- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Toxic algae blooms in a warmer Pacific, endangering marine life and forcing seafood bans

SEATTLE (AP) - One of the largest toxic algae blooms recorded off the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago.

Researchers sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are sampling the Pacific Ocean. They say this algae bloom is flourishing amid unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures, and now stretches from at least California to Alaska.

This bloom, as much as 40 miles wide, has severe consequences for the Pacific seafood industry, coastal tourism and marine ecosystems.

Shellfish managers on Tuesday doubled the area off Washington’s coast that is closed to recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fishing, after finding elevated levels of marine toxins in tested crab meat.


GOP candidates seize on an insecure border, but the flow of immigrants is down sharply

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s first debate of the 2016 presidential race, Republican candidates have sought to distinguish themselves from each other - and President Barack Obama - with ever-tougher positions on border security and illegal immigration, claiming current measures are failing.

And yet by many standards, the situation is not nearly as urgent as it was during last summer’s crisis and has improved steadily and markedly in some respects over the past decade or so - partly because of actions taken by the U.S. government, but also because of factors beyond Washington’s control.

Last year’s alarming surge of unaccompanied children and families arriving from Central America via Mexico has been cut by about half, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a drop-off attributed in part to a crackdown by Mexico and better enforcement along the U.S. border.

Also, illegal immigration from Mexico has plunged dramatically since 2000, when Border Patrol agents arrested roughly 1.6 million Mexicans. Last year, agents stopped about 230,000.

In addition, since 2007, about 1 million Mexicans living illegally in this country have left, according to Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. immigration policy program at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.


Debate, early stages of campaign show power of Fox News as gatekeeper

NEW YORK (AP) - Iowa and New Hampshire are still on the horizon - but first there’s the Fox primary, and the buildup to this week’s first Republican presidential debate shows that the influence of Fox News Channel on the GOP selection process is stronger than ever.

The musical chairs-like rules for participation in Thursday’s televised debate require candidates to reach a certain threshold in opinion polls, making national exposure to an interested audience vital at a stage in the campaign when candidates are usually shaking hands in early primary states. And where better to find that audience than on Fox News Channel?

The 17 candidates made a total of 273 separate appearances on Fox News in May, June and July, according to a count by liberal-leaning group Media Matters for America. Six hopefuls - Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry - have appeared 20 times or more each on Fox or Fox Business Channel, the network said. Besides interviews, candidates have joined the panel of talk shows like “Outnumbered” or “The Five.”

“It is the most important forum for a Republican running for president,” said Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign and now an ABC News analyst.

Fox was to determine after 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday which 10 of the 17 declared Republican candidates will be on stage for Thursday’s prime-time debate in Cleveland. The remaining candidates will be included in a secondary forum that starts four hours earlier.


Erratic wildfire produces painful, familiar scene in Northern California

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (AP) - A predictable but painful summertime ritual played out in half a dozen resort communities near California’s largest freshwater lake on Tuesday as an erratic, week-old wildfire that has wiped out dozens of buildings continued to threaten nearly 7,000 more.

As firefighters and equipment from outside the state poured in to battle the blaze burning 10 miles from Clear Lake, more than 13,000 people were required or urged to leave their homes, vacation cabins and campsites in the latest fire-prone region to find itself under siege.

“This never gets easier,” said Gina Powers, who with her husband and cats on Sunday night fled the Spring Valley home she has evacuated before in the more than two decades she has lived there. “This time it was scarier.”

State and federal fire officials said the stubborn fire had consumed more than 101 square miles by Tuesday morning after flames jumped a highway in several places. It remained 12 percent contained and was not expected to be corralled until at least Monday.

The fire, by far the largest of 11 burning in Northern California on Wednesday, started on July 29 in drought-withered brush that has not burned in years in the Lower Lake area, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. A cause has not been determined.


The Latest: Operator of circus in fatal tent collapse has history of animal welfare violations

LANCASTER, N.H. (AP) - The latest on the circus tent collapse (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

The president of the Florida-based circus that was putting on a show in New Hampshire when a severe storm collapsed a tent and killed two spectators has a history of violations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A decade ago, John Caudill Jr., president of Walker International Events Inc., and his associates agreed to pay a $25,000 fine for violations in 2001 while operating without an Animal Welfare Act license. The license, which allows businesses to display animals publicly, had been suspended in 1997.


