Trump says he answered written questions in Mueller probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he has answered written questions from special counsel Robert Mueller but hasn’t yet submitted them.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday that he answered the questions “very easily” this week but added that “you have to always be careful.”
The president did not say when he would turn over the answers to Mueller as part of the ongoing investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Trump had huddled with lawyer at the White House this week but made clear: “my lawyers don’t write answers, I write answers.”
Mueller had signaled a willingness to accept written answers on matters of collusion. The White House has said it would not answer Mueller’s questions on possible obstruction of justice.

Judge: White House must return CNN’s Jim Acosta’s credential

By JESSICA GRESKO and MICHAEL BALSAMO, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge ordered the Trump administration on Friday to immediately return the White House press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta, though a lawsuit over the credentials’ revocation is continuing.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, an appointee of President Donald Trump, announced his decision at a hearing Friday morning. The judge said Acosta’s credentials should be returned immediately and reactivated to allow him access to the White House complex for press briefings and other events.
The White House said it would comply, but planned to develop “rules” for orderly press conferences.
The White House revoked Acosta’s credentials last week after he and Trump tangled during a press conference following the midterm elections. CNN sued and asked the judge to issue a temporary restraining order forcing the White House to give back Acosta’s credentials at least temporarily. The judge agreed.
The suit by CNN alleges that Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated when the White House revoked his credentials, called a “hard pass.”
While the judge didn’t rule on the underlying case, he ordered Acosta’s credentials returned for now because he said CNN was likely to prevail on its Fifth Amendment claim — that Acosta hadn’t received sufficient notice or explanation before his credentials were revoked or been given sufficient opportunity to respond before they were.
The judge said the government could not say who initially decided to revoke Acosta’s hard pass and how that decision was reached.
“In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”
The White House had spelled out its reasons for revoking Acosta’s credentials in a tweet from Sanders and in a statement after CNN filed its lawsuit. But the judge said those “belated efforts were hardly sufficient to satisfy due process.”
The judge also found that Acosta suffered “irreparable harm,” dismissing the government’s argument that CNN could simply send other reporters to cover the White House in Acosta’s place.
But the judge also emphasized the “very limited nature” of his ruling Friday. He noted he had not determined that the First Amendment was violated.
The judge told attorneys to file additional court papers in the case by Monday.
On Friday afternoon, more than 50 members of the White House press corps greeted Acosta as he strode through the northwest gate of the presidential compound. He says he’s grateful for the judge’s ruling, that it was a test and he thinks the media passed the test.
“This is just any other day at the White House for me and I would like to get back to work,” he said.
Trump has made his dislike of CNN clear since before he took office and continuing into his presidency. He has described the network as “fake news” both on Twitter and in public comments.
At last week’s press conference, Trump was taking questions from reporters and called on Acosta, who asked about Trump’s statements about a caravan of migrants making its way to the U.S.-Mexico border. After a terse exchange, Trump told Acosta, “That’s enough,” several times while calling on another reporter.
Acosta attempted to ask another question about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and initially declined to give up a hand-held microphone to a White House intern. Trump responded to Acosta by saying he wasn’t concerned about the investigation, calling it a “hoax,” and then criticized Acosta, calling him a “rude, terrible person.”
Hours later, the White House pulled Acosta’s credentials.
The White House’s explanations for why it seized Acosta’s credentials have shifted over the last week.
Sanders initially explained the decision by accusing Acosta of making improper physical contact with the intern seeking to grab the microphone.
But that rationale disappeared after witnesses backed Acosta’s account that he was just trying to keep the microphone, and Sanders distributed a doctored video that made it appear Acosta was more aggressive than he actually was.
On Tuesday, Sanders accused Acosta in a written statement of being unprofessional by trying to dominate the questioning at the news conference.

