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Seattle tunnel, among world’s biggest, takes step toward completion

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Bertha, one of the world’s largest tunnel boring machines, emerged north of downtown Seattle on Tuesday shrouded in clouds of dust and chunks of falling concrete, completing the most difficult phase of a plan to build a highway under the heart of the city.

The breakthrough of the cylindrical drilling machine marks a major step in one of the most ambitious American municipal projects in recent years. Once complete, 2 miles (3 km) of Highway 99, an elevated roadway along a densely populated waterfront, will be rerouted to run beneath the city of 650,000 people.

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A sinkhole, a two-year delay and a $480 million claim by contractors have challenged the $3.1 billion project since it began in June 2013.

The underground highway, which had initially been slated to cost $2 billion and be completed by the end of 2015, has been widely compared with Boston’s 16-year “Big Dig” tunneling project, which suffered through cost overruns, design flaws, worker fatalities and other problems.

“This is a historic moment in our state’s transportation history,” Washington state Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement after the drill’s breakthrough. “There is still more work ahead but this moment is one worth celebrating.”

After emerging into a large open-air pit a few blocks from Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, Bertha will be cut into pieces and hauled away over several months.

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The 57-foot (17 m) wide borer made by Japan’s Hitachi Zosen Corp cost $80 million and was the largest in the world when tunneling started in 2013.

As engineers make plans to break down the 6,700-ton (6,100-metric ton) machine, work to fill the tunnel with a double-decker roadway has already begun. State planners hope to have the first car travel through the tunnel in early 2019.

While the project’s $3.1 billion price tag is comparatively small – the Big Dig cost an estimated $22 billion – progress was complicated by plans to dig beneath some of the most tightly packed neighborhoods in downtown Seattle.

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Bertha overheated and stalled partway through the project in December 2013, putting completion into doubt. Tunneling was delayed two years as engineers dug a 120-foot (37 m) access pit to make repairs.

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bill Rigby)


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Trump supporter flattened for pushing debunked Biden smear: This is what ‘happens in a banana republic’

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Appearing on MSNBC early Sunday morning, a supporter of Donald Trump attempted to push the debunked smear of Joe Biden and his son only to have a critic of the president explain to him that he should be outraged at Trump for once again seeking foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Running a clip of the former vice president firing back at Trump and telling reporters they need to ask the right questions, host Philip Mena asked Liberty Government Affairs founder Brian Darling what he thought of Biden pushing back.

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Kellyanne Conway lashes out at Democratic voters as ‘racist and sexist’ at Ohio GOP dinner

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Making an appearance at a Republican Party dinner in Columbus, Ohio, Kellyanne Conway accused Democratic voters of being "racist and sexist," in a diatribe as she tried to boost the fortunes of her boss, President Donald Trump.

According to a report from Cincinnati.com, Conway attacked the leading Democratic presidential nominees before making her claim.

“Their top three candidates are white, career politicians in their 60s and 70s, which I have nothing against except they (Democrats) certainly do,” Conway reportedly told the crowd. “I don’t know why the heck the Democratic party electorate is so racist and sexist. I can’t figure it out.”

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Betsy DeVos’ DOE threatens to cut university funding for positive portrayal of Islam

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The U.S Department of Education threatened to pull federal funding from a Middle East studies course jointly run by Duke University and the University of North Carolina because it portrays Islam too positively.

The DOE ordered the universities to change their program or lose its federal grant money. In a letter to UNC, the department criticized the program, arguing that topics like Iranian art and film have “little or no relevance” to the Middle East studies program. The letter also argues that the program “appears to lack balance” because its programs are not focused on the discrimination faced by “religious minorities in the Middle East," including Christians and Jews.

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