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Texas city requires no Israel boycott in exchange for hurricane relief

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A civil rights group on Friday called unconstitutional a Houston suburb’s hurricane repair grant program that says residents cannot boycott Israel as a condition of receiving any money.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it’s considering legal action against the city of Dickinson over its Hurricane Harvey repair grant program, which will provide money to people whose homes and businesses in the city were damaged.

The grant program’s application has a section in which individuals have to acknowledge they “will not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement.”

“The Supreme Court has made very clear that participation in political boycotts is fully protected by the First Amendment,” said ACLU staff attorney Brian Hauss.

The boycott language was included to comply with a new state law prohibiting Texas agencies from contracting with companies boycotting Israel, said David Olson, the city attorney in Dickinson, located about 30 miles southeast of Houston.

The law, which took effect Sept. 1, prohibits all state agencies from contracting with, and some public funds from investing in, companies that boycott Israel.

Olson said it’s unclear if the new law applies to the city’s grant program, funded by more than $1 million in private donations for victims. The confusion exists because once the city took control of the money, it became public funds and Dickinson had to create a grant program to distribute them, he said. The city classifies individuals receiving the grants as independent contractors.

“We’re just trying to do what’s right, comply with state law and make sure the residents get every benefit that we can lawfully give them,” Olson said.

Dickinson was one of the areas hardest hit by Harvey’s torrential rainfall in late August. More than 7,300 homes in the city were damaged, displacing about 7,900 residents.

Dickinson is waiting to hear back from state officials on whether the law applies to the city’s grant program and if it doesn’t, “then there’s no reason for us to have it in the agreement,” Olson said.
“The city does not take a political stance on the (boycott) itself. They are not for or against it,” he said.

Hauss said the main issue in this case is the state law and the ACLU’s belief that the law is “fundamentally unconstitutional.”

Twenty-one states, including Texas, have passed laws that prohibit them from entering into contracts with individuals or companies participating in a boycott of Israel. Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Kansas on behalf of a teacher challenging that state’s boycott law.

“The state cannot condition government benefits, ranging from disaster relief to just access to government contracts, on the forfeiture of … First Amendment rights,” Hauss said.

Olson said Dickinson officials hope to have heard back from the state by next Tuesday’s city council meeting so a decision can be made on whether to change the grant program’s no boycott requirement.

Somalia to announce 'state of war' against al-Shabab following deadly truck bombing

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Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is expected to announce a “state of war” against al-Shabab, the extremist group held responsible for last week’s deadly truck bombing that killed at least 358 people, an official said on Friday.

The U.S. is anticipated to back the move, according to an unnamed military official. This comes after the U.S. carried out a drone strike on Monday against the terror group.

Somalia military personnel will work to push al-Shabab fighters out of strongholds in the Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions, according to Capt. Abdullahi Iman, Somalia’s army spokesman.

The announcement comes after thousands gathered at the attack site on Friday to pray. At least 56 people are still missing and more than 200 wounded.

US DRONE STRIKE TARGETS AL-SHABAB AFTER SOMALIA ATTACK

A huge explosion from a truck bomb went off in a crowded street in capital city of Mogadishu last weekend. Some residents said it was the most powerful blast they’d heard in years.

As the death toll continued to rise, local hospitals in the area became overwhelmed with victims. More than 70 critically injured people were airlifted to Turkey, leaving behind anxious relatives who prayed for their recovery.

The country’s president declared three days of mourning and joined the thousands of people who answered the call from hospitals for much needed blood donations.

POPE DEPLORES SOMALIA BOMBING THAT KILLED OVER 300

“This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past,” said Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina hospital.

The Somalian government described the attack as a “national disaster” and laid blame on al-Shabab.

“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said. “They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”

The U.S. condemned the bombing, calling it a “cowardly attack.” The United Nations special envoy to Somalia said the attack was “revolting.”

Kansas driver makes students 'feel good' with festive school bus decorations

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Come and ride Ms. Dumcum’s school bus! 

A Kansas bus driver makes it her highest priority to boost the morale of the students she picks up and drops off every day.

Jan Dumcum, of Goddard, Kan., has been driving the bus in the school district for five years, KAKE reported. Dumcum’s bus, similar to many other yellow school buses on the outside, has a totally different atmosphere once you step inside.

KANSAS SCIENCE TEACHER ACCUSED OF ‘SEXUAL RELATIONS’ WITH STUDENT HEADED TO TRIAL

Dumcum decorates her bus to match the holiday. She told KAKE her vehicle is festive to make students feel “good about themselves.”

“Everything that is up here has a purpose. I want them (the students) to feel good about themselves. I want them to feel like they can do anything,” Dumcum told KAKE.

Dumcum also keeps a bell by the door that the students ring to remind her they were going to have a “good day.”

“I decided they would announce they were going to have a good day by ringing the bell and in the evening when they rang the bell, they had a good day,” the bus driver said.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS ‘RECRUIT’ BOY WITH CANCER, MAKING HIS ‘DREAM COME TRUE’

Dumcum said the safety of the children was her main priority but was cautious of the drivers who fail to stop behind the bus.

“There are people on that street that can’t give me three minutes to get my kids safely and that’s very frustrating,” the driver said.

The bus, which is currently decorated for Halloween, will also be adorned for Christmas. KAKE said the bus would be embellished with lights to help students get into the holiday spirit.

“I want everybody in this school district that rides my bus to know that the sky’s the limit. You can do anything,” Dumcum said. 

