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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, October 12, 2017 11:04 pm

AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

The Associated Press

Grim search for victims as wildfires grow to size of NYC

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) Teams with cadaver dogs began a grim search Thursday for more dead in parts of California wine country devastated by wildfires, resorting in some cases to serial numbers stamped on medical implants to identify remains that turned up in the charred ruins.

New deaths confirmed Thursday took the toll to 31, making this the deadliest week of wildfires in California history.

Many of the flames still burned out of control, and the fires grew to more than 300 square miles (777 square kilometers), an area as large as New York City.

Sonoma and Napa counties endured a fourth day of choking smoke while many residents fled to shelters or camped out on beaches to await word on their homes and loved ones.

A forecast for gusty winds and dry air threatened to fan the fires further.

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Dangerous sound? What Americans heard in Cuba attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they're colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.

The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.

The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer.

What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes.

Whether there's a direct relationship between the sound and the physical damage suffered by the victims is also unclear. The U.S. says that in general the attacks caused hearing, cognitive, visual, balance, sleep and other problems.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. WHAT SOUNDS SORT OF LIKE CRICKETS

The AP obtains a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks.

2. SHOOTOUT ENDS WITH FREEDOM FOR CAPTIVES

Five years after being taken hostage in Afghanistan, an American woman and her Canadian husband are free, along with their three children, after a dramatic confrontation between their captors and Pakistani forces.

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Trump's health care end run reflects frustrations

WASHINGTON (AP) Frustrated over setbacks in Congress, President Donald Trump wielded his rule-making power Thursday to launch an end run that might get him closer to his goal of repealing and replacing "Obamacare."

Whether Trump's executive order will be the play that breaks through isn't clear.

Experts say consumers aren't likely to see major changes any time soon, although the White House is promising lower costs and more options.

Some experts warned that hard-won protections for older adults and people in poor health could be undermined by the skinny lower-premium plans that Trump ordered federal agencies to facilitate.

Others say the president's plans will have a modest impact, and might even help some consumers who don't now benefit from financial assistance under the Obama-era law.

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It's Boy Scouts vs. Girl Scouts as BSA moves to admit girls

NEW YORK (AP) Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts pledge to be friendly and helpful. But their parent organizations may find that promise hard to keep as they head into a potentially bitter competition triggered by the Boy Scouts of America's dramatic move to admit girls throughout its ranks.

The BSA's initiative, announced Wednesday, has already chilled what had been a mostly cordial relationship between the two youth groups since the Girl Scouts of the USA was founded in 1912, two years after the Boy Scouts.

"We have always existed in a space with competitors," the Girl Scout's chief customer officer, Lisa Margosian, said Thursday in an interview. "What happened yesterday is that we have another new competitor."

Rather than altering its message, Margosian said, the Girl Scouts will "double down" with a commitment to empowering girls.

"We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides," the GSUSA said, describing itself as "the best girl leadership organization in the world."

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Hotel: Gunman shot at crowd seconds after shooting guard

Even as investigators struggle to unravel the mystery of what motivated a gunman to open fire on a Las Vegas concert crowd, confusion surrounds the sequence of events in the fatal few minutes of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

On Thursday, the hotel where gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from his high-rise hotel suite disputed the official timeline for the Las Vegas massacre and rejected any suggestion hotel officials delayed summoning police for several minutes after the gunman's initial burst of fire.

It was the latest head-turning change in the investigation that has been frustrating for all involved. Since the Oct. 1 massacre, the timeline of the shooting has changed several times and police and hotel officials can't seem to agree on the basics of when the shooting happened.

In the most recent chronology given by investigators on Monday, police said Paddock sprayed 200 rounds into the hallway on the 32nd floor Oct. 1, wounding an unarmed security guard in the leg, six minutes before he unleashed his barrage of bullets on the festival crowd. That raised a series of questions about whether officers were given information quickly enough to possibly have a chance to take out the gunman before he could carry out the bloodshed.

But on Thursday, MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay Bay, said it was no more than 40 seconds between the time the guard using his walkie talkie to call for help and Paddock opening fire on the crowd from two windows in his suite.

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Kidnapped, held 5 years, US-Canadian family free in Pakistan

WASHINGTON (AP) Five years after they were seized by a terrorist network in the mountains of Afghanistan, an American woman, her Canadian husband and their children all three born in captivity are free after a dramatic rescue orchestrated by the U.S. and Pakistani governments, officials said Thursday.

