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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Clippers beat Magic 106-95 behind Jordan, Williams


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers needed someone to provide points and Lou Williams filled that role.

Williams scored 31 points Wednesday night to lead the Clippers to a 106-95 victory over the Orlando Magic.

“We’ve had some guys go down with injuries and somebody has to step in and fill that scoring void,” Williams said. “I’ve been able to do it.”

DeAndre Jordan added 16 points and 20 rebounds and the Clippers opened a four-game road trip with their third straight victory. The Clippers shot 54 percent in the second half in a matchup of injury-riddled teams.

Much of the scoring power of both teams was sidelined by injuries, and guard Austin Rivers was added to the Clippers’ injury list with a concussion.

“We don’t have the luxury of talent where we’re going to out-talent the other team. Every night we find somebody to help us score. Tonight Sam (Dekker) helped us. Lou was Lou,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.

Jonathon Simmons scored 20 points for the Magic, who have lost 14 of 17. Mario Hezonja added 17 points and nine rebounds in his second start of the season.

Making only eight of their first 30 shots, the Clippers fell behind by 12 points midway through the second quarter. But Williams connected on three 3-pointers and Austin Rivers added one during a 14-0 run, and the Clippers (11-15) outscored Orlando 24-7 over the final seven minutes of the first half.

“I tend to earn the trust of my coaches,” said Williams, who made 11 of 22 shots and added eight assists. “This is my 13th year. I’m a veteran guy. Teams that sign me understand what they’re getting and I don’t think it’s any different for Doc.”

Nikola Vucevic hit a mid-range jumper to put the Magic (11-18) up 55-54 midway through the third quarter, but Williams answered quickly with a basket to regain the lead for the Clippers permanently.

“We got up 10 or 12, then didn’t play with enough energy,” said Vucevic, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds. “There wasn’t much excitement, there wasn’t much going on. It was just flat out there. We could never get a good flow or good rhythm. Even if we get a block, we wouldn’t run it down the court the way we can.”

The shooting of Williams and Dekker, both of whom came off the bench, helped the Clippers expand their lead to 16 points with three minutes left.

Austin Rivers left the game in the final seconds of the first half after running into the elbow of Simmons. He did not return and will not play in the Clippers’ next game.


Clippers: F Danilo Gallinari is not on the road trip due to a left glute contusion. … F Blake Griffin missed his seventh straight game with a left MCL strain.

Magic: With F Aaron Gordon (concussion) and G Arron Afflalo (back spasms) out, the active roster included four players from the G League’s Lakeland Magic. One was rookie F Wes Iwundu, who made his first NBA start. … Rookie F Jonathan Isaac hopes to return to practice Thursday after missing 17 games with a sprained right ankle.


“The one thing when you have all these injuries: Every game is different,” said Doc Rivers. “You can’t plan on being the team you’re going to be the next night. You’ve just got to figure it out during the game, play combinations you thought you’d never play and just try to steal the game.”


Clippers: Visit Washington on Friday.

Magic: Host Portland on Friday.

Colossal Thomas Fire now 4th largest in California history


The colossal wildfire burning northwest of Los Angeles became the fourth largest in California history and authorities said it would likely keep growing and threatening communities as hot, gusty winds fanned the flames.

State officials said Thursday that the so-called Thomas Fire straddling coastal Ventura and Santa Barbara counties covered 379 square miles. That surpassed a blaze that burned inland Santa Barbara County a decade ago.

Some evacuations were lifted and the risk to the agricultural city of Fillmore was diminishing. But coastal enclaves to the west remained under threat as crews protected hillside homes in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, pockets of unburned vegetation flare up off Bella Vista Dr. in Montecito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. After announcing increased containment on the Thomas fire, one of the biggest wildfires in California history, officials Wednesday warned that communities remain at risk and the threat could increase as unpredictable winds whip up again. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, pockets of unburned vegetation flare up off Bella Vista Dr. in Montecito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.  (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

Schools were closed and many roads remained shut down. The USA Water Polo Women’s National Team match against the Netherlands scheduled for Saturday in Santa Barbara was moved to Orange County.

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, firefighters keep an eye on flames as pockets of unburned vegetation flare up off Bella Vista Dr. in Montecito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. After announcing increased containment on the Thomas fire, one of the biggest wildfires in California history, officials Wednesday warned that communities remain at risk and the threat could increase as unpredictable winds whip up again. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, firefighters keep an eye on flames as pockets of unburned vegetation flare up off Bella Vista Dr. in Montecito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.  (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds. Gusts were expected to top 35 mph by midday Thursday.


Firefighters made some progress Wednesday on corralling the fire, which continued to spread mostly into national forest land.

In this photo released by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a dozer from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department clears a fire break across a canyon from atop Camino Cielo down to Gibraltar to make a stand should the fire move in that direction, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in the Santa Ynez Mountains area of Santa Barbara, Calif. State fire officials predicted Wednesday night that the Thomas Fire northwest of Los Angeles will continue to grow as it eats up parched brush and hot, dry weather continues. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

In this photo released by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a dozer from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department clears a fire break across a canyon from atop Camino Cielo down to Gibraltar to make a stand should the fire move in that direction, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in the Santa Ynez Mountains area of Santa Barbara, Calif.  (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

Since the blaze broke out on Dec. 4, it has burned destroyed 970 buildings — including at least 700 homes. Flames threatened some 18,000 buildings and prompted evacuations of about 100,000 people. Covering more ground than the city of San Diego, it was 30 percent contained.

