AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT - InfoNews

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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

September 11, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Dozens missing as firefighters battle two large Oregon fires

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Hundreds of firefighters battled two large wildfires Friday that threatened to merge near the most populated part of Oregon, including the suburbs of Portland, and the governor said dozens of people are missing in other parts of the state.

The state's emergency management director, Andrew Phelps, said officials are “preparing for a mass fatality event” and that thousands of structures have been destroyed.

Gov. Kate Brown said more than 40,000 Oregonians have been evacuated and about 500,000 are in different levels of evacuation zones, either having been told to leave or to prepare to do so. She was dialing back on a statement late Thursday issued by the state Office of Emergency Management that said a half-million people had been ordered to evacuate statewide.

Dozens of people are missing in Jackson County in the south and Marion County, where a fire continues to burn east of Salem, Brown told a news conference Friday. Also Friday, authorities announced that a man had been arrested on two counts of arson for allegedly starting a fire in southern Oregon on Tuesday.

The Oregon Convention Center in Portland was among the buildings being transformed into shelters for evacuees. Portland, shrouded in smoke from the fires, on Friday had the worst air quality of the world's major cities, according to IQAir.

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'There was no fighting this fire,' California survivor says

BERRY CREEK, Calif. (AP) — John Sykes built his life around his cabin in the dense woods of Northern California. He raised his two children there, expanded it and improved it over time and made it resilient to all kinds of disaster except fire.

So when the winds started howling Tuesday and the skies became so dark from smoke that he had to turn on his lights at midday, he didn’t hesitate to leave it all behind in an instant before any evacuation order.

With the disaster two years ago in nearby Paradise, in which 85 people perished in the deadliest and most destructive fire in modern state history, still fresh on his mind, Sykes got his wife and a friend into his car and left with only a change of clothes each.

“All I could do is look in the rear view mirror and see orange sky and a mushroom cloud and that told me it was hot and to keep going,” Sykes said Friday. “It was a terrifying feeling.”

Berry Creek was largely destroyed in what has become the deadliest fire of 2020, a year that has already shattered California records for the most area burned — more land than the state of Connecticut — and recorded the largest fire of all time in the state. Five of the top 10 biggest blazes in state history are still burning and fire season often gets worse in the fall.

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Comforting families, warning foes: Biden, Trump mark 9-11

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — One spent time quietly consoling families.

The other proclaimed America’s might.

President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden marked the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on Friday at memorial services where their differences in style couldn’t have been more sharply on display.

As Biden approached those who’d lost loved ones at Ground Zero and shared the pain of his own losses, Trump vowed that “America will always rise up, stand tall and fight back,” speaking at the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, site where hijacked Flight 93 crashed after passengers rushed the cockpit.

Biden also visited Shanksville later in the day, laying a wreath at the memorial and meeting with families, but the two did not cross paths. And while Americans were focused on the commemorations, the political significance of the visits to Shanksville was hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a crucial battleground state in the 2020 election. Trump won there by less than 1 percentage point four years ago, and Democrats hope they can return it to their column this year.

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Prosecutor looking into the origins of Russia probe resigns

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal prosecutor who was helping lead the investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe has resigned from the Justice Department, a spokesman said Friday.

Nora Dannehy was a top prosecutor on a team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut, who was appointed last year to lead an investigation into how the FBI and other federal agencies set out to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign had co-ordinated with the Kremlin.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Connecticut confirmed Dannehy's departure, which was first reported by The Hartford Courant, but declined to comment further.

Her departure could complicate the final stretch of an investigation already slowed by the coronavirus pandemic but eagerly anticipated by President Donald Trump and his supporters to uncover what they see as wrongdoing within the FBI during the Russia investigation. It leaves the investigative team without one of its veteran prosecutors as key decisions presumably await before the probe wraps up.

Durham's appointment by Attorney General William Barr was made public soon after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report into Russian election interference. In the year and a half since, he has questioned former law enforcement and intelligence officials — former CIA Director John Brennan among them — about decisions made during the course of the Russia probe. Dannehy had been a top leader on the team, present for interviews with such officials, including Brennan.

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Family believes boy died in fire trying to save grandmother

LYONS, Ore. (AP) — The fire was 15 miles away, so the Oregon family went to sleep but planned to leave soon.

On Monday evening, Angela Mosso had packed a few things for the family to take with them and her husband, Chris Tofte, drove to town to borrow a friend’s trailer to carry the family, their dog and their belongings.

But as family members slept, the Beachie Creek Fire bore down, the Statesman Journal reported. Eventually, it reached their house, turning a night of calm preparation into harrowing loss.

Gov. Kate Brown said more than 40,000 Oregonians have been evacuated from their homes as two large windblown wildfires rage across the Pacific Northwest. About 500,000 people are in different levels of evacuation zones, either having been told to leave or to prepare to do so. Dozens of people are reported missing and at least six fatalities have been reported.

Thirteen-year-old Wyatt Tofte of Lyons, Oregon, and his grandmother Peggy Mosso, 71, are among them. They died trying to escape the fire that engulfed their home Tuesday morning.

