Sheriff: California wildfire’s death toll rises to 48 PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — Ernest Foss was a musician who gave lessons out of his home when he lived in San Francisco, where an amplifier that ran…
Sheriff: California wildfire’s death toll rises to 48
PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — Ernest Foss was a musician who gave lessons out of his home when he lived in San Francisco, where an amplifier that ran the length of a wall served as the family’s living room couch. Carl Wiley refurbished tires for Michelin. Jesus Fernandez, known as “Zeus,” was described as a loving father and loyal friend.
They were among the first victims identified in the aftermath of the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in California history, an inferno blamed for at least 48 deaths, with authorities ramping up the search Tuesday for still more souls.
The flames all but obliterated the Northern California town of Paradise, population 27,000, and ravaged surrounding areas last Thursday. About 7,700 homes were destroyed.
The exact number of missing was unclear, but many friends and relatives of those living in the fire zone said they hadn’t heard from loved ones. Some went to shelters looking for the missing.
Efforts were underway to bring in mobile morgues, cadaver dogs, a rapid DNA analysis system for identifying victims, and an additional 150 search-and-rescue personnel on top of 13 teams already looking for remains — a grim indication that the death toll would almost surely rise.
Trump eyeing staffing shakeup in Cabinet and at White House
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is weighing an administration-wide shakeup as he looks to prepare his White House for divided government, but it is unclear who is going and who is staying.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was thought to be out as soon as this week, according to two people with knowledge of the issue, but she is now likely to remain in the post for a longer period because there is no obvious successor in place.
Trump has soured on Nielsen and White House chief of staff John Kelly, in part over frustration that his administration is not doing more to address what he has called a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the two people. But the scope of the contemplated changes is far broader, as Trump gears up for a wave of Democratic oversight requests and to devote more effort to his re-election campaign.
According to people familiar with the situation, Trump is also discussing replacing Kelly with Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers. Kelly, a retired Marine general, has been credited with bringing order and process to a chaotic West Wing, but he has fallen out of favor with the president as well as with presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Ayers, a seasoned campaign operative, would restore a political mindset to the role, but he faces stiff opposition from some corners of the West Wing, with some aides lobbying Trump directly against the move.
Amazon goes bicoastal, will open HQs in New York, DC suburb
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon has set its sights on two of the nation’s largest and most powerful metro areas, announcing Tuesday it had chosen a buzzy New York neighborhood and a suburb of Washington for its new East Coast headquarters.
The online shopping giant ended its 14-month-long competition for second headquarters by selecting Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Virginia , as the joint winners. Both are waterfront communities away from overcrowded business districts, giving Amazon space to grow.
Amazon could have picked a city looking to be revitalized, like Newark, New Jersey. Instead, it decided to be in two of the nation’s centers of power. The reason Amazon gave: they are best suited to attract the high-skilled workers the company wants. The two sites will each get 25,000 jobs that Amazon said will pay an average of $150,000 a year.
The company will receive more than $2 billion in tax credits and other incentives. New York is forking over more than $1.5 billion, while Virginia and Arlington are offering about a third of that — $573 million. The hope is that Amazon will attract other companies and ultimately boost the local economies. But while many see it as an opportunity, not everyone is sold on the idea.
“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” said New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrats who represent the Long Island City area, in a joint statement.
Democrat Harder ousts California GOP US Rep. Denham
LOS ANGELES (AP) — First-time candidate Josh Harder defeated four-term Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham Tuesday in California’s farm belt, giving Democrats their fourth pickup of a GOP House seat in California.
Harder, 32, a venture capitalist, had anchored his campaign to Denham’s vote against the Affordable Care Act, while arguing that he would push for universal health care in Congress. He also argued that Denham and other Washington Republicans ignored poverty and health care in the agricultural 10th District in California’s Central Valley.
“Washington is broken because our leaders have put party over country. I pledge that I will always put this community before anything in Washington,” Harder said in a statement.
As ballot-counting continued, Democrats gained ground in two undecided House races in Orange County, California, raising the possibility of a Democratic sweep of four closely contested congressional races in the one-time Republican stronghold.
In the 45th District in Orange County, Democrat Katie Porter jumped into a 261-vote lead over Republican Rep. Mimi Walters, after trailing the incumbent since Election Day.
Expensive APEC summit sows division in host Papua New Guinea
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) — After three decades of promoting free trade as a panacea to poverty, the APEC grouping of nations that includes the U.S. and China is holding its lavish annual leaders meeting in the country that can least afford it.
Barely penetrated by roads and scarred by violence, Papua New Guinea hopes the parade of world leaders will lift the mountainous Pacific nation of hundreds of tribal groups out of obscurity and attract investment.
But the expense has brought criticism when the government has a budget crisis, basic medicines are scarce, and polio, eliminated from all but a handful of countries, has returned. In 2015, the International Monetary Fund estimated that upgrading the capital for the event and hosting a year of related meetings could cost $1 billion.
