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Power cut to prevent deadly fires

SONOMA, Calif. — California’s biggest utility cut power to more than a million people Wednesday for what could be days on end in the most sweeping effort in state history to prevent wildfires caused by windblown power lines. The unpopular move sparked a run on supplies at stores and came after two years of catastrophic fires sent Pacific Gas & Electric into bankruptcy and forced it to take more aggressive steps to prevent blazes. The drastic measure caused a wave of impacts, from long lines at supermarkets and hardware stores to backups at traffic lights that had gone dark. Schools and universities canceled classes, offices were closed and many businesses were shuttered. With the sun shining, not a wisp of smoke in the air and only gentle breezes, the historic action was condemned by those inconvenienced. “It’s unreasonable. There’s no wind. It’s nothing. There’s no reason why they should shut the power off,” said Joseph Pokorski, a retiree who had been drinking beers and cocktails by lantern light at the Town Square bar in Sonoma in the early morning. “They’re … closing everything down so they don’t get sued. They don’t trim the trees, so we suffer.”

Woman accuses Lauer of rape

NEW YORK — A woman who worked at NBC News claimed that Matt Lauer raped her at a hotel while on assignment for the Sochi Olympics, an encounter the former “Today” show host claimed was consensual. The claim outlined by Brooke Nevils in Ronan Farrow’s book, “Catch and Kill,” puts a name and details behind the event that led to Lauer’s firing by NBC in 2017. It also provoked the first public response from Lauer, who said in a defiant and graphic letter made public by his lawyer that “my silence was a mistake.” Nevils, who was working for Meredith Vieira in Sochi, met her for drinks one night and Lauer joined them. Nevils said she had six shots of vodka and wound up going to Lauer’s room. She said that Lauer pushed her onto a bed and asked if she liked anal sex. Nevils said she declined several times, but then Lauer “just did it.” She described the encounter as “excruciatingly painful.” “It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” Nevils told Farrow, according to Variety. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.” In his letter, Lauer admitted to his extramarital affair with Nevils. He said on that night in Sochi that they consensually performed a variety of sexual acts. “She was a fully enthusiastic and willing partner,” he wrote. “At no time did she behave in a way that made it appear she was incapable of consent. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do.” Lauer’s defense of his behavior extends beyond his relationship with Nevils. He said he has “never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period.” He also acknowledges other extramarital encounters, and criticized the women involved for having “abandoned shared responsibility” for the affairs to shield themselves from blame behind false allegations.

Southwest grounds 2 planes

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines said Wednesday it grounded two Boeing jets after finding cracks in parts that connect the wings to the planes’ fuselage. The planes were among a group of older jets that had to be inspected within seven days, under an emergency order from the Federal Aviation Administration. Last week, the FAA ordered airlines to inspect Boeing 737s, starting with jets that have made at least 30,000 flights, after cracks were found in planes undergoing work in China. Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said Wednesday that crews inspected more than 200 planes and found signs of cracking on two, which will remain out of service until repairs are made. The airline reported its findings to Boeing and the FAA, he said. A Boeing spokesman said the manufacturer is working with airlines to develop repair plans and provide parts and technical help. The cracks are in a part called a pickle fork because of prongs that extend under the wings. It had long been assumed that pickle forks would never need replacing. The FAA ordered that about 165 U.S. planes be checked within seven days. A larger group, more than 1,700 planes with at least 22,600 flights, must be checked before they fly another 1,000 times. The planes are a version of the Boeing 737 called the NG or next generation. Boeing is replacing the NG with the 737 Max, but the Max remains grounded worldwide after two crashes killed 346 people. Southwest has more than 700 planes, all Boeing 737s including 34 grounded Max jets.

Desk headed to Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — An ornate conference-room table where the late legendary oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens made billion-dollar deals and hosted VIPs in his Dallas office is heading to the Oklahoma Capitol. Officials at Oklahoma State University announced Wednesday that the 24-foot-long table and 22 leather chairs will be loaned to the governor’s office for the next 10 years. A university donor purchased the four-pedestal desk, inlaid with golden cherry and walnut wood, and donated it to OSU. Oklahoma’s new Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is an OSU graduate and had inquired about the desk after visiting with Pickens, who died last month at age 91. The governor’s office currently is being renovated as part of a $245 million project to overhaul the state Capitol.

