'My kids are Deceased': US Wildfire Kills 2 Children, 4 Others

The weather on Sunday is expected to offer no relief for firefighters, with temperatures over 37.7 Celsius, low humidity and gusty winds, the National Weather Service said.

A 70-year-old woman and her two great-grandchildren were among six killed when a wildfire raged through an area of northern California and engulfed entire communities, officials and family members said.

RELATED: Red Alert Declared in Colombia Due to Rains

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told a news conference in the city of Redding at the edge of the blaze on Sunday that one more person had died in a residence consumed by fire, bringing the total to six, including two firefighters. He said the latest victim had not complied with an evacuation order.

Bosenko said authorities are still looking for seven people after finding nine others who had been reported missing.

More than 38,000 people remained under evacuation orders on Sunday in and around Redding, a city of 90,000 people about 257 km north of the state capital Sacramento.

The Carr Fire, which has destroyed more than 500 buildings, is the deadliest and most destructive of nearly 90 wildfires burning from Texas to Oregon. The Carr Fire has charred 36,095 hectares of drought-parched vegetation since erupting last Monday.

Redding Police Sergeant Todd Cogle confirmed that three bodies discovered at a fire-ravaged home on the outskirts of Redding were two children and their great-grandmother. The victims identified by relatives on Facebook and in news media reports were James Roberts, 5, his sister Emily, 4, and their great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70.

Bledsoe’s granddaughter, Amanda Woodley, said on Facebook the elderly woman desperately put a wet blanket over the children as their home burned. “Grandma did everything she could to save them she hovered over them both with a wet blanket,” Woodley said in a Facebook post.

The children’s mother, Sherry Bledsoe, was quoted by the Sacramento Bee as saying: “My kids are deceased. That’s all I can say.”

“We are simply not getting a break,” said Chris Anthony, a division chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The blaze remained unpredictable, he said by telephone from Redding. “Under these conditions that we are seeing right now, it’s not going to take much for the fire to have the extreme spread that we saw a couple of days ago.”

Officials battling the blaze told the news conference in Redding they were feeling more optimistic on Sunday afternoon and starting to gain ground on Carr Fire. They pledged to return people to their homes as soon as possible.

An army of some 3,500 firefighters and a squadron of 17 water-dropping helicopters had carved buffer lines around just 5 percent of the fire’s perimeter as of Sunday. Officials at the news conference said over 160 fire departments from California and around the country have been deployed to help quell the week-long blaze.

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‘America hates California’: Bid to make Golden State separate nation jumps first hurdle

A proposal for California to break away from the United States has been submitted to the Secretary of State's Office in the state capital. If it qualifies, it could trigger a vote on whether the most populous US state should become a separate nation.

The group behind the proposal, Yes California Independence Campaign, was cleared on Thursday by Californian Secretary of State Alex Padilla to begin the bid to collect some 600,000 voter signatures required to put the ambitious plan on the ballot, AP reported. The initiative would ask voters to repeal part of the state constitution that declares California an “inseparable part of the United States of America.”

The proposed constitutional amendment, titled California Nationhood, would also ask voters to repeal the clause that describes the US Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.” If approved, it suggests scheduling a vote in March 2019 to ask Americans, “Should California become a free, sovereign and independent country?”

The initiative maintains that the election “shall constitute a Declaration of Independence from the United States of America” if two key conditions are met: at least 50 percent of registered voters participate and at least 55 percent vote ‘Yes’.

If both of conditions are satisfied, the measure requires submission to the United Nations of an application for the “newly-independent Republic of California” to be a UN member state, the initiative says, as cited by the Sacramento-based Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO).

Being a US state is “no longer serving California’s best interests,” the movement claims.

“Not only is California forced to subsidize this massive military budget with our taxes, but Californians are sent off to fight in wars that often do more to perpetuate terrorism than to abate it. The only reason terrorists might want to attack us is because we are part of the United States and are guilty by association. Not being a part of that country will make California a less likely target of retaliation by its enemies,” the campaign argues, among other things.

“America already hates California, and America votes on emotions,” Marcus Evans, vice-president of Yes California told to the Los Angeles Times.

“I think we'd have the votes today if we held it,” he added.

It must submit the valid voter signatures by July 25 to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.