To the south in San Diego County, firefighters came very close to containing another major wildfire a week after it broke out.

That fire burned down 157 structures, most in its destructive first hours. It also killed 46 race horses at a training center, and left one of their trainers with serious burns.

Thomas Fire in Southern California joins list of destructive blazes in the state


A wildfire in Southern California, dubbed the Thomas Fire, is now the fifth largest in state history.

The fire has scorched 242,500 acres and destroyed 972 structures, according to officials. The blaze, which is 30 percent contained, also threatens 18,000 structures.

It’s currently unclear what sparked the Thomas Fire. 

Here’s how the blaze compares to a few other large-scale wildfires in 2016 and 2017.

Soberanes Fire – 132,127 acres burned

The Soberanes Fire was sparked by an abandoned, illegal campfire in July 2016. It burned 132,127 acres and was mainly fueled by chaparral, tall grass and timber. The fire burned for nearly three months before it was contained.

The fire cost at least $229 million, which was claimed by fire officials to be the most expensive fire the U.S. Forest Service had ever fought, the Los Angeles Times reported in October 2016.

The fire destroyed at least 50 homes and was the state’s biggest and most destructive wildfire of that year.

Long Valley Fire – 83,733 acres burned

California wildfires FBN AP

The Thomas Fire in Southern California has still not been contained.  (The Associated Press)

The Long Valley Fire was first ignited in July of 2017. The blaze, which was located about two miles north of Doyle, Calif., and about 50 miles north of Reno, Nev., was contained 10 days after it first started.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, which was fueled by sagebrush and grass.

About 83,733 acres were burned as a result of the Long Valley Fire.

Modoc July Complex Fire – 83,120 acres burned

The Modoc July Complex Fire was first ignited in July 2017, but was 100 percent contained as of September 2017.

The fire, which was started by lightning, was fueled by grass, brush and timber. It was located in the Modoc National Forest in northeast California.

Detwiler Fire – 81,826 acres burned

The Detwiler Fire was first ignited in July of 2017, but was 100 percent contained as of October.

The fire destroyed 63 residences, 67 minor structures and one commercial structure. At least 13 other residences were damaged by the fire, which started in Mariposa County, about two miles east of Lake McClure.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said the cause of the fire was “a discharge of firearms on public lands.”

About 81,826 acres were burned.

Salmon August Complex Fire – 65,888 acres burned

The Salmon August Complex Fire was started by lightning. The first ignition was in July of 2017. Only 87 percent of the fire is currently contained. Timber and brush serve as the main source of fuel.

The fire is located in the Marble Mountain Wilderness and the Klamath NF side of the Trinity Alps Wilderness, which are both located in North California.

So far, 65,888 acres have been burned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Masked men steal lobby ATMs from 3 Houston Marriott hotels


Police say masked men have stolen ATMs from the lobbies of three Marriot hotels in Houston this week.

Lt. Larry Crowson says a group of four or five men stormed the lobby of the Marriott near George Bush Intercontinental Airport early Thursday, grabbed an ATM and fled in a vehicle.

He says when a valet yelled at the fleeing men, one lifted his shirt to show a machete.

Early Tuesday, a group of seven to ten men took the ATM from a Marriott near the Galleria. Around midnight Tuesday, five to eight masked men raided a Courtyard by Marriott in west Houston. The machines were not bolted down.

Investigators believe the same crew was behind all of the robberies. They declined to say how much money was stolen.

Omarosa trolled by Robin Roberts: 'Bye, Felicia,' after ouster from White House


“Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts had a terse observation after Omarosa told the show’s Michael Strahan Thursday she has “quite a story to tell.”

“Bye Felicia,” Roberts quipped moments after the interview ended.

The polarizing former White House aide, whose full name is Omarosa Manigault Newman, was dishing to Michael Strahan a day after she either resigned from her job to pursue new and exciting opportunities or was dragged out screaming and yelling, depending on who is recounting the events.

“Bye, Felicia.”

– Robin Roberts, bidding farewell to Omarosa

 “I’m sure she’ll be selling that story,” Roberts said, before invoking the ultimate in millennial departing disses.

Robert’s term is a slang phrase for bidding farewell to someone for whom the speaker cares nothing, and put a contemptuous capper on what was otherwise a big – if less than revealing – score for the ABC morning program.

It’s safe to say Roberts’ goodbye was not entirely sincere

“When I have a chance to tell my story, Michael, I have quite a story to tell,” said Manigault Newman, who was seen as a heel in three stints on the Donald Trump-hosted “Apprentice,” then landed a job in President Trump’s administration as director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison.

“As the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that made me feel uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally,” Manigault Newman told Strahan. “That has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.”

For now, the most compelling version of her Wednesday ouster jibes perfectly with the personality she displayed as a three-time contestant on “The Apprentice.” Reports said she was fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly, that she cursed when informed of this and that she wanted to speak to President Trump about it. 

“I like to hear all of these interesting tales,” Manigault told Strahan. “I have to tell you, they are 100 percent false.”

