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Here are the top-ranked electric and hybrid vehicles of 2024

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 14:42

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Electric car sales have been making significant strides since 2020.  

Last year alone, sales of electric cars shot up 60% year-over-year, according to MarketWatch data. 

And as more companies fulfill the demand for eco-friendly vehicles, some electric and hybrid cars are standing out among the rest.

U.S. News & World Report — a recognized authority in rankings and consumer advice — came out with its list of best hybrid and electric vehicles for 2024. 

For the third year in a row, the 2024 Lucid Air took the top spot for best luxury electric car. 

Best electric car that isn’t a luxury vehicle went to the 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6.

Hyundai led with the most awards, also winning best electric SUV, with the 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5, and best hybrid SUV with the 2024 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid.

The best hybrid car went to the 2024 Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the 2024 Lexus NX Hybrid was crowned best luxury hybrid.

Notably absent from the winners list was Tesla, which is interesting given its popularity in the U.S.

Tesla made up more than half of the electric vehicle market share in the U.S. between January and October of last year, with 56.3%, according to MarketWatch. Hyundai, on the other hand, only made up 4.8% of the electric vehicle market share.

For its rankings, U.S. News evaluated 96 luxury and affordable electric and hybrid cars, trucks and SUVs for quality, efficiency and value.

Top-ranked electric and hybrid vehicles:

Best Luxury Electric Car: 2024 Lucid Air 

Best Luxury Electric SUV: 2024 Volvo XC40 Recharge 

Best Electric SUV: 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 

Best Electric Car: 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 

Best Electric Truck: 2024 Ford F-150 Lightning 

Best Luxury Plug-In Hybrid: 2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

Best Plug-In Hybrid: 2024 Kia Sportage Plug-In Hybrid

Best Hybrid Car: 2024 Toyota Camry Hybrid 

Best Hybrid SUV: 2024 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid 

Best Luxury Hybrid: 2024 Lexus NX Hybrid 

High school freshman has record-breaking pro golf performance

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 13:47

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At age 15, Miles Russell became the youngest golfer ever to make the cut of a Korn Ferry Tour event as he went toe-to-toe with dozens of golfers vying to earn a spot on the PGA Tour. 

Russell finished in the top 25 of last weekend's LECOM Suncoast Classic in Florida. He was among 10 golfers who finished at 14 under, six strokes behind the winner Tim Widing. The nine others who finished 14 under earned a paycheck of over $10,000. 

But because Russell is an amateur, his payday was $0. 

Although he is ineligible to join the Korn Ferry Tour until he is 18, his performance will allow him to gain entry into another event. Russell qualifies for next week's Veritex Bank Championship in the Dallas area. 

SEE MORE: The history of the famous Masters green jacket

"It was an awesome week. It was a blast," Russell told reporters. "Especially for my first one, you may get a couple weird looks, like, 'Who's the little kid on the range?' But, you know, everybody was so nice and so helpful with everything."

The Korn Ferry Tour feeds into the PGA Tour. The top 30 golfers on the Korn Ferry Tour each year gain entry into the PGA Tour the following season. Golfers who win three tournaments in the same season can get automatically promoted to the PGA Tour that year. 

Russell's performance garnered attention from one of golf's top luminaries. 

"This is an amazing accomplishment. It’s great to see a young lefty playing such incredible golf," six-time major champion Phil Mickelson wrote on X.

Russell entered the tournament as ranked No. 1 by the American Junior Golf Association. He won such tournaments last year as the Junior PGA Championship and the Junior Players Championship. 

Los Angeles mayor declared safe after suspect breaks into her home

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 13:10

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Police in Los Angeles arrested a suspect following a break-in at the home of Mayor Karen Bass on Sunday morning, officials said.

Bass and her family were not harmed when a suspect gained access to Getty House, the LA mayor's official residence on Irving Boulevard.

“Around 6:40 AM this morning an individual smashed a window to gain entry into the Getty House while occupied,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement on social media, adding that police responded and took a suspect into custody without incident.

“Mayor Bass and her family were not injured and are safe. The Mayor is grateful to LAPD for responding and arresting the suspect," her office said in a statement.

SEE MORE: Annual count of homeless residents begins in Los Angeles

The LAPD did not immediately release the name or other information about the suspect and said an investigation is ongoing.

Bass served as a Democratic member of Congress from 2011 until her election as the city’s 43rd mayor in 2022. The former state Assembly leader is the first woman and second Black person to hold the post, after former Mayor Tom Bradley, who held the position from 1973 to 1993.

Israel intelligence chief resigns for failing to prevent Oct. 7 attack

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 12:32

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The head of Israeli military intelligence resigned on Monday over the failures surrounding Hamas' unprecedented Oct. 7 attack, the military said, becoming the first senior figure to step down over his role in the deadliest assault in Israel's history.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva's resignation could set the stage for more resignations among Israel's top security brass over Hamas' attack, when militants blasted through Israel's border defenses, rampaged through Israeli communities unchallenged for hours and killed 1,200 people, most civilians, while taking roughly 250 hostages into Gaza. That attack set off the war against Hamas in Gaza, now in its seventh month.

“The intelligence directorate under my command did not live up to the task we were entrusted with. I carry that black day with me ever since, day after day, night after night. I will carry the horrible pain of the war with me forever,” Haliva wrote in his resignation letter, which was provided by the military.