At the Buzzer | Sixers Stymied by C's in Home Opener

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Recap:

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The mission for the 76ers going into Friday’s home opener was a relatively straightforward one.

Give the loyal, pumped up, sold out crowd of 20,478 something to “cheer for and cheer about,” Brett Brown said about an hour and half before tip-off at The Center. 

As the fifth-year head coach put it, “Rarely has it been any simpler than just spilling your guts on the floor, and playing hard.”

Brown’s team seemed to take that mindset to heart, battling best it could through a choppy Atlantic Division affair against the Boston Celtics. The undermanned C’s, however, delivered a strong enough closing kick to topple the Sixers, 102-92.

After falling behind by as many as 8 points in the second quarter, the Sixers summoned up an impressive response, en route to closing the first half on a 21-9 spurt to take a 50-46 lead into the break. 

The Sixers carried a 3-point edge into the fourth frame, but Boston’s defense tightened its screws, outscoring its hosts 33-20 over the final 12 minutes of regulation. The victory was the Celts’ first in three tries. 

The backcourt duo of JJ Redick and Jerryd Bayless paced the Sixers, as the vets tallied 19 points and 18 points, respectively.

Ben Simmons, with 10 points and 11 rebounds, became the first player in franchise history, and 11th overall in NBA history, to record a double-double in the opening two games of his career.

Sixers Social:

Joel Embiid was held to 4 of 16 shooting Friday, but this sequence represented his most authoritative deposit of the night. He finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double to begin the new year.

Up Next:

The Sixers will complete their first of 14 back-to-back sets on the season with a second straight Atlantic Division match-up, visiting the Toronto Raptors Saturday (7:30 PM EST). The Raps, which saw their three-year run atop the Atlantic Division end this past spring, re-upped with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka this summer. Toronto downed Chicago, 117-100, in its opener Thursday at Air Canada Centre.

 

Singer Selena Quintanilla to receive star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

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Beloved Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla will be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame more than 20 years after her death.

The unveiling will take place on Nov. 3 and her sister Suzette Quintanilla Arriaga will join Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Leron Gubler for the ceremony, Fox 11 Los Angeles reported.

“Before there was JLo, Shakira or Beyonce, there was a transformative female artist called Selena,” said Otto Padron, president of Meruelo Media and the official sponsor of the tribute. “Selena is one of the most influential music icons of the 20th century; her music, style and smile are timeless and now her star will grace our city forever.”

COUNTRY SINGER KAYLEE KELLER HAS ‘ENOUGH SELF WORTH’ TO SAY ‘NO’ TO OPPORTUNITIES THAT CONFLICT WITH HER VALUES

The Texas native’s star will be the 2,622nd on the Walk of Fame and will sit in front of the Capitol Records building, Fox 11 said.

The day will also reportedly be marked as “Selena Day” in a second ceremony that evening, attended by the mayor of Los Angeles and actress Eva Longoria.

Considered by her fans as the “queen of Tejano music,” Quintanilla died in March 1995 after she was fatally shot by the president of her fan club.

She was the first Tejano artist to win a Grammy award and her last record, released after her death, became her first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, Billboard said. She is known for songs like “Dreaming of You” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.”

Obama ambassador's testimony on intelligence unmasking raises new questions

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Congressional testimony by President Barack Obama’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, about the “unmasking” of U.S. citizens’ names she requested in hundreds of foreign intelligence intercepts by the National Security Agency, has raised new questions about how the sensitive information was ordered up, and subsequently handled.

Power spoke to the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 13 behind closed doors, and what she said is still cloaked in secrecy. But on Oct. 17, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, who also sits on the Intelligence Committee, told Fox News: “Her testimony is they [the unmasking requests] may be under my name, but I did not make those requests.” Gowdy said little else about the session.

The sheer volume of such requests submitted to U.S. intelligence authorities in her name was already unusual. But if she did not initiate them, then who did, and why? Was the resulting information delivered to Power, as the normal protocols of handling such constitutionally-protected information require? Was she even aware of the gush of highly sensitive and secret information solicited under her name?

So far, Power has not responded to queries on those issues, which were emailed by Fox News to her Harvard University office on Oct. 19.

According to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, a Fox News contributor, if someone submitted unmasking requests in Power’s name without her knowledge or consent, it would be “potentially criminal.”

“Unmasking” involves asking U.S. intelligence authorities to fill in the redacted names of U.S. citizens whose comments are caught up in the NSA’s foreign intelligence intercepts, which are routinely removed to protect their Fourth Amendment rights. Such revelations are supposed to be relatively rare, clearly justified and tightly controlled.

Samantha Power, President Obama's pick to be the next US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Samantha Power  (AP)

The issue flared, however, after the unmasked name of the Trump Administration’s disgraced former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, was leaked in connection with conversations with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

Concerned at the leakage of unmasked names, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has been delving into what happened, and how to prevent abuses.

In May, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the unmasking requests of three former senior Obama administration officials: Power, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan. Power agreed in July to appear before the House committee; Rice spoke to the committee in closed door session on Sept. 6.

Power’s role in the unmasking affair was highlighted by Nunes in a July 27 letter to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats. In the letter, the House committee chairman cited an unnamed Obama Administration official for the high volume of their unmasking requests, noting that this official’s position had “no apparent intelligence-related function.” The official was widely believed to be Power, something she never denied.

In August, Nunes wrote to the head of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael Rogers, asking for the total number of unmasking requests made by former deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, during the 13 months prior to President Trump’s inauguration.

With the exception of career-CIA officer Brennan, the other persons are a group of politically-appointed Obama loyalists, all serving at various times during his administration on the National Security Council.

