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

October 14, 2017 - 8:05 PM

Wildfires now up to 100 miles wide as death toll reaches 40

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — The California wildfires raced toward wineries and the historic town of Sonoma on Saturday, chasing hundreds more people from their homes and threatening to roll back firefighters' modest gains against fires that stretched across a 100-mile swath of Northern California.

Propelled by stiff winds, the fires damaged or destroyed several buildings in the middle of the night before crews halted their advance at the edge of Sonoma, where firefighters spent days digging firebreaks to keep flames from reaching the city's historic central plaza built centuries ago when the area was under Spanish rule.

For those living in the huge fire zone, it was another night spent watching, waiting and fearing the worst.

John Saguto said he awoke several hours before dawn at his home east Sonoma to see flames "lapping up" 300 to 500 yards away. He and his neighbours evacuated as firetrucks raced up and down the streets and hot embers flew over their heads.

The fire made "a strong run" into Sonoma and damaged or destroyed additional buildings before firefighters stopped it, said Dave Teter, deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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Pro-Trump states most affected by his health care decision

President Donald Trump's decision to end a provision of the Affordable Care Act that was benefiting roughly 6 million Americans helps fulfil a campaign promise, but it also risks harming some of the very people who helped him win the presidency.

Nearly 70 per cent of those benefiting from the so-called cost-sharing subsidies live in states Trump won last November, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. The number underscores the political risk for Trump and his party, which could end up owning the blame for increased costs and chaos in the insurance marketplace.

The subsidies are paid to insurers by the federal government to help lower consumers' deductibles and co-pays. People who benefit will continue receiving the discounts because insurers are obligated by law to provide them. But to make up for the lost federal funding, health insurers will have to raise premiums substantially, potentially putting coverage out of reach for many consumers.

Some insurers may decide to bail out of markets altogether.

"I woke up, really, in horror," said Alice Thompson, 62, an environmental consultant from the Milwaukee area who purchases insurance on Wisconsin's federally run health insurance exchange.

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Motion Picture Academy expels movie mogul Harvey Weinstein

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a move virtually unprecedented, disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein's membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was revoked Saturday by its board.

The decision was reached in an emergency session by the academy, the world's top movie organization and home to the Oscars. The expulsion was effective immediately.

It comes after recent reports by The New York Times and The New Yorker about sexual harassment and rape allegations against Weinstein going back decades. He has denied the accusations against him.

In issuing its decision, the academy stated "We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of wilful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behaviour and workplace harassment in our industry is over."

"What's at issue here," the statement added, "is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society."

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New characters give 'Thomas & Friends' a jolt of girl power

NEW YORK (AP) — Girls are finally getting a bigger role in Thomas the Tank Engine's boy-dominated world.

Mattel, the toy maker that owns the Thomas brand, will add two female main characters to the "Thomas & Friends" TV series next year. Nia and Rebecca will appear in each episode and help fix the gender imbalance at the shed where Thomas and the other main characters live: Three of the seven engines at Tidmouth Sheds will be female, up from just one.

The gender shakeup is just one of the many changes coming to the 30-year-old show. Thomas visits real countries for the first time; the animation will move at a faster pace; there's a new theme song; the characters will crack more jokes; and the narrator will be gone, replaced by the voice of Thomas.

It's all an effort to shake Thomas' stodgy image, compete with flashier preschool shows and fight a drop in toy sales. It's a big risk for the franchise, which got its start as a book series more than 70 years ago. To avoid any missteps, Mattel consulted with parents, young fans and even the United Nations. In all, the company spent two years working on the makeover.

"It's such a huge shift," said Kate Schlomann, a vice-president of branding at Mattel. "We want to make sure we're here another 70 years."

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Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

HOUSTON (AP) — With each stinging line drive, Jose Altuve is putting his stamp on this October. Same with every pitch from Justin Verlander, no matter the inning or score.

Houston's longest tenured player and its durable new ace — an incomparable pair so far this post-season.

Altuve raced home on Carlos Correa's double in the ninth inning, Verlander struck out 13 in a complete game and the Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Correa also homered , but Houston needed a daring dash from the 5-foot-6 Altuve to get Verlander a win. Altuve, an AL MVP front-runner, reached with a one-out single against closer Aroldis Chapman, then sprinted around from first base on Correa's shot to right-centre field. Shortstop Didi Gregorius' relay beat Altuve to the plate, but catcher Gary Sanchez misplayed a short-hop, allowing Houston's dynamo second baseman to slide past safely.

"When I saw him running I was like, 'Oh God,'" Correa said. "And then obviously he beat it out."

