202.5

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

Experts: California wildfire is deadliest in last 100 years

Wildfire experts say the Northern California wildfire that has killed at least 56 is the deadliest in a century.

California officials say the fire burning in a rural area far north of San Francisco killed more people than any blaze in the state’s recorded history.

But the U.S. government doesn’t closely track civilian casualties and records from long ago are incomplete.

Stephen Pyne, a regent professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences and author of “Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America,” and Crystal Kolden, a professor at the University of Idaho and expert in fire science, said 1918 was the last time more people were killed in a wildfire.

“For the modern era, this is definitely going to go down as the deadliest on record for the U.S.,” said Kolden, who has studied wildfires for 20 years since she worked as a wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service.

___

Michael Avenatti arrested in LA on domestic violence charge

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Avenatti, who skyrocketed to fame as a critic of President Donald Trump and the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels, was arrested Wednesday and booked on a felony domestic violence charge, Los Angeles police said.

The alleged victim in the case had visible injuries, according to Officer Tony Im, a police spokesman. But Avenatti slammed the allegation as “completely bogus” and “fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation” in a statement released by his law firm.

Avenatti, who has said he’s mulling a 2020 presidential run, posted $50,000 bail and was released about four hours after he was arrested Wednesday on the same block where he lives in a skyscraper apartment.

Police declined to provide any details about the alleged victim, including that person’s relationship to Avenatti.

As he left the police station Wednesday, Avenatti said he had never hit a woman and said he’s been an advocate for women’s rights his entire career.

___

Migrant caravan groups arrive by hundreds at US border

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Migrants in a caravan of Central Americans arrived in Tijuana by the hundreds Wednesday, getting their first glimpse of the robust U.S. military presence that awaits them after President Donald Trump ordered thousands of troops to the border.

Several hundred people from the caravan got off buses and made their way to a shelter on the Mexican side near the border to line up for food. Doctors checked those fighting colds and other ailments while several dozen migrants, mostly single men, spent the night at a Tijuana beach that is cut by a towering border wall of metal bars. Several Border Patrol agents in San Diego watched them through the barrier separating the U.S. and Mexico.

The first wave of migrants in the caravan, which became a central theme of the recent U.S. election, began arriving in Tijuana in recent days, and their numbers have grown each day. The bulk of the main caravan appeared to be about 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) from the border, but has recently been moving hundreds of miles a day by hitching rides on trucks and buses.

Many of the new arrivals were waiting in Tijuana for the caravan leaders to arrive and provide guidance on their immigration options to the U.S., including seeking asylum. Some said they might cross illegally.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, visited U.S. troops posted at the border in Texas and said the deployment provides good training for war, despite criticism that the effort is a waste of taxpayer money and a political stunt. Most of the troops are in Texas, more than 1,500 miles from where the caravan is arriving.

___

Storm: 2 dead, 44 hurt in bus crash on icy road near Memphis

BYHALIA, Miss. (AP) — An Alabama tour bus bound for a Mississippi casino overturned Wednesday on an icy highway, leaving two people dead and 44 others aboard with injuries, authorities said, as a pre-winter storm blasted parts of the South and lower Midwest.

The National Weather Service says snow and ice fell during the day across parts of Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Snow and ice are predicted Thursday and Friday for areas ranging from Ohio and the Appalachian Mountains through Washington, D.C., New York and New England from the storm barreling toward the Northeast.

Witnesses told Mississippi investigators that the bus driver lost control after crossing an icy overpass and the bus rolled over on its driver’s side, coming to rest in median of Interstate 269 in Byhalia around 12:35 p.m., said Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Johnny Poulos. That Mississippi town is about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

Killed were 70-year-old Betty Russell and 61-year-old Cynthia Hardin, both of Huntsville, Alabama, said DeSoto County Coroner Joshua Pounders. The injured were taken to Memphis-area hospitals, with at least three listed in serious condition Wednesday evening. Officials said the group was bound from Huntsville, Alabama, to gamble at a casino in Mississippi’s Tunica County, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) to the west.

The red tour bus with white and gray stripes was later towed from the crash site, its windows mostly missing and a smell of gasoline lingering in the air. Large scratches and other damage were visible on the driver’s side.

___

Hearing reveals chilling details of fatal Southwest flight

There was a loud bang, and suddenly the Southwest Airlines jet rolled sharply to the left. Smoke began to fill the cabin, and flight attendants rushed row by row to make sure all passengers could get oxygen from their masks.

When flight attendant Rachel Fernheimer got to row 14, she saw a woman strapped in her lap belt but with her head, torso and arm hanging out a broken window.

Fernheimer grabbed one of the woman’s legs while flight attendant Seanique Mallory grabbed her lower body. They described being unable to bring the woman back in the plane until two male passengers stepped in to help.

