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Fans overcome rainy weather for Comic Con

HANFORD — Not even occasional downpours and puddles of muddy rainwater could keep fans from flocking to the local Super Bowl of nerd culture over the weekend — the Hanford-Visalia Comic Con.

The return of the traveling Turlock-based Ohana Comic Con at the Kings Fair drew in pop culture fans of all types. Trekkies, Whovians, Browncoats, Bronies, Potterheads and other similarly named groups fanatical in their love of specific books, TV shows and movies met at the fairgrounds to shop, collect and show their support for their quirky passions.

“Because I wanted to,” said 3-year-old Jack Taylor when asked why he wanted to dress up in a Captain America costume for convention. The shy nearly-four-year old found the words to add that the “Avengers” character is his favorite superhero.

“When he gets his haircut, he asks the barber for the ‘Captain America’ look,” mother Nicole Taylor said.

Taylor, clad head-to-toe in the costume of the Star-Spangled avenger, participated in the climax of the convention, the cosplay costume contest.

About two dozen costumed locals participated in the contest, vying for bragging rights and gift certificates. From those barely old enough to crawl to those old enough to have children of their own, wearing everything from store-bought Halloween costumes to their own tailor-made custom creations, cosplayers are always the belle of the Ohana Comic Con ball.

When introduced by event MC Matthew Fernandez, cosplaying as the wise-cracking Marvel comics mutant Deadpool, contestants would approach the panel of judges, oftentimes in character as whomever they were dressed as.

When Taylor’s name was called, he ran circles around the competition — literally. The crowd applauded as Taylor energetically ran in a circle in front of the judges — so fast that his trademark shield flew off into the crowd.  Taylor would go on to win the third-place prize in the children’s category of the competition.

On the other end of the adorable-to-evil character scale, Hanford resident Anthony Hernandez won first prize in the adult category for his portrayal of the murderous Negan character from “The Walking Dead,” intimidating the judges — in character, of course — with his infamous barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille.

“I didn’t really expect to win,” Hernandez said. “It was my first time ever cosplaying.”

The Ohana Comic will return to the area for the Visalia Comic Con on April 13 at the Visalia Veterans Memorial District.

Visit for more information.

Foreshadowing the future

HANFORD — Although groundhog Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow on Saturday — predicting an early spring — plenty of local business professionals did see shadows.

Monday, dozens of Sierra Pacific High School students in the Business Finance Academy participated in a job shadow day, where they shadowed professionals from all over Kings County at schools, police departments and various offices and businesses.

Some students also went to Coalinga, Fresno or even as far as Mountain View, spending time at Google headquarters.

The goal of the day is to expose students to daily life in a professional setting and prepare them for the real world by applying what they have learned in school, outside of the classroom.

At Hanford Veterinary Hospital Serenity Carrasco and Ally Martinez shadowed the doctors and veterinary assistants as they checked on their furry patients.

“It’s really cool,” Serenity, 17, said when asked what she thought of the veterinary hospital.

Serenity decided to shadow at the veterinary hospital because not only does she love dogs, she wants to go into a career that helps others. She said doctor or veterinarian are at the top of her list.

Choosing the hospital was a no-brainer for 16-year-old Ally.

“I want to be a vet,” Ally said. “Large animals and small animals.”

Ally said she’s known for a long time that it is what she wants as a career and was glad to experience it firsthand. She said she was surprised at how calm most of the animals were while being checked by the doctors.

Dr. Lee Fausett of Hanford Veterinary Hospital said so many things go on at the hospital that unless people have worked at one before, they would have no idea what goes into being a veterinarian or veterinary assistant.

“It’s good to be able to open up their thought process to all the different aspects in veterinary medicine,” Fausett said of the importance of job shadowing.

The Hanford Police Department was also busy Monday with five students job shadowing officers. Two of those students were 16-year-old Nikkos Goumas and 17-year-old Brandon Ayala.

