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After nearly 75 years, son seeks crash site of WWII hero

ALBANY — Nearly 75 years after Brig. Gen. Kenneth Walker disappeared during a bombing mission over a remote Pacific island, his son is pushing for renewed interest in finding the crash site of the highest-ranking recipient of the Medal of Honor still listed as missing from World War II.

Walker was posthumously awarded the military's highest decoration for repeatedly accompanying his units on dangerous bombing missions, including his last, when he went down with 10 other men in an Army Air Forces B-17 over the island of New Britain in January 1943. Two survived by bailing out and later died in captivity. Walker and the eight others remain listed as missing in action.

Walker's son, Douglas Walker, a retired New York ad man-turned-political consultant, met with Pentagon officials earlier this year to provide information from a team of independent experts that he hopes will prompt U.S. military officials to authorize a new search for the downed bomber.

"The cause is to bring back everybody," Walker, of New Canaan, Connecticut, told The Associated Press Thursday. "While my father's career helps heighten the profile of this case, he's no more important than anybody else on that plane."

Friday, at Yale University in New Haven, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, presented the younger Walker with a copy of a resolution he plans to introduce in Congress honoring the airmen's sacrifice.

"We must honor their memory through continuing this search to fulfill our nation's promise to finally bring these heroes home," Blumenthal said in a statement.

In the summer of 1941, while war raged in Europe but before the U.S. entered the conflict, Kenneth Walker was one of four Army Air Forces officers tasked with formulating a plan to attack Japan and Germany from the air. The plan they wrote in nine days, known as the Air War Plan, was considered a key component in the eventual Allied victory.

Sent to the Pacific to lead a bomber command after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 44-year-old Walker was known for going along during bombing missions, something few generals did. It earned him the respect of the bomber crews but proved to be his downfall.

During a mission over New Britain on Jan. 5, 1943, he was flying as an observer aboard a B-17 nicknamed the San Antonio Rose when it was attacked by enemy fighters.

Other bomber crews reported last seeing the plane with one of its engines burning and Japanese fighters in pursuit. The B-17's co-pilot and another officer serving as an observer parachuted from the plane and landed in the jungle. They were captured, interrogated and later executed or died in a prisoner of war camp.

Wartime searches for the plane's wreckage turned up nothing. All 11 members of the crew were officially declared dead in December 1945. None of their remains have ever been found.

Douglas Walker said he has been trying for more than 25 years to get the U.S. military to search for the crash site. In 2012, the Pentagon agency that accounts for the nation's war dead killed on foreign soil sent investigators into the eastern section of New Britain, a jungle-covered, mountainous island that's part of Papua New Guinea.

But Walker says an independent team of WWII experts contends the crash site actually is in the rugged mountains miles from the area the U.S. team canvassed.

Walker said he presented that information last year to Pentagon officials, who expressed interest in the findings. But he said that by the time a follow-up meeting with representatives from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency was held last summer, that interest had waned.

DPAA didn't respond Thursday to a request for comment on the San Antonio Rose case. But in response to inquiries made by the AP earlier this year, the agency said the independent team's theory on the crash site's possible location "is plausible."

"More investigation is required in order to locate" the plane, a DPAA official said in a June email.

Sara Winters' Aunt Eloise was married to Lt. Col. Jack Bleasdale, one of the two men who bailed out. Winters, of Del Rio, Texas, praised Douglas Walker's efforts on behalf of the surviving relatives of the missing airmen.

"I just have such respect for him and the work he's done," she said.

Walker was 13 days shy of his 10th birthday when his father's plane disappeared. His brother, now 90, lives in Toronto. Douglas said if the Pentagon won't actively look for the San Antonio Rose, he may consider organizing a private search effort.

"I don't want to give up," he said. "I'm 84 and I think at some point we have to find some way to make it happen."

Driver charged

A woman from Auburn was found dead in Illinois Sunday in what local police have called a hit-and-run.

Tricia Hoyt, 35, died from multiple injuries after being struck by a vehicle in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook sometime between 11 p.m. Saturday and 1 a.m. Sunday, police said.

Hoyt is an Auburn native who graduated from Auburn High School and attended Cayuga Community College. She was living in Orland Park, Illinois, and was a mother of two children, ages 6 and 8.

According to local media reports, Hoyt was in the Bolingbrook area for a gathering with friends Saturday night. She was walking along the road when she was struck. Police were notified of an unresponsive person by the side of the road, but when they arrived at the scene, Hoyt was already dead.