She claimed she was not fired and blamed the “tale” of a dramatic exit on a single reporter. While she did not specifically name the reporter, it seemed clear she was referring to American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan. Ryan tweeted Wednesday that Manigault “tried to break into the residence” and “tripped the alarms.”

The Wall Street Journal also reported that her departure was abrupt, and described the exit as confrontational, saying she was “physically dragged” from the White House grounds. 

The official statement from the White House said she resigned, without going into detail. 

As for the man who has now fired Omarosa at least three times, he was gracious in his goodbye.

“Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success,” Trump tweeted late Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Romania: prosecutors slam proposals to change justice system


Romania’s top prosecutors have sharply criticized proposed changes to the legal system they say will make it hard to carry out prosecutions.

Among the changes are a move to ban public statements about investigations and trials and a proposal to allow suspects to be present when witnesses are giving testimony. Critics say this could intimidate witnesses.

Other proposals include limiting or banning video or audio recordings as evidence in trials.

The agency charged with prosecuting organized crime and terrorism said Thursday that 1,200 drugs trafficking cases would be halted if amendments approved by Parliament Wednesday became law.

Anti-corruption chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi said the changes meant “we won’t be able to investigate corruption.”

President Klaus Iohannis said the proposals were too sweeping. He can send them back to Parliament.

Just how difficult is the path to the playoffs for the Dallas Cowboys


FANTASY PLAYS: Derek Carr will struggle against Cowboys defense


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PHOTOS: 2017 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports | Matthew Emmons

Running back

— Christian McCaffrey/Jonathan Stewart, Carolina vs Green Bay

The Packers have given up the most receptions and receiving yards to RBs over the past month, and McCaffrey is second among RBs with 67 catches. The Packers have given up 4.3 yards per carry (YPC) over the past four weeks, also making Jonathan Stewart someone to consider starting. He has 4.8 YPC in his last four games, and has scored at least one TD in three straight weeks.

— Kenyan Drake, Miami at Buffalo

The Bills have given up an average of 160 rushing yards and 4.9 YPC to RBs over their past six games. Since taking over as the Dolphins’ lead back, Drake has averaged 23.6 FPPG in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats.

— Mike Davis, Seattle vs. LA Rams

Davis should have a productive day against the Rams, who’ve given up 5.1 YPC to RBs over the past four weeks, and the second most FPPG to RBs this season.

Wide receiver

— Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta at Tampa Bay

Sanu has scored double digit FPPG in PPR scoring in nine of 12 games. The Buccaneers have yielded the most receptions and FPPG to receivers.

— Jordy Nelson, Packers at Carolina

Nelson gets a bump up with QB Aaron Rodgers expected to start. In the six games Rodgers started this season, Nelson averaged four catches for 48 yards and scored six TDs. In his next seven games, he averaged three receptions for 22 yards and failed to score a TD. His ability to find the end zone with Rodgers under center makes him especially intriguing in non-PPR leagues.

— Robert Woods, LA Rams at Seattle

Woods had been the Rams’ most reliable receiver before his Week 11 injury. He should lead the team in targets this week, and with 15 catches for 228 yards, he’s had good success in his two career games against the Seahawks.

Tight end

— Charles Clay, Buffalo vs. Miami

Someone is going to have to catch some passes for the Bills this week, and with the Dolphins giving up the second most receptions and third most TDs to TEs, Clay could be a sneaky play.

— Jack Doyle, Indianapolis vs. Denver

Doyle has quietly the second most receptions among TEs this season. The Broncos have given up the fifth most FPPG to TEs in PPR scoring.



— Derek Carr, Oakland vs. Dallas

Carr has an average of 13.5 FPPG over the past six weeks and recorded a miniscule 5.15 yards per pass attempt in Week 14. Amari Cooper, his inconsistent deep ball threat, will likely be out this week.

— Alex Smith, KC vs. LA Chargers

The Chargers have given up the third fewest FPPG to QBs, and have recorded the third most interceptions this season. Smith threw for just 155 yards in his first meeting against the Chargers.

— Marcus Mariota, Tennessee at San Francisco

Although this appears to be a good matchup for Mariota against the 49ers, who’ve given up the second most FPPG to QBs, Mariota is dealing with a knee injury that could limit him. He has also scored single digit fantasy points in three straight weeks.

Running back

— Frank Gore, Indianapolis vs. Denver

Gore is coming off of a 36-carry Week 14 performance, and is faced with a short work week. The Broncos continue to be tough against the run, and have given up 3.3 YPC and an average of 89.5 rushing yards per game.

— DeMarco Murray, Tennessee at San Francisco

Over the past three weeks Murray and Derrick Henry have virtually split carries (34 to 32), and in Week 14 Henry had both of the team’s red zone carries. The 49ers have gone five straight games without yielding a TD to a RB and have allowed an average of 57 rushing yards per game to the position over the past three weeks.

Wide receiver

— Mike Evans, Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Evans has scored an average of 7.3 FPPG in PPR over his past seven games, and has not scored a TD during that span.

— Josh Gordon, Browns vs. Ravens

Gordon has been impressive in his first two games of the season, but the Ravens have surrendered the fewest TDs to WRs on the season (five), and have given up the fourth fewest FPPG to the position.

Tight end

— Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NY Jets at New Orleans

Seferian-Jenkins disappointed in a favorable matchup against the Broncos in Week 14. He’s had two catches or less in three straight games. The Saints have given up the fourth fewest FPPG to TEs.

