Dangerous conditions complicate wildfire fight in western US
BLY, Ore. (AP) — Erratic winds and parched Oregon forests added to the dangers for firefighters on Monday as they battled the largest wildfire in the U.S., one of dozens burning across several Western states.
The destructive Bootleg Fire was considered one of the largest in modern Oregon history and was burning more than 476 square miles (1,210 square kilometers), an area about the size of Los Angeles. The blaze just north of the California border was 25 percent contained.
Meteorologists predicted critically dangerous fire weather through at least Monday with lightning possible in both California and southern Oregon.
"With the very dry fuels, any thunderstorm has the potential to ignite new fire starts," the National Weather Service in Sacramento, California, said on Twitter.
Thousands of people were already facing evacuation orders, including some 2,000 people residing in the largely rural areas of lakes and wildlife refuges near the fire, which has burned at least 67 homes and 100 outbuildings while threatening many more.
Germany defends preparation for floods, considers lessons
BERLIN (AP) — German officials are defending their preparations for flooding in the face of the raging torrents that caught many people by surprise and left over 190 people dead in Western Europe, but they concede that they will need to learn lessons from the disaster.
Efforts to find any more victims and clean up the mess left behind by the floods across a swath of western Germany, eastern Belgium and the Netherlands continued on Monday as floodwaters receded. So far, 117 people have been confirmed dead in the worst-affected German region, Rhineland-Palatinate; 46 in the neighboring state of North Rhine-Westphalia; and at least one in Bavaria, parts of which saw heavy rain and flooding over the weekend. At least 31 people died in Belgium.
The downpours that led to usually small rivers swelling at vast speed in the middle of last week had been forecast, but warnings of potentially catastrophic damage didn't appear to have found their way to many people on the ground — often in the middle of the night.
"As soon as we have provided the immediate aid that stands at the forefront now, we will have to look at whether there were things that didn't go well, whether there were things that went wrong, and then they have to be corrected," Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the Bild newspaper. "That isn't about finger-pointing — it's about improvements for the future."
The head of Germany's civil protection agency said that the country's weather service had "forecast relatively well" and that the country was well-prepared for flooding on its major rivers.
Mixed feelings, Johnson in quarantine mar UK's 'freedom day'
LONDON (AP) — Corks popped, beats boomed out and giddy revelers rushed onto dancefloors when England's nightclubs reopened Monday as the country lifted most remaining restrictions after more than a year of lockdowns, mask mandates and other pandemic-related curbs on freedom.
For clubbers and nightclub owners, the moment lived up to its media-given moniker, "Freedom Day." But the big step out of lockdown was met with nervousness by many Britons, and concern from scientists, who say the U.K. is entering uncharted waters by opening up when infections are not falling but soaring.
As of Monday, face masks are no longer legally required in England, and with social distancing rules shelved, there are no limits on the number of people attending theater performances or big events.
For nightclubs, this is the first time they have been allowed to open in almost 18 months, and from London to Liverpool, thousands of people danced the night away at "Freedom Day" parties starting at midnight.
"It's a most joyous occasion," said Mark Troy, who went to The Piano Works club in London. "I love dancing and all my friend circle loves dancing and we haven't been able to do it for one and a half years approximately so we are really excited about it."
Man faces 1st sentencing for felony in riot at US Capitol
CHICAGO (AP) — A Florida man who breached the U.S. Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag is scheduled to become the first Jan. 6 rioter sentenced for a felony, in a hearing that will help set a benchmark for punishment in similar cases.
Prosecutors want Paul Allard Hodgkins to serve 18 months behind bars, saying in a recent filing that he, "like each rioter, contributed to the collective threat to democracy" by forcing lawmakers to temporarily abandon their certification of Joe Biden's election victory and to scramble for shelter from incoming mobs.
Video footage shows Hodgkins, 38, wearing a Trump 2020 T-shirt, the flag flung over his shoulder and eye goggles around his neck inside the Senate. He took a selfie with a self-described shaman in a horned helmet and other rioters on the dais behind him.
His sentencing Monday in Washington could set the bar for punishments of hundreds of other defendants as they decide whether to accept plea deals or go to trial. Hodgkins and others are accused of serious crimes but were not indicted, as other were, for roles in larger conspiracies.
A lawyer for Hodgkins, who pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing an official proceeding, asked U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss not to impose a prison sentence, saying the shame that will attach to Hodgkins for the rest of his life should be factored in as punishment.
In Trump's Jan. 6 recast, attackers become martyrs, heroes
WASHINGTON (AP) — A cocktail of propaganda, conspiracy theory and disinformation — of the kind intoxicating to the masses in the darkest turns of history — is fueling delusion over the agonies of Jan. 6.
Hate is "love." Violence is "peace." The pro-Donald Trump attackers are patriots.
Months after the then-president's supporters stormed the Capitol that winter day, Trump and his acolytes are taking this revisionism to a new and dangerous place — one of martyrs and warlike heroes, and of revenge. It's a place where cries of "blue lives matter" have transformed into shouts of "f--- the blue."
The fact inversion about the siege is the latest in Trump's contorted oeuvre of the "big lie" compendium, the most specious of which is that the election was stolen from him, when it was not.
