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Death toll from the Paradise fire jumps to 42, making it the worst in California history

The death toll from the Camp fire in Paradise jumped to 42 on Monday, making it the deadliest fire in California history, as President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for the state.

Officials said they recovered the remains of 13 additional victims Monday as teams continued to search the burned-out remains of thousands of lost homes. Ten of those remains were located in Paradise; three were found in the Concow area. ​​​​​

Three of the victims were identified Monday as Ernest Foss, 65, of Paradise; Jesus Fernandez, 48, of Concow; and Carl Wiley, 77, of Magalia.

Trump’s move came just two days after he criticized California, erroneously claiming that poor forest management caused the fires of the last week and threatening to cut off funding. His comments were met with widespread outrage from both California officials and many firefighters.

California firefighters criticized President Trump for a tweet Saturday that incorrectly stated that this week’s devastating fires were the result of poor forest management.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” Trump wrote.

It was not the first time Trump has blamed California for destructive wildfires with dubious claims.

California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice said Trump was out of line.

“The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines,” Rice said in a statement.

“At this moment, thousands of our brother and sister firefighters are putting their lives on the line to protect the lives and property of thousands. Some of them are doing so even as their own homes lay in ruins. In my view, this shameful attack on California is an attack on all our courageous men and women on the front lines,” he added.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Excerpt
Hector Becerra/Nov. 10

 

But on Monday, Trump struck a more conciliatory note.

“I just approved an expedited request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of California,” he wrote on Twitter. “Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on. I am with you all the way. God Bless all of the victims and families affected.”

Gov. Jerry Brown sought the declaration Sunday, as fires raged both in Butte County and in Southern California.

The Woolsey fire, which broke out Thursday in Ventura County and spread to Malibu, has obliterated roughly 435 homes and businesses. However, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said about 15% of the burn area has been surveyed for damage, so the number of structures damaged in the inferno probably will increase. About 57,000 structures are still threatened, and the blaze has already killed at least two people, authorities said.

A couple whose charred bodies were found in a vehicle in Malibu on Friday probably died trying to escape the flames, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Guillermo Morales said.

Expedited request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of California,” he wrote on Twitter. “Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on. I am with you all the way. God Bless all of the victims and families affected.”

Investigators are still trying to identify the car’s driver and passenger, both of whom were burned beyond recognition, Morales said. Investigators don’t think the two lived at a home on Mulholland Highway. The home’s residents “have been accounted for,” Morales said.

“This driveway looks like a small road. It’s not like a normal driveway, and the whole landscape around there is burned to a crisp. We think they were probably overcome by the flames,” Morales said.

On Monday, the remnants of two cars were visible about a third of a mile up a long, curving driveway, beyond an electronic gate at 33133 Mulholland Highway that had been left open. Scattered across the pavement were a few fragments: screws, broken glass, pools of melted metal. A softened windshield was draped over the cliffside.

A lull in winds over the weekend allowed firefighters to make some headway with the blaze, boosting containment to 20%, Cal Fire Division Chief Chris Anthony said. However, Santa Ana winds that arrived Monday morning and are expected to gain strength through Tuesday could cause the fire to spread erratically. By Monday night, the blaze was 30% contained.

Northeast winds are expected to blow 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 55 mph in Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service. A red-flag warning — signifying a potent mix of heat, dry air and winds that could explode a small fire into a deadly conflagration — has been issued for the region.

Anthony said the main push for firefighters through the day will be preventing burning embers from jumping outside the containment lines, and keeping the Woolsey fire from spreading to Topanga Canyon.

“We didn’t see any spread of fire outside the containment lines on Sunday, but as we’ve clearly seen over the last couple of days, it only takes one ember and one new spark to see rapid rates of fire spread,” he said.

As fire officials saw on Friday, windy conditions can be perilous for communities in the path of a wildfire. Strong winds accelerated the Woolsey fire’s growth as it burned into Malibu, forcing residents to flee quickly as flames engulfed homes, leaving behind only wreckage and a few charred memories.

Nearby, the long, twisting roadways of the city felt like a moonscape. The streets through the Santa Monica Mountains, damaged in places, were framed by scorched speed limit signs and drooping power lines. The fire had burned unevenly, leaving some swaths of land barren and gray. In other areas, unscathed trees and vineyards swam into view in vivid color. Solar panels glinted from scorched hillsides.

The silence was punctuated by the beep-beep-beep of utility trucks, the whir of helicopters dropping water and the roar of the wind blowing ash and dust across the hills. The shoulder of Mulholland Highway was filled with trash, burnt palm fronds and the remnants of people’s homes: a New Yorker subscription card, a page from a 1977 yearbook, a half-burned ticket for going 101 mph in a 60-mph zone.

