In devastated California, President Donald Trump pledges federal help – and delivers blame

CHICO, CALIFORNIA (WASHINGTON POST) – President Donald Trump toured a scene of surreal devastation on Saturday (Nov 17), picking his way around burned trees and the hulking skeletons of vehicles as he pledged federal resources to help Californians recover from the most deadly and destructive wildfire in state history.

“This is very sad to see, but we’re all going to work together,” Mr Trump said after a walking tour of a burned-out RV park and housing tract in Paradise.

As he spoke, a thick haze of smoke hung in the air. Stone and brick chimneys – all that remained of some homes – were visible from Mr Trump’s motorcade.

The president also criticised forest-management decisions that he suggested are at least partly to blame for the disaster, even though the fires are considered to be more related to a record drought, high winds and a changing climate.

But unlike earlier comments in which he threatened to withhold federal funding if changes were not made, Mr Trump provided a reassuring note.

“You’ve got the federal government”, at the ready, he promised.

Referring to the staggering loss of life – more than 70 deaths have been recorded so far, and that number is expected to rise – Mr Trump sounded shaken.

“As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet. We’re up to a certain number, but we have got a lot of people that aren’t accounted for yet. Right now, we want to take care of the people who are so badly hurt,” Mr Trump said.

California Govenor Jerry Brown walked with Mr Trump and told reporters that the state’s requests are being answered.

“It’s just the big, massive cleanup after a terrible tragedy,” said Mr Brown, a frequent Trump critic. “The federal government can provide some help, and a lot of money and some expertise. We’ll all pull through it together.”

Mr Trump toured fire-damaged areas in both Northern and Southern California, making a rare visit to a state he has often demonised as a “sanctuary” for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Mr Trump’s one-day visit to the state thrust him into a role of uniter and consoler that he has never occupied comfortably. The president seemed moved by the scale of the loss around him and was solicitous of Mr Brown and govenor-elect Gavin Newsom. But he said more about the firefighters and other rescuers deployed to the fire than about the victims.

At an incident command centre in Chico, Mr Trump called the fire “a monster” and praised rescuers.”They’re out there fighting, and they’re fighting like hell,” Mr Trump said. “It’s like total devastation.”

The Camp Fire covers an area north of Sacramento that is the size of Chicago. Firefighters said on Saturday that it is slightly more than 50 per cent contained.

As of Saturday morning, there were 71 deaths and 9,700 homes destroyed as a result of the 150,000-acre fire, which started on Nov 8, according to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr Trump said other countries, including Sweden, do a better job “cleaning the floor” of the forest, to reduce forest fires. He said he hopes the Camp Fire will be the last one of such size and devastation because of changes to forest-management practices.

“I don’t think we’ll have this again to this extent,” Mr Trump said. “Hopefully, this is going to be the last of these because this was a really, really bad one.”

All of California is in some stage of drought or abnormally dry conditions, with much of the burned area of Butte County in moderate drought.

As Mr Trump drove from Paradise to a meeting with rescuers, local and law enforcement officials, supporters and a few protesters lined the road. One protester held aloft a sign reading, “Moron, we are in a drought.”

Governor Brown and Mr Newsom flew with Mr Trump and stood with him as he spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One.

“Yes, yes,” Mr Brown responded when asked whether the fires are linked to climate change. “We’ll let science determine this over a longer period of time,” he said. “Right now we’re collaborating on the most immediate response, and that’s very important.”

Mr Trump jumped in a few moments later: “We have different views but maybe not as different as people think.”

Mr Trump has called climate change “a hoax”, but has also said it is real.

“Trump is basically ducking the fact that climate change has to be taken in account in understanding the conditions that set the stage for the fires,” said environmentalist and former State Department official Rafe Pomerance.

“I think what he needs to do is get his facts first, then open his mouth,” said Ms Natalie Smith, 51, who evacuated her rented Paradise home. “We’ve got people up there we don’t even know if they’re alive, and he’s worried about cleaning up our forests? We’ve got thousands of people with no homes sleeping on the ground, and he’s worried about us cleaning up our forests? Really?”