The harrowing details from the April 17 fatal flight were released for the first time as the National Transportation Safety Board began a hearing Wednesday into the engine failure on Southwest Flight 1380, which carried 144 passengers and five crew members.

The flight attendants told investigators at least one of the male passengers put his arm out of the window and wrapped it around the woman’s shoulder to help pull her back in. Fernheimer said when she looked out the window, she could see that one of the plane’s engines was shattered, and there was blood on the outside of the aircraft.

___

Trump backs 1st major rewrite of sentencing laws in decades

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his support for the first major rewrite of the nation’s criminal justice sentencing laws in a generation, but it remains to be seen whether the proposal can pass Congress.

Trump said the bill “will make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time.” Trump hailed the deal as proof that “true bipartisanship is possible” — though no Democrats attended the White House announcement.

Senators reached an agreement this week on bipartisan legislation that would boost rehabilitation efforts for federal prisoners and give judges more discretion when sentencing nonviolent offenders, particularly for drug offenses. The House approved a prison reform bill in May, but the proposed Senate package makes additional changes and adds the sentencing component. That means the House would need to revote on anything the Senate passes.

Criminal justice reform has been a priority of Trump’s son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has been working on the issue for months. Trump pushed for swift passage of the legislation, potentially during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“I’ll be waiting with a pen,” he said.

___

Pence says US committed to Indo-Pacific, not seeking control

SINGAPORE (AP) — America has a steadfast and enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific region but wants cooperation, not control, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday in comments to a Southeast Asian summit that carried a veiled swipe at China’s growing influence.

Pence, standing in for President Donald Trump at the 10-nation summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore and another later in the week in Papua New Guinea, told his fellow leaders that “empire and aggression have no place” in the region.

He said U.S. support includes work to counter terrorism and pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and a commitment “to uphold the freedom of the seas and skies where we stand shoulder to shoulder with you for freedom of navigation, and our determination to ensure that your nations are secure in your sovereign borders on land, at sea, and in the digital world.”

“Like you, we seek an Indo-Pacific in which all nations, large and small, can prosper and thrive – secure in our sovereignty, confident in our values, and growing stronger together,” Pence said.

The ASEAN meetings focus on enhanced trade and security in a region of more than 630 million people.

___

May wins Cabinet backing for Brexit deal but pitfalls remain

LONDON (AP) — In a hard-won victory, British Prime Minister Theresa May persuaded her fractious Cabinet to back a draft divorce agreement with the European Union on Thursday, a decision that triggers the final steps on the long and rocky road to Brexit.

But she faces a backlash from her many political opponents and a fierce battle to get the deal through Parliament as she tries to orchestrate the U.K.’s orderly exit from the EU.

May hailed the Cabinet decision as a “decisive step” toward finalizing the exit deal with the EU within days. It sets in motion an elaborate diplomatic choreography of statements and meetings.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier declared there had been “decisive progress” — the key phrase signaling EU leaders can convene a summit to approve the deal, probably later his month.

Crucially, Barnier said that “we have now found a solution together with the U.K. to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

___

Catholic bishops’ meeting nears end, no vote on abuse plan

BALTIMORE (AP) — U.S. Catholic bishops made clear their frustrations Wednesday as a national assembly focused on clergy sex-abuse neared its conclusion without strong new steps to combat the multifaceted crisis.

Avoiding any direct confrontation with the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ended the public sessions of its three-day meeting without any vote on two major anti-abuse proposals that had been drafted weeks ago. On the eve of this week’s meeting, the Vatican issued a surprise order for such action to be delayed until after a global meeting on sex abuse scheduled for February.

“The decision of the Holy See to constrain us did allow a limited response,” Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont said. “All of us are disappointed that we weren’t able to do as much as we wanted.”

The U.S. Catholic church has been grappling with sex-abuse scandals for many years, but events this year have taken a heavy toll on the leadership’s credibility.

In August, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailed decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses, alleging more than 1,000 children had been abused over the years by about 300 priests. Since then, federal prosecutors and attorneys general in several other states have launched investigations.

___

Stapleton wins at CMA Awards, honors Borderline bar victims

Chris Stapleton is cleaning house, as usual, at the 2018 Country Music Association Awards.

The singer-songwriter, who has won at the CMAs every year since 2015, picked up multiple awards during the show Wednesday night, including single and song of the year for his Grammy-winning hit, “Broken Halos.”

When he won single of the year — where he won as a performer and producer — Stapleton said he was “thinking about the people in California right now” and he wants to “dedicate this award to them.”

He was referring to the 12 people who were killed at a Southern California country music bar last week — who were also honored at the top of the show held at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Garth Brooks opened the CMAs by telling the audience that the event would be “dedicated to the 12 individuals who we lost far too soon just a week ago tonight at the Borderline in Thousand Oaks, California.

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



Advertiser Content