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California farmers furious over delayed payments for land seized in high-speed rail push

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Top California high-speed rail executive under investigation in ethics probe

Farmers up and down California’s Central Valley are up in arms over the state seizing their land to build its long-awaited high-speed railway and then failing to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars owed them for years.

Thanks to an order of possession by the Superior Court, California can take private land through eminent domain for the troubled bullet train project. While landowners are expected to eventually be reimbursed for the property – and for expenses like lost farming production, irrigation replacement projects and road construction – many farmers in California’s agricultural heartland say state officials have offered them a myriad of excuses as to why they haven’t yet doled out the cash.

“I am out a quarter-million bucks on infrastructure, and they haven’t paid a dime for a year,” John Diepersloot, a fruit farmer who cleared a large parcel of his peach orchard to make way for the train, told The Los Angeles Times. “I don’t have that kind of money.”

What’s even more frustrating for California’s farmers are the constantly changing plans for the train, the multiple delays in construction, the seemingly skeleton-staffed California High-Speed Rail Authority and the difficulty in getting concrete answers.

CALIFORNIA’S BULLET TRAIN AND BIGGEST BOONDOGGLE IS OVER BUDGET BY BILLIONS 

“The property owners are very frustrated that the high-speed rail authority don’t seem to know what they actually need,” said Mark Wasser, a Sacramento-based attorney representing more than 70 farmers and businesses affected by the project. “We have farmers who the authority has come back four times to change where they want to take.”

Rail authority officials acknowledge they have not yet paid numerous landowners, but so far have not given a reason for the delay.

“We understand the concerns of private property owners affected during the acquisition of their property by the California High-Speed Rail Authority and construction of the High-Speed Rail system,” Don Odell, the authority’s chief of real property, said in a statement to Fox News. “We strive to work closely with affected property owners to minimize the impact the project has on them and to the ensure that they receive fair market value, consistent with state law, for their land and other expenses they incur due to the construction of the high-speed rail system.”

California’s high-speed rail project has been bogged down with delays, shifting plans and questions over the cost and funding almost since its inception.

The projected $79 billion project is years behind schedule with the latest estimate for completion set for 2033. Bullet train planners have been under increasing pressure to make progress on the system that many believe had no plausible way of living up to its goal of getting riders across the state in three hours or less.

CALIFORNIA BULLET TRAIN PROJECT ON TRACK TO BLOW THROUGH BILLIONS OF MORE DOLLARS 

Earlier this year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he is putting the plan for a rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco on hold in favor of a much-shorter line between the cities of Bakersfield and Merced – a move that had Republican lawmakers in the Golden State calling for a referendum vote on the project.

In his State of the State address in February, Newsom argued against the frequent complaint that the Merced-Bakersfield line would be a “train to nowhere,” and said that a high-speed railway would “form the backbone of a reinvigorated Central Valley economy.”

“The people of the Central Valley endure the worst air pollution in America as well as some of the longest commutes,” Newsom said. “And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. They deserve better.” He added: “We can align our economic and workforce development strategies, anchored by high-speed rail, and pair them with tools like opportunity zones, to form the backbone of a reinvigorated Central Valley economy.”

President Trump was quick to label the entire high-speed rail project a “disaster” and call for Sacramento to return the funds given to the state by the federal government.

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“California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump tweeted in February. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!”

In March, the head of the state’s rail authority fired back at Trump’s effort to block more federal dollars from going to the California project.

At that point, the Federal Railroad Administration had given California $2.5 billion to construct a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco link, with another $929 million pledged. But federal authorities – and the president – claimed the terms of the federal grant had not been met and threatened to withhold any future payments while demanding repayment for the funds already doled out to California.

Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty contributed to this report.

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in ‘SMEAR story’

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in 'SMEAR story'

President Trump blasted The New York Times over its supposed bombshell report on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, calling on “everybody” involved in the “smear” to resign.

“I call for the Resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh SMEAR story, and while you’re at it, the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is just as phony!” Trump tweeted Monday evening.

“They’ve taken the Old Grey Lady and broken her down, destroyed her virtue and ruined her reputation… She can never recover, and will never return to Greatness, under current Management. The Times is DEAD, long live The New York Times!”