On top of that, she said, Mr Trump’s visit to see the devastation tied up traffic on Saturday. “Fly over it!” Ms Smith said.

Of all the possessions she lost, she was most upset about never seeing her wedding ring and great-grandmother’s china again. “I got out with the clothes on my back and my cat in a box,” she said.

Mr Trump drew wide criticism for a tweet last week blaming the wildfires on “gross mismanagement” of California timberlands and threatening to hold back federal funding from the Democrat-led state.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” he wrote. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Mr Brian Rice, president of California Professional Firefighters, called Mr Trump’s words “ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines”.

No wildfire in California history has done more damage than the Camp Fire. It burned down the forest town of Paradise, Mr Trump’s first stop after landing at a military base north of Sacramento.

The Woolsey Fire started northwest of Los Angeles the same day and has been moving toward the Pacific Coast. It has killed at least two people and destroyed 483 structures. Among the areas threatened by the fire is Thousand Oaks, which is still grieving after 12 people were killed in the Nov 7 mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill.

The list of people unaccounted for in the Camp Fire exceeded 1,000 last Friday, after officials released more than 600 names in an effort to identify those found by friends and relatives.

Signs of the wildfires were everywhere in the region Mr Trump toured.

In the morning, trucks carried modular homes north on the highway toward Chico. Local weather reports deemed the air quality “dangerous for everyone” 100 miles south of Paradise.

Mr Tony Terrano, a 47-year-old welder and fabricator from Magalia, near Paradise, thought he could defend his home with a water hose. Six days later, the water ran out, and he and his three-year-old pit bull Mo Mo fled on foot.

Firefighters spotted him, he said, and took him to a sheriff’s command centre, where he got a ride to the Red Cross shelter at the Neighbourhood Church in Chico. There, a half-dozen evacuees sat outside and watched TV news coverage of Mr Trump’s visit.

“We’re happy he’s here because we need the funding,” said Ms Allison Bazan, a 24-year-old criminal-justice student, who lost the Paradise home she and her husband had moved into three months ago. “We’d like our town to be rebuilt. People need to put political points of view aside right now if they want their town rebuilt. We need to look at this from a financial standpoint more so than personal opinion.”

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Democrat Andrew Gillum concedes Florida governor's race, congratulates Ron DeSantis

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Democrat Andrew Gillum, who had sought to become Florida’s first black governor, conceded on Saturday (Nov 17) as a recount of ballots neared its end, and he congratulated rival Republican Ron DeSantis, an ally of President Donald Trump.

Gillum, the liberal mayor of Tallahassee, had initially conceded the race to DeSantis, a conservative former congressman.

But Gillum later withdrew that concession when the results were close enough for an automatic recount.

On Saturday, he said that process was drawing to a close.

“This has been the journey of our lives. We’ve been so honoured by the support that we’ve received,” Gillum said in a video statement. “Stay tuned, there will be more to come. This fight for Florida continues.”

DeSantis said on Twitter, “This was a hard-fought campaign. Now it’s time to bring Florida together.”

After Gillum initially conceded the contest on election night, his subsequent calls for every vote to be counted echoed similar appeals from fellow Democrat US Senator Bill Nelson.

A recount is continuing in the race between Nelson and his challenger for the Senate seat, outgoing Republican Governor Rick Scott.

That recount has become the subject of an intense political battle with Republicans including Trump claiming without evidence that the process was marred by fraud.

Both parties and their supporters filed multiple lawsuits challenging the process, with Republicans urging a strict standard on which votes were counted while Democrats contested rules that they saw as disenfranchising voters.

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North Shore Rescue warns hikers of icy mountain conditions

Watch your step, hikers.

That’s the message from North Shore Rescue (NSR), as temperatures dip below freezing in alpine areas of the North Shore.

There may be a dearth of snow on the slopes, but the search-and-rescue organization says the trails have become treacherously icy and are advising anyone headed into the backcountry to ensure they are prepared.

“Running shoes are not appropriate footwear for these conditions, and those going on hikes should have good supportive footwear (with an aggressive tread) and micro spikes at a minimum,” wrote the team in a Facebook post on Saturday.

“If you aren’t prepared, please turn around and select an alternate route,” it added.