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2016 file photo Deputy National Security Adviser For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. The White House is working to contain the damage caused by a magazine profile of one of President Barack Obama's top aides. In a blog post published late Sunday, May 8, 2016, Rhodes said the public relations campaign he created to sell the Iran nuclear deal was intended only "to push out facts." Rhodes says outside groups that participated "believed in the merits of the deal." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

In this Feb. 16, 2016 file photo Deputy National Security Adviser For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington.  (AP)

Rhodes was on the NSC as a deputy national security advisor throughout Obama’s two terms, from 2009-2017. He was profiled in the New York Times Magazine last year as Obama’s foreign-policy guru, especially on Iran. He told the Times, “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”

Rice served during Obama’s first term, from 2009-2013, as his ambassador to the U.N., a post Obama designated as cabinet level. During Obama’s second term, Rice served as head of the NSC, with Rhodes as one of her deputies.

Power, a former journalist, served during Obama’s first term on the NSC, designing and running a body called the Atrocities Prevention Board. She kept a seat on the NSC during Obama’s second term, while also replacing Rice from 2013-2017 as U.N. ambassador.

Interestingly enough, for purposes of congressional inquiries into the unmasking issue, all three of the politically appointed former Obama administration officials — Power, Rhodes and Rice — have something else in common: lawyers who served alongside them in the Obama White House, adding another layer of insider complexity to the issue.

In July, for a meeting with investigators from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Power was represented by David Pressman, a former Obama administration official, who was described in news accounts at the time simply as her attorney. At the time, Pressman declared, among other things, that “any insinuation that Ambassador Power was involved in leaking classified information is absolutely false.”

As reported by Fox News on Sept. 12, Pressman’s ties to Power were closer and rather more extensive than simply legal representation. He had worked intensively with Power during most of the interval under scrutiny in the unmasking probe.

FILE - In this Tuesday Aug. 6, 2013, file photo, New U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addresses the United Nations Security Council. Ambassador Power is urging young activists to keep pushing for results and avoid bureaucracies that don’t prioritize progress. In her first public speech as ambassador in Los Angeles on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. Ambassador Power criticized the United Nations for allowing politics, ideology and entrenched habits to get in the way of its work at times, while praising those who get results and focus on problem-solving. The remarks came during the closing ceremonies of the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit at UCLA Saturday, a gathering organized by the advocacy group Invisible Children. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

FILE – In this Tuesday Aug. 6, 2013, file photo, New U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addresses the United Nations Security Council. Ambassador Power is urging young activists to keep pushing for results and avoid bureaucracies that don’t prioritize progress. In her first public speech as ambassador in Los Angeles on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. Ambassador Power criticized the United Nations for allowing politics, ideology and entrenched habits to get in the way of its work at times, while praising those who get results and focus on problem-solving. The remarks came during the closing ceremonies of the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit at UCLA Saturday, a gathering organized by the advocacy group Invisible Children. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)  (AP)

Until last November, Pressman was one of Power’s closest associates at the U.S. mission to the U.N., sharing an office suite with Power and serving for two years, from 2014-2016, as her alternate, with the rank of ambassador, on the U.N. Security Council. In that position, he had access to daily intelligence briefings, and dealt with such sensitive issues as the Middle East and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

When Pressman resigned from the administration the week before the election, to go into private practice, Power praised him as having been her “partner.”

It was a partnership that arrived at the U.S. mission by way of the White House, where Pressman and Power (and Ben Rhodes) overlapped on the National Security Council, during Obama’s first term. In 2011, Pressman and Power coauthored an article for the White House blog about Obama’s creation under the NSC of the Atrocities Prevention Board, which Power chaired, and on which Pressman also had a seat.

The personal connections dated back even earlier. Power, in the acknowledgments to her 2008 book “Chasing the Flame,” praised Rhodes for his daily support and listed Pressman among her “close friends.”

As Fox News noted, congressional investigators might usefully have tapped Pressman for insights into the inner workings of the U.S. mission during the period of the many unmaskings under Power’s name, had Pressman not been acting as Power’s attorney.

Now, however, Pressman has apparently stepped aside, at least for the time being, from that role. A spokesperson for Pressman’s law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, told Fox that “Boies Schiller Flexner LLP continues to represent Ambassador Power,” but added: “David Pressman was one of the lawyers that represented the Ambassador for her Senate appearance; other lawyers at the firm are representing the Ambassador for the purpose of her House appearance.”

Boies Schiller Flexner did not respond to queries about the identities of the “other lawyers” who are now representing Power. But when Power appeared before the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 13, the lawyer representing her was Michael Gottlieb, from Boies Schiller’s Washington office.

0227 brennan

Former CIA Director John Brennan

Gottlieb has also been acting as an attorney for Ben Rhodes, whom he represented for an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee in July. Rhodes has not yet testified to the House Intelligence Committee, but it is considered likely he will have that opportunity.

As it happens, Gottlieb is another veteran of the Obama White House, where he served during Obama’s first term as an associate counsel, leaving in 2013.

No additional information has surfaced on who at Boies Schiller might also be representing Power. But if service in the Obama administration is a qualifying credential, the firm has a pool of former Obama administration legal talent on tap, including at least three other former associate counsels to Obama.

Susan Rice has been represented, via a different law firm, by another former star of the Obama administration’s legal firmament, former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler. Now a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, Ruemmler is described on the firm’s web site as having been “President Obama’s chief lawyer” and “one of his most senior advisers.” She worked for almost six years in the Obama administration. First, she worked at the Department of Justice and then from 2011-2014 she worked at the White House, attending high-level conclaves along with officials such as Power and Rice.

