Chico, Nov 14 (AP/UNB) — A message board at a shelter for the many people who fled California's deadliest wildfire is filled with photos of the missing, as well as pleas for any information about relatives and friends.
"I hope you are okay," reads one hand written note on the board filled with white and yellow sheets of notebook paper. Another had a picture of a missing man: "If seen, please have him call."
Authorities on Tuesday reported six more fatalities from the Northern California blaze, bringing the total number of dead so far to 48. They haven't disclosed the total number still missing, but earlier in the week that figure was more than 200.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said a list of the missing would be released soon and that 100 National Guard troops would help teams already looking for remains.
"We want to be able to cover as much ground as quickly as we possibly can," he said. "This is a very difficult task."
As authorities increased efforts, people waited for any word on those still not found.
Greg Gibson was one of the people searching the message board Tuesday, hoping to find information about his neighbors. They've been reported missing, but he doesn't know if they tried to escape or hesitated a few minutes longer than he did before fleeing Paradise, the town of 27,000 which was consumed last Thursday. About 7,700 homes were destroyed.
"It happened so fast. It would have been such an easy decision to stay, but it was the wrong choice," Gibson said from the Neighborhood Church in Chico, California.
More than 1,000 people were at shelters set up for evacuees.
Inside the church, evacuee Harold Taylor chatted with newfound friends.
Taylor, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran who walks with a cane, said he received a call Thursday morning to evacuate immediately. He saw the flames leaping up behind his house, left with the clothes on his back and barely made it out alive.
Along the way, he tried to convince his neighbor to get in his car and evacuate with him, but the neighbor declined. He doesn't know what happened to his friend.
"We didn't have 10 minutes to get out of there," he said. "It was already in flames downtown, all the local restaurants and stuff," he said.
The search for the dead was drawing on portable devices that can identify someone's genetic material in a couple of hours, rather than days or weeks.
"In many circumstances, without rapid DNA technology, it's just such a lengthy process," says Frank DePaolo, a deputy commissioner of the New York City medical examiners' office, which has been at the forefront of the science of identifying human remains since 9/11 and is exploring how it might use a rapid DNA device.
Before the Paradise tragedy, the deadliest single fire on record in California was a 1933 blaze in Griffith Park in Los Angeles that killed 29.
At the other end of the state, firefighters made progress against a massive blaze that has killed two people in star-studded Malibu and destroyed well over 400 structures in Southern California.
The flames roared to life again in a mountainous wilderness area Tuesday, sending up a huge plume of smoke near the community of Lake Sherwood. Still, firefighters made gains.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he canceled a trip to Asia and will visit the fire zones Wednesday and Thursday.
The cause of the fires remained under investigation, but they broke out around the time and place two utilities reported equipment trouble. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who takes office in January, sidestepped questions about what action should be taken against utilities if their power lines are found to be responsible.
People who lost homes in the Northern California blaze sued Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Tuesday, accusing the utility of negligence and blaming it for the fire. An email to PG&E was not immediately returned.
Linda Rawlings was on a daylong fishing trip with her husband and 85-year-old father when the fire broke out.
Her next-door neighbors opened the back gate so her three dogs could escape before they fled the flames and the dogs were picked up several days later waiting patiently in the charred remains of their home, she said.
Rawlings learned on Tuesday morning — after days of uncertainty — that her "Smurf blue" home in Magalia was burnt to the ground.
She sat looking shell-shocked on the curb outside a hotel in Corning.
"Before, you always have hope. You don't want to give up. But now we know," she said.
Jerusalem, Nov 14 (AP/UNB) — The Israeli military said it shot and captured a Palestinian who approached the Gaza perimeter fence and hurled grenades into Israel on Wednesday, in the first confrontation since Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire to end two days of intense fighting that had pushed the sides to the brink of another war.
The military said it spotted the assailant with a knife and wire cutters and took him into custody after the grenades he hurled failed to explode.
The frontier was quiet overnight after the most intense round of fighting since a 50-day war in 2014. Palestinian militants fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel in a 24-hour period, while the Israeli military carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. In Israel, one person was killed in a rocket strike and three were critically wounded.
With air raid sirens wailing throughout southern Israel and the explosions of airstrikes thundering in Gaza, the two sides had appeared to be on the verge of their fourth war in a decade. Instead, Gaza's Hamas rulers abruptly announced a cease-fire and Israel's Security Cabinet ended a seven-hour discussion with an apparent decision to hold its fire.
The news was greeted with celebrations in Gaza, with Hamas declaring victory in the latest round of violence, which was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinian militants and a senior Israeli military officer dead.
Hamas has staged near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007. The blockade has ravaged Gaza's economy, and Israel refuses to lift it unless Hamas disarms, a demand rejected by militant group, which is pledged to Israel's destruction.
Demonstrators each week have approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed. Israel says it is defending its border against attackers, but it has come under heavy international criticism for shooting unarmed people.
