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Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Briar Cliff basketball players from left, Faith Troshynski, Alyssa Carley, Taylor Wagner and Logan Ehlers put in work over the summer to enjoy a strong season.

Investigators dig for bomb motive, warn more could be found

WASHINGTON — Investigators searched coast-to-coast Thursday for the culprit and motives behind the bizarre mail-bomb plot aimed at critics of the president, analyzing the innards of the crude devices to reveal whether they were intended to detonate or simply sow fear two weeks before Election Day.

Three more devices were linked to the plot — two addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden and one to actor Robert De Niro — bringing the total to 10 in an outbreak of politically loaded menace with little if any precedent. Authorities warned there might well be more.

Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged like booby-trapped package bombs that would explode upon opening. But they were still uncertain whether the devices were poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm. A search of a postal database suggested at least some may have been mailed from Florida, one official said. Investigators are homing in on a postal facility in Opa-locka, Florida, where they believe some of the packages originated, another official said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in an interview Thursday night with Fox News Channel, acknowledged that some of packages originated in Florida.

New details about the devices came as the four-day mail-bomb scare spread nationwide, drawing investigators from dozens of federal, state and local agencies in the effort to identify one or more perpetrators.

The targets have included former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, CNN and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. The common thread among them was obvious: critical words for Donald Trump and frequent, harsher criticism in return.

At a press conference Thursday, officials in New York would not discuss possible motives, or details on how the packages found their way into the U.S. postal system. Nor would they say why none of the packages had detonated, but they stressed they were still treating them as "live devices."

"As far as a hoax device, we're not treating it that way," said Police Commissioner James O'Neill.

Details suggested a pattern — that the items were packaged in manila envelopes, addressed to prominent Trump critics and carried U.S. postage stamps. The devices were being examined by technicians at the FBI's forensic lab in Quantico, Virginia.

The packages stoked nationwide tensions and fears as voters prepared to vote Nov. 6 to determine partisan control of Congress — a campaign both parties have described in near-apocalyptic terms. Even with the sender still unknown, politicians from both parties used the threats to decry a toxic political climate and lay blame.

"A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News," Trump said on Twitter. "It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!"

Former CIA Director John Brennan, the target of a package sent to CNN, fired back.

"Stop blaming others. Look in the mirror," Brennan tweeted. "Your inflammatory rhetoric, insults, lies, & encouragement of physical violence are disgraceful. Clean up your act....try to act Presidential."

The list of bombing targets spread from New York, Delaware and Washington, D.C., to Florida and California.

The explosive devices were packed in envelopes with bubble-wrap interiors bearing six American flag stamps and the return address of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

The bombs seized Wednesday were about six inches long and packed with powder and broken glass, according to a law enforcement official who viewed X-ray images. The official said the devices were made from PVC pipe and covered with black tape. 

David Chipman, a retired federal ATF agent and now senior policy adviser for the Giffords Center, said the details revealed telltale signs that could help guide investigators.

The tape on the pipe is "an investigator's dream," he said, recalling a case in Texas that was solved because the fibers on the tape were traced to the bomber's dog. He said bombers tend to plot methodically.

The new packages discovered Thursday set off a new wave of alarm.

A retired New York police detective working in security in De Niro's Manhattan office called police after seeing images of a package bomb sent to CNN and recalling a similar package addressed to the actor, officials said.

The packages addressed to Biden were intercepted at Delaware mail facilities in New Castle and Wilmington, according to a law enforcement official who, like others, wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Like earlier targets, both Biden and De Niro have been sharply critical of Trump. The actor dropped an expletive insult at Trump at this year's Tony Awards and also apologized to Canadians for the "idiotic behavior of my president." Biden said last week that the president may not "know what he's doing" and coddles dictators.

Football family
GALLAGHER: Mosers offer triple-threat for Red Raiders

ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Opponents face a sibling triple-threat from Northwestern College's football team this fall. Senior Brady Moser plays tight end; sophomore Brett Moser plays defensive end/linebacker and backup quarterback; freshman Cade Moser is a wide receiver.

The football genes don't end there. Father Brian Moser coaches special teams and wide receivers/defensive backs at Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, a team that hosts a state playoff game Friday night versus Spirit Lake. Youngest son, Cody Moser, plays wide receiver and defensive back for the Nighthawks.

Who keeps it all straight? That would be mother Melissa Moser, who takes her place in the cheering section every Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Friday, Brian and Melissa will get together with other coaches and their wives for some family time after Cody's playoff game. They'll head home and then rise early, hitting the road around 7 a.m. for a 312-mile trip to Hastings, Nebraska, where Brady, Brett and Cade will help the Red Raiders tackle the Broncos in a Great Plains Athletic Conference contest.

Following Northwestern is a natural for Brian and Melissa Moser, of Rock Valley, Iowa; they're both NWC graduates. Brian, a 1988 Sanborn (Iowa) High School graduate, played football for two years with the Red Raiders after transferring from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he played two seasons of football for the Norsemen.

