that it has placed oil in a section of the pipeline under a Missouri River reservoir that's upstream from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. It was the final piece of construction for a pipeline that will carry crude from western North Dakota's Bakken oil fields 1,200 miles (1930 kilometers) through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline should be fully operational in about three weeks, according to company spokeswoman Vicki Granado. 'We need to build pipelines, roads, rail and transmission lines to grow our economy and secure our nation's energy future,' North Dakota Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven said. Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier said Sioux tribes in the Dakotas still believe they ultimately will persuade a judge to shut down the pipeline that they maintain threatens cultural sites, drinking water and religion. 'My people are here today because we have survived in the face of the worst kind of challenges,' he said. 'The fact that oil is flowing under our life-giving waters is a blow, but it hasn't broken us.' Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault called oil under the lake 'a setback, and a frightening one at that.' But he and Phillip Ellis, spokesman for the Earthjustice environmental law nonprofit, which is representing that tribe, said they are confident in the court case. 'The flow of oil under Lake Oahe is a temporary reminder of the pain this pipeline has perpetrated to those that have stood with Standing Rock and the devastation it has wreaked on sacred tribal sites, but hope remains,' Ellis said. ETP maintains the pipeline is safe and disputes the tribes' claims. The legal battle isn't confined to the Dakotas. In Iowa, the state chapter of the Sierra Club and a group of landowners are appealing a lawsuit challenging the pipeline to the Iowa Supreme Court. The crux of that dispute is whether the pipeline benefits the public in that state and whether the government was right to allow ETP to use eminent domain to obtain land for the project. 'Resistance is more than just the Lake Oahe crossing,' said environmental lawyer Carolyn Raffensperger, executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network and chairwoman of the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club. ETP wrapped up construction on the pipeline this month after receiving permission from the U.S. government in February for the Lake Oahe work, which had been held up several months by protests and the legal dispute. The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the Missouri River for the government, rescinded a planned environmental study that President Barack Obama's administration had ordered and gave ETP permission to complete the pipeline at the urging of President Donald Trump. 'This is a public triumph for President Trump and his commitment to support U.S energy and economic development,' said Craig Stevens, spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, made up of agriculture, business and labor entities that benefit from Midwest infrastructure projects. Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, a trade group that represents nearly 500 energy companies including ETP, said the pipeline will 'have a significant impact on Bakken transportation going forward.' North Dakota is the second-biggest oil producer in the U.S., after Texas. At capacity, the pipeline will be able to transport half of the state's daily oil production of about 1 million barrels. Once the oil reaches Patoka, Illinois, it will be pumped into an existing pipeline that will take it to terminals in Texas, according to Granado, the ETP spokeswoman. ETP has said in court documents that it has long-term transportation contracts with nine companies to ship oil through the pipeline. It could move enough oil to fill 500 or more railroad cars each day, according to the company. It is generally cheaper to move oil by pipeline than by rail, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. ___ Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

Local News

  • Rabun County authorities are seeking a missing 28-year-old woman who has her three sons with her, officials said. According to a post on the sheriff’s Facebook page, Brittany Rebecca Stewart has been missing since Thursday. Her children are 7 months to 7 years old. She’s believed to be driving a maroon 1999 Ford Explorer with Georgia tag RCP0743, the sheriff’s office said in the post. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Stewart and her children is asked to call 911 or Rabun dispatch at 706-782-6226.
  • A dinner meeting is set for tonight for Clarke County School Board members and the first of three finalists to be the next Clarke County School Superintendent: the Board is looking for a replacement for the departed Dr. Phil Lanoue. The United Way of Northeast Georgia holds its annual meeting and awards banquet, 5:30 this afternoon at the downtown Holiday Inn.  Another meeting of the Envision Athens steering committee is on tap for today, underway at 4 o’clock at the Classic Center.  There is an afternoon meeting of the Classic Center Authority: 4 o’clock at the Classic Center in downtown Athens. There is a jobs fair today in Athens: the Benson Hospitality Group is setting up shop at the downtown Holiday Inn at 5 o’clock this afternoon.  Tonight’s Oconee County Commission meeting gets underway at 7 o’clock at the Oconee County Courthouse in Watkinsville. It’s an agenda setting session.  Barrow County Commissioners meet tonight, 7 o’clock at the Historic Courthouse in Winder. 
