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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

   LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J. (AP) - Two New Jersey officials say 16 workers from a county garage in Toms River have one of the three winning tickets in the $448 million Powerball jackpot.

   The Press of Atlantic City reports that Ocean County Vehicle Maintenance Department Director Jim Pine and Freeholder Jack Kelly say the employees have the ticket sold at an Acme Markets store in Little Egg Harbor.

   Pine says they're a group of "wonderful, hardworking people," who showed up for work on Thursday.

   Paul White, a 45 year old project engineer from Ham Lake, Minn., claimed his third of the jackpot Thursday. He's taking a lump sum, which will amount to $58.3 million after taxes.

   The holder of the third ticket, also from New Jersey, hasn't come forward yet. That ticket was sold in a supermarket in central New Jersey.

US orders diplomats out of Lahore, Pakistan

Friday, 09 August 2013 02:34 Published in National News

   ISLAMABAD (AP) — The State Department has warned Americans not to travel to Pakistan and evacuated nonessential government personnel from the country's second largest city because of a specific threat to the consulate there, a U.S. official said Friday.

   The move was not related to the threat of an al-Qaida attack that prompted Washington to close temporarily 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa.

   According to U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Meghan Gregonis, the U.S. is shifting its nonessential staff from the consulate in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore to the capital, Islamabad.

   Emergency personnel will stay in Lahore, and embassy officials do not know when the consulate will reopen, she said.

   "We received information regarding a threat to the consulate," said Gregonis. "As a precautionary measure, we are undertaking a drawdown of all except emergency personnel."

   The consulate in Lahore was already scheduled to be closed for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr from Thursday through Sunday.

   The personnel drawdown at the Lahore consulate was precautionary and wasn't related to the recent closures of numerous U.S. diplomatic missions in the Muslim world, said two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the order.

   Earlier this week, 19 U.S. diplomatic outposts in 16 countries in the Middle East and Africa were closed to the public through Saturday and nonessential personnel were evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Yemen after U.S. intelligence officials said they had intercepted a recent message from al-Qaida's top leader about plans for a major terror attack.

   None of the consulates in Pakistan or the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad were affected by the earlier closures.

   On Thursday, the State Department issued a travel warning saying the presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups posed a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan.

   The country has faced a bloody insurgency by the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in recent years that has killed over 40,000 civilians and security personnel, and is also believed to be home base for al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Most of the militant attacks have been in the northwest and southwest along the border with Afghanistan.

   Gunmen killed six people and wounded 15 others Friday in an attack on a former lawmaker outside a mosque in Quetta, the capital of southwest Baluchistan province, said police officer Bashir Ahmad Barohi. The lawmaker escaped unharmed. A day earlier, a Taliban suicide bomber killed 30 people at a police funeral in Quetta.

   Pakistan's major cities, including Lahore, have also experienced periodic attacks.

   A powerful bomb exploded at a busy market street in Lahore in early July, killing at least four people and wounding nearly 50.

   Lahore is considered Pakistan's cultural capital and has a population of at least 10 million people.

   A CIA contractor shot to death two Pakistanis in Lahore in January 2011 who he said were trying to rob him. The incident severely damaged relations between Pakistan and the U.S. The contractor, Raymond Davis, was released by Pakistan in March 2011 after the families of the victims were paid over $2 million.

 

___

 

Associated Press writer Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

California wildfire destroys 26 homes

Friday, 09 August 2013 02:15 Published in National News

   BEAUMONT, Calif. (AP) — A rapidly spreading wildfire chewed through a rugged Southern California mountain range on Thursday, destroying more than two dozen homes, threatening more than 500 other residences and forcing some 1,800 people to flee.

   Six people were injured, while more than 1,400 firefighters and nine helicopters battled the flames as they pushed eastward along the San Jacinto Mountains, a desert range 90 miles east of Los Angeles, Cal Fire Riverside Chief John R. Hawkins said.

