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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

Dead in cars and homes: Northern California fire toll at 42

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — The dead were found in burned-out cars, in the smoldering ruins of their homes, or next to their vehicles, apparently overcome by smoke and flames before they could jump in behind the wheel and escape. In some cases, there were only charred fragments of bone, so small that coroner’s investigators used a wire basket to sift and sort them.

At least 42 people were confirmed dead in the wildfire that turned the Northern California town of Paradise and outlying areas into hell on earth, making it the deadliest blaze in state history. The search for bodies continued Monday. Authorities said they were bringing in cadaver dogs, two portable morgue units from the military and an additional 160 search and rescue personnel to help find human remains.

“This is an unprecedented event,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told an evening news conference. “If you’ve been up there, you also know the magnitude of the scene we’re dealing with. I want to recover as many remains as we possibly can, as soon as we can. Because I know the toll it takes on loved ones.”

Officials said they did not know how many people were missing four days after the fire swept over the town of 27,000 and practically wiped it off the map with flames so fierce that authorities brought in a mobile DNA lab and forensic anthropologists to help identify the dead.

Meanwhile, a landowner near where the blaze began, Betsy Ann Cowley, said she got an email from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. the day before the fire last week telling her that crews needed to come onto her property because the utility’s power lines were causing sparks. PG&E had no comment on the email, and state officials said the cause of the inferno was under investigation.

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Utility emailed woman about problems 1 day before fire

PULGA, Calif. (AP) — A day before a deadly blaze destroyed a California town, the giant utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. got in touch with Betsy Ann Cowley, saying they needed access to her property because their power lines were causing sparks.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. What is known is that it started Thursday near Cowley’s property in the tiny town of Pulga, incinerated the neighboring town of Paradise and killed dozens of people.

On Monday, fire investigators declared the area surrounding power lines on Cowley’s property, in an oak-filled canyon, a crime scene. Security guards would not let PG&E inspectors pass.

Cowley said she was on vacation last Wednesday when she got a surprise email from PG&E. Details of that exchange, described to The Associated Press, combined with the utility’s track record in California wildfire history has again brought the company under scrutiny.

The email said that crews needed to come to her property to work on the high-power lines, Cowley said. PG&E told her “they were having problems with sparks,” she said. They visited her property but she said she wasn’t there Wednesday and was not aware of their findings.

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Picking up another seat, Dems ride high on slow roll of wins

NEW YORK (AP) — No, it wasn’t a blue wave. But a week after the voting, Democrats are riding higher than they thought on election night.

As vote counting presses on in several states, the Democrats have steadily chalked up victories across the country, firming up their grip on the U.S. House of Representatives and statehouses. The slow roll of wins has given the party plenty to celebrate.

President Donald Trump was quick to claim victory for his party on election night. But the Democrats, who hit political rock bottom just two years ago, have now picked up at least 32 seats in the House — and lead in four more — in addition to flipping seven governorships and eight state legislative chambers.

They are on track to lose two seats in the Senate in a year both parties predicted more. On Monday night, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema won Arizona’s Senate race, beating Republican Rep. Martha McSally to take the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

The overall results in the first nationwide election of the Trump presidency represent the Democratic Party’s best midterm performance since Watergate.

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Israel, Hamas trade heavy fire after deadly incursion

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with dozens of rockets and mortar shells Monday, while Israeli warplanes struck targets throughout the Gaza Strip in what appeared to be the most intense exchange of fire since a 2014 war.

Palestinian officials said at least three people, including two militants, were killed by Israeli fire and nine were wounded, and an Israeli airstrike destroyed the ruling Hamas group’s TV station. In Israel, the national rescue service said at least 20 people were wounded, including a 19-year-old soldier and a 60-year-old woman who were in critical condition.

Early Tuesday, Israeli media reported that a man was found dead under the rubble of a building in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon hit by Gaza rockets.

Gaza’s health ministry, meanwhile, said a 22-year-old Palestinian who was wounded in an earlier airstrike died, putting the Palestinian death toll since the current flare-up started late Sunday to 11, the majority of them militants.

The fighting cast doubt over recent understandings brokered by Egypt and U.N. officials to reduce tensions. Just a day earlier, Israel’s prime minister had defended those understandings, saying he was doing everything possible to avoid another war.

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Roger Stone associate expects to be charged in Mueller probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — An associate of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone said Monday that he expects to face charges in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Conservative conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi said on his YouTube show that negotiations fell apart with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and he expects in the coming days to be charged with making false statements.

“I’m going to be indicted,” Corsi said on his show. “That’s what we were told. Everyone should know that, and I’m anticipating it.”

The Associated Press couldn’t immediately confirm Corsi’s claims that charges against him are forthcoming. Corsi’s attorney, David Gray, declined to comment Monday evening. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office also declined to comment.