Along a path of wood chips that crumbled when touched, a white yurt stood intact and pristine, surveying a valley of scorched earth and twisted trees. Stone letters on a ridge nearby spelled out: “LOVE.”

Investigators are still trying to determine what sparked the Woolsey fire. Southern California Edison told state regulators last week that there was an outage tied to its Chatsworth substation two minutes before the fire was reported near Simi Valley, but authorities have not connected the incident to the blaze.

Full coverage of the California wildfires »

“At this point we have no indication from fire agency personnel that Southern California Edison utility facilities may have been involved in the start of the fire,” Edison wrote in an incident report to the California Public Utilities Commission.

Edison wrote that a circuit relayed at the facility at 2:22 p.m. Thursday. Sally Jeung, a spokeswoman for Edison, told KQED-TV that “when a circuit relays, [it] senses a disturbance on the circuit and switches the circuit off.” It’s not clear what triggered the circuit’s sensor.

Edison said that at the request of firefighters, it could turn off power Monday in certain areas affected by the fire, but that such steps so far had not been needed. However, the blaze has damaged Edison infrastructure and equipment, leaving more than 9,000 customers without power, according to the utility.

Officials urge residents who are sheltering in place to evacuate and those who already have left their homes to stay away.

“Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, you stayed in your homes when there was a fire, and you were able to protect them,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said Sunday. “Things are not the way they were 10 years ago.”

Malibu, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Monte Nido, Gated Oaks, Topanga, Bell Canyon and portions of Westlake Village and West Hills remain under evacuation orders.

In Butte County, a red-flag warning that has been in effect for days was set to expire Monday morning, but as commanders warned crews during their morning briefing at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, that doesn’t mean the fight against the Camp fire is anywhere near won. The fire had scorched 117,000 acres by Monday night and was 30% contained.

Most of that spread was on the blaze’s northeastern flank toward Sterling City and deeper into the Sierra Nevada and to the southeast, where it jumped the Feather River, officials said.

The fire is expected to transition from being wind-driven to topography- and fuel-driven, making it more predictable, but still potentially explosive as it approaches overgrown, tinder-dry landscape.

Fire officials said Californians should prepare for an increasingly long and potentially deadly fire season. Low precipitation, high temperatures and dry brush have combined to create treacherous fire conditions in the state.

“You have fuels that are dry, no precipitation and low humidity,” Anthony said. “Those are the perfect ingredients for explosive, dynamic fire growth. Our fire problem is only getting worse. It’s getting worse in ways that I don’t think people could predict.”

 

Times staff writers Alene Tchekmedyian, Alejandra Reyes-Velarde and Sonali Kohli contributed to this report.

For Democrats, a midterm election that keeps on giving

In the early hours of election night on Tuesday, a consensus began to take hold that the vaunted Democratic blue wave that had been talked about all year was failing to materialize. Now, with a handful of races still to be called, it’s clear that an anti-President Trump force hit the country with considerable, if uneven, strength.

Democrats appear poised to pick up between 35 and 40 seats in the House, once the last races are tallied, according to strategists in both parties. That would represent the biggest Democratic gain in the House since the post-Watergate election of 1974, when the party picked up 49 seats three months after Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency.

Republicans will gain seats in the Senate, but with races in Florida and Arizona still to be called, their pre-election majority of 51 seats will end up as low as 52 or as high as 54. Meanwhile, Democrats gained seven governorships, recouping in part losses sustained in 2010 and 2014, and picked up hundreds of state legislative seats, where they had suffered a virtual wipeout in the previous two midterm elections.

The Democrats’ gains this week are still far short of what Republicans accomplished in their historic victories of 1994 and 2010. But they would eclipse the number of seats Democrats gained in 2006, the last time the party recaptured control of the House, as well as the 26-seat gain in 1982, when the national unemployment rate was at 10 percent. This year, the election took place with the unemployment rate at just 3.7 percent.

Day by day, the outlook for Democrats in the House has improved. At the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, already high spirits have been rising all week as more races fell into the party’s column. One joke that has been making the rounds there goes like this: “This is actually turning out to be more of a Hanukkah than a Christmas election,” meaning day after day of gifts, rather than just one.

This was always an election that would test the strength of the economy, which favored the president’s party, vs. the president’s low approval ratings, which, along with the record of past midterm elections, pointed to Democratic gains. In the end, history and presidential approval combined to give Democrats control of the House by what appears to be a comfortable margin.