LIfted $40 from player’s wallet

CLOVIS, N.M. — A New Mexico football coach has been fired and faces criminal charges after authorities said a student used a cellphone video to capture the coach on video taking money from a player’s wallet. State Police arrested Miyamura High School coach John D. Roanhaus, 42, on Saturday following a review of the footage showing Roanhaus going into the school’s locker room and taking $40 from the wallet. A police officer was contacted by a student’s mother who showed the officer the cellphone video. The video showed Roanhaus walking into the school’s locker area, taking two $20 bills from a black wallet and stuffing the money in his sock. Roanhaus had been the head football coach at the high school in the small, New Mexico western city of Gallup since 2018. He is the youngest son of New Mexico Hall of Fame coach Eric Roanhaus, who retired in 2016 as head football coach at Clovis High School after recording 343 wins, the most in state history. The mother told Renteria it wasn’t the first time that players had experienced thefts in the locker room.

Pull a lot of cocaine from ocean

FRIPP ISLAND, S.C. — A family visiting South Carolina fished a big package from the ocean, took it to their rental home and opened it up, finding about 44 pounds of cocaine. The family was walking along Fripp Island when they spotted the trash bag-wrapped package floating in the water. They dragged it onto the beach and lugged it to their rental in a golf cart, later slicing it open to discover bricks of white powder. At that point, they figured they’d better call police. Authorities assessed the cocaine’s value at more than $600,000. Officials are working to determine its origin. The sheriff said narcotics don’t frequently wash up in the county. He thinks Hurricane Dorian may have pushed it ashore.

More fetal remains found

INDIANAPOLIS — Authorities in Illinois discovered additional fetal remains Wednesday stashed in a car that had belonged to a doctor who performed abortions in Indiana, a month after his death led to the discovery of more than 2,200 other sets of remains in his garage. Investigators for the Will County Sheriff’s Department in suburban Chicago found the fetal remains in the car at a parking lot, adding to the sets of remains connected to Dr. Ulrich Klopfer that were found on Sept. 12 at his garage. The sheriff’s office says during its investigation last month into the origin of the remains found in the garage it became aware of numerous vehicles and properties either owned or rented by Klopfer in the Chicago suburb of Dolton. Eight vehicles belonging to Klopfer were located, and in the trunk of one car, five plastic bags and a box were found to contain “numerous medically preserved fetal remains.” The sheriff’s office says fewer than 100 fetal remains were recovered Wednesday, although that may change “pending a more thorough examination of the contents and records.” “The remains recovered were preserved, packaged, and marked similarly to the previous fetal remains discovered at the Klopfer residence,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. Officials said all the remains and related information found by investigators coincide with the 2000-2002 period when Klopfer was performing abortions in Indiana.

Cams hid in mall dressing rooms

MINNEAPOLIS — Police are investigating a Minnesota man who allegedly hid cameras inside dressing rooms at the Mall of America in Bloomington and another Minneapolis area shopping mall. The 41-year-old Elk River man has not been charged. The affidavit alleges the suspect used cameras that could be operated remotely using a cellphone. Authorities allege the man targeted stores frequented by teenage girls, including Hollister and Forever 21. He was arrested in September with help from a store manager. According to the affidavit, the suspect would mount a fake shelf to fitting room walls at the Mall of America with cameras mounted under the shelves.

Turkey begins Syrian offensive

AKCAKALE, Turkey — Turkey launched airstrikes, fired artillery and began a ground offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for an assault on forces that have long been allied with the United States. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the campaign, which followed an abrupt decision Sunday by U.S. President Donald Trump that American troops would step aside to allow for the operation. Trump’s move drew bipartisan opposition at home and represented a shift in U.S. policy that essentially abandoned the Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been America’s only allies in Syria fighting the Islamic State group. After Erdogan announced the offensive, Trump called the operation “a bad idea.” There were signs of panic in the streets of residential areas close to the borders as civilians fled on foot, in cars and with rickshaws piled with mattresses and a few belongings. They included people who’d fled from the Islamic State group only few years ago. At least seven civilians and one member of the Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in the Turkish bombardment, Kurdish activists and a Syria war monitor said.

Memory card depicts killing

A man was in custody after videos were found on a digital memory card depicting a woman being assaulted and killed. Anchorage police said a caller last week reported finding the card on a city street. Police believe human remains found along a highway earlier this month are those of the woman depicted in the videos. Authorities said they are working to identify the woman and her manner of death. Police said they obtained a warrant for the arrest of Brian Steven Smith on a murder charge and arrested him Tuesday at an Anchorage airport. Police spokesman MJ Thim said Smith had been on a flight returning to Anchorage. He said Smith, 48, lives in Anchorage but is from South Africa. Police were familiar with Smith from another investigation, Thim said, though he declined to provide details.