The number of Californians who would rather see their state a sovereign nation than part of the United States jumped to 32 percent, a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll showed earlier this week. In 2014, it was only 20 percent. 

The support for independence apparently rose in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in the November presidential election.

The poll was taken from December 6 to January 16 and has a credibility interval of 5 percentage points in California.

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Rubber Bullets and Fear: Trump Protesters Flood Streets Anew

From New York to Illinois to California, in red states and blue, protesters decrying Donald Trump's election spent another night overtaking highways, smashing store windows, igniting fires and in at least one city, facing pepper spray and rubber projectiles from police trying to clear the streets.

The demonstrations stretched into a third straight night Thursday and came to a head in Portland, Oregon, where thousands of marchers chanted, "We reject the president-elect!" while some lit firecrackers, sparked small blazes and used rocks and baseball bats to break the glass of businesses and vehicles parked at dealerships.

Officers began pushing back against the crowd that threw glass bottles and a trash can, making 26 arrests and using flash-bang devices and pepper spray to force people to disperse. The protest's organizer on Friday decried the vandalism and said the group planned to help clean up.

In Los Angeles, protests were mostly peaceful, but 185 people were arrested, mostly for blocking streets, Officer Norma Eisenman said. An officer was injured near police headquarters, leading to one arrest, but Eisenman had no details about the circumstances or the injury. The officer was released after treatment.

The persisting protests led Trump himself to fire back, tweeting: "Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"

H01 anti trump protest

His supporters also took to social media to accuse protesters of sour grapes and refusing to respect the democratic process, though there were no significant counterprotests.

In Portland, police termed the protest a riot after some 4,000 people surged into the downtown area. After giving several orders to leave, officers fired rubber baton rounds. It was not clear if anyone was hurt.

In Denver, protesters made their way onto Interstate 25, stopping traffic for about a half-hour. They also briefly shut down highways in Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

In downtown San Francisco, high school students called out "not my president" as they marched, holding signs urging a Trump eviction. They waved rainbow banners and Mexican flags, as bystanders in the heavily Democratic city gave them high-fives.

"As a white, queer person, we need unity with people of color, we need to stand up," said Claire Bye, a 15-year-old sophomore at Academy High School. "I'm fighting for my rights as an LGBTQ person. I'm fighting for the rights of brown people, black people, Muslim people."

Nearby in Oakland, a group got into some shoving matches with police and 11 people were arrested. Protesters lit street fires, smashed windows and sprayed graffiti on at least seven businesses.

In New York City and Chicago, large groups gathered outside Trump Tower. In New York, they chanted angry slogans and waved banners bearing anti-Trump messages. Police still stood guard Friday on Fifth Avenue.

"You got everything straight up and down the line," demonstrator David Thomas said. "You got climate change, you got the Iran deal. You got gay rights, you got mass deportations. Just everything, straight up and down the line, the guy is wrong on every issue."

In Philadelphia, protesters near City Hall held signs saying, "Not Our President," ''Trans Against Trump" and "Make America Safe For All." Officers on bikes blocked traffic for a march that spanned four street lanes and drew parents with children in strollers.

Jeanine Feito, 23, held a sign reading, "Not 1 more deportation." The Temple University student said she acknowledges Trump as president-elect but does not accept it.

"I'm Cuban-American. My parents are immigrants, and I'm also a woman. These are things Trump doesn't stand for," Feito said. "He's bullied us, discriminated against us, is racist and encourages violence. I think it's important we stand together and fight against this."

About 500 people turned out at a protest in Louisville, Kentucky, while hundreds in Baltimore marched to the stadium where the Ravens were playing a football game.

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1 in 10 Cal State students is homeless, study finds

About one in 10 of California State University’s 460,000 students is homeless, and one in five doesn’t have steady access to enough food,  according to the initial findings of a study  launched to  better understand and address an issue that remains largely undocumented at the nation’s public universities.

“This is a gasp, when you think about it,” Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White said Monday at a conference in Long Beach, where more than 150 administrators, researchers, students and advocacy groups gathered to exchange ideas, case studies and their personal experiences with the issue.

White, who commissioned the study, emphasized the need for Cal State, the largest public university system in the nation, to tackle the issue systematically across its 23 campuses.

