Chico, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — Amy Sheppard packs her belongings into a plastic garbage bag as rain drips around her, readying to move on from a field by a Walmart where thousands of evacuees had taken refuge from a deadly Northern California wildfire.
Sheppard, 38, her sister and niece, who is 1, are looking to move into a dry hotel after camping in the field for four days. They lost their home in Magalia and the jewelry-maker tears up as she thinks about what's next.
"This rain is making it so hard," she said.
Rain falling Wednesday in some areas of Northern California could help crews fighting a deadly wildfire. But it could also raise the risk of flash floods, complicate efforts to recover remains and make life even more difficult for people like Sheppard who have nowhere to go.
Heavier rain is expected later in the day in the Paradise burn area, which is about 140 miles (225 kilometers) north of San Francisco, where the Camp Fire has killed at least 83 people, including two victims who were found Wednesday in burned homes. The blaze also destroyed more than 13,000 homes.
"The rain is really a double-edged sword for this fire," said Rick Carhart, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He said searchers have "been able to sift through this really fine ash and when rain gets onto that really fine ash, it turns it into sort of a muddy muck and makes it a lot more difficult."
Farther south, residents of communities charred by a Los Angeles-area fire stacked sandbags as they prepared for possible downpours that threaten to unleash runoff from hillsides left barren by flames.
Residents were mindful of a disaster that struck less than a year ago when a downpour on a fresh burn scar sent home-smashing debris flows through Montecito, killing 21 people and leaving two missing.
The 151-square-mile (391-square-kilometer) Woolsey Fire in the Los Angeles area was almost entirely contained after three people were killed and more than 1,600 structures destroyed.
In Northern California, the wildfire that started two weeks ago has torched an area in Butte County about the size of Chicago — nearly 240 square miles (622 square kilometers) — and was 80 percent contained.
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise visit to weary firefighters on Wednesday, providing encouragement and helping serve breakfast.
"I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all the work that you do," he told firefighters during a brief speech.
The 71-year-old actor also slammed President Donald Trump for blaming the wildfire on poor forest management. He told firefighters, "you are tough to not only fight the fires, but you are tough to listen to all this crap."
Officials said 563 people were still unaccounted for.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Paradise and nearby communities and for those areas charred by wildfires earlier this year in Lake, Shasta, Trinity and Mendocino counties.
Amsterdam, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — The museum built around a secret annex in a canal-side house where Anne Frank hid from Nazis during World War II has been renovated to better tell the teenage Jewish diarist's tragic story to a new generation of visitors who may know little about the horrors of the Holocaust.
Museum executive director Ronald Leopold said Wednesday the aim is to "provide more information about the historical context and background of the story we represent, which is the story of Anne Frank."
What has remained the same is the museum's moving centerpiece: the Spartan secret annex where Anne wrote her world-famous diary.
Anne, her sister and their parents hid in the annex with four other Jews from July 1942 until they were arrested in August 1944 and deported to concentration camps. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived.
"Of course we did not change the hiding place itself — the annex — which is the most authentic place where Anne Frank was in hiding and where she wrote the diary," Leopold said.
In a major overhaul spanning two years, the museum got a new entrance and changes to rooms including the darkened space that displays the iconic books that made up Anne's diary.
The museum also has revamped the way it tells the story of the Frank family, and by extension the Nazi persecution of Jews.
"What we tried to do is ... use the family history as kind of a window onto a larger history," said Tom Brink, the museum's head of publications and presentations.
That larger history includes the Nazi-occupied Dutch capital during the war "and, of course, European history because all Europe was affected by the Nazi rule," Brink said.
As well as the physical changes, the museum now has an audio tour which pieces together fragments from the diary, family stories and historical perspective. That allowed curators to keep physical exhibits sparse while still explaining the Franks' story and putting it in historical context.
"We wanted to preserve the character of the house, which is very much its emptiness," said Leopold. "I think its emptiness is probably the most powerful feature of the Anne Frank House."
For example, a room that served as the office for Anne's father's company used to contain office furnishings. Now it is virtually empty with just a few photos on the wall. One shows a group of Jewish men in Amsterdam kneeling, their hands on their heads, watched over by a Nazi soldier carrying a rifle.
