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CEO Barra joins talks

DETROIT — General Motors CEO Mary Barra joined negotiators at the bargaining table, an indication that a deal may be near to end a monthlong strike by the United Auto Workers union that has paralyzed the company’s factories. Barra and GM President Mark Reuss were in the bargaining room early Tuesday, a person briefed on the talks said, but they left later in the morning as committees began work on specific contract language. The person didn’t want to be identified because the talks are confidential. The appearance of two key executives is a strong sign that bargainers are closing in on a contract agreement that would end the strike, which began on Sept. 16. Another person briefed on the talks said the only issues that remain are faster pay increases for workers hired after 2007, apprenticeships for skilled trades workers, and the specifics of winding down a joint union-company training center. The person also didn’t want to be identified because the talks are ongoing. The union has summoned its national council of factory-level leaders to Detroit for a meeting Thursday billed as an update on contract talks. The group could be assembling to vote on a tentative agreement. It also will decide if workers should return to their jobs before or after they vote on the deal.

Fire at California oil facility

CROCKETT, Calif. — A fire at an oil storage facility in the San Francisco Bay Area prompted a hazardous materials emergency Tuesday afternoon that led authorities to order about 12,000 people in two communities to stay inside with all windows and doors closed. Thick plumes of black smoke and flames filled the skyline around the NuStar Energy LP facility in Crockett, California, 30 miles northeast of San Francisco. “This is a very dynamic, rapidly evolving situation,” said Capt. George Laing of the Contra Costa Fire Department. “We’ve got two tanks that are releasing chemicals that are still burning.” The Contra Costa Health Department posted on Twitter that there was a “hazardous materials emergency” in the towns of Crockett, home to about 3,100 people, and Rodeo, population 8,700. The department urged residents to stay inside and close all windows and doors. “Cover any cracks around doors or windows with tape or damp towels. Stay off the phone unless you need to report a life-threatening emergency at your location.”

25 years for $1.3 billion scam

MIAMI — A California man has been sentenced by a Florida judge to 25 years in prison for orchestrating a $1.3 billion fraud scheme that stole money from at least 7,000 investors nationwide. Robert Shapiro, 61, was sentenced Tuesday in Miami federal court after previously pleading guilty to mail and wire fraud and tax evasion. Shapiro’s Woodbridge Group had offices in California, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado and Connecticut. Investors were told Woodbridge held real estate loans paying them high levels of interest. In fact, the real estate was also owned by Shapiro and sometimes didn’t exist. It was a Ponzi scheme paying older investors with money from newer ones. Prosecutors say Shapiro will forfeit assets such as jewelry and paintings by artists including Picasso and Renoir.

Huffman starts 2-week sentence

SAN FRANCISCO — “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman — aka inmate No. 77806-112 — reported Tuesday to a federal prison in California to serve a two-week sentence in a college admissions scandal that underscored the lengths some wealthy parents will go to get their children into top universities. Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, dropped her off at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, a low-security prison for women in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to TASC Group, which represents Huffman. The prison has been described by media as “Club Fed,” making its way onto a Forbes list in 2009 of “America’s 10 Cushiest Prisons.” It has housed well-known inmates in the past, including “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss. Once inside the prison, Huffman will share a room and open toilet with three other inmates, according to a TASC Group publicist who declined to be named in accordance with company policy. The person said the actress will be subjected to five bed checks a day while having access to a gym, library and TV room. The inmate handbook says inmates are assigned khaki pants, blouse and brown T-shirt with a nametag that must be displayed all the time. Wakeup on weekdays is 5 a.m., with breakfast at 5:30, and beds must be made by 6. Inmates who have been medically cleared typically work in food service, a maintenance shop or as a unit orderly.