— Greg Olsen, Carolina vs. Green Bay

Olsen is still dealing with the after effects of his foot injury, and it has severely limited him. He was targeted once in Week 14 and is a risky play.

Southern California wildfires trigger mass destruction, hurting families, economy


Thousands of people in Southern California have been forced to evacuate as wind-whipped wildfires continue to blaze across Ventura County.

Officials said the so-called “Thomas Fire,” which started on Dec. 4 about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, has now caused at least 50,000 people to evacuate, destroyed at least 972 structures and scorched roughly 242,500 acres so far. About 18,000 additional structures are threatened by the wildfire as well, according to officials.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown. As of Thursday morning, it was only 30 percent contained. 

Authorities confirmed the death of a 70-year-old woman on Dec. 8. Virginia Pesola was reportedly killed in a car crash along an evacuation route on Dec. 6. Her death is the first connected to the six wildfires in the region.

In addition, one unnamed firefighter has reportedly been injured and three other people were burned, the Los Angeles Times reported.

What’s more, the “Skirball Fire” erupted on Dec. 6, burning 422 acres and threatening many of the multimillion-dollar homes in Los Angeles’ Bel-Air neighborhood, Reuters reported.

The Skirball fire was reportedly caused by “an illegal cooking fire at an encampment in a brush area adjacent to where Sepulveda Boulevard crosses under the San Diego (405) Freeway,” the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday

President Trump has also tweeted about the wildfires.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of California’s wildfires,” the president tweeted. “I encourage everyone to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials. THANK YOU to all First Responders for your incredible work!”

In light of the Thomas Fire and others, here’s what you need to know about California wildfires.

How do the fires start?

California wildfires FBN AP

Officials are currently unsure what sparked the wildfires in Southern California.  (The Associated Press)

While wildfires in Northern California are often caused by lightning storms, about 99 percent of wildfires in Southern California are caused by humans, David Peterson, a senior research biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, told Fox News.

While throwing a cigarette butt out of a window is usually not enough to spark a fire, Peterson said, other simple tasks — like mowing the lawn or parking a car on dry grass — can.

For instance, if a rock hits a lawn mower’s metal blades, that’s usually enough friction to create a spark that can ultimately start a fire, Scott McLean, an information officer at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, told Fox News. And the heat from a car’s catalytic converter, a device that’s located underneath that controls its exhaust emissions, can reach up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit — enough heat to create a fire if the car is parked over dry, flammable grass.

“It only takes one spark to start a fire,” McLean said.

Another common source of wildfires are utility wires, Peterson said. On a windy day, these wires can be knocked over, land on dry vegetation and ultimately ignite a fire.

Wildfires are a “perfectly natural, normal phenomenon,” Peterson said. But as urban areas continue to expand into wildland areas, the risk of wildfires will also continue to grow.

“We cannot stop them. We can maybe do things to reduce their severity, like removing as much dead vegetation that we can, but they will continue to occur,” he added.

How are wildfires stopped?

All wildfires can bring mass destruction. But the way each fire is stopped varies, McLean said.

In other words, “the different vegetation and different scenarios up and down the state” impact how each fire is handled.

“You don’t just throw resources at a wildfire,” he said. “It’s like a battle — you have to think what will be the most effective.

Cal Fire usually depends on a mix of bulldozers, fire engines, inmate crews, and helicopters or airplanes, which disperse things like fire retardant, to stop wildfires.

Using containment lines, or large areas where a bulldozer cuts away vegetation to the point where only dirt remains, is very common, he said. But this isn’t always an accessible option.

“‘What would increase the fire’s speed, what would slow it down?'” he asked. “Helicopter and airplanes are ineffective with winds over 30 miles an hour, and bulldozers can’t always get in there.”

“It’s like a blowtorch.”

– Scott McLean

Strong wind gusts also cause problems when putting out or controlling wildfires, he said. Regional atmospheric patterns that develop in the fall create dry, hot wind gusts that can sometimes reach 80 miles per hour. These winds can create so-called “spot fires” — which is when an ember from the main wildfire gets blown into a nearby bush or field, ultimately creating a second fire.

“It’s like a blowtorch,” he said.

Indeed, “the thing that’s really challenging here is the embers, which can float one or two miles and jump across fire breaks,” Peterson said. “That’s why residential areas are so vulnerable.”  

“There is so much energy and so much intensity that we cannot stop them with conventional means,” Peterson said. “In these fires, we have to allow them to burn until there’s a period of high humidity and rain that helps reduce the temperature of fire enough to control it.”

But rain can also create muddy conditions for bulldozers and fire crews which impacts how they can combat the blaze.

Peterson said that firefighters work to “steer” the fire, pushing it toward the ocean, highway or a steep, rocky area where there is less vegetation. This usually helps to stop or slow down the wildfire. They also use aerial and satellite photos to “work with the landscape” and keep an eye on which direction the wind is coming from, he said.

As for the Thomas Fire, however, McLean said resident safety comes first — hence the evacuation that first took place last week. He said Cal Fire is expecting more resources to come to the Ventura County area, adding that “several strategies and tactics are in place” to stop or control it.

“It’s a case by case basis, and it’s extremely fluid,” he said.