The Democratic wave hit hardest in suburban districts, many of them traditional Republican territory, where college-educated voters — particularly women — dissatisfied with the president backed Democratic challengers. Ronald Brownstein of the Atlantic and CNN, who has closely tracked these changes over many elections, noted in a post-election article that, before the election, two-thirds of Republicans represented congressional districts where the percentage of the population with college degrees was below the national average. After the election, he estimated, more than three-quarters of GOP House members now will represent such districts.

Democrats flipped about two-thirds of the competitive districts won by both Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012 or by Clinton in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012. They also picked up one-third of districts won by Trump in 2016 and Obama in 2012. In districts where both Trump and Romney had won in the previous two elections, Democrats gained about a quarter of the competitive seats.

Also striking in House races was the number of narrow victory margins — on both sides. About 20 Democrats won or are leading in races where the margin is fewer than five percentage points, while about two dozen Republicans who won or are leading are in races with similarly small margins.

That indicates that the outcome in 2018 could have been substantially better for Democrats or significantly worse, had the political winds been blowing differently. It also foreshadows another fiercely contested election for the House in 2020.

The final outcome in the Senate races this year will also have a bearing on 2020. The difference between a majority of 54 seats or 52 seats would have a sizable impact on the odds of Democrats being able to win control two years from now.

Republicans expect to defend 22 seats up for election, compared with only 12 seats held by Democrats. These include the Colorado seat of Sen. Cory Gardner (R), the Maine seat of Sen. Susan Collins (R) and the Arizona seat now held by Sen. Jon Kyl (R). Senate Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are likely to face competitive races. Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, who won a special election last year, also will face a serious challenge to hold his seat.

Beyond the tally of victories and defeats, the 2018 election was notable for the ways in which it deepened many of the divisions and shifts in allegiance that are changing the political landscape across the country. That carries implications for politics in 2020 and beyond.

Democratic strategists have been cheered by exit polls that show the underlying national demographic trends that drove their gains, particularly in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Voters under the age of 29 voted for Democrats over Republicans by 67 percent to 32 percent, a margin which beats the previous record in the 2008 presidential election. Latino voters matched their national 11 percent vote share from the higher-turnout 2016 election, with Democrats winning 69 percent of the Latino vote nationwide, slightly more than the 66 percent share when Trump was elected. Asian voters, who make up about 3 percent of the voting population, sided with Democrats by a margin of 77 percent to 23 percent.

“The emerging electorate, the one which will dominate U.S. politics for the next generation or two, supported Democrats in record numbers,” said Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist. “Democrats not only won the 2018 election handily, but won it in a way which should worry Republicans about 2020.”

Said Republican pollster Whit Ayres: “To me, the big story is that the 2018 midterm election reinforced and accelerated the patterns we saw in 2016. You had smaller, overwhelmingly white, rural counties become more deeply entrenched in the Republican Party, and suburban counties, particularly those with high proportions of well-educated voters, going exactly the opposite direction.”

New returns have been raising Republican concerns in western states. Chuck Coughlin, a Republican adviser to former Arizona governor Jan Brewer (R), said it was clear that Trump’s approach to immigration in the final weeks of the campaign did not have the nuance required for a state like Arizona, where immigrants play a central role in the economy.

“One thing is for certain, that the caravan rhetoric doesn’t resonate in this state as well as it resonates in the Midwest,” Coughlin said. “We have done a lot of research, and we have consistently shown that border security is a big issue, but the immigration reform side of that question is integral to the future of the state.”

Republicans in the state, however, have been hemmed in by Trump’s support among Republican primary voters, which forced Rep. Martha McSally, the Republican nominee for Senate, to tack to the right, particularly on immigration. “She didn’t ever modulate,” said Coughlin. “She didn’t create any separation.” Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic Senate nominee, now has a narrow lead in that race.

In neighboring Colorado, Democrats won every statewide race, picked up a House seat, took control of the state Senate, and swept most down-ballot races as well. “We are not Ohio, Michigan or the Midwest. The college-educated suburban voter — they don’t like Trump because of his behavior,” said Dick Wadhams, the former chairman of the state GOP.

In Nevada, Democrats picked up a Senate seat and the governorship and held on to two competitive House districts, in a sign of a continued shift left in what has been a closely contested state in most recent elections.

Democrats fell short in two other evolving Sun Belt states. In Texas, Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rouke lost the Senate race to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz but managed to win 48 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Democrats picked up two suburban congressional districts.

In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams trails Republican Brian Kemp in the gubernatorial race, but the changing dynamics of voting patterns there worry some Republicans for future elections.

“When you have someone like Stacey Abrams carrying a major Atlanta suburban county like Gwinnett, like Hillary Clinton did, then the formula for Republican victories in Georgia has been completely upended,” Ayres said.

