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President Trump to visit California fire scene as death toll rises

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 08:32

PARADISE, Calif. — President Donald Trump heads to Northern California on Saturday to see firsthand the grief and devastation from the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, as confusion continued over how many people remain unaccounted for.

Authorities confirmed a new death toll of 71 and say they are trying to locate 1,011 people even as they stressed that not all are believed missing.

California's outgoing and incoming governors, both Democrats and vocal critics of President Trump, planned to join the president Saturday. Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom welcomed President Trump's visit, declaring it's time "to pull together for the people of California."

The blaze that started Nov. 8 all but razed the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and heavily damaged the outlying communities of Magalia and Concow. It destroyed more than 9,800 homes and at its height displaced 52,000 people.

Details of President Trump's itinerary had not been released late Friday.

This patch of California, a former Gold Rush region in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is to some extent President Trump country, with Trump beating Hillary Clinton in Butte County by 4 percentage points in 2016.

But President Trump has stirred resentment among survivors over comments he made two days after the disaster on Twitter, then reiterated on the eve of his visit.

In an interview taped Friday and scheduled for broadcast on "Fox News Sunday," President Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding, "This should have been all raked out."

Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said: "Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management."

Those comments echoed his initial reaction to the fires Nov. 10 when he blamed the wildfires on poor forest management and threatened then to withhold federal payments. President Trump subsequently approved a federal disaster declaration.

"If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you're going to be accepted? You're not going to have a parade," Maggie Crowder of Magalia said this week outside an informal shelter at a Walmart store in Chico.

But Stacy Lazzarino, who voted for President Trump, said it would be good for the president to see the devastation up close: "I think by maybe seeing it he's going to be like 'Oh, my goodness,' and it might start opening people's eyes."

Firefighters returning to a command center in the neighboring city of Chico after a 24-hour shift Friday were reluctant to weigh in on President Trump's visit, but some shared their thoughts.

Nick Shawkey, a CalFire captain from rural Northern California, said President Trump's visit was the mark of a good leader. But to imply the state was to blame for mismanaging the forests was based on a misunderstanding because much of the forest land in California is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, he said.

"The thing he's tweeting about is his property," Shawkey said.

Paul Briones, a firefighter from Bakersfield, predicted President Trump's visit would be a huge boost to the community, showing "that this on a national level is a priority."

More than 5,500 fire personnel were battling the blaze that covered 228 square miles (590 square kilometers) and was 50 percent contained officials said.

Firefighters were racing against time with a red flag warning issued for Saturday night into Sunday, including winds up to 50 mph and low humidity. Rain was forecast for mid-week, which could help firefighters but also complicate the challenging search for remains.

"It's a disheartening situation," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference Friday. "As much as I wish we could get through this before the rains come, I don't know if that's possible."

The number of people unaccounted for grew to more than 1,000 on Friday. But Honea acknowledged the list was "dynamic" and could easily contain duplicate names and unreliable spellings of names.

The roster probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they've been reported missing, he said.

"We are still receiving calls. We're still reviewing emails," Honea said. "This is a massive undertaking. We have hundreds and hundreds of people working on this."

Families searching for loved ones have scoured shelters and social media and say they understand the chaos of the situation, But the wait for information is agonizing.

For one family, good news arrived by telephone.

Monica Whipple said Friday she was boarding a plane back to North Carolina from Northern California when she got a call two days ago that her mother, Donna Price, had been found alive. Price had been presumed missing but was tracked down at a shelter.

"It was so crazy, I started crying in front of everybody," Whipple said. "She's doing OK."

For too many others, the wait to learn a loved one's fate has ended with bad news.

Sol Bechtold searched for his 75-year-old mother, Caddy, posting flyers of her on bulletin boards and searching for her in shelters.

On Thursday, Bechtold went to the Butte County Sheriff to provide DNA samples. As he was driving back to his home in Pleasanton, California, he got a call from an officer with the coroner's unit of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and was told his mother's remains were found in her home in the community of Magalia. The home had burned down to its concrete foundation.

"It's hard to realize your mother is gone," Bechtold said.

Family members remembered her personality, her wonderful heart and great smile, he said. She raised four children.

"It's been a pretty emotional 24 hours. Lots of tears," he said.

Categories: Ohio News

Dog Walkers Weekly "Furr-cast" | November 17, 2018

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 08:00

Welcome back, everyone! For you first-time readers, happy to have you here!

This blog is dedicated to those dog lovers across central Ohio. Unless you have a large backyard, many of you probably walk your dog, or dogs, on a daily basis, and maybe even multiple times a day.

The purpose and goal of this blog is to help those dog walkers and their furry, little friends make the most out of their walks outside while being safe at the same time.

So, let's start things off with a look at what I call the "Comfort Scale."