  • Police in Winder have released the name of the man whose body was found in a car in a shopping center parking lot. Todd Davis was 52 years old, from Winder. His body was discovered Sunday in a vehicle parked in the Holly Hill shopping center on West Athens Street in Winder. Police say there are no immediate indications of foul play; also still no word on the exact cause of death. Hall County authorities have released the name of the husband and wife killed in what is believed to have been a murder-suicide: the bodies of 75 year-old Larry McGinness and 69 year-old Shelly McGinness were found last week at a home in Gainesville. The GBI is in on the ongoing investigation. 
  • State Rep. Tommy Benton believes the history of the Confederate army is part of Southern cultural heritage and should be recognized formally in the state. Benton, a Republican from Jefferson, sponsored House Resolution 644 along with state Reps. Alan Powell, Steve Tarvin and Jesse Petrea to commemorate the “brave” men who fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War by recognizing April as Confederate History Month and April 26 as Confederate Memorial Day. His resolution, however, makes no mention of the “Civil War,” instead referring to it as the “four-year struggle for states’ rights, individual freedom, and local governmental control, which they believed to be right and just.” But when asked whether the resolution, which is written to “encourage our citizens to learn about Georgia’s heritage and history and to observe the occasion with appropriate ceremonies,” includes the need to understand the role that slavery and systemic exploitation and oppression of African and African-American people played and an acknowledgement of what the war was fought about, Benton declined to answer. “Next question,” Benton said Monday during a press conference about the resolution. A former schoolteacher and unapologetic supporter of preserving Georgia’s Confederate heritage, Benton has previously backed a measure that would protect state monuments from being moved or removed. He has also said the Ku Klux Klan, though he didn’t agree with all its methods, “made a lot of people straighten up.” Benton said the intentions of his proposal, which isn’t expected to gain any traction in the final days of the legislative session, have been misunderstood and misinterpreted. “It should never have been a controversy,” Benton said. “We’re not honoring slavery.” After a gunman and avowed white supremacist shot and killed nine people praying in an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C., many Southern states came under fire for their embrace of Confederate memorabilia and traditions. The fourth Monday in April had for decades been known in Georgia as Confederate Memorial Day. But in 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal quietly struck that reference, as well as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday, from the official state calendar and renamed each date as a “State Holiday.”
  • The Georgia DOT is holding an afternoon meeting on plans to widen Highway 441 in Oconee and Morgan counties. The first session with the Oconee County Citizens Advisory Committee is set for 5 o’clock in the Community Center at the Oconee County Veterans Park. It is expected that plans for a Bishop bypass will be up for discussion at today’s meeting.  Your drive through Madison could be disrupted again this week: more movie work is taking place in Morgan County, with production of a film that stars Reba McIntire. Southbound lane closures on I-85 in Franklin County are scheduled for tonight, as the DOT continues work on the Interstate weigh station near Lavonia. 

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS – For years, Georgia’s head football and basketball coaches used to go on an extensive spring speaking tour, answering questions and shaking hands with fans who paid a small fee at the door. Those days of extensive touring around Georgia appear to be over. At least for now. The university has planned five events this spring featuring Kirby Smart, but they will be private donor events – and for now only one will be in the state of Georgia. The school will host events in Nashville, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Houston, with the lone in-state event being in Atlanta in July. These events will be closed to the public and the media, open only to donors. But there will also be two additional in-state events featuring Smart, athletics director Greg McGarity said Monday afternoon. Those events will just be branded differently. “We’re still working through two in-state events that would be branded under the Georgia Bulldog Club, or under UGA athletics,” McGarity said. In the past, Georgia football and basketball coach did as many as 12 spring tour stops, almost all in the state, from Columbus to Macon to Augusta and even smaller stops. But those tours have gradually dissipated: In Mark Richt’s final year, he only went to seven stops. Last year Smart went to five stops, though four of the were in-state, the exception being a donor event in Dallas. This year it’s going all-private, which someone with knowledge said evolved from Smart coming in with a new approach, and UGA wanting to do fundraising. There’s a feeling they don’t need the old model, where fans get a chance to hear from coaches and ask them questions, because of social media and other factors. Crowds at these events had also been going down. “The university is trying to be strategic to generate the money that everybody needs to generate right now,” McGarity said. “The purpose of these events have changed, they’ve morphed over the years.” The athletics department did seem to anticipate some fan blowback. “As for our donors, I realize there may be some sensitivity to the majority of the events being out of state this year,” associate athletics director for development Matt Borman wrote in an internal e-mail earlier this month. “If donors bring this up to you please just say that we are excited to be in Atlanta with an event in July and we wanted to take an opportunity this year to visit some of our supporters who don’t have the opportunity to make it to Athens on a regular basis. “After this year of events we will reevaluate and definitely consider bringing some of these events back into Georgia.” There are other speaking events for Smart that aren’t directly affiliated with the school. For instance, he is speaking Monday night at the Athens Touchdown Club, and spoke last month at the Macon Touchdown Club.