Students got to see the equipment officers’ use, got a tour of the department and dispatch center, and went on ride-alongs.

Officer Mark Carrillo said students were able to get a glimpse of what officers do in person, as opposed to what they may see on TV. Real police work, Carillo said, is just as focused on paperwork and report writing as it is on chasing and catching criminals.

While pursuits tent to happen every once in a while, Carrillo said the officers emphasized the reports and case work that must be done in great detail

“We showed them basically what happens when you take a call from beginning to end,” Carillo said, adding the students were surprised how much work goes into every case.

Nikkos said law enforcement is a career that interests him and he was excited to dig a little deeper into the profession.

“It’s different than what I thought it would be — a lot of desk work,” Nikkos said. “It’s really cool though, really interesting.”

Brandon said looking into the different components that make up and entire case was interesting.

“It’s definitely a career worth looking into,” he said.

Student Jessie Ball also shadowed this Sentinel reporter on Monday. Jessie, who likes writing and performing, said she never realized what went into the process of interviewing and writing news.

Jessie said movies about reporters or police or vets show kind of a glorified version of those careers and she liked seeing what really goes on behind the scenes.

“Being able to do this job shadow and see the real stuff and see firsthand just how different it can be on a day-to-day basis really opens your eyes to whether or not it’s something you should be doing,” Jessie said.

Parker Bowman, the Sentinel 

Hanford's Anthony Hernandez won the adult's first-place prize for his Negan of "The Walking Dead" Saturday at the Ohana Comic Con at the Kings Fair in Hanford. 

Virginia governor weighs his future

RICHMOND, Va. — A political death watch took shape at Virginia's Capitol as Gov. Ralph Northam consulted with top administration officials Monday about whether to resign amid a furor over a racist photo in his 1984 yearbook.

Practically all of the state's Democratic establishment — and Republican leaders, too — turned against the 59-year-old Democrat after the picture surfaced late last week of someone in blackface next to another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. The photo was on Northam's medical school yearbook page.

The sense of crisis deepened Monday as the politician next in line to be governor, Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, denied an uncorroborated allegation of sexual misconduct first reported by a conservative website. Fairfax told reporters that the 2004 encounter with a woman was consensual, and he called the accusation a political "smear."

Protest chants, meanwhile, echoed around Capitol Square. Lobbyists complained they were unable to get legislators to focus on bills. Security guards joked about who was going to be the next governor. Banks of news cameras were set up outside the governor's Executive Mansion.

Northam stayed out of sight as he met with his Cabinet and senior staff to hear their assessment of whether it was feasible for him to stay in office, according to a top administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The meetings included frank conversations about the difficulties of governing under such circumstances, the person said.

Calls from lawmakers for Northam's resignation seemed to ease Monday. State Del. Lamont Bagby, head of the Legislative Black Caucus, said there was little left to say: "I'm going to let him breathe a little bit, give him space to make the right decision."

The waiting game played out on what already was one of the legislature's busiest days of the session, with the House and Senate each seeking to complete legislation to send to the other chamber.

Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne said he told Northam that the state cannot afford a prolonged period of uncertainty over his future. Northam's office is in the middle of negotiations with GOP lawmakers over a major tax overhaul and changes to the state budget. The Republicans control both houses of the legislature.

"One way or the other, it needs to be resolved," Layne said.

The furor over the photo erupted on Friday, when Northam first admitted he was in the picture without saying which costume he was wearing, and apologized. But a day later, he denied he was in the photo, while also acknowledging he once put on blackface to imitate Michael Jackson at a dance contest in Texas decades ago.

The scandal threatens to cripple Northam's ability to govern. In a sign Monday of the challenges he could face, Katherine Rowe, president of the College of William & Mary, canceled an appearance by Northam at an event this Friday because his presence would "fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to."

Northam, a pediatric neurologist who graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School and came to politics late in life, is one year into his four-year term. If he resigns, Fairfax will become the second African-American governor in Virginia history.

