Beyond the county: Prosecutors say man target police in Palm Springs ambush; Buoyant Clinton reaching past Trump; 80,000 trout accidently set free
Prosecutors: Man target police in deadly ambush
RIVERSIDE — A gang member targeted and then ambushed Palm Springs police officers last weekend, killing two and wounding a third, a prosecutor said Wednesday in announcing first-degree murder charges and a litany of other counts against the man.
John Hernandez Felix, 26, was prepared to attack the officers when they responded to a 911 call from his family’s home Saturday, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said. He wore body armor and used armor-piercing ammunition when he opened fire with an AR-15 rifle on officers who came to the door, prosecutors said.
“This individual wanted to kill police officers,” Hestrin said. “That’s the motive. He wanted to gun down police officers because they wore the uniform.”
He termed the attack an ambush and said the officers “walked into a trap.” The killings are the latest in a string of fatal attacks on officers that includes ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Federal report cites bias by SF police
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco police use force against blacks more often than other racial groups and pull over African American drivers at a disproportionately high rate, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report released Wednesday that found evidence of bias on the force that is nearly equal parts white and minority.
The DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services conducted the review at the request of city officials following protests over the fatal shooting of a black man, Mario Woods, and the disclosure that some officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages.
The report also noted there were 11 fatal incidents involving San Francisco officers in the past three years and nine involved people of color.
DOJ officials advised that more research was needed to determine whether the use of force figures reflect racism, discrimination or other factors such as a higher volume of calls.
Operators of website appear in court on pimping charges
SACRAMENTO — The operators of an international website that advertises escort services said Wednesday that they will challenge charges of trafficking prostitutes and pimping on First Amendment grounds.
Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer, 55, and two others will contest the charges at a hearing next month, defense attorney Cristina Claypoole Arguedas told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman as the three men made their first brief court appearances.
“The complaint and the theory of prosecution is flatly barred by the First Amendment and federal law,” Arguedas said outside the courtroom, referring to a federal law that blocks state actions against websites that distribute content created by others.
Ferrer is charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping.
The former owners of the Village Voice in New York City, Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67, are charged with conspiracy to commit pimping. The Arizona men, who also once owned the Phoenix New Times alternative weekly, are Backpage.com’s controlling shareholders, said California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose office filed the charges.
US fossil-fuel emissions lowest since 1991
SAN FRANCISCO — The United States pumped out the least climate-changing pollution from fossil fuels in the first six months of this year than at any such period since 1991, federal energy officials said Wednesday.
That’s in part because those six months were the third-warmest on record in the country. From January to June, the number of days that Americans needed to turn on their heating dropped to the lowest level since at least 1949, when the U.S. Energy Information Administration began keeping those records nationwide.
The warming stemmed in part from a strong El Nino and other factors, including climate change already in motion from the use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
Overall, American households used 9 percent less energy than in the same period in 2015, the federal agency said.
Buoyant Clinton reaching past Trump, wants Democratic Senate
PUEBLO, Colo. — Brimming with new confidence, Hillary Clinton turned up the heat Wednesday on Republican candidates who are facing both tight election races and tough decisions on what to do about Donald Trump. She’s now seeking to spread her new momentum to fellow Democrats on November ballots.
Are you with him or not? Clinton and her campaign are demanding of GOP candidates as she surfs a wave of new support, part of the fallout from the revelations of Trump’s aggressive sexual comments about women.
Some Republican lawmakers are doing as she demands – but not all of them in the way she hoped.
Two senators and two House members who called for Trump to step aside over the weekend now have climbed back aboard. Their basic case: They’re voting for a Republican next month, and if Trump isn’t leaving then he’s got to be the one.
John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate told the Rapid City Journal he had “reservations about the way (Trump) has conducted his campaign and himself.” However, he said, “I’m certainly not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.”
2 tell paper Trump touched them inappropriately
WASHINGTON — The New York Times has published interviews with two women who say they were touched inappropriately by Donald Trump without their permission.
The Times says Jessica Leeds of New York told the newspaper she encountered Trump on an airline flight three decades ago. Leeds says Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.
Rachel Crooks of Ohio told the newspaper she met Trump at Trump Tower in 2005. Crooks says Trump kissed her “directly on the mouth” against her will.
The Times reports both women told others about what happened with Trump.
Trump denies the accusations. He tells the Times, “None of this ever took place.”
Trump’s presidential campaign has been reeling since the release Friday of a 2005 videotape in which he is heard talking about grabbing women’s genitals.
Democratic governor: Health law ‘no longer affordable’
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota’s Democratic governor said Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act is “no longer affordable,” a stinging critique from a state leader who strongly embraced the law and proudly proclaimed health reform was working in Minnesota just a few years ago.
Gov. Mark Dayton made the comments while addressing questions about Minnesota’s fragile health insurance market, where individual plans are facing double-digit increases after all insurers threatened to exit the market entirely in 2017. He’s the only Democratic governor to publicly suggest the law isn’t working as intended.
Dayton’s comments follow former President Bill Clinton’s saying last week that the law was “the craziest thing in the world” before he backtracked.
“The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people,” Dayton said, calling on Congress to fix the law to address rising costs and market stability.
The Democratic-driven criticism has emboldened Republicans in Minnesota and nationwide to try to scrap President Barack Obama’s 2010 law. Clinton faced backlash for the comments he made during a Michigan rally for his wife last week, and he later clarified his support for the law and called for fixes to address gaps in coverage.