  • ATHENS, Ga. --- The University of Georgia women’s tennis team extended its win streak to six matches with a commanding 4-0 victory over Mississippi State Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.   The Bulldogs (13-3, 7-1 SEC) continued to roll in doubles as they grabbed the point for the seventh-consecutive match. The 28th-ranked duo of Elena Christofi and Kennedy Shaffer clinched it on court two for the sixth time in the streak. In singles, Mariana Gould blew by her opponent 6-0, 6-1 followed by a Shaffer win at No. 3 and a clincher at the net by Christofi on court two.   “We are in the middle of this conference race and it's been tough every time we play all these schools,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “I keep saying in the SEC we have 11 in the top 25 rankings and everybody comes ready to play. Mississippi State was another one of those teams. I thought the doubles point was great. Getting that 1-0 lead is critical for us. It was a good match and a great day and now we hit the road for the next three before we conclude our season here at home.” The shutout was Georgia’s fifth of the season. The Bulldogs have now rallied off six straight conference wins with four of those against teams in the top-25.   In doubles, the No. 2 court sat at 4-3 before Christofi/Shaffer finished the last two games strong to win 6-3 over Khrystyna Vozniak and Jennifer Brown. The Georgia twosome showcases a 6-1 record playing No. 2 and an 11-2 slate on the year.   Mississippi State (11-5, 4-4) started doubles with the lead after 11th-ranked tandem of Jasmine Lee and Lisa Marie Rioux edged No. 18 Ellen Perez and Caroline Brinson on court one. However, Gould and Marta Gonzalez evened up the score on court three winning 6-3 before Christofi and Shaffer secured the point.   In singles, junior Mariana Gould, ranked at No. 102, overpowered her opponent 6-0, 6-1 on the last court to put Georgia up 2-0. Gould, of Boise, Idaho, ups her win streak to five on court six where she has a 10-2 dual record.   The remaining singles matches featured two first-set tiebreakers and four that spilled into the third set. On court No. 3, Kennedy Shaffer edged Madison Harrison in the first-set tiebreaker 7-2, then carried that momentum into the second set winning 6-2.   In the battle of freshmen on court two eighth-ranked Christofi defeated Rioux in the deciding third set 6-1 to seal the win for the Bulldogs. The clincher was Christofi’s fourth on the season en route to a team-best 26-4 record.   Georgia was leading in two of the three remaining third-set matches that went unfinished. At No. 4, Brinson was on the verge of victory leading Anastasia Rentouli 5-0. After Perez dropped the first-set tiebreaker, she took the second set over 32nd-ranked Jasmine Lee and was up 2-1 when play was called.   “This year is going fast we got to keep working and stay excited and continue to compete like we're competing,” Wallace added.   The Bulldogs are back in action Saturday, April 1st at No. 23 Tennessee. First serve is slotted for 1 p.m. ET.    ## Tennis Match Results Mississippi State vs. Georgia Mar 26, 2017 at Athens, Ga. (Dan Magill Tennis Complex)   #3 Georgia 4, #25 Mississippi State 0   Singles competition  1. #26 Ellen Perez (UGA) vs. #32 Jasmine Lee (MSU) 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 2-1, unfinished 2. #8 Elena Christofi (UGA) def. Lisa Marie Rioux (MSU) 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 3. #57 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Madison Harrison (MSU) 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 4. #59 Caroline Brinson (UGA) vs. Anastasia Rentouli (MSU) 6-4, 1-6, 5-0, unfinished 5. Marta Gonzalez (UGA) vs. Khrystyna Vozniak (MSU) 4-6, 6-3, 0-1, unfinished 6. #102 Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Sara Lizariturry (MSU) 6-0, 6-1   Doubles competition  1. #11 Jasmine Lee/Lisa Marie Rioux (MSU) def. #18 Ellen Perez/Caroline Brinson (UGA) 6-2 2. #28 Elena Christofi/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Khrystyna Vozniak/Jennifer Brown (MSU) 6-3 3. #68 Marta Gonzalez/Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Sara Lizariturry/Madison Harrison (MSU) 6-3   Match Notes: Mississippi State 11-5, 4-4; National ranking #25 Georgia 13-3, 7-1; National ranking #3 Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (6,3,2) UGA Rankings: ITA #3, USTA #T6 Official: Karen Badger-Mabry T-2:15 A-460 