Missing-persons list tops 600 in fire-stricken California

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE and BRIAN MELLEY, Associated Press
CHICO, Calif. (AP) — The potential magnitude of the wildfire disaster in Northern California escalated as officials raised the death toll to 63 and released a missing-persons list with 631 names on it more than a week after the flames swept through.
The fast-growing roster of people unaccounted for probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they have been reported missing, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said late Thursday.
He said he made the list public in the hope that people will see they are on it and let authorities know they are OK.
“The chaos that we were dealing with was extraordinary,” Honea said of the crisis last week, when the flames razed the town of Paradise and outlying areas in what has proved to be the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. “Now we’re trying to go back out and make sure that we’re accounting for everyone.”
Firefighters continued gaining ground against the 222-square mile (575-square-kilometer) blaze, which was reported 45 percent contained Friday. It destroyed 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, the state fire agency said.
Rain in the forecast Tuesday night could help knock down the flames but also complicate efforts by more 450 searchers to find human remains in the ashes. In some cases, search crews are finding little more than bones and bone fragments.
Some 52,000 people have been displaced to shelters, the motels, the homes of friends and relatives, and a Walmart parking lot and an adjacent field in Chico, a dozen miles away from the ashes.
At the vast parking lot, evacuees wondered if they still have homes, if their neighbors are still alive, and where they will go from here.
“It’s cold and scary,” said Lilly Batres, 13, one of the few children there, who fled with her family from the forested town of Magalia and didn’t know whether her home was still standing. “I feel like people are going to come into our tent.”
At the other end of the state, more residents were being allowed back in their homes near Los Angeles after a wildfire torched an area the size of Denver. The 153-square-mile blaze was 69 percent contained after destroying more than 600 homes and other structures, authorities said. At least three deaths were reported.
Schools across a large swath of the state were closed because of smoke, and San Francisco’s world-famous open-air cable cars were pulled off the streets.
Anna Goodnight of Paradise tried to make the best of it, sitting on an overturned shopping cart in the Walmart parking lot and eating scrambled eggs and hash browns while her husband drank a Budweiser.
But then William Goodnight began to cry.
“We’re grateful. We’re better off than some. I’ve been holding it together for her,” he said, gesturing toward his wife. “I’m just breaking down, finally.”
More than 75 tents had popped up in the space since Matthew Flanagan arrived last Friday.
“We call it Wally World,” Flanagan said, a riff on the store name. “When I first got here, there was nobody here. And now it’s just getting worse and worse and worse. There are more evacuees, more people running out of money for hotels.”
Some arrived after running out of money for a hotel. Others couldn’t find a room or weren’t allowed to stay at shelters with their dogs or, in the case of Suzanne Kaksonen, two cockatoos.
“I just want to go home,” Kaksonen said. “I don’t even care if there’s no home. I just want to go back to my dirt, you know, and put a trailer up and clean it up and get going. Sooner the better. I don’t want to wait six months. That petrifies me.”
Some evacuees helped sort the donations that have poured in, including sweaters, flannel shirts, boots and stuffed animals. Food trucks offered free meals, and a cook flipped burgers on a grill. There were portable toilets, and some people used the Walmart restrooms.
Information for contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance was posted on a board that allowed people to write the names of those they believed were missing. Several names had “Here” written next to them.
Melissa Contant, who drove from the San Francisco area to help, advised people to register with FEMA as soon as possible.
“You’re living in a Walmart parking lot — you’re not OK,” she told one couple.
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Melley reported from Los Angeles. AP journalist Terence Chea in Chico contributed to this story.