MGM sells two Vegas casinos

LAS VEGAS — MGM Resorts International announced the sale Tuesday of two casinos that will significantly alter its portfolio of Las Vegas Strip properties and offer up cash. The Las Vegas-based company said it is selling the Circus Circus hotel-casino for $825 million to Treasure Island casino owner Phil Ruffin. The company also sold the Bellagio for $4.25 billion. MGM and the Blackstone investment group are forming a joint venture that is purchasing the Bellagio and leasing it back to an MGM subsidiary for $245 million annually. MGM Resorts will get a 5% ownership stake in the joint venture and about $4.2 billion in cash. Both deals are expected to close by the end of the year. Casino magnate Steve Wynn opened the Bellagio in 1998 but MGM took ownership in 2000 when Wynn’s Mirage Resorts merged with MGM. Circus Circus opened in 1968 and MGM purchased it in 2005.

K-9 wounded suspect dead

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — Police are investigating a shooting that left a suspect dead and a police K-9 injured. DeKalb police say the K-9, named Django (JANG-oh), was shot Tuesday in a townhome community near Stone Mountain and rushed into surgery. Authorities say he is in stable condition. A suspect was shot and later died. News outlets report officers spotted a 26-year-old man wanted on 11 warrants walk into a store. When the man spotted the officers, police say he reached into his waistband and started running. Officers set up a perimeter and the dog chased him. Multiple gunshots were fired and the man and the dog were hit. Django has been with the department for six years.

4.7 quake shakes central Calif.

HOLLISTER, Calif. — A magnitude-4.7 earthquake struck a remote area of central California on Tuesday. But a seismologist said there was no connection to a slightly smaller quake hours earlier in the San Francisco Bay region. The temblor occurred at 12:42 p.m. and was centered about 16 miles southeast of Hollister at a depth of 6 miles. The epicenter was in a rugged mountain range, with agricultural areas to the west. Veteran seismologist Lucy Jones tweeted that the quake occurred in a “creeping” section of the San Andreas Fault that historically has had many quakes of similar magnitude but also creeps without quakes.

Synagogue suspect sees plea

PITTSBURGH — Lawyers for the man accused of shooting to death 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue last year said in a filing Tuesday that the case would be over if federal prosecutors had accepted his offer to plead guilty in return for life-without-parole. Lawyers for Tree of Life shooting defendant Robert Bowers made the statement in a response to prosecutors’ proposal to start trial in mid-September 2020. “Against the hazards of a September-October 2020 trial, the government invokes the rights of crimes victims to be free from unreasonable delay,” Bowers’ lawyers said. “The court’s view of this invocation of rights should be informed by the fact that this case would already be over — and interests in a speedy resolution vindicated — had the government accepted the defendant’s offer to plead guilty as charged and be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.” The U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh notified the court in August it is pursuing the death penalty against Bowers, 47, for what was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Bomb scare was false alarm

HELENA, Mont. — Authorities evacuated an elementary school in Montana’s capital city on Tuesday after officials found what they thought was the remnants of a homemade bomb, but it turned out to be a plastic bottle filled with nuts and bolts left in the schoolyard. School officials made the discovery shortly before classes began at Rossiter Elementary School. They blocked off the area and called police at about 8:20 a.m., said Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton. An investigation found the plastic bottle wrapped in black electrical tape was full of washers, nuts and bolts, along with a non-flammable unidentified liquid, Dutton said. There was no detonator attached to the bottle. A homeless person found the bottle near a construction site and left it in the playground, he said. No threat had been made against the school, and there were no injuries or property damage. “It wasn’t malicious,” Dutton said. “It did look like a bomb, the school acted appropriately.” The 490 students walked to a nearby location where they could be picked up by their parents, said Superintendent Tyler Ream. School buses were brought in to keep them warm. Parents were notified via the school’s messenger system.