River that gave life to N. Carolina town now tears it apart
LUMBERTON, N.C. — A day after fleeing from the swollen Lumber River, the residents of this down-but-not-quite-out former mill town waded into the swirling, tea-colored floodwaters Wednesday and filled jugs for something most of us take for granted: flushing their toilets.
“We still don’t have water or power in our house,” Caroline Kahn said as she sloshed through someone’s flooded front yard in a pair of flower-print boots. “So we need water for the necessities of life.”
The river gave this town its life. Now it has torn the community apart.
About 1,200 residents had to be evacuated by boat and plucked from their roofs by helicopters as the river crested. Two of the state’s 20 fatalities occurred in Robeson County, of which Lumberton is the seat.
Of all the towns affected by Hurricane Matthew, this city of 22,000 was among the hardest hit and the least able to absorb the blow.
Official: Connecticut plane crash appeared to be suicide try
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — A flight instructor and a student pilot had an altercation inside the cockpit of a small plane and the instructor was unable to regain control from the trainee before it crashed near the Connecticut headquarters of a military jet engine manufacturer, killing the student, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation said Wednesday.
The crash appeared to have been a suicide attempt by the student and terrorism was ruled out, the official told The Association Press. The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Piper PA-34 Seneca crashed with the two men aboard during a training flight Tuesday in East Hartford near the headquarters of Pratt & Whitney, while returning to Brainard Airport in Hartford, authorities said. The flight instructor was badly burned but survived.
The instructor described the student pilot as disgruntled about learning to be a pilot, the U.S. official said.
The flight instructor is Arian Prevalla, 43, and the student was Feras Freitekh, said a law enforcement official, who wasn’t authorized to disclose the information and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Drone attack on Kurdish, French forces reveals new threats
WASHINGTON — French and Kurdish forces in northern Iraq were attacked by an exploding drone, the Pentagon said Wednesday, adding a new worry to the wars in Iraq and Syria as militant groups learn to weaponize their store-bought drones.
Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, said an improvised device on a drone exploded after it was taken back to a camp near the Iraqi city of Irbil. He called it a Trojan Horse-style attack.
Two Kurds were killed in that incident on Oct. 2, according to a U.S. official, who said the drone looked like a Styrofoam model plane that was taped together in a very rudimentary style. The official said it appeared to be carrying a C-4 charge and batteries, and may have had a timer on it.
That official was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
France’s presidential spokesman, Stephane Le Foll, said Wednesday that two French special forces were seriously injured in the explosion.
Rebel advances in central Syria set back by infighting
BEIRUT — For more than a month, insurgents fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces had been on the march in central Syria, getting within a few miles of the fourth-largest city of Hama. Many in the opposition hoped they would cut a main government supply line to Aleppo and ease the pressure on the rebels there.
But the ambitious campaign has been severely hampered by the rebels themselves, mostly due to infighting that broke out last week.
It’s a recurring theme of opposition discord and rivalry that Assad has exploited throughout Syria’s 5-year-old civil war.
The five-week offensive, which saw insurgents break government defenses and capture more than two dozen villages and towns, was spearheaded by the Salafi-jihadi extremist Jund al-Aqsa group.
The advance so alarmed Syria’s army command that it eventually rushed one of Assad’s most trusted and prominent officers, Col. Suheil al-Hassan, and his elite unit to defend the strategic region.
The Hama region, which has a religiously mixed population, is an intersection between central and northern Syria and the Mediterranean coast. The rebels hoped their blitz would reduce pressure on the northern city of Aleppo, which has been under blistering Syrian and Russian air attack.
Cholera rises in southern Haiti in wake of Hurricane Matthew
LES CAYES, Haiti — Hurricane Matthew first took the home of Sonette Crownal in a town on Haiti’s southern coast. Then cholera came for her baby.
The 25-year-old market vendor and her family were still taking stock of their losses after the storm when she noticed that Peter James, just 10 months old, was showing symptoms of a disease that health authorities say is surging in the wake of the storm.
Cholera is caused by bacteria that produce severe diarrhea and is contracted by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. It can lead to a rapid, agonizing death through complete dehydration, but is easily treatable if caught in time.
The Category 4 storm that hit on Oct. 4 has killed at least 473 people, according to national emergency officials, and the wreckage it left behind has created the perfect conditions for spreading the water-borne disease. Matthew sent rivers and outdoor latrines overflowing across the mountainous landscape. Cholera-contaminated water has leeched into people’s drinking wells, those that weren’t ruined by Matthew’s storm surge.
Danish angling bonanza: 80,000 trout set free by accident
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish anglers are rushing to a western Denmark fjord to catch some of the up to 80,000 farmed rainbow trout that have been accidentally released, hoping to keep them from upsetting the area’s ecological balance.
A cargo ship on Monday accidentally tore apart a fish farm net off Assens, 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of Copenhagen in the western Baltic Sea, setting free the entire trout farm, which was estimated to hold 250 tons of fish.
The incident is being investigated by the Danish Maritime Authority. It was not immediately clear whether the ship would be fined. Police say no one was injured when the ship sailed into the aquaculture farm.
But now authorities fear the farmed trout wreak havoc on the region and eat the eggs of other trout species. Soeren Knabe of the environmental group Vandpleje Fyn is urging anglers to “grab their rods and catch as many as possible. I’ll join them this weekend.”
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