The team said that the sunny weekend weather has drawn a large number of people to the mountains, many of whom were observed slipping and falling on Mount Seymour’s trails and wearing inappropriate footwear.

In addition to footwear that can handle the ice, NSR recommends hikers always let someone know where they are going, plan their trip, avoid hiking alone, and always travel with the 10 essentials.

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Canmore, London, Langley ‘top’ online list of Canada’s coziest cities for 2018

Looking for a cozy getaway? One with little traffic and nature knocking on the doorstep?

Look no further than Canmore, Alta., which recently ‘topped’ Expedia.ca’s list of ‘Canada’s coziest cities for 2018.’ The website says a cozy city is “a place with attractions that provide warmth, relaxation, and community. It’s a city with a welcoming hotel at the end of the night. It’s a town that says, ‘You’re family here.’”

In making the list, which was created from hotel data, Expedia said each location had at least 100 reviews with a comfort score of 3.5 stars and higher.

Expedia then listed the top 55 cities, though it added the list was in no particular order. Yet in saying that, it listed Canmore as No. 1, with London, Ont., as No. 2 and Langley, B.C., as No. 3. Rounding out the top five were Dartmouth, N.S., and Sudbury, Ont.

In describing Canmore, Expedia wrote, “Nestled against the Rocky Mountains, Canmore is a place that inspires fire pits, relaxing spas, and sights that take your breath away. Given how many glowing reviews we saw, there’s definitely something magical about it.”

It also highlighted a few top attractions:

  • With views that look out to the Three Cities mountain range and a menu that includes craft soda along with sudsy pints, Grizzly Paw Pub & Brewing Company is a top-notch cozy bar to unwind in.
  • When you’re ready to have your muscles kneaded and joints popped, there’s nothing better than a spa day. Make a date at the best in the city, Verde Day Spa, for pampering you deserve.

For London, Expedia said the Ontario city of 383,000 “offers a little bit of something for everyone seeking respite from the chill: comfort food, rare vinyl record shops, and tons of community events. If you’re looking for local stores with sweet gems any hipster would fight you for, this is the place.”

And for Langley, “With berry fields and an old-fashioned movie theatre, the quaint town of Langley is a cozy place to visit just outside of bustling Vancouver, and it got top marks from visitors.”

Provincially, British Columbia was the runaway winner, with 20 cities in the list of 55, including three in the Okanagan: West Kelowna (6th), Osoyoos (20th) and Vernon (46th).

Next was Ontario at 14, with Alberta third with six. Every province had at least one listing, though the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut were left off the list.

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In photos: Edmonton’s Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle for Bissell Centre fundraiser

“I love the seeing the faces of the kids that come in and see it for the first time.”

Garner Beggs, co-owner of the Duchess Bakeshop is talking about the reaction his latest creation is getting.

He’s spent countless hours working on an edible replica of the famous Hogwarts Castle, home to the fictional School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the famed Harry Potter book and movie series.

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Edmonton’s Duchess Bakeshop created a replica Hogwarts castle.

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

Duchess Bakeshop creates an edible Hogwarts castle

“It’s made entirely out of edible things aside from the table it’s on and a few pieces of foam underneath,” Beggs added.

He’s still planning to add a few details to the project which he based on the model of the castle used by production studios during filming in London.

The project is also a fundraiser for the Bissell Centre.

Anyone wanting to check out the castle is be asked to bring a donation of socks. The goal is to collect a 1,000 pairs of socks for the homeless this winter.

Donors will be entered into a draw January 4, for “castle demolition party. “

Beggs said the winner and five friends will be invited to demolish the castle anyway they choose.

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Scheer compares Trudeau debt to parents leaving ‘unpaid credit card bill’ to children

In a speech at an Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Convention Saturday morning, Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer criticized the spending practices of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party.

“He has increased Canada’s debt faster than any peacetime prime minister in Canadian history,” Scheer asserted. While the debt-to-GDP ratio throughout Canadian history isn’t entirely clear, spending by the Canadian government has notably increased since Trudeau took office.

Global News previously assembled a database to track government spending, which revealed that the Liberals have made nearly 9,000 spending announcements since Trudeau took office two years ago, far surpassing the 7,300 spending announcements made during the four years of the Harper majority government.