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Ex-hostages back in Canada after harrowing raid to free them

SMITHS FALLS, Ontario (AP) — A couple held hostage for five years by a Taliban-linked extremist network in Afghanistan was safely back in Canada on Saturday after what the husband described as a harrowing firefight during a raid to free the family.

Joshua Boyle played with one of his sons in the garden of his parents' home. The boy appeared happy and healthy, digging in the grass as his father showed off the different plants and later spoke on a cellphone.

In a video released by Pakistan's military that was filmed before he left that country for home, Boyle said Pakistani security forces positioned themselves between the hostages and their Haqqani network captors to keep the family safe amid the gunfire.

"A major comes over to me while I still have blood on me. The street is chaos and he says to me, 'In the American media they said that we support the Haqqani network and that we make it possible. Today you have seen the truth. Did we not put bullets in those bastards?'" Boyle recalled, appearing beside his wife and children in the video.

"And so I can say to you I did see the truth, and the truth was that car was riddled with bullets. The ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency) and the army got between the criminals and the car to make sure the prisoners were safe and my family was safe. They put them to flight and they ran like cowards. And this is proof enough to me the Pakistanis are doing everything to their utmost."

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Bannon on GOP insurgency: 'Nobody can run and hide'

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Steve Bannon has a stark message to Republican incumbents he considers part of the establishment: "Nobody can run and hide."

President Donald Trump's former chief strategist is promoting a field of potential primary challengers to take on disfavoured Republicans in Congress and step up for open seats. Among the outsiders: a convicted felon, a perennial candidate linked to an environmental conspiracy theory and a Southern lawmaker known for provocative ethnic and racial comments.

It's an insurgency that could imperil Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Bannon called it a "populist nationalist conservative revolt" in a speech to religious conservatives in Washington on Saturday.

The emerging Bannon class of rabble-rousers shares limited ideological ties but a common intent to upend Washington and knock out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., standard-bearer of the establishment.

So intent is Bannon on bringing down McConnell that he laid down this marker Saturday to some of the incumbents at risk of a challenge from his flank of the party: disavow McConnell, satisfy other conditions and possibly escape the wrath.

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Porn publisher offers up to $10 million for dirt on Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pornography publisher Larry Flynt is offering "up to $10 million" to anyone who produces information that leads to President Donald Trump's impeachment and removal from office.

He lays out the offer in a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post.

During last year's presidential campaign, Flynt dangled $1 million to anyone who could turn over video or audio capturing Trump behaving in an illegal or sexually demeaning manner. That followed the release of the 2005 "Access Hollywood" video in which Trump bragged of imposing himself on women.

In Sunday's ad, Flynt asks for any "smoking gun" that is fit to publish and drives Trump from office. The White House didn't comment.

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Family dog emerges alive and happy from wildfire aftermath

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — Jack Weaver and his brother-in-law Patrick Widen walked around police barricades, through a creek and up treacherous hilly roads to save Weaver's mother from the grim task of recovering the body of the family's beloved dog Izzy.

Katherine Weaver was convinced Izzy died in a ferocious wildfire that destroyed their Northern California neighbourhood and sent them fleeing for safety, Katherine still in her nightgown.

When the men reached the end of the narrow road on Tuesday, Jack Weaver swore as he saw that the house was completely gone. But then Izzy suddenly came bounding out for a joyous reunion.

Jack Weaver, who was filming the scene for his parents, captured the moment on his phone in a video that's gone viral on Facebook, providing a rare bit of good news amid endless scenes of severe destruction.

"She was very happy to see us," Weaver said of Izzy, a 9-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog. "She's such a brave dog. She was panting a lot and clearly stressed. But she was not frantic or anything."

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LSU stuns No. 10 Auburn, riding clutch defence to 27-23 win

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU coach Ed Orgeron didn't want the game ball, turning down a chance to stick it in the faces of so many critics who think he is in over his head.

Across Tiger Stadium, Auburn fans clustered in the stands near the visitor's locker room voiced their displeasure with coach Gus Malzahn, some yelling audibly that he's "got to go."

Such is life in the Southeastern Conference, where a young LSU team might be changing minds — and winning back disillusioned fans — thanks to a pair of gritty victories.

D.J. Chark returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown, Connor Culp kicked field goals of 42 and 36 yards inside the final three minutes, and LSU erased a 20-point deficit on its way to a 27-23 victory over No. 10 Auburn on Saturday.

"We're just becoming a football team. Our whole staff is galvanized. Our football team is galvanized," Orgeron said. "We were going to be resilient. We weren't going to give up. We were going to block out the noise and we were going to fix the things that were fixable."

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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