Florida: Hand recount begins for tight US Senate race

By GARY FINEOUT and BRENDAN FARRINGTON, Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A hand recount began Friday in Florida’s acrimonious U.S. Senate contest after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by fewer than 13,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast.
Under state law, a hand review is required when the victory margin is 0.25 percentage points or less. A state website’s unofficial results show Scott ahead of Nelson by 0.15 percentage points.
The hand recount in the Senate race does not review all votes that were cast. It involves only that fraction of ballots in which voters cast either two votes for one race, which is called an overvote, or appeared to choose no candidate, which is an undervote. The idea is to figure out a voter’s intent.
At a warehouse in Broward County — which has had numerous problems throughout the election — dozens of volunteers sitting at folding tables cheered loudly when they were told they had finished the recount Friday morning and could go home for the day. Results were not immediately announced.
The margin in the governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum was 0.41 percent. That means the contest for governor appeared all but over Thursday, with a machine recount showing DeSantis with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race.
Gillum, who conceded on election night only to retract his concession later, said in a statement that “it is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”
The overall recount has been fraught with problems. One large Democratic stronghold in South Florida could not finish its machine recount by the Thursday deadline because of machines breaking down. A federal judge rejected a request to extend the recount deadline.
“We gave a heroic effort,” said Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. If the county had three or four more hours, it would have made the deadline to recount ballots in the Senate race, she said.
Meanwhile, election officials in another urban county in the Tampa Bay area decided against turning in the results of their machine recount, which came up with 846 fewer votes than originally counted.
Broward County missed the deadline to submit its machine recount results by two minutes, but it finished its manual recount in just a few hours Friday morning, which Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes attributed to the large number of volunteers assembled for the task.
Scott called on Nelson to end the recount battle.
It’s time for Nelson “to respect the will of the voters and graciously bring this process to an end rather than proceed with yet another count of the votes — which will yield the same result and bring more embarrassment to the state that we both love and have served,” the governor’s statement said.
The margin between Scott and Nelson had not changed much in the last few days, conceded Marc Elias, an attorney working for Nelson’s campaign. But he said he expects it to shrink due to the hand recount and the ruling on signatures.
Three election-related lawsuits are pending in federal court in Tallahassee.
The situation drew the ire of U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who slammed the state for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems. He also said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000.
“We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this,” Walker said at a hearing Thursday.
Incoming Florida Senate President Bill Galvano said Friday that lawmakers will discuss changes to the state’s election laws.
By the next election cycle, he said, “voters are going to want to have more in terms of assurance that their votes are going to be properly counted.”
Late Thursday, Walker rejected a challenge by Nelson and Democrats to the rules of the hand recount in the Senate race. During the hand recount, elections officials look at just the ballots that weren’t recorded by voting machines. Walker found the state’s rules were reasonable and constitutional.
Walker also ordered that voters be given until 5 p.m. Saturday to show a valid identification and fix their ballots if they haven’t been counted due to mismatched signatures. Republicans challenged this order and were turned down by an appeals court.
State officials testified that nearly 4,000 mail-in ballots were set aside because local officials decided the signatures on the envelopes did not match the signatures on file. If those voters can prove their identity, their votes will now be counted and included in final official returns due from each county by noon Sunday.
Walker was asked by Democrats to require local officials to provide a list of people whose ballots were rejected. But the judge refused the request as “inappropriate.”
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Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Curt Anderson and Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.