Shipment of fake Nikes seized

LOS ANGELES — Thousands of pairs of Nike knockoffs were seized at the Los Angeles-Long Beach ports complex recently in a shipment arriving from China, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday. Had the 14,800 pairs of counterfeit Nike special edition and retro design shoes been real, the manufacturer’s suggested retail prices would have totaled more than $2.2 million. The shoes were in two containers with contents declared as napkins. Collectors might pay between $1,500 and $2,000 for a legitimate pair.

2 dead in attack near synagogue

HALLE, Germany — A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site. The attacker shot at the door of the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle but did not get in as 70 to 80 people inside were observing the holy day. In video remarks before the rampage, he shouted that Jews were “the root” of “problems” such as feminism and “mass immigration,” according to a group that tracks online extremism. It said a roughly 36-minute video posted online featured the assailant, who spoke a combination of English and German, denying the Holocaust before he shot a woman in the street after failing to enter the synagogue. He then entered a nearby kebab shop and killed another person before fleeing. Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, said authorities must assume that it was an anti-Semitic attack, and said prosecutors believe there may be a right-wing extremist motive. He said several people were hurt. The attack “strikes the Jewish community, Jewish people not just in Germany but particularly in Germany, to the core,” said the country’s main Jewish leader, Josef Schuster. “It was, I think, only lucky circumstances that prevented a bigger massacre.”

Nobel honors breakthroughs

STOCKHOLM — If you’re reading this on a cellphone or laptop computer, you might thank this year’s three winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work on lithium-ion batteries. The batteries developed by the British, American and Japanese winners are far more revolutionary than just for on-the-go computing and calling. The breakthroughs they achieved also made storing energy from renewable sources more feasible, opening up a whole new front in the fight against global warming. “This is a highly charged story of tremendous potential,” quipped Olof Ramstrom of the Nobel committee for chemistry. The prize announced Wednesday went to John B. Goodenough, 97, an American engineering professor at the University of Texas; M. Stanley Whittingham, 77, a British-American chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and Akira Yoshino, 71, of chemicals company Asahi Kasei Corp. and Meijo University in Japan.

Latest legal woe: W.Va. handyman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A small home-improvement company in West Virginia is taking on the nation’s opioid giants in a lawsuit blaming the drugmakers for a rise in insurance costs. The handymen at Al Marino Inc. filed the federal class-action suit last week in U.S. District Court against Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and a host of other companies. The case claims the drug businesses created a public health crisis that increased the need for expensive medical treatments, leading to skyrocketing health insurance costs in West Virginia.

Player suing supplement firm

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland is suing a company that sold a supplement he says was contaminated with a banned substance that didn’t appear on the product’s label. Copeland practiced Wednesday for the first time this season after being suspended by the NFL for the first four regular season games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He says he sent all the supplements he was taking to a third-party laboratory, which found one of them to have contained a substance banned by the NFL. He says the supplement was recommended by a nutritionist.

Girl killed after argument

RAPID CITY, S.D. — A South Dakota teenager charged with killing a girl whose body was found in his basement shot her after an argument, a prosecutor alleged Wednesday. The 17-year-old defendant is charged as an adult with second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence upon conviction. The teen made his initial court appearance Wednesday and will remain in juvenile detention with his bond set at $1 million.

Charged in road rage incident

MOORHEAD, Minn. — A North Dakota man has been charged in Minnesota with allegedly showing a handgun to another driver during a road rage fit over a political bumper sticker on her vehicle. KFGO radio reports that 27-year-old Joseph Schumacher, of Bismarck, North Dakota, was charged Wednesday with carrying weapons without a permit, the unlawful transportation of firearms and disorderly conduct. Moorhead, Minnesota, police say a woman reported she was driving Monday when Schumacher pulled up and began yelling about her sticker supporting Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. Authorities say he pointed to his sticker supporting President Donald Trump and later flashed the gun. Police tracked down Schumacher at a nearby restaurant. He was wearing a Trump 2020 cap. The complaint says he had two loaded guns in his vehicle. Schumacher told police he was flirting with the woman and denied holding up a gun.

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