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Evidence of West Nile Virus reported in Porter County

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The first positive finding of the West Nile Virus in Porter County has been found.  County health officials report that a mosquito pool has tested positive for the virus and Maria Stamp, M.D. Porter County Health Officer says, "we could see human cases of the virus this year."  Dr. Stamp says "in previous years, most human cases were reported between mid-July and Mid-September."
Health officials urge county residents to take protective steps when they are outdoors including: 
*   Avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times, dusk to dawn
*   Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin
*   Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that have first bitten an infected bird.  A person bitten by an infected mosquito may show symptoms three to 15 days after the bite, according to health officials. 
The virus usually results in a mild illness known as West Nile feverm which can cause fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands, or a rash.  However, a small number of individuals can develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other neurological syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis.
Local health officials are also asking residents to take steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds by:
* Repairing failed septic systems
* Drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors
* Keeping grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed
* Disposing of old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other unused containers that can hold water
* Cleaning clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains
* Aerating ornamental pools, or stocking them with predatory fish
Health officials report that although individuals 50 years of age and older are at greatest risk for serious illness and even death from West Nile virus, people of all ages have been infected with the virus and have had severe disease.
For updated information on West Nile virus activity in Indiana visit:  http://www.in.gov/isdh/healthinfo/westnile/counties/92mapx.htm
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Lake Station Ramp Bridges to be Rebuilt in Place

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PORTAGE, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has approved ITR Concession Company (ITRCC) design concepts to rebuild three aging ramp bridges within the footprint of the Lake Station interchange, where the Indiana Toll Road, the Borman Expressway and State Road 51 converge.
The complex dual interchange first opened to traffic in 1965. Construction will remove or replace the bridges’ steel beams, railings and crumbling concrete deck. Portions of the existing abutments and vertical piers will be replaced or rehabilitated based upon their condition. New concrete railings and wider bridge shoulders will provide improved safety.
The three bridges being replaced are:
  • Structure BHX-A: A bridge on the westbound entry ramp over the Indiana Toll Road
  • Structure BHX-B: A bridge on the westbound exit ramp over the Indiana Toll Road
  • Structure 5262: A bridge over the Borman Expressway for the road interconnecting to the Indiana Toll Road
Pending FHWA concurrence, ITRCC will bid multiple contracts over the next several months with construction scheduled to begin in late 2013 or early 2014. The construction will require several months of temporary ramp closures but minimal impacts to the mainline of the Indiana Toll Road with travel lanes fully open during daylight hours.
ITRCC operates and collects tolls on the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road under a 75-year lease with the Indiana Finance Authority. The Indiana Toll Road Oversight Board meets quarterly to monitor the ITRCC’s compliance with strict operating standards in the lease agreement. 
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NTSB Cites Cause of 2012 Jackson Twp Train Derailment

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The National Transportation Safety Board cited factors such as speeding, not paying attention to signals and texting led to the January 12th, 2012, derailment in Porter County's Jackson Township that involved three trains and injured two people. The report says all three trains were going in the same direction on two tracks, when the second train, traveling at 40 miles per hour, switched tracks and slammed into the first train, causing that one's cars to derail, and a third train struck the derailed cars.
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Dangerous Heat Level Reminders

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Highland Police
Temperatures are forecast to be in the 90's again tomorrow, so law enforcement agencies like the Highland Police Department are asking residents to check on elderly neighbors to make sure they are cool enough. They also remind you to not leave your pets outside in this extreme heat, and to drink plenty of fluids and if possible, stay indoors.
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Coats Opposes U.S. Strike on Syria