“We're going to find solutions that we can take to scale,” he said. “Getting this right is something that we just simply have to do.”

Homelessness in higher education is difficult to study and measure accurately, and experts praised Cal State for trying to quantify the scope of an issue with limited data.

Across the country, the number of students who experience food insecurity largely is undocumented and unknown, and the number of homeless students tends to be underreported in national surveys, said Clare Cady, who led Oregon State University’s program to support homeless students and is now addressing the issue on a national level with the antipoverty nonprofit Single Stop.

Students with unstable housing conditions are not required to say so, and many are reluctant to seek help because of the shame associated with homelessness, said Rashida Crutchfield, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Cal State Long Beach, who led the first phase of  the study.

Crutchfield, who launched her research in April 2015, interviewed 92 students and conducted four focus groups at urban and rural campuses. She and her team also sent out surveys, reviewed existing resources and asked university staff, faculty and administrators for their impressions of the level of homelessness on their campuses.

Many students and faculty members, she said, were unaware that the definition of homelessness extended beyond living on the street. Some students who couch surfed or lived in their cars, for example, did not consider themselves homeless. 

Initial findings indicated that an estimated 8% to 12% of Cal State’s students are homeless, and 21% to 24% are food insecure, she said.

Crutchfield and her team talked to professors who gave students money and kept food in their desks for those who confided their struggles. “A lot of these conversations took place inside our office with the door shut,” one university staffer told Crutchfield.

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On Monday, Crutchfield talked about meeting Kassandra, a student she identified only by her first name, who said her studies were often on the “back burner” because “you can’t really concentrate on school and put in any effort when you’re trying to look for where to stay and how you’re going to make ends meet.”

In the first phase of the research project, Crutchfield identified 11 campuses that already offered some form of a food pantry or homeless support program. Five of these schools have been particularly proactive, she said.

Fresno State, for example, launched a "cupboard" last fall that tracks leftover food from catered campus events — and developed an app that notifies students when food is available. The university also created, among other initiatives, a center that provides free groceries, toothpaste and other basic supplies.

At Cal State Long Beach, a campus-wide intervention program offers students emergency grants, hotel vouchers, meal assistance and counseling. The initiative also has secured jobs on campus for nine students so far, to help them reach more stable living conditions. 

Their work and ideas will be shared at the conference this week with representatives from other campuses, the UC system and nonprofits.

The study will continue over the next two years, Crutchfield said, with the goal of collecting more concrete data, confirming the scope of the problem and finding ways to launch intervention support programs on each campus.

“We have much, much more work to do,” she said.

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Dangerous fires, extreme heat across Southern California

A massive heat wave descended on Southern California on Sunday, bringing record-breaking temperatures and fueling fires throughout the region, including one in Silver Lake that threatened homes and forced the closure of the 2 Freeway for several hours.

Temperatures hit triple-digits in several valley and inland area cities, including 106 degrees in Pasadena and Lancaster, sending residents to air-conditioned shops and movie theaters as fire officials kept a wary eye on the forecast, worried that dry, gusty winds would make already-ripe fire conditions more dangerous.

Forecasters expected the heat to peak Monday, with temperatures ranging from 100 to 110 degrees in most inland areas and potentially breaking records along the coast. Public officials braced for the impact, issuing a flex alert asking residents to conserve electricity and opening cooling centers across the region.

As fire crews continued to battle the so-called Sherpa fire that has burned roughly 7,893 acres in Santa Barbara County, firefighters in Los Angeles got their own scare in Silver Lake, where a fire spread into brush along the 2 Freeway, which was shutdown about 2 p.m. and reopened at 5:30 p.m.. Scores of firefighters – and some residents – quickly descended on the scene Sunday afternoon, trying to save nearby homes.

RELATED Heat wave shatters temperature records across Southern California

Heat wave shatters temperature records across Southern California

Meanwhile, a wildfire fueled by dry brush and sweltering temperatures has scorched 1,500 acres just north of the U.S.-Mexico border and prompted mandatory evacuations for the entire East County community of Potrero.

About 25 homes south of state Route 94 and east of state Route 188, near where the fire initially sparked about 11:30 a.m., were also evacuated.

Tuesday could mark the start of a cool-off, as a high-pressure system moves east and moisture-filled clouds blow in from Baja California, said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service. Temperatures should drop by about 10 degrees, he said.