Before Sunday's raid, Egyptian and U.N. mediators had made progress in reducing tensions. In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.
The standoff has produced repeated rounds of violence in recent years, including indiscriminate Gaza rocket fire at Israeli towns and cities and punishing Israeli military offensives, but Hamas remains firmly in control. Both sides appear reluctant to launch a full-scale war.
In southern Israel, news of the cease-fire was greeted with anger as dozens of protesters in the rocket-battered town of Sderot chanted "Disgrace!" at what they saw as the government's capitulation to violence and its inability to provide them with safety. Recent months have seen sporadic rocket attacks as well as militant infiltration attempts and a wave of incendiary kites that have destroyed Israeli crops.
"We are third-class citizens here in Sderot and the communities on the border with Gaza," complained David Maimon, a local resident. "It's a shame. Instead of helping us and letting us live quietly, they let us suffer."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military's recommendations. But two of the Security Cabinet's more hard-line members, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.
Lieberman is scheduled to deliver a statement later Wednesday.
Netanyahu defended his actions.
"I see the big picture of Israeli security that I cannot share with the public," he said. "Our enemies begged for a cease-fire and they know well why. I cannot detail our plans for the future. We will dictate the time and circumstances that are right for Israel and are right for the security of our people."
The current round of violence began when an Israeli commando unit on an undercover mission was caught behind enemy lines in Gaza by Hamas militants, setting off a deadly battle late Sunday. Hamas and other militant groups responded with a wave of rocket attacks the following day.
The Israeli military said its jets struck several "key strategic" Hamas targets in response, including military compounds, rocket launching posts and part of its vast underground tunnel network. Also targeted were Hamas' TV station and a Gaza City building serving Hamas' military and intelligence forces that houses a munitions warehouse.
Singapore, Nov 14 (AP/UNB) — Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has rebuffed criticism over her government's treatment of its ethnic Rohingya Muslims.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told Suu Kyi on Wednesday that the violence, which led more than 700,000 of the country's Rohingya minority to flee for Bangladesh since August 2017, was "without excuse."
Pence also said Myanmar's arrests and convictions of two Reuters journalists was "deeply troubling" to millions of Americans.
Pence and Suu Kyi met on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore. Pence said the meeting was at Suu Kyi's request.
Suu Kyi said only Myanmar was in a position to explain what happened and how it saw things, just as Americans could best understand what is happening there.
Washington, Nov 14 (AP/UNB) — Did someone say caravan?
One week after Election Day, President Donald Trump's daily drumbeat of warnings about a caravan of "bad thugs" and potential terrorists intent on invading the U.S. from Mexico has largely fallen silent.
The migrant caravans are still trudging along, the largest still about 1,000 miles from the southern border, but Trump — and many in the conservative media — have dramatically reduced the frequency and intensity of their dire warnings now that they no longer feel the same urgency to stir up GOP voters.
Trump and his media allies have largely moved on. They're more focused now on the possibility of electoral chicanery in recounts in Florida's Senate and governor's races.
Within the West Wing and in Trump's orbit of allies, there is a sense that the caravan was a useful midterm messaging tool, one that became the centerpiece of an eleventh-hour pre-election strategy modeled on the president's 2016 campaign pledges to crack down on illegal immigration, according to four White House officials and outside advisers not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
But once the election was over, the president's attention turned elsewhere, the officials and advisers said.
For weeks before the election, the caravan was a dominant news story. The largest caravan was believed to have formed in Honduras on Oct. 12 and first was featured in a "Fox & Friends" segment four days later, which prompted a tweet from the show's most famous fan.
As the midterms approached, Trump and his conservative allies flooded the zone with harsh rhetoric and hardline policy proposals, including sending troops to the border, revoking birthright citizenship and an ad featuring a Latino man convicted of killing two police officers that was widely condemned as racist.
But the caravan was Trump's favorite talking point. During his final blitz of campaign rallies, he hammered at the threat night after night and, without evidence, suggested that Democrats were supporting — and perhaps funding — the march of migrants.
"Democrats are inviting caravan after caravan of illegal aliens to pour into our country, overwhelming your schools, your hospitals, and your communities," Trump said in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on election eve. "If you want more caravans, if you want more crime, vote Democrat tomorrow. ... If you want strong borders and safe communities, no drugs, no caravans, vote Republican."
Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric on Twitter too. One tweet read: "We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!"
That tweet, on Oct. 31, was his last on the subject. Since the election, he's invoked the caravan only once. Asked about it during a news conference last Wednesday, Trump said "I'm not just talking about the caravans" when talking about militarizing the southern border and his proposed wall.
The thousands of Central American migrants in the largest caravan have been leapfrogging their way across western Mexico, despite the prospect of a hostile reception at the border. Most appeared intent on taking the Pacific coast route northward to the border city of Tijuana, which was still about 1,350 miles (2,200 kilometers) away.