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Senator Dan Coats
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today issued the following statement regarding the Senate resolution to authorize a U.S. strike against Syria:
“After several briefings with administration officials and military leaders, gathering input from Hoosiers and hearing today directly from President Obama, I do not believe a targeted, limited military strike on Syria is in the direct national security interests of the United States. Therefore, I do not support a resolution authorizing the president to take military action in Syria.
"There is no doubt that the Assad regime used long-banned chemical weapons to murder its own people. This horrific act demands a worldwide response of condemnation. However, the president has not justified his request to engage the United States militarily in Syria.
“As a result of Russia’s recent proposal to work with the United Nations to secure and destroy the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons, the president announced today that he would like to delay a vote on the Syria resolution and give diplomacy another chance. Reaching an agreement at the United Nations is one thing, but trusting that Syria and Russia will abide by the terms is another matter. Additionally, there remain numerous challenges for the United Nations to secure and destroy these chemical weapons in the midst of a civil war.
“This accidental diplomacy should not be mistaken for a credible plan. The president’s failure to lead over the past five years and communicate a vision for the Middle East region threatens the credibility of our country. To maintain America’s strength and integrity in the world, the president must demonstrate that any U.S. military action in the Middle East is related to a direct national security threat and part of a long-term strategic plan, which the administration has yet to define.”
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Update on Upcoming MC Train Track Crossing Closures

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Michigan City, IN --- The City of Michigan City is updating information on crossing closures due to train track crossing repairs being performed by CSX Railroad. This schedule is approximate and could change due to weather and CSX progress. Updates will be provided.
Closing about September 16th with a planned re-opening about September 19th
 Ohio Street
Buffalo Street
Wabash Street

Closing about September 19th with a planned re-opening about September 25th
 Carroll Ave.
Greenwood Ave.
Roeske Ave.
 
Closing about September 25th with a planned re-opening about October 2nd 
 Franklin Street
Tilden Ave.
Jackson Street
Woodland Ave.


***Each group of streets listed in succession by date will not close until the previous group is open. *** 

Detour signs will be put in place to help guide citizens and visitors to alternative routes around these affected crossings.

The city appreciates your cooperation during the repair process.
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Read more: Update on Upcoming MC Train Track Crossing Closures

 

Annual US College and University Rankings Released

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US News and World Report has released their National University Rankings and a number of higher education institutions in the Region and across the state of Indiana made the cut. According to their National University Rankings, the University of Notre Dame was ranked 18th, while Purdue University in West Lafayette and Indiana University in Bloomington were ranked 68th and 75th respectively. Regional University Ranks are split into four categories, and coming in at number two in the Midwest region is Butler University and Valparaiso University ranks 6th. St. Joesph's College in Rensselaer came in at number 28 in their rankings of Midwest Regional Colleges. For more information on the rankings, visit www.usnews.com/colleges.
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Public Invited to Attend Gary's 9-11 Ceremony

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City of Gary
The City of Gary will host its annual September 11th Commemoration Ceremony to remember those who lost their lives at Ground Zero in New York and to honor the Gary fire and police personnel for their heroic efforts everyday. The public is invited to attend the ceremony, which will begin at 8am, on the front steps of Gary City Hall.
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Lake Station Ramp Bridges to be Rebuilt in Place

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Indot Logo color
PORTAGE, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has approved ITR Concession Company (ITRCC) design concepts to rebuild three aging ramp bridges within the footprint of the Lake Station interchange, where the Indiana Toll Road, the Borman Expressway and State Road 51 converge.
The complex dual interchange first opened to traffic in 1965. Construction will remove or replace the bridges’ steel beams, railings and crumbling concrete deck. Portions of the existing abutments and vertical piers will be replaced or rehabilitated based upon their condition. New concrete railings and wider bridge shoulders will provide improved safety.
The three bridges being replaced are:
  • Structure BHX-A: A bridge on the westbound entry ramp over the Indiana Toll Road
  • Structure BHX-B: A bridge on the westbound exit ramp over the Indiana Toll Road
  • Structure 5262: A bridge over the Borman Expressway for the road interconnecting to the Indiana Toll Road
Pending FHWA concurrence, ITRCC will bid multiple contracts over the next several months with construction scheduled to begin in late 2013 or early 2014. The construction will require several months of temporary ramp closures but minimal impacts to the mainline of the Indiana Toll Road with travel lanes fully open during daylight hours.
ITRCC operates and collects tolls on the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road under a 75-year lease with the Indiana Finance Authority. The Indiana Toll Road Oversight Board meets quarterly to monitor the ITRCC’s compliance with strict operating standards in the lease agreement.
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Record Breaking Heat to Wane by Week's End