The hot, dry weather was a sharp contrast to the cooler, cloudier days Los Angeles has seen in recent weeks – nicknamed “June gloom” by locals.

“It changes so fast,” said Terry Choi, a Torrance resident avoiding Sunday’s heat at an ice cream parlor in Alhambra. “I was wearing cardigans last week.”

Downtown L.A. hit 96 degrees by mid-afternoon Sunday – far cooler than San Bernardino (111 degrees) or Ontario (110). Burbank peaked at 109 degrees, surpassing the previous record of 104 degrees set in 1973. Woodland Hills tied a record of 109 degrees set in 2008.

The National Weather Service also issued a red-flag warning, saying the soaring temperatures, low humidity and gusty “sundowner” winds could present an “extreme fire danger.”

RELATED Dangerous fires, extreme heat causes misery across Southern California

Dangerous fires, extreme heat causes misery across Southern California

Marnie Klein was sitting on her couch when she heard a rustling noise, like leaves. She looked up to see a telephone pole just beyond her Lake View Avenue backyard completely engulfed in flames. She grabbed a phone to call 911, wielding a garden hose in her other hand.

“Somebody help!” she screamed.

The fire started near the intersection of Lake View Avenue and Allesandro Way – the cause was under investigation – and pushed northwest by winds, Los Angeles fire officials said. Nearly 200 firefighters responded as a helicopter swooped over the freeway, dropping fire retardant.

Crews needed about 45 minutes to get the fire under control. Two homes on Corralitas Drive were damaged along with three sheds on nearby properties, said David Ortiz, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The dry weather and 100-degree heat set the stage for the fire, Ortiz said.

“The biggest factor was the high temperature,” he said. “The grass was 100% receptive to the fire.”

The flames stopped alarmingly close to Klein’s home. Part of her back fence lay in a charred pile. The cushions on her patio furniture were singed. Her house smelled of smoke, but it wasn’t damaged.

“I’m the most lucky person of the day,” Klein said. “There were guardian angels watching over me.”

Another fire broke out Sunday afternoon in San Diego County, tearing through 100 acres of rocky, steep terrain and prompting dozens of evacuations west of Potrero, located not far from the Mexican border.

In Santa Barbara County, firefighters worked to better contain the Sherpa fire before the weather conditions worsened. That fire, which sparked Wednesday afternoon near Refugio Road, chewed through a combustive combination of chaparral, tall grass and brush in a wilderness area that hasn’t burned since 1955.

The fire also burned a small water treatment building at El Capitan state beach, fire officials said, and damaged avocado, lemon and olive crops. At one point, the fire forced the closure of the 101 Freeway.

As of Sunday afternoon, officials estimated the fire was 51% contained, but warned that the biggest challenge could still be ahead. A red-flag warning has been issued until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

RELATED Santa Barbara fire explodes with the help of dangerous 'sundowner' winds

Santa Barbara fire explodes with the help of dangerous 'sundowner' winds

Elsewhere in Southern California, families looked for ways to stay cool.

For Bryan Adams and Katia Kaplun, the year’s hottest day began with a stop at a splash park in City Terrace, where their young son could run through jets of water. After that came a stop at Fosselman’s Ice Cream, where outdoor seats were empty as customers crammed into the air-conditioned parlor.

Adams said his family’s house isn’t well-shaded and doesn’t have air-conditioning. They rely on wall-mounted units, outdoor fans and a kiddie pool to get through the summer, he said.

“We have to be creative about ways to stay cool,” Adams said.

Down the street, Valerie and Richard Gonzalez walked out of Target pushing a shopping cart loaded with two large tower fans. There’s no air-conditioning at their home in El Sereno, they said, so they planned to set up a pool, blast the fans and ice beers to stay cool.

“We’re just going to hang out and wait for the sun to go down,” Valerie Gonzalez said.

When they reached their car, she sent her husband back inside the store to buy a towel for their drive home. The steering wheel was too hot to touch.

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U.S. Government to Open 3 New Centers to House Migrant Children

WASHINGTON – U.S. officials said Monday that the government will open three new centers to house undocumented migrant children who cross the country’s southern border alone with an eye toward dealing with the increase in those arrivals in recent months.

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