SEE MORE: Israel reportedly had knowledge of Hamas attack over a year ago

Haliva, as well as other military and security leaders, were widely expected to resign in response to the glaring failures that led up to Oct. 7 and the scale of its ferocity.

But the timing of the resignations has been unclear because Israel is still fighting Hamas in Gaza and battling the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in the north. Tensions with Iran are also at a high following attacks between the two enemies. Some military experts have said resignations at a time when Israel is engaged on multiple fronts is irresponsible and could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

Shortly after the attack, Haliva had publicly said that he shouldered blame for not preventing the assault as the head of the military department responsible for providing the government and the military with intelligence warnings and daily alerts.

While Haliva and others have accepted blame for failing to stop the attack, others have stopped short, most notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said he will answer tough questions about his role but has not outright acknowledged direct responsibility for allowing the attack to unfold. He has also not indicated that he will step down, although a growing protest movement is demanding elections be held soon.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid welcomed the resignation, saying it was “justified and dignified.”

“It would be appropriate for Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the same,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

SEE MORE: What key recent events led to Iran's assault on Israel?

The Hamas attack, which came on a Jewish holiday, caught Israel and its vaunted security establishment entirely off guard. Israelis' sense of faith in their military — seen by most Jews as one of the country's most trustworthy institutions — was shattered in the face of Hamas' onslaught. The resignation could help restore some of that trust.

The attack set off the devastating war that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry. The ministry's count doesn't distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, but it says at least two-thirds of the dead are children and women.

The fighting has devastated Gaza’s two largest cities, and driven 80% of the territory’s population to flee to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave. The war has sparked a humanitarian catastrophe that has drawn warnings of imminent famine.

The attack also sent shock waves through the region. Beyond Hezbollah and Iran, tensions have rocked the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as cities and towns within Israel itself.

On Monday, Israeli police said that a car had slammed into pedestrians in Jerusalem, wounding three lightly, and security camera video showed two men exiting the car with a rifle before the fleeing the scene. Police later said they arrested the two men.

Scam alert: Report shows which companies are impersonated the most

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 12:22

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Scroll through your recent text messages and emails and you'll probably come across an impersonation scam, sometimes called imposter scams.

If you are not familiar with the term, it is where scammers claim to be with a company or service you do business with.

What's most alarming is the agency impersonated the most is one that stops by your home almost every day of the week, according to a new report.

Ann Loreaux almost fell victim. She is an avid shopper, and gets several packages a week delivered to her Victorian home.

"I order a ton of things," she said. "Sometimes I don't know what's coming."

So when she received a text message from the U.S. Postal Service about a problem with a recent delivery, she paid attention.

"It stated that my package was delayed due to an incorrect address," she said. "And it had the logo, and it looked very official."

She was about to respond with her address and other information, when she had second thoughts.

"And then, in the back of my mind, I heard your voice," she said, "warning me so many times about scammers."

SEE MORE: Man gets dozens of unwanted Amazon deliveries every month

Which businesses and services are targeted the most

The U.S. Postal Service was the top impersonated organization of 2023, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Its new report, based on complaints to the BBB, shows the following services and companies are most impersonated:

- USPS

- Amazon

- Publishers Clearing House

- GeekSquad

- Norton AntiVirus

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 330,000 reports of business impersonation scams, and nearly 160,000 government impersonation scams, often pretending to be with the Internal Revenue Service or other government agencies.

And while scams that start with a phone call are going down, the FTC says fraud in the form of email and text messages are going up.

Another trend to watch out for: fake subscription renewals where criminals phish for your info by posing as a recognized company.

Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau says Netflix users may get a message saying "your subscription has expired, and that puts people in a panic." Instead, the BBB says go directly to your account to check your renewal status.

And always keep track of deliveries and auto-renewal payments.

As for USPS, the Postal Inspection Service states on its website that USPS will not send customers text messages or emails unless you sign up for a tracking request.

Loreaux says these messages can be very convincing. 

"I think a lot of people would click on it without even a second thought," she said.

Supreme Court weighs bans on sleeping outdoors as homelessness rises

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 12:04

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The Supreme Court wrestled with major questions about the growing issue of homelessness on Monday as it considered whether cities can punish people for sleeping outside when shelter space is lacking.

It's the most significant case before the high court in decades on the issue, and comes as record numbers of people are without a permanent place to live in the United States.

The case started in the rural Oregon town of Grants Pass, which began fining people $295 for sleeping outside as the cost of housing escalated and tents sprung up in the city’s public parks. The San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law on the basis that banning camping in places without enough shelter beds amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The justices appeared to be leaning toward a narrow ruling in the case after hearing arguments that showed the stark terms of the debate over homelessness in Western states like California, which is home to one-third of the country's homeless population.

Sleeping is a biological necessity, and people may be forced to do it outside if they can't get housing or there's no space in shelters, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

“Where do we put them if every city, every village, every town lacks compassion and passes a law identical to this? Where are they supposed to sleep? Are they supposed to kill themselves, not sleeping?" she said.

Solving homelessness is a complicated issue, said Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He questioned whether ticketing people for camping helps if there aren't enough shelter beds to hold everyone, but also raised concerns about federal courts “micromanaging” policy.

SEE MORE: Homelessness reached a record in 2023, and it could get worse

Other conservative justices asked how far Eighth Amendment legal protections should extend as cities struggle with managing homeless encampments that can be dangerous and unsanitary.

