Hundreds of thousands of Californians lost power as utilities sought to prevent the chance of their equipment sparking wildfires and the fire-weary state braced for a new bout of dry, windy weather.
More than 1 million people were expected be in the dark Monday during what officials have said could be the strongest wind event in California this year.
It’s the fifth time this year that Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation’s largest utility, has cut power to customers in a bid to reduce the risk that downed or fouled power lines or other equipment could ignite a blaze during bone-dry weather conditions and gusty winds. On Sunday, the utility shut off power to 225,000 customers in Northern California and planned to do the same for another 136,000 customers in a total of 36 counties.
The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for much of the state, predicting winds of up to 35 mph (56 kph) in lower elevations and more than 70 mph (113 kph) in mountainous areas of Southern California. The concern is that any spark could be blown into flames sweeping through tinder-dry brush and forestland.
The conditions could equal those during devastating fires in California’s wine country in 2017 and last year’s Kincade Fire, the National Weather Service said. Fire officials said PG&E transmission lines sparked that Sonoma County fire last October, which destroyed hundreds of homes and caused nearly 100,000 people to flee.
Weather conditions shifted in Northern California on Sunday, with humidity dropping and winds picking up speed, said Scott Strenfel, senior meteorologist for PG&E. He said another round of winds is expected Monday night.
Southern California, which saw cooler temperatures and patchy drizzle over the weekend, is also bracing for extreme fire weather. Southern California Edison said it was considering safety outages for 71,000 customers in six counties starting Monday, with San Bernardino County potentially the most affected.
Los Angeles County urged residents to sign up for emergency notifications and prepare to evacuate, preferably arranging to stay with family or friends in less risky areas who aren’t suspected to have the coronavirus. Local fire officials boosted staffing as a precaution.
Scientists say climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable. Traditionally October and November are the worst months for fires, but already this year the state has seen more than 8,600 wildfires that have scorched a record 6,400 square miles (16,576 square kilometers) and destroyed about 9,200 homes, businesses and other structures. There have been 31 deaths.
Many of this year’s devastating fires were started by thousands of dry lightning strikes, but some remain under investigation for potential electrical causes. While the biggest fires in California have been fully or significantly contained, more than 5,000 firefighters remain committed to 20 blazes, including a dozen major incidents, state fire officials said.
PG&E officials said the planned outages are a safety measure and understood they burden residents, especially with many working from home and their children taking classes online because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sheriff Kory Honea of Butte County said he’s concerned about residents in foothill communities during the blackouts because cellular service can be spotty and it’s the only way many can stay informed when the power is out.
“It is quite a strain on them to have to go through these over and over and over again,” he said.
US Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday, said a spokesman.
Vice President Mike Pence will continue with his aggressive campaign schedule after his chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive for the coronavirus.
Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley says Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, both tested negative for the virus on Saturday and remain in good health.
Short is Pence’s closest aide and the vice president is considered a “close contact” under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
O’Malley says that “in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel.”
Those guidelines mandate that essential workers exposed to someone with the coronavirus closely monitor for symptoms of Covid-19 and wear a mask whenever around other people.
After a day of campaigning Saturday, Pence was seen wearing a mask as he returned to Washington aboard Air Force Two once the news of Short’s diagnosis was made public.
Two top advisers to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past few days, people briefed on the matter said, raising new questions about the safety protocols at the White House, where masks are not routinely worn.
A second person familiar with the outbreak, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that Pence adviser Marty Obst also tested positive in the past few days.
US President Donald Trump, the first lady and several aides and advisers tested positive for the virus roughly three weeks ago.
Trump spent three nights at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and he was treated with a cocktail of medicine that included an experimental antibody treatment, as well as the steroid dexamethasone.
President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden fought over how to tame the raging coronavirus in Thursday’s final 2020 debate, largely shelving the rancor that overshadowed their previous face-off in favor of a more substantive exchange that highlighted their vastly different approaches to the major domestic and foreign challenges facing the nation.
With less than two weeks until the election, Trump sought to portray himself as the same outsider he first pitched to voters four years ago, repeatedly saying he wasn’t a politician. Biden, meanwhile, argued that Trump was an incompetent leader of a country facing multiple crises and tried to connect what he saw as the president’s failures to the everyday lives of Americans
The night in Nashville was centered on a battle over the president’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 225,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs. Trump declared that the virus will go away while Biden warned that the nation was heading toward “a dark winter.” Polling suggests it is the campaign’s defining issue for voters, and Biden declared, “Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America.”
