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Backlash as evidence indicates London high-rise renovation materials may have enhanced fire

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LONDON — Grief turned to outrage Friday over a deadly high-rise tower fire in London amid reports that materials used in the building’s renovation could have fueled the inferno that left dozens dead and missing as it decimated the public housing block.

Engineering experts say outside insulation panels installed on the 24-story Grenfell Tower may have helped the fire spread rapidly from one floor to the next. The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that contractors installed a cheaper, less flame-resistant type of paneling in the renovation that ended in May 2016.

Tensions were high Friday two days after the overnight fire gutted the huge housing block, killing at least 30 people and leaving dozens missing and hundreds homeless.

Scuffles broke out near the Kensington and Chelsea town hall offices as demonstrators chanting

“We want justice!” surged toward the doors.

London has a chronic housing shortage even in the best of times, and those left homeless by the fire — already angry over what they see as government inequity and incompetence — fear being forced out of the British capital.

The Grenfell Tower housed about 600 people in 120 apartments. Britain’s Press Association reported that some 70 people are still missing after the fire.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said people were frustrated by the lack of information about the missing and the dead as well as a lack of coordination between support services. Residents who survived the tower blaze lost everything and have no idea where they are going to live or how they will get back on their feet.

“The scale of this tragedy is clearly proving too much for the local authority to cope with on their own,” Khan said in an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May.

After meeting with Grenfell survivors on Friday, May announced a 5 million pound ($6.4 million) fund to help them and expressed sorrow for their plight. The package includes a guarantee to rehouse people as close as possible to where they previously lived — a poor neighborhood surrounded by extreme wealth.

“(This aims) to give the victims the immediate support they need to care for themselves and for loved ones,” May said.

But the Conservative leader still struggled to overcome accusations that she lacked compassion because she had failed to meet with victims on her first visit to the devastated site. Police surrounded May as she left a church Friday following the meeting with survivors and protesters shouted “Shame on you!” and “Coward!”

Using drones and sniffer dogs, firefighters continued to search the burned-out housing block that looms over the low-income community in west London.

The fire, which started just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, surprised many as they slept and the speed with which it spread shocked fire experts.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to fears that the number of dead could exceed 100 by saying: “I really hope it isn’t.”

London Police have launched an investigation to determine whether any crimes contributed to the blaze. May on Thursday announced a public inquiry while Khan called for an interim report on the fire to be published this summer.

Grenfell Tower is a public housing project owned by the local government council and managed by a nonprofit known as the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organization. The group last year completed a 10 million pound ($12.8 million) renovation that included new outside insulation panels, double-paned windows and a communal heating system.

Aluminum composite panels essentially consist of two thin layers of aluminum sandwiched around a lightweight insulating material. Standard versions use plastic such as polyethylene for the core, while more expensive variants use fire-resistant material.

The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that Omnis Exteriors supplied the aluminum composite material used in the cladding. The newspaper quoted company director John Cowley as saying the building used Reynobond PE cladding, which is 2 pounds cheaper ($2.56) per square meter than Reynobond FR, which stands for “fire resistant.”

The International Building Code calls for the use of fire-resistant cores in buildings over 40 feet (12 meters) tall to slow the spread of flames.

The company that installed the exterior cladding, Harley Facades, issued a statement this week saying the panels are “commonly used” in refurbishing buildings. It did not address the exact makeup of the panels.

“It would not be appropriate for us to comment or for others to speculate on any aspect of fire, or its causes, in advance of these inquiries,” managing director Ray Bailey said. “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”

Families searching for loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters. Whole families are said to be among the missing.

Nearly 110 families made homeless from the blaze are being housed at hotels in west London. Churches and community centers are providing meals and support, and donations of clothing, toys and household supplies are flooding in.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William visited an aid distribution site Friday for the tower’s residents and met with volunteers.