It is rooted in the formula of potent propaganda through the ages: Say it loud, say it often, say it with the heft of political power behind you, and people will believe. Once spread by pamphlets, posters and word of mouth, now spread by swipe of finger, the result is the same: a passionate, unquestioning following.
Japan girds for a surreal Olympics, and questions are plenty
TOKYO (AP) — After a yearlong delay and months of hand-wringing that rippled across a pandemic-inflected world, a Summer Games unlike any other is at hand. It's an Olympics, sure, but also, in a very real way, something quite different.
No foreign fans. No local attendance in Tokyo-area venues. A reluctant populace navigating a surge of virus cases amid a still-limited vaccination campaign. Athletes and their entourages confined to a quasi-bubble, under threat of deportation. Government minders and monitoring apps trying — in theory, at least — to track visitors' every move. Alcohol curtailed or banned. Cultural exchanges, the kind that power the on-the-ground energy of most Games, completely absent.
And running like an electric current through it all: the inescapable knowledge of the suffering and sense of displacement that COVID-19 has ushered in, both here and around the world.
All signs point to an utterly surreal and atomized Games, one that will divide Japan into two worlds during the month of Olympics and Paralympics competition.
On one side, most of Japan's largely unvaccinated, increasingly resentful populace will continue soldiering on through the worst pandemic to hit the globe in a century, almost entirely separated from the spectacle of the Tokyo Games aside from what they see on TV. Illness and recovery, work and play, both curtailed by strict virus restrictions: Life, such as it is, will go on here.
Bangladesh lifts lockdown to celebrate, exasperating experts
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Waiting among hundreds of fellow travelers to catch a ferry out of Bangladesh's capital, unemployed construction worker Mohammed Nijam knew he was risking catching the coronavirus, but he felt it was even riskier to stay in Dhaka with another lockdown looming.
"I have to pay rent every month even though I have no work," he said, adding that his landlord had been bothering him for money even as he was struggling just to feed himself. "I'd rather go to my village home and lead life as God lets me."
Nijam is among the tens of millions of Bangladeshis shopping and traveling this week during a controversial eight-day pause in the country's strict coronavirus lockdown that the government is allowing for the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha. The suspension has been panned by health experts who warn it could exacerbate an ongoing surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant, which was first detected in neighboring India.
"Already there is a scarcity of beds, ICUs, while our health care providers are exhausted," said said Be-Nazir Ahmed, a public health expert and former chief of the government's Health Directorate. "So if the situation worsens and more patients come to hospitals, it will be near impossible to deal with the crisis."
With the spread of the virus rampant, most everything in Bangladesh was ordered shut on July 1, from markets to mass transportation. Soldiers and border guards patrolled the streets and thousands were arrested and sent to jail for violating the lockdown.
American father, son get Japan prison terms for Ghosn escape
TOKYO (AP) — A Tokyo court handed down prison terms for the American father and son accused of helping Nissan's former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, escape to Lebanon while awaiting trial in Japan.
Michael Taylor was sentenced Monday to two years in prison, while his son Peter was sentenced to one year and eight months.
They were charged with helping a criminal in the December 2019 escape of Ghosn, who hid in a big box that was flown on a private jet via Turkey to Lebanon. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.
In handing down the sentencing, Chief Judge Hideo Nirei said they had committed a serious violation of the law, as now there is next to no chance of putting Ghosn on trial.
"This case enabled Ghosn, a defendant of a serious crime, to escape overseas," he said.
Top Olympic sponsor Toyota pulls Games-related TV ads
TOKYO (AP) — Toyota won't be airing any Olympic-themed advertisements on Japanese television during the Tokyo Games despite being one of the IOC's top corporate sponsors.
The extraordinary decision by the country's top automaker underlines how polarizing the Games have become in Japan as COVID-19 infections rise ahead of Friday's opening ceremony.
"There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood," Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata told reporters Monday.
Chief Executive Akio Toyoda, the company founder's grandson, will be skipping the opening ceremony. That's despite about 200 athletes taking part in the Olympics and Paralympics who are affiliated with Toyota, including swimmer Takeshi Kawamoto and softball player Miu Goto.
Nagata said the company will continue to support its athletes.
Breivik survivors keep fighting for their vision of Norway
STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — On the 10th anniversary of Norway's worst peacetime slaughter, survivors of Anders Behring Breivik's assault worry that the racism which nurtured the anti-Islamic mass murderer is re-emerging in a nation known for its progressive politics.
Most of Breivik's 77 victims on July 22, 2011, were teen members of the Labor Party — idealists enjoying their annual camping trip on the tranquil, wooded island of Utoya, in a lake northwest of Oslo, the capital. Today many survivors are battling to keep their vision for their country alive.
"I thought that Norway would positively change forever after the attacks. Ten years later, that hasn't happened. And in many ways, the hate we see online and the threats against people in the Labor movement have increased," said Aasmund Aukrust, then-deputy leader of the Labor Youth Wing who helped organize the camp.
Today he's a national lawmaker campaigning for a nationwide inquiry into the right-wing ideology that inspired the killer.
Aukrust ran from the bullets flying through the forest then lay hidden for three terrifying hours while he saw friends murdered nearby. A vocal proponent of properly reckoning with the racism and xenophobia in Norway, Aukrust has been the target of online abuse, including receiving the message that "we wish Breivik had done his job."