DeVos proposes overhaul to campus sexual misconduct rules

By COLLIN BINKLEY, Associated Press
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday proposed a major overhaul to the way colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct complaints, adding protections for students accused of assault and harassment and narrowing which cases schools would be required to investigate.
Under the plan, schools would have to investigate complaints only if the alleged incidents occurred on campus or other areas overseen by the school, and only if they were reported to certain campus officials with the authority to take action.
The Education Department said the proposal ensures fairness for students on both sides of accusations, while offering schools greater flexibility to help victims who don’t want to file formal complaints that could trigger an investigation.
“Throughout this process, my focus was, is, and always will be on ensuring that every student can learn in a safe and nurturing environment,” DeVos said in a statement. “That starts with having clear policies and fair processes that every student can rely on. Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”
DeVos previously said the existing rules pressure schools to take heavy action against students accused of misconduct without giving them a fair chance to defend themselves.
Her new proposal adds several provisions meant to protect accused students. They would be allowed to review and respond to all evidence collected by the school, for example, and have a presumption of innocence throughout the disciplinary process.
They could cross-examine their accusers, although it would be done indirectly through a representative to avoid personal confrontation.
Opponents say the proposal would deter victims from reporting assaults, and allow schools to shirk responsibility when they do receive complaints.
“If these draft rules go into effect, schools will become more dangerous for all students and more schools will shield harassers and rapists,” Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement.
Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said the proposal would be “a damaging setback for our efforts to prevent campus sexual harassment and assault.”
But supporters say the new rules do a better job providing equal treatment to all students.
“By taking the rights of both complainants and accused students seriously, these proposed regulations make important strides toward ensuring that complaints of sexual misconduct will be neither ignored nor prejudged,” said Samantha Harris, vice president for procedural advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The proposal would effectively tell schools how to apply the 1972 law known as Title IX, which bars discrimination based on sex in schools that receive federal dollars.
Schools for years have relied on a series of guidance letters issued by the Obama administration instructing them how to respond to complaints of sexual misconduct. Colleges were required to investigate all student complaints, on campus or off, and any misstep could put them under federal investigation.
Advocacy groups for victims say the Obama rules forced schools to stop sweeping the issue under the rug, while advocates for accused students say it tipped the scales in favor of accusers. Some college leaders complained that the rules were too complex and could be overly burdensome.
DeVos rescinded an important guidance letter in September 2017, declaring that “the era of ‘rule by letter'” was over. In its place, she issued the 150-page proposal released Friday.
Among other changes, it narrows what constitutes sexual harassment. While the 2011 guidance defined it as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” the new proposal defines it as unwelcome sexual conduct that’s so severe “it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.”
It also allows schools to use a higher standard of proof when weighing cases. The Obama guidance told schools to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, meaning the allegation is “more likely than not” true. The new proposal would allow a “clear and convincing” standard, meaning the claim is highly probable.
Even if victims don’t file a formal complaint, the proposal encourages schools to offer a range of measures to help them continue their studies, including counseling, class schedule changes, dorm room reassignments and no-contact orders for those accused of harming them.
It has yet to be seen whether schools would change policies in response to the rules. A statement from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities says it expects schools to “far exceed” the minimum that’s required in Title IX rules.
Before the rules can be finalized, the Education Department will gather public input from the public.
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Online:
Education Department: https://tinyurl.com/y7q3dzss
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Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cbinkley