It may take some time though, before the families of the victims know the fate of their loved ones.
Forensic experts said the fire at Grenfell was so hot it could be compared to a cremation, which is going to make it difficult to identify those who lost their lives.

“When you have a fire that takes hold like that, that is literally an inferno. You get a lot of fragmentation of bodies, charring of bones,” said Peter Vanezis, a professor of forensic medical sciences at Queen Mary University in London. “Sometimes all that’s left is ash.”

Vanezis said the best chance to identify victims may be if firefighters find bits of teeth or bone, medical devices like pacemakers or artificial implants.

“The longer a fire burns, the less chance you have that there will be enough DNA left to test,” Vanezis said.

Even amid the chaos and the frustration, some found a moment to seek unity. A special service was held Friday afternoon at the al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre to pray for the victims — and for the families waiting for news.

“Obviously, the longer people have to wait, especially finding out what happened to their loved ones, (that) can create anger,” said Abdurahman Sayed, Chief Executive Officer of al-Manaar. “We’re just really anxiously waiting for the authorities really, (to see) what they are going to do.”
___
AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng contributed to this report.

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The Haze Craze for Lazy Days

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There are many different styles of beer. Ranging from light lagers (think Bud Light) and ales to sours, stouts, and IPAs.

Within those styles, however, are varying styles.

For example, one would think a sour beer is a sour beer, right? Wrong. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which defines every style of beer, there are six recognized European sour styles.

For IPAs, there are seven. American beers have four; stouts have three… You get the point.

Even with viewing the list of recognized styles, it’s not a complete list.

Take New England IPAs (NE IPA), as a prime example. Many breweries are currently mass producing this style of beer, and it’s selling like crazy.

You may have heard one of your annoying beer loving friends talk about drinking a “juice bomb,” or a requesting a “hazy IPA” at the pub, and shrugged it off. It turns out, they (sometimes) know what they are talking about.

What makes NE IPAs so popular when compared to a more traditional, West Coast IPA? NE IPAs have all of the hop flavors, without an overabundance of bitterness.

Instead of constantly adding hops throughout the boil to achieve a fruity flavor balanced by bitterness, the NE IPA has a small hop addition at the begging, and then nothing else until after the boil has finished.

That translates into a beer with very little bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, Mosaic, Galaxy, and El Dorado are most common in NE IPAs, according to the Homebrewers Association. Those hops tend to impart a fruity, and dare I say, juicy flavor profile.

Between the juicy flavor and the seemingly natural haziness to NE IPAs, it’s not far fetched for an NE IPA to look like a tall glass of orange or grapefruit juice, only carbonated and full of alcohol.

NE IPAs are starting to gain momentum here in Colorado, with breweries turning their focus to the haze craze. Specifically, Odd13, WeldWerks, and Epic Brewing coming to mind.

Odd13 is based in Lafayette, Colo. and has a long list of NE-inspired IPAs constantly rotating through the tap room and distributed throughout the state. Codename: Super fan and Noob are two beers that are found in cans, and both offer a different approach to the haze craze.

WeldWerks is based in Greeley, Colo. and has accumulated a cult-like following in just a few short years for its Juicy Bits NE IPA. The brewery just started self-distributing locally, so you’ll have to make the trip to the brewery and pick up a crowler or four. Be sure to check the WeldWerks Facebook page for availability and limits. Yes, they have to place per person limits on how much you can purchase.

Epic Brewing recently announced its NE IPA, which will rotate between four different flavor profiles throughout the year. The cans will look the same but will be different colors as a quick way to tell identify which version you have.

So the next time you walk into a brewery or liquor store, it’s OK to ask for a hazy or juicy IPA. It’s a thing, and, frankly, they are damn good.

On Tap: By the time this hits newsstands, ThunderZone Pizza & Taphouse will have opened on the CSU-P campus. Located at 2270 Rawlings Blvd., the ThunderZone features 32 taps, a carefully curated tap list, and is locally owned.

