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Wildfires kill 17 in Northern California wine country

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Firefighters battling wildfires in California’s wine country face the prospect of new outbreaks when dry, windy conditions return on Wednesday to an area where at least 17 people have been killed and 2,000 homes and businesses destroyed in blazes.

Gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph) and 10 percent humidity are forecast for later on Wednesday and into Thursday for the region where 17 fires have forced 20,000 people to flee their homes, fire officials said.

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“The potential for new fires that could grow exponentially as these fires did in such a short time period is there,” said Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The weather gave firefighters a reprieve on Tuesday as cooler temperatures, lower winds and coastal fog allowed them to make headway against the fires that had burned 115,000 acres.

Some evacuations in Nevada and Yuba counties in western California were lifted on Tuesday while other evacuations to the east in Sonoma and Napa counties, where more than 50,000 acres burned, were expanded, Tolmachoff said.

Some 155 people were still missing in Sonoma County, although 45 others had been found and some of those unaccounted for may be due to confusion surrounding evacuations.

The city of Santa Rosa was particularly hard hit by the so-called Tubbs Fire, which damaged a Hilton hotel and destroyed a mobile home park.

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Irene Fonzeca and her husband Luis were spending their second night in shelter on Tuesday after the couple woke up to raging fire nearby that was being blown toward their home on Monday.

The sound of fiery trees crashing down was terrifying, Luis said.

“We have no idea what’s there or if there’s anything to go back to,” Irene Fonzeca said outside the shelter holding a breathing mask as smoke and light ash blanketed downtown Santa Rosa.

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In the shelter, emotions were raw, Irene Fonzeca said.

“People are crying hugging helping each other. It’s devastating,” she said.

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In Napa County, the dead included 100-year-old Charles Rippey and his wife, Sarah, 98, according to the county sheriff’s office. The couple were married for 75 years, a CBS affiliate in San Francisco reported, citing their son, Mike.

Charles Rippey’s body was found outside where her bedroom once stood, he said.

“He was trying to get from his room to her room,” Mike Rippey said. “He never made it. Even if he had gotten there, he wouldn’t have been able to get her out … And there is no way he would have left.”

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Napa Valley Vintners, a trade group, said it was too early to assess the economic impact of the fires. At least four wineries had suffered “total or very significant losses,” and at least nine reported damage, the group said.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in several northern counties where fires where burning and in Orange County in Southern California, where the so-called Canyon Fire 2 destroyed 14 structures and damaged 22 and forced the evacuation of 5,000 people, fire spokesman Thanh Nguyen said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Keith Coffman in Denver, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Richard Balmforth)


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America could be on the verge of a huge shift to the left — here’s what you can expect

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A new socialist movement is cohering in the US, thanks in large part to the popular class politics of Bernie Sanders. But as that movement grows and progresses, it is bound to run into dangerous obstacles and thorny contradictions. The new US socialist movement is without a single "line" or monolithic political position. That's a strength of the movement, since none of us has all the answers. Still, many people in the movement, ourselves included, feel strongly about certain approaches to strategy. One approach we feel strongly about is what we call "the democratic road to socialism," or the idea that we need to make good use of the democratic structures and processes available to us (and to improve and expand them) in order to advance our cause.A country like the United States has both a well-developed capitalist state, beholden to the capitalist class and armed to the teeth, and mechanisms for democratic participation in that state that allow people to exercise some measure of control over their representatives. Even though their choices are limited, their representatives are bought off by the rich, and the capitalist class holds the entire system hostage with the threat of devastating economic retaliation if things don't go their way, the system does have some basic democratic elements that its citizens largely affirm and occasionally participate in.This is a tricky situation to navigate. If the democratic capitalist state were less developed, it might be possible to convince people to simply storm the gates, tear up the old rules, and start fresh in a socialist society. This is what socialists tried to do in Russia in 1917: the state was weak and after centuries of autocratic rule it didn't have much legitimacy in the eyes of most Russians, so revolutionaries could get popular support for scrapping it and starting over.
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White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney caught on tape saying US is ‘desperate’

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White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was caught on tape admitting that, despite President Donald Trump's policy preferences, the United States is "desperate" for more immigrants, according to a recording obtained by the Washington Post.

He further undermined the administration's claims of its economic prowess, admitting that immigration is necessary for sustained economic growth.

"We are desperate — desperate — for more people," Mulvaney said, according to the post, stressing that it should be legal. "We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we've had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants."

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Hawaii holds woman over missing children amid suspicious deaths and ‘doomsday cult’ links

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A 46-year-old American woman with reported links to a doomsday cult and to at least three people whose deaths are being investigated has been arrested in Hawaii over the disappearance of her two children.

Lori Vallow was arrested Thursday on the island of Kauai and charged with felony desertion of the children, 7-year-old Joshua Vallow, who is autistic, and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, police said in a statement.

According to US media reports, the children, who have different fathers, were last seen on September 23, 2019.

Their disappearance was reported in November by the boy's grandparents, who live in Louisiana and had heard nothing from the children for an extended period.

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