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Valparaiso University Professor of Meteorology Dr. Bart Wolf says Monday's record high for Valparaiso was 94 degrees and according to the National Weather Service, we tied that record. Dr. Wolf says today's record high for Valparaiso is 95 degrees, and according to the National Weather Service, we have broke that record. Dr. Wolf says the heat will not last and you will notice quite a contrast by week's end, with a high in the mid-60's expected on Friday and a low down in the upper 40's.
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Pence Directing Flags Be Lowered to Half-Staff on 9-11

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Indianapolis, IN - Governor Mike Pence is directing flags at state facilities statewide be flown at half-staff Wednesday, September 11 in honor of Patriot Day.  Flags should remain at half-staff until close of business Wednesday or the morning of Thursday, September 12.
Governor Pence also asks businesses and residents across the state to lower their flags to half-staff to pay tribute to the men and women who were injured or lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
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IOSHA and IATSE Settle on State Fair Safety Order

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INDIANAPOLIS (September 10, 2013) – Indiana Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) has agreed with Local 30 of the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) to settle the Safety Order issued as a result of an IOSHA investigation after the Indiana State Fair accident in 2011.
As a result of the settlement, IOSHA sets aside the Safety Order, including penalties and specified abatements.
IATSE Local 30 agrees to conduct specific fall protection and hazard identification training for all existing members as well as integrating that training into their apprenticeship program. Safety training for existing members will be completed by March 15, 2014 and the training will be integrated into the training for apprentices by January 15, 2014. Indiana Department of Labor’s INsafe training and consultation division and the U.S. Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training will assist in the development of the training.
“This agreement creates a safer and more protected workplace for Indiana workers in the theater and stage business,” noted Labor Commissioner Sean Keefer. “This agreement creates a positive outcome for everyone involved.”
The agreement can be found at a rel="nofollow" href="http://links.govdelivery.com:80/track?type=click&enid=ZWFzPTEmbWFpbGluZ2lkPTIwMTMwOTEwLjIyNzgyNjQxJm1lc3NhZ2VpZD1NREItUFJELUJVTC0yMDEzMDkxMC4yMjc4MjY0MSZkYXRhYmFzZWlkPTEwMDEmc2VyaWFsPTE3NzY2NzY4JmVtYWlsaWQ9bmV3c0ByYWRpb29uZWluZGlhbmEuY29tJnVzZXJpZD1uZXdzQHJhZGlvb25laW5kaWFuYS5jb20mZmw9JmV4dHJhPU11bHRpdmFyaWF0ZUlkPSYmJg==&&&102&&&# # #...

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Region Heat Wave to End, 30-Degree Drop

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What a difference a few days will make in our Region forecast... after the heat and humidity of Monday and possible record-breaking heat today, temperatures start to go down... by about thirty-degrees near week's end, says Valparaiso University Meteorology Professor Dr. Bart Wolf.  "Wednesday will be kind of the transition day," Dr. Wolf told the Region News Team, with mid to upper-80s tomorrow, and "some showers and thunderstorms, and hopefully we'll get some rain, because many parts need it."  Friday we may not guess much above 65-70 degrees for a high temperature, Dr. Wolf said.  The current outlook from the National Weather Service shows a low in the upper 40s Friday night.
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Man Killed in Lowell House Explosion