The combined value of the Liberals’ spending announcements has reached CAD$34.27 billion so far, versus the $45.15 billion combined value for four years of Harper spending announcements.

“No one would leave an unpaid credit card bill to their children, but that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing,” Scheer continued during his speech.

Scheer’s comments seem to stem from a report published by the Fraser Institute in 2017, stating that Trudeau is on track to be the be the largest accumulator of debt among prime ministers who took office in times of economic stability and minimal global conflict.

On the flip side, however, some experts have noted that many estimates regarding Canada’s federal debt do not take into account the government’s current assets. Global News reported in March that while our federal market debt hit $1 trillion this year, this number is offset by almost $380 billion in assets, bringing the total of the country’s net debt to a more manageable $651 billion.

According to documents prepared by RBC based on government projections, Canada’s net debt is expected to rise to $730 billion by 2023. Between 2016, the first full year Trudeau held office, and 2023, the year RBC’s projections end, the federal net debt will have increased by a potential $1 billion over that seven-year period.

The seven-year-period prior to 2016 saw a comparable net debt accumulation of approximately $1 billion as well. It’s important to note that Conservative leader Stephen Harper took office in 2011, and held office for three terms.

In addition to discussing the spending practices of the Trudeau government, Scheer pledged to do away with Trudeau’s carbon tax, pledged to continue challenging the prime minister during Question Period in the House of Commons, and encouraged Ontario Conservatives to make Trudeau a “one-term prime minister.”

The next federal election will take place on October 26.

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Saint Nick spreads holiday cheer at Montreal’s 68th annual Santa Claus Parade

Montreal looked like a winter wonderland on Saturday, after snow blanketed the city in the first major snowfall of the season on Friday.

With Santa Claus riding into town on his sleigh Saturday morning, the timing couldn’t have been better.

Young and old bundled up and lined Ste.-Catherine Street, waiting to catch a glimpse of jolly old Saint Nick and his elves in the 68th annual Santa Claus Parade.

Some kids even built their own snowmen to keep them company as they waited for the parade to kick off at 11 a.m. at the corner of Ste.-Catherine and Fort streets.

Santa didn’t disappoint. Perched on his sleigh, he ho-ho-hoed his way into the hearts of the little ones.

But the parade isn’t a one-man show. Santa came to town with hundreds of friends, from artists to musicians and even some superheroes, too.

In all, an array of 20 floats, stretching a kilometre in length, entertained the crowds and spread holiday cheer.

The parade should end at around 1:30 p.m., when the last floats are expected to arrive at the corner of Ste.-Catherine and Saint-Urbain streets.

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Dozens of carriages fall on to highway after train derails in Georgia

The entire population of Byromville – about 500 people – was evacuated following the accident, which happened at around 7am local time.

Local fire chief Brett Wallis told WMAZ-TV that between 15 and 30 carriages had fallen onto Georgia Highway 90, with some of them said to contain pressurised propane.

The train reportedly had 72 loaded carriages and 69 empty ones.

No injuries have been reported.

More follows…

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Trump to visit California’s wildfires

US President Donald Trump is heading to California to survey the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

The Camp Fire in northern California has killed at least 71 people.

More than 1,000 people are reported to be missing, although officials say that figure could fluctuate.

Leaving for California, Mr Trump again focused on forest management as a cause of the blazes, a claim that has been disputed by experts.

On top of the Camp Fire, firefighters are also tackling several other blazes, including the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles which has claimed at least three lives.

And adding to the misery, scores of people have become sick after outbreaks of the norovirus at shelters and the air quality in northern California has been rated the world’s worst.

Heavy rain is forecast next week that could douse the flames but also bring mudslides and floods on hillsides stripped of vegetation.

What’s the latest on the Camp Fire?

The death toll rose to 71 on Friday after seven more bodies were found in the town of Paradise, which has been all but destroyed by the fire.

Military troops are assisting forensics teams and cadaver dogs as they continue to search for human remains eight days on after the Camp Fire first broke out.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea put the number of people unaccounted for at 1,011, a sharp leap from the 631 reported just 24 hours earlier.