Why have California’s wildfires been so destructive recently?

McLean explained that California has faced a significant drought over the past five years, which created a lot of dead vegetation across the state. Like other mediterranean climates, wintertime brings rain, which fills up water reserves and helps new vegetation grow. California also had a record amount of rainfall in the spring of 2017. But the summer’s heat dried out that new growth, and, combined with the autumn winds, means “a lot of fuel was created for wildfires,” he said.

“These wildfires in Southern California are unlike anywhere else in the West,” Peterson said. And this year in particular, that’s primarily because of the Santa Ana winds.

Indeed, “the fires that occur in Southern California in the fall and winter are unique,” Peterson said.

While most of the wind cycles across the U.S. blow off of the Pacific Ocean and move east, the Santa Ana winds blow off the desert in Arizona and move west toward California. These hot, dry winds, which can reach 50 miles per hour or more, along with warm weather and dead vegetation, is the perfect concoction for severe wildfires.

“This [the Santa Ana winds] usually happens to some extent every year, but, like all natural phenomena, happens more severely some years than others,” he said. One of the more severe years has been 2017.

Between the winds and the lightning storms, close to 10 million acres in the West have burned in 2017 alone, Peterson said.

McLean said there are millions of dead trees in California — but those primarily serve as potential fuel for wildfires to blaze across the northern part of the state. In Southern California, on the other hand, smaller fuels — like chaparral, which is a shrub-like plant with fine stems and leaves — propel the wildfires. 

“We’re not dealing much with forest in Southern California, we’re dealing more with chaparral — and that gets even hotter than a forest fire,” Peterson said.

“There’s a long road ahead of us. The fires we’ve dealt with recently — like the Thomas Fire — are all indicators of what we’re having to deal with in California for the next few years,” McLean added. 

“Rains are not a cure all with one winter — it will take several years of winters to get moisture back into plants and reservoirs.”

What is the impact on wine, entertainment and wildlife?

Smoke continues to billow in the hills behind Napa, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they were finally getting the upper hand against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home. (AP Photo/John Mone)

The wine industry can be affected by wildfires in California.  (The Associated Press)

Wildfires could also impact the state’s wine industry from an economic standpoint, wine experts previously told Fox News. The California wine industry generates $57.6 billion in annual economic activity in the state and $114 billion in the country, according to statistics from the Wine Institute, a California-based public policy organization.

About 325,000 Californians are employed by the wine industry in California. The industry also contributes $17.2 billion in wages annually in the state.

Additionally, it generates $7.2 billion in tourism expenditures in California.

One of the biggest revenue generators in the West are “recreational activities on public lands,” Peterson said — such as hiking, skiing or sightseeing.

“Businesses shut down, and smaller communities who depend on tourism are greatly impacted,” Peterson said.

As for wildlife, most animals can either fly or run away from the wildfires, while others can burrow underground. Peterson said that wildfires are actually a good thing for deer, elk, Bark Beetles and some types of vegetation. But for other animals — like the Spotted Owl and the Lynx, for example — wildfires are harmful, often destroying their habitats.  

“There’s always going to be winners and losers in wildfires,” Peterson said.

Additionally, the smoke from wildfires is hard on people who have respiratory problems. Elderly people and children are typically impacted by the smoke. 

Peterson recalled a time that there was so much smoke in the air from a wildfire it was difficult to talk.

As for the entertainment industry, the Hollywood Reporter reported that HBO suspended its second season of “Westworld” due to a 200-acre brush fire that broke out near where the show was filming.

Fox News’ Travis Fedschun and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

Report: Social media bolstered investigation of shark video


Authorities say social media posts bolstered their investigation into a video of a shark being dragged behind a speeding boat in Florida.

Three men were charged Tuesday with third-degree felony animal cruelty charges in connection with the video. They face up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines if convicted.

A Herald-Tribune report quoted investigative reports that said many events surrounding the shark dragging seen in the video were recorded on the social media Snapchat app.

Investigators said they obtained videos, photographs and text messages through search warrants for the men’s social media accounts.

Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rena Frazier said charges were “not typical charges, as we typically don’t see this manner of animal cruelty with marine life at our office.”


Information from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com

Pilot traces virtual Christmas tree in German test flight


A pilot has traced a virtual Christmas tree over Germany on a test flight with an Airbus A380.

Airbus spokesman Heiko Stolzke told news agency dpa Thursday that the nearly 5½-hour flight the previous day was “a standard internal Airbus test flight before the delivery of a new aircraft.”

He said the idea for the Christmas tree pattern of the flight, which took off from and landed at the company’s plant in Hamburg, came from the pilot and engineers on the flight and it was carried out in cooperation with air traffic control.

The plane turned several corners and loops during its flight to produce a pattern in the shape of a tree complete with baubles.

Missouri man tackled woman in road rage attack and remains on the run, cops say


A Missouri man who’s been charged after allegedly tackling a woman in a road-rage infused incident in suburban St. Louis last week remained on the loose Thursday, officials said.

Scott Heatherly, 50, was charged Tuesday with assault and two counts of property damage, FOX2NOW reported. The Arnold Police Department, however, said it were unable to locate him.

APD Lt. James Jones said the suspect was aware of the charges and would surrender — though he hasn’t yet. A judge ordered Heatherly be “held with bail set at $50,000 when taken into custody.”