The state's Republican House speaker said lawmakers are hesitant to seek Northam's impeachment and are hoping he steps down instead.

"Obviously on impeachment, that's a very high standard," Speaker Kirk Cox said. "And so I think that's why I think we have called for the resignation. We hope that's what the governor does. I think that would obviously be less pain for everyone."

Referring to the allegation against him, Fairfax said he was not surprised it came at a critical time: "It's at that point that they come out with the attacks and the smears. It is unfortunate. It really is, but it's sadly a part of our politics now."

The Associated Press is not reporting the details of the accusation because AP has not been able to corroborate it. The Washington Post said Monday that it was approached by the woman in 2017 and carefully investigated but never published a story for lack of any independent evidence.

The allegations were first reported by Big League Politics, the news outlet that first published the yearbook image.

Last week, Northam came under fire from Republicans who have accused him of backing infanticide after he said he supported a bill loosening restrictions on late-term abortions.

Late last month, Florida's secretary of state resigned after photos surfaced of him in blackface as a Hurricane Katrina victim at a 2005 Halloween party.

Trump to call for unity, face skepticism in State of Union

WASHINGTON — The White House says President Donald Trump will call for optimism and unity in today's State of the Union address, using the moment to attempt a reset after two years of bitter partisanship and deeply personal attacks.

But will anyone buy it?

Skepticism will emanate from both sides of the aisle when Trump enters the House chamber for the primetime address to lawmakers and the nation. Democrats, emboldened after the midterm elections and the recent shutdown fight, see little evidence of a president willing to compromise. And even the president's staunchest allies know that bipartisan rhetoric read off a teleprompter is usually undermined by scorching tweets and unpredictable policy maneuvers.

Still, the fact that Trump's advisers feel a need to try a different approach is a tacit acknowledgment that the president's standing is weakened as he begins his third year in office.

The shutdown left some Republicans frustrated over his insistence on a border wall, something they warned him the new Democratic House majority would not bend on. Trump's approval rating during the shutdown dipped to 34 percent, down from 42 percent a month earlier, according to a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president would use his address "to call for an end to the politics of resistance, retribution."

"He's calling for cooperation," she said, adding that Trump will point to examples of where this has happened on his watch. Officials said the president also is expected to highlight infrastructure, trade and prescription drug pricing as areas in which the parties could work together.

But Washington's most recent debate offered few signs of cooperation between Trump and Democrats. Under pressure from conservative backers, Trump refused to sign a government funding bill that did not include money for his long-sought border wall. With hundreds of thousands of Americans missing paychecks, Trump ultimately agreed to reopen the government for three weeks to allow negotiations on border security to continue.

With the new Feb. 15 funding deadline looming, Trump is expected to use his address to outline his demands, which still include funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He's teased the possibility of declaring a national emergency to secure wall funding if Congress doesn't act, though it appeared unlikely he would take that step Tuesday night. Advisers also have been reviewing options to secure some funding without making such a declaration.

"You'll hear the State of the Union, and then you'll see what happens right after the State of the Union," Trump told reporters.

The president's address marks the first time he is speaking before a Congress that is not fully under Republican control. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who won plaudits from Democrats for her hard-line negotiating tactics during the shutdown, will be seated behind the president — a visual reminder of Trump's political opposition.

In the audience will be several Democrats running to challenge Trump in 2020, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Another Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, will deliver the party's response to Trump. Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become Georgia's first black governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for Senate.

While White House officials cautioned that Trump's remarks were still being finalized, the president was expected to use some of his televised address to showcase a growing economy. Despite the shutdown, the U.S. economy added a robust 304,000 jobs in January, marking 100 straight months of job growth. That's the longest such period on record.

Trump and his top aides also hinted that he is likely to use the address to announce a major milestone in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. Despite the objections of some advisers, Trump announced in December that he was withdrawing U.S. forces in Syria.

In a weekend interview with CBS, Trump said efforts to defeat the IS group were "at 99 percent right now. We'll be at 100."