You will notice on the images below there are certain colors that go with each time period/day of the week for the "Furr-cast." I developed this scale on my own, using several meteorological variables and some pet-friendly considerations.

You will see that the color "green" on the image above suggests that conditions are ideal for walking your pet and that there are no risks to either you or your pet, so walk all you want!

This brings me to the next level on the scale, which is a yellowish-orange color. This shows conditions are fair outside but you should still keep an eye on your pet. This is where the breed of your pet also comes into play. I'm not an expert on dogs but I know a Siberian Husky can withstand colder temperatures than a Chihuahua.

This now is up to the owner to decide if the conditions are fair enough that they could take more casual, longer walks outside.

Lastly, we have the last ranking on the scale, which shows outside conditions are poor and pet owners should keep their walks short. Dangerous weather is developing or already present and pet owners should take action to make sure that their pets are properly taken care of. This shouldn't be used to decide whether or not you should go outside; but more so an indicator that you should take shorter, more frequent walks.

Now that we have a look at the method behind the comfort scale, let's take a look at this weekends "Furr-cast."

Quiet start to the weekend with mostly cloudy to overcast skies. Overall, conditions will be fair to go out to a local dog park and burn off some energy, especially if you and your pet have been cooped up over the past couple of days. For those in northern Ohio, there is the possibility for a wintry mix but it will be scattered.

You may wake up to a few wet spots on the roads Sunday morning, so be prepared for a few wet paws. Also, now is a good time to get into the habit of clearing your pets' paws after your walks as we're starting to see more roads and sidewalks being treated with salt. The remainder of the day will be similar to Saturday with temperatures in the low to mid 40's under mostly cloudy skies. There will be a chance for a wintry mix during the day but it will be scattered.

Another shot of a wintry mix will be possible early on in the week but we'll see some much-needed conditions come our way for the holiday. Not only will skies clear out for Thanksgiving but it'll be one of the warmest days in over 10 days. Nothing crazy warm but temperatures in the 50's sound very nice considering the recent weather we've had.

Now that we have our first taste of winter this weekend, it's important to put your cold weather safety plan into use.

Know the signs before you subject you and your pet to the cold weather. Many dogs love the cold & snowy weather but there are also many breeds that aren't built to be outside for prolonged amounts of time.

The "Barking Message" for next week:
  • Keep your walks short this weekend, plain and simple!
  • Next chance for some wet paws on Sunday and early next week.
  • Put good use to your cold weather pet safety plan.

Each Friday, I will be posting a new "Furr-cast" for the weekend and week ahead and I would like to feature some of your pets on my blog. Also, if you have any suggestions or comments on my blog, I'd love to hear input. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter and Facebook at Ross10tv. Enjoy the weekend and week ahead, furr-parents.

Categories: Ohio News

Michelle Obama's memoir sells more than 725,000 copies

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 07:31

NEW YORK — First-day sales for Michelle Obama's "Becoming" topped 725,000 copies, making it one of the year's biggest debuts.

Crown Publishing told The Associated Press on Friday that the figures include sales and pre-orders for the former first lady's memoir include hardcover, audio and e-books editions for the United States and Canada. "Becoming" was released on Tuesday, the same day Mrs. Obama launched a national book tour. Crown also announced that it had raised the book's print run from 1.8 million copies to 2.6 million. Reviews of the book, which traces Obama's journey from Chicago's South Side to the White House, have been positive, with The Washington Post praising its "impressive balance in telling the truth of her challenges while repeatedly acknowledging her lucky life."

"Becoming" had the biggest opening of any books in 2018 by Crown's parent company, Penguin Random House. But at least one other book this year, from Simon & Schuster, did start higher: Bob Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House" sold around 900,000 copies after one day.

"Becoming" is well exceeding the pace of previous memoirs by first ladies. In 2003, Hillary Clinton's "Living History" had first week sales of around 600,000 copies, at a time when audio sales were tiny and e-book sales non-existent.

Categories: Ohio News

Florida high school massacre panel considers recommendations

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 05:28

SUNRISE, Fla. — The state commission investigating the Florida high school massacre began discussions Friday on what recommendations it will make regarding student safety, mental health, and steps to prevent future school shootings.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Commission didn't pass any specific recommendations Friday at its latest gathering to consider the Feb. 14 attack that killed 14 students and three staff members at the school in Parkland. But it decided it will focus its initial batch of recommendations on less controversial areas such as school hardening before addressing difficult issues like mental health.

The 14-member panel must file its initial report to outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, his successor and the Legislature by Jan. 1.

State Sen. Lauren Book, a member of the commission, said she expects all legislators will read the report and take it seriously, given the magnitude of the tragedy.

"We all within the Legislature come from different backgrounds and different knowledge bases," Book said. "Giving some information is good, getting too much into the weeds is dangerous."