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explosion
Debris from a house explosion near Lowell Monday evening can be seen across the street from where the house once stood along State Road 2, just west of Interstate 65. [Photo/Karl Berner for the Region News Team]
One man is dead, found in the basement of a home that exploded Monday night on State Road 2 just west of I-65 near Lowell. Another home caught fire.  Lake County Sheriff John Buncich says debris was scattered over one-hundred yards in all directions, and officials this morning said they believed the situation to be consistent with a propane explosion, though the investigation continues. 
buncich
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich addressing reporters at the scene this morning. [Photo/Karl Berner for the Region News Team]
Buncich says the ongoing investigation has revealed a next-door neighbor went to check on the home after smelling smoke and seeing flames in the back area of the home shortly after 7pm.  Upon arrival, police found the house destroyed and one engulfed in flames. Several fire agencies, including many from south Lake County, responded. Two firefighters were reportedly injured in the blaze.  Lowell Fire Chief Clint Gorball believes the explosion was not suspicious in nature and confirmed the home's heating system was run on propane gas.  According to Buncich, the Indiana State Fire Marshals Office has been on scene for several hours, and their preliminary findings are consistent with a propane tank leak, followed by an explosion.  The identity of the neighbor has not yet been released.
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Feedback Sought on Rate Increase

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State officials are seeking feedback on a proposed electric rate increase for customers of Northern Indiana Public Service Company.  The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is taking public comment through October 4, 2013.  NIPSCO is asking the state to approve a one-billion dollar electric system modernization plan that would include replacing poles, wires and transformers. The Merrillville-based company is the first to present a request under a newly-enacted state law that allows utilities to pay for certain infrastructure improvements through surcharges called "trackers" added to customer bills. Under the proposal, annual rate increases would average just under one-percent over a seven-year period, with the first taking effect in 2015.
Here is more information from the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor:
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is inviting written comments from Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) customers on the utility’s $1.07 billion plan for electric transmission, distribution and storage system improvements. This includes NIPSCO’s request for incremental electric rate recovery of the costs as the projects proceed, through a new rate adjustment mechanism.
The OUCC – the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) – is reviewing the utility’s plan and has not yet taken a position in the pending IURC cases. The OUCC anticipates completing its review and filing testimony on October 11, 2013.
NIPSCO’s request is the first to be filed under a new Indiana law (Senate Enrolled Act 560) approved earlier this year.
    The law allows an investor-owned electric or natural gas utility to seek IURC approval of a seven-year infrastructure improvement plan.
    If the plan is approved, the utility may then adjust rates every 6 months, subject to IURC and OUCC review, to recover project costs as they are incurred.
    The rate adjustments – under a new Transmission, Distribution, and Storage System Improvement Charge (TDSIC) mechanism – may not exceed two percent of the utility’s total retail revenues each year.
    Twenty percent of the costs must be deferred until the utility’s next base rate case, which must be filed before the end of the seven-year period.
In IURC Cause No. 44370, NIPSCO is seeking approval of its proposed seven-year plan.
    According to the utility’s testimony, the proposed projects throughout its electric service territory would be built from 2014 through 2020.
    Projects would include new transmission and distribution lines, new substations, upgrades to existing lines and substations, and replacement of aging poles, transformers, line equipment and other infrastructure.
    Under the new law’s timing requirements, the IURC must issue a final order no later than February 14, 2014.
In IURC Cause No. 44371, NIPSCO is seeking establishment of the methodology for calculating rate recovery for future costs.
    The total cost for capital improvement projects in the seven-year plan is approximately $1.07 billion.
    According to NIPSCO’s testimony, annual rate increases through the TDSIC mechanism would average 0.9 percent each year over the seven-year term.
    The first increase of 0.4 percent would take effect in 2015.
    Increases would grow each year, reaching 1.7 percent in 2020.
A number of additional parties have formally intervened in these cases and are also expected to file testimony on October 11, 2013. They include the Indiana Municipal Utility Group (which includes eight cities and towns in Lake and Porter counties), the LaPorte County Board of Commissioners, the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and the NIPSCO Industrial Group (which includes BP Products North America, Inc., Praxair, Inc. and USG Corporation).
This proposal – referred to by NIPSCO as its Electric Infrastructure Modernization Plan – would not affect NIPSCO’s natural gas utility’s system, service or rates.
An IURC technical evidentiary hearing in these cases is scheduled to start November 12, 2013 at the PNC Center (101 W. Washington St.) in Indianapolis. While evidentiary hearings are open to the public, participation is typically limited to attorney and Commission questioning of expert witnesses who have filed technical testimony on behalf of the case’s formal parties.
For more information on these cases and the new law, please visit www.in.gov/oucc/2747.htm.
Consumers who wish to submit written comments may do so via the OUCC’s Website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm, or by mail, email or fax:
    Mail: Consumer Services Staff
    Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
    115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
    Indianapolis, IN 46204
    email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
    Fax: (317) 232-5923
Written comments the OUCC receives by October 4, 2013 will be filed with the Commission and included in the cases’ formal evidentiary records. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to “IURC Cause Nos. 44370 & 44371.”
Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494.
 