Other results point in a different direction, however, which offers some encouragement to Republicans beyond adding to their narrow Senate majority.

Ohio appears to be moving steadily away from the Democrats, largely because of cultural issues. Since 1994, Republicans have won nearly nine of every 10 statewide contests. The GOP’s victory in the open gubernatorial race on Tuesday was the latest blow for the Democrats, though Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown held his seat.

Democrats also failed to pick up the governorship in Iowa, though they gained two House seats. They struggled to make inroads in House races in Republican strongholds such as Kentucky, North Carolina and Nebraska.

Florida remains a top concern heading into the 2020 elections, when the state will probably play a crucial role in any path for Trump to win a second term. Contrary to the Latino vote elsewhere in the country, the Cuban, Puerto Rican and Central American populations in the Sunshine State split more evenly, as Gov. Rick Scott (R) mounted an aggressive outreach effort.

“The Democrats underestimated just how much Hispanic support Republicans were able to capitalize on in Florida,” said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster in Miami. “It’s about the margins.”

Of the 15 percent of voters in the state who were Latino, Scott was able to win 45 percent, according to exit polls, including a slight majority of Latino men. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, former congressman Ron DeSantis, was able to win 44 percent of Latino voters.

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Gaza: Nakba day protests as Palestinians bury those killed

Even though Palestine is not an official state, the U.S. and Palestine have a long history of rocky diplomatic relations. With Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas set to appeal for the creation of a Palestinian state at the United Nations on September 19, 2011—and the U.S. set to veto the measure—that foreign policy history is again in the spotlight.

The story of U.S.-Palestinian relations is lengthy, and it obviously includes much of the history of Israel.

This is the first of several articles on the U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli relationship.

From THE GUARDIAN
Summary

Demonstrations at the border between Gaza and Israel were calmer on Tuesday, following a day of violence on Monday which saw at least 60 people killed.

We’re going to close down the live blog for now, so here’s a look at what happened today:

History

Palestine is an Islamic region, or perhaps several regions, in and around the Jewish-state of Israel in the Middle East. Its four million people live largely in the West Bank along the Jordan River, and in the Gaza Strip near Israel’s border with Egypt.

Israel occupies both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It created Jewish settlements in each place, and has waged several small wars for control of those areas.

The United States has traditionally backed Israel and its right to exist as a recognized state. At the same time, the U.S. has sought cooperation from Arab nations in the Middle East, both to achieve its energy needs and to secure a safe environment for Israel. Those dual American goals have put Palestinians in the midst of a diplomatic tug-of-war for nearly 65 years.

Zionism

Jewish and Palestinian conflict began at the turn of the 20th Century as many Jews worldwide began the “Zionist” movement.

Because of discrimination in the Ukraine and other parts of Europe, they sought territory of their own around the Biblical holy lands of the Levant between the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. They also wanted that territory to include Jerusalem. Palestinians also consider Jerusalem a holy center.

Only after Nazis staged mass executions of Jews during the Holocaust of World War II did the international community begin backing the Jewish quest for a recognized state in the Middle East.

Partitioning and Diaspora

The United Nations authored a plan to partition the region into Jewish and Palestinian areas, with the intention that each become states. In 1947 Palestinians and Arabs from Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria began hostilities against Jews.

That same year saw the beginning of a Palestinian diaspora. Some 700,000 Palestinians were displaced as Israeli boundaries became clear.

On May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence. The United States and most members of the United Nations recognized the new Jewish state. Palestinians call the date “al-Naqba,” or the catastrophe.

Full-blown war erupted. Israel beat the coalition of Palestinians and Arabs, taking territory that the United Nations had designated for Palestine.

Israel, however, was always felt insecure as it did not occupy the West Bank, the Golan Heights, or the Gaza Strip. Those territories would serve as buffers against Jordan, Syria, and Egypt respectively. It fought—and won—wars in 1967 and 1973 to occupy those territories. In 1967 it also occupied the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. Many Palestinians who had fled in the diaspora, or their descendants, found themselves again living under Israeli control. Although considered illegal under international law, Israel has also built Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank.

U.S. Backing

The United States backed Israel throughout those wars. The U.S. has also continuously sent military equipment and foreign aid to Israel.

American support of Israel, however, has made its relations with neighboring Arab countries and Palestinians problematic.

Palestinian displacement and the lack of an official Palestinian state became a central tenet of much anti-American Islamic and Arabic sentiment.

The United States has had to craft foreign policy that both helps keep Israel secure and allows American access to Arab oil and shipping ports.

 

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