“How about if there are no public bathroom facilities, do people have an Eighth Amendment right to defecate and urinate outdoors?” said Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Other public-health laws cover that situation, Justice Department attorney Edwin Kneedler said. He argued people shouldn’t be punished just for sleeping outside, but said the ruling striking down the Grants Pass law should be tossed out because the court didn't do enough to determine if people are “involuntarily homeless.”

Gorsuch and other justices also raised the possibility that other aspects of state or federal law could help sort through the issue, potentially without setting sweeping new legal precedent.

The question is an urgent one in the West, where a cross-section of Democratic and Republican officials contend that the 9th Circuit's rulings on camping bans make it difficult for them to manage encampments. The appeals court has jurisdiction over nine states in the West.

Advocacy groups, on the other hand, argued that allowing cities to punish people who need a place to sleep will criminalize homelessness and ultimately make the crisis worse as the cost of housing increases.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court Monday morning to advocate for more affordable housing, holding silver thermal blankets and signs like “housing not handcuffs.”

Homelessness in the United States grew a dramatic 12% last year to its highest reported level, as soaring rents and a decline in coronavirus pandemic assistance combined to put housing out of reach for more people.

More than 650,000 people are estimated to be homeless, the most since the country began using the yearly point-in-time survey in 2007. Nearly half of them sleep outside. Older adults, LGBTQ+ people and people of color are disproportionately affected, advocates said.

In Oregon, a lack of mental health and addiction resources has also helped fuel the crisis. The state has some of the highest rates of homelessness and drug addiction in the nation, and ranks near the bottom in access to treatment, federal data shows.

The court is expected to decide the case by the end of June.

Former National Enquirer publisher testifies in Trump hush money trial

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 11:28

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Manhattan prosecutors began presenting their case against former President Donald Trump to the jury on Monday. 

After the two sides gave their opening statements, questioning got underway in the first-ever trial of a former president as Trump faces 34 felony counts in a New York court for falsifying business records. The trial opened last week with jury selection.

The prosecution called on former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker as its first witness.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges Trump tried to conceal an "illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election" by trying to cover up extramarital affairs. Bragg claims Trump falsified records to hide payments to attorney Michael Cohen that were meant for porn actress Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, as well as a former a former doorman at Trump Towner.

On Monday, Matthew Colangelo, Bragg's senior counsel, outlined evidence that Trump, through Cohen, used a "catch and kill" scheme. Prosecutors said Trump used Cohen to buy the McDougal story from National Enquirer's publisher AMI. Prosecutors say the Trump Organization then paid Cohen in monthly installments and a year-end bonus check. 

Colangelo then read a transcript of when Trump was caught on a hot microphone talking about groping women to "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush. Colangelo said Trump "bragged about sexual assault," which caused Trump to shake his head.

In addition to Pecker, Colangelo said prosecutors will question McDougal's lawyer Keith Davidson. 

Prior to Pecker taking the stand, both sides gave opening statements — with Trump attorney Todd Blanche insisting the payments made to Cohen were not illegal. 

“President Trump is innocent," Blanche said. "President Trump did not commit any crimes. He is in some ways, larger than life. But he is also here in this courtroom doing what any of us would do. Defending himself.”

After Monday's hearing, Trump described the nature of the payments to Cohen as "a legal expense."

Blanche said that Cohen lied under oath about the nature of the payments, which prompted an objection from the prosecution that was sustained. 

"You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump by relying on the words of Michael Cohen," Blanche said.

After the two sides gave opening statements, Pecker briefly took the stand before court adjourned for the day. He was asked whether he had the final say over publishing decisions, to which he replied yes. 

SEE MORE: Trump loses bid to halt lawsuits over Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection

The 12-member jury consists of seven men and five women. They emerged after Judge Juan Merchan dismissed dozens of potential jurors who said they could not be fair and impartial. Six alternates were also selected in case any of the 12 jurors are dismissed. 

The charges Trump faces in New York are considered a Class E felony, the lowest among felony counts in New York. The charges are arguably the least serious among the four criminal cases Trump faces.

Trump has tried to delay this trial numerous times. 

The former president has made numerous accusations that Merchan is biased against him. He has lashed out on social media over the case, which has prompted a hearing this week on whether Trump violated a gag order limiting what he can say publicly about the case. 

Trump has tried to balance his trial calendar with remaining on the campaign trail as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Over the weekend, the Trump campaign had to cancel his rally in North Carolina due to strong storms. 

The trial resumes Tuesday as prosecutors continue their questioning of Pecker. 

Ozzy Osbourne, Cher among Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2024 inductees

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 11:22

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It's been a little over two months since the 2024 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced. On Sunday night during "American Idol," the Rock Hall announced who made the cut.

The inductees this year are:

Performer Category: 

-Mary J. Blige 

-Cher 

-Dave Matthews Band 

-Foreigner 

-Peter Frampton 

-Kool & The Gang 

-Ozzy Osbourne 

- A Tribe Called Quest 

Musical Influence Award: 

-Alexis Korner 

-John Mayall 

- Big Mama Thornton 

Musical Excellence Award: 

- Jimmy Buffett 

- MC5 

- Dionne Warwick 

- Norman Whitfield 

Ahmet Ertegun Award: 

- Suzanne de Passe 

“Rock & Roll is an ever-evolving amalgam of sounds that impacts culture and moves generations,” said John Sykes, chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. “This diverse group of inductees each broke down musical barriers and influenced countless artists that followed in their footsteps.” 