When Ruemmler left the administration in 2014, the New York Times profiled her as someone who had “held powerful sway” at the Obama White House. Among other things, the Times reported that Ruemmler “took a hard line in internal debates about keeping executive branch documents secret” — a line that “contributed to Mr. Obama’s transition from promising greater transparency to being criticized even by his own allies for excessive secrecy.”

Claudia Rosett is a foreign policy fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum and blogs at PJMedia.com. George Russell is editor-at-large of Fox News.

Yellen says Fed's extraordinary policies may be needed again

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Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday defended the central bank’s extraordinary efforts to fight the Great Recession and said they might be needed again.

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During the recession, the Fed pushed short-term interest rates to zero. When the economy needed more help, it took the extraordinary step of buying hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of bonds to push long-term interest rates lower.

Now the economy is improving: It grew at a sprightly 3.1 percent annual pace from April through September, and the unemployment rate has tumbled to a 16-year low 4.2 percent.

“The U.S. economy has made great strides,” Yellen said in a speech Friday at a gathering of the National Economists Club at the British embassy in Washington.

So the Fed has reversed policy and is raising short-term rates and reducing its massive bond portfolio.

More from FOX Business

But Yellen said the Fed likely will have to turn to bond purchases again — even in a downturn that isn’t as bad as the 2007-2009 Great Recession, which was the worst since the 1930s.

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She said that’s because economic forces have driven short-term interest rates to unusually low levels. That means the Fed will have less room to cut rates to spur economic growth in a recession, leaving few alternatives but to buy bonds again.

Kahnle a postseason force for Yankees

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When Brian Cashman was volleying trade proposals with White Sox counterpart Rick Hahn in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Yankees’ general manager refused to go any further in negotiations unless right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle was included in the deal.

Yanks confident with CC in potential Game 7

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If there’s a deciding Game 7, the Yankees at least have the peace of mind knowing they can turn to veteran left-hander CC Sabathia to face the Astros in the final game of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.

Court temporarily blocks undocumented teen from having abortion

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A federal appeals court in Washington ruled Friday to temporarily block a pregnant teenager who entered the United States illegally from have the abortion she is seeking.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia gave the government until Oct. 31 to release the 17-year-old girl into the custody of a so-called sponsor, such as an adult relative in the United States. If that happens, she could obtain an abortion if she chooses. If she isn’t released, the case can go back to court.

The teen, who goes by “Jane Doe” in court documents and whose country of origin has been withheld, crossed into the U.S. in September and learned she was pregnant while in custody. A lower court ruled earlier this week that she should be able to obtain an abortion Friday or Saturday, but the government appealed.

The teen is currently being held at a Texas detention facility. Court documents indicate that she is 15 weeks pregnant. Texas law forbids abortions later than 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

During arguments at the appeals court Friday morning, a lawyer arguing on behalf of the teen told the judges that all the government needs to do is “get out of the way.”

But Trump administration lawyer Catherine Dorsey told the judges that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for sheltering children who illegally enter the country unaccompanied by a parent, has a policy of “refusing to facilitate” abortions and that releasing the teen would require arranging a transfer of custody and follow-up care.

The possibility of the teen being released to a sponsor was raised at the court hearing.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was appointed by George W. Bush, suggested that releasing the teen to a sponsor would seem to be the best option. That, he said, would get the teen out of the facility where she is being held, allow her to obtain an abortion and leave the government out of it. Brigitte Amiri, a lawyer for the ACLU representing the girl, said a sponsor hadn’t yet been found and that the process could take months. At least one potential sponsor has fallen through.

In a two-page order, Kavanaugh and Judge Karen Henderson, appointed by George H.W. Bush, joined to say that if a sponsor is found by Oct. 31 and the teen released, the government agrees she “will be lawfully able, if she chooses, to obtain an abortion on her own pursuant to the relevant state law.” Judge Patricia Millett, who was appointed by Barack Obama, didn’t join the order. Millett would have allowed the girl to obtain an abortion as the court ruled earlier this week.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mexican prosecutor fired for revealing corruption probe

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The Mexican government has fired the top electoral-crimes prosecutor for revealing an investigation that opponents say indicates possible corrupt financing for the ruling party.

The Attorney General’s Office says prosecutor Santiago Nieto was fired for violating agency rules, but didn’t specify which rules.

An official with the office said Nieto revealed information about an ongoing investigation. The official was not authorized to be quoted by name. Criminal investigations are not public in Mexico.

But opposition parties said Friday that Nieto was fired because he was investigating whether bribe money paid by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht had made its way into the campaign coffers of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

The National Action Party said it opposed the firing and would fight it in the Senate.

Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson: White House 'is full of white supremacists'

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Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, in the midst of a public feud with the Trump administration over the treatment of a Gold Star family, said the “White House itself is full of white supremacists.”

In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Wilson pushed back against comments made by White House chief of staff John Kelly during a Thursday press briefing in which he criticized Wilson’s involvement in a personal call President Trump made to the family of fallen Army Sgt. La David Johnson.

Johnson was one of four Americans killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4. In the call, the president told Johnson’s widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for,” Wilson said.

Trump said that Wilson “totally fabricated” what he told Myeshia Johnson, the soldier’s widow.

