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Death toll from California wildfire grows to five as blaze rages on

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The death toll from a Northern California wildfire rose to five with the discovery of human remains believed to be those of a missing elderly woman and her two great-grandchildren, even as fire crews battled on to quell flames that have devastated entire neighborhoods.

More than 38,000 people remained under evacuation orders on Sunday in and around the city of Redding, about 160 miles (257 km) north of the state capital Sacramento, from a blaze that has destroyed more than 500 buildings and continued to rage largely unchecked into a seventh day.

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The Carr Fire, the deadliest and most destructive of nearly 90 wildfires burning from Texas to Oregon, has charred almost 84,000 acres (34,000 hectares) of drought-parched vegetation since erupting last Monday.

More than 4,000 structures were threatened by the fire, officials said.

The weather on Sunday is expected to offer no relief for firefighters as it will hit more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius) with low humidity and gusty winds, the National Weather Service said.

As of Saturday night, an army of some 3,500 firefighting personnel and a squadron of 17 water-dropping helicopters had managed to carve buffer lines around just five percent of the fire’s perimeter.

Fire officials say the erratic behavior of the blaze, stoked by high winds and triple-digit temperatures, has complicated efforts to contain the conflagration.

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At the height of its fury on Thursday night, the fire was whipped into a storm-like frenzy by gale-force winds that drove flames across the Sacramento River into the western end of Redding, as thousands of residents fled for their lives in a chaotic evacuation.

The nearby town of Keswick, with a population of about 450, was reduced to cinders, and two firefighters were killed.

On Saturday, Redding police said they were searching for 17 people still unaccounted for two days afterward.

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FIRE-RAVAGED HOME

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko later confirmed the discovery of three bodies at a fire-ravaged home on the outskirts of Redding.

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Bosenko said they had not yet been positively identified but were believed to be remains of three victims identified by relatives in news media reports as 4-year-old James Roberts, his 5-year-old sister Emily and their great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Bledsoe’s family said she desperately put a wet blanket over the children as their home burned.

The children’s mother, Sherry Bledsoe, was quoted by the Sacramento Bee as saying, “My kids are deceased, that’s all I can say,” as she left the sheriff’s office on Saturday.

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According to the newspaper’s account, Melody Bledsoe’s husband, Ed Bledsoe, wept as he recalled trying to get back to the family’s house after he had left to run an errand on Thursday, only to learn that the fire was closing in on them. He told the newspaper that he spoke to the children on the phone as he raced in vain to return in time to save them.

“I talked to them until the fire got them,” he was quoted as saying. “I was trying to get to them, I was trying to get to the fire.”

So far this year, wildfires have scorched almost 4.3 million acres (1.7 million hectares) across the country, less than last year but still higher than the 3.7 million-acre (1.5 million-hectare) average for the same period over the last decade. California has been particularly hard hit with several fierce blazes menacing large populated areas.

One of those, the Cranston fire, prompted a rare closure of much of Yosemite National Park last week, while another forced mass evacuations from the mountain resort community of Idyllwild east of Los Angeles.

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2020 Election

At Joe Biden’s eleventh-hour rally in Nevada, many union members remain uncommitted

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On the eve of the Nevada caucuses, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has referred to himself as "middle-class Joe," had a last-minute chance to connect with middle-class Nevada voters before Saturday's caucuses. At a barbecue with burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream sandwiches, attendees that included firefighters and iron workers gathered for what was advertised as a precinct captain training — or to simply hear Biden's pitch. Indeed, many attendees of the barbecue were still undecided a mere day before caucusing.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Trump’s NSC is ignoring intelligence reports and basing policy on handouts of Trump’s tweets: report

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According to a report from the New York Times, members of the National Security Council under Donald Trump no longer uses their extensive knowledge of international relations, politics, and history to formulate foreign policy security proposals for the president's review -- and are instead using the president's tweets to make policy based upon his desires and social media proclamations.

The report begins with noting that council members are often handed printouts of the president's tweets when they convene and are expected to use his words as their guide to formulate proposals that will likely find favor with the president.

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Wells Fargo to pay $3 billion to settle fake accounts scandal

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Wells Fargo has agreed to pay US regulators $3 billion to settle three investigations into the bank's damaging fake accounts scandal, the Department of Justice said on Friday.

The fine settles criminal and civil liability in the case in which the nation's fourth largest bank between 2002 and 2016 pressured employees to meet unrealistic sales goals that led to creating millions of accounts or credit cards without consent.

Wells Fargo admitted it collected millions of dollars in fees and interest, harmed the credit ratings of certain customers, and misused personal information, the Justice Department said in a statement.

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