California fires: Emergency services find 'ash and bones' of dead as weather threatens to intensify blazes

Firefighters in California faced a long battle against dozens of blazes, fed by accelerating winds and dry brush, as search-and-rescue teams started looking for bodies in parts of the state’s wine country devastated by wildfires.

The entire Napa County town of Calistoga came under a mandatory evacuation order on Wednesday as authorities warned of worsening conditions driven by intensified winds. Residents were urged to leave immediately.

Authorities have barely contained the 22 fires scorching nearly 200,000 acres across eight northern California counties. The blazes have killed at least 26 people – a number likely to rise as more information emerges about the hundreds of people reported missing – and obliterated more than 3,500 homes and businesses. In Santa Rosa alone, at least 2,834 houses have fallen to the flames.


As of Thursday morning, the Tubbs Fire which was menacing Calistoga was 10 per cent contained and had scorched nearly 35,000 acres. The massive Atlas Fire had torn through nearly 45,000 acres and was only three per cent contained.

Teams have located more than 400 people reported missing and were trying to track down more than 450 people who remain unaccounted for, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said. He acknowledged the effort was moving into a grim “recovery phase” that would involve combing through the remains of torched houses with the help of dogs trained to sniff ourt corpses.

“Identification is going to be hard”, Mr Giordano told reporters. “We have found bodies that are nothing more than ash and bones”.

Stronger winds threaten to exacerbate the situation. After a brief respite earlier in the week from high winds that helped ignite and feed the blazes, authorities are warning that revived gusts will prolong the burning.

The National Weather Service warned of “critical fire weather conditions” ahead. Calistoga Fire Chief Steve Campbell told Reuters that his town’s fate “is going to depend on the wind”, noting that high winds had not yet blown in. 

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci warned that “we’re not even close to being out of this emergency”. California Department of Foresty and Fire Protection chief Ken Pimlott said “explosive” dry brush will continue to fuel blazes.


That “catastrophic” struggle has spurred California to pour resources into the fight, bolstered by assistance from neighbouring states and the federal government after Donald Trump signed a major disaster declaration. California deployed more than 8,000 firefighters, along with 73 helicopters, dozens of air tankers, and over 650 fire engines. The California National Guard had mobilised thousands.

Two distinct fires have already merged and more consolidation was likely, Mr Pimlott said. He warned that weather conditions that allow fires to thrive were likely to persist through the weekend, driving volatile burns that could spur more evacuations as they abruptly shift directions or grow.

“Our fires are going to burn erratically. They have the potential to shift in any direction at any time”, Mr Pimlott said.

Local officials were working to disseminate information as they sought to rebut criticism that emergency alerts did not reach enough residents.

In Sonoma County, where evacuation orders have displaced thousands and fires have charred populated areas like Santa Rosa, authorities sent out phone numbers to locate people evacuated from two major hospitals and emphasized that people arriving at shelters would not be asked about their immigration status. 

The sheriff’s office urged residents to be prepared to evacuate “at any time”, suggesting that people gather medications, warm clothes, food and water and keep pets nearby in anticipation. 

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Russians 'used Pokemon Go to sow division' in run-up to US presidential election




A Russian-linked account reportedly used the popular video game Pokemon Go to draw attention to alleged police brutality in the United States.

A report by CNN adds another detail to the emerging portrait of Russian efforts to shape public opinion and foment discord in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

After American intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had launched a wide-ranging campaign to “undermine public faith in the US democratic process”, Facebook revealed that Russian entities had purchased thousands of advertisements intended to widen divisions around contentious issues like race and gun rights.

Among the topics reportedly addressed was the Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to draw attention to African-Americans dying at the hands of police officers. According to CNN, one of the artificial accounts Facebook has taken down was entitled “Don’t Shoot Us” and was used to disseminate information about incidents of police brutality.