Mariah Carey, Jane's Addiction, Lenny Kravitz, Sade and Sinéad O'Connor were among those who were nominated in February but not selected.

The Rock Hall says an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination to be considered. 

The induction ceremony will take place Oct. 19.

War, hostages, antisemitism: A somber backdrop to this year's Passover

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 00:35

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Passover is a major Jewish holiday, celebrated over seven or eight days each year, commemorating the exodus of ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as recounted in the Bible. To many Jews, it symbolizes freedom and the birth of a Jewish nation.

This year, for many Jews, the holiday’s mood will be somber due to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the rise of antisemitic incidents elsewhere.

When is Passover this year?

Passover, known as Pesach in Hebrew, begins on April 22. By tradition, it will be celebrated for seven days in Israel and for eight days by some Jews in the rest of the world.

What are key Passover rituals and traditions?

For many Jews, Passover is a time to reunite with family and recount the exodus from Egypt at a meal called the Seder. Observant Jews avoid grains known as chametz, a reminder of the unleavened bread the Israelites ate when they fled Egypt quickly with no time for dough to rise. Cracker-like matzo is OK to eat; most breads, pastas, cakes and cookies are off-limits.

What's different this year?

For many Israelis, it’s hard to celebrate an occasion focused on freedom when some of their compatriots are still held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. The hostages’ plight has reverberated worldwide, with some families in the Jewish diaspora asking rabbis to give them additional prayers for this year’s Seder. Others have created a new Haggadah, the book read during the Seder, to reflect current realities.

Many Seder tables, in Israel and elsewhere, are expected to have empty seats, representing those killed or taken hostage on Oct. 7, as well as soldiers unable to return home for Passover.

There’s also intense concern, in some countries, about a recent rise in antisemitic incidents.

The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League says it tallied 8,873 incidents of antisemitic assault, harassment and vandalism across the country in 2023—up 140% from 2022—with most of the incidents occurring after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. 

On Wednesday, the ADL and other Jewish organizations participated in a “Passover Without Fear” webinar, with FBI Director Christopher Wray and several security experts offering guidance on keeping the Passover season safe, secure and as welcoming as possible.

The event was hosted by the Secure Community Network, which provides security and safety resources to hundreds of Jewish organizations and institutions across North America.

“It is not a time for panic, but it is a time for continued vigilance," said Wray, adding that the FBI was particularly concerned about the threat posed by “lone actors.”

What are rabbis and scholars saying?

“The Seder is supposed to help us to relive past slavery and liberation from Egypt and to learn its lessons, but in 2024 it must also ask contemporary questions about the confusing and traumatic present and, most important, generate hope for the future," said Noam Zion, emeritus member of the faculty of Jewish studies at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

“At the Seder, we make a point of eating bitter herbs to recall the difficulties of the past, and also drink wine and eat the foods of freedom. It is a mix—a meal filled with discussion that confronts the challenges of being a Jew throughout history and of being a Jew today.” Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, a major U.S.-based Jewish organization.

“What a challenging time it is right now for the Jewish people. We feel so alone... There is so much cynicism in the world, so much hopelessness. We need Passover now more than ever. It’s a story that ends in freedom and joy," said Rabbi Noah Farkas, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Single dad went to grocery store for salad, returned with $1M lottery win

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 23:30

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As the popular lottery slogan goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it. And a Midwestern dad named Brant Edgington very nearly wasn’t.

He had stepped into the Baker’s grocery store in Fremont, Nebraska, to pick up a salad for his lunch and figured he’d spend a few extra dollars on a Mega Millions lottery ticket. Several days later, he learned he’d won a $1 million prize.

“I don’t play all that often,” he said after his win, according to a Nebraska Lottery press announcement. “As a single parent, baloney is more important, financially.”

The odds of winning $1 million playing the multi-state Mega Millions game are 1 in 12,607,306, so that’s a reasonable point!

Though he is not an avid lottery player, Edgington says he does get in when the jackpot gets high. However, he wasn’t planning on buying a ticket at all that day. But as he waited in line at the store while a customer ahead of him cashed in some scratch-off tickets, he decided to play.

The following Saturday, Edgington was back at the store and checked to see if he’d won. The Check-a-Ticket scanner wasn’t working for him, so he asked a clerk to see if he’d hit the jackpot.

“They disappeared for a minute,” he said. “Then a different lady came up with her and they just stared at me. She told me, ‘Don’t pass out when I tell you this … ’”

He claimed his prize on April 5, and hopefully he’s a little less worried about buying baloney for his kids now.

This story was originally published by Jennifer Graham Kizer at Simplemost.

SEE MORE: Man hits lottery win on a whim after getting $5 'side hustle' tip

US Forest Service firefighters ramp up readiness for wildfire season

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 21:42

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Forecasters are warning of what could be a busy wildfire season in the United States this year.

As temperatures begin to warm and parts of the country get less rain through spring and summer, the U.S. Forest Service announced it will change its strategy for the firefights likely to come. 

“Our historical traditional approach of overwhelming mass and bringing a whole lot of resources together to battle and to try to manipulate mother nature and wildfire isn't sustainable,” said Alex Robertson, Acting Director of Fire and Aviation at the U.S. Forest Service.  