At the opening, the tap list includes tasty brews from the likes of Florence Brewing and Lost Highway.

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Senators upend GOP health care bill in true Trump style… Twitter

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WASHINGTON — When Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran decided they were in ready to disrupt the GOP rewrite of the health care law, they chose President Donald Trump’s favorite medium.

They could not support Senate Republicans’ plan, the somewhat unlikely pair of conservatives tweeted at 8:30 p.m. Monday night, giving no heads up to the White House or Senate leaders before pressing send.

The story behind the statement reveals two senators willing to be branded as bill killers and seemingly unconcerned with trying to soften the blow with party leaders.

The announcement, coming after some 10 days of conversations between the men, stunned official Washington and left Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at least two votes short in the closely divided Senate from being able to move forward with the GOP bill, effectively sinking the measure. It landed shortly after Trump dined with a group of senators to discuss strategy – unwittingly plotting a plan that would immediately become outdated.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican leader, found out about Lee’s defection after the White House dinner of rosemary-grilled rib eye and summer vegetable succotash. He “had no idea it was coming,” Cornyn said.

Another Republican, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, found out from TV news.

Moran, a second-term lawmaker from Kansas who isn’t known for making waves, and Lee, a two-term senator from Utah who has clashed with Trump, have been talking over the past 10 days about the health care legislation and agreed the GOP bill did not go far enough to repeal Obamacare or address rising health-care costs. They decided to announce their position to make the bill’s fate clear and allow senators to move on, Moran said.

“It could have been prolonged for days or weeks while no one said anything,” Moran said in an interview.

Moran, who oversaw the Senate Republicans’ 2014 election campaigns, concluded last week he wouldn’t vote for the latest version of the bill but “gave myself a weekend in Kansas to think about it,” he said.

Lee had helped draft an amendment, along with fellow conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow insurers to sell skimpy plans alongside more robust ones to lower costs. Cruz agreed to some changes in wording by GOP leaders, but Lee thought the new language allowed too many Obama-era regulations to remain in place.

After talking again, Moran and Lee agreed Monday night on a statement drafted earlier in the day. They issued their statement shortly after a White House dinner attended by seven GOP senators – all likely yes votes on the health care bill. Neither Lee nor Moran attended.

A Lee spokesman said the statement – and its timing – “had nothing to do with the White House dinner. It was not a reaction in any way.”

The statement was made public as soon as it was ready, the spokesman said.

Neither Trump nor McConnell received advance warning about the statement, although it’s likely that neither the president nor the Senate leader was completely surprised.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spent the weekend calling lawmakers, including Lee and at least seven other GOP senators, according to the administration. Trump talked politics, while Pence discussed policy.

Trump called Lee on Saturday, and Lee told the president he was leaning against the bill, for the reasons he later made public.

Lee told Utah’s KSL Newsradio that he had a great conversation with Trump, when he told the president his “consumer freedom” amendment had been weakened and that he wasn’t sure that he could support the bill.

“He was encouraging to me and said, you know, ‘Just see what changes you can make to it,’ ” Lee said.

Lee and McConnell did not talk over the weekend, but Lee spoke twice to Cornyn, R-Texas, the majority whip.

Trump, who frequently takes to Twitter to announce proposals or denounce opponents, was blindsided by, of all things, a tweet.

He told reporters Tuesday he was “very surprised when the two folks came out last night, because we thought they were in fairly good shape. But they did. And, you know, everybody has their own reason.”

Moran said while he remained committed to repealing the health care law, Congress needs to make a “fresh start” on writing a replacement bill in an “open legislative process.”

“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” he said, in a statement that followed the tweet.

In his own statement, Lee said the GOP bill does not repeal all the Obamacare tax increases and “doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”

Both explanations were issued on social media.

“Twitter is a nice medium to get your message out,” Lee’s spokesman said.