Transit riders, drivers brace for influx of Amazon employees

By CATHY BUSSEWITZ, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Commuters beware: New York and Washington’s clogged streets and creaky subway systems are about to feel more pain as 50,000 more people descend on the two metro areas where Amazon will open new headquarters.
An expansion of that scope in a city such as New York — where the regional subway, bus and commuter lines move more than 8 million people every day — sounds like something a transit system should be able to absorb.
Not so, some experts say.
“Congestion will get worse. Buses will probably get a little bit slower. There are going to be more people traveling at a specific time of day to a specific place,” said Eric Guerra, assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania. “But at the same time, they will create a lot of jobs where people are.”
Long Island City, the New York City neighborhood that will be home to one of the new headquarters, sits across the river from the busy world of midtown Manhattan. The growing neighborhood is crisscrossed by subways and buses and surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The other headquarters will be in the Washington suburb of Arlington in northern Virginia, a part of the country known for its mind-numbing traffic.
Amazon said hiring at the two headquarters will start next year, but it could take a decade or more to build out its offices. Still, the complaining has already begun.
Among the sticking points — Amazon has won the rights to a helipad at its Long Island City location, allowing some senior executives to get through rush hour in style, though the company had to agree to limit landings to 120 per year.
“For the city and state to greenlight a helipad for the wealthiest man in the world and one of the richest corporations in the world is a slap in the face to all New Yorkers, but particularly the people in Queens who have to fight to get on the 7 train in the morning,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Democrat who represents Long Island City. “And furthermore, if there were 25 to 30,000 Amazon employees in Long Island City, that fight to get onto the train is going to get a lot more intense.”
Frustration levels already are high among New York City subway riders. More than a quarter of residents spend more than an hour getting to work, and 57 percent ride public transit to commute, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
A key subway line that runs through Long Island City has been often criticized for delays, though long-awaited upgrades to allow trains to run more frequently are on track to finish as soon as this month, and a new ferry connection to Manhattan opened in August. Still, Van Bramer insisted the area is not sufficiently well served, and there are complaints about noise pollution from helicopters and sea planes.
“The entire city is in a mass transit crisis and nothing that I’ve seen about this deal makes me think it will help,” New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday. “Western Queens transit infrastructure is already strained and the 7 train in particular is a mess every morning, so this definitely adds to existing transportation concerns.”
New York City commuters have been clamoring for subway improvements for years, and some on Wednesday tweeted photos of packed subway stations near Amazon’s proposed new office and reported having let several overcrowded trains go by before they were finally able to squeeze into one.
Some see the dire warnings about New York’s transit system as premature.
“Even as stressed as our system is right now, an investment in growth of this magnitude doesn’t overwhelm the transportation network because it’s such a robust and large system,” said Tom Wright, president and CEO of the Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy organization.
Washington, D.C.’s subway system, which will serve Amazon’s headquarters in Arlington’s Crystal City, is at capacity on many lines and has serious maintenance problems, said Tom Rubin, a transportation consultant based in Oakland, California. Repair work to the subway station closest to Amazon’s new office resulted in a disastrous commute last week as people missed flights and stood in long lines for buses that never arrived, said Thomas Cooke, professor of business law at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
In fact, fires have broken out so many times in Washington D.C.’s Metro system that a developer created a Twitter account to automatically tweet suspected fires in stations.
“We have an embarrassing metro system here that I hope will benefit by this relocation,” Cooke said, adding that taxpayers will be footing the bill for the transit improvements that Virginia agreed to in its deal with Amazon.
Development along major highways in Northern Virginia and Washington have led to “unreasonable traffic delays on a daily basis” in the past few years, with drive times that used to take 40 minutes ballooning to up to 90 minutes, Cooke said.
In the nation’s capital, more than a third of commuters ride public transit and most commuters spend at least a half-hour getting to work, according to the Census Bureau. Commuters in the suburbs surrounding Washington face even longer commute times.
Elsewhere, companies use van pools and private buses to entice talented employees who want to live in hipper neighborhoods away from their offices. Google and Yahoo began running private buses from downtown San Francisco and elsewhere to their headquarters in Silicon Valley more than a decade ago. In the Los Angeles area, Disney, Nickelodeon and Warner Bros. run shuttle buses to carry employees from public transit stations to their Burbank studios, said Keith Millhouse, a transportation consultant and principal at Millhouse Strategies.
Some hoped Amazon would invest in transit upgrades as part of the deal. But it’s hard to imagine Amazon volunteering to chip in for transit improvements when so many cities — 238 submitted proposals — were competing for the company’s second headquarters, Guerra said.
“If anything, they’re getting benefits out of it,” Guerra said. “They’re unlikely to be paying for new services.”
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AP Writer Jennifer Peltz in New York and Economics Writer Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Cathy Bussewitz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbussewitz

After arrest, Michael Avenatti denies LA domestic violence

By MICHAEL BALSAMO and ANDREW DALTON, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, has denied allegations of domestic violence after his arrest near his ritzy Los Angeles skyscraper apartment.
“I have never struck a woman, I never will strike a woman,” Avenatti told reporters Wednesday after being booked and posting $50,000 bail.
Avenatti said he has been an advocate for women’s rights his entire career and is confident that he will be exonerated.
Police didn’t immediately disclose details about the arrest incident but Officer Tony Im, an LAPD spokesman, said the victim has visible injuries.
Earlier, he released a statement through his law firm slamming the allegation as “completely bogus” and intended to harm his reputation.
Avenatti became famous representing Daniels, the porn actress who alleges she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 and has sued to invalidate the confidentiality agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election that prevents her discussing it. She also sued Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, alleging defamation.
Avenatti, who has said he’s mulling a 2020 presidential run, pursued the president and those close to him relentlessly for months, taunting Trump in interviews and baiting him and his lawyers in tweets.
The Vermont Democratic Party canceled events planned for Friday and Saturday, where Avenatti was scheduled to speak, and is refunding ticket sales.
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Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey in Washington contributed to this report.