Heatherly followed a woman in his truck Friday because he believed she threw something at his vehicle while both were on Interstate 55, police said. Heatherly followed the woman, who has not been identified, closely, flashing the truck’s lights, the woman later told police. She said she called her husband, who told her to stop in a parking lot.

Authorities said a security camera from the parking lot reportedly captured the crucial chain of events: Heatherly walked to the woman’s window, argued with her and then began kicking her car, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

After the woman got out of the car to take pictures of the suspect kicking her vehicle, Heatherly tackled her, took her phone and threw it across the parking lot, officials said. An off-duty deputy witnessed the incident and attempted to stop the suspect. But authorities said Heatherly drove off — nearly striking the woman with his truck.


“He was very close to hitting the victim,” Jones said. “She had to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Nazareth cancels Christmas celebrations over Trump's Israel decision


Just like during the original Christmas, Jesus’ birth will not be celebrated in Nazareth this year — though this time, it’s due to President Trump.

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has caused a backlash, particularly among Muslims, in the region, and the reaction’s reverberated to Nazareth, where the town’s mayor, Ali Salam, announced Thursday all planned Christmas events would be canceled.

Actors re-enact a nativity scene at Nazareth Village in northern Israel December 21, 2009, ahead of Christmas. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen (ISRAEL - Tags: RELIGION) - GM1E5CM04B401

Nazareth’s Christmas celebrations are a huge tourist attraction. The town is believed to be Jesus’ childhood home.  (Reuters)

“Our identity and faith cannot be bargained,” Salam said, according to 10 News. “[Trump’s] decision has taken away the joy of the holiday and we will cancel the festivities this year.”

Nazareth, the northern Israeli town which is home to a population made up mostly of Muslims and Christians, is scrapping all holiday plans, including a Christmas market and festival.

The annual events are a huge tourist attraction during the Christmas season. Nazareth is believed to be Jesus Christ’s childhood home; though, he was born in Bethlehem. Still, Nazareth is an important point on the Christian Christmas pilgrimage.

Trump’s announcement last week reversed decades of U.S. policy and made America the only country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The city is also claimed by the Palestinian population, and Jerusalem is home to some of the most sacred sites in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Trump has also ordered the U.S. embassy moved from Tel Aviv, though that process is likely to take years.

Trump’s announcement triggered violent protests, with terror group Hamas calling on supports to start an uprising against Israel. Two protesters have been killed in clashes with soldiers.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Hungary: Officials compare Germany's Martin Schulz to Hitler


A Hungarian government official has criticized the suggestion by Germany’s Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz that the EU should become a federal “United States of Europe” and countries that refuse should be forced to leave the bloc, saying that is the kind of “ultimatum” Hungary last received from Adolf Hitler.

Janos Lazar, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, said Thursday that Hungary does not want to give up any of the national powers it has under present EU rules.

Meanwhile, Laszlo Surjan, a Hungarian former vice-president of the European Parliament, said Schulz’s aggressiveness was unacceptable, adding “this is the voice that reminds me of Adolf Hitler.”

Hungary was on Germany’s side during World War II, but Hitler invaded the country in 1944 when Hungary was seeking an armistice with Allied forces.

Las Vegas' struggles of the past decade are all too visible


Even as a handful of major U.S. cities around the country have flourished in the 10 years since the Great Recession officially began in December 2007, other large cities have eked out only modest recoveries. Some are still straining to shed the scars of recession.

Las Vegas is one of them. Families in that metro area still earn nearly 20 percent less, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 2007.

In parts of the Las Vegas area, the struggles are all too visible. Half-finished housing developments, relics of the housing boom that preceded the recession, pockmark the surrounding desert. They symbolize the belief in endless economic possibility that seized the Las Vegas area in the early 2000’s — and its unraveling in the years that followed.

The Latest: Judges examine racial bias in stash-house stings


The Latest on examination by judges of possible racial bias in drug stash-house stings (all times local):

9:30 a.m.

An unprecedented panel of nine federal trial judges has begun hearing evidence in Chicago on whether phony stash-house stings are racially biased.

The first witness to take the stand Thursday is a law enforcement expert for the defense who is expected to testify about his conclusion that data supports the claim that the stings discriminate against blacks.

Lawyers and U.S. prosecutors fill several rows of seat, and dozens of defendants in charged in stash-house cases are sitting in the jury box. If the judge do conclude bias led to their arrests, those men could go free.


12:02 a.m.

The question of whether federal agents display racial bias by staging phony drug stash-house stings overwhelmingly in black neighborhoods is the focus of landmark hearings in Chicago.

A first-of-its-kind panel of federal trial judges begins two days of hearings Thursday on the stings. The operations typically involve agents posing as Mexican cartel couriers who talk suspects into agreeing to rob caches of drugs that don’t actually exist.

The nine panelists each presides over a dozen separate stash-house cases. They decided to hear evidence simultaneously on the question after defense lawyers in the 12 cases all moved for the indictments to be tossed on grounds of racial bias.

How each judge rules in coming weeks could lead agencies nationwide to curtail their reliance on such stings.

2nd woman accuses Dem Rep. Kihuen of sexual misconduct; Dem leaders torn over resignation


A second woman has come forward alleging that Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., made inappropriate sexual advances toward her – claiming he asked her to sit on his lap and sent dozens of suggestive Facebook messages and hundreds of text messages.