On another wall is a map drawn up by Amsterdam civil servants for the city's Nazi occupiers with black dots representing the places where Jews lived.
The museum remained open throughout the renovations. Dutch King Willem-Alexander will formally open the refurbished landmark on Thursday.
After the war, Otto Frank had his daughter's diary published, and it went on to become a symbol of hope and resilience that has been translated into more than 70 languages. The building housing the secret annex was turned into a museum in 1960.
Telling Anne's story remains relevant more than 60 years after Anne and her sister both perished in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after contracting typhus.
Earlier Wednesday, the head of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, warned at a conference in Vienna that "Jewish communities in Europe are increasingly concerned about their security and pessimistic about their future."
Leopold said the museum, which receives 1.2 million visitors annually, has an important role to play in combatting anti-Semitism.
"We run a museum and we know how powerful the influence of this museum is," he said. "A visit ... really has a huge impact on young people and encourages them to fight discrimination, anti-Semitism, racism in their own communities."
Juba, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — Five hundred cows, two luxury cars, $10,000, two bikes, a boat and a few cell phones made up the final price in a heated bidding war for a child bride in South Sudan that went viral after the auction was pointed out on Facebook. It is the largest dowry ever paid in the civil war-torn country, the government said.
The highest bidder was a man three times the 17-year-old's age. At least four other men in Eastern Lakes state competed, said Philips Anyang Ngong, a human rights lawyer who tried to stop the bidding last month. Among the bidders was the state's deputy governor.
"She has been reduced to a mere commodity," Ngong told The Associated Press, calling it "the biggest test of child abuse, trafficking and auctioning of a human being." Everyone involved should be held accountable, he said.
Earlier this month, Nyalong became the man's ninth wife. Photos posted on Facebook show her sitting beside the groom, wearing a lavish dress and staring despondently at the floor. The AP is using only her first name to protect her identity. The groom did not respond to requests for comment.
South Sudan has a deeply rooted cultural practice of paying dowries for brides, usually in the form of cows. It also has a long history of child marriage. Even though that practice is now illegal, 40 percent of girls still marry before age 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The practice "threatens girls' lives" and limits prospects for their future, said Dr. Mary Otieno, the agency's country representative.
The bidding war has caused local and international outrage. It took several days for Facebook to remove the post that first pointed out the auction, and after it was taken down other posts "glorifying" the situation remained, George Otim, country director for Plan International South Sudan, told the AP.
"This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world's biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief," he said. The auction was discussed, not carried out, on the site.
Facebook did not reply to a request for comment.
While South Sudan's government condemns the practice of child marriage it says it can't regulate communities' cultural norms, especially in remote areas.
"You can't call it bidding as if it was an auction. It's not bidding. If you see it with European eyes you'll call it an auction," government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP. "You have to see it with an African eye, as it's a tradition that goes back thousands of years. There's no word for it in English."
Some local lawmakers and activists disagree. In a statement released this week, the National Alliance for Women Lawyers in South Sudan called upon officials to comply with the government's plan to end child marriage by 2030. Ending the practice includes putting a stop to the auctioning of girls.
South Sudan's anti-human trafficking chief called the case reminiscent of others he has seen across the country, in which girls are forced or tricked into marriage after being told they are going to live with relatives and go to school instead.
"It is clear that some human trafficking practices are hidden in our culture," John Mading said.
In other cases, some girls who grow up in the South Sudanese diaspora are brought back to the country and forced to marry. The AP spoke with several people who know girls who arrived for what they thought was a vacation, only to have their passports taken away and forced into marriage by their families.
"Some families want children to marry in their countries and in their ethnic communities, but most do it if the kids are misbehaving," said Esther Ikere Eluzai, undersecretary for South Sudan's ministry of gender.
New York, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — Michelle Obama's "Becoming" has become a massive hit.
Crown Publishing told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the former first lady's memoir has sold more than 1.4 million copies in print and digital formats in the U.S. and Canada in the seven days since it was released Nov. 13.