WHITE HOUSE DOUBLES DOWN ON JOHN KELLY’S ‘EMPTY BARREL’ SLAM: ‘ALL HAT, NO CATTLE’

Kelly said he was “broken-hearted” by Wilson’s involvement in the call. During his remarks, Kelly also criticized Wilson by recalling her comments during the 2015 dedication of a FBI field office in Miramar, Fla.

He said Wilson “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down.”

But video of that event, released on Friday, showed that Wilson did not actually talk about the building’s funding, but instead spoke of her own efforts getting legislation passed naming the building after the fallen agents it was dedicated for.

“I feel very sorry for him because he feels such a need to lie on me and I’m not even his enemy,” Wilson said of Kelly, according to The Times. “I just can’t even imagine why he would fabricate something like that. That is absolutely insane. I’m just flabbergasted because it’s very easy to trace.”

Wilson didn’t label Kelly a racist in the piece but did claim that others in the White House are.

“They are making themselves look like fools. They have no credibility,” she said. “They are trying to assassinate my character, and they are assassinating their own because everything they say is coming out and shown to be a lie.”

The White House didn’t back down from Kelly’s comments during a Friday afternoon press briefing. Kelly, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “absolutely” stands by his slam.

“As Gen. Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes all about yourself, you’re an empty barrel,” Sanders said. “If you don’t understand that reference, I will put it a little bit more simply. As we say in the South: ‘all hat, no cattle.’” 

Yanks-Astros ALCS Game 6: In Real Life

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MLB.com is on the scene at Minute Maid Park as excitement builds for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World between the Yankees and Astros.

4 Tax Credits You're Missing

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Cutting your tax liability is an art. It requires creativity, commitment, and a long-term vision.

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Here’s a quick story to show you what I mean. Near the turn of the 20th century, a French postman named Ferdinand Cheval started collecting stones along his delivery route. Over the next 33 years, he used those stones to build a fantastically ornate miniature palace standing some 30 feet high in places.

What does that have to do with taxes? Well, within the IRS’ labyrinthine tax code, there are countless tax credits that, taken individually, have only a small impact. But stack them up as Cheval stacked his stones, and eventually a palace emerges.

Remember, a tax “credit,” like the ones listed here, is different from a “deduction.” A tax credit directly reduces the total tax amount owed. A deduction, however, only reduces the amount of income on which you must pay tax. Therefore, tax credits are often more valuable. Consider putting these broadly applicable tax credits to work for you.

The Lifetime Learning Credit

Those who qualify for this non-refundable credit can claim 20% of their first $10,000 in education-related expenses, for a maximum credit of $2,000. You can claim the credit for educational expenses incurred by you, your spouse, or a dependent listed on your tax return. The credit applies to required expenses for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree courses. This includes courses to acquire or improve job skills. The full value of the credit is available to those with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $65,000 or less. This limit rises to $131,000 for those who are married and filing jointly.

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The IRS is surprisingly flexible with the Lifetime Learning Credit, which can even be applied to qualified education expenses paid for with a loan. Additionally, there is no limit to the number of years in which you can claim it: As long as you’re taking qualifying courses and paying qualifying expenses, you’re eligible.

You can find more details on the Lifetime Learning Credit and its restrictions in this article

American Opportunity Tax Credit

The AOTC is powerful because it offers substantial savings and has higher income limits than the Lifetime Learning Credit. IRS rules state that those with a MAGI of $80,000 or less are permitted to claim the credit for qualified student expenses. For joint filers the AGI limit is $160,000. You can cash in on the full credit of $2,500 per student against expenses like tuition and course materials as long as your modified adjusted gross income doesn’t exceed $80,000 as a single taxpayer or $160,000 as a married couple filing jointly. An income higher than these amounts doesn’t necessarily preclude someone from benefiting from the AOTC. Rather, the total value of the credit will be reduced. However, single taxpayers with a MAGI exceeding $90,000, and couples filing jointly with a MAGI greater than $180,000, are not eligible.

Given that student loan debt has become a financial epidemic, many Americans should see whether this generous credit applies to them. Also, a portion of the credit is refundable: If it reduces your tax liability to $0 (or if you didn’t owe anything to begin with), then you will be redunded 40% of any remaining credit amount up to $1,000.

For more information on the AOTC, check out this article.

Residential Energy Tax Credit

This credit encourages two forms of saving. First, with help from the IRS, users can save up to $500 on their annual tax bill after installing energy-efficient devices like modernized water-heaters, insulated doors and windows, and even furnaces. Additionally, by installing energy-efficient solutions around the house, taxpayers will likely benefit from lower utility bills in the long run. The truly environmentally minded can earn a massive $7,500 credit when they buy a plug-in electric car. However, used cars don’t qualify, and the credit you receive will depend on the capacity of the battery. This tax credit is non-refundable. Find more here.

Child Care Credit

The Economic Policy Institute determined that the annual cost of full-time child care for a 4-year-old exceeds the cost of in-state public college tuition in 23 states. This statistic won’t surprise parents who shell out an average of $196 on child center costs per week, per child. Simply put, the Child Care Credit is a must for most parents. Those who qualify can receive 20% to 35% of some or all dependent care costs. Your income determines how much you save.

Getting the full 35% requires that you earn no more than $15,000. Admittedly, this stipulation makes little sense given that an income of $15,000 makes paying for child care impossible. However, the percentage of savings you can take drops by 1% for every additional $2,000 earned as income. In short: You can save 20% on an income of $43,000 or more. You can claim that percentage of up to $3,000 in expenses paid for one qualifying person, or $6,000 for two, bringing the maximum value to $2,100 (35% x $6,000). Easy to understand? No. Worth researching? Absolutely. THis credit is non-refundable.