The effort reportedly enlisted Pokemon Go, a game in which players use their smartphones to “catch” digital creatures superimposed on the real world. CNN found that Don’t Shoot Us encouraged users to play near sites of reported police violence and to name their Pokemon “with a US police brutality victim’s name”.

Niantic, the company behind Pokemon Go, said in a statement that “our game assets were appropriated and misused in promotions by third parties without our permission“ and that ”our platform was in no way being used“ because players can’t use the app to share information with other players. 

Facebook did not respond to a request to confirm that Don’t Shoot Us was among the suspended accounts.

Congressional investigators are keenly focused on the role social media platforms may have played in helping to disseminate Russian-generated content. Representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter have been invited to testify on the matter in an upcoming open hearing.

In an interview on Thursday with Axios, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said Congress should publicly release the Russian-linked ads the social media giant has turned over.

“Things happened on our platform in this election that should not have happened, especially troubling foreign interference in a democratic election,” Ms Sandberg said.

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Kenny Dalglish, Jurgen Klopp and why the Liverpool great thought he was getting sacked for a second time

Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish thought he was being sacked for a second time when he was called into manager Jurgen Klopp’s office for a conference call with owner John Henry – only to discover he was being immortalised at Anfield.

The 66-year-old Scot will attend a ceremony on Friday where the former Centenary Stand will be renamed the Kenny Dalglish Stand in his honour.

Family, former team-mates and also rivals – including Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton – will be present to see the man still regarded as the best player in the club’s history recognised.

It will be a slightly different feeling for Dalglish, a non-executive director with an ambassadorial role, than the day late last season when he was called to the club’s Melwood training ground.

“Mike Gordon (Fennway Sports Group president – and the man who sacked Brendan Rodgers) was over and he asked to see me at Melwood,” said Dalglish, who was sacked in his second spell as manager in 2012 after leading Liverpool to victory in the League Cup, an FA Cup final and eighth place in the Premier League.

“I went up to Jurgen’s office and there was a laptop there and John (FSG’s principal owner) and Linda (his wife) were on it and there was another one with Tom Werner (Liverpool chairman) on it.

“John started speaking and I thought, ‘Jesus what have I done now?’ I thought I was getting the sack again.

“I thought I was in trouble and then he said they wanted to name the stand after myself, as well as for the football it was for the work done with the community with Marina (Dalglish’s wife) and the charity and everything.”


The unveiling will come less than 24 hours before the arrival of arch-rivals Manchester United for the resumption of the Premier League and Ferguson and Charlton are both on Dalglish’s guest list for the event.

Despite the public perception being of a frosty relationship between the two Scots when they were in charge of England’s two most successful clubs in the 1980s and 1990s the former Reds boss insists the pair are friends and always have been – despite Ferguson succeeding in his quest to “knock Liverpool off their perch”.

“If he wanted to get to the top he had to target Liverpool, and Everton, because when he came down here in the 80s Liverpool and Everton were winning at least one thing every year,” added Dalglish.


“I don’t even remember him saying that comment. It wouldn’t have registered with me.

“How can you criticise someone who is totally supportive of his club? He made a massive contribution to Manchester United.

“Away from working there has never been a problem with him. After the end of the game there was never any animosity or dissent from either of us, there would always be a drink.

“His actions speak louder than a 1,000 words, him and Sir Bobby coming over. They did exactly the same after Hillsborough. They were over here early doors.

“There is rivalry on and off the pitch but when it comes to something like that there is not even a doubt about it – they will be over here supporting us and hopefully we would do the same for them.”


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Indianapolis Colts remain in AFC South division hunt despite absence of Andrew Luck

INDIANAPOLIS — With his Indianapolis Colts off to a 2-3 start to the season, head coach Chuck Pagano is looking ahead to Monday night’s nationally televised game with AFC South rival Tennessee.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are holding down first place in the division with a 3-2 record. But after that, it’s a three-way tie for second (or last, depending on your point of view) between Houston, the Titans and the Colts. All three teams have the same 2-3 record.

