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Nation & World Briefs


Wednesday, December 06, 2017
Another wildfire threatens Southern California

LOS ANGELES — A wildfire erupted in Los Angeles’ exclusive Bel-Air section Wednesday as yet another part of Southern California found itself under siege from an outbreak of wind-whipped blazes that have consumed multimillion-dollar houses and tract homes alike.

Hundreds of homes across the L.A. metropolitan area and beyond were feared destroyed since Monday, but firefighters were only slowly managing to make their way into some of the hard-hit areas.

As many as five fires have closed highways, schools and museums, shut down production of TV series and cast a hazardous haze over the region.

About 200,000 people were under evacuation orders. No deaths and only a few injuries were reported.

From the beachside city of Ventura, where rows of homes were leveled, to the rugged foothills north of Los Angeles, where stable owners had to evacuate horses in trailers, to Bel-Air, where the rich and famous have sweeping views of L.A. below, fierce Santa Ana winds sweeping in from the desert fanned the flames and fears.

How GOP tax plans would reward rich families

WASHINGTON — Life may be about to get easier for people with rich parents. They can thank the Republicans’ tax plans.

Part of their prep school tuition could be shielded from taxes. A larger chunk of their inheritances would be free of estate tax. Family-owned businesses they have a stake in could be taxed at a discount.

Stock portfolios gifted to them by their parents may keep climbing because of lower corporate tax rates.

And their parents could enjoy a bigger child tax credit than poor working families would.

All told, such perks could further widen America’s increased wealth gap.

Government and outside analyses of the House and Senate tax bills show that the benefits would flow disproportionately to the wealthy.

Aides to President Donald Trump argue that lower tax rates for companies and the wealthy would trickle into substantial pay raises for middle-income workers.

In fact, Trump told middle class families at the White House on Tuesday that the tax cuts would leave them flush with cash.

House OKs GOP bill expanding gun owners’ rights

WASHINGTON — Republicans rammed a bill through the House on Wednesday that would make it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines, the first significant action on guns in Congress since mass shootings in Nevada and Texas killed more than 80 people.

The House approved the bill, 231-198, largely along party lines. Six Democrats voted yes, while 14 Republicans voted no.

The measure would allow gun owners with a state-issued concealed-carry permit to carry a handgun in any state that allows concealed weapons. It now goes to the Senate.

Republicans said the reciprocity measure, a top priority of the National Rifle Association, would allow gun owners to travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state laws or civil suits.

Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill could endanger public safety by overriding state laws that place strict limits on guns.

Brain abnormalities found in victims of Cuba mystery

WASHINGTON — Doctors treating the U.S. embassy victims of suspected attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain hearing, vision, balance and memory damage, The Associated Press has learned.

It’s the most specific finding to date about physical damage, showing that whatever it was that harmed the Americans, it led to perceptible changes in their brains. The finding is also one of several factors fueling growing skepticism that some kind of sonic weapon was involved.

Loud, mysterious sounds followed by hearing loss and ear-ringing had led investigators to suspect “sonic attacks.” But officials are now carefully avoiding that term. The sounds may have been the byproduct of something else that caused damage, said three U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. They weren’t authorized to discuss it publicly and demanded anonymity.

Physicians, FBI investigators and U.S. intelligence agencies have spent months trying to piece together the puzzle in Havana, where the U.S. says 24 U.S. government officials and spouses fell ill starting last year in homes and later in some hotels.

Trump says gov’t shutdown possible, blames Democrats

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump warned Wednesday that a government shutdown was possible this weekend because Democrats were demanding to have “illegal immigrants pouring into our country,” tossing incendiary rhetoric onto a partisan showdown that had been showing signs of easing.

Trump’s comments risked roiling a White House meeting with congressional leaders of both parties planned for Thursday aimed at averting a shutdown.

With money for federal agencies running out at midnight Friday, Republican leaders plan to push a bill through Congress this week financing the government through Dec. 22. That would give bargainers time to work through their disagreements, but they will need Democratic votes to succeed.

Democrats have been using their leverage to insist on spending boosts for health care, infrastructure and other domestic programs that would match increases Republicans want for defense.

Democrats are also seeking an agreement to extend protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children.

From Associated Press