Trump defended his management of the nation’s most deadly health crisis in a century, dismissing Biden’s warning that the nation had a dire stretch ahead due to spikes in infections. And he promised that a vaccine would be ready in weeks.
“It will go away,” said Trump, staying with his optimistic assessment of the pandemic. “We’re rounding the turn. We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away.”
The president said the worst problems are in states with Democratic governors, a contention that is no longer broadly true as it once was.
Biden vowed that his administration would defer to scientists on battling the pandemic and said that Trump’s divisive approach on suffering states hindered the nation’s response.
“I don’t look at this in the way he does--blue states and red states,” Biden said. “They’re all the United States. And look at all the states that are having a spike in he coronavirus--they’re the red states.”
With Trump trailing and needing to change the campaign’s trajectory, the debate could prove pivotal though more than 47 million votes already have been cast and there are fewer undecided voters than at this point in previous election years. Their first debate was defined by angry interruptions but Thursday night featured a mostly milder tone until near the end when Trump resumed his tactic of loudly butting in.
In a campaign defined by ugly personal attacks, the night featured a surprising amount of substantive policy debate as the two broke sharply on the environment, foreign policy, immigration and racial justice.
When Trump repeatedly asked Biden if he would “close down the oil industry,” the Democratic standardbearer said he “would transition from the oil industry, yes,” and that he would replace it by renewable energy “over time.” Trump, making a direct appeal to voters in energy producing states like Texas and the vital battleground of Pennsylvania, seized upon the remark as “a big statement.”
As the debate swept to climate change, Trump explained his decision to move to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord negotiated in 2015, declaring it was an “unfair” pact that would have cost the country trillions of dollars and hurt businesses.
Trump repeatedly claimed Biden’s plan to tackle climate change and invest in green industries was developed by “AOC plus three,” referring to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Biden chuckled during much of Trump’s answer and said, “I don’t know where he comes from.”
“I know more about wind than you do. It’s extremely expensive. Kills all the birds,” Trump said to Biden, who laughed at the response.
On race, Biden called out Trump’s previous refusals to condemn white supremacists and his attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement, declaring that the president “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”
“You know who I am. You know who he is. You know his character. You know my character,” Biden said. The rivals’ reputations for “honor and for telling to truth” are clear, he said.
Trump countered by pointing out his efforts on criminal justice reform, blasting Biden’s support of a 1990s Crime Bill that many feel disproportionately incarcerated Black men. Staring into the crowd, he declared himself “the least racist person in this room.”
Turning to foreign policy, Biden accused Trump of dealing with a “thug” while holding summits with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. And closer to home, the former vice president laced into the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents trying to illegally cross the southern border.
Biden said that America has learned from a New York Times report that Trump only paid $750 a year in federal taxes while holding “a secret bank account” in China. The former vice president then noted he’s released all of his tax returns going back 22 years and challenged the president to release his returns, saying, “What are you hiding?”
Trump said he closed his former account in China and claimed his accountants told him he “prepaid tens of millions of dollars” in taxes. However, as he has for the past four years, after promising to release his taxes, he declined to say when he might do so.
Trump said that when it comes to health care, he would like “to terminate” the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, even amid a pandemic, and come up “with a brand new beautiful health care,” that protects coverage for preexisting conditions. Biden said the president has been talking about making such a move for a long time but “he’s never come up with a plan.”
He also denounced Trump’s claim that Biden wanted to socialize medicine, creating daylight between himself and the more liberal members of his party whom he defeated in the Democratic primaries.
“He thinks he’s running against somebody else,” the former vice president said. “He’s running against Joe Biden. I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them.”
In a visual reminder of the pandemic that has rewritten the norms of American society and fundamentally changed the campaign, sheets of plexiglass had been installed onstage Wednesday between the two men. But in the hours before the debate, they were removed.
The debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, was a final chance for each man to make his case to a television audience of tens of millions of voters. And questions swirled beforehand as to how Trump, whose hectoring performance at the first debate was viewed by aides as a mistake that turned off viewers, would perform amid a stretch of the campaign in which he has taken angry aim at the news media and unleashed deeply personal attacks on Biden and his adult son.
When he feels cornered, Trump has often lashed out, going as negative as possible. In one stunning moment during the 2016 campaign, in an effort to deflect from the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which he is heard boasting about groping women, Trump held a press conference just before a debate with Hillary Clinton during which he appeared with women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. He then invited them to watch as audience members.