Corsi is one of several Stone associates who have been questioned by investigators as Mueller probes Stone’s connections with WikiLeaks. American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian agents were the source of hacked material released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, including emails belonging to former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. And Mueller’s office is trying to determine whether Stone and other associates of President Donald Trump had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans.

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Tech giants slide, pulling US stock market sharply lower

A broad sell-off in technology companies pulled U.S. stocks sharply lower Monday, knocking more than 600 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The wave of selling snared big names, including Apple, Amazon and Goldman Sachs. Banks, consumer-focused companies, and media and communications stocks all took heavy losses. Crude oil prices fell, erasing early gains and extending a losing streak to 11 days.

The tech stock tumble came followed an analyst report that suggested Apple significantly cut back orders from one of its suppliers. That, in turn, weighed on chipmakers.

“With the news out of the Apple supplier this morning, you have the market overall questioning the growth trajectory as we look out to 2019,” said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA. “We continue to like tech going into next year, but we think it could be a little bit of a rocky period for the group as we continue through the last two months of the year.”

The market’s slide came after a two-week winning streak.

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Judge: Sides in Florida recount should ‘ramp down’ rhetoric

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — After Republicans, including President Donald Trump, made unsubstantiated accusations of illegal activity, a judge on Monday urged the warring sides in the Florida recount to “ramp down the rhetoric,” saying it eroded public confidence in the election for Senate and governor.

The state’s law enforcement arm and elections monitors have found no evidence of wrongdoing, but lawyers for the Republican party and the GOP candidates joined with Trump in alleging that irregularities, unethical behavior and fraud have taken place since the polls closed last week.

“An honest vote count is no longer possible” in Florida, Trump declared Monday, without elaborating. He demanded that the election night results — which showed the Republicans leading based upon incomplete ballot counts — be used to determine the winner.

Trump went on to allege that “new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” and that ballots are “massively infected.” It was unclear what he was referring to.

The recount is mandated by state law.

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Bishops delay votes on combating church sex abuse crisis

BALTIMORE (AP) — At the Vatican’s insistence, U.S. Catholic bishops abruptly postponed plans Monday to vote on proposed new steps to address the clergy sex abuse crisis roiling the church.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he was told on the eve of the bishop’s national meeting to delay action until after a Vatican-convened global meeting on sex abuse in February.

“We are not ourselves happy about this,” DiNardo told reporters in an unusual public display of frustration at a Vatican pronouncement.

“We are working very hard to move to action — and we’ll do it,” he said. “I think people in the church have a right to be skeptical. I think they also have a right to be hopeful.”

The bishops are meeting through Wednesday in Baltimore and had been expected to consider several steps to combat abuse, including a new code of conduct for themselves and the creation of a special commission, including lay experts, to review complaints against the bishops.

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Stan Lee, creator of a galaxy of Marvel superheroes, dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Stan Lee, the creative dynamo who revolutionized the comic book and helped make billions for Hollywood by introducing human frailties in Marvel superheroes such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, died Monday. He was 95.

Lee was declared dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to Kirk Schenck, an attorney for Lee’s daughter, J.C. Lee.

As the top writer at Marvel Comics and later as its publisher, Lee was widely considered the architect of the contemporary comic book. He revived the industry in the 1960s by offering the costumes and action craved by younger readers while insisting on sophisticated plots, college-level dialogue, satire, science fiction, even philosophy.

Millions responded to the unlikely mix of realistic fantasy, and many of his characters, including Spider-Man, the Hulk and X-Men went on to become stars of blockbuster films. He won the National Medal of Arts in 2008.

Recent projects Lee helped make possible range from the films “Avengers: Infinity War,” ”Black Panther” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” to such TV series as “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and “Daredevil.” Lee was recognizable to his fans, having had cameos in many Marvel films and TV projects, often delivering his trademark motto, “Excelsior!”

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US trial to tell epic tale of Mexican drug lord “El Chapo”

NEW YORK (AP) — During the height of Mexican drug wars in 1993, an attempted hit on Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman went wrong.

A team of gunmen sent to rub out the notorious drug lord instead killed a Roman Catholic cardinal at an airport in Guadalajara, outraging the Mexican public enough to touch off a massive manhunt for Guzman. He was captured, but prosecutors say he was undeterred from a brutal pursuit of power that lasted decades, featured jail breakouts and left a trail of bodies.

The story of the botched assassination will be part of an epic tale told in a tightly secured New York City courtroom starting Tuesday as prosecutors and defense lawyers make their opening statements in Guzman’s long-awaited U.S. trial.

Guzman, who has been held in solitary confinement since his extradition to the United States early last year, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he amassed a multi-billion-dollar fortune smuggling tons of cocaine and other drugs in a vast supply chain that reached New York, New Jersey, Texas and elsewhere north of the border.

If convicted, he faces a possible life prison sentence.

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.



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