On Friday, Trump signed a proclamation restricting asylum applications but did so with little fanfare and no press coverage before he departed for a trip to Paris. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether further action on immigration was imminent.
"Clearly, this was an election-eve stunt designed to whip up the base that really didn't have much foundation in fact and, clearly, when the election was over there was no need to keep beating those drums," said Mark Feldstein, journalism professor at the University of Maryland. He added that what the conservative media did with the story was "really toxic" and divided an already polarized country.
"The very fact that they dropped it so suddenly is just further confirmation of how bogus the story was in the first place," Feldstein said.
Fox News spent more than 33 hours discussing the caravan through Election Day, according to a study by Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog organization. On Nov. 7, the day after the election, Fox had no discussions centered on the caravan. On Nov. 8, the network spent four minutes and 57 seconds on discussions centered on the caravan, according to the study.
Some Republicans said the caravan's fade from the spotlight was a natural part of the election cycle.
"Every election, there are a series of issues that rise to artificial highs and then, once the votes are cast, settle back down to normal noise," said Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush. "Both parties do it; this isn't some trumped up phony issue. The caravan will be back in the news once it gets closer to the border."
Trump had suggested sending up to 15,000 troops to the border; currently there are approximately 1,000 at the border itself and another 4,800 in staging areas nearby. The deployment is scheduled to end Dec. 15 but that could be changed, extended or shortened.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis plans to visit the border Wednesday. He was asked by a reporter Tuesday whether the military mission along the border of south Texas will change, now that the lead migrant caravan in Mexico is headed much farther west.
"Right now, the mission is exactly what it is," he said. "We'll have to see what the future holds. But right now that's the only mission I have."
Washington, Nov 14 (AP/UNB) — 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 favor 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.
Other changes are afoot, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are being discussed for replacement. And in an extraordinary move Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump's office called publicly for the firing of Trump's deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel.
For all of the talk of churn, Trump often expresses frustration with aides and then does not take action. Talk of Kelly's exit has percolated for months and he remains in place.
Nielsen had hoped to complete one year in the job and leave in December, but it appeared unlikely she would last that long, said two sources. Both people who had knowledge of the debate spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Curbing illegal immigration is Trump's signature issue — and one he returns to as a way to rally his most loyal supporters.
But anyone who takes over at Homeland Security is likely to run up against the same problems that Nielsen faced. The administration has already tried to clamp down at the border but those efforts have been largely thwarted or watered down due to legal challenges.
Trump also told allies that he never fully trusted Nielsen, whom he associated with President George W. Bush, a longtime foe. And he told those close to him that he felt, at times, that her loyalty was more toward her longtime mentor — Kelly — than to the president.
Zinke, who faces several ethics investigations, said in interview with The Associated Press on Monday that he has spoken in recent days with Trump, Pence and Kelly about probes into his leadership and they remain supportive. He denied any wrongdoing.
Ross addressed turnover rumors at a Yahoo! Finance summit Tuesday, saying he was in the post to give back to the country and support Trump.
"I worked very hard to get President Trump elected," he said. "Now I'd like to work equally hard to have him succeed and be re-elected."
Questions about Nielsen's job security are not new. Earlier this year, she pushed back on a New York Times report that she drafted a resignation letter but did not submit it, after Trump scolded her at a Cabinet meeting.
Nielsen has led the sprawling post-9/11 federal agency since December. She had been chief of staff to Kelly when he was Trump's first Homeland Security secretary. A DHS spokesman would not comment on whether she was leaving.
"The secretary is honored to lead the men and women of DHS and is committed to implementing the president's security-focused agenda to protect Americans from all threats and will continue to do so," spokesman Tyler Houlton said.
Nielsen advocated for strong cybersecurity defense, and often said she believed the next terror major attack would occur online — not by planes or bombs. She was tasked with helping states secure elections following interference by Russians during the 2016 election.
She pushed Trump's immigration policies, including funding for his border wall and defended the administration's practice of separating children from parents, telling a Senate committee that removing children from parents facing criminal charges happens "in the United States every day." But she was also instrumental in stopping the separations.
Just last week, the administration announced that migrants would be denied asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border if they crossed illegally, creating regulations that circumvent immigration laws stating anyone can claim asylum no matter how they arrive to the country. The decision would affect about 70,000 people annually and was immediately challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Nielsen also moved to abandon longstanding regulations that dictate how long children are allowed to be held in immigration detention, and requested bed space from the U.S. military for some 12,000 people in an effort to detain all families who cross the border. Right now there is space for about 3,000 families and they are at capacity.
She got into heated discussions with Trump and White House aides several times over immigration policy, as she sought to explain the complicated legal challenges behind immigration law and pushed for a more diplomatic approach.
It's unclear who would replace her. The job requires Senate confirmation and there is no deputy secretary. Under Secretary for Management Claire Grady would be the acting head if Nielsen left.