The woman, a lobbyist who has not been identified, told The Nevada Independent that Kihuen touched her thighs or buttocks three separate times without her consent when he was a state senator.

She also said he sent her a shirtless photo and asked her to sit on his lap.

The once-rising star of the Democratic Party allegedly texted her: “What color are your panties?”

When she didn’t respond, he wrote, “Makes me sad. My day can’t go on without knowing.”

The lobbyist told the Nevada paper she didn’t think Kihuen thinks what he did was wrong.

“I think he just thought he was playing around, which, I don’t think he realized the position he probably put people in,” she said. 

Kihuen’s office did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment from Fox News. 

The new allegations come as Democrats remain divided on how to handle the situation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who heads the Democrats’ campaign arm, have called on Kihuen to resign.

Alm Franken FBN AP

Sen. Al Franken is one of several lawmakers resigning or under pressure to resign amid sexual misconduct claims.  (AP)

“In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The young woman’s documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward.”

Pelosi made the statement after BuzzFeed first published allegations of unwanted sexual advances made by Kihuen’s then-campaign finance director.

While Pelosi was quick to call for Kihuen’s resignation, others in the party like Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., have taken a wait-and-see approach.

Kihuen is the latest lawmaker on Capitol Hill whose political future could be in jeopardy following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold announced Thursday he would not seek reelection after he was accused of calling staffers “f—tards” and sexually demeaning them and their spouses.

Former staffers accused Farenthold of routinely commenting on the size of women’s breasts and making jokes about being on “redhead patrol” because he was attracted to women with red hair. 

His former communications director Michael Rekola also told CNN that in July 2015, Rekola was leaving the office so he could get married when Farenthold told him he “better have your finacee blow you before she walks down the aisle- it will be the last time.” 

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., resigned earlier this month after a tidal wave of resignation calls by members of his own party. Eight women accused Franken of inappropriate behavior. Thirty-six Democratic lawmakers demanded he step down.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the longest-serving member of Congress also retired following allegations he sexually harassed multiple women.

Lawsuit challenges cancellation of farmer fair practice rule


Farmers in Alabama and Nebraska have joined a Nebraska-based fair trade group to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the agency’s cancellation of rules that would have made it easier for farmers to demand better treatment when contracting with meatpacking companies.

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A lawsuit filed Thursday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeks to reverse the October USDA decision vacating the rules.

The rules would have made it easier for farmers to sue over contracts deemed unfair, discriminatory or deceptive. They were proposed during President Barack Obama’s administration and canceled after Donald Trump took office.

Nonprofit-based legal group Democracy Forward sued on behalf of Lincoln, Nebraska-based Organization for Competitive Markets; Nebraska farmer James Dinklage; and Alabama farm couple Jonathan and Connie Buttram.

A USDA spokesman declined comment.

Sports unions unveil universal declaration of player rights


Leaders from the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball players associations have helped unveil a universal declaration of player rights that is designed to establish a new approach to governing sports and protecting athletes.

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Among the 17 articles laid out in the declaration are rights to unionize and collectively bargain, express opinions freely and receive equal pay for equal work. The declaration was made Thursday by the World Players Association.

Executive directors DeMaurice Smith of the NFL Players Association, Michele Roberts of the National Basketball Players Association, Don Fehr of the NHL Players’ Association and Tony Clark of the Major League Baseball Players Association are part of the group of more than 100 unions that released the declaration.

The launch of the universal declaration of player rights comes on the heels of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

Bridgeville man arrested for forging medical documents


Milford Police have arrested a Bridgeville man on forgery charges. Police say Cameron Carlisle altered a document from his doctor to use in a court hearing. Carlisle tried to present the document as reasoning for why he failed a drug test, however, further investigation revealed the note was altered or falsified. Carlisle was charged with forgery and falsifying business documents.

US 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rate slips to 3.93 percent


The rate on 30-year fixed-rate U.S. mortgages slipped to 3.93 percent this week.

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Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the benchmark 30-year home loan rate was down from 3.94 percent last week and 4.16 percent a year ago.

The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular with those refinancing their homes, was unchanged this week at 3.36 percent. It was 3.37 percent a year ago.

The rate on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 3.36 percent from 3.35 percent last week and 3.19 percent a year ago.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates for the third time in 2017. “The market had already priced in the rate hike, so long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, hardly moved,” said Len Kiefer, a Freddie Mac economist.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

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The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year home loans also remained at 0.5 point. The fee on an adjustable five-year mortgage was unchanged at 0.3 point.

The Latest: Huge fire now 4th largest in California history


The Latest on California wildfires (all times local):

7:15 a.m.

The colossal wildfire burning northwest of Los Angeles is now the fourth largest in California history and authorities say it will likely keep growing as increasing winds fan the flames. numerals

State officials said Thursday that the so-called Thomas fire straddling coastal Ventura and Santa Barbara counties now covers 379 square miles (982 square kilometers). That surpasses a blaze that burned inland Santa Barbara County a decade ago.

Some evacuations have been lifted, but authorities say seaside towns including Montecito and Carpinteria remain under threat. The fire is 30 percent contained after destroying 970 structures.

The National Weather Service says extreme fire danger conditions from dry Santa Ana winds could last through the weekend.