NEW YORK TIMES CRITICIZED FROM BOTH SIDES OVER NOW-REVISED KAVANAUGH ALLEGATIONS

Late Sunday, The New York Times walked back an explosive report about a resurfaced allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh from his college days. The piece by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, adapted from their forthcoming book, alleged there was corroboration of an incident in which Kavanaugh, as a college student at Yale, exposed himself to a female classmate at a party.

However, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway — who reviewed an advance copy of the book – flagged an omission and the paper eventually revised the controversial story after being lampooned on social media over the gaffe.

The update included the significant detail that several friends of the alleged victim said she did not recall the purported sexual assault. The newspaper also stated for the first time that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode.

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Trump was asked about whether anyone from The Times should be “fired” over the controversy. He called it a “fair” question but didn’t directly give an answer.

“I think The New York Times made another terrible mistake,” Trump said. “It’s a shame that a thing like that could happen… They used to have a thing called fact-checking. They don’t have fact-checking anymore.”

Fox News’ Brian Flood and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will hold one of his signature rallies on Monday night in New Mexico, a longtime Democratic stronghold his campaign has added to the list of states it hopes to win in the November 2020 election.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The last time New Mexico supported a Republican in a presidential race was 2004. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by 8 percentage points three years ago.

Trump’s campaign sees an opening in the state with Latinos, who it believes will swing his way despite tough immigration policies, including a crackdown on migrants from Central America and a push to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats have criticized those efforts. But a Trump campaign aide said the Republican president could win over Latinos who came to the United States legally and believe others should, too.

“Big crowd expected in New Mexico tonight, where we will WIN. Your Border Wall is getting stronger each and every day — see you in a few hours!” Trump tweeted ahead of his trip.

The campaign also views Trump’s support for the fossil fuel industry as a plus in the state, which is rich in oil and natural gas, said the campaign aide, who declined to be named. Trump is likely to discuss energy on Monday night.

Trump won the White House in 2016 with electoral votes from traditional Republican-leaning states and some surprise Democratic-leaning ones.

The Trump campaign says it wants New Mexico’s five electoral votes to augment the 306 electoral votes the president received in his first election, not create a separate path for victory. A candidate must get 270 electoral votes nationally to win.

Democrats, who did well in New Mexico during the 2018 mid-term elections, are skeptical.

“Last cycle, Democrats crushed Republicans in New Mexico because voters are fed up with President Trump’s toxic healthcare agenda and broken promises,” said David Bergstein, a communications director for the Democratic National Committee focused on battleground states.

“We take nothing for granted, but this GOP strategy looks like they’re concerned about a realistic pathway to 270 electoral votes,” he added.

Trump won electoral-vote-rich swing states such as Ohio and Florida in 2016, while also picking up Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania from Democrats.

The campaign says it is eyeing more pickups in 2020, including Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Nevada.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown

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California adds Iowa to ‘travel ban’ over refusal to fund gender transitions

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California adds Iowa to 'travel ban' over refusal to fund gender transitions

California announced Monday that it has added Iowa to the list of states on its ever-expanding “travel ban” list because of that state’s new prohibition against funding gender-transition surgeries under Medicaid.

The announcement by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra means that as of Oct. 4, California will no longer offer taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa for any public employee or student at a state-run university.

Becerra’s authority came from a 2016 California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that bars state-funded travel to other states that undercut LGBT rights. The list already included Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

WATCH: LIBERAL POLICIES BLAMED FOR WORSENING CALIFORNIA’S HOMELESSNESS CRISIS

Conservatives have called the law ineffective, inconveniencing, possibly unconstitutional and hypocritical. The state’s sports teams have turned to private funding to get around the restrictions, according to The Los Angeles Times.

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming health care,” Becerra said in a statement. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”

The brouhaha began after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that taxpayers could be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law effectively overriding that ruling two months later.

At the federal level, the Trump administration has disputed the idea that sex-based discrimination prohibitions under law include protections for gender identity. The Health and Human Services Department, in May, angered progressive advocates with rules that both allowed doctors not to perform certain operations and stated that “gender identity” was not protected under sex discrimination law in health care.

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Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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