Northern California fire death toll at 56; 130 missing

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE, Associated Press
MAGALIA, Calif. (AP) — As the scope of a deadly Northern California wildfire set in, the sheriff said more than 450 people had now been assigned to comb through the charred remains in search for more bodies. The blaze has killed at least 56 people and authorities say 130 are unaccounted for.
Many of the missing are elderly and from Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 to the north of Paradise.
The one major roadway that runs through the mostly residential town is dotted with gas stations, a pizza shop, a hair salon and Chinese restaurant and convenience stores. There is no Main Street or town center. Resident Johnny Pohmagevich says a Rite Aid on the main road is as much of a center as the town has.
“When I say downtown I mean Paradise,” said Pohmagevich, who opted to stay in Magalia even as fire closed in.
Pohmagevich, an 18-year Magalia resident who works at Timber Ridge Real Estate and lives just up the road from many burned homes, said he stayed to protect his employer’s property from looters and to prepare some cabins and mobile homes so business tenants can live if they come back.
“If this town does recover, it’s going to take many, many years,” he said.
A week after the deadly Camp Fire struck, police teams drive around Magalia searching for those still in their homes, checking if they need any food and water. Crews from Pacific Gas & Electric are also in the area. With the death toll at 56, it is the deadliest wildfire in a century . There were also three fatalities from separate blazes in Southern California.
As officials raised the loss of homes to nearly 8,800 Wednesday, Sheriff Kory Honea said the task of recovering remains had become so vast that his office brought in another 287 searchers Wednesday, including National Guard troops, bringing the total number of searchers to 461 plus 22 cadaver dogs. He said a rapid-DNA assessment system was expected to be in place soon to speed up identifications of the dead, though officials have tentatively identified 47 of the 56.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke joined California Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday on a visit to the nearby leveled town of Paradise, telling reporters it was the worst fire devastation he had ever seen.
“Now is not the time to point fingers,” Zinke said. “There are lots of reasons these catastrophic fires are happening.” He cited warmer temperatures, dead trees and the poor forest management.
Brown, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump’s policies, said he spoke with Trump, who pledged federal assistance.
“This is so devastating that I don’t really have the words to describe it,” Brown said, saying officials would need to learn how to better prevent fires from becoming so deadly .
It will take years to rebuild, if people decide that’s what should be done, said Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The infrastructure is basically a total rebuild at this point,” Long said.
While most of the town of Paradise was wiped out, in Magalia, a sharp dividing line marks those that survived and those that did not.
“Magalia has so many trees. I honestly can’t believe it just didn’t get leveled,” said Sheri Palade, an area real estate agent.
For some, the areas left untouched offered a ray of hope.
Tom Driver, the office manager and elder at Magalia Community Church, said he had heard the church survived the blaze, though he did not know the status of his own home.
“I’ve been able to account for all of the congregation,” said Driver, who is staying with family in Oakland. “They’re all over the place but they got out in pretty good time.”
Driver said many residents of Magalia work at the university in Chico or out of their homes. When the blaze spread into Paradise, residents there drove down and faced horrendous traffic. Driver said he and some others in Magalia were able to escape north on a winding narrow road that put them ahead of the fire, not behind it.
Kim Bonini heard someone on a bullhorn two blocks over on Thursday urging people to leave. The power in her home had gone out that morning, leaving her only with her car radio to tell her if she needed to leave.
“My cell didn’t work, my house phone didn’t work, nothing. Nothing except for me crawling into my car,” Bonini said from her daughter’s home in Chico on Wednesday. “If I wouldn’t have heard them two blocks down I wouldn’t have known I had to evacuate.”
The cause of the fire remained under investigation, but it broke out around the time and place that a utility reported equipment trouble.
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Associated Press writers Janie Har and Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco, Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon, also contributed to this report.