In a similar move, Trump’s campaign held another surprise pre-debate news conference, this time featuring Tony Bobulinski, a man who said he was Hunter Biden’s former business partner and made unproven allegations that the vice president’s son consulted with his father on China-related business dealings.
Trump made similar, if vague, accusations from the debate stage and exchanges about Hunter Biden did not dominate the night as aides on both campaigns thought might happen. Biden declared the discussion about family entanglements “malarkey” and accused Trump of not wanting to talk about the substantive issues.
Turning to the camera and the millions watching at home, he said, “It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family, and your family is hurting badly.”
A Dutch security researcher has claimed he hacked President Donald Trump’s Twitter account earlier this month, guessing that his password was “maga2020!,”reports Guardian.
Victor Gevers, a security expert, had access to Trump’s direct messages, could post tweets in his name and change his profile, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Thursday.
Gevers – who previously managed to log into Trump’s account in 2016 – apparently gained access by guessing Trump’s password.
He tried “maga2020!” on his fifth attempt and it worked.
Maga stands for Trump’s oft used campaign slogan Make America Great Again.
“I expected to be blocked after four failed attempts. Or at least would be asked to provide additional information,” Gevers told De Volkskrant.
Twitter, however, denied the report.
“We’ve seen no evidence to corroborate this claim, including from the article published in the Netherlands today. We proactively implemented account security measures for a designated group of high-profile, election-related Twitter accounts in the United States, including federal branches of government,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.
However, Gevers told De Volkskrant the ease with which he accessed Trump’s account suggested the president was not using basic security measures like two-step verification.
Allegedly gaining access to Trump’s Twitter meant Gevers was suddenly able to connect with 87 million users – the number of Trump’s followers – and according to De Volkskrant’s story, it sent him into a bit of a panic.
“So, he tries to warn others. Trump’s campaign team, his family. He sends messages via Twitter asking if someone will call Trump’s attention to the fact that his Twitter account is not safe. He tags the CIA, the White House, the FBI, Twitter themselves. No response,” the paper reported.
A day later, Gevers noticed that two-step verification had been activated on Trump’s account, he noted. Two days later, the Secret Service got in touch.
According to De Volkskrant, they thanked him for bringing the security problem to their attention.
Remarkably, it wasn’t the first time Gevers has gained access to the president’s Twitter account.
In 2016, he and two others guessed Trump’s password and got into his account.
Back then Trump’s password was “yourefired”, according to VN news, his catchphrase from the reality TV show that brought him into American living rooms before his election, The Apprentice.
A Minnesota judge has dismissed a third-degree murder charge filed against a former Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee against George Floyd’s neck but the more serious second-degree murder charge remains.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill’s ruling was dated Wednesday and made public Thursday, reports AP.
Cahill said there was enough probable cause for the second-degree murder charge and manslaughter charge against Derek Chauvin to proceed to trial.
Cahill also denied defense requests to dismiss the aiding and abetting counts against three other former officers, Thomas Lane, J Kueng and Tou Thao. The judge said it will be up to a jury to decide whether the officers are guilty.
Floyd, a Black man who was in handcuffs, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and became motionless.
His death sparked protests in Minneapolis and beyond, and led to a nationwide reckoning on race.
Prosecutors argued there was probable cause for the officers to go to trial on all of the charges, saying Chauvin intentionally assaulted Floyd, which is an element of the second-degree murder charge, and that the other officers assisted.
During the entire time that Floyd was pinned to the ground, “the officers remained in the same position: Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, Kueng and Lane remained atop Floyd’s back and legs, and Thao continued to prevent the crowd of concerned citizens from interceding,” the prosecutors said.
The officers ignored Floyd’s pleas to stop, cries from the concerned crowd, and their own training, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys argued that there was not enough probable cause to charge the former officers. Chauvin’s attorney said his client had no intent to assault or kill Floyd, while attorneys for the other officers argued that their clients did not intend or conspire to help Chauvin.
Defense attorneys said Floyd’s drug use was a factor in his death, with Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, saying Floyd most likely died of “fentanyl or a combination of fentanyl and methamphetamine in concert with his underlying health conditions”.
The county medical examiner classified Floyd’s death as a homicide, with his heart stopping while he was restrained by police and his neck compressed. A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death”.
According to prosecutors’ notes, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker told prosecutors that absent other apparent causes of death, it “could be acceptable” to rule the death an overdose, based on the level of fentanyl in Floyd’s system. A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family concluded he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.