Australia, the biggest foreign aid donor to Papua New Guinea and former colonial occupier, as well as China and other countries have absorbed some of the cost but critics have already been given plenty of vindication.
In an eye-popping move, the government imported 40 luxury Maserati cars to whisk VIPs among convention venues in the secure bubble of the APEC meetings. Officials said the government would sell them to recover the cost, sparking more disbelief and suspicions of a corrupt scheme.
Juul halts store sales of some flavored e-cigarettes
NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s leading e-cigarette maker is halting store sales of some flavors to deter use by kids.
The move by Juul Labs Inc. comes ahead of an expected U.S. government crackdown on underage sales of flavored e-cigarettes.
Juul said it stopped filling store orders Tuesday for mango, fruit, creme and cucumber pods and will resume sales only to retailers that scan IDs and take other steps to verify a buyer is at least 21. It said it will continue to sell menthol and mint at stores, and sell all flavors through its website.
The company also said it would close its Facebook and Instagram social media accounts, and pledged other steps to make it clear that it doesn’t want kids using its e-cigarettes.
Its products are meant to help adult smokers quit regular cigarettes, CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement.
Pilots says Boeing didn’t disclose jet’s new control feature
Boeing didn’t tell airline pilots about features of a new flight-control system in its 737 MAX that reportedly is a focus of the investigation into last month’s deadly crash in Indonesia, according to pilots who fly the jet in the U.S.
Pilots say they were not trained in new features of an anti-stall system in the aircraft that differ from previous models of the popular 737.
The automated system is designed to help pilots avoid raising the plane’s nose too high, which can cause the plane to stall, or lose the aerodynamic lift needed to keep flying. The system automatically pushes the nose of the plane down.
But if that nose-down command is triggered by faulty sensor readings — as suspected in the Lion Air crash — pilots can struggle to control the plane, which can go into a dive and perhaps crash, according to a Boeing safety bulletin and safety regulators.
The bulletin included new details on how to stop a runaway series of events from leading to a crash, pilots say.
Authorities: Custody dispute played role in family’s slaying
WAVERLY, Ohio (AP) — Authorities arrested a family of four Tuesday in the gruesome 2016 slayings of eight people from another family in rural Ohio, a crime that prosecutors suggested stemmed from a custody dispute.
The announcement marked the culmination of a massive investigative effort that began after seven adults and a teenage boy were found shot in the head at four separate homes in April 2016. The killings terrified local residents and spawned rumors that it was a drug hit.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said a grand jury indicted the four on aggravated murder charges and they could be sentenced to death if convicted. DeWine gave scant detail about why the victims were killed, but he said the custody of a young child played a role. He added that the accused had carefully planned the murders for months.
“There certainly was an obsession with custody, obsession with control of children,” DeWine said.
Those indicted were Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, his father George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; Billy Wagner’s wife, 48-year-old Angela Wagner and George Wagner, 27. The four lived near the scenes of the massacre about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Columbus and had long been considered chief suspects, DeWine said.
Melania Trump publicly calls for White House aide’s firing
WASHINGTON (AP) — In an extraordinary move, Melania Trump called publicly Tuesday for the deputy national security adviser to be dismissed.
After reports circulated Tuesday that President Donald Trump had decided to remove Mira Ricardel from her post at the National Security Council, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman, released a statement that said: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”
Shortly before the statement was issued, Ricardel was among a group of administration officials and other individuals who stood behind President Trump at a White House ceremony celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the first lady’s staff and Ricardel had clashed during Mrs. Trump’s visit to Africa in October over such things as seating on the airplane and requests to use the council’s resources.
A White House official told The Associated Press that Ricardel wanted to travel to Africa with the first lady but was denied seating on the airplane because there was no room for her and several others who initially expected to make the trip. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss White House personnel matters, said Ricardel then threatened not to send any NSC staff.
Only on AP: Bloomberg charts aggressive timeline on 2020 bid
NEW YORK (AP) — Having spent a fortune to help elect Democrats this fall, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared lifetime allegiance to the Democratic Party on Tuesday and outlined an aggressive timeline for deciding whether to run for president.
“I think January, February would be about as late as you can do it and as early as you can gather enough information,” Bloomberg told The Associated Press in an interview.
The 76-year-old billionaire said his decision would have little to do with other Democratic presidential prospects. He conceded that “it’s much too early to tell” whether he has a legitimate chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and, with it, the chance to take on another New York billionaire, President Donald Trump.
“Thanksgiving, Christmas and then maybe a few weeks into January — that’s when you really gotta sit down, talk to your advisers and say, ‘Look, do I have a chance?’ I think I know why I would want to run. I think I know what I think this country should do and what I would do. But I just don’t know whether it’s possible,” Bloomberg told the AP.
He added, “If people don’t seem to be warming to you, there’s plenty of other ways that I can make a difference in life and say thank you to this country for what it’s given my kids and me.”