The U.S. said Pakistan accomplished the release of Caitlan Coleman of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, and her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, who were abducted and held by the Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban. The operation, which came after years of U.S. pressure on Pakistan for assistance, unfolded quickly and ended with what some described a dangerous raid, a shootout and a captor's final, terrifying threat to "kill the hostage." Boyle suffered only a shrapnel wound, his family said.

U.S. officials did not confirm the details.

"Today they are free," President Donald Trump said in a statement, crediting the U.S.-Pakistani partnership for securing the release. Trump later praised Pakistan for its willingness to "do more to provide security in the region" and said the release suggests other "countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again."

The couple were kidnapped in October of 2012 while on a backpacking trip that took them to Russia, the countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan. Coleman was several months pregnant at the time, "naive," but also "adventuresome" with a humanitarian bent, her father James told The Associated Press in 2012.

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Couple described as adventure-seekers are free from captors

STEWARTSTOWN, Pa. (AP) Just over five years ago, soon after they wed, Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle set off on a journey to areas of the world infrequently traveled by Westerners, an admittedly quixotic trek their parents say was in keeping with the couple's adventure-seeking spirit.

During a trip that took them to Afghanistan and neighboring central Asian countries Coleman, a homeschooled devout Catholic and Boyle, her Canadian husband the couple slept in tents and hostels, interacted with villagers and bought local goods from vendors.

The couple was supposed to return to the U.S. so that Coleman, then pregnant, could deliver her baby. Instead, they were abducted in Afghanistan and held captive by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, surfacing periodically over the next five years in video recordings sent to their loved ones and scrubbed by the FBI for clues.

On Thursday, U.S. and Pakistani officials announced the release of the couple and the three children they had in captivity, a welcome development in a strange tale that vexed federal investigators for years and became part of the political debate over the U.S. government's obligation to Americans held as hostages overseas.

As news of the couple's release developed, loved ones of Coleman gathered in the family home of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, just north of the Maryland state line. Friends and neighbors describe Coleman as focused on helping the poor even as a child, when she went door-to-door to raise money for impoverished people in Haiti, and as a budding entrepreneur who made chocolates and sold them to neighbors.

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NYC, London police taking fresh look at Weinstein claims

NEW YORK (AP) Police detectives in New York City and London are taking a fresh look into sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein now that some 30 women have accused the Hollywood film producer of inappropriate conduct.

New York Police Department spokesman Peter Donald said Thursday that investigators are reviewing police files to see if anyone else reported being assaulted or harassed by him.

So far, no filed complaints have been found, he said, other than one well-known case that prompted an investigation in 2015, but authorities are encouraging anyone with information on Weinstein to contact the department.

London police were also looking into a claim it had received from the Merseyside force in northwest England, British media reported Thursday. Merseyside police said the allegation was made a day earlier and concerned "an alleged sexual assault in the London area in the 1980s."

Some 30 women including actresses Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow have spoken out recently to say Weinstein had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Rose McGowan, who has long suggested that Weinstein sexually assaulted her, tweeted Thursday that "HW raped me."

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Springsteen on Broadway creates new performance template

NEW YORK (AP) After checking off all the rock star superlatives in his 68 years, Bruce Springsteen has set out to create a wholly new performance template.

"Springsteen on Broadway," which opened Thursday night, is a deeply personal life story with a soundtrack, a one-man (or one-man and one-woman for two songs) show that's by turns funny and touching. He's onstage five nights a week through Feb. 3 in what has been called his Broadway debut.

The distinction is important. This is a set piece, not a concert where Springsteen usually changes his set-list from night to night. He motioned to fans who greeted him at Wednesday's final rehearsal with cheers and familiar "Bruuuucce!" shouts to sit down, and stopped people from clapping along to "Dancing in the Dark" by saying, "I'll handle it myself."

The songs 15 of them in a 130-minute performance were secondary to Springsteen's stories about growing up in Freehold, New Jersey, the peeks into what he's reached for artistically and pokes at his own persona. The intimacy of the 960-seat Walter Kerr Theatre is what made it special; Springsteen could step away from the microphone for a verse or two and not worry about his voice not reaching the rafters.

"I have never held an honest job in my entire life," Springsteen said. "I have never done an honest day's work. I've never done hard labor. I've never worked nine to five. And yet, that is all that I've ever written about."