If an elderly postman can haul enough rocks to build his own castle, the average American can carve out enough time to research their tax credit eligibility. Many people will find that they can claim more than one of these credits and “stack” them — and that’s where the real savings start to accrue.

The $16,122 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,122 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

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California wildfire toll by the numbers

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Wildfires that raced through California neighborhoods and wilderness areas since Oct. 8 have taken an enormous toll in deaths and destruction. A look at the numbers:

NUMBER OF MAJOR WILDFIRES: 21.

AREA BURNED: 383 square miles.

DEATHS: 42.

HOMES AND OTHER BUILDINGS DESTROYED: 7,700.

EVACUATIONS: 100,000 people were under evacuation orders at the peak of the fire siege.

FIREFIGHTERS: 11,000.

ESTIMATED LOSSES IN BUILDINGS, CARS AND EQUIPMENT: More than $1 billion.

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Sources: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and California Insurance Department.

Body of man killed in oil and gas platform blast found

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Authorities have found the body of a man who was killed during an explosion on an oil and gas platform in Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain.

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Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said a helicopter spotted the body of 44-year-old Timothy Morrison on Friday afternoon. He said the body was on the lake’s shoreline, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the platform.

Morrison, of Katy, Texas, was a contract worker on the platform when the explosion happened Sunday in Jefferson Parish waters north of the suburb of Kenner.

Lopinto says investigators are still determining the cause of the blast. The explosion, which rattled homes in Kenner, injured seven platform workers, three critically.

Rep. Betty Price, wife of former HHS Secretary Tom Price, proposed quarantine of HIV patients

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The wife of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who is a Georgia state representative, reportedly proposed quarantining people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Georgia State Rep. Betty Price, a Republican physician, suggested the idea during a study committee this week, asking her colleagues whether such a move would be possible, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The committee, which focuses on health care access in the state, was reportedly discussing the growth of HIV diagnoses in the area and the differing treatment levels citizens were able to receive.

TRUMP SAYS OPIOID EMERGENCY WILL BE DECLARED NEXT WEEK

Price said she didn’t “want to say the quarantine word,” but continued to ask about the feasibility of such a move, AJC reported.

“Is there an ability, since I would guess that public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition?” she asked. “So we have a public interest in curtailing the spread. What would you advise or are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?”

The representative’s husband is Tom Price who, until recently, served as HHS secretary in President Trump’s cabinet. He resigned on Sept. 29 after facing wide criticism over his use of private planes paid for with taxpayer money.

Fmr. HHS Sec. Tom Price's wife reportedly suggests HIV quarantine in Georgia

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The wife of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who is a Georgia state representative, reportedly proposed quarantining people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Georgia State Rep. Betty Price, a Republican physician, suggested the idea during a study committee this week, asking her colleagues whether such a move would be possible, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The committee, which focuses on health care access in the state, was reportedly discussing the growth of HIV diagnoses in the area and the differing treatment levels citizens were able to receive.

TRUMP SAYS OPIOID EMERGENCY WILL BE DECLARED NEXT WEEK

Price said she didn’t “want to say the quarantine word,” but continued to ask about the feasibility of such a move, AJC reported.

“Is there an ability, since I would guess that public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition?” she asked. “So we have a public interest in curtailing the spread. What would you advise or are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?”

The representative’s husband is Tom Price who, until recently, served as HHS secretary in President Trump’s cabinet. He resigned on Sept. 29 after facing wide criticism over his use of private planes paid for with taxpayer money.

Family believes body is that of missing Argentine protester

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The brother of an Argentine protester whose disappearance prompted large demonstrations says the family believes a body found this week is Santiago Maldonado.

Maldonado’s brother, Sergio Maldonado told reporters Friday that his family is “convinced that the body is Santiago.”

The body was found Tuesday near the location of a protest on Aug. 1. That’s when Maldonado was last seen. Protesters were demanding the release of a jailed Mapuche indigenous leader and the return of lands belonging to Italian clothing company Benetton that are claimed by the Mapuche as their ancestral territory.

People at the protest said they saw police beat and detain Maldonado after he and others blocked a road in southern Chubut.

Police never confirmed the arrest and denied wrongdoing.

Rock thrown from highway overpass kills Michigan man in car

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Michigan authorities have reopened a portion of Interstate 75 after gathering more evidence, two days after a rock thrown from a highway overpass smashed a windshield and killed a man.

TV stations reported Friday that teenagers have been taken into custody in Genesee County, although it wasn’t immediately clear how many. The sheriff’s office declined comment.

Thirty-two-year-old Kenneth White of Mount Morris was a passenger in a vehicle that was hit Wednesday night on I-75 in Vienna Township, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Detroit.

Four other vehicles were struck with large rocks or concrete chunks. Investigators say the rocks may have been taken from another location.

Crime Stoppers of Flint and Genesee County is encouraging anyone with information to come forward. A $2,500 reward is being offered.

Wisconsin Badgers-Maryland Terrapins pregame notes

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Notes, tidbits and stats for Saturdays game between the Wisconsin Badgers and Maryland Terrapins at Camp Randall Stadium:

— This is the third meeting between Wisconsin and Maryland. The Badgers have won both the matchups — 52-7 at Madison in 2014 and 31-24 in College Park in 2015.