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Chiefs, Texans booed as racial justice stand sparks outrage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The NFL’s new stance encouraging players to take a stand against racial injustice got its first test as some fans of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs booed during a moment of silence to promote the cause, touching off a fresh debate on how players should use their voice.

The controversy erupted Thursday night just moments before the league’s 101st season kicked off. After the Houston Texans remained in the locker room during the national anthem, fans booed them when they emerged from the tunnel at its conclusion. The booing continued as the two teams walked to midfield and shook hands, their interlocked arms stretched from one end zone to the other during what was supposed to be a moment of silence.

Fans, politicians and players all weighed in on social media and in interviews. Kansas City Councilman Eric Bunch described what happened in a tweet as “embarrassing.”

“Some NFL fans booing the players for standing and locking arms in a moment of silent unity proves that for them ‘standing for the flag' was always about perpetuating white supremacy,” said Bunch, who is white.

New York Jets offensive tackle George Fant, who is Black, praised the Chiefs and Texans for taking a stance during a Zoom call with reporters in which he only took questions about social justice.

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Autopsy report: Naya Rivera called for help as she drowned

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An autopsy report released Friday says “Glee” actor Naya Rivera raised her arm and called for help as she accidentally drowned while boating with her 4-year-old son on a California lake.

Once his mother had helped him back on to the boat, the boy “noticed the decedent put her arm up in the air and yelled ‘help,’" the report from the Ventura County Medical Examiner says. “The decedent then disappeared in to the water.”

Authorities had previously said that Rivera had drowned accidentally after putting the boy, Josey Hollis Dorsey, back on the boat at Lake Piru northwest of Los Angeles on July 8, but had not mentioned her shouting for help.

Rivera “knew how to swim well,” the report said.

The man who rented her the pontoon boat said she declined a life vest, but he put one aboard anyway.

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Officials battle online misinformation along with wildfires

SEATTLE (AP) — Emergency responders in the Pacific Northwest are fighting misinformation along with raging wildfires as people spread unsubstantiated social media posts blaming co-ordinated groups of arsonists from both the far left and far right for setting the blazes.

The FBI said Friday that it's investigated several claims and found them to be untrue, while officials in Oregon and Washington state have turned to Facebook to knock down the competing narratives — some posts blamed far-left antifa activists and others claimed the far-right group the Proud Boys was responsible for the fires scorching wide swaths of the region.

“I am physically and emotionally exhausted. We’ve been working really hard to protect people’s lives and homes,” firefighter Matt Lowery wrote Thursday night on the Facebook page for the East Pierce Fire & Rescue union south of Seattle. “I also want to address an issue that keeps coming up, even from some of the public that we are talking to while working. It is hot, dry, and fire spreads quickly in those conditions. There is nothing to show its Antifa or Proud Boys setting fires. Wait for information.”

The Mason County Sheriff's Office urged Washington residents to stop spreading rumours as isolated incidents of apparent arson led to widespread, unfounded claims that antifa agitators were conspiring to start fires along the West Coast. Antifa is short for anti-fascists, a range of far-left militant groups that oppose white supremacists.

“Though some agencies have made arrests related to arson recently, they appear to all be separate individuals, however as with many incidents, it will be an ongoing investigation in each jurisdiction,” the agency wrote Thursday night on Facebook.

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AP Exclusive: Disabled NFL retirees slam benefits plan delay

An NFL and players union-run fund that helps ailing retired players shut down its application process for nearly six months because of the coronavirus, irritating retirees who complained the league devoted resources toward safely starting the 2020 season on time but not to their medical needs.

The Associated Press interviewed four people familiar with the program, three of whom are retired players waiting for program administrators to schedule doctors' visits that are key to determining benefits. Last year, the program gave out $157 million to 2,247 applicants. One person familiar with the program estimated there were more than 200 applications and appeals that have been awaiting action for up to six months.

None of the players wanted their names used for fear of retribution by those who run the program, which is operated by the league and union.

All said they were perplexed by the league's willingness to hold training camps for more than 3,000 players this summer and kick off the season this week while suspending a program that doesn't have anything close to the social-distancing issues of the day-to-day logistics of an NFL season.

On Friday, two days after the AP questioned the league and union about the halt, the NFL said benefits co-ordinators were sending out letters to applicants announcing the resumption of doctor's appointments for some players.

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Collins won't say in debate who she'll vote for in November

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democrat Sara Gideon sought to link Republican Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, with President Donald Trump during their first debate Friday night, and she demanded several times that Collins say whether she’ll vote for him — a dare Collins wouldn't take.

Collins, who has said she didn't vote for Trump four years ago, brushed off the question, saying voters are more interested in talking to her about issues than who she supports in the presidential race. “Let me say this: I don’t think the people of Maine need my advice on whom to support for president,” Collins said.

But Collins was critical of Trump’s handling of the pandemic after the president acknowledged on tape months ago, to journalist Bob Woodward in comments only recently released, that he deliberately played down the danger.

“I believe that the president should have been straightforward with the American people. The American people can take hard facts. He had an obligation as president to be straightforward,” Collins said.

Collins, who is seeking a fifth term and long enjoyed a reputation as a moderate who reached across the partisan aisle, is facing the toughest campaign of her career, and Democrats view unseating her as key to retaking control of the Senate.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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