Trump administration defends its case against CNN’s Acosta

By ASHRAF KHALIL, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to fend off a legal challenge from CNN and other outlets over the revocation of journalist Jim Acosta’s White House “hard pass.”
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly heard arguments Wednesday afternoon from lawyers representing CNN and the Justice Department. The news network is seeking an immediate restraining order that would force the White House to return Acosta’s press credentials — which grant reporters as-needed access to the 18-acre complex.
Kelly said he would announce his decision Thursday afternoon.
Acosta has repeatedly clashed with Trump and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in briefings over the last two years. But the dynamic devolved into a near-shouting match during a combative press conference last week following midterm elections in which Republicans lost control of the House.
Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he didn’t want to hear anything more from him. Trump called Acosta a “rude, terrible person.”
The White House quickly announced that Acosta’s White House access would be revoked.
The CNN lawsuit calls the revocation “an unabashed attempt to censor the press and exclude reporters from the White House who challenge and dispute the President’s point of view.”
The Associated Press joined with a group of 12 other news organizations, including Fox News, in filing an amicus brief Wednesday in support of CNN.
“Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” said a statement by Fox News President Jay Wallace. “While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”
On Wednesday, Justice Department lawyer James Burnham argued that Acosta was guilty of “inappropriate grandstanding” and deserved to lose his access over “his refusal to comply with the general standards of a press conference.”
Burnham also pointed out that CNN has dozens of other staffers with White House credentials, so excluding Acosta would not harm the network’s coverage.
The network’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, contended that Acosta was being singled out for his body of work, not his alleged rudeness during a press conference.
“The White House has made very clear that they don’t like the content of the reporting by CNN and Jim Acosta,” Boutrous said. “Rudeness really is a code word for ‘I don’t like you being an aggressive reporter.'”
Prior to Wednesday’s hearing, the White House had maintained that it has “broad discretion” to regulate press access to the White House.
A pre-hearing legal filing argued, “The President and his designees in the White House Press Office have exercised their discretion not to engage with him and, by extension, to no longer grant him on-demand access to the White House complex so that he can attempt to interact with the President or White House officials.”
Trump himself, in an interview published Wednesday, was uncertain how the court fight would end, saying: “We’ll see how the court rules. Is it freedom of the press when somebody comes in and starts screaming questions and won’t sit down?”
Trump told The Daily Caller that “guys like Acosta” were “bad for the country. … He’s just an average guy who’s a grandstander who’s got the guts to stand up and shout.”
The White House’s explanations for why it seized Acosta’s credentials have shifted over the last week. Sanders initially explained the decision by accusing Acosta of making improper physical contact with the intern seeking to grab the microphone. But that rationale disappeared after witnesses backed Acosta’s account that he was just trying to keep the mic, and Sanders distributed a doctored video that made it appear Acosta was more aggressive than he actually was.
On Tuesday, Sanders accused Acosta of being unprofessional by trying to dominate the questioning at the news conference.
Both Sanders and Trump are named as defendants in the CNN suit, along with Chief of Staff John Kelly and Randolph Alles, director of the Secret Service.
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Follow Khalil on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/Ashrafkhalil

