US News: Western Wildfires; Syria Problem; Cell Phone Thefts; Texas Plant Had Little Liability Insurance

By: AP
By: AP
Cooler weather aids fight against Calif. wildfire... Ore. wildfire threat eases, evacuees return home... Readying new Syria push, US feels out Russia again... Obama back in US after trip to Mexico, Costa Rica... New efforts to curb cellphone theft are nationwide... Atty: Texas plant that blew up only carried $1M liability policy... NRA, gun control advocates say fight far from over... E! Online

AP Photo of California wildfire...officials hope cooler weather aided by higher humidity will help them gain control of the fires

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) -- Calmer winds and a big cool-down in weather are helping firefighters gain control of a huge wildfire burning in Southern California coastal mountains.
Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant says containment of the blaze 50 miles west of Los Angeles increased to 56 percent Saturday afternoon.
The fire has burned more than 43 square miles since breaking out near Camarillo (kam-uh-REE-oh) Thursday morning. High winds and hot, dry air quickly stoked the flames, but the normal flow of damp air off the Pacific returned late Friday and significantly reduced fire activity.
Flames have threatened thousands of homes since then but only 15 have been damaged.
Nearly 2,000 firefighters are battling the fire, assisted by water-dropping helicopters and planes.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- People evacuated from dozens of home in central Oregon as a wildfire flared nearby are being allowed to return home.
Sgt. Mike Biondi of the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office says residents of the 40 homes in the Crescent Creek subdivision near La Pine that were evacuated in the early afternoon Saturday began returning home about 8 p.m.
Biondi says at least 20 of the evacuated people showed up at a Red Cross shelter, which was shutting down as the threat eased.
Winds gusting to 40 mph wreaked havoc on parts of Central Oregon, toppling trees that blocked roads and downing power lines that sparked at least two small wildfires.
The all clear came after crews were able to make progress containing the fires as winds died down.
Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center says a larger fire was about 80 percent contained.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. is trying to leverage new evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad's government used chemical weapons, and make a fresh diplomatic and possible military push with allies to end the country's civil war.
This renewed effort starts with Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Moscow this coming week for talks with leaders in Russia, the Syrian government's most powerful international friend.
Russia, alongside China, has blocked U.S.-led efforts three times at the United Nations to pressure Assad into stepping down.
Officials say the U.S. hopes to change Moscow's thinking with two new arguments: the evidence of chemical weapons attacks and American threats to arm the Syrian rebels.
Russia represents the most difficult diplomatic test as the U.S. tries to assemble a coalition to halt the war.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is back in the U.S. after a trip that took him to Mexico and Costa Rica over three days.
Air Force One arrived at Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base, outside of Washington, about 6:45 EDT Saturday night. The president returned to the White House just after 7 p.m.
Obama had left the U.S. last Thursday.
In Mexico, Obama cheered advances in that nation's economy and voiced his support for an overhaul of U.S. immigration policies.
While visiting Costa Rica, the president urged leaders in Central American to integrate their economies, reduce their high energy costs and confront violence in the region.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Disturbed by the nationwide epidemic of cellphone robberies and thefts, law enforcement officials are looking to the wireless industry for help.
In San Francisco, where half the robberies were phone-related last year, District Attorney George Gascon is calling on major companies in nearby Silicon Valley to create new technology such as a "kill switch" to permanently and quickly disable stolen smartphones to render them worthless.
Stakes are high. Nearly 175 million cellphones were sold in the U.S. in the past year, accounting for $69 billion in sales, according to research firm IDC.
And the Federal Communications Commission says almost one out of three robberies nationwide involves the theft of a mobile phone as a highly-anticipated national database system to track cellphones reported stolen will start this fall.

DALLAS (AP) -- A lawyer says that the Texas fertilizer plant that exploded last month, killing 14 people, injuring more than 200 others and damaging or destroying property for blocks in every direction was only insured for up to $1 million in liability.
Tyler lawyer Rancy C. Roberts said Saturday that he and other attorneys who have filed lawsuits against West Fertilizer's owners were told Thursday about the size of its policy.
An insurance industry group estimates that it may have caused up to $100 million in damage.
An attorney for United States Fire Insurance Co., of Morristown, N.J., confirmed the policy details to the Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/107cRT9 ). It didn't name the attorney. A company lawyer didn't immediately respond to a phone message Saturday left at his office by The Associated Press.

HOUSTON (AP) -- The leadership of the National Rifle Association is telling its members that the fight against gun control legislation is far from over, with battles yet to come in Congress and next year's midterm elections.
But NRA leaders vowed that none of its members would ever have to surrender their weapons.
Proponents of gun control also asserted that they are in it for the long haul and are not disheartened by last month's defeat of a bill that would have expanded background checks for gun sales.
Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and other NRA leaders spoke on Saturday during the group's annual member meeting, part of the yearly NRA convention being held this weekend in Houston.
Across the street from the convention, more than 60 protesters gathered.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- E! Online says hackers compromised its Twitter and text messaging accounts, sending out erroneous news alerts about Justin Bieber and Angelina Jolie.
The Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for Saturday's hack.
E! Online said it was working with Twitter to correct the issue, and that an investigation into the attack was underway.
The SEA has taken credit for a string of Web attacks on media targets it sees as sympathetic to Syria's rebels, including the BBC, Al-Jazeera English and the Guardian.
The group claims to have hacked the Twitter feed of The Associated Press last month.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Scientists say Alaska's Cleveland Volcano is undergoing a continuous low-level eruption.
The activity began with an explosion early Saturday morning, followed by two other explosions hours later.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory and U.S. Geological Survey say satellites and cameras suggest low-level emissions of gas, steam and a small amount of ash. Satellites detected highly elevated surface temperatures at the summit.
The Federal Aviation Administration said there are no flight restrictions as a result.
The volcano in the Aleutian Islands is 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. Its most recent significant eruption began in February 2001 and featured three explosive events that sent ash clouds as high 39,000 feet above sea level. It also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea.


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