(IURC Cause Nos. 44370, 44371)
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents Indiana consumer interests before state and federal bodies that regulate utilities. As a state agency, the OUCC’s mission is to represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education, and creative problem solving.
Visit us at www.IN.gov/OUCC, www.twitter.com/IndianaOUCC, or www.facebook.com/IndianaOUCC.
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State Police Warn of Sweepstakes Scam

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Indiana State Police logo

Indiana State Police say a scam has begun to surface in southeastern Indiana, and all Hoosiers are being warned. Police say it's not new as it's been successful for scammers in other parts of the country. A person gets a phone call advising them they've placed second or third in the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and have won hundreds of thousands of dollars and they are asked to wire money via Western Union to cover taxes and processing fees. State Police say the most recent calls in southeastern Indiana originated from area code “876,” a Jamaican area code.
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Lake Co Judge Rules Against RTW Law

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A Lake County Superior Court judge has found Indiana's right-to-work law violates the part of the state constitution that forbids services “without just compensation”. The statute was challenged by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. “This is a huge victory for the middle class,” said Local 150 president-business manager James M. Sweeney. A spokesman for the Indiana Attorney Generals office says the state will appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court. The office also says the law remains in effect while the case is under appeal.
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One Dead After Lowell Explosion

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fire
One person is dead after a house explosion just west of Interstate 65 near Lowell Monday evening.  The Lake County Coroners office says an unidentified man was pronounced dead shortly before 12:30 this morning in the 100 block of East 181st Avenue, which is along State Road 2.  Fire officials received the call around 7 pm, and numerous  departments responded, including the Lowell, Crown Point and Lake Hills Fire Departments.  The fire was said to be out within about three hours. A second house that sits relatively close also caught fire.  The Lake County Sheriffs Department and Indiana State Fire Marshall are investigating. No word on possible cause at this time.  Route 2 was closed through the area, but has since reopened. [Photo/provided]
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Coats Introduces Bill to Delay Obamacare Until 2015

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) today introduced legislation to delay the individual and employer mandates included in Obamacare until 2015:
“Obamacare is driving up premiums, forcing businesses to cut workers’ jobs or hours and requiring some families to switch health insurance plans,” said Coats. “The best shot at repealing this devastating law is to delay it and allow the American people to decide Obamacare’s fate in the 2014 election.”
The Obama administration announced this summer that it will delay penalties for employers who do not provide health insurance coverage to workers, but penalties on individuals not purchasing insurance would still apply.
In July, the House of Representatives passed legislation offered by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) that officially delays these two mandates. Coats’ legislation mirrors the House-passed bill.
“Congressman Young and I agree that rather than delay a bad policy for some, all Hoosier families should be exempted from Obamacare’s taxes and mandates,” said Coats.
“Individual Hoosiers and their families should be proud of the work of Senator Coats to introduce this legislation,” said Young. “It is clear that Obamacare is not ready for prime time, and the White House admitted as much when they delayed the new taxes and mandates on big business. The Coats bill would codify that delay, and extend the same mandate delay and tax relief to individuals and families--just as the House did when they passed my Fairness for American Families Act in July."
The Coats legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
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Coast Guard Tows Boat Taking on Water to Shore

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coast guard
The Coast Guard assisted two boaters this morning on a vessel taking on water after receiving a distress call. The Ninth Coast Guard District reports the incident took place northeast of the Indiana Harbor, on Lake Michigan, around 10am. Officials report the vessel was towed to Hammond Marina, where the two men has contacted a mechanic to bring their trailer to the marina.
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