That’s why this week’s game is a crucial one for both Indianapolis and Tennessee.

Whichever squad can pull off a win at Nissan Stadium in Nashville can take a positive step forward in the division. A loss, however, could make things tougher for either team to make a push to the post-season.

Pagano says that he doesn’t look at the division standings.

“I couldn’t tell you who’s (where in the division). Honestly, I have no clue,” the Colts coach said. “I think our record is 2-3. We had one goal and one goal only and that was to start the second quarter of the season 1-0.

“We accomplished that goal. So now the goal this week is win one game and try to be 2-0 in the second quarter. We’ve got a division opponent on the road on Monday Night Football. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

While Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota missed last week’s game with Miami due to injury issues, Pagano figures he’ll be back to face Indianapolis.

“We’re fully confident, reading between the lines,” that Mariota will line up as the starter against the Colts. “We’re going to practice like it’s going to be (Mariota),” the Colts coach said.

Other than the quarterback, Pagano knows that slowing down the Titans’ run game will be crucial.

“First thing we talked about,” he said. “Dealing with the run, eliminating big plays. You must be disciplined.”

One thing the Colts are continuing to work on is the ability to close out games. Heading into the sixth game of the season, Indianapolis’ second-half struggles are still a major issue.

“I think you don’t ever want to take your foot off the gas. I think you’ve got to be smart. It still comes down to execution, communication (and) being on the same page,” Pagano stressed. “We’ll continue to address it and do what we have to do to try and eliminate those miscues.”

This week’s trip to Nashville will be the first division road trip for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Brissett has yet to win an NFL road game in which he started, losing his only road start this season at Seattle (46-18) two weeks ago.

The former North Carolina State signal-caller, though, has played relatively well since taking over as the starter in the second week of the regular season. There have been some bumps in the road, such as two driving-killing interceptions in overtime against Arizona and San Francisco.

Still, Pagano likes what he seen so far.

“He’s a competitor. He’s got that great mental toughness,” the Colts coach said, adding that the quarterback’s ability to bounce back from bad plays has been impressive.

“It’s like watching Major League. All he’s missing is the glasses with the tape. He’s got a little ‘Wild Thing’ in him. But he’s awesome. He’s an all-star. He’s a great teammate. This guy, he’s got it. He’s got the ‘it’ factor. He’s a talented, talented guy. He brings energy. He’s brings juice.”

Pagano firmly believes that Indianapolis is a better football team now than the one that started the season with a one-sided road loss to the Rams.

“We’re smarter, communicating better, practicing better. (We’re) more efficient than the team we saw in Los Angeles. (The) young guys are growing,” he said.

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Brooklyn Nets pick up options of D’Angelo Russell, two others

The Brooklyn Nets exercised the 2018-19 contract options for D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert on Thursday.

Russell, the No. 2 overall pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2015 NBA Draft, was acquired by the Nets in June. He averaged 15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals last season.

The 6-foot-5 Russell increased his numbers across the board after posting averages of 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals during his rookie season.

Hollis-Jefferson, acquired in a draft-night trade after he was selected No. 23 overall by Portland in 2015, appeared in a team-high 78 games last season and averaged 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds. The 6-7 forward averaged 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds as a rookie.

LeVert was acquired from Indiana after the Pacers selected him with the 20th overall selection in 2016. He started 26 of 57 games last season, averaging 8.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

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Ezekiel Elliott: Court lifts injunction against Dallas Cowboys RB, clears way for suspension

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott suffered a blow on Thursday when a federal appeals court lifted the injunction that prevented him from serving a six-game suspension over an alleged domestic violence incident.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans voted 2-1 in favor of the NFL, which requested an emergency hearing after a district court in Texas blocked the suspension last month.

The appeals court ordered the Texas court to dismiss Elliott’s case.