5:30 a.m.

Fire officials hope to lift some evacuations for Southern California’s huge wildfire but warn that predicted Santa Ana winds could once again mean danger for communities.

The blaze northwest of Los Angeles is about a third contained and authorities say the risk to the inland agricultural city of Fillmore is diminishing. But coastal enclaves to the west remain under threat Thursday as crews protect hillside homes in Montecito and Carpinteria.

The National Weather Service says extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds.

Since the blaze broke out Dec. 4, it has burned more than 372 square miles (965 square kilometers) and destroyed 921 buildings — including at least 700 homes.


12:30 a.m.

Fire lines have been established around nearly a third of one of the largest wildfires in California history, but danger remains.

Coastal communities in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties were warned Wednesday that they’re still at risk if unpredictable winds whip up again and fan the flames.

The National Weather Service extended warnings through Friday of extreme fire danger conditions throughout much of Southern California due to lack of moisture along with a possible increase in wind gust speeds at the end of the week.

To the south in San Diego County, firefighters had come very close to containing another major wildfire. That blaze killed 46 race horses at a training center, and left one of their trainers with serious burns.

Michigan police officers handcuff screaming girl, 11, at gunpoint, video shows


Michigan police officers searching for a stabbing suspect instead handcuffed an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint while she screamed in terror — an incident caught on video that the police chief called “inappropriate.”

On Dec. 6, Grand Rapids Police Department officers were searching for Carrie Sue Manning, 41, who was accused of stabbing her younger sister. Police officers approached a home as Honestie Hodges, her mother Whitney and one of her aunts were walking out, FOX17 West Michigan reported.

“The cops turned on their flashlights and had guns in their hands,” the 11-year-old told the news station. “We were all put into separate cop cars.”

The department has opened an internal investigation into the matter.

In a body camera video the police department released on Tuesday, Honestie is heard screaming while police officers are pointing a gun toward her as they place handcuffs on her wrists.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Honestie told the station. “I didn’t do anything wrong, I’ve never got in trouble by the Grand Rapids Police. I used to want to be a Grand Rapids police officer, but ever since that happened, I want nothing to do with them.”

Police officers feared Manning, who is Honestie’s aunt, could have been in the house. They later located her in the neighboring residence and arrested her. Manning was charged with attempted murder.

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky admitted on Tuesday the officers’ actions were “inappropriate,” adding that the department does “have a problem.”

“The juvenile was treated the same way we would have treated any adult, and when you’re dealing with an 11-year-old, it’s inappropriate,” Rahinsky said. “The screams of the 11-year-old, they go to your heart, you hear the mother yelling from the steps ‘that’s my child,’ and that’s our community’s child.”

He added, “That’s someone who lives in Grand Rapids, that’s somebody who should feel safe running to an officer.”

Rahinsky said Honestie, her mom and aunt were handcuffed to ensure they weren’t carrying a weapon. He added that changes are necessary for the future and an internal investigation is being conducted.

The Hodges family are filing a complaint against the police department. 

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam

Mom styles toddler’s pink hair, sparks internet frenzy


Though kids can be apt to many flights of fancy, it’s one Florida mom’s apparent encouragement of a grown-up beauty look for her 3-year-old daughter that has Instagram users up in arms.

On Dec. 2, makeup and fitness vlogger Charity Grace LeBlanc posted a video on Instagram in which she styles her daughter Felicity’s pink halo of hair into a Shirley Temple-esque look using a thin, hot curling wand. Over 90,000 views and 230 comments soon poured in on LeBlanc’s divisive post, which she captioned “When you get curls and suddenly your sass factor goes through the roof,” as little City blows a kiss at the camera.


For better or worse, LeBlanc’s 313,000-plus Instagram fans both loved and loathed the quick clip. “Girl, you’re the mom I wanna be,” wrote one user. “I have a 3 month old. Can’t wait to fix her hair when it’s long enough,” another chimed in. “Mother and daughter goals,” another simply said.

Meanwhile, others thought it was irresponsible for the mom to dye and style her three-year-old’s hair in such a way.


“She’s so adorable. I’m totally in love w her and her cuteness , but aren’t u damaging her hair that way ?? She’s still VERY young for hair dyes … when she grows up there’s nothing left to do cuz she’s done it when she was little which isn’t really pleasant for her,” one detractor mused.

Nevertheless, this isn’t the first time LeBlanc has caught heat for her sweet daughter’s rosey locks.

Initially dying City’s hair pink this summer, when the girl was two, she said on YouTube that City had been “begging for a long time” for the look, which she created with kid-safe dye that washed out a few days later.


Italy's 2017 Nativity scenes feature Trump, Kim _ and Jedis


Naples’ Christmas artisans are at it again, turning figures from current events into ceramic characters to decorate miniature Nativity scenes that take over Italian living rooms this time of year.

Hot sellers this year include Jedi warriors from the new Star Wars movie and statuettes of U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, toting a missile and flying in a little propeller plane.

Artisan Marco Ferrigno said he made the Trump and Kim figurines as a joke. From his workshop in Naples’ historic center, he said he hoped it remained a joke because the two “are starting to become a bit scary in the way they are facing off.”

Naples has been famous for centuries for its Nativity scenes depicting Jesus’ birth.