Robertson said as wildfires continue to burn more acreage and last longer, the agency will dispatch resources and personnel differently, so the most well-trained first responders are battling the most complex fires. 

The agency’s new strategy is also aimed at better protecting first responders from physical dangers and the mental and emotional exhaustion that come with the job. 

“We know we have to prioritize,” said Robertson. “We have to work together to ensure that we're putting our resources in the most efficient, safest place to ensure that we're protecting values at risk. Those values are obviously are our responders.” 

The U.S. Forest Service hopes to hire over 11,300 firefighters this year. The agency will also offer training to allow more teams to be ready for bigger disasters. It is also hoping to retain more permanent, over-seasonal, firefighter positions to ensure there is adequate staffing to respond to emergencies. 

SEE MORE: As climate warms, wildfires could make air more deadly, study says

While there is no official start to wildfire season, 2024 has already seen blockbuster fires across the country. Through March of this year, nearly 2,700 square miles of U.S. acreage have been charred. Texas’ recent Smokehouse Creek Fire was its largest wildfire in state history and scorched over one million acres of Texas land, burning hundreds of homes and killing livestock. 

Climate scientist Scott Denning said he believes the problem is one-fold. “Climate change. The main effect of climate change on fires is that it's hot. Not that hard to understand—anybody who's ever had to water their lawn they know that in hot weather, you have to put more water on than in cooler weather, and that's true for our wild lands as well,” said Denning. 

With more heat, the water evaporates from the soil, the vegetation dries out, it becomes drought-stressed, and it's much easier to burn. Fires will tend to spread in a way that they aren't used to. 

The U.S. Forest Service said that, for that reason, preparation for what’s likely to come starts now. “We have to be better at treating the landscape and preparing it for wildfire, so those fires even in warmer, drier conditions aren't as difficult to control, or to manipulate, or as destructive as what we've seen,” said Robertson. “Then there's the third tenant, which is preparing communities for wildfires, and that's the home hardening. That’s the recognition that we're not going to be able to stop all fire.” 

The U.S. Forest Service is also offering updated training for those managing fire emergencies and is working on plans to streamline the administrative component of how the agency interacts with the communities where wildfires occur. 

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Terry Anderson, AP reporter held captive for years, has died

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 21:41

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Terry Anderson, the globe-trotting Associated Press correspondent who became one of America's longest-held hostages after he was snatched from a street in war-torn Lebanon in 1985 and held for nearly seven years, has died at 76.

Anderson, who chronicled his abduction and torturous imprisonment by Islamic militants in his best-selling 1993 memoir "Den of Lions," died on Sunday in at his home in Greenwood Lake, New York, said his daughter, Sulome Anderson.

The cause of death was unknown, though his daughter said Anderson recently had heart surgery.

After returning to the United States in 1991, Anderson led a peripatetic life, giving public speeches, teaching journalism at several prominent universities and, at various times, operating a blues bar, Cajun restaurant, horse ranch and gourmet restaurant.

He also struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, won millions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets after a federal court concluded that country played a role in his capture, then lost most of it to bad investments. He filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Upon retiring from the University of Florida in 2015, Anderson settled on a small horse farm in a quiet, rural section of northern Virginia he had discovered while camping with friends. `

"I live in the country and it's reasonably good weather and quiet out here and a nice place, so I'm doing all right," he said with a chuckle during a 2018 interview with The Associated Press.

In 1985 he became one of several Westerners abducted by members of the Shia Muslim group Hezbollah during a time of war that had plunged Lebanon into chaos.

After his release, he returned to a hero's welcome at AP's New York headquarters.

As the AP's chief Middle East correspondent, Anderson had been reporting for several years on the rising violence gripping Lebanon as the country fought a war with Israel, while Iran funded militant groups trying to topple its government.

On March 16, 1985, a day off, he had taken a break to play tennis with former AP photographer Don Mell and was dropping Mell off at his home when gun-toting kidnappers dragged him from his car.

He was likely targeted, he said, because he was one of the few Westerners still in Lebanon and because his role as a journalist aroused suspicion among members of Hezbollah.

"Because in their terms, people who go around asking questions in awkward and dangerous places have to be spies," he told the Virginia newspaper The Review of Orange County in 2018.

What followed was nearly seven years of brutality during which he was beaten, chained to a wall, threatened with death, often had guns held to his head and often was kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time.

Anderson was the longest held of several Western hostages Hezbollah abducted over the years, including Terry Waite, the former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had arrived to try to negotiate his release.

By his and other hostages' accounts, he was also their most hostile prisoner, constantly demanding better food and treatment, arguing religion and politics with his captors, and teaching other hostages sign language and where to hide messages so they could communicate privately.

He managed to retain a quick wit and biting sense of humor during his long ordeal. On his last day in Beirut he called the leader of his kidnappers into his room to tell him he'd just heard an erroneous radio report saying he'd been freed and was in Syria.

"I said, 'Mahmound, listen to this, I'm not here. I'm gone, babes. I'm on my way to Damascus.' And we both laughed," he told Giovanna DellÓrto, author of "AP Foreign Correspondents in Action: World War II to the Present."

He learned later his release was delayed when a third party who his kidnappers planned to turn him over to left for a tryst with his mistress and they had to find someone else.