"We're blessed to have the boys playing football," said Brian, who teaches physical education and health at Rock Valley. "To have them pick Northwestern and choose to play football in college had nothing to do with us. It was their decision. Like I said, we are very blessed."

The youngest, Cody, won't make the trip on Saturday with Mom and Dad. The reason? He's got a part in the Rock Valley High School musical, "Footloose." He won't miss a rehearsal for a collegiate football game, even if he's got three brothers playing.

TGallagher / TIM GALLAGHER, Sioux City Journal 

From left, Brett, Brady and Cade Moser pose for a photo prior to football practice at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, on Tuesday. The sons of NWC graduates Brian and Melissa Moser, of Rock Valley, Iowa, all suit up for the No. 6-ranked Red Raiders on Saturdays this fall.

This isn't the first time an extra-curricular dilemma has affected schedules in this family. Brady, the NWC senior, said all four boys have appeared in plays, musicals and show choirs at one time or another. Brady said his parents have encouraged their sons to participate in as many activities as feasible, helping add to a well-rounded education.

Brady's collegiate football journey is the most circuitous of that found in the family. He graduated from Rock Valley and spent his first year of college at Northwestern, sitting out as a red-shirt due to injury. He then transferred to Briar Cliff University and took a red-shirt year there, too.

That's when Brett graduated from Rock Valley and decided to attend Northwestern and suit up for Coach Matt McCarty's Red Raiders. Brett's school choice prompted his older brother to transfer back to NWC, where he played on special teams last fall. This season, he's serving as a backup tight end and fullback. He made one catch this season, a pass that came from brother Brett in a game against Jamestown. Brett has completed all four of his pass attempts this season, while Cade has caught 14 passes for 228 yards and a trio of TDs.

"Brett threw me my only touchdown pass of my senior year in high school," Brady said with a smile.

TGallagher / TIM GALLAGHER, Sioux City Journal 

From left, Brady, Brett and Cade Moser pose for a photo prior to football practice at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, on Tuesday. The sons of NWC graduates Brian and Melissa Moser, of Rock Valley, Iowa, all suit up for the No. 6-ranked Red Raiders on Saturdays this fall.

That detail leads to one of Brady's favorite football memories, which occurred a couple of years ago as he arrived in Hull, Iowa, for the Nighthawks' season-opening football game against Western Christian. Just as the football field came into view that evening, he watched Brett heave a touchdown pass to Cade. He watched as their dad, Brian, celebrated with the coaching staff on the sideline. And then, little brother Cody stood behind the goal posts and caught the extra-point kick. Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley went 12-1 that year and won the state championship.

And while there's a chance Brady could stay at NWC long enough to play with Cody, thereby having four Moser brothers on the squad, he'll likely forego his last year of eligibility in a couple of years and put his marketing degree to work.

Brett and Cade, meantime, are both majoring in elementary education (mother Melissa teaches kindergarten at Rock Valley) and plan to coach when their days at NWC conclude. Brady has already earned his coaching endorsement and would love to coach football in the future, if his career allows for that type of time commitment.

Cade, who lives on campus, said that despite having two brothers as teammates, he rarely sees them outside of football practice. Brady lives his with maternal grandparents, Daryl and Mick Van Regenmorter, near Maurice, Iowa, while Brett lives at home with Mom, Dad and Cody.

On game days, though, the family comes together to cheer on their Red Raiders, hours after doing the same for the Nighthawks, a first family of football in Sioux County.

When I asked Cade why he chose NWC, he didn't hesitate. "I chose Northwestern because the coaches are so cool," he said. "There's a great tradition here and a great campus."

Well, and this: "I had family go here," he said.

That's past tense, present tense and, most likely, future tense when it comes to the footballing Mosers and NWC.

Trump to send troops to southern border

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is planning to dispatch at least 800 active-duty troops to the southern border at the direction of a president who has sought to transform fears about immigration into electoral gains in the midterms as a caravan of thousands of migrants makes its way through Mexico.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to sign an order sending the troops to the border, bolstering National Guard forces already there, an official said Thursday. The action comes as President Donald Trump has spent recent days calling attention to the caravan of Central Americans slowly making its way by foot into southern Mexico but still more than 1,000 miles from U.S. soil.

Trump, who made fear about immigrants a major theme of his 2016 election campaign, has been eager to make it a top issue heading into the Nov. 6 midterm elections, which will determine control of Congress. The president and senior White House officials have long believed the issue is key to turning out his base of supporters.

The additional troops would provide logistical and other support to the Border Patrol, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a plan that had not been finalized and formally announced.

It's not unusual for the National Guard to help with border security. Active-duty troops, however, are rarely deployed within the United States except for domestic emergencies like hurricanes or floods. Fears of militarizing the border were fanned by a May 1997 incident in which a Marine on a counter-narcotics mission shot to death an 18-year-old who was herding goats in Redford, Texas.

