Officials: Deadly NYC fire lit by child playing with stove
NEW YORK — A preschooler toying with the burners on his mother’s stove accidentally sparked New York City’s deadliest fire in decades, an inferno that quickly overtook an apartment building and blocked the main escape route, the fire commissioner said Friday.
A dozen people died , and four others were fighting for their lives a day after the flames broke out in the century-old building near the Bronx Zoo.
The 3½-year-old-boy, his mother and another child were able to flee their first-floor apartment. But they left the apartment door open behind them, and it acted like a chimney that drew smoke and flames into a stairwell. From there, the fire spread throughout the five-story building, authorities said.
The city housing department said investigators would look into why the door did not close automatically, though Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was “nothing problematic about the building that contributed to this tragedy.”
Months after Maria, barely half of Puerto Rico has power
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico authorities said Friday that nearly half of power customers in the U.S. territory still lack electricity more than three months after Hurricane Maria, sparking outrage among islanders who accuse the government of mismanaging its response to the Category 4 storm.
Officials said 55 percent of the nearly 1.5 million customers have power, marking the first time the government has provided that statistic since Maria hit on Sept. 20 with winds of up to 154 mph. Officials had previously reported only power generation, which stands at nearly 70 percent of pre-storm levels.
“It’s just extraordinary that it is still so far away from being 100 percent recovered,” said Susan Tierney, a senior adviser for Denver-based consulting company Analysis Group who testified before a U.S. Senate committee on efforts to restore power in Puerto Rico. “I’m not aware of any time in recent decades since the U.S. has electrified the entire economy that there has been an outage of this magnitude.”
Secret Sauce? Kim Jong Un applies science to kimchi
PYONGYANG, North Korea — Kim Jong Un wants to turn the art of kimchi-making into a science. And the North Korean leader is putting his money where his mouth is.
On the outskirts of Pyongyang, surrounded by snow-covered farms and greenhouses, stands one of Kim’s latest pet projects, the Ryugyong Kimchi Factory, which produces 4,200 tons of the iconic Korean pickled vegetable dish a year. The shiny new facility replaces an older factory and opened in June last year after getting Kim’s final seal of approval, according to manager Paek Mi Hye.
The factory is intended to showcase Kim’s efforts to boost North Korea’s domestic economy and produce more, and better, consumer products. His strategy, known as “byungjin,” aims to simultaneously develop the national economy and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
North Korea’s repeated underground nuclear tests and launches of long-range missiles that could conceivably reach the U.S. mainland have brought more sanctions down on the North than ever before. But outside experts believe the country — while still struggling in many areas — is showing signs of modest economic growth and improved agricultural production. It could be just a year or two away from having an operational, nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.
Applied science, according to the North’s policymakers, is absolutely essential on all fronts.
Sue Grafton, writer of popular ‘alphabet’ mysteries, dies
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sue Grafton, author of the best-selling “alphabet series” of mystery novels, has died in Santa Barbara. She was 77.
Grafton was surrounded by family, including husband Steven Humphrey, when she died Thursday after a two-year battle with cancer, her daughter, Jamie Clark, posted on the author’s website.
“Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly,” the posting said.
Grafton began her “alphabet series” in 1982 with “A is for Alibi.” Her most recent book, “Y is for Yesterday,” was published in August.
“Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name,” her daughter wrote. “Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”
Random drawing scheduled to break tie in disputed House race
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As Democrats and Republicans continued partisan sniping Friday over a House seat that could determine the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates, state elections officials moved to break the deadlock by scheduling a random drawing to pick the winner.
The Virginia Board of Elections said it will pick the winner’s name in the Newport News-based 94th District next Thursday, unless a recount court decides to intervene.
The race between Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican Del. David Yancey has seesawed since the Nov. 7 election. Initially, it appeared that Yancey had won by 10 votes, but a recount put Simonds ahead by a single vote.
A three-judge recount court later declared the race a tie after agreeing with the Yancey campaign that a disputed ballot was a vote for him. On Wednesday, Simonds asked the court to reconsider, but the panel has not yet responded.
The fight over the seat has been intense as Republicans try to hold on to a majority in the House after a bruising election in which Democrats erased the 66-34 advantage held by Republicans, as voters vented anger toward Republican President Donald Trump.
Police: Prank led to police shooting unarmed Kansas man
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police and the FBI are investigating whether an argument over an online game prompted a hoax call that led to a house where an officer shot and killed a Kansas man who apparently wasn’t involved in the dispute.
Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston on Friday blamed a “prankster” who called 911 and made up a story about a shooting and kidnapping. He did not mention reports that an argument over online gaming was at the heart of the prank, although he said investigators had made good progress tracking online leads.
Police have not disclosed the name of the man who was killed Thursday evening, but relatives identified him as Andrew Finch, 28.
Livingston, speaking at a news conference, said the hoax call was a case of “swatting,” in which a person makes up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend on an address.
“Due to the actions of a prankster we have an innocent victim,” Livingston said. He said no one has been arrested in connection with the hoax.
Man accused of rigging door to electrocute pregnant wife
PALM COAST, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man is accused of rigging the front door of a home in an attempt to electrocute his estranged pregnant wife.
In a Facebook post Friday, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staley called the case one of the “most bizarre domestic violence cases” he’s seen.
Officials said 32-year-old Michael Scott Wilson was arrested Thursday in Knoxville, Tennessee, and charged with attempted aggravated battery on a pregnant woman and grand theft of a firearm. He’s being held on a $150,000 bond and will be extradited to Florida. It’s unclear if he has an attorney.
The woman’s father called deputies after Wilson made suspicious statements about keeping children away from the door. Deputies found the front door barricaded, with burn marks. When a deputy kicked the door, a large spark was observed.