Anderson's humor often hid the PTSD he acknowledged suffering for years afterward.

"The AP got a couple of British experts in hostage decompression, clinical psychiatrists, to counsel my wife and myself and they were very useful," he said in 2018. "But one of the problems I had was I did not recognize sufficiently the damage that had been done.

"So, when people ask me, you know, 'Are you over it?' Well, I don't know. No, not really. It's there. I don't think about it much these days, it's not central to my life. But it's there."

At the time of his abduction, Anderson was engaged to be married and his future wife was six months pregnant with their daughter, Sulome.

The couple married soon after his release but divorced a few years later, and although they remained on friendly terms Anderson and his daughter were estranged for years.

"I love my dad very much. My dad has always loved me. I just didn't know that because he wasn't able to show it to me.," Sulome Anderson told the AP in 2017.

Father and daughter reconciled after the publication of her critically acclaimed 2017 book, "The Hostage's Daughter," in which she told of traveling to Lebanon to confront and eventually forgive one of her father's kidnappers.

"I think she did some extraordinary things, went on a very difficult personal journey, but also accomplished a pretty important piece of journalism doing it," Anderson said. "She's now a better journalist than I ever was."

Terry Alan Anderson was born Oct. 27, 1947. He spent his early childhood years in the small Lake Erie town of Vermillion, Ohio, where his father was a police officer.

After graduating from high school, he turned down a scholarship to the University of Michigan in favor of enlisting in the Marines, where he rose to the rank of staff sergeant while seeing combat during the Vietnam War.

After returning home, he enrolled at Iowa State University where he graduated with a double major in journalism and political science and soon after went to work for the AP. He reported from Kentucky, Japan and South Africa before arriving in Lebanon in 1982, just as the country was descending into chaos.

"Actually, it was the most fascinating job I've ever had in my life," he told The Review. "It was intense. War's going on — it was very dangerous in Beirut. Vicious civil war, and I lasted about three years before I got kidnapped."

Anderson was married and divorced three times. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Gabrielle Anderson, from his first marriage.

15 people injured in tram accident at Universal Studios theme park

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 19:00

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A tram accident at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles injured 15 people Saturday night, authorities and the company said.

Los Angeles County Fire Department units were dispatched to the theme park on Lankershim Boulevard shortly after 9 p.m., the department said in a social media post.

The victims taken to area hospitals had minor injuries, the department said.

A Universal Studios Hollywood spokesperson emailed a statement to The Associated Press confirming there were "multiple minor injuries" from an accident involving a tram at the theme park.

The details of the accident were not immediately available.

The California Highway Patrol will lead the investigation, the fire department said.

SEE MORE: Disney to roll out $2 billion plan to reinvent Anaheim theme park

Watch bear cubs practice climbing on gondola lift tower in Colorado

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 18:02

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An adorable video shows two bear cubs climbing a gondola tower at Steamboat Ski Resort in Colorado on Friday.

The baby bears were practicing their climbing skills using the lift tower of Wild Blue Gondola before mama bear seemed to have enough and made them climb back down. 

You can see the cubs climb up the tower and safely back down in the nearly three-minute clip.

The video below is courtesy of Sharon Spiegel and shared with Scripps News Denver by Steamboat Radio on their Facebook page:

In the video, guests are absolutely astounded by how effortlessly these bears scale the structure with their claws. 

"I did not think they would do that,"  you hear a person say,  while another adds, "This is insane!"

Suddenly, a voice comes over the intercom, possibly from security or management, announcing  "The bears are climbing the tower," followed by another voice encouraging,  "you better be taking videos."

And captured the moment they did, and we couldn't be more thankful for it!

This story was originally published by Robert Garrison at Scripps News Denver.

SEE MORE: Bear cub in rehab after people seen pulling it from tree for pictures

Will there be a 'superbloom' this year in California?

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 16:26

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Carpets of yellow, orange and gold flowers are beginning to cover Southern California's vast deserts, the Bay Area's dramatic bluffs and even near Los Angeles International Airport.

But do they add up to a "superbloom"? There is no single definition of the event, but so far this year's blooms haven't been as vibrant or abundant as those that took over swaths of California last spring following drought-busting rains. This year, too, the state received ample winter rains.

After especially wet winters, bursts of color may appear in the spring, drawing droves of visitors to California and other parts of the Southwest to glimpse the flowering fields and pose for pictures.

Here are some key facts about the natural spectacle:

What's a superbloom?

Scientists don't agree on any one definition. Across California and Arizona, there are stretches of desert that can quickly transform into dense fields of wildflowers, since seeds lie dormant in the soil and then germinate and blossom at around the same time.

A recent study found that such widespread blooms, which have been visible by satellite imagery in some years, take place after seasons with greater than 30% average precipitation, said Naomi Fraga, director of conservation programs at the California Botanic Garden, east of Los Angeles.

Does this year count? 

No, according to Fraga. That's because there isn't a huge diversity in the flowers that have blossomed in places like California's Death Valley.

This year's blooms aren't as large or as dense as wildflowers in past years, she said.

"When I think of superblooms, I think of a bloom that is so extraordinary, that's a once-in-a-lifetime event," Fraga said, adding that the wildflower display this year "still makes a beautiful show."