Troops being sent at Trump's direction would not be on armed security missions. They would assist the Border Patrol by providing things such as vehicles, tents and equipment. There already are about 2,000 National Guard members there under a previous Pentagon arrangement.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security had asked the Department of Defense to "bolster" their capabilities with air support, vehicle barriers, engineering and other logistical assistance. National Guard troops can perform those same functions, so it was not immediately clear why active-duty forces were sought.

Asked if the troops would be armed, Nielsen said Mattis would decide the rules of engagement, but added: "We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people. They will be apprehended, however."

Trump has used the caravan to bolster his election-season warnings that the U.S. is being infiltrated by immigrants "pouring across the border" illegally.

He has claimed, without any apparent basis in fact, that "Middle Easterners" were among the group. At rallies and on Twitter, Trump has tried to portray Democrats as pro-illegal immigration, even claiming, with no evidence, that Democrats organized the caravan.

He tweeted Thursday that "Democrat inspired laws make it tough for us to stop people at the border" and said he was using the military to respond to what he called a "National Emergency."

Many migrants in the sprawling caravan — once estimated by the United Nations to number more than 7,000 — are hoping to make it to the United States. Most are Hondurans, seeking to escape poverty and violence, and include families with children.

The caravan swelled dramatically soon after crossing the Mexican border on Oct. 19, but numbers have been reduced significantly.

Trump tweeted a direct message to the migrants Thursday, urging them to return home.

"To those in the Caravan, turnaround," he wrote. "We are not letting people into the United States illegally. Go back to your Country and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!"

When asked about Trump's tweets, migrants have generally responded that he should stop attacking them and said they would keep heading north.

Candy Guillermo, a 37-year-old migrant in the caravan who had heard about the plan to deploy troops, was surprised she and the children in the group would be considered a threat.

"Trump should be more humanitarian," she said.

Sickness, fear and police harassment, little by little, are whittling down the migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. border, with many of the 4,000 to 5,000 migrants who resumed their journey Thursday complaining of exhaustion.

The group, many with children and even pushing toddlers in strollers, departed Mapastepec at dawn with more than 1,000 miles still to go before they reach the U.S. border.

They have advanced just 95 miles as the crow flies since thousands burst across Mexico's southernmost border six days earlier.

On Thursday, the long column of migrants stretched for more than a mile as they left the town square in Mapastepac in far southern Mexico, where many spent the night. The municipality of some 45,000 people, along with churches and volunteers, offered some medicine and donated water, clothing baby formula and baby bottles.

As they reached the highway, families with young children packed sidewalks asking for donations and rides to the next stop, Pijijiapan, about 25 miles further ahead.

Democrats, GOP continue war of words over future of IPERS

CEDAR RAPIDS -- A week ahead of Halloween, Democrats and Republicans are accusing each other of using scare tactics in the governor’s race.

Democrats and public employee unions continued their statewide tour telling Iowans that Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican legislators are going to gut IPERS, the public service workers retirement system.

In recent days, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican lawmakers have spoken out in defense of the IPERS, which paid nearly $2 billion in benefits last year, attempting to assure Iowans, especially the 350,000 IPERS members, that they are not planning to overhaul the program.

“Working Iowa families, including IPERS recipients, have many good reasons to be skeptical of promises made by members of the Republican Party,” Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, said at a Thursday news conference in Cedar Rapids.

Iowa Democrat Party Chairman Troy Price said Republican claims sound like the “same sort of broken promises that we have seen from Republicans and this administration when they talked about changes to Medicaid, for example, right before they turned it into a privatized mess.

“Or when they told us they were going to tweak our collective bargaining law we had in place for 40 years and then went ahead and, in the span of 10 days, completely gutted that law.”

Reynolds, campaigning in Iowa City, called the attacks baseless and suggested they indicate her Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell is having a hard time convincing voters to support him.

“When you don’t have any ideas, any vision, anything to run on, you resort to scare tactics. It’s just silly,” she said.

Reynolds worked in local government for 19 years, served in the Senate for two years and has been lieutenant governor or governor for seven years.

“I’m counting on my pension. That’s part of my retirement. I don’t have a trust fund,” she said, referring to Hubbell’s personal wealth.

According to IPERS, it paid $1.9 billion in benefits last year, including $1.7 billion to retirees in Iowa. The average recipient received $17,000.

In Linn County, 5,951 recipients received nearly $106 million last year. In Johnson County, 3,125 received $55 million in benefits.

That means IPERS is not only retirement for more than 350,000 Iowans, “it is critical Iowa’s economy,” Homan said.

The thing voters need to understand, said IPERS Board ex officio member Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, “is that Democrats will protect IPERS.”

“She needs to quit lying about what her intent is,” Mascher said.

Reynolds doesn’t see a need to change the system that is 80 percent funded.

“We’re one of the best in the country,” she said. “We’re in a good place. There’s no reason for us to do anything different.”

“We’ve made a promise. We’re going to follow through. That was a commitment that was made to them, and they can count on it,” Reynolds said.