— Under Paul Chryst, Wisconsin is 19-3 when scoring first (4-0 in 2017), 8-3 when the opponent scores first (2-0 in 2017), 17-3 when leading after the first quarter (5-0 in 2017), 3-2 when trailing after the first quarter (1-0 in 2017), 23-2 when leading at halftime (4-0 in 2017), 3-4 when trailing at halftime (1-0 in 2017), 24-2 when leading after the third quarter (6-0 in 2017) and 3-3 when trailing after the third quarter (0-0 in 2017).

— Jonathan Taylor needs 14 yards rushing to become the 18th player in Badgers history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and 31st time overall. He’ll also be just the fourth freshman to accomplish the feat.

— Taylor needs 67 yards to pass James White for 4th-most rushing yards by a freshmen in Badgers history.

— With his next 200-yard rushing game, Taylor will be just the third Wisconsin player to have four or more 200-yard games in a season. Ron Dayne had five such games in 1996 and ’99 while Melvin Gordon did it six times in 2014.

— Alex Hornibrook needs 1 passing TD to pass Mike Howard for 12th place, 2 to tie Tyler Donovan for 11th place, 3 to tie Neil Graff for 10th place and 4 to tie Mike Samuel for 9th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Hornibrook needs 108 passing yards to pass Gregg Bohlig for 16th place, 155 to pass Mike Kalasmiki for 15th place and 367 to pass Ron Miller for 14th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Hornibrook needs 2 pass completions to John Ryan and Hal Brandt for 16th place, 3 to pass Mike Carroll for 15th place and 14 to pass Ron Miller for 14th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Hornibrook needs 5 touchdown passes to tie Scott Tolzien (2009 and ’10) for 10th place on UW’s all-time single-season list.

— Troy Fumagalli needs 48 receiving yards to pass Jacob Pedersen for 17th place, 87 to pass Tim Stracka for 16th place and 113 to pass David Charles for 15th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Fumagalli needs 1 reception to pass Jonathan Orr for 13th place and 6 to tie and 7 to pass Mel Reddick for 12th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Jazz Peavy needs 120 receiving yards to pass David Gilreath for 25th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Derrick Tindal needs 1 pass breakups to tie Steve Wagner and Troy Vincent for 11th place and 2 to tie and 3 to pass Niles Brinkley for 10th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Tindall needs 1 passes defensed to tie and 2 to pass Lamarr White for 14th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Nick Nelson needs 3 pass breakups to tie six others (Ken Dixon, 1972; Jamar Fletcher, 1998; Mike Echols, 1999 and 2001; Marcus Cromartie 2012 and Sojourn Shelton, 2016) for 9th place and 4 to tie Troy Vincent (1991), Allen Langford (2008) and Devin Smith (2012) for 6th place on UW’s all-time single-season list.

— Rafael Gaglianone needs 1 points to tie and 2 to pass James White for 6th place, 7 to tie Melvin Gordon for 5th place and 8 to tie and 9 to pass Taylor Mehlhaff for 4th place on UW’s all-time scoring list.

— Gaglianone needs 1 field goal to Taylor Mehlhaff and Rich Thompson for 3rd place on UW’s all-time list.

— Gaglianone needs 1 field-goal attempts to tie and 2 to pass Taylor Mehlhaff for 4th place on UW’s all-time list.

— Gaglianone needs one 50+-yard field goal to join Taylor Mehlhaff and Philip Welch as the only to have three FGs from 50+ in Wisconsin history (Mehlhaff 52, 51, 51; Welch 57, 52, 50; Gaglianone 51, 50).

— Natrell Jamerson needs 1 kick return for a touchdown to tie Ira Matthews and Nick Davis for the most in UW history (2).

Senators press Pruitt for concessions on biofuels mandate

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The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is looking to make peace on biofuels standards with a group of senators from corn-growing states who could upend President Donald Trump’s nominees for key regulatory posts.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged in a letter to Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and a half dozen other Republican lawmakers to take specific actions benefiting the biofuels industry.

Last summer, Pruitt proposed biofuels targets for 2017 and 2018 set slightly below current levels. This followed a push by oil companies to ease mandates included in the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires ethanol from corn and soybeans to be blended into gasoline and diesel. Though Pruitt’s letter said he was still assessing the issue, EPA’s current analysis is that those standards should be set “equal to or higher” than the amounts previously proposed.

Trump during the presidential campaign had advocated protecting the renewable fuel standard, which helped his election performance in Iowa, where corn production is vital.

The move came a day after the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works delayed consideration of four Trump EPA nominees. Ernst, a member of the committee, had said she had concerns about the nomination of Bill Wehrum to lead the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, which oversees the Renewable Fuel Standard.

After receiving Pruitt’s letter, Ernst said she is now prepared to vote in favor of Wehrum’s confirmation.

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“I had to have those assurances in writing from the administrator before I was willing to move Bill Wehrum forward,” Ernst said Friday in a call with reporters from her home state. “I just didn’t want verbal assurances, I wanted it in writing.”

Iowa’s other senator, Chuck Grassley, also threatened earlier this week to scuttle Trump’s nominees unless Pruitt backed off. Iowa is the nation’s leading corn producer and one of the top soybean growers. With 43 ethanol refineries and 12 biodiesel plants, it also leads the nation in biofuels production.

Pruitt’s concessions on biofuels reaffirmed the political muscle wielded by the biofuels industry’s defenders in Congress. It also upset the fossil fuels industry, which has counted on Pruitt as a reliable ally since his days fighting Obama-era carbon emissions restrictions as Oklahoma’s elected attorney general.

Chet Thompson, the president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, said it was “astonishing” to see Pruitt appear to knuckle under. He said the current biofuels mandates are unworkable and drive up fuel costs.