Family of woman found dead in Texas jail cell says she never should have been jailed, sues

HOUSTON (AP) - The family of a black woman found dead in a Texas jail three days after a confrontation with a white state trooper filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday against the officer and other officials, saying it was a last resort after being unable to get enough information about the case.

Sandra Bland, a Chicago-area woman, died by what authorities say was suicide in her Waller County jail cell on July 13. Her family and others previously questioned that, and criticized the trooper who stopped her for failing to signal a lane change.

“The bottom line is she never should have been inside the jail cell. Period,” Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said at a news conference. Reed-Veal, her Bible within reach, said she was confident Bland “knew enough about Jesus” that she wouldn’t hang herself, and her feelings as a mother say her daughter didn’t. But “anything is possible,” she said.

“Now I’m the first one to tell you, if the facts … show without a doubt that that was the case, I’ll have to be prepared to deal with that,” she said.

Bland’s death came after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or die in police custody.


Obama, Netanyahu make dueling appeals to US Jews on Iranian nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made dueling appeals to the American Jewish community Tuesday as they sought to rally support for their opposing positions on the Iranian nuclear deal.

Netanyahu made his case in a live webcast with more than 10,000 participants, according to the U.S. Jewish groups that organized the event. The prime minister railed against the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, calling it a “bad deal” that leaves Tehran on the brink of a bomb.

“The nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb,” he said. “It actually paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

Netanyahu, one of the fiercest critics of the nuclear accord, also disputed Obama’s assertion that opponents of the diplomatic deal favor war. He called that assertion “utterly false,” saying Israel wants peace, not war.

Obama held a private meeting at the White House later Tuesday with Jewish leaders - some who support the deal, some who oppose it, and others whose organizations are undecided.


After 7 deaths, NYC to monitor air conditioning equipment linked to Legionnaires’ disease

NEW YORK (AP) - Lawmakers are rushing to draft New York’s first regulations for a type of heavy-duty rooftop air conditioning equipment amid suspicions that bacteria-laden mist from these units could be the cause of the deadliest known outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the city’s history.

Seven people have died and at least 86 have fallen ill in the South Bronx since July 10. People can get exposed to Legionella bacteria from a variety of sources, but cooling towers have been implicated in past outbreaks. Testing found five contaminated units in the part of the city where people are getting sick.

Five things to know about the outbreak:




Both sides see gains after Senate derails Republican bill halting Planned Parenthood funds

WASHINGTON (AP) - After the Senate’s derailing of Republican legislation halting federal dollars for Planned Parenthood, one thing seems clear: Many on both sides think they can ring up gains from the battle.

Abortion-rights groups are already releasing TV ads attacking GOP supporters of the measure for stomping on women’s health care needs. Conservatives are accusing Democrats of voting to protect taxpayer funds for an organization whose campaign contributions tilt lopsidedly to Democratic candidates.

And each party was bracing to revisit the fight next month, when Congress returns from its summer recess and considers legislation keeping government agencies open after their budgets expire Oct. 1.

Conservatives see that as an opportunity to keep Planned Parenthood money out of those bills. GOP leaders, concerned that their party could be blamed, would prefer to avoid a government shutdown battle with President Barack Obama.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., repeated that sentiment Tuesday, telling reporters that while congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood were just beginning, “No more government shutdowns.”


Consumers enjoying lower energy costs amid rout in prices of fossil fuels

NEW YORK (AP) - These days it seems whatever can be burned to power a car, heat a home, make electricity or ship people and goods around the globe is being sold at bargain basement prices.

Prices for coal, natural gas, oil and the fuels made from crude such as gasoline and diesel are all far less expensive than they have been in recent years.

Consumers are rejoicing. Fossil fuel companies are reeling. Countries that import energy, such as the U.S., China, Japan and those in the European Union, are getting an economic boost. Exporters, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are facing lower income and budget shortfalls.

The possible effect of cheap fossil fuels on the environment is unclear - low prices certainly make them more tempting to burn, but low prices can also help discourage exploration in sensitive locations and open the way for environmentally-friendly policies.

The recent price declines are a result of complex factors that have led to a simple outcome: There is more than enough fossil fuels at the ready than customers need.

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