All-female spacewalk moved up

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is moving up the first all-female spacewalk to this week because of a power system failure at the International Space Station. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will now venture out Thursday or Friday, instead of next Monday, to deal with the problem. It will be the first spacewalk by only women in more than a half-century of spacewalking. A critical battery charger failed over the weekend, prompting the change, NASA officials said Monday. The women will replace the broken component, rather than install new batteries, which was their original job. Last week, astronauts conducted the first two of five spacewalks to replace old batteries that make up the station’s

Awareness note called bullying

PORTLAND, Maine — A 15-year-old girl was suspended for bullying after trying to draw attention to what she believed was an unaddressed problem of sexual assaults involving students at her high school. Now, she’s taking the school district to court. Aela Mansmann, a 15-year-old sophomore at Cape Elizabeth High School outside Portland, has been at odds with Cape Elizabeth Schools for a month after posting a note in a bathroom that said: “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.” She and two other students who left similar notes were ordered suspended. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine is taking on Mansmann’s case and calling on federal court to stop her suspension. The organization filed a motion asking for a temporary restraining order against the district, and a hearing is slated for a Portland courtroom on Monday. The ACLU’s filing states that Mansmann has taken a “public stance as an ally for victims and survivors of sexual violence.” The school’s principal, Jeffrey Shedd, said in a letter to the community Wednesday that a male student believed he was the target of the note campaign, and that he felt unsafe at school in the wake of the notes.

12 Gooding accusers could testify

NEW YORK — Up to a dozen accusers could testify at the sexual misconduct trial of Cuba Gooding Jr., Prosecutor Jenna Long made the comment as the actor pleaded not guilty to an indictment alleging two instances of sexual misconduct. Gooding appeared Tuesday before a judge in New York City and was released on his own recognizance. The allegations from the 12 other women range from 2001 to 2018 and all involve allegations he touched or grabbed women at bars, hotels or restaurants. Prosecutors said several of the alleged incidents happened in New York or the Los Angeles area. Others are said to have occurred in Las Vegas, Dallas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gooding’s lawyer said outside court that he is “absolutely dumbfounded.”

‘Grease’ spinoff set for HBO Max

LOS ANGELES — A spinoff series inspired by the 1978 movie musical “Grease” has been ordered by HBO Max. The streaming service said Tuesday that “Grease: Rydell High” will be set in the 1950s, the same era as the film, and will include new and familiar characters. The music also will be a mix, with ’50s songs and new original tunes. HBO Max debuts in spring 2020. It is among several new streamers, including ones from Disney and Apple, that will be competing for customers with familiar and high-profile projects.

Believed roommate was vampire

BREMERTON, Wash. — A man was charged with a felony assault after police say he attacked his roommate believing he acknowledged being a vampire. AKitsap County court charged the 40-year-old Bremerton man Monday after he was suspected of using a metal rod to nudge his roommate in the chest. The roommate told county deputies that the suspect accused him of being a vampire, threatened to kill him and struck him with a metal rod. The roommate says he feared his life because the suspect has severe mental health issues and is physically larger. The suspect’s brother told deputies the roommate jokingly said “Is that what the kids are calling me these days?” Authorities say the suspect believed the roommate acknowledged being a blood-sucking creature.

Bike ride cut ties with newspaper

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Organizers of the popular summer bike ride across Iowa are cutting ties with its longtime sponsor, the Des Moines Register, amid backlash over the newspaper’s handling of a story. The four staff members who work full-time running the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa resigned on Tuesday. The group immediately launched a competing event, called Iowa’s Ride, which will be held next July during the same week that the Register’s ride had been scheduled. Chrissy Terrell, a spokeswoman for Gannett, the Register’s parent company, said the ride — known as RAGBRAI — would continue. The weeklong event draws thousands of cyclists from around the country and had been founded by Register employees in the 1970s. The ride’s longtime director, T.J. Juskiewicz, said in a statement that organizers were upset with the Register and Gannett’s handling of criticism following a story involving fundraiser Carson King. King became a social media sensation when he held up a sign outside the Iowa-Iowa State football game asking for money to buy more Busch Light beer. When he started receiving donations, he decided to give the money to the Iowa Children’s Hospital. The fundraiser became wildly popular and ultimately raised $3 million. The newspaper faced criticism for discovering and asking King about racially insensitive tweets he sent when he was a teenager. Anheuser Busch cut ties with King even before the Register reported on the tweets, and King held a news conference to apologize. Readers were angry that the Register felt it was relevant to dig up the tweets. They reacted with fury toward Iowa’s largest newspaper, especially after the reporter was found to have sent his own offensive tweets years ago. The reporter, Aaron Calvin, was fired, even as Register editor Carol Hunter largely defended its reporting methods.