“It is astonishing that Administrator Pruitt succumbed to the pressures of a handful of Midwestern senators and agreed — in writing no less — to back off pending proposals that would lower fuel costs for U.S. consumers and end mandates for foreign biodiesel,” Thompson said. “The proposal that EPA turned its back on would have helped.”

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Pitt reported from Des Moines, Iowa.

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Follow Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck

The Latest: Navajo leader supported death penalty in case

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The Latest on the sentencing of a man charged in the killing of a Navajo Nation girl (all times local):

4 p.m.

Navajo Nation president Russell Begaye says he told prosecutors that the tribe would have supported the death penalty for the killer of an 11-year-old girl.

Tom Begaye was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole as part of a plea deal in the 2016 rape and murder of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike. Russell and Tom Begaye are not related.

The tribal leader told The Associated Press he told prosecutors the tribe would have supported the death penalty.

Tribes for decades including the Navajo Nation have almost always rejected that option.

Begaye says his tribe should consider backing the death penalty in killings of children and police officers.

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2:45 p.m.

A defense lawyer for a man convicted of sexually assaulting and killing an 11-year-old Navajo girl has said at his client’s sentencing hearing that his client is intellectually disabled and was regularly beaten as a child.

Lawyer James Loonam said Friday that Tom Begaye did not offer that information as an excuse for Begaye’s actions but as insight.

Begaye did not speak during Friday’s hearing.

As part of a plea agreement, Begaye sentenced to life in prison for the 2016 death of Ashlynne Mike.

Relatives and friends of the girl cried in the courtroom as her parents testified.

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2:15 p.m.

A man who pleaded guilty to the murder and sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl on the largest American Indian reservation has been sentenced to life in prison.

Tom Begaye was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the May 2016 killing of Ashlynne Mike on the Navajo Nation.

The killing prompted calls to expand the Amber Alert system and the death penalty to U.S. tribal communities.

Authorities say Begaye lured Mike and her brother into his van before killing the girl and allowing the boy to escape. Ashlynne was reported missing, but an Amber Alert didn’t go out until the next day.

Her body was later found in an area near the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Begaye pleaded guilty in August. Under the plea agreement, Begaye faced a mandatory life sentence without parole.

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1 a.m.

A man who pleaded guilty to the murder and sexual assault in the death of an 11-year-old girl on the largest American Indian reservation is set to be sentenced.

Tom Begaye is scheduled Friday to receive life in prison for the May 2016 killing on the Navajo Nation that prompted calls to expand the Amber Alert system and the death penalty to U.S. tribal communities.

Authorities say Begaye lured Ashlynne Mike and her brother into his van before killing the girl and allowing the boy to escape. Ashlynne was reported missing, but an Amber Alert didn’t go out until the next day.

Her body was later found in an area near the Arizona-New Mexico border.

The Navajo Nation, like many Native American tribes, opposes the death penalty.

Begaye pleaded guilty in August.

The Latest: California fire evacuees allowed to return home

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The Latest on California wildfires (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

Northern California residents who fled a wildfire in the dead of night with only minutes to spare returned to their neighborhoods Friday for the first time in nearly two weeks to see if anything was standing.

Many found little more than charred ruins.

Authorities said 8,400 homes and businesses have been destroyed as they continue to assess the devastating damage to California’s wine country.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berland says inspectors are now getting to homes previously hard to access because of the fires.

Three neighborhoods in Santa Rosa were among the hardest hit urban areas in California’s wine countries. Residents of those neighborhoods found blocks upon blocks of charred ruins.

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9:45 a.m.

The number of buildings destroyed by this month’s California’s wildfires has been boosted again, to 8,400 from 7,700.

That’s up from nearly 7,000 homes and other structures that were reported destroyed a day earlier by the fires that hit wine country and other areas north of San Francisco.

The number of buildings razed was increased as crews inspected damage in hard hit areas.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said assessment is nearly done, but the number will rise as the workers get to areas that have been difficult for them to reach

The wildfires broke out Oct. 8 in a large area north of San Francisco in and around the state’s famed wine country.

California’s insurance commissioner said preliminary estimates of wildfire losses that started Oct. 8 exceed $1 billion and that the figure is expected to rise. The fires killed 42.

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8:45 a.m.

California officials have increased their count of buildings destroyed by this month’s wildfires to 7,700.

The new figure provided Friday is up from nearly 7,000 on Thursday.

The number has gone up as crews assess damage from the series of fires that broke out on Oct. 8 in a large area north of San Francisco in and around the state’s famed wine country in Napa and Sonoma counties.

The fires killed 42 people and one in Sonoma County killed 22 of them, making it the third deadliest fire in California’s history.

California’s insurance commissioner said preliminary estimates of wildfire losses exceed $1 billion and that the figure is expected to rise.

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7:30 a.m.

Three neighborhoods hit hard by wildfires in Northern California will re-open Friday to anxious evacuees who haven’t been back to their homes in nearly two weeks.

Santa Rosa Police Chief Hank Schreeder said the neighborhoods will open to residents with ID starting at 10 a.m.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports he made the announcement Thursday at a packed community meeting attended by 750 people. The meeting opened with a moment of silence for the 42 people killed by a devastating series of wildfires that started Oct. 8.

But some at the meeting were upset by what they called a lack of notice.

Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said one of the fires, which killed 22, started in Napa County and raced into Santa Rosa in four hours.

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Information from: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, http://www.pressdemocrat.com

Skip on OKC: “It was a perfect blueprint on how this can work”

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