Last spring, in early April visitors to Southern California's Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve were treated to dazzling orange displays of the state flower. But around the same time this year, the fields were absent of the orange blooms, with the reserve's officials posting that the window for an impressive show was becoming "increasingly narrow."

In Death Valley, one of the driest places on earth, stretches of desert are dotted with gold thanks to sunflowers that emerged after an especially wet winter and spring.

Whether that constitutes a superbloom is "really in the eye of the beholder," said Evan Meyer, executive director of the California-based nonprofit Theodore Payne Foundation, which works to preserve California's native plants.

When does it happen?

April is typically the peak month for spring wildflowers, but in high-elevation places, they can continue to blossom later into the spring.

Superblooms generally refer to low-elevation desert regions, Fraga said.

"It's much more geographic than seasonal," Meyer said. "Spring in the mountains hasn't started, and in the low desert, it's past its peak."

When temperatures rise in the desert, the flowers can quickly dry out.

How does climate change affect the superbloom?

Experts say it might be too soon to tell.

Climate change is making precipitation patterns more erratic, but the effects on wildflowers could play out over decades or even centuries, Fraga said since seeds stay dormant in the soil for long periods of time.

Southern California received heavy rain last summer, unlike its usually dry summers, which she said probably stimulated flowers to germinate out of season. Winter temperatures also were higher than average, so many of them were able to stay in bloom through the spring season.

"That made for a very unusual bloom," Fraga said.

SEE MORE: Bojangles is bringing its biscuits to the West Coast

2 killed and 6 injured in shooting at Memphis park party, police say

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 16:17

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Eight people were shot including two men who were killed at an unsanctioned public party in a Memphis city park Saturday night, police said.

Officers responded at 7:19 p.m. to a reported shooting, Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn Davis said during a news conference at the scene.

Two men were pronounced dead at the scene, Davis said.

The six surviving victims were transported to area hospitals and one was in critical condition at Regional One Health in Memphis, police said.

The shooting occurred at a block party in Orange Mound Park, which Davis said included an estimated 200 to 300 attendees but did not appear to have been issued a city permit.

At least two people are believed to have fired weapons during the shooting and police were examining video footage as part of the ongoing investigation, Davis said. There were no immediate arrests.

"In light of recent events, we stand together to denounce these senseless acts of violence," Davis said.

The Memphis police initially reported there were 16 people shot but revised the number in a social media post, noting the error appeared to have been a result of "several victims being reported multiple times."

Young siblings killed after car plows into children's birthday party

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 14:54

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An 8-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother were killed Saturday afternoon when a vehicle crashed into a building during a children's birthday party at a boat club located south of Detroit. 

Fifteen others were injured in the crash, including three children and six adults, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. The incident happened around 3 p.m. at Swan Boat Club on Brancheau Road. 

Nine of the victims were transported to the hospital via ambulance or medical helicopter, said Monroe County Sheriff Troy Goodnough. 

Officials said a 66-year-old woman crashed into the building, stopping about 25 feet inside. Goodnough said the woman was taken into custody for operating while intoxicated causing death and additional charges are likely. 

Goodnough said first responders described the scene as "extremely chaotic with high level of emotions."

The investigation into the deadly crash is ongoing. 

This story was originally published by Scripps News Detroit

Israeli strikes on Gaza city of Rafah kill 22, mostly children

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 12:24

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Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah overnight killed 22 people, including 18 children, health officials said Sunday, as the United States was on track to approve billions of dollars of additional military aid to its close ally.

Israel has carried out near-daily air raids on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's population of 2.3 million has sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. It has also vowed to expand its ground offensive to the city on the border with Egypt despite international calls for restraint, including from the U.S.

The House of Representatives approved a $26 billion aid package on Saturday that includes around $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

The first strike killed a man, his wife and their 3-year-old child, according to the nearby Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies. The woman was pregnant and the doctors managed to save the baby, the hospital said.

The second strike killed 17 children and two women, all from the same extended family, according to hospital records. First responders were still searching the rubble. An airstrike in Rafah the night before killed nine people, including six children.

SEE MORE: House passes critical aid package for Ukraine, Israel, other US allies

The Israel-Hamas war has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, devastated Gaza's two largest cities and left a swath of destruction across the territory. Around 80% of the population have fled their homes to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave, which experts say is on the brink of famine.

The conflict, now in its seventh month, has sparked regional unrest pitting Israel and the U.S. against Iran and allied militant groups across the Middle East. Israel and Iran traded fire directly earlier this month, raising fears of all-out war between the longtime foes.

Tensions have also spiked in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli troops killed two Palestinians who the military says attacked a checkpoint with a knife and a gun near the southern West Bank town of Hebron early Sunday. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the two killed were 18 and 19 years old, from the same family. No Israeli forces were wounded, the army said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service meanwhile said it has recovered a total of 14 bodies from an Israeli raid in the Nur Shams urban refugee camp in the West Bank that began late Thursday. Those killed include three militants from the Islamic Jihad group and a 15-year-old boy. The military says it killed 10 militants in the camp and arrested eight suspects. Nine Israeli soldiers and officers were wounded.

In a separate incident in the West Bank, an Israeli man was wounded in an explosion Sunday, the Magen David Adom rescue service said. A video circulating online shows a man approaching a Palestinian flag that had been planted in a field. When he kicks it, it appears to trigger an explosive device.

At least 469 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Most have been killed during Israeli military arrest raids, which often trigger gunbattles, or in violent protests.

