In Brief: September 9, 2020

Firefighters overtaken by flames in California mountains

SHAVER LAKE, Calif. — More than a dozen California firefighters trying to protect a fire station in rugged mountains were overrun by flames Tuesday, and several were hurt. Elsewhere, military helicopters rescued more than 150 people stranded in a burning forest.

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Fourteen firefighters deployed emergency shelters as flames overtook them and destroyed the Nacimiento Station in the Los Padres National Forest on the state’s central coast, the U.S. Forest Service said. They suffered from burns and smoke inhalation, and three were flown to a hospital in Fresno, where one was in critical condition.

The injuries came as wind-driven flames of more than two dozen major fires chewed through bone-dry California and forced new evacuations after a scorching Labor Day weekend that saw a dramatic airlift of more than 200 people.

Pilots wearing night-vision goggles to find a place to land before dawn pulled another 164 people from the Sierra National Forest and were working to rescue 17 others Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

DOJ asks to defend Trump in rape accuser’s defamation suit

NEW YORK — The Justice Department is asking to take over President Donald Trump’s defense in a defamation lawsuit from a writer who accused him of rape, and federal lawyers asked a court Tuesday to allow a move that could put the American people on the hook for any money she might be awarded.

After New York state courts turned down Trump’s request to delay E. Jean Carroll’s suit, Justice Department lawyers filed court papers aiming to shift the case into federal court and to substitute the U.S. for Trump as the defendant. That means the federal government, rather than Trump himself, might have to pay damages if any are awarded.

The move to intervene is in keeping with a Justice Department that time and again has advanced a broad vision of executive power and has moved to shield Trump from legal exposure, most notably by arguing that actions taken to choke off the Russia investigation fell within the scope of his constitutional authorities and were therefore permissible.

From wire sources

It also comes amid concerns that Attorney General William Barr has gone out of his way to intervene in other legal cases involving Trump or his allies. Barr tried to decrease the amount of prison time his office sought for Trump ally Roger Stone following a criminal trial where he was found guilty. (Stone’s sentence was later commuted by Trump.) Barr’s Justice Department has acted to dismiss its own case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, called the department’s argument “shocking.”

Rochester police leaders retire after suffocation death

Top police leaders in Rochester, New York, announced their retirements Tuesday amid nightly protests over the handling of the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, whose family filed a federal lawsuit alleging a cover-up by law enforcement.

Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, Deputy Chief Joseph M. Morabito and two commanders retired, while two more deputy chiefs and a commander gave up top leadership positions and returned to lower ranks. The outgoing chief accused critics of trying to “destroy my character and integrity.”

Mayor Lovely Warren said during a video call with members of the City Council that she did not ask Singletary, 40, to resign, but that his abrupt decision to step down came after “new information that was brought to light today that I had not previously seen before.” She did not elaborate.

While the “timing and tenor” of the retirements were difficult, Warren said later at a brief news conference, “I truly believe that we will get through this.”

The sudden announcements came more than five months after the death of Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who died several days after an encounter with police March 23 in New York’s third-largest city. There have been nightly protests in the city since the video’s release Wednesday.

Computer glitches disrupt classes as schools return online

HOUSTON — Students across the U.S. ran into computer glitches Tuesday as they began the school year with online instruction at home because of the coronavirus, adding to the list of problems that have thrust many a harried parent into the role of teacher’s aide and tech support person.

The online learning platform Blackboard, which provides technology for 70 of the nation’s 100 biggest districts and serves more than 20 million U.S. students from kindergarten through 12th grade, reported that websites for one of its learning products were failing to load or were loading slowly, and users were unable to register on the first day of school.

Blackboard, which hit four times its year-to-date user average by 8 a.m., wasn’t the only tech company running into issues Tuesday. Websites that track internet outages like downdetector.com also recorded spikes in reported problems for services like Microsoft Teams and Google Drive, many spiking around 9 a.m. Three of Texas’ largest districts — Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth — were hit with technical problems, as were school systems in places such as Idaho and Kansas. A ransomware attack forced schools in Hartford, Connecticut, to postpone Tuesday’s start of virtual and in-person classes.

A Blackboard spokesperson said the problems with the company’s website content management system occurred because of a big morning surge in online traffic. D’Anthony White said the system was restored by about 1:15 p.m. and the company was working on refining its approach to prevent further problems. He apologized for the disruption.

“While we planned for a surge in traffic greater than a typical back-to-school period, the patterns of usage exceeded what we anticipated,” White wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

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Police vow to work with probe of shooting of autistic boy

SALT LAKE CITY — A police department vowed Tuesday to cooperate with multiple investigations of the shooting of a 13-year-old autistic boy by officers in the Salt Lake City area.

The Salt Lake City Police Department said the officers were called to a home in Glendale, Utah, Friday night with a report of a boy who had threatened people with a weapon. The boy reportedly ran and was shot by an officer after being pursued by police.

The Salt Lake City Police Department said in the statement Tuesday that each time there is an shooting incident involving an officer, “a protocol team made up of officers from multiple agencies with no ties to the Salt Lake City Police Department conducts an independent investigation. We are cooperating fully with the protocol team assigned to this case.”

The department added that the city’s “Civilian Review Board and our own Internal Affairs will also conduct parallel separate investigations.”

The boy’s mother, Golda Barton, told KUTV-TV that her son has autism and she had called police because he was having a breakdown and needed a crisis intervention team.

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South Lawn, Rose Garden under repair post-convention

WASHINGTON — The Rose Garden has been a muddy mess and the South Lawn marred by brown patches since President Donald Trump used them as backdrops for last month’s Republican National Convention.

Both are undergoing extensive re-sodding as crews work to repair the damage, which was clearly visible this week and last. The Rose Garden repairs come just weeks after the White House completed a major renovation of the garden intended, in part, to improve drainage issues.

“The sod is being replaced at no cost to taxpayers. Additionally, there has been other planned infrastructure work taking place on the south grounds,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. He added that the work is expected to be completed by early Wednesday or Thursday, barring more bad weather.

The president’s reelection campaign is paying for the work.

The damage comes after Trump upended long-held norms separating campaigning and governance by using the White House grounds as the stage for a partisan political event.

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Now that NFL supports Colin Kaepernick’s fight, what’s next?

Four years later, the NFL admitted it was wrong and said it now supports Colin Kaepernick in his fight against racial injustice, encouraging players to take a stand – or a knee – for the cause.

What happens next?

The league’s 101st season kicks off Thursday night, when the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans. NFL end zones will be inscribed this season with two slogans: “It Takes All Of Us” on one side, “End Racism” on the other.

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As part of its social justice awareness initiatives, the NFL also will allow similar visuals on helmets and caps. Players will be permitted to wear decals on the back of helmets, or patches on team caps, displaying names or phrases to honor victims of racism and/or police brutality.

“The NFL stands with the Black community, the players, clubs and fans,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week. “Confronting recent systemic racism with tangible and productive steps is absolutely essential. We will not relent in our work.”

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