   A man near the origin of the fire suffered serious burns, Hawkins said. Five firefighters were also injured, including two who suffered heat exhaustion. Officials did not have details to release on the other three.

   After surveying badly charred areas, many of which burned amid the fire's out-of-control growth in the hours after it broke out, officials said 26 homes and one commercial building were destroyed and two other structures were damaged.

   Hawkins said the wind-fed fire that sparked at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday is one of the "most rapidly spreading, dangerous fires that I've seen" in his 50 years as a firefighter.

   The fire was estimated at nearly 22 square miles Thursday, with 20 percent containment, but it was growing, causing concern that the direction could change in the area, which is known as a wind tunnel.

   "The conditions at the front right now are very dangerous," Hawkins said.

   Authorities still have not determined what caused the fire.

   Evacuation orders were issued in five towns. Flames were marching toward the hardscrabble town of Cabazon, where hundreds scrambled to leave in the pre-dawn hours Thursday as the mountain ridge behind their homes glowed red.

   Many returned after sunrise to pack up more belongings and watch the flickering line of fire snaking along the brown, scrubby mountains.

   Linda Walls, 62, sat with her family in lawn chairs and watched fire crews scrambling to douse the flames marching toward her modest home less than a quarter mile away. An American flag flapped in the gusty wind that kicked up the fire. She wiped her brow, feeling the scorching heat.

   Gray and pink-tinted clouds billowed across the otherwise crystal blue sky. Neighbors could be heard coughing as they filled the beds of pickup trucks with motocross bikes, boxes of clothing, toys and packaged food.

   "It seems to be taking off now," she said as sirens whirred by. "All you see are the firemen inside the blaze."

   At the end of her street, a group of ostriches paced in their cages as the hill above them burned. A firefighter rushing by said they would do what they can to protect them. Nearby another pen was filled with goats.

   In the nearby town of Banning, Lili Arroyo, 83, left with only her pet cockatiel, Tootsie, in its cage and a bag of important papers from her home, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in a 2006 wildfire.

   "The smoke was so bad you couldn't see," said Arroyo, who lives in the town of Banning. "There were embers and ash coming down all over the sky. The smoke was really thick. I was starting not to be able to breathe."

   Evacuation orders covered an RV resort called the Silent Valley Club, the rural communities of Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Edna Valley and Vista Grande, portions of the city of Cabazon along Interstate 10, and a camping area known as Black Mountain.

   A veteran of many evacuations, Dana Wright, 43, wiped away a tear as she entered a shelter at a Beaumont school and went with her family to watch TV news. She had no idea whether her Poppet Flats home of 11 years had survived. Friends said a nearby home had burned.

   She and her husband hoped to find a way back up into the mountains. "I just want to look to see if we have a house," she said.

   Most of Southern California's severe wildfires are associated with Santa Ana winds caused by high pressure over the West that sends a clockwise flow of air rushing down into the region.

   This week's fire, however, was being fanned by a counter-clockwise flow around a low pressure area over northwest California.

   It was the second major wildfire in the San Jacinto Mountains this summer. A blaze that erupted in mid-July spread over 43 square miles on peaks above Palm Springs, burned seven homes and forced 6,000 people out of Idyllwild and neighboring towns.

   The latest fire also burned in the footprint of the notorious Esperanza Fire, a 2006, wind-driven inferno that overran a U.S. Forest Service engine crew. All five crew members died. A man was convicted of setting the fire and sentenced to death.

   After touring the area, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who lives in Riverside County, said 165,000 acres have burned in California this year and climate change is setting conditions for more disastrous blazes, while budget cuts are limiting resources to fight them.

   "Unless we take action, things are only going to get worse," she said.

   A different blaze, a 60-acre wildfire, near Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains forced evacuations of about 75 homes in several mountain communities Thursday afternoon.

   The fire broke out around noon, and firefighters struggled to beat back flames in steep terrain. Homes along several winding mountain roads were being evacuated.

   Wrightwood is a mountain community popular with skiers located about 40 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

 

___

 

Associated Press writer John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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