However, he described the list as “dynamic”,

“The information I am providing you is raw data and we find there is the likely possibility that the list contains duplicate names,” he said.

Some of those on the list may be fine but unaware they have been reported missing, or unable to call, authorities say.

The Camp Fire is now about 50% contained but fire officials say they may not have it fully under control until the end of the month.

What kind of welcome will the president get?

Mr Trump is due to meet survivors and firefighters involved in tacking the blaze when he touches down.

Asked on Fox News if he thought climate change had contributed to the wildfires, he said “Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.”

California Governor Jerry Brown, who has criticised this argument as simplistic, said he would welcome the president to the state.

“Now is a time to pull together for the people of California,” he tweeted.

Others suggested the president faced a difficult reception. One woman who voted for Mr Trump and was forced to flee Paradise said she disagreed with his assessment.

“I would tell him that this fire has nothing to do with forest mismanagement. Thousands and thousands of homes got destroyed with no trees around,” Roslyn Roberts told Reuters.

Another woman, living in a shelter, told Associated Press: “If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you’re going to be accepted? You’re not going to have a parade.”

Historically, California’s “wildfire season” started in summer and ran into early autumn – but experts have warned that the risk is now year-round.

Low humidity, warm winds, and dry ground after a rain-free month have produced a prime fire-spreading environment.

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Louis Riel honoured on anniversary of execution, part of Métis Week celebrations

Métis Week was held in Edmonton and across Alberta from Nov. 12 to 17.

The week was commemorated with a ceremony at the Alberta Legislature on Friday, on the anniversary of Métis Leader Louis Riel’s execution, or Louis Riel Day.

Coverage of Métis people on Globalnews.ca:

The ceremony, organized by the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), paid tribute to the rebel leader who sacrificed his life defending the rights of Métis people.

“He stood for a fair country, is what he stood for. Not only for Métis people, but everyone in Canada. He fought and he died for it, said Audrey Poitras, president of the MNA.

“We think it’s really important that we continue to have people understand. He was a person like all of us.”

The event saw Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, and federal Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi in attendance.

Youth performers, dancers and singers were a large part of the ceremony’s itinerary and young people have become an integral part of their events.

Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta speaks at the ceremony

Charles Barner, a grade four student who explained Riel’s legacy to those in attendance

Youth dancers perform for the crowd

 

“(They are) our future leaders, said Poitras.

“We want to make sure they understand why we do the things we do. Why we believe in what we do. About the history of our people, how we helped build this country, Canada, and this province, Alberta.

“We try to build youth into everything we do now.”

To explain to the crowd how Riel made his mark on Canadian history, Charles Barner, a grade four student who is part of the Métis Nation of Alberta took to the microphone.

“He formed a provisional government to negotiate the entrance of Manitoba into confederation,” explained Barner.

He spoke about Riel’s monumental achievements, and of his passing.

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“Nov. 16, 1885, Louis Riel was hanged in Regina, Saskatchewan.”

Barner also spoke with Global News after the ceremony.

“I think people need to know about our culture and history, the young boy said.

“The Europeans came across to Canada and there was a war. They wanted to take over Canada and Louis Riel said ‘no’.

“He was found guilty and he got hung. He stood up for his country. He didn’t let anything bad happen to it,” said Barner.

The ceremony to honour Louis Riel has grown over the years.

“People and governments are talking to us now. We are moving forward with reconciliation, Poitras said.

“And I think that’s what it takes — more people to stand up and come out.”

Sohi also spoke on behalf of the federal government.

“An essential aspect of overcoming oppression and wrongs of the past, is to learn from and honour our history,” said Minister of Health and Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Learning about and understanding Métis people and their relationship with others is why Métis Week is held in Edmonton, and the province.

“We as Métis people are here to work and live with everyone else in this country, and the more we understand each other- the better we can,” Poitras said.

“While we’re promoting and educating who we are as Métis people — we learn from other people who come out to be part of what we’re doing — and that’s really what it’s all about.”

Métis Week celebrations in Edmonton come to a close with a family day celebration at the Edmonton Inn & Conference Centre on Nov. 17.

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