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Trump warns Republicans he’ll be ‘angry’ if their health care bill isn’t passed

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will be “very angry” if the Senate fails to pass a revamped Republican health care bill and said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must “pull it off,” intensifying pressure on party leaders laboring to win over unhappy GOP senators and preserve the teetering measure.

Trump’s remarks came a day before McConnell, R-Ky., planned to release his revised legislation to a closed-door meeting of GOP senators. The new legislation would keep most of the initial Medicaid cuts and makes other changes aimed at nailing down support, but internal GOP disputes lingered that were threatening to sink it.

With all Democrats set to vote no, McConnell was moving toward a do-or-die roll call next week on beginning debate, a motion that will require backing from 50 of the 52 GOP senators.

Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Wednesday he would oppose the motion and moderate Republican Susan Collins of Maine seemed all but sure to do the same — leaving McConnell with zero margin for error to sustain his party’s goal of toppling President Barack Obama’s health care law. Several other GOP senators were holdouts as well, leaving McConnell and his lieutenants just days to win them over or face a major defeat.

In a White House interview conducted Wednesday for the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club,” Trump said it was time for action by congressional Republicans who cast scores of votes “that didn’t mean anything” to repeal the 2010 law while Obama was still president.

“Well, I don’t even want to talk about it because I think it would be very bad,” he said when network founder Pat Robertson asked what would happen if the effort fails. “I will be very angry about it and a lot of people will be very upset.”

Asked if McConnell would succeed, Trump said, “Mitch has to pull it off.”

Trump has played a limited role in cajoling GOP senators to back the legislation. Asked Wednesday about the president’s involvement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the White House was providing “technical assistance.”

McConnell’s new bill was expected to offer only modest departures from the original version.

Its key elements remain easing Obama’s requirements that insurers cover specified services like hospital care and cutting the Medicaid health care program for the poor, disabled and nursing home patients. Obama’s penalties on people who don’t buy coverage would be eliminated and federal health care subsidies would be less generous.

The new package would eliminate tax increases the statute imposed on the health care industry. But it would retain Obama tax boosts on upper-income people, and use the revenue to help some lower earners afford coverage, provide $45 billion to help states combat drug abuse and give extra money to some hospitals in states that didn’t use Obama’s law to expand Medicaid.

Paul told reporters the revised measure didn’t go far enough.

“I don’t see anything in here really remotely resembling repeal,” he said.

Collins has long complained the measure will toss millions off coverage. Spokeswoman Annie Clarke said Collins would vote no next week “if the Medicaid cuts remain the same” as those that have been discussed.

Besides Paul and Collins, at least three other Republican senators publicly said they hadn’t decided whether to back McConnell on the initial vote: conservative Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Utah’s Mike Lee and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Cruz and Lee are chief authors of a proposal backed by other conservatives that would let an insurer sell low-premium, bare-bones policies as long as the company also sold a plan covering all the services — like substance abuse treatment — required by Obama’s law.

Their plan has alienated moderates worried it will mean unaffordable coverage for people with serious medical conditions because healthier people would flock to cheaper, skimpier plans. Party leaders have not determined if the proposal will be in their measure, and there have been talks about altering it to limit premium boosts on full-coverage policies.

“If there are not meaningful protections for consumer freedom that will significantly lower premiums then the bill will not have the votes to go forward,” Cruz told reporters.

Lee has said he wants their proposal in the bill, or something else relaxing Obama’s coverage requirements, for him to support it.

Their proposal endured another blow when the insurance industry’s largest trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said it would lead to “unstable health insurance markets” and said people with serious pre-existing medical conditions could “lose access” to comprehensive or reasonably priced coverage.

Scott said he was still trying to determine if the legislation would help families and consumers with pre-existing medical problems.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has fought to ease the bill’s Medicaid reductions, has also yet to commit to back the measure next week.

McConnell withdrew an initial package two weeks ago in the face of Republican discord that would have spelled certain defeat.

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