The war in Gaza was sparked by an unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which Hamas and other militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to call for new elections to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a deal with Hamas to release the hostages. Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until Hamas is destroyed and all the hostages are returned.

The war has killed at least 34,097 Palestinians and wounded another 76,980, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its count but says at least two-thirds have been children and women. It also says the real toll is likely higher as many bodies are stuck beneath the rubble left by airstrikes or are in areas that are unreachable for medics.

Israel blames Hamas for civilian casualties because the militants fight in dense, residential neighborhoods, but the military rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children. The military says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence.

3 seriously injured after knife attack on party boat in New York City

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 02:38

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A knife attack on a crowded party boat at a New York City pier Saturday resulted in the hospitalization of three people, police said.

A 911 call came in around 5 p.m. reporting the assault along the East River near 58th Street and the Brooklyn Army Terminal warehouse, Detective Sophia Mason said.

The victims were said to be a 32-year-old man with a stab wound to the torso, a 40-year-old man with stab wounds to the chest and abdomen and a 28-year-old man who was hit in the head with a bottle.

They were taken to the NYU Langone Hospital and were in stable condition, Mason said. There were no arrests as of Saturday evening, and the investigation was ongoing.

Around 3,000 people were aboard the vessel, the Cornucopia Majesty, at the time, according to police.

SEE MORE: Staff and shoppers return to Sydney mall 6 days after mass stabbings

Autoworkers union celebrates breakthrough win in Tennessee

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 01:40

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The United Auto Workers' overwhelming election victory at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee is giving the union hope that it can make broader inroads in the South, the least unionized part of the country.

The UAW won a stunning 73% of the vote at VW after losing elections in 2014 and 2019. It was the union's first win in a Southern assembly plant owned by a foreign automaker.

Union President Shawn Fain said the pundits all told him that the UAW couldn't win in the South.

"But you all said, 'Watch this,' " he told a cheering group of VW organizers at a union hall in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Friday night, when the UAW victory was clear. "You guys are leading the way. We’re going to carry this fight on to Mercedes and everywhere else."

However, the UAW is likely to face a tougher test as it tries to represent workers at two Mercedes-Benz plants in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A five-day election is scheduled to start May 13, where the union’s campaign has already become heated.

The UAW has accused the German carmaker of violating U.S. and German labor laws with aggressive anti-union tactics, which the company denies.

SEE MORE: Volkswagen union vote leads effort to test UAW's power

"They are going to have a much harder road in work sites where they are going to face aggressive management resistance and even community resistance than they faced in Chattanooga," said Harry Katz, a labor-relations professor at Cornell University. "VW management did not aggressively seek to avoid unionization. Mercedes is going to be a good test. It's the deeper South."

Late last year, the UAW announced a drive to represent nearly 150,000 workers at non-union factories largely in the South. The union is targeting U.S. plants run by Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo, along with factories operated by electric-vehicle makers Tesla, Rivian and Lucid.

The union's last defeat at VW in Chattanooga came at a low-water mark — in the middle of a federal investigation into bribery and embezzlement under a previous president.

Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who studies the UAW, said the union flipped the script by installing new leadership, touting the rich contracts it won last year from Detroit automakers after strikes at targeted factories, and exploiting a climate that is now more favorable to unions. He said the union was also adept at translating signed pro-union authorization cards into votes — partly by pushing for a quick election.

"Now the public and media eyes are going to be on Chattanooga and how quickly the UAW can translate this into a contract," he said. If the union can't quickly get a good contract, it risks losing some of the momentum it gained with Friday's election win, he said.

Unions in other industries are already moving ahead with organizing campaigns in the South and trying to learn from the UAW's playbook.

The Association of Flight Attendants, which has tried and failed to win over cabin crews at Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, hopes to collect enough signatures to force another election at Delta by year end. The union's president, Sara Nelson, said she was not surprised at the UAW win after strikes that led to record contracts last year.

"I've been talking about this for a long time — that strikes and taking on the boss is going to spur organizing, and that's exactly what we saw here," Nelson said.

Nelson is trying to secure an industry-leading contract at United Airlines that she can use to court Delta crews. In the meantime, crews at startup Breeze Airways, many of whom live in the South, will vote next month whether to join her union.

The White House issued a statement from President Joe Biden congratulating the UAW. Biden — who joined a UAW picket line in Michigan during the union's strike against Ford, GM and Stellantis plants last year — praised the success of unions representing autoworkers, Hollywood actors and writers, health care workers and others in gaining better contracts.

"Together, these union wins have helped raise wages and demonstrate once again that the middle-class built America and that unions are still building and expanding the middle class for all workers," Biden said.

Biden criticized six Southern Republican governors, including Bill Lee of Tennessee, who told autoworkers this week that voting for union representation would jeopardize jobs.

Sharon Block, a law professor at Harvard University who worked for the Biden administration on labor and other issues, said the governors' warning rang hollow after nonunion Tesla revealed that it plans to lay off 10% of its workers after disappointing sales results. She said VW workers saw the governors' open letter as "an empty threat and a cynical ploy," and they ignored it.

"Workers for a long time have been told that you can't organize in the South. And many workers, even not in the South, may work in industries where they've been told for a long time you can't organize," Block said. "What the UAW showed last night is that we need to go and rethink all those negative statements."

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