AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EST - NEWS 95.7
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AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EST

Families mourn as first victims of California fire are named

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 42 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. 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.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea’s office has identified four of the victims, publicly naming three.

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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 neighbourhood 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 centres 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.

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Trump eyeing Homeland Security, White House shakeup

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 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 own 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 favour with the president as well as 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.

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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 honour 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.

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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.”

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Authorities: Custody dispute played role in slaying of 8

WAVERLY, Ohio (AP) — A family of four was arrested Tuesday in the gruesome 2016 slayings of eight people from another family in rural Ohio in a crime that prosecutors suggested stemmed from a custody dispute, authorities said.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said a grand jury indicted the four on aggravated murder charges and could be sentenced to death if convicted.

DeWine gave scant detail about why the victims were killed, but said the custody of a young child played a role. He said they had carefully planned the killings for months.

“There certainly was an obsession with custody, obsession with control of children,” said DeWine, who earlier this month was elected governor.

He added: “I just might tell you this is just the most bizarre story I’ve ever seen in being involved in law enforcement.”

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US trial of Mexican drug lord “El Chapo” gets underway

NEW YORK (AP) — The infamous Mexican drug lord and escape artist Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was alternately portrayed at his U.S. trial on Tuesday as a calculating leader of a bloodthirsty smuggling operation that funneled tons of cocaine and other drugs into American cities and a scapegoat for a conspiracy whose actual mastermind bribed crooked Mexican officials as high as the president to keep his freedom.

In opening statements amid tight security in federal court in Brooklyn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels told a jury whose identities have been kept secret how the man who got his start in a modest marijuana-selling business became a kingpin known for using an army of hit men to wipe out his competitors and anyone within his Sinaloa cartel who betrayed him.

“Money. Drugs. Murder. … That is what this case is about,” Fels said.

Defence attorney Jeffrey Lichtman sought to shift blame in his opening to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, another reputed drug trafficker in the cartel’s leadership who is still at large in Mexico. The lawyer claimed that unlike Guzman, Zambada remains on the loose because of bribes that “go up to the very top,” including hundreds of millions of dollars paid to the current and former presidents of Mexico.

He also suggested U.S. law enforcement turned a blind eye to the situation.

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CIA considered potential truth serum for terror suspects

WASHINGTON (AP) — Shortly after 9-11, the CIA considered using a drug it thought might work like a truth serum and force terror suspects to give up information about potential attacks.

After months of research, the agency decided that a drug called Versed, a sedative often prescribed to reduce anxiety, was “possibly worth a try.” But in the end, the CIA decided not to ask government lawyers to approve its use.

The existence of the drug research program — dubbed “Project Medication” — is disclosed in a once-classified report that was provided to the American Civil Liberties Union under a judge’s order and was released by the organization Tuesday.

The 90-page CIA report, which was provided in advance to The Associated Press, is a window into the internal struggle that medical personnel working in the agency’s detention and harsh interrogation program faced in reconciling their professional ethics with the chance to save lives by preventing future attacks.

“This document tells an essential part of the story of how it was that the CIA came to torture prisoners against the law and helps prevent it from happening again,” said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin.

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CNN sues Trump, demanding return of Acosta to White House

NEW YORK (AP) — CNN took its access battle against the Trump administration to court on Tuesday, demanding the reinstatement of correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House credentials because their revocation violates the right of freedom of the press.

Besides seeking an injunction to let Acosta return immediately, CNN is launching a case that will test the ability of government officials anywhere to freeze out a reporter who displeases them.

The White House, never shy about picking a fight with CNN, says bring it on.

“This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The administration stripped Acosta of his pass following President Donald Trump’s contentious news conference last week, during which Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he didn’t want to hear anything more from him.

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The “worst toys” for the holidays, according to safety group

BOSTON (AP) — A Black Panther “slash claw” and a plastic Power Rangers sword are among the items topping a consumer safety group’s annual list of worst toys for the holiday season.

Massachusetts-based World Against Toys Causing Harm, or W.A.T.C.H., unveiled its 46th annual list of the 10 “worst toys” Tuesday at Franciscan Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Joan Siff, the non-profit organization’s president, said many of the toys on the list represent choking, eye and other safety hazards that surface year after year, despite the group’s efforts.

Siff advised parents to shop “defensively” and not be lulled into a false sense of security because a toy is made by a familiar brand or sold at an established retailer. One child is treated in a U.S. emergency room every three minutes for a toy-related injury, according to the Center for Injury and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

A Cabbage Patch Kids ballerina doll that made this year’s list, for example, is marketed to children ages two and above, but includes a removable tutu and headband that can be choking hazards, said James Swartz, a trial lawyer who serves as W.A.T.C.H.’s director.

The Associated Press

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