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Fire at California loft party kills at least 9, two dozen missing

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A massive fire broke out in Oakland, California, during a late-night party in a warehouse that housed artist studios, killing at least nine people and leaving about 25 missing, the city’s fire chief said on Saturday.

The blaze started at about 11:30 p.m. on Friday in the two-story warehouse in the city’s Fruitvale district, a mostly Latino area that is also home to many working artists living and working in converted warehouse lofts.

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Fire officials have not yet determined how the fire started or an exact number of fatalities in the blaze, said Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed, who called it the worst single-structure fire she had seen in her career.

An arson team has joined the investigation, although there is no immediate evidence that the fire was deliberating ignited, she said.

The roof of the warehouse collapsed during the fire, complicating efforts to recover bodies and investigate the circumstances surrounding the blaze, she said at a press briefing.

“There is a large majority of that building that has not been searched,” Reed said, pointing out that some of the 25 missing people may be among the nine confirmed victims.

“We are hoping that the number nine is what there is and that there are no more,” the fire chief said, referring to the number of known fatalities.

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Some of those who were missing may have brought themselves to the hospital or elsewhere, she said, adding she did not know how many people were at the party or how many lived on the premises.

At an Alameda County Sheriff’s Office station not far from the fire, about a dozen people were waiting on Saturday for updates from authorities.

“I don’t have high hopes,” said a woman who had four friends among the missing, declining to give her name. She did not herself attend the dance party, but described herself as shocked and devastated. “We’ve just spent night calling hospitals and listening to police scanners.”

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MAKESHIFT STUDIOS

The warehouse housed makeshift artist studios carved out with curtains and other partitions, the fire chief said. The interior was cluttered with “a flea market of items,” she said. There was no evidence of any smoke detectors in the building.

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The structure had only a single point of entry or exit from the second floor, where most of the dead were found, the chief said. A makeshift staircase appeared to be constructed from pallets.

A Facebook event page showed 176 people planned to attend the party, which featured a performance by the electronic music act Golden Donna.

Parents and others shared contact information on the page and asked anyone with information about missing children and friends to call: “ANY information please!” wrote a woman looking for her son.

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Video footage posted on social media showed the structure engulfed in flames and encircled by fire vehicles pumping water into the building.

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida, and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Alistair Bell)


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Michael Steele hilariously shreds the RNC for spending $100K on Donald Trump Jr’s ‘dumb book nobody’s going to read’

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Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, trashed the organization he once led over revelations that donor money was used to boost sales of Donald Trump Jr.'s new book.

The former RNC chair told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he wasn't a bit surprised by the reports, and said the GOP organization has been absolutely corrupted by President Donald Trump.

"Of course it was the RNC -- SOBs," Steele said. "Oh my god."

"Look, let me just tell you how screwed up this is," he continued. "Before I became national chairman, I had written a book on how the Republican Party can regroup after the 2008 shellacking, after the 2006, you know, bang-up at the polls, and move the party forward, and people looked at me and said, 'How dare you write a book and try to profit off of the RNC.'"

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The end of King Bibi? Indicted Netanyahu fights for future

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Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu's indictment on corruption charges prompted speculation Friday that the end of his decade-long tenure as 'King Bibi' is nigh.

The Jewish state woke up to an indicted sitting prime minister for the first time, after the country's attorney general announced late Thursday he had charged the 70-year-old with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

After months of speculation Avichai Mandelblit's decision was the worst possible outcome for Netanyahu, hitting him with the most serious charges.

Israel's longest-serving premier swiftly hit back, vowing to fight on and accusing the police and legal system of bias against the right-wing in an often angry speech.

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First Saudi woman driver to race car in kingdom

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Sliding behind the wheel of a sleek electric SUV, Reema Juffali is set to blaze a trail in male-dominated motor sports as the first Saudi woman to race in the kingdom.

Such adrenalin rushes were unimaginable for women in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom until June last year, when it overturned the world's only ban on female motorists as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's wide-ranging liberalization drive.

Juffali, a 27-year-old who made her motoring debut just months after the decades-old ban ended, will compete Friday and Saturday in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, an all-electric race in Diriyah, close to the capital Riyadh.

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