Thursday, 19-year-old Eduardo Avila Jr. was charged with failure to stop after having an accident involving personal injury or death, and failure to report the same. An arrest warrant with a bond of $500,000 has been issued by Bolingbrook police.

Chobani grows in 'Silicon Valley of food' despite turmoil

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The founder and CEO of Chobani has no regrets about moving his Greek yogurt company to south-central Idaho, a region embroiled in the national debate over refugee resettlement that spread to company boycotts by far-right bloggers and conspiracy theorists.

"I hear the conversations here and there, but it's a peaceful community that we all love," said Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant. "It's the home of Chobani."

Ulukaya spoke to The Associated Press before a Thursday announcement of a $20 million expansion of the company's facility in the city of Twin Falls — the world's largest yogurt plant — to serve as its global research and development center tackling how yogurt is made and consumed.

It's a project Ulukaya says he's been planning for several years. As to what innovations the company plans for the 70,000-square-foot facility, Ulukaya isn't sharing yet. He said the focus will be on offering natural and non-synthetic products.

The project follows a series of expansion efforts by Chobani since opening its Idaho plant in 2012. The $450 million, 1 million-square-foot plant is the company's second after Ulukaya started Chobani in New York. The company employs 2,000 workers, including 300 refugees.

However, Chobani's time in Idaho also has taken a darker turn as anti-immigrant advocates have seized on the company's open stance on refugees. Fringe websites have falsely claimed that Ulukaya wanted to "drown the United States in Muslims." Other websites, like Breitbart News, falsely attempted to link Chobani's hiring of refugees to an uptick in tuberculosis cases in Idaho.

To counteract the hateful rhetoric, Chobani sued right-wing radio host Alex Jones earlier this year, saying that Jones and his InfoWars website posted fabricated stories linking Ulukaya and the company to a sexual assault case involving refugee children in Twin Falls. Jones originally promised to never back down in his fight against the yogurt giant but eventually retracted his statements in a settlement.

Ulukaya declined to comment on the Jones lawsuit but said the rise in anti-refugee sentiment has never delayed a project he wanted to pursue. And he says he is committed to being a welcoming company.

"Don't leave anyone out," he said. "At Chobani, we believe in second chances."

During Thursday's expansion launch, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter praised Chobani's impact on the community.

"This new investment in Twin Falls reflects Chobani's commitment to Idaho and to the people who have responded so positively to its corporate citizenship," Otter said in a prepared statement. "Congratulations to all those who are contributing to Chobani's growth, just as Chobani is contributing to ours."

Strong economic growth in south-central Idaho — an agriculture-dominant area dubbed the Magic Valley — led Ulukaya to describe the region as the "Silicon Valley of food," pointing to the wide range of food manufacturing plants that have invested in food science since Chobani moved to the state.

"It's an ecosystem generated for food making," he said. "There's now a general knowledge around food science that wasn't there 10 years ago."

The boon extends to Chobani's Idaho workers, who earn an average of $15 an hour, more than twice the minimum wage of $7.25.

The company's new facility will be open for employees to enjoy, featuring sweeping windows to overlook the rural farm landscape and Sawtooth Mountains, complete with an exercise room, kitchen and visitors center.

Breakfast at Tiffany's comes to life at New York store

NEW YORK — Having breakfast at Tiffany's isn't just a big screen fantasy anymore.

The New York-based Tiffany & Co. jewelry chain has opened a restaurant at its flagship Fifth Avenue location in Manhattan, and the menu does include breakfast. The store is the setting for Audrey Hepburn's classic 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Tiffany's Blue Box Cafe opened its doors Friday. The $29 breakfast selections include avocado toast and a buttermilk waffle. Lunch meals are available for $39, and shoppers can sit down for tea and finger sandwiches for $49.

The cafe's chairs and dishes feature the company's signature blue.

Seymour Library announces 2018 budget referendum

Seymour Library will hold a referendum on its 2018 budget from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5 at the library, 176-178 Genesee St., Auburn.

The proposed budget calls for a $796,000 tax levy. The library district currently collects $780,000 of its revenue in property taxes. 

Most of the remainder of the library's proposed $991,318 budget comes from non-public funds, including an estimated $100,668 from the Seymour Library Foundation.

The proposed budget will allow the library to maintain its current level of services and cover a modest increase in total operating expenses, the library said in a news release.

All registered voters in the tax district — the city of Auburn, the town of Owasco and portions of the towns of Sennett and Fleming in the Auburn Enlarged City School District — are eligible to vote.

Fore more information, or to see a copy of the budget, visit The budget is also available at the library.