Pratik Shah, a lawyer representing the NFL, insisted the NFL Players Association filed its case in the wrong jurisdiction per last month’s hearing in Sherman, Texas.

The Circuit Court agreed and said in its majority decision that the Players Association filed its lawsuit to have Elliott’s suspension dissolved before an arbitrator could make his decision.

“At the time the NFLPA filed the complaint, it was possible the arbitrator could have issued a final decision that was favorable to Elliott,” the three-judge panel wrote. “Elliott cannot show it was futile to wait for a final decision simply because he believed the arbitrator would issue an unfavorable ruling. As there was no final decision, Elliott had not yet exhausted the contracted-for remedies.”

Elliott’s representatives are expected to appeal Thursday’s developments.

The Cowboys have a bye this week.

The 22-year-old Elliott was found to be in violation of the personal conduct policy by the NFL and the suspension was handed down on Aug. 11.

Elliott, who was not arrested nor charged in the case, maintains his innocence after being accused of assaulting his former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson. The original punishment was issued by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after a 13-month league investigation.

Elliott has rushed for 393 yards and two touchdowns in five games this season. He is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, well below the 5.1-yard mark of last season when he led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards as a rookie.

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Trump to rebuke Iran but won’t call for sanctions that threaten nuclear deal

Donald Trump is expected to disavow the Iran nuclear deal in a speech on Friday denouncing the government in Tehran, but will not call for the reimposition of sanctions that would have risked the collapse of the agreement, according to officials briefed on the president’s intentions.

European officials expressed relief that the White House speech did not appear to represent an US abrogation of the 2015 deal, which they had intensively lobbied against since it became clear over recent months that Trump did not want to continue to certify the deal to Congress.

“Of all the places it could have been on the spectrum, this is very much at the better end,” one European official said.

However, the speech will take a tough stance towards Iran which will raise tensions and is likely to cause friction in transatlantic ties. The US president will say the nuclear deal does not serve US national security interests, contradicting his defence secretary and top generals.

Trump’s speech will include a list of allegations of malign Iranian behaviour, focusing on its ballistic missile programme, its role propping up the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and its support for the Lebanese Shia militia, Hezbullah.

Trump will also impose sanctions on members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), focused on their support of militant groups abroad.

The European allies have complained that the White House has not presented a plan on how to push back Iranian influence, particularly in Syria, where the Trump administration has insisted it did not want to get involved in the civil war, preferring to focus solely on fighting the Islamic State.

The greatest European fear was that Trump would torpedo the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), by reimposing sanctions, or calling on Congress to do so. That does not appear be Trump’s plan – although officials cautioned he could change his mind at the last moment.

Instead, the president will say his administration is willing to work with Congress and US allies to fix the “flaws” in the agreement, and vow to impose more vigorous verification of Iranian compliance.

“In effect, he is saying if Iran goes one millilitre over the limits in the JCPOA, the US will leave. There will be no flexibility,” a senior official said.

Trump will also call on Congress to amend legislation that requires him to certify the agreement every 90 days, a source of political embarrassment as he has repeatedly denounced it as the “worst deal ever”. Under a new version being negotiated with Congress, he would have to endorse the deal less frequency but the US intelligence community would have to assess whether Iran is carrying out covert activity in facilities not visited by the IAEA.

Under the Obama administration, Iran’s stockpile of heavy water (that can be used in certain nuclear reactors) twice went above the agreed limits, although according to the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is now well below that benchmark.

The other signatories to the JCPOA – the UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran, have said it is not realistic to try to renegotiate its terms. However, the European signatories have said they were ready to discuss how it can be bolstered by stiffer measures aimed at Iran’s missile programme, and what nuclear agreement might follow the JCPOA.

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New airplane biofuels plan would ‘destroy rainforests’, warn campaigners

A new plan to accelerate production of biofuels for passenger planes has drawn stinging criticism from environmentalists who argue that most of the world’s rainforests might have to be cleared to produce the necessary crops.

Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, with an 8% leap reported in Europe last year and a global fourfold increase in CO2 pollution expected by 2050.

To rein this back, the industry has promised carbon neutral growth by 2020 – to be met by biofuels, if a blueprint is approved at an International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) conference in Mexico City tomorrow.

The “green jet fuel” plan would ramp up the use of aviation biofuels to 5m tonnes a year by 2025, and 285m tonnes by 2050 – enough to cover half of overall demand for international aviation fuel.

But this is also three times more biofuels than the world currently produces, and advanced biofuels are still at too early a stage of development to make up the difference.

Environmentalists say that the most credible alternative fuel source would be hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), even though this would probably trigger a boom in palm oil plantations and a corresponding spike in deforestation.

Klaus Schenk of Rainforest Rescue said: “Citizens around the world are very concerned about burning palm oil in planes. The vast use of palm oil for aviation biofuels would destroy the world’s rainforests, the basis of life for local people and the habitats of endangered species such as orangutans. We urge Icao to scrap its misguided biofuels plan.”

It is impossible to quantify the precise extent of deforestation that the proposal could cause, but based on the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s crude palm oil yields and Total conversion figures, Biofuelwatch estimate that 82.3m hectares of land (316,603 sq miles) would be needed to meet the target, if it were sourced from palm oil alone. That is more than three times the size of the UK.

Carlos Calvo Ambel, a spokesman for Transport and Environment, said: “Most biofuels are worse for the climate than jet fuel. Quality should always go before quantity. Establishing a goal even before the rules are set out is putting the cart before the horse. The European experience has been that biofuels targets sucked in palm oil exports whose emissions were far greater than those of fossil fuels.”

T&E, Oxfam and Friends of the Earth are among nearly 100 environmental groups protesting the proposal, while 181,000 people have signed a petition calling for the initiative to be scrapped.

Inside the conference hall, several states are also opposing the biofuels pitch which, if passed, is expected to go on to an Icao assembly for formal adoption within two years.

Brazil and Indonesia strongly support the plan but China has questioned its feasibility, the EU wants more robust sustainability criteria, and the US says it will not support globally coordinated emissions reductions targets.

An industry proposal to limit the biofuels target to 2025 is one possible compromise, but others may emerge before the plan is put to a vote.

Almuth Ernsting, a spokeswoman for Biofuelwatch, said the current proposed target was “so huge that it would be unlikely to be fulfilled – but you could still have massive negative impacts from much smaller uses of palm oil”.

Within four years of the EU setting a binding target to source 10% of its transport fuel from renewable sources in 2009, studies show that European investors had bought 6m hectares of land for biofuels production in sub-Saharan Africa.

The EU took very little of its biofuel feedstock from Africa in the end, but the use of palm oil from elsewhere for biodiesel had soared 500% by 2014, according to industry trade figures.

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Several injured in N. Carolina mass prison break attempt – reports

The North Carolina Department of Safety confirmed via Twitter at about 4:00pm local time that fires were set in a sewing plant in an attempted escape from the “high security” prison in Elizabeth City on Thursday.

By 5:20pm, those fires had been extinguished, and while the prison remained on lockdown, the situation was “under control,” DPS tweeted.

Northside Elementary, Elizabeth City Middle School and Pasquotank County High School were all placed on lockdown around 3:45pm local time, according to the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools district (ESPPS).

An hour later, the lockdown order was lifted. However, extra precautions were still being taken to securely transport students home.

Buses on after school routes, with students on board, were ordered to turn back around and return to the schools, “due to the potential of inmates being in the area,” the ECPPS said on its Facebook page. 

Pasquotank Correctional Institute is an all-male prison, with an inmate capacity of 896 and a staff of 410.

Six patients involved with the incident are being treated at the Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, a spokesperson told WTKR.

Elizabeth City is a community of some 18,000 residents in northeastern North Carolina, located on the Pasquotank River.

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