Kept back channels wide open

WASHINGTON– When Syria’s Kurdish fighters, America’s longtime battlefield allies against the Islamic State, announced over the weekend that they were switching sides and joining up with Damascus and Moscow, it seemed like a moment of geopolitical whiplash. But in fact, the move had been in the works for more than a year. Fearing U.S. abandonment, the Kurds opened a back channel to the Syrian government and the Russians in 2018, and those talks ramped up significantly in recent weeks, American, Kurdish and Russian officials told The Associated Press. “We warned the Kurds that the Americans will ditch them,” Russia’s ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, told Russia’s Tass news agency on Monday. The switch in allegiances is a stark illustration of how American foes like Russia and Syria are working steadily to fill the vacuum left by President Donald Trump’s retreat in the region. It also betrays the anxiety that U.S. allies across the globe now feel in the face of Trump’s seemingly impulsive foreign policy decisions, which often come as a surprise to allies and critics alike. When Trump announced Oct. 6 that he was pulling American troops back from northeastern Syria, paving the way for an assault by Turkey, the Kurds knew exactly where to turn.

Russia seeks to cement its role

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey– Russia moved to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria on Tuesday, deploying troops to keep apart advancing Syrian government forces and Turkish troops. At the same time, tensions grew within NATO as Turkey defied growing condemnation of its invasion from its Western allies. Now in its seventh day, Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish fighters has caused tens of thousands to flee their homes, has upended alliances and is re-drawing the map of northern Syria for yet another time in the 8-year-old war. Russia moved quickly to further entrench its role as a power broker after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the pullout of American forces in northeastern Syria. The American move effectively abandoned the Kurdish fighters who were allied with the U.S. and cleared the way for Turkey’s invasion aimed at crushing them. Desperate for a new protector, the Kurdish administration struck a deal with the Russia-backed government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces on Sunday began moving into Kurdish-administered areas to shield them against Turkey. Syrian troops waved flags after they rolled into Manbij, a flashpoint town west of the Euphrates River that Turkey had been aiming to capture and wrest from Kurdish control. Video by Russian journalists with the troops showed what appeared to be an abandoned outpost where U.S. forces had been stationed.

Democrats weigh formal vote

WASHINGTON– House Democrats are gauging support for a vote to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry as another official testified Tuesday in the deepening probe of President Donald Trump’s efforts to have Ukraine investigate Joe Biden. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to meet privately with Democratic lawmakers later Tuesday to survey attitudes about a possible vote, according to people granted anonymity to discuss the planning. She told reporters she’d have more to say “later,” after the evening meeting with House colleagues. Trump, who calls the impeachment inquiry an “illegitimate process,” has pressured Pelosi to take a formal vote. Republicans want to test politically vulnerable Democrats with a roll call that could be difficult in areas where Trump remains popular. But Pelosi has so far resisted, saying Congress is well within its power to conduct oversight of the executive branch as part of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances, and no vote is needed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the chamber on Tuesday suggesting Democrats were trying to “cancel out” Trump’s election with the march toward impeachment.

Owl vs. owl: Should we intervene?

CORVALLIS, Ore.– As he stood amid the thick old-growth forests in the coastal range of Oregon, Dave Wiens was nervous. Before he trained to shoot his first barred owl, he had never fired a gun. He eyed the big female owl, her feathers streaked brown and white, perched on a branch at just the right distance. Then he squeezed the trigger and the owl fell to the forest floor, its carcass adding to a running tally of more than 2,400 barred owls killed so far in a controversial experiment by the U.S. government to test whether the northern spotted owl’s rapid decline in the Pacific Northwest can be stopped by killing its aggressive East Coast cousin. Wiens is the son of a well-known ornithologist and grew up fascinated by birds, and his graduate research in owl interactions helped lay the groundwork for this tense moment. “It’s a little distasteful, I think, to go out killing owls to save another owl species,” said Wiens, a biologist who still views each shooting as “gut-wrenching” as the first. “Nonetheless, I also feel like from a conservation standpoint, our back was up against the wall. We knew that barred owls were outcompeting spotted owls and their populations were going haywire.” The federal government has been trying for decades to save the northern spotted owl, a native bird that sparked an intense battle over logging across Washington, Oregon and California decades ago.