Farm animals may soon get new features through gene editing

By CANDICE CHOI, AP Food & Health Writer
OAKFIELD, N.Y. (AP) — Cows that can withstand hotter temperatures. Cows born without pesky horns. Pigs that never reach puberty.
A company wants to alter farm animals by adding and subtracting genetic traits in a lab. It sounds like science fiction, but Recombinetics sees opportunity for its technology in the livestock industry.
But first, it needs to convince regulators that gene-edited animals are no different than conventionally bred ones. To make the technology appealing and to ease any fears that it may be creating Franken-animals, Recombinetics isn’t starting with productivity. Instead, it’s introducing gene-edited traits as a way to ease animal suffering.
“It’s a better story to tell,” said Tammy Lee, CEO of the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company.
For instance, animal welfare advocates have long criticized the way farmers use caustic paste or hot irons to dehorn dairy cows so the animals don’t harm each other. Recombinetics snips out the gene for growing horns so the procedure is unnecessary.
Last year, a bull gene-edited by Recombinetics to have the dominant hornless trait sired several offspring. All were born hornless as expected, and are being raised at the University of California, Davis. Once the female offspring starts lactating, its milk will be tested for any abnormalities.
Another Recombinetics project: castration-free pigs.
When male piglets go through puberty, their meat can take on an unpleasant odor, something known as “boar taint.” To combat it, farmers castrate pigs, a procedure animal welfare advocates say is commonly performed without painkillers. Editing genes so that pigs never go through puberty would make castration unnecessary.
Also in development are dairy cows that could withstand higher temperatures, so the animals don’t suffer in hotter climates.
Recombinetics and others say gene-editing techniques do what traditional breeding has always done, except much faster and with the precision of “molecular scissors.” They are waiting for clarity from government officials , but say meat and milk from gene-edited animals shouldn’t be subject to special regulations.
Most U.S. dairy cows already are bred through artificial insemination from “semen straws,” which are priced for a bull’s pedigree and traits developed through years of traditional breeding. Gene-edited traits would just be higher-priced extras, Recombinetics says. For example, the hornless trait could add $3 to $5 to the price of a semen straw that could cost around $15.
Once gene-editing is accepted by the public, farmers will be more interested in traits that step up productivity, Lee predicted. As an example, she cited pigs edited to have bigger litters.
CHICKENS AS BIG AS ELEPHANT?
Before food from gene-edited animals can land on dinner tables, however, Recombinetics has to overcome any public unease about the technology.
Beyond worries about “playing God,” it may be an uncomfortable reminder of how modern food production already treats animals, said Paul Thompson, a professor of agriculture at Michigan State University.
“There’s an ethical question that’s been debated for at least the last 20 years, of whether you need to change the animal or change the system,” Thompson said.
Support for gene editing will also likely depend on how the technology is used: whether it’s for animal welfare, productivity or disease resistance. In August, a Pew study found 43 percent of Americans supported genetically engineered animals for more nutritious meat.
The array of possibilities is why the Humane Society of the United States supports gene-editing to end pig castrations and cow dehorning but doesn’t give the technology its blanket approval.
“If you edit for your chicken to be the size of an elephant, that’s not good,” said Josh Balk, the group’s vice president of farm animal protection.
The image seems preposterous, but it may not be far off from what the words “gene-edited animals” conjure for many. In the science-fiction movie “Rampage” earlier this year, gene-editing is used to create monsters, including a giant wolf that shoots porcupine spikes from its tail.
Some may also question the need to risk using the technology, if it really just speeds up what could be achieved with conventional breeding.
Advances in traditional breeding have already stepped up the productivity of cows, chickens and pigs. Today, milk producers can shop for characteristics developed through conventional breeding, like body frames and how efficiently animals convert feed into meat. Semex, a Canadian seller of bull semen, offers already offers a “Robot Ready ” option for cows “built for automation,” with teat lengths and temperaments bred for milking machines.
The company is working with Recombinetics to develop the gene-edited hornless trait.
Notably, hornless dairy cows also already exist. But Recombinetics says there are so few that breeding them would compromise the valuable traits that have been carefully bred into modern dairy cows.
But John Burket, who breeds hornless dairy cows in Pennsylvania, thinks the hornless trait could spread quickly if it was prioritized.
Burket isn’t opposed to gene-editing, but he said he’s waiting to see if the technology delivers.
“ROBOT READY” COWS
For now, a more practical challenge for Recombinetics will be coming up with gene-edited traits farmers are willing to pay for. Semex says it will take at least two years of testing before it can start selling the hornless trait for dairy cows.
Conventional breeding comes with a lot more chance, but advances over the years have nevertheless made dairy farms increasingly productive. Paradoxically, that has contributed to a glut of milk, driving down prices and pressuring farmers.
Recombinetics says improving productivity isn’t just about producing more milk or meat but targeting inefficiencies like dehorning and pig castrations. Still, Lorraine Lewandrowski, a dairy farmer in upstate New York, is reminded of the skepticism she felt with bovine growth hormone in the 1990s.
“Do we want another technology that will put even more milk on the market?” she said.
Lewandrowski is also wary of anything that might give the dairy industry a bad image. But she noted the gene-edited hornless trait could save the time spent on dehorning.
Jonathan Lamb, an owner of Oakfield Dairy in western New York, said he wouldn’t pay much extra for the hornless trait; he’s watching costs because of low milk prices. But he thinks gene-editing could offer other improvements.
“I see that as a first step to other possibilities,” he said.
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Follow Candice Choi at @candicechoi
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The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.