Stoneman Douglas social studies teacher Ernie Rospierski, who herded students down a stairwell and used his body to barricade the door behind them after being grazed by two bullets, told commissioners to be "very careful" about putting more safety requirements on teachers because they are already overworked. But, he said, the panel needs to begin writing "the playbook" for preventing future tragedies.

"Until that is finished, we are going to see this again and again," Rospierski said.

The commissioners decided not to go through their items publicly Friday. They said they would review possible recommendations accumulated by their staff individually, submit suggestions and concerns and then debate them publicly at their meeting next month.

Meanwhile, the attorney for the sheriff's deputy who was on the campus during the massacre started a charity website to raise money for the man's legal defense. Joseph DiRuzzo III started a GoFundMe page for now-retired Broward County sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson in hopes of raising $150,000 "to defend him against any spurious claims of criminal liability." As of Friday afternoon, $40 had been raised before the drive appeared shut down.

DiRuzzo noted the GoFundMe page in a lawsuit filed this week to block Scott Peterson from being forced to testify before the commission. Many commissioners have called Peterson "a coward" for not charging into the building with his handgun and confronting the shooter, who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle.

Security video shows Peterson arrived outside the three-story building where the killings happened shortly after the shooting began, about the same time the gunman finished slaying 11 people on the first floor. Peterson drew his handgun, but retreated to cover next to the neighboring building. The video shows Peterson never left that spot for 50 minutes, even after other deputies and police officers arrived on campus and went inside.

Panel members have said they believe Peterson's inaction allowed suspect Nikolas Cruz to climb to the third floor, where five students and one teacher were killed. They believe if Peterson, 55, had confronted Cruz and engaged him in a shootout he could have killed him or given others more time to reach safety.

DiRuzzo said in his lawsuit that as the first deputy on scene, Peterson was the incident commander charged with coordinating law enforcement's response until relieved by a superior. DiRuzzo said Peterson was never relieved and fulfilled that duty by directing officers into the building and ordering the closing of the school and surrounding streets.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the panel's chairman, said Friday that DiRuzzo's lawsuit is "a work of fiction."

"Peterson did not do his job. Peterson is a failure, and he should be embarrassed and held accountable for what he did not do," Gualtieri said.

Also Friday, the commission learned that eight of the state's 67 countywide school districts haven't filed safety assessments mandated after the massacre.

State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, a commission member, said Friday there's little she can do to districts that don't file the assessments, which were due Oct. 31. She said one county's report was delayed because of Hurricane Michael and others are completed but awaiting approval of their district school boards.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a commission member, said the new state law should require the suspension of a district's superintendent and board chair if the deadline is broken.

The panel has been meeting periodically since April and includes law enforcement, education and mental health officials, a legislator and the fathers of two dead students.

Cruz, a 20-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student, is charged with the slayings. He has pleaded not guilty, but his attorneys have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Categories: Ohio News

State Route 315 closes between I-70 and I-670 for floodwall testing Saturday

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 05:25

COLUMBUS-- City officials will close State Route 315 in both directions between I-70 and I-670 for several hours starting Saturday morning.

The closure is due to crews testing the Franklinton Floodwall gates that cross SR-315 near Spring Street. Once every three years, federal safety regulations require that the six gates extending along the Scioto River between I-670 and Frank Road are tested.

Detours for this closure include Interstates I-70 and I-71, as well as West Broad Street.

Categories: Ohio News

Police identify woman hit and killed with her own vehicle

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 05:08

CLEVELAND — Authorities have identified a 33-year-old Cleveland mother as the woman killed when two men entered her family's vehicle and struck her with it.

Cleveland police say Lesley Dejesus Gonzalez was painting at a church Thursday afternoon with her two children and their father when she saw two men enter the family's car. She was struck by the vehicle after she and her husband attempted to intervene.

Dejesus Gonzalez was declared dead at the scene. No one else was hurt.

Authorities say the suspected carjackers sped off in the vehicle, which police later found abandoned on a road.

Police statements say two men were taken into custody Thursday but were later released when investigators found they were not involved. Authorities have made no arrests in the ongoing investigation.

Categories: Ohio News

Hero in Florida yoga studio shooting to get $30,000 for law school

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 02:49

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State University's president and board of trustees have committed $30,000 of their personal money to help cover law school costs for a man credited with confronting a shooter at a Tallahassee yoga studio and giving others time to escape.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports FSU President John Thrasher and the board made the commitment Friday.

Joshua Quick is a second-year law student at Florida State. He has been called a hero for struggling with 40-year-old Scott Beierle, who opened fire Nov. 2 at the Hot Yoga studio. Quick has said he grabbed Beierle's gun after it jammed, and hit him.

Two people were killed, and five others were injured. Other students at the studio have said Quick's actions prevented Beierle from shooting more people. Beierle killed himself before authorities arrived.

Categories: Ohio News