‘Absolutely no excuse’ for killing

FORT WORTH, Texas– The furor Tuesday over the killing of a black woman by a white Fort Worth officer became increasingly about a gun pointed at a bedroom window. But the police chief and activists said the focus was on the wrong gun. In bringing murder charges against Officer Aaron Dean in the slaying of Atatiana Jefferson, police released an arrest warrant Tuesday quoting the victim’s 8-year-old nephew as saying Jefferson had pulled out a gun after hearing suspicious noises behind her house. Black politicians and others criticized the police and the media for bringing up Jefferson’s weapon, angrily accusing the department of trying to deflect blame onto an innocent victim. “The Fort Worth Police Department is going about the task of providing a defense for this officer,” said Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Jefferson family. Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus himself declared there was “absolutely no excuse” for the killing and said Jefferson behaved as any Texas homeowner would have if he or she had heard a prowler. It wasn’t clear from the warrant whether Dean even saw her weapon through the glass.

Catalan protesters, police clash

BARCELONA, Spain– Violent clashes erupted for a second night in Barcelona between police and protesters angry about the conviction of a dozen Catalan separatist leaders, as Spain launched an investigation Tuesday into an activist group organizing the demonstrations. Thousands of people held vigils near the Spanish government offices in Catalonia’s four provinces. But the gatherings turned into melees, with protesters hurling firecrackers and other objects at anti-riot officers and kicking temporary fences around the official buildings. In Barcelona, protesters sang the Catalan anthem and shouted “The streets will always be ours” and “Independence,” while they called Spanish police “occupying forces” and urged them to leave Catalonia. Demonstrators erected improvised barricades with trash bins, fences and piles of cardboard that they set on fire. The greatly outnumbered riot police went in with shields and batons striking protesters in their path. They hit people on the legs mostly and fired foam-type anti-riot bullets that dispersed the crowds. There were also clashes in Girona, Lleida and Tarragona as well as smaller towns across Catalonia.

EU: Brexit deal in sight

LUXEMBOURG– European Union officials were hoping Tuesday that — after more than three years of false starts and sudden reversals — a Brexit deal with Britain might be sketched out within hours. The bloc said that it might be possible to strike a divorce deal by Thursday’s EU leaders’ summit, which comes just two weeks before the U.K’s scheduled departure date of Oct. 31. One major proviso: The British government must make more compromises to seal an agreement in the coming hours. Britain and the EU have been here before — within sight of a deal only to see it dashed — but a surge in the British pound Tuesday indicated hope that this time could be different. The currency rose against the dollar to its highest level in months. Even though many questions remain, diplomats made it clear that both sides were within touching distance of a deal for the first time since a U.K. withdrawal plan fell apart in the British House of Commons in March. Martin Schirdewan, a German member of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, said an agreement is “now within our grasp” following a breakthrough in negotiations.

No longer the king of Hong Kong

HONG KONG– When the ball smashed into a photo of LeBron James’ face stuck above the hoop and dropped into the basket, the Hong Kong protesters cheered. They also trampled on jerseys bearing his name and gathered in a semicircle to watch one burn. James’ standing among basketball fans in Hong Kong took a hit because of comments the NBA star made about free speech. Fans gathered on courts amid Hong Kong’s high-rise buildings Tuesday to vent their anger. The player for the Los Angeles Lakers touched a nerve among protesters for suggesting that free speech can have negative consequences. They have been protesting for months in defense of the same freedom that James said can carry “a lot of negative.” The protesters chanted support for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, something of a hero among demonstrators in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for having tweeted on Oct. 4 in support of their struggle, infuriating authorities in China.

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