  • FROM UGA SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS  Athens, Ga. — For the second straight year, Georgia’s J.J. Frazier has been named the state of Georgia’s Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The club announced its annual award winners on Thursday. Frazier, 5-10, 155-pound senior from Glennville, Ga., led the Bulldogs and ranked among the SEC’s top-10 performers in scoring (third at 18.8 ppg), assists (fifth at 4.1 apg), steals (third at 1.9 spg) and playing time (first at 34.6 mpg). He finished the 2016-17 season with 640 points, the fourth-best mark in school history. Frazier set the Georgia career record for free throw percentage (.841). He had a school-record streak of 45 consecutive made free throws during his senior season, which is also the second-longest streak in SEC history. Frazier has collected a long list of accolades this season. He was named SEC and National Player of the Week on Week on Feb. 27 after averaging 28.5 points in wins over Alabama and LSU in a 49-hour span. Frazier was also voted first-team All-SEC by both league coaches and the Associated Press. He was named to All-District teams by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). UGA players have won Tipoff Club’s statewide honor 10 times since its inception in 1984. Frazier is just the second Bulldog to earn Georgia Player of the Year honors twice. Jarvis Hayes was honored following both the 2002 and 2003 seasons.  Vern Fleming was the award’s initial recipient in 1984, followed by Litterial Green in 1992, Jumaine Jones in 1999, Hayes in 2002 and 2003, Rashad Wright in 2004, Trey Thompkins in 2011, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2013 and Frazier in 2016 and 2017. 
  • There will be a new policy in place for football fans who go to games at Sanford Stadium later this year. The University of Georgia says it will be following Southeastern Conference guidelines and requiring fans to bring items into the Stadium and other athletic venues in clear plastic bags. UGA says the policy will be in place for the April 22 G-Day spring football game.  From the University of Georgia…   In the interest of public safety and to expedite entry into its venues, the UGA Athletic Association will begin to implement the Southeastern Conference Clear Bag Policy in 2017. This policy will be in effect at the annual G-Day intrasquad football game on April 22. It will go into effect permanently for the 2017-18 competition season and will include all UGA venues that host ticketed events: Sanford Stadium (football), Stegeman Coliseum (men’s & women’s basketball, gymnastics) and Foley Field (baseball). Following are the basics concerning the Clear Bag Policy: > These bags will be permitted inside UGA athletic events: Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC and do not exceed 12”x6”x12”. One-gallon clear plastic freezer bags. Small clutch bags, with or without a handle or strap, that do not exceed 4.5” x 6.5”. Bags that contain necessary medical items, which must be inspected and approved at a designated gate. > Each ticket holder is allowed one large clear bag such as a one-gallon Ziploc style bag or clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bag that does not exceed 12” x 6” x 12”, plus a small clutch purse > Prohibited bags include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a clutch bag, briefcases, backpacks, cinch bags, fanny packs that are not clear and/or exceed the size restriction, luggage, computer bags/cases, camera bags/cases, binocular bags/cases, or any bag larger than the permissible size. > Several SEC schools began implementing this policy in the 2016 school year. All SEC schools will have this policy in place by the 2017-18 school year. > Fans can still carry items such as binoculars, smart phones, tablets and cameras (with lenses shorter than four inches), so long as they are not in a bag or carrying case. > Seat cushions -- without arms or pockets -- will still be permitted into the venues. Fans may also bring in blankets during cold weather events, provided they carry them in over an arm or shoulder to allow for easy screening upon entry. > More information on this new policy can be found at the following website: http://georgiadogs.com/clear-bag-policy/
  • The Clear Bag Policy will be in effect in Sanford Stadium, Stegeman Coliseum and Foley Field.