Based on demand from retailers across all channels, the publisher has printed 3 million hardcover copies in North America. On its first day, the book sold more than 725,000 copies, making it one of the year's biggest debuts.
Crown also said that "Becoming" is currently the No. 1 adult nonfiction title in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Holland, Spain, Denmark and Finland. In Germany, some 200,000 copies have been sold, prompting a second printing of 100,000 copies.
In the United Kingdom, "Becoming" is published by Viking and it has had five press runs with a total of 575,000 copies in print. In Holland, the Dutch-language edition is the best-selling book in the Netherlands, with the English-language edition ranked second.
"Becoming" is well exceeding the pace of previous memoirs by first ladies. In 2003, Hillary Clinton's "Living History" had first week sales of around 600,000 copies.
Reviews of the book, which traces Obama's journey from Chicago's South Side to the White House, have been positive, with The Washington Post praising its "impressive balance in telling the truth of her challenges while repeatedly acknowledging her lucky life."
Los Angeles, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — Ray Chavez, the oldest U.S. military survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II, died Wednesday. He was 106.
Chavez, who had been battling pneumonia, died in his sleep in the San Diego suburb of Poway, his daughter, Kathleen Chavez, told The Associated Press.
As recently as last May he had traveled to Washington, D.C., where he was honored on Memorial Day by President Donald Trump. The White House Tweeted a statement Wednesday saying it was saddened to hear of his passing.
"We were honored to host him at the White House earlier this year," the statement said. "Thank you for your service to our great nation, Ray!"
Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the National Park Service at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, confirmed Wednesday that Chavez was the oldest survivor of the attack that killed 2,335 U.S. military personnel and 68 civilians.
"I still feel a loss," Chavez said during 2016 ceremonies marking the attack's 75th anniversary. "We were all together. We were friends and brothers. I feel close to all of them."
Hours before the attack, he was aboard the minesweeper USS Condor as it patrolled the harbor's east entrance when he and others saw the periscope of a Japanese submarine. They notified a destroyer that sunk it shortly before Japanese bombers arrived to strafe the harbor.
By then Chavez, who had worked through the early morning hours, had gone to his nearby home to sleep, ordering his wife not to wake him because he had been up all night.
"It seemed like I only slept about 10 minutes when she called me and said, 'We're being attacked,' " he recalled in 2016. "And I said, 'Who is going to attack us?' "
"She said, 'The Japanese are here, and they're attacking everything.' "
He ran back to the harbor to find it in flames.
Chavez would spend the next week there, working around the clock sifting through the destruction that had crippled the U.S. Navy's Pacific fleet.
Later he was assigned to the transport ship USS La Salle, ferrying troops, tanks and other equipment to war-torn islands across the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.
Although never wounded, he left the military in 1945 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that left him anxious and shaking.
Returning to San Diego, where he had grown up, he took a job as a landscaper and groundskeeper, attributing the outdoors, a healthy diet and a strict workout program that he continued into his early 100s with restoring his health.
"He loved trees and he dearly loved plants and he knew everything about a plant or tree that you could possibly want to know," his daughter said Wednesday with a chuckle. "And he finally retired when he was 95."
Still, he would not talk about Pearl Harbor for decades. Then, on a last-minute whim, he decided to return to Hawaii in 1991 for ceremonies marking the attack's 50th anniversary.
"Then we did the 55th, the 60th, the 65th and the 70th, and from then on we went to every one," his daughter recalled, adding that until Chavez's health began to fail he had planned to attend this year's gathering next month.
Born March 12, 1912, in San Bernardino, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, Chavez moved to San Diego as a child, where his family ran a wholesale flower business. He joined the Navy in 1938.
In his later years, as he became well known as the attack's oldest military survivor, he'd be approached at memorial services and other events and asked for his autograph or to pose for pictures. He always maintained that those events were not about him, however, but about those who gave their lives.
"He'd just shrug his shoulders and shake his head and say, 'I was just doing my job,' " said his daughter. "He was just a very nice, quiet man. He never hollered about anything, and he was always pleasant to